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I don't usually write about local politics, but I'm making an exception today for one reason - The Akron Beacon Journal isn't portraying the issues honestly. They are functioning instead as cheerleaders for Akron Mayor Don Plusquellic. That is a disservice to all Akronites.
Case in point - In today's front page story about the recall, the ABJ glosses over the strongest reason to recall Mayor Plusquellic, which is the massive debt burden he has foisted on Akron. The ABJ couldn't even bring itself to mention what that debt burden is, so I'll do it.
Akron is over $750 million in debt. That debt is mostly due to Plusquellic. When adjusted for inflation, Akron's debt has tripled since he became Mayor, and is the second highest per capita debt of any city in Ohio. As a result, Akron's credit rating is only second or third highest (AA- from from Standard & Poor's and Fitch, and A1 from Moody's). In fairness to the ABJ, it did run a June 7, 2009 story that mentioned Akron's debt, but even that story was heavily spun in Plusquellic's favor. It was called, incredibly, Debt Level Not Hurting City At All, Analyst Says. The ABJ found ONE analyst who decided 'Debt Is Good,' and ran with it. Horse puckey.
In 2007, Akron's population was 207,934. That means every man, woman, and child is on the hook for about $3,620. That's $14,480 for a family of four. Maybe ABJ's "analyst" thinks that is of no concern, but I wonder how many Akronites are prepared to write a $14,480 check to the city. I expect not many would be thrilled about that, and most just wouldn't be able.
Plusquellic's supporters point to the Mayor's success in keeping Goodyear in town as a significant accomplishment, and it is. What the Mayor's supporters leave out is that the other major rubber companies (Bridestone/Firestone and B.F. Goodrich) LEFT Akron on the Mayor's watch, and that in the years 2000-2007 alone, Akron's plastic and rubber manufacturing jobs were slashed by half.
Don Plusquellic has been Akron's mayor for 22 years. According to Census figures, Akron's population was 237,177 in 1980; 223,019 in 1990. So, at the same time the Mayor has been driving up the debt, Akron's population has been steadily shrinking and Akron's jobs have been steadily leaving, dwindling the tax base. Not good.
It is therefore no coincidence that Akron's poverty rate is significantly above the state average. In 2007, Akron residents with incomes below the poverty level numbered 23.6%. The state average is 13.1%. In 1989, Akron's poverty rate was 20.8%.
Lets' recap. During Plusquellic's tenure, the debt has gone way up, Akron residents and jobs have gone way down, and poverty has gone up. So naturally, in an editorial today against the recall, the Beacon Journal's editors called Plusquellic "the most successful mayor in Akron's history." Really ? If so, I'd hate to hear about the least successful mayor.
And I'm still trying to figure out why Plusquellic built a brand new library downtown to replace one that was itself pretty new, having been built in the 1970's. I can't call that anything but a huge waste of money. And I say that as someone who loves the library system. It's one of my favorite government programs.
By now, you are probably all thinking I'm in favor of recalling Akron's mayor, but that's not the point. My point is only to tell the truth about the part's of his job performance that the ABJ seems incapable of telling. Nor is my post a partisan effort. Plusquellic is a Democrat. Those leading the recall effort, specifically Warner Mendenhall, are also Democrats. If anything, Mendenhall is further to the left than Plusquellic. I guarantee that if the Mayor is recalled, he will be replaced by another Democrat. Plusquellic wasn't even opposed in his last election, that's how much chance the Republicans thought they had of defeating him. Akron is a Democratic town. I'm 55 years old, and during my lifetime, Akron has had six mayors. Five have been Democrats, and the one Republican, Roy Ray, only lasted a single term (1980-1983). To whatever extent politics has influenced Akron's well-being, the lion's share of the credit/blame goes to the Dems.
The other issues brought up during the recall (the ones the ABJ obsesses upon) do seem trivial to me. Plusquellic's travel expenses, for instance. The Mayor has been traveling around to conferences looking for ways to spark economic development for the city. Another issue is the defeated sewers-for-scholarships program that was pushed by the Mayor. There is NO reason to recall him over such things. It's asinine, even. I want the Mayor to pursue any and all means of economic development. I believe Plusquellic is trying to do that. Also of no concern is Plusquellic's personality. Yes, he is abrasive and domineering at times, but he isn't trying to win the Miss Congeniality award, he's trying to run the city. Politics is hardball, and he plays hardball. So do his opponents.
I was troubled by one additional item in today's ABJ story. Plusquellic said if he win's the recall election, he will look into changing the terms of recall elections, making them more difficult. Currently, a recall can be instituted if 20% of the voter's sign a petition supporting it. Even though the low voter turnout in the last mayoral election allowed Werner Mendenhall to institute this recall election with only a little over 3,100 signatures, that is not a reason for Plusquellic to stomp all over the democratic process. The democratic process is just fine. Plusquellic looks like a dictator by wanting to change it. Minus one point for the Mayor.
In spite of the issues I brought up in this post, I will probably vote AGAINST recalling the Mayor, unless some new facts come to light. A recall is not to be taken lightly, and I see nothing overly egregious in Plusquellic's record that would be reason to remove him from office following a properly held election.
I just wanted the actual facts presented, unlike the ABJ.
The recall election is being held on June 23rd. Get out and vote.
If you want further information on why his opponents want the Mayor recalled, go to the website Change Akron Now. If you want more information about why the Mayor should be kept in office, keep reading the Akron Beacon Journal.
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