Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Akron's Water Gets Kosher

The campaign season is upon us -- before the campaign season even opens.

It's been a busy week for the news release writers at Akron City Hall -- and the week wasn't even halfway over yet.

Seven news releases. Even considering two of them were weather-related due to Monday's blustery blizzard-like conditions that left a stretch of I-76 from Norton to the Medina County line more like Jacknife Alley than interstate highway, but it's still an impressive showing of media might coming off South High Street.

The five remaining non-weather items since Monday:

Israeli Company in Akron Contracts With City -- all about the water service, it turns out. Hey, at least it provided an opportunity to post an eye-catching headline;

City to Offer Free Parking -- just in time for post-holiday sales time; it gives us all 65 minutes of freebie time to do business in the City;

City Brings More Housing Downtown -- the key to downtown prosperity clearly shows it needs to be a neighborhood, and there's no neighborhood without neighbors;

Mayor to Deliver State of the City Address -- it's the 24th, just in case you are keeping count;

German Manufacturing Firm Picks Akron -- as any politico will tell you, the road to political support clearly runs through the economy first.

What will Thursday and Friday hold?

This burst of news energy from the Mayor's office shouldn't come as any surprise.

2011 is a municipal election year, and the Mayor has already announced he is running for re-election. In his bid for a seventh term, Don Plusquellic will have company on the ballot; Council-at-Large representative Mike Williams will toss his hat into the primary ring on Monday evening, about an hour prior to the next City Council meeting.

Don't be surprised if others announce a run; from a political strategy position, a more crowded field generally benefits an incumbent but others may see opportunity for themselves if the two biggest names on the ballot target each other.

The tone of the election is likely to hinge on the tone both Plusquellic and Williams decide will forge their campaigns. One has shown himself to be a strong leader, with a sometimes strong personality that can be as off-putting as it is charming. The other has shown himself unafraid to challenge the conventional political stance, with questions sometimes raised regarding his work ethic.

A recent Akron Beacon Journal commentary by Steve Hoffman noted voters weren't deciding if they wanted a beer with Don -- there is far more at stake than whether we personally like the person running the City. Those behind the 2009 recall made the Mayor's personality an issue, and the electorate clearly wasn't biting. Their efforts resulted in more than three-quarters of those voting to keep the Mayor.

One thing is for sure: just as with the Mayor's re-election campaign four years ago, and the recall election where he rolled to a dominant win, there will be an impressive push to build an atmosphere of momentum. A rule of politics is to avoid having your opponent define you or your campaign, and the first lesson is staking out the media landscape yourself before the other side has a chance to do so.

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