Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Mayor Plusquellic's State of the City speech low on bombshells, big on accomplishments

11:45 a.m. The room is packed like an Acme grocery bag. I can't believe the Fire Marshall would approve of this. The Mayor is working the front of the room and seems geared up for this, as he always is.
11:50 a.m. The media is lining the back row of seats in the giant ballroom. There is no room for anyone. Jody Miller just came up to join us and I offered her a chance to share part of my seat. Maybe we could do a ventriloquist routine. Next year they should put the media in a room off the hallway so there's room to write, blog, and cover this event. As it is, with no WI-FI, nothing will reach the net until well after the event.
11:53 a.m.Deputy Mayor Dave Leiberth just handed out copies of the speech. I kidded Beacon Journal reporter Stephanie Warsmith that I hear the Mayor plans to take over the paper this year. Although, after last year's sewer idea, nothing is off the table as to surprises anyway.
12:00 High noon and it still feels more like a Final Four kick-off party than a big political speech. Steve Hoffman just found out that his own name is in the speech. He's getting a good chuckle. I still haven't read that far to see it yet. Pastor Knute Larson from the Chapel is nearby. He and Jody Miller are chatting about an interview for NewsNight Akron before Larson retires in the spring. Jody's probably going to put it together to run on Good Friday.
12:04 p.m.OK .. we're getting started now. Rick Farkas of the Akron Rotary Club is introducing the Mayor.
12:08 pm.Plusquellic has now taken the podium. His speech is 13 pages in length. He just opened with a nice joke that half of the folks who came to hear him "talk about a crazy idea" would be disappointed. He referenced folks watching in the cabaret,which might be a good place for the media to be next year instead of this back row with few places to sit and no place to work.
12:10 p.m.I see on page four that Plusquellic will talk about the city getting $14 million for transportation projects, and $40 million total for local projects. He just talked about how thousands of Akron residents are struggling with the tough economy.
12;11 p.m.His biggest opening theme centers on Akron's "All-America City" Award and the pieces/parts that went into it.
12:12 p.m.At some point, he'll get to $10 million coming to Akron to help secure foreclosed and beat up homes. This will support his announcement late last year of an initiative where the city takes extra steps to help families in crisis.
12:13 p.m.A freebie! DP pointed out a white envelope on each table with special COA pins for everyone to wear. He's wearing one already.
12:15 p.m. As the Mayor recognizes council members in attendance, I see that he'll be taking a direct aim at his critics in a few minutes. He says that downtown employment has doubled to 31,000 over the last 13 years. I've heard that number before and it's an eye opener. I don't think most folks realize that there are that many downtown employees. That growth has led to a 251% increase in income tax downtown, which pays for 137 police officers. Always good to quantify dollars in how they're really spent.
12:18 p.m. Don just mentioned Mellissa Barnhart. Called her "an important person in my life." I didn't expect that. While she is well known as Don's close friend, he mentioned her along with recognizing his family. Now, the family recognition is written into the speech, but Melissa's mention was not. I'm sure talk radio will say that it's a hint that Don and Melissa must be planning a future together. Guess I'll leave it at that.
12:20 p.m. Back on to the written speech now .. and DP just mentioned that "nothing focuses your attention like your 60th birthday" .. which will come later this year. He's using it to springboard to his energy to deal with bigger problems for cities like Akron .. and is discussing his many Washington projects and assignments.
12:22 p.m. While railing on the Homeland Security issues, I see on page five that the Mayor will soon talk about a recent decision to halt overtime unless in emergency situations. He's also canceling the annual City Picnic because of the tough economy. That's probably an excellent idea with the community watching every dime the city spends right now.
12:24 p.m. DP is now on to neighborhood stabilization, community block programs, and transportation dollars .. all good stuff. I see that on page 6 he'll take aim at many in the area who he sees as not wanting to change. He also plans to quote Loretta Lynn saying "everyone wants to go to Heaven, but no one wants to die." Good quote, but I find it hard to see DP listening to country music, let alone LL. Then again, I don't doubt it either.
12;26 p.m. He's talking about running for public service now and how he never thought he'd be Mayor. That's a thought that he typically weaves into his bigger speeches (as memory serves) and how it took a long time for him to give in to take part in some of these bigger national committees. (Nice applause)
12:27 p.m. That's three swipes as local talk radio so far... but who's counting?
12:29 p.m. Ahhh h.. page 7. He's going to take aim at the folks who shot down Issue 8, Sewers for Scholarships, last fall .. and play off his election night quote by saying there's a "special place in HEAVEN" for those who worked hard on the project. Steve Hoffman's name is in there. Nice to see DP say that a journalist did a good job. You won't hear that very often. He's still quite agitated at the folks whom he believes misled voters to say "no" to the idea, and from what I saw at the polls, he has a valid point. Certainly there were issues with the plan, but voters shouldn't have been given bogus info before casting a ballot.
12:30 p.m. OK .. he's now on the overtime issues that I referenced above. So I guess I'm about three pages ahead of him.
12:32 p.m. DP is talking about community learning centers and ensuring kids have enough college for that. A bit later he'll recognize Craig Gilbride for accepting the opportunity to be interim Police Chief. The Mayor's relationship with APD is always up for discussion around town. Some think it's strained while others say it's a very open, supportive role. It's no secret that DP had issues with the previous police chief and the union leadership, but I've never once heard him bad mouth or criticize an APD officer, even when the issue up for discussion isn't positive. In 17 years of covering his speeches and events ..and hearing him speak candidly when the cameras are off, and he just doesn't rip the community organizations like some might think. He's certainly challenge the leaders and those leaders will challenge him, but just as an aside, those who say DP is anti-cop or anti-this or that .. are misled.
12:34 p.m. DP just did a good rendition on change .. and did some hand gestures of driving a "smart car." That may be the best soundbite for tonight's TV broadcast. Animated and concise. I'll make a mental note to find that one. He said it just before referencing Loretta Lynn.
12:39 p.m. The "Special place in heaven" comment just got a nice laugh.
12:40 p.m. He's in a long stretch of touting positive organizations. Peacemakers and other community groups. I see that on page 10 he'll be talking about his strong relationship with County Executive Russ Pry and getting city and county organizations to work together, something that probably gets criticized more than it should, especially in this economy.
12:42 p.m. On Page 11 .. he'll talk about the junk cars program that he pitched a year ago .. and share numbers when it comes to how many properties have been cleaned up. He'll also be talking about Bridgestone-Firestone's decision to stay in Akron and keep 1,000 jobs in town.
12:43 p.m. DP is now honoring two Akron Police Officers who disarmed a gunman who planned to rob some drug dealers.He's asking for a nice round of applause for them as an example of the strength of the department.
12:44 p.m. Don's now talking about how folks have a misconception of his relationship with APD. He must have read my blog post above .. lol.
12:46 p.m. He just showed a picture of the first motorized police wagon in the country, which was unveiled here in Akron.Nice joke there.
12:47 p.m. Later, DP will talk about the new BioInnovation Institute and the Knight Center for Digital Excellence, which is set to provide wi-fi to most of the city. Wish it were done right now so I could post this blog in real time. lol
12:49 p.m. I just joked with Jody Miller that the last paragraph of the entire speech promises a grocery store for Highland Square in 2009. Although, that promise is followed by "I can't guarantee that." Stay tuned for how that goes over.He mentions that the city is actively seeking the right developer to make the project work.
12:51 p.m. He's now discussing a plan to transfer Akron's drug officers to the operational command of the Summit County Drug Task Force. This would seem to be a good plan as the two organizations already work together on drug operations. DP prefaced this by talking about Sheriff Drew Alexander, whom DP called a "good friend."
12:53 p.m. He's in the middle of page 10 .. and looks like he might actually finish by 1 p.m . I didn't think it was possible, but he's coming in "on time."
12:54 p.m. He's talking now about plans to work with the county and others to help with health care for the poor, at least until some type of "national health care" plan becomes a reality.
12:56 p.m. Oh .. so I don't forget to say it later .. there was a one-man protest out on Market Street. A single person standing in the cold with two signs. Gotta give him credit for his dedication if nothing else on such a cold day. One sign criticized the mayor for the current lawsuit from the EPA that critics (Warner Mendenhall) say puts the COA on the hook for more than $100 million in fines for problems with the sewer system. City hall says the EPA is off base and that the courts will agree down the road.
12:58 p.m. I see the folks running the prompter for today's speech. They're doing well to make sure they stop when he gets off topic .. but without moving too slow for his speaking pace. DP has often kidded me about how easy of a job I must have because all I have to do is read a prompter. Ha. I'd love to see him give it a whirl while a director or producer whispers in his ear .. and while the clock is ticking on each story to finish on-time .. not early or late. Maybe he'd agree to swap jobs with me for a day. Now THAT could be fun. I'm sure he would turn our newsroom upside down .. and I'm sure the vastness of city hall responsibilities would wow me too. Still it would be an entertaining challenge.
1 p.m. DP's still talking .. but almost done. He's running over just a tad for folks who need to get back to work .. but for the most part, he's much closer to finishing "on time" than I anticipated.
1:02 p.m. He's hoping that since the Stimulus Package includes $7 billion for broadband, Akron can be first in line for grants expand the Knight Foundation's city wi-fi plans .. and ad-libbing that "folks in Goodyear Heights and Ellet" won't feel left out.
1:03 p.m. OK .. he's reached the last page of the speech .. and his showing a state map of where patents come from. He says that Akron leads the state in new patents.
1:05 p.m. He's praising the Obama administration now as understanding that "American cities are the engines of growth and commerce for the whole country."
1:06 p.m. OK .. he just rephrased the grocery store comment from the script. Just a bit. Now he's ad libbing that maybe we could build a store with an entrance on Market Street and parking on the roof.
1:07 p.m. Now he's taking aim at Warner Mendenhall and the recall effort. Now .. this isn't in the written script given to the press. But I can see that it IS in the prompter. He's telling the audience a recall election could cost the city up to$175,000 dollars. He says folks consider the recall a joke, but that the city can't accept it as a joke. )I see a handful of folks leaving because it's after 1 p.m.) Now he's going after Mendenhall and referencing the ABJ calling him a man of "puny accomplishments." Now he's saying the he may be in the "fight of his life." He's showing more passion here than in any other part of the speech. He's trying to fire up the crowd with his passion for the city and accomplishments.

1:10 p.m. Standing ovation and thanks .. on to Q&A.

1:15 p.m. I just realized that the speech was being beamed into the Tangier cabaret .. so I could have watched the speech in there and had a lot more room to sit and write. Ugh .. my bad .. guess I should have looked first.


Chris H. said...

"nothing will reach the net until well after the event."

Not entirely true ... as Channel 5 and ANN both streamed it live.

Eric Mansfield said...

Yes Chris that's true ..

guess I should have been more specific .. that no reporter coverage, blogs, web copy, analysis, reaction, etc .. .. none of that would arrive in "real" time .. although if the Knight Foundation's Wi-Fi plan gets up soon, it'll be easier next year ..

so does this mean you sat home and watched the speech?

Chris H. said...

I watched some on newsnet5.com ... just to see what if he had anything crazy ...

I came in right around the "special place in heaven line" ...

Keith Kennedy said...

I enjoyed hearing the Mayor's speech. He is if anything passionate about Akron. When most politicians speak I question every word. I admire him because there is never a grey area, ever.

Try listening to Jackson's speech in Cleveland or Goober Healy in Canton, you'll be asleep in three minutes flat.

Also feel the same vibe from Robart in the falls. He is equally passionate.

and for what it's worth..
the State of the City was also carried live on 640am WHLO and www.640whlo.com, where it is also archived for download.

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