A watershed moment for Akron
The online version of the Cambridge dictionary defines watershed as “an event or period that is important because it represents a big change in how people do or think about something.”
I would argue that the city of Akron is at a watershed moment in its history.
You might have heard that the city’s current mayor is not running for reelection after two terms in office, the second filled with challenges, including the COVID-19 pandemic.
You might have heard that there are seven candidates vying to replace him. They range from longtime members of the city’s political establishment to longtime residents, each looking to lead their city for the next four years.
You might have heard that a special grand jury is currently at work, behind closed doors, hearing the presentation from the Ohio Attorney General’s office on the actions of eight police officers in the early morning hours of June 27, 2022, and whether they should be criminally charged for their actions in the shooting death of 25-year-old Jayland Walker following a car chase.
There is a confluence of events in Akron and the team at Ideastream Public Media is prepared to help Northeast Ohio understand what’s going on and to provide Akron voters with the information they need to make an informed choice about who will be their next mayor.
Last night, Ideastream, along with the Akron Beacon Journal, the Akron Press Club and the Ohio Debate Commission, presented the second of our two debates featuring all seven of the candidates. The democratic process gives voters a chance to best determine who they want to lead, and last night’s debate literally put the microphone right in the hands of voters as we asked residents to put their own questions to the candidates.
It was a mostly civil affair with questions ranging from how they would keep young people from moving away to find jobs to which other candidate would a candidate choose to serve under as a deputy mayor. That one got a lot of laughs.
But things got testy with a question about community relations with the Akron Police and discussion of Issue 10, which created a civilian oversight board for the police department. Was it the best solution to addressing reforms of the police department? By the way, Ideastream Akron reporter Anna Huntsman had excellent coverage of last night’s debate.
Regardless of who wins the race, the next mayor will have their work cut out for them. As the city awaits the grand jury’s decision on the killing of Jayland Walker, it’s boarding up windows and preemptively putting concrete barriers in place. And that’s leaving people to wonder what city officials know that they don’t.
Tensions are high in the city, and residents are uncertain about Akron’s future. A recent survey Ideastream conducted with our debate partners found that more people thought the city was on the wrong track. Public safety and crime were top of mind, and 39% thought the Akron police department was doing just a “fair” job of keeping the city safe. And in that survey, a majority were in the middle when asked whether they felt they had a voice in how the city is run.
As I said, the next mayor is going to have their work cut out for them.
Akron is at a watershed moment. The people of Akron face critical decisions that affect the direction of the city. The team at Ideastream will continue to do its part connecting Akron’s neighborhoods with the news and information that can help residents make important decisions and help Northeast Ohio understand how what happens in Akron affects all of us.