That 41st point arrived this week and the combined sponsors of the Akron Press Club and Bliss Institute delivered on his request. At $20 a head for a program series that raises money for college scholarships, that comes to a $1,000 gross gate, even if the freebies would not include lunch. (The seat could have been sold to paying guests.) The event is already sold out at nearly 300, so the hosts agreed to move the event from the traditional Martin Center ballroom to the more accommodating Student Union. The freebies will await their entry until lunch is served before arriving at a specially designated section of the room.
How nice. And with a huge crowd, it could be a seating and parking nightmare. But I'm sure that a room with a view was all that Williams had in mind. I was told that he first asked that everybody get a free ticket in a public spectacle. The Plusquellic forces were left with little leeway to respond to the 50-ticket request, the first of its kind in the many years that I once served as the program chairman.
The response is as puzzling as the Press Club's preferential treatment for then Republican congressional candidate, Tom Ganley, in his losing campaign against Rep.Betty Sutton. When he refused to debate her, he was offered a free pass to appear alone (She spoke at another time). Ganley's solo appearance also was a club first in a series that called for a debate. But in the latest retreat, there was no explanation as to why a minimum 50 free-seat package was included in the deal.
This shouldn't be a big problem for the mayor. He could settle the issue by asking for 50 free tickets for his side, too. Fair enough, Mike?
UPDATE: David Cohen, the University of Akron political science professor and Press Club board member who is handling arrangements for the mayoral debate, has contested my report that Mike Williams was solely offered 50 free reservations for the event. Cohen insists that the 50 freebies for folks who will not be eating lunch will be open on a first-come first serve basis to Williams, Mayor Plusquellic or any public spectator as long as the supply lasts. He did confirm, however, that Williams had first asked that all of the tickets be free for the debate at a venue big enough to accommodate the anticipated crowd. The event has now been moved from the Martin Center to the UA Student Union. The seating assignments dividing the payers and non-payers may still be complicated when the crowd presses forward.