Dan Horrigan entered the mayor’s office at a time of steep challenges for Akron. For all the accomplishments of Don Plusquellic during his 28 years leading the city, his final decade as mayor corresponded with some discouraging trends, notably an increase in poverty, up roughly 10 percentage points. When the Great Recession hit, wages for black workers fell more sharply here than anywhere else in the country.

The Institute on Metropolitan Opportunity at the University of Minnesota is the latest to offer an assessment of the city. Its analysis, released this month, finds the Akron-Cleveland region second in the nation for poverty concentration. Is that just a matter of bearing the burden of our neighbor to the north? Not really. The study cites deeper problems in Akron.

Thus, in assessing Mayor Horrigan as he seeks re-election to a second, four-year term, against spirited yet overmatched opposition in the May 7 Democratic primary, the measure is: What is he doing to prevent further decline, and even reverse the trend? The answer is: He has been active in positive ways on several fronts.

That doesn’t erase the frustration with all the construction sites, especially downtown, businesses suffering as a result. It doesn’t mean every mayoral idea is a winner, or that the city suddenly will soar. The mayor does have a clear strategy built around retaining and attracting new residents. It is evident in the activity downtown, using a tax abatement approach that has proved effective elsewhere to spur residential housing — and in neighborhoods, too. The Bowery block has defied development for decades. Now it is gaining new life.

The Main Street project will get done, eventually. The city needs the project to move forward as hoped. It is part of a whole, including the Reimagining the Civic Commons project, seeking a revived continuum to Summit Lake. Add such initiatives as Great Streets, plus winning voter approval of an income tax increase for public safety and road repair, and focusing economic development more on assisting businesses, newer and older, already invested in the city.

The mayor needs steady and productive partners, in particular, the Akron Public Schools, Summit County, Stark State College and the University of Akron. In that way, his leadership style has been helpful, open to others taking the lead. One expectation is that he has learned from the snowplowing debacle. The quality of city services are defining, no matter how tight the city budget, which remains a complication in moving Akron forward.

So the mayor has laid much groundwork for getting the city to a better place. Now comes the continued execution, and a large part of that involves communication, making sure residents understand the purpose and direction. That applies especially now, with many players involved, and the city active on many fronts.

One aspect of effective communication is listening well, something for which the mayor receives high marks. Yet his challenger in the primary, Pastor Greg Harrison of Antioch Baptist Church, a former police officer and long active in the community, sees it differently. He argues the mayor hasn't been listening to his case for recreation sports programs aimed at young people. He links the decline of such programs to rising youth violence, and increased poverty.

The mayor does have such a component in the youth violence prevention strategy he recently unveiled and in his overhaul of city recreation programs. The point is that the city is better off if the two are working together. That is the challenge for the mayor as he heads toward a second term, sustaining the attention and the coalitions required to put Akron on a more promising path.