Supporting Akron’s downtown businesses during reconstruction, revitalizing neighborhoods and allocating settlement money from Summit County’s opioid lawsuit were among topics addressed during a mayoral debate Wednesday hosted by the Akron Press Club.
Incumbent Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan and Republican challenger Josh Sines faced off at Quaker Station.
The candidates were asked whether Akron’s already high water and sewer rates would increase over the next four years.
Mayor Dan Horrigan said they would not increase before 2021.
He said the city has shaved about $65 million off the $1.2 billion combined sewer overflow project, which has tripled most Akronites’ water bills over the past few years.
“We’ve received very little money from the federal government to do this, and of the over 700 consent decrees Akron has the most stringent of any city across the country,” he said.
Sines said Akron should have addressed the issue when the city’s population was still 200,000.
“We should have had the ability to just pay our flat share then, and we could have opted out of our sewer increase,” he said.
The candidates also talked about how to reunite the east and west sides of town through redevelopment of the Innerbelt.
They were asked how they would reintegrate the Summit Lake neighborhood, which was cut off from the city when the Innerbelt highway was built decades ago.
Sines, who bought Akron’s iconic Bob’s Hamburg last year, said he thinks about it often because his restaurant once thrived on visitors drawn to the amenities at the lake.
“I think there’s potential to put some new housing, whether its apartments or condos,” Sines said. “That would revitalize that neighborhood instantly I think.”
The city has invested in small business districts there through its Great Streets program, Horrigan said, and is working with Metro Parks and other entities to find out what Summit Lake residents want.
“It's got to be a more organic approach of what they want to see out of their neighborhood business district and the housing district they live in,” he said.
The candidates also discussed how settlement dollars awarded through Summit County’s opoid litigation against drug manufacturers could be allocated.
Horrigan is finishing up his first four-year term as mayor. Besides being a restaurant owner, Sines is also a ring announcer for mixed martial arts, professional wrestling and USA Boxing.