Jeff Fusco, Linda Omobien and Ginger Baylor in the at-large Democratic primary

Dan Horrigan has jumped into the Democratic primary for the three at-large seats on the Akron City Council. The mayor supports the election of Jeff Fusco, a veteran council member, Marilyn Keith, who is giving up her Ward 8 seat to run at-large, and Ginger Baylor, a member of the Akron school board. That means the mayor is seeking to oust two at-large incumbents, Linda Omobien and Veronica Sims. So feelings have been strong in this campaign season.

The mayor desires change. That is an understandable wish, the council at times proving an embarrassment as members have clashed, their disagreements appearing more personal than professional, the resulting distrust about failures to communicate, more than anything else.

How best to achieve helpful change through this at-large race, when four of the six candidates are incumbents?

We recommend the election of Jeff Fusco, Linda Omobien and Ginger Baylor on May 7.

Fusco long has been a constructive member of the council. He represented Ward 10 for eight years. He served a decade as deputy service director and then returned to the council in 2010 as an at-large member. In 2015, following the turmoil triggered by Don Plusquellic’s sudden resignation, Fusco served for six months as mayor. He is steady, knowledgeable and effective both at working with others and getting things done.

Omobien has differed with the mayor, most notably on switching the city primary date from September to May. It has been disappointing to see her struggle to engage productively the administration and some colleagues. Yet her perspective remains valuable, evident, for instance, in advocating recently for a minority business component in the Bounce Innovation Hub. The former Akron school board member adds to the discussion about dealing with youth violence. Her presence will help keep the focus on the findings of the Elevate Akron report about the lack of economic opportunity in the black community

Baylor served from 2010 to 2013 on the Akron school board, leaving that position to become the community outreach coordinator/public director for U.S. Rep. Marcia Fudge. So she understands how government works at various levels. She gets the city’s priorities right, for instance, stressing work force development and public safety, including the police department building better relationships with neighborhoods. She returned to the school board in 2017, and ideally, she would complete her term. In this instance, her calm, reasoned and open temperament would benefit the City Council.

This isn’t to diminish the contribution of Marilyn Keith, who has served Ward 8 well, and makes a logical argument for moving to an at-large seat. If she stumbled at times as the council president, Keith also gained a broader perspective of the city. She works hard, prepares and understands the city’s needs, from expanding economic opportunity to its tight finances. Keith would fit as an at-large member.

Something similar goes for Veronica Sims, who is finishing her first four-year term on the council. Her voice has been helpful in addressing, among other things, gun violence and in highlighting the exclusion of the black community from economic opportunity.

At this point, it is worth trying to change the dynamic on the council, two incumbents giving way to new, qualified candidates, counting a new representative for Ward 8. This isn’t to cast blame. It is about seeking a better outcome for the city.

The sixth candidate in the Democratic primary is LaMont R. Porter, who works in the concrete construction industry. He has an ambitious agenda for road restoration, expanded trades programs, more energy efficient homes and improved oversight of city construction spending. If he adds to the discussion, he doesn't have the preparation of the others.