Monday, August 8, 2011

Akron mayoral debate by the numbers

AKRON MAYOR Don Plusquellic, the former city high school football star, likes to talk numbers as he did as a quarterback in his younger days. One of his favorite numerical references in his bid for reelection to a seventh term in September's Democratic primary is zero to 24. That's how he has been drawing a distinction between himself and his serial rival over the years, Mike Williams. Both men posted milestones in their political careers 24 years ago - Williams then entering City Council and Plusquellic beginning his first term as mayor.

Plusquellic repeated the number again at the widely visited three-person luncheon debate in the University of Akron Student Union to a sell-out audience of 400. It was his way of responding to Williams' pestering (and somewhat empty) charges that Plusquellic's long career has been corroded by intemperate detachment from the people he is supposed to represent. And once again, that the mayor travels too much.

The mayor, straining to suppress his well-known temper, asserted that in Williams' 24 years on council, his record of accomplishment has been zero in contrast to the mayor's own fully committed efforts in behalf of Akron. The operative and oft-repeated notion, loaded I believe, is the mayor's absence from The Neighborhood. I can't get more specific than that because Williams doesn't, either. Nor does it make much sense - much of today's political rhetoric doesn't anyway - for a mayor who can cover his office walls with the national and local awards that he has earned for his service to the city. That helps explain why he keeps getting reelected.

I should mention at this point that the third candidate at the podium was Janice Davis, a pleasant-enough rival who was largely candidate-neutral in the collision between Plusquellic and Williams that was sponsored by the Akron Press Club, Bliss Institute and League of Women Voters. But even Davis, with few specifics, said the city needs to "move forward''. On the other hand, Williams was pleased to portray the mayor as the ruthless commander of a
''dictatorship" who neglected young people, ignored the needs of schools and "and lacked priorities for economic development".

There was historic irony in the school issue. Four years ago the mayor spent much of his time supporting a school levy while ignoring his political campaign. It produced a closer than expected outcome on Election Day. At the windup of the debate, Plusquellic unloaded on the unsurprising rush to Williams' camp by the same group who failed a recall attempt against him a couple of years ago. He wasn't gentle, accusing the group of "half-truths, misleading statements and outright lies." The flare-up seemed to be downright therapeutic for Plusquellic as he left the stage.

You have to wonder how far Williams can take this campaign theme song, So far he hasn't
had a great deal of success raising money. His last report said he had come up with about $17,000 in contributions to which he and his family added $41,000. Plusquellic, meanwhile, reported $180,000! Williams veteran state and national campaign manager, Jerry Austin, resigned after a short stint in apparent disagreement with the candidate' s campaign plan and payments to Austin.

The only good thing to report today is the debate, such as it was, is history. Seldom do these highly orchestrated encounters change many people's minds. OK, back to work everybody.

UPDATE: Jerry Austin phoned me this morning to dismiss back-channel chatter that his departure from Mike Williams' campaign was partly prompted by the payment to him for his advisory service. "Money had nothing to do with it," Austin said. Instead, the veteran campaign consultant said he withdrew from the Williams campaign because of differences with the candidate on campaign strategy. Williams' campaign is being fronted now on a part-time basis by Tara Samples, bailiff for Akron Municipal Judge Kathryn Michael.

1 comment:

Howard Tolley said...

Excellent analysis of the so-called debate between the Akron mayoralty candidates.
To me, lt was two flyweights upgainst a seasoned heavyweight whose accomplishments
as mayor have have been great for the city and its citizens. I'll take an occasional temper tantrum (most very well justified) when weighed against his outstanding reecord
of service to the city over the past 24 years. If we had more like him in Congress, I'm
sure that the country wouldn't be in the ness it is today. He is a primary reason that
my wife and I have elected to stay the course as Akron residents these many years!