Over the past year, I've had the privilege of
representing Akron to the world, and many residents have been generous and kind in telling
me how proud they are of what I have done as Mayor.
Knowing that, I understand even
better the disappointment many people have expressed to my reaction to being rudely
confronted by a downtown parking attendant last week
Thousands of people have supported our efforts to invigorate Downtown Akron, and they
are entitled to a better account of these events than the one provided by letter-writers
to the Beacon and on talk-radio this past week.
Terminating this young man from his job was a correct decision for his employer to
make. Its a decision I have been required to make when a citizen is on the receiving
end of unexplainably rude treatment from someone we've put on the front line to provide
I have since clarified to the business-owner that if he chooses to retain the young man
in his employ, he should not be assigned to Downtown. Its clear to me that the
treatment I received last week was not the first time that this
particular individual made the experience of dining Downtown miserable for someone.
Some letter-writers to the Beacon think my reaction to this incident was harsh
and unreasonable. I suspect that they dont fully appreciate how hard so many people
have worked to make Downtown a success. (I also suspect that they are the same people who
would be the first to write to me if they were treated this badly by a city employee.)
Indeed, when we received complaints about parking lot attendants who manage the decks
and lots owned by the City, we insisted that our contractor take steps to address customer
complaints, and they did even requiring their attendants to take classes in
Heres why. Good men and women have invested their life savings into starting
businesses Downtown. Hundreds of young people are employed in more than 50 Downtown
restaurants and clubs, and they depend on our success to pay their college tuition and
living expenses. I have a larger obligation to these groups of people than to one
Hardly a week goes by that my office doesn't get a letter about some problem in
Downtown. Thats why two years ago I convened a group of a dozen city managers who
meet weekly with one sole mission: to continuously improve the Downtown Akron experience.
Not only have we encouraged valet parking companies to help us manage the problem of
too many cars with too few close-up parking spaces, but we continue to look for new ways
to accommodate this higher level of customer service to make their enterprise flourish.
To be sure, Im passionate about our success: Downtown Akron has seen a billion
dollars of new construction in recent years. Income tax collections have doubled over the
last 13 years in Downtown alone. Nearly 3-million people each year come Downtown for
entertainment. We continue to plan new special events that enhance the quality of life for
everyone, and help us retain and attract the young professionals our businesses
What hurts the most in recent accounts is the suggestion that I lack empathy for this
attendant. As a young man, I did back-breaking work on loading docks, drove delivery
trucks, and yes, for a short time I even worked as a parking lot attendant for Russell
Harp -- where I learned that its too important to leave the goodwill of customers
and the jobs of hundreds of others -- in the hands of any one rude individual who fails to
treat customers courteously.
I am sorry for the language I used with the attendant. Whether its my "blue
collar" up-bringing or just a habit, theres no good excuse for the language I
used. Even my mother was disappointed in my choice of words, and I realize that I need to
set a better example for my three grandchildren in the future.