Posts Tagged ‘Plusquellic’

No Big Deal

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2009

In Iran, the censorship has been more sophisticated, amounting to an extraordinary cyberduel. It feels at times as if communications within the country are being strained through a sieve, as the government slows down Web access and uses the latest spying technology to pinpoint opponents.

New York Times, June 23, 2009

I voted today, against the recall of Akron mayor Don Plusquellic.

It wasn’t such a big thing. I walked into Grace Lutheran Church, between two small American flags planted into the ground. There was no line. I found my name on a sheaf of papers hanging from the wall by the door, spelled correctly (with both of my middle initials, N and K, a rarity these days), along with my party affiliation: DEM. I found my precinct, 8-R, signed my name in a voting book, then took my ballot in a folder to a nearby privacy table, and neatly filled in the oval registering my preference to keep Plusquellic in office.

“We are having difficulty getting updates to u as so many of our contacts been arrested – life here is v/v/dangerous now”

A reliable Iranian source, writing on Twitter, posted on Huffingtonpost this morning

I slid my ballot into an automated machine, and noticed on the digital window that I was the 105th person to cast my vote in that machine so far today.

“You did your civic duty,” a lovely poll worker named Laura told me. She handed me an “I voted” sticker, with an American flag in a circle. I promptly stuck it on my T-shirt.

There was only one question on the ballot today. For or against the recall. It really wasn’t such a big deal.

“Getting reliable news has become extremely difficult. Most of my sources have been arrested and I think about the few remaining ones and am very worried.”

A reliable Iranian source, writing on Twitter, posted on Huffingtonpost this morning

On my way out, I passed a sign in for pre-K classes. A large poster of a smiling sun on the wall. And a welcome bear blowing a long horn. Inexplicably, on a table in the hallway, a stuffed Pittsburgh Steelers bear sat next to a Pittsburgh Steelers cheerleader bear.

“We voted,” one woman said to another as she passed me, stepped out the door into the sunshine.

I was in and out in less than five minutes. Really, no big deal.

They gathered, the women in black, at Nilofar Square to mourn Neda Agha Soltan, the Iranian student cut down by a single bullet … I sat among the mourners in late afternoon, under the plane trees, as candles burned and a prayer was said …

As the sound of the prayer rose, the regular city police joined in. This was too much for the Basij militia, the regime’s plainclothes shock troops, who arrived on motorbikes and, wielding sticks, broke up the gathering of about 60 people.

Roger Cohen, New York Times, June 23, 2009

When I returned home, I logged on to the “Share Your Experience” voting site, set up by the Voting Rights Institute of Ohio, at www.myvoteohio.com.

I plugged in my name, address, and email. Near the bottom, there is a scroll down list of potential problems I might have encountered, including: “voter intimidation,” “improper behavior by a pollworker,” “disability access problem,” and “problem related to non-English language assistance.”

Seeing no listing for “Pittsburgh Steelers bear on table outside voting booth,” I noted only that I had a pleasant experience, and that Laura had helped me vote. I submitted the comment with a click.

Somewhere today, my vote will be tallied, along with all the rest of them. I have every faith that the counting will be fair and honest. By tonight, the voters will have spoken. Plusquellic will either be recalled, or he won’t be.

Honestly, it’s no big deal.

Akron’s Recall Election

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2009

Voters in Akron go to the polls today to decide whether to recall Mayor Don Plusquellic. They should reject the recall, and let Plusquellic serve the sixth term that he won in November 2007.

I’d urge anyone still on the fence to read two articles.

The first is this editorial, by the Akron Beacon Journal:

Akron has faced two challenges, in particular, the past two decades: improving the quality of education and navigating a harsh economic transition, from an industrial to a knowledge economy. The mayor has been relentless in addressing both. Consider his championing of the city schools, pressing for improvement and campaigning for new resources. Or his pursuit of business opportunities … Or the push for a biomedical corridor and the connection to the high-tech realm in Israel, the city seeing the future and seeking to build on its strengths.

The second is this article in the Journal by Stuart Warner, “A Walk Down Main Street, 24 Years Later”:

”As Main Streets go, Akron’s already went,” read the headline that accompanied Warner’s Corner on Oct. 16, 1985.

I counted at least 52 businesses gone bust that day — just between Cedar and Market …That was about 14 months before Don Plusquellic became Akron’s mayor.

In light of the recall, Warner decided to walk the same stretch again. He finds a much safer, more tolerant city, one that is relentlessly bucking the rust belt trend of decline:

On some summer weekend nights now, when the Aeros are at the stadium and concerts are rocking at Lock 3 and Musica, the streets are teeming with people

I’ve only lived here three years, but it seems clear to me that over 23 years in office, Plusquellic has been a driving force behind the city’s surge.

Vote to reject the recall today, and let our mayor get back to work.

Polls are open from 6:30 a.m. to  7:30 p.m. Vote at your normal polling place, unless you’ve received notification otherwise. If you have any questions about where to vote, visit http://www.summitcountyboe.com or call 330-643-5200.

Here’s some further questions and answers about the recall, from the Akron Beacon Journal.

The Akron Ballot Initiatives: My Cheat Sheet

Tuesday, October 28th, 2008

There are three local Akron initiatives. Again, I lean heavily on the Akron Beacon Journal here, which wrote a strong endorsement of Barack Obama, writing:

Where does Obama want to take the country? He wants to enhance the investment in education and research, essential to competitiveness in the knowledge economy. If his pledge to reduce the typical premium for health insurance by $2,500 a year is mostly guesswork, his overall plan reflects the pragmatism required to repair a costly and inefficient system of health care. He seeks to add fairness to the tax code, responding to trends in income, wealthier households doing far better, too many Americans experiencing flat paychecks in this decade.

So, here it goes…

7. Proposed charter amendment City of Akron … to authorize council to appoint the clerk of council position in the unclassified service.

Yes.

A snoozer. This seems to me to be mainly a technical amendment. Te city clerk is appointed by the council, and answers to its members. Currently, though, the clerk falls under civil service, meaning that she answers to the mayor.

The Beacon Journal Writes:

Under the amendment, the clerk would serve solely at the discretion of the council, making it clear whose interests are being served. The mayor has similar authority over the top administrative officials who make up the Cabinet. …

It is reasonable for the City Council to directly employ its own clerk, whose hiring and firing would require a majority vote.

That seems reasonable to me.

8. Proposed charter amendment City of Akron … establishing a scholarship fund for Akron resident students.

Yes.

At first blush, not much to get excited about. But this one has generated quite a bit of controversy locally, because, to pay for the scholarships — which local students would use to pay for college, technical, or trade school — the city would lease the Akron sewer system. The Beacon Journal called it the “sewers-to-scholarships plan.”

As near as I can gather, here’s how it would work. Akron Mayor Don Plusquellic hopes to collect upwards of $200 million by leasing the sewers to a private firm. With that cash, he would create an endowment to fund students’ tuitioin. All students would be able to apply for the scholarships — whether they attended public school, private school, a nonprofit school, or were home-schooled.

As the Beacon Journal wrote in a recent editorial:

The city scholarship program would operate on the principle of the ”last dollar.” In other words, a student first would seek to gain college grants and scholarships from other sources. If he or she proved successful, the city then would make up the difference between the amount awarded and the cost of tuition at the University of Akron or a city trade school.

Follow the logic, and more resources from the city scholarship program would be available to those households not eligible for need-based awards. That translates into scholarships for the middle class, for those families and students who face the burden of paying for a substantial share of a college education.

Read more here.

But is leasing the sewers such a good idea? In a separate editorial, the Beacon Journal notes:

The fundamental point of a lease arrangement is that the city would still own the sewer system, retaining under its terms the right to make sure the system operates safely and in compliance with environmental regulations. Retaining city ownership would keep the pipeline open for federal money to cover upgrades. Terms of the lease would require the operator to use properly trained and certified personnel.

Rate hikes would be capped. And the 100 sewer system workers would be retained by the city, so no jobs would be lost.

As the Beacon Journal notes, the big picture, it seems to me, is this:

The Akron Scholarship Plan is based on a simple, but bold, premise: A well-educated work force would help jump-start the city’s economic future. What voters should know is that the plan, to be financed by leasing the sewer system, would be surrounded by a complex web of safeguards to protect rate payers, sewer department workers, the system itself and students who would receive tuition to the University of Akron or a trade or technical school in the city if Issue 8 passes.

There’s plenty of precedent for the idea of private companies running public utilities. Nationwide, private entities run some 1,800 government-owned plants. It doesn’t always work out, but, as the Beacon Journal points out in yet another editorial on the subject, “many … have found the partnerships beneficial. A private company has operated the sewer system in Indianapolis for 14 years, the water system in Jersey City, N.J., for 12 years.”

Sure, there’s a risk. But if we are going to increase access to educational opportunity and keep Akron competitive, we need a creative approach to solving today’s challenges. Issue 8 is exactly that.

9. Proposed charter amendment City of Akron, requiring a majority vote of the citizens for the sale, lease, or transfer of city utilities.

No.

This would amend the city charter and require that voters approve any action to sell, lease or transfer a city public utility. It was put forth by opponents of Mayor Plusquellic’s plan to lease the sewer systems, as a way to challenge it.

The Beacon Journal writes:

The city already has a vehicle for citizens to express their will independent of elected officials. First, they must gather the required signatures to reach the ballot. Then, they must persuade a majority of voters to side with their view.

In other words, voters are already voting on whether to lease the public utility — that’s issue 8. We don’t need to set in stone, as the Beacon Journal puts it, an “all-encompassing requirement regarding city utilities.”

That’s my take. I’d welcome your input, if you agree, disagree, or have any thoughts.