An interesting thing happened at the Mayor's press conference today on the sewers-for-scholarships program .. but before I can tell you the story, here's a bit of insight into my 17+ years of covering Akron City Hall.
There are two unwritten laws when it comes to what Mayor Don Plusquellic tells the press:
A) Everything somehow comes back to water.
B) When Mayor Plusquellic says "Ellet", make sure your tape is recording.
If you've lived here long enough, you've heard the water stories. Whenever there's a financial squabble, DP will usually compare the debate to " ... now if you didn't pay your water bill, you get your water turned off ..." or something to that effect. The Cuyahoga River -- and Akron's ownership rights -- is another common theme. So you can see how our broadcast soundbites end up all wet.
Other reporters and even some members of the mayor's cabinet will back me up on this.
Second, when DP mentions the folks in Orangeman-ville ... it's usually because he's frustrated with them. Either they're not supporting an issue the mayor likes or someone in Southeast Akron has called a radio talk show and spoken out of turn in Don's eyes. The "Ellet bites" are often the best soundbites of the press conference because he's usually pretty wound up by that point.
(To be honest, the Mayor's praise and wrath seems equally spread across town, and he's praised Bob Otterman more times than I've driven on Route 91. Still, something happens when DP gets in front of a microphone .. and "Ellet" seems to be the community that's he mentions or attacks first.)
That's why I was nearly speechless when Plusquellic said this today:
"It's the hard working people, parents in Ellet, where the mother is a teacher, and the father is a fire fighter. Those are the people expected to spend all of the cost of a college education .. and they don't have 10 or 20 thousand dollars a year to pay out or shell out."
Did he really say Ellet in a positive manner? Wow!
I honestly came back to the office to replay the tape .. just to make sure I heard him right.
His point is well-placed and right on the money when it comes to our city. Wealthy Akron families have the funds to send their kids to college while some of the poorest will qualify for enough aid that they may not need the sewers $$.
It's the many families in the middle where both parents work and they struggle to make ends meet. The families that make too much money to qualify for reduced lunches, even though mom takes the bus to work because the family can only afford one car.
Those families are all over Ellet. And yeah, they're all over everywhere. All over town. North, East, South, West. Families all over Akron are struggling in that same way.
And those are families that are feeding their 529 savings plans and still know it won't be enough to get their kids to college. And they don't sleep well at night because of it.
And while the debate over Issue 8 is sure to play out from now until election day -- as it should with so much on the line -- the mayor's little slip of the tongue .. which some might even call his intentional play on words by saying "Ellet" ... I can tell you that the passion behind Plusquellic's drive here seems as high as I've ever seen it.