Warren's 2nd Ward was the only one to reject tax
In March, the majority of voters in four wards said no to the renewal.
By DENISE DICK
VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF
WARREN -- Renewal of the city income tax for safety forces passed in all but one of the city's seven wards.
Unofficial vote totals from Tuesday's special election show 2nd Ward voters on the Northeast Side rejected passage by 14 votes.
In the March primary, when voters rejected the renewal by 161 votes, the majority of voters in the 2nd, 4th, 6th and 7th wards said no.
Councilman Alford L. Novak, D-2nd, said he's heard from many of his residents frustrated that things such as grass cutting, boarding of vacant homes and nuisance and drug house abatement aren't being addressed in a timely manner.
He acknowledged progress is being made to deal with the problems.
"But most people think we've barely chipped away at the tip of the iceberg," Novak said.
Mayor Michael J. O'Brien plans to hire 10 new police officers within about six weeks to get the department to 84 officers including Chief John Mandopoulos.
But with income tax collections down this year due to business downsizings, mergers and closings, he acknowledges that belt-tightening will be required to keep those officers working.
He pointed to a carry-over from 2003 and about $500,000 budgeted this year to hire police officers.
When the police and fire contract negotiations begin, this year and next year, respectively, O'Brien hopes to negotiate preferred-provider plans for those unions, which would mean a cost savings for the city.
O'Brien said he also aims at reducing the number of higher-ranking officers in the police department through attrition while the patrol ranks increase.
"We knew that even if the tax passed, things would be tight," he said.
Other ideas for trimming expenses include combining departments such as engineering and operations to reduce the number of positions.
"We're developing ways to save money throughout the city including realigning of departments to cut costs," O'Brien said.
In the 6th Ward, on the city's Southwest Side, voters in all but one of the six precincts approved the tax passage. In the primary, voters in only one 6th Ward precinct voted in favor of it.
Councilman James A. "Doc" Pugh, D-6th, attributed the drastic change to Councilman Robert L. Dean Jr., D-at large.
"He worked the ward, and I didn't," Pugh said.
Pugh cast the only no vote when council voted to place the issue on the August ballot before voters. He said he was following the wishes of his constituents.
Dean said his work on the income tax came out of a promise he made to an 18-year-old shooting victim who was left paralyzed.
"As I held her in my arms, I promised her I would do everything I could to make sure it didn't happen to anyone else," Dean said.
He organized a phone bank with volunteers from the police and fire departments who called 3,200 people July 31, urging them to support the tax. He visited churches and says he had the support from many of the pastors who endorsed tax passage.
"It wasn't just me. We had a lot of volunteers," Dean said.
Pugh also said the new administration has proved it is trustworthy. He also pointed out that special elections usually bring out fewer voters.
The 3rd Ward, on the city's East Side, is the only one where all of its precincts passed the income tax, which generates about $4.6 million annually for the police and fire departments. The tax initially passed in May 2001. Passage Tuesday renews it through 2007.