Don Plusquellic wouldn’t run to regain the mayor’s office, would he? Weeks of rumors and speculation resulted in the former Akron mayor telling the Beacon Journal/Ohio.com on Monday evening that he is “thinking about it.” Plusquellic versus the incumbent Dan Horrigan — what a donnybrook it could be, if their early comments are any indication. Plusquellic says he has agonized “over many things I see happening.” Horrigan greeted a potential challenge with a sharp reminder of how Plusquellic exited.
“It was clear then, and now,” Horrigan jabbed in a statement, “that the bitterness and stale, personal feuds with council members, the local paper, and even federal decision-makers had unfortunately poisoned his ability to lead the city into a new chapter of growth and prosperity,”
So much for above the fray, or refraining from waving the red cape in front of the bull.
Would the clash, and surrounding debate, serve Akron well? Plusquellic needs a better case than the one he outlined in texting with Betty Lin-Fisher of the Beacon Journal/Ohio.com. He pointed to the elimination of the Summer Arts Experience program and the retreat from seeking to attract foreign investment to Akron. Foreign investment does deserve more attention. Yet it hardly follows that Horrigan lacks an economic development strategy. If anything, his approach is more ambitious, coherent and inclusive, though the snowplowing needs help.
What was striking about the thinking Plusquellic shared is the theme of vindication. The former mayor said “all of the things” he discussed about federal Judge John Adams, Bob Hoch, an Akron City Council member, and the ownership of the local hospitals “have all come true.” He somehow seems to want public credit. To a degree, he is right. Adams has lacked judicial temperament in big and harmful ways. Hoch has a temper and got into ethics trouble. The hospitals may have fared better as one — or not.
And then, there’s something else meriting mention: Plusquellic’s own role in fueling the confrontations, his lack of temperament, the glaring flaw in what otherwise was a brilliant run as the city’s most accomplished mayor. As he careened toward his abrupt resignation four years ago, Plusquellic insisted that Hoch represented a threat of physical violence. He seemed to be unraveling, or losing focus, even blaming this newspaper for his resignation.
He tapped a successor who quickly turned out to be a problematic choice.
Which gets to the impression that this talk of running for mayor is really about Plusquellic looking for a different ending, for an epilogue that puts behind, or overcomes, his foolish departure from office. (Oh, and perhaps a dose of messing with Horrigan, their relationship long strained.) Yet Akron hasn’t failed to appreciate what Plusquellic did for the city in his 28 years as mayor. He devoted himself to leading the city through a difficult economic transition, applying vision, energy, smarts and passion. He hired talented people. His tenure was a success on many fronts.
Unfortunately, it concluded as it did. The city had to move on, and it has under a different style of leadership. If Don Plusquellic wants a better ending, he could have it. He could rise above his hard feelings, to acknowledge, even indirectly, that he bolted from the mayor’s office. No one pushed him out. Now he is considering seeking the office again? It actually is sad. Rather than battle in an election campaign, the two mayors would serve Akron by finding what now appears beyond sight: a productive way to work together.