As the city approaches the one-month anniversary of a crippling snowstorm, a councilwoman has called off the last of her meetings inviting residents to talk about the city’s slow response in clearing streets.
Councilwoman Marilyn Keith had held four meetings at community centers in West Akron, Ellet, Kenmore and Firestone Park last week before announcing Monday that she would cancel the last two in North Hill Thursday and Northwest Akron on Feb. 26. The community engagement events had been arranged by Keith in her capacity as chair of Akron City Council’s Public Service Committee. They were not hosted in coordination with city administrators who oversee snow plowing or any of the other 14 people, including four colleagues on council, who have been tasked by the president of council to get to the bottom of what went wrong a month ago.
The once-in-a-decade snowstorm buried the region. But most Akron streets were not touched by a plow blade for days. Several roads, especially in residential neighborhoods, remained impassable. Residents vented on social media or phoned their council representatives after missing important appointments like kidney dialysis.
Keith did not respond via email or phone Monday to explain why she’d canceled the last of her meetings seeking more public input. The first four meetings had reportedly turned contentious as residents came looking for answers and were only offered another avenue to complain.
“To make matters worse, she didn’t have any administration there. So questions couldn’t get answered,” said Council President Margo Sommerville, who appointed the task force to investigate the city’s snow removal protocol and recommend improvements by March 1.
Sommerville said the task force's work is largely done. It’s just a matter of “tying up loose ends," she said. “I do know that the Snow and Ice Task Force has done a lot of good work [and] quickly.”
In her email canceling the last two meeting, Keith said: “Residents may contact me at Ward8@akronohio.gov to share anything that they were going to share at the forum[s]. I apologize for any inconvenience this might have caused anyone.”
Keith had said it was her responsibility as chair of the Public Service Committee to step outside her city ward and hold meetings across Akron to give residents she does not directly represent the chance to speak.
First elected to represent Ward 8 in 2011, Keith is running for one of three citywide at-large seats in the May primary election on a ticket endorsed by Mayor Dan Horrigan that includes At-Large Councilman Jeff Fusco and Akron school board member Ginger Baylor. The Horrigan-backed trio is challenging sitting at-large councilwomen Linda Omobien and Veronica Sims.
Reach Doug Livingston at firstname.lastname@example.org or 330-996-3792.