My Rankings For Akron Mayor After The 3rd Debate:
The BIG winner of the Social Justice Forum debate last night (March 16, 2023) was Mark Greer. The questions they asked were right up his alley and he knocked them out of the park.
The first question the candidates were asked was "what is the most important social justice issue in Akron."
The answers from every candidate were so boring and uniform. It was hard to separate them. "Public Safety" was their answer. It's a stupid answer because OF COURSE safety is the most important thing. Just because you say it doesn't mean you are going to make it better at all. No one actually talked about why things are unsafe right now. Things are unsafe because of increased income inequality, generational hopelessness, demeaning jobs and living in a city that so clearly doesn't care about its citizens… especially the young, Black male ones.
NOT MARK GREER. He went first and his answer was: Jayland Walker is the number one social justice issue.
That answer is so brilliant because it tells the entire Akron Condition in one terribly tragic story and is representative of all that is wrong in Akron. An unarmed man is shot at 90 times and hit over 40 times. "Let's talk about that."
It's complicated and delicate and nuanced.
Telling us that we need more police walking around neighborhoods is like telling a person with cancer to eat less sugar. Sure. It's probably a good idea. But it is not going to cure the cancer.
Mark went on and on like this all night. Every word out of his mouth was fresh and interesting and deeply thoughtful.
The second question was "Talk about 1 or 2 interventions for gun safety."
This is where Sommerville started falling apart. And he did so a few times in the night. He wasn't reading off of his tablet last night and now I see why he should probably go back to it.
Marco has one idea he's super excited about. He wants to put Batman-eque magnetic darts on police cars that will shoot out and stick to a bad guy's car and that dart will have GPS. These are being used in some other cities in the country. It's cool and all. But it's not a strategy. It's just a tactic that may or may not be effective. Besides, we already have all these Flock licence plate cameras throughout the city. I'm quite sure if an officer is close enough to shoot a dart at a car, they are close enough to read the license plate and then have the Flock cameras scan for the plate all over the city.
Sommerville, without his notes, feels like an out of touch old man. I'm not sure he has any idea what's really going on.
So, after Marco talks about his dart idea that he has talked about at every debate so far, he says that, at that point, the police can stop the chase, let the gps do its work and then they can "move in for the kill."
That line elicited a lot of groans in the audience.
When it was Mark Greer's turn to speak he apologized for Marco's gaff. It was brilliantly played. It was sincere, authentic and put a nuanced point on the fact that just because Marco is Black doesn't mean he is getting it.
It was like that all night. As good as Mark Greer kept getting, Marco Sommerville kept getting worse.
At one point Marco said that we needed more women on the police force because women are better at de-escalation.
Here's a tip gramps: Whenever words like "Women are…", "Black people are…", "White people are…" come out of your mouth NO MATTER what you say after that you are going to sound ignorant and bigoted.
We've all learned now (or at least we should have all learned) that stereotypes just aren't true. You have to judge the individual person not the arbitrary grouping you've amassed them in to make your life easier.
Humans are too complicated to generalize into neat little stereotypes. You have to get to know each individual person.
And may I say for the record, not all older people are out of touch. Reverend John Beaty is one of the most hard core social justice fighters I know and he's like 82 years old.
But Marco Sommerville is living into that old person stereotype. Out of touch and ignorant of his out of touch ideas.
An incredibly powerful bit of investigative journalism by Doug Livingston this week showed that the mayor's office has been hiding money spent for decades. Sometime in the 1960s an unknown person put a passage in the annual budget called "Section 56."
Section 56 gives the mayor the authority to skip council approval and sign millions of dollars in consulting contracts that don’t require council notification.
That's not how it's supposed to work. Council controls the money. Everything over $50,000 needs to be approved by city council.
Last year the mayor's office snuck through 173 contracts totalling more than $30 million. It is equal to about 1 in every 6 income tax dollars collected locally. City council had no idea this was happening. They would have never known if it wasn't for Doug Livingston.
For example, there was a $155,000 contract with former Mayor Don Plusquellic, and a $35,000 contract for James Hardy, my political opponent for Ward 8 city council.
Why hide the money? Why not just put it in the regular budget?
Marco Sommerville thinks this is totally cool. He said he doesn't see any corruption or any problems with the way money is being spent inside the administration, OF WHICH HE IS A PART.
And that right there ladies and gentlemen is the number 1 reason why you should NOT vote for Marco Sommerville. He looks different. But he's not different.
Nothing will change under Marco Sommerville.
There will be no social justice. There will be no listening to the people. There will be no care for our natural resources (that are probably going to be the biggest draw for us in the near future for people to move here, as much of the rest of the country suffers from drought and other natural disasters.)
After last night I would not vote for Marco Sommerville.
As much as I love Mark Greer, he doesn't have the political machine in place to actually win this election. Politics involves a lot of different muscle groups. You need to be able to fundraise, to inspire volunteers, to think strategically about your campaign. Unfortunately, being the person with the best ideas isn't enough. Democracy is very much a popularity contest and you have to know how to win it.
My hope and belief is still on Tara Mosely. She gets the social justice failings of Akron. She has the 3 term city council experience. She knows how to pass legislation. She has energy and passion. She can cross all kinds of racial and class lines.
If I was betting, I'd still say Sommerville is going to win. He's got a ton of money and he's going to flood the market with all kinds of advertisements.
Very few people go to debates. Very few people take the time to read posts like these. Most people are too busy and don't see the importance of local politics in their day to day lives. Most people don't know that there is even a May 2, 2023 primary or that whoever wins that will be the next mayor of Akron.
As a city council person I'm very excited to continue to talk about local issues and help get people more excited about local politics. I'll have a slightly bigger platform to get these ideas out.
We need to create a movement of the people that gets them interested and excited about local politics and how they can radically transform it if they get just a little bit involved.