For the Akron political junkies: my notes on today's debate (you can also see more coverage on AkronNewsNow with candidate opening statement audio here):
After being reminded to make room for opening statements we got into issues:
What relationship should the City have with the U of A?
Plusquellic: University is a powerful resource and important; we'll always have differences but we find a way to work together.
Finley: University's good, Mayor should have known about Crowne Plaza Hotel deal before it happened.
Budget and what's ahead?
Finley: "We're broke." Says City is more than a billion in the hole when adding interest payments and there's no room for an emergency such as a bridge collapse. When pressed on what in the budget he would cut says the start would be shrinking number of cabinet members; says when Plusquellic took office it was eight and now it's 15, more than in New York City.
Plusquellic: he's cut 800 jobs from city payroll compared to 30 years ago at the same time Akron lost $30 million in state and federal aid. Despite cuts there are more people in the APD than 30 years ago. The City also gets high marks from professional ratings services (such as Standard and Poors) for moderate debt levels and good financial standing.
To be honest I sort of dozed off here; how about questions on issues that municipal government actually has a voice on? This was the point I wished I'd stayed at the table with WKYC's Eric Mansfield and the Bath Country Journal's Jody Miller (my NewsNight Akron fellow panelists) because they would have kept me awake...
Finley: we have to get along with our neighbors and the Mayor doesn't get along with our neighbors.
Plusquellic: Anyone who never gets anybody mad at 'em never accomplishes anything. Sometimes goals conflicts. Says recent water and land agreements with Stow and Cuyahoga Falls disputes Finley's charge.
Building Inspector's Office
Finley: Northside Lofts permit process mishandled, says Plusquellic has allowed building office to become politicized; charges Canal Place had 18 different renovations underway without plans filed, posing a potential danger to firefighters if called upon in an emergency. Akron Thermal was also allowed to pour a foundation without a permit. Also charged interim building inspector Angela Cavanaugh resigned Friday and asked the media to look into why (side note: Angela Cavanaugh was still on the job today; public service director Rick Merolla says she doesn't want the position full-time but hasn't resigned.)
Plusquellic: Finley never introduced a single ordinance as a member of council on the building department; attitude in the department toward the public needed to change not only for big developers but also residents of Akron. City is cooperating with the state's probe of the building department. Thinks the building department is prime for regional cooperation similar to weights and measures inspectors, with combined duties with the County.
Canal Park and new UA InfoCision Stadium at Summa Field
Plusquellic: Canal Park gave people a reason to come downtown and during his term the number of jobs downtown has doubled, even excluding hospital and university positions. On the football stadium it's needed because the Rubber Bowl is too expensive to repair and he supports a new stadium.
Finley: Agrees Canal Park is a resource but didn't like the way the project financing was "rammed down our throats" and claims the cost overruns meant what should have been a $10 million dollar project was $30 million and still a big debt. Doesn't like no-bid contracts awarded either.
Finley: would use 203K loan program to encourage purchase and fix up of homes; also would be more aggressive in tearing down homes that can't be fixed up. Also says City should do a better job of offering job training to local residents and should have done better with local school buildings.
Plusquellic: training showcased by Urban League partnership and pointed to numerous awards to Akron for creating housing. Says you would have to be a "caveman" to not see improvement in Akron's housing opportunities.
Turnout for Primary Election 9/11
Plusquellic: no way of knowing but if voters care about the city they'll make every effort to cast a ballot.
Finley: predicted a turnout of 12,000 voters.
No closing statements were made as the debate ran out of time. Hasn't anyone in charge ever moderated a real debate before?