Kent City Council's 5 per-
cent raise for City Manager Dave Ruller was more than justified and council members are to be commended for their recent vote of support. The raise is Ruller's first in three years. In 2010, he was given a 3 percent increase. He turned down a 2.5 percent increase in 2011, citing a downturn in city income tax revenues and was offered no increase in 2012, despite the city's enjoying an era of unparalleled progress, at a time when most of the country was suffering economic decline.
Did Ruller lead the Tree City to a golden era all by himself? No. He was assisted by an extremely able team of department heads and employees, one of most talented teams Kent has seen in years, most appointed by Ruller.
He was also assisted by the cooperation of Kent State University and its president, Lester Lefton, who envisioned the vibrant college town Kent could be and worked in tandem with Ruller to bring it into being. Their teamwork will pay huge dividends to Kent for years to come because the revitalized and expanded downtown will provide a major boost to the university as it recruits students in an era when demographically college age people may be in short supply. Kent State is the city's most important economic driver and when it is strong, the city conditions and the quality of life it affords its residents and businesses are likelier to be better.
Importantly, Ruller was also assisted by Ron Burbick, the businessman and philanthropist, who saw the possibilities of downtown Kent and risked his own personal fortune to realize the dream. His initiatives gave the city and the university the courage to follow through.
Finally, he was mightily helped by the Tiger grant that PARTA, nourished by Kent State, and with the great assistance of Congressman Tim Ryan brought to the city. This has enabled the construction of the multi-modal transportation center, a $20 million project paid for by the federal government.
Courage and vision require brains and know-how. For the city's part in that equation, Ruller and his excellent team have been up to the challenge. They have consistently brought in federal transportation grants channeled through AMATS, the most spectacular of which was approximately $20 million for the $23 million Fairchild Avenue Bridge. That was championed by City Engineer Jim Bowling, a Ruller appointee.
For the downtown renewal project, the city had to negotiate a TIFF financing package with the Kent City Schools. Council had to risk indebtedness. Steering the city's path through much of this was Ruller.
The renewal continues. The Kent State University Hotel and Conference Center, thanks to the KSU Foundation and multi-millionaire businessman and Kent native Ron Pizzuti, is open for business. The presence of the university and its needs almost guarantees it will be heavily used. Ron Burbick, with the cooperation of the city, pulled off the miracle of bringing the old Kent Hotel back to life. Talent and private capital, given the chance of success that Kent is providing under its current administration and with the cooperation of City Council, will invest of themselves.
Neighborhoods will see the benefits of all this because Kent, with its tax revenues up, will invest $1 million in street paving and improvements this year.
Recognizing the need for a new police station to house its police force, which is impressively headed by Chief Michele Lee, Kent is asking for a temporary quarter-percent hike in the city's income tax, the best way to pay for the improvements.
Kent has traveled so well and so far during the Ruller era. Let's keep the momentum going.