Tuesday, June 12, 2007

The Candidate and the Editor

You may remember that last month, I visited the Summit County Progressive Democrats monthly meeting, which is free and open to the public. This time I paid my dues and signed up to join in the fun. However, the comments to follow do not speak for the organization, only for me.

Two very interesting speakers tonight at the monthly meeting. Joe Finely, running in the Democratic primary for mayor of Akron, needs to brush up on his microphone technique. Aside from that, I'd like to see him speaking in front of other groups to see how much or little his campaign rhetoric changes depending upon the audience.

Tonight he proclaimed himself 90% "progressive," after listening to about 15 minutes of the SCPD's membership discuss some issues. I don't know about anybody else, but I was very curious about that other ten percent of Finely that is not progressive. For an indication of what that ten percent is all about, check out his web site where you'll find this:

"100% Pro-Life - Member of Summit County Right to Life" -- yeah, not so progressive after all.

Finley didn't speak about that issue, naturally. He was all about the current administration's expenditures and he may have some some points on all the deals for development that go on. The Bass Pro Shop venture in the former Goodyear property sounds plenty risky. (I didn't think there was enough wild game and fish left around these parts to make such a store a worthwhile venture.)

He tried to fault Mayor Plusquellic on downtown's progress, claiming you could shoot a cannon down Main Street at 5 pm and not hit anybody. Must be something stuck in Finley's eye, because I noticed quite a few folks out on the street at 6:30 and a lot more seated at various eateries along the Main strip -- and there was no ball game in the park tonight.

No, we're not even close to Greenwich Village foot traffic downtown, but as a former downtown Akron resident in the late 80s and early 90s, I can tell you that downtown is a lot more attractive and alive now. (See picture below of some genuine walking breathing living art in downtown Akron.) I give the current mayor a lot of credit for all the downtown improvements.

The impression I received tonight from Mr. Finley was one of an opportunist, who is trying to ride the wave of voter unrest with rising costs and taxes. I agree that Plusquellic's tax proposal on the May ballot was ill-conceived and not at all compelling as something essential for the common good. However, that's not enough to make me turn to someone who says he can change things but doesn't tell me how other than firing some cabinet members he calls excessive.

The other speaker was Michael Douglas, editor of the Akron Beacon Journal's editorial page. He was dressed very elegantly and on his way to see the Cavs vs the Spurs. But he graciously answered many questions before galloping off to the game. I imagine he had quite good seats.

Douglas had lots to say about the restructuring of the paper under the new ownership. It has been a brutal year for the Beacon with lots of staff cuts and migrating advertising dollars moving on to line other pockets. You might think that this would lead to some empathy for those who have also lost jobs due to bad trade agreements. Unfortunately, free trade seems to be something the editorial board is all for, which is why they didn't endorse Sherrod Brown. Gotta keep opening new markets for more unnecessary goods that will eventually end up in toxic landfills.

I was greatly disappointed that neither speaker today addressed environmental issues in and around Akron. That is one area the current mayor has done more for than either of the two men at the microphone tonight -- I grant him that -- with the stipulation that he needs to step it up even more if he wants this city to grow greener and more attractive to new eco-business as well as its citizens.

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