Akron Mayor Holds On. But What's Next?

Surprise, surprise: Akron Mayor for Life Don Plusquellic won Tuesday's primary, ensuring that he can add yet another term to his already 20-year reign. As if everyone and their black lab couldn't have predicted that one. What is interesting, however, is that Plusquellic didn't win by much. He got away with only 53 percent of the vote and six of 10 wards. Wards 1,6, 7, and 10 -- which includes Goodyear Heights, Ellet, and other economically depressed areas -- sided with Joe Finley. "It's not really surprising in politics that after 20 years of being in office there is some movement against the incumbent," says Mark Williamson, the mayor's spokesman. "Also, he put together a tax increase proposal in the spring which was soundly defeated and we knew it would have an effect on the election." So what will Plusquellic do to gain back the support of roughly half his city? Williamson says Plusquellic simply plans to stay the course, focusing on economic development, like he always has. "Joe Finley played pretty strongly on the sort of conspiracy theory theme," Williamson says. "You know, that a lot that what is wrong in Akron, well, the mayor has made it so, and there's a skullduggery and he's leading us down this garden path when things are actually a lot worse. That message plays pretty well to a large group of people." Williamson said he took personal offense to the idea that Plusquellic's administration had a habit of back-dooring people on things. "We are the most transparent government I've ever seen," Williamson says. "It's just hard to get our news out there when we have a newspaper that doesn't write stories longer than 400 words and radio that doesn't give us more than 15 seconds. The next step is getting everyone's freaking email addresses and sending them everything, and I'm not kidding. We don't know how else to get folks' attention without the proper outlets." But Williamson is also willing to acknowledge that Akron's rising crime rate over the past few months only fueled voter antagonism toward the mayor. He points to the tax levy which voters shut down in may, saying that the money would have supplied the city with more officers. "Still, just a few weeks ago, we added 39 more officers," he says. "But people have to remember that officers cost us money. Each officer is about $100,000 when you figure in benefits and everything. Where are we supposed to get that money? The federal government? Bush cut over $30 million in funding to Akron over the past eight years!" Still, Williamson clearly understands that people are discontent. He points to a study that was done a few years ago, analyzing Akron voters, which found that a large contingent of white men, between the ages of 18 and 38, were dissatisfied with their lived, underemployed, and angry at the government. "And when you're angry at the government, the closest thing you can relate to is the mayor," Williamson says. "So they blame it on Don." -- Denise Grollmus
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