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Akron Must Thrive, Not Just Survive, Mayor Dan Horrigan Says In State Of The City Speech

Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan says he won’t manage a declining city, planning instead to increase population and support entrepreneurs.

The first-term mayor delivered his state of the city address on Wednesday, saying Akron must innovate while remaining financially stable. The Akron Roundtable hosted the event.

“Akron needs to be a city that thrives and not just survives,” Horrigan told his audience at the John S. Knight Center.

Horrigan said he would focus resources on neighborhood commercial areas in a new program called Great Streets Akron. 

“Many were once small downtowns with bustling streets and active storefronts,” he said. “They were more than roads. And these districts must return to being the center of public life for all of our neighborhoods.”

The city will also change how it works with businesses, Horrigan said. A new office of integrated development will combine the planning and economic development departments with parts of the city engineering bureau.

One project for the new office, Horrigan said, will be finding uses for the now-decommissioned Innerbelt highway in downtown Akron.

“As I heard from national and world experts, 31 acres to add to your downtown is an immense challenge,” Horrigan told reporters after his speech. “They didn’t say problem, they said challenge.”

Horrigan also pledged service improvements, thanks to an income tax increase Akron voters passed last year. He said he’ll triple the road resurfacing program and replace an aging fire station. The city plans to buy police vehicles, body armor and data storage for body cameras.

Horrigan told his audience that cuts in federal and state aid to cities are likely permanent.

“The harsh truth is that I don’t think anybody’s coming to help us,” he said. “Cities have fundamentally been left to their own devices to solve the most pressing problems facing communities across the country. So as a local government, our people look to us to do more.”

Afterward, the mayor told reporters that he’ll still push for more local government funding, but he won’t wait for the state to act.

“I’ll advocate it as strong as anybody else,” he said, “but I’m not going to hold my breath.”

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