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Council discusses benefits of Gay Games to region

6/26/2014 - West Side Leader
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By Ariel Hakim

With Gay Games 9 coming to Akron and Cleveland in August, Summit County Council’s five-member Planning and Economic Development Committee discussed adopting a resolution of support for the contests, voting 4-1 to recommend the full Council approve it.

All but two members of the largely Democratic Council — Gloria Rodgers (R-District 3), who voted against the legislation during the committee meeting, and Bill Roemer (R-at large) — have already signed on to sponsor the legislation.

Sporting competitions taking place in Summit County Aug. 9-16 will include softball, golf, a marathon, rodeo, track and field, soccer and martial arts.

Entertainment during the games will be plentiful, with Akron events including a square dance, Indigo Girls concert, Music in the Meadow and shows put on by Balch Street Theatre and Actors’ Summit Theater, noted Tom Nobbe, executive director of Gay Games 9.

The games will draw competitors from 40 countries and nearly every state, he said. Nobbe also told Council 25,000 to 30,000 visitors are expected to come to Northeast Ohio for the games.

The expected economic impact on the region is northward of $40 million, said Jason Dodson, chief of staff for Executive Russ Pry’s office, as guests spend money on accommodations, dining, retail and entertainment.

Dodson said the resolution of support was introduced to Council for two reasons — because of the anticipated “huge” positive economic impact on the region, and supporting the games is consistent with the county’s position on recognizing the dignity of all relationships in society.

“This Council recognizes the dignity of all individuals, and encourages events such as Gay Games 9 that recognize the value, contributions and equality of all people, regardless of what they look like or who they love,” states the proposed resolution.

“We set out to change some hearts and minds, and it’s already happening,” said Nobbe. “This resolution is part of that.”

Councilwoman Sandra Kurt (D-at large) noted the significance of having the Gay Games in this area, as the games, which are held every four years, last took place in Cologne, Germany and are planned next for Paris.

“This is a chance to really show off our region,” said Kurt, adding hosting the games is a great economic and cultural opportunity.

The Planning Committee also looked at and voted to recommend Council adopt legislation to lease office and storage space to the Northeast Ohio Four County Regional Planning and Development Organization (NEFCO) for a five-year term beginning Aug. 1 at 175 S. Main St. in the Ohio Building. Currently located on South Street, the new lease would move operations for the staff of eight people, allowing the old building to be torn down.

NEFCO is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, said Joe Hadley, executive director of NEFCO. Its primary work is environmental planning and regional economic development planning, said Hadley.

The Public Safety Committee saw legislation declaring August as Child Support Awareness Month, which would encourage residents to join in the acknowledgement and wear green Aug. 6, with Council as a whole taking on sponsorship.

The Health and Human Services Committee considered legislation to purchase $350,000 worth of school supplies from Staples for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)-eligible families, which also went on to be sponsored by Council as a whole. The full Council also decided to sponsor resolutions declaring August as Kids Month and for contracting with Community Health Center to provide transitional housing services for women in recovery.

The Rules Committee brought back a resolution to submit a charter amendment to voters in the Nov. 4 General Election to create an Information Technology (IT) Board and Department of Information Technology for the county, with revisions, and voted to recommend Council adopt the legislation.

Mary Lou Daugherty, from the Clerk of Court’s Office, read a letter from Clerk of Courts Dan Horrigan addressed to Council stating his concerns with the proposed legislation.

“I disagree with the all-encompassing approach this legislation takes in its entirety,” Daugherty read.

Dodson said the revisions attempted to address Horrigan’s and other officeholders’ concerns.

The revisions supply language regarding the new entities’ responsibility to assist officeholders with their IT needs in compliance with federal, state and local laws.

Also, software and applications developers on specific assignments will be under the authority of certain county officials, in addition to the IT Department and chief information officer, according to the revision.

In addition, current IT employees will transfer to the newly created department at their current rates of pay, the revised legislation states.

Council will next meet June 30 at 4:30 p.m. for caucus, followed by a meeting in Council Chambers on the seventh floor of the Ohio Building, 175 S. Main St. in Downtown Akron. This will be Council’s last regular meeting before the summer recess, reconvening Aug. 4.

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