Friday, July 15, 2011

Mike Williams, Point 41: 50 free tickets for his side

A FEW WEEKS AGO, Mike Williams, the candidate who wants to unseat Akron Mayor Don Plusquellic in the Sept. 13 Democratic primary, proposed an astonishing 40 points that he believed would carry him to victory in the Sept. 13 Democratic primary. Somehow, it didn't include his demand for 50 free seats for the scheduled Aug. 8 debate with the mayor and a third candidate on the ballot, Janice Davis.

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.


DC said...

Abe--a further correction is necessary. It is true that the Williams campaign had wanted a free event at a community center but the Akron Press Club insisted the event be a paid lunchtime event on the UA campus (which we consider our home base) since these types of paid events help fund our scholarships. The Williams campaign agreed to this. Akron Press Club made the decision alone to move the event to a larger room at the Student Union because the Martin Center had already sold out before the event was even officially announced. Our goal is to accomodate as many folks as we can for what will likely be the only debate in the Democratic primary for Akron Mayor. Dave Cohen

Grumpy Abe said...

DAVE: Having re-read my update with your comments, I find no reference to Williams as the instigator of the move to the Student Union. So I will accept your account of how it all came about. Still, my greater concern as the former program chairman for years (a voluntary retirement!) is that an unprecedented number of freebies were offered for a political event. What was the genesis of that idea? It could turn out to be a no-win situation for the Press Club and lead to further complications in later programs.

Tara Samples said...

Let's clear some things up. Mike Williams was NOT given 50 free tickets! We PAID $1,000 for 5 tables in order for our volunteers to attend the luncheon and debate. I am not sure who/where this false information came from, but its imperative that you ALL understand we paid for our seats and advocated for free admission for the comunity.

Tara L. Samples
Co-chair Williams for Mayor

Grumpy Abe said...

Tara: My post is more than 2 weeks old and was already addressed by e Dave Cohen. Why has it taken you so long to respond?

Tara Samples said...

I took so long to respond because I knew nothing about any of this "free ticket" blog until someone sent it to me. We are out knocking on doors not dealing with false allegations. I just wish people would call me or our headquarters instead of assuming we've done something wrong or that we are asking for special treatment. We want to be on the same even playing field as the other candidates instead of constantly defending ourselves against falsehoods. I am happy to talk to anyone as is Mike.