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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

(VIDEOS & SCRPC REPORTS) STARK CO LAND REUTILIZATION CORP (SCLRC) - ARE THE RIGHT QUESTIONS BEING ASKED?

FINAL UPDATE:  (10:20 AM)


SCLRC ("the Land Bank")
 HOLDS "KEY"
TO 
ALLIANCE, CANTON & MASSILLON
BECOMING
THRIVING COMMUNITIES,
ONCE AGAIN 

VIDEOS

THE WRONG QUESTION

GREEN RE-APPOINTED 

THE ENTIRE MEETING OF 07/21/2014

A VIDEO FOR ALL STARK CO
URBAN PLANNERS & AFFECTED
CITIZENS TO SEE 

REPORTS

SCRPC
MOVING OHIO FORWARD UPDATE

SCRPC
SIDELOT PROGRAM UPDATE 

One of the wisest ideas to take hold in Stark County government in many, many of a year was the creation of and the development of the Stark County Land Reutilitzation Corporation (SCLRC/Land Bank) back in 2012.  (March 21, 2012, the SCLR was formed as a non-profit, quasi-government entity)

And Stark County treasurer Alex Zumbar deserves "the lion's share" of credit in getting the entity up and going so that county government has a mechanism to help Stark County's urban areas rid themselves of blighted properties and thereby create cleared space with which "to re-invent" themselves.

One county public figure told the SCPR that Canton, for instance, is a city that was built to be a 140,000 resident city but now has to deal with the reality of being a 70,000 or so population sized cities.
All of which means that this Hall of Fame city and Stark's county seat is adjustinerg to and currently is caught up in a lot of negativity as it wrestles with the problems of "the great adjustment" which is underway.

Ditto for Stark's other major urban centers of Alliance, Massillon and North Canton.

Newly appointed economic development specialist for Alliance, Joe Mazzola, told the Land Bank board yesterday that demolition of delapidated housing was a key factor in restoring cities to economic viability and that funding of same is critical if urban Ohio communities including Stark's are to become attractive communities to those deciding where to live.

However, he cautioned that financial pressures on cities (e.g. the massive State of Ohio cuts in local government funding by the Republican governor John Kasich administration and the Republican dominated Ohio General Assembly) has crimped local governments in their striving to aggressively pursue the removal of blighted properties.

Under the grant funding now in place, there is $25,000 cap on reimbursable from the State of Ohio (i.e. Moving Ohio Forward) monies and that there are properties that will exceed the $25,000.

David Mayle (representing Massillon) echoed Mazzola's point.

See the complete video provided at the end of this blog (immediately before the Appendix) to pick up on the exact statements of Mazzola and Mayle.

At the end of the meeting, SCRPC director Bob Nau passed out a survey to the board members entitled:  "How can we plan for the future?"

In future blogs, the SCPR will bring Stark Countians up-to-date on the results of the survey.

One of the things that the county's commissioner form of government is plagued with has been being poorly equipped and financed, and therefore inadequate to the task of an effective force in aiding the county's urban centers to lead the way for Stark County to become "a county of destination" for those Americans seeking out ideal places to locate in and raise a new generation of Stark Countians.

As The Stark County Political Report sees it, the SCLRC is about all we've got in county leadership in terms of being a focal point of urban center coordinating and collective action that has the potential to turn the county's urban centers around economically and financially speaking.

The SCLRC, in terms of being "general fund" not restricted to "grant money" terms and conditions uses,  is funded by Delinquent Tax Assessment & Collection (DETAC) resources (at 5% of collections) and potential state and federal grants.
At the end of 2012, Stark County had $194,559 in DETAC (or General Fund finances), to wit from the audit:
General Fund - The general fund accounts for all financial resources that are received from the County Treasurer from penalties collected on delinquent property taxes and interest on those delinquencies. The general fund receives 5% of all collections of delinquent real property, personal property, and manufactured and mobile home taxes that are deposited into the County’s Delinquent Tax Assessment and Collection Tax (DTACT) fund. The general fund balance is available to the Corporation for any purpose provided it is expended or transferred according
to the general laws of Ohio.
At the end of 2013, the net DETAC funding stood at $863,622.  It appears to the SCPR that the Land Bank received $998,449 in county generated (DETAC) funds and spent $134,827.

The Report believes that the DETAC number is the primary number to focus on as a measure of the frugality and efficiency of the Land Bank administration inasmuch as other funding is of grant nature and is heavily restricted as to use in meeting grant purposes and objects.
 
Other funding includes, for instance; this from the year 2012 financial audit of the SCLRC, to wit:
The County Land Bank was successful in obtaining a two-year $2,000,000 demolition grant from the Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine - Moving Ohio Forward program to assist in addressing demolitions of residential structures throughout Stark County.
The focus of this blog is on the importance of the "right questions" being asked by those who staff the board of directors of those who assist by virtue of their county/urban/township/village jobs and by virtue of contracted out administrative services (e.g Stark County's Regional Planning Commission [SCRP]) so as to make wise decisions on the use of the money that comes the SCLRC's way.

The board of directors include:

Alexander Zumbar, chairman
(also Stark County treasurer)

Lem Green, vice chairman
City of Canton representative

Thomas Bernabei, member
county representative

Janet Creighton, member
county representative

township representative (vacant)


The SCPR has been covering the Land Bank from the beginning and has a general impression that by and large the board has been asking the right questions and taking the proper actions.

EXAMPLES OF QUESTIONS & ACTIONS

EXAMPLE #1

For the most part, the SCLRC/Land Bank meetings have been uneventful.  But the January 21, 2014 meeting was full of controversy.  It may be the only one that the SCPR thinks that "the politics of the situation" surfaced.

Zumbar is a Republican, Green is a Democrat, Bernabei is a Democrat (and a former law director, councilman and service director [Healy administration], Creighton is a Republican (and former mayor of Canton) and the-then township representative was Scott Haws who is a Republican and Plain Township trustee.

The Question was whether or not the SCLRC/Land Bank would support a city of Canton request.

In the SCPR blog of February 3, 2014, (covering the January 21st meeting [see above], the question was set up thusly:
Only Mayor William J. Healy, II could pull this one off.

On the one hand,
  • making out that the Stark County Land Reutilization Corporation (SCLRC, "Land Bank") to be the problem getting in the way of Canton making a dent in achieving progress in tearing down abandoned eyesore residences and, then, 
on the other,
  • sending a representative (Chief of Staff Fonda Williams) to Land Bank meeting "with hat in hand" pleading with the SCLRC board members to sponsor Canton in making an application with the State of Ohio for more money to demolish the vacated properties.
As readers of the SCPR know, there is a lot of "bad blood" between Creighton (who lost her bid for reelection as mayor of Canton in 2007) and Bernabei (whom Healy fired as his service director in early 2009) vis-a-vis Healy.
Nonetheless, Creighton and Bernabei set aside their political party backgrounds and their differences with Healy to support Canton in its quest which ultimately became successful.

Zumbar and Haws, on the other hand, the SCPR thinks, let political considerations enter into their "no" votes on the issue of supporting Canton's request.

EXAMPLE #2

Then there was an incident in which Lem Green brought up the idea that he (a lawyer, but not "the" lawyer for the Land Bank) was spending an lot of time as a member of the board and doing tons of work in terms of examining title questions and other matters that perhaps he ought to be paid something for his efforts.

The Report's take is that after he sensed "a chilly reception" from and a number of his fellow board members on his idea; he dropped it.

And well he should have in the view of the SCPR.

There is no question that Green has done a lot of work for SCLRC interests as a board member.  But for him to start out as an "unpaid" board member and end up being paid would not set well with the taxpaying Stark County general public and in the interest of Stark Countians having confidence in the board and not abiding the appearance of insider dealing, it was good, the SCPR thinks, "to have read the tea leaves" and dropped the matter.

Yesterday, Green was appointed to a new term as Canton's representative on the board.



EXAMPLE #3

And most recently, it appears to the SCPR that it was Bernabei who stopped (in walking out of an "executive session" which included the topic) a Zumbar plan to have the Lank Bank board contract with the-then secretary/treasurer (a former Stark County treasurer for a few days in 2010) Jaime Allbritain (a Republican) to provide administrative services to the SCLRC as "an independent contractor."

Allbritain, the SCPR thinks, has done excellent work in the treasurer's office but "so-so" with the Land Bank as evidenced by the fact that the minutes and other aspects of the SCLRC webpage on the Stark County treasurer's website are NOT up-to-date.

Those having the responsibility of keeping the Stark County informed about Lank Bank proceeding need to correct the information deficiency on the webpage.

For the SCLRC to do business with her as an independent contractor in a contract award that would not have been bid out to the general public smacks too much of providing grist for the development of a public perception of "inside dealing" (even if untrue).

Interestingly enough, one week to the day after Zumbar's initiative to have the board award her an independent contractor contract, Allbritain resigned as secretary/treasurer of the SCLRC, to wit:


Bernabei told the SCPR (yesterday) that he thinks that an Allbritain hire is "a dead issue" and that Stark County Regional Planning will be doing much of the work that was contemplated had the independent contractor initiative survived.

Allbritain is currently county treasurer Zumbar's chief deputy.
 
While Zumbar is enormously talented and the SCPR thinks has done a tremendous job in restoring public confidence in the Stark County treasurer's office since Gary Zeigler resigned on October 11, 2011 and in getting the SCLRC up and running; The Report thinks he is too political and needs to learn to tone down the politics thing in discharge of his official duties.

EXAMPLE #4

This is the only case where the SCPR thinks that the Lank Bank board might be about to make a mistake.

At yesterday's meeting, as part of the Lank Bank's side lot program two Canton property owners were present for the purpose to advance competing claims for title to a vacant side lot where a now demolished building once stood.



It appears that a negotiation is about to take place between the parties and their respective parties designed to work out an mutually satisfactory division of the vacant lot.

Seems fair enough, no?

So what is the problem?

As pointed out to the SCPR by Joel Owens (in a discussion after the meeting), there is "one huge elephant in the room" (The Report's characterization; not Owens') in that the city of Canton may have an interest for the overall public good of an overall plan for the city that might not be compatible with either party's plan for the use of the property.

Picking up on Owens' point, the SCPR thinks that the Land Bank board needs to step back on the negotiations and institute a process for this particular decision that ensures that the projected use of the proposed vacant lot transfer is compatible with and enhancing of Canton's overall plan of space redevelopment.

Moreover, the process used in the instant proposed transfer needs to be refined as to being practical as a tool for the some 500 plus existing proposed side lot transfers under consideration by the SCLRC.

Getting back to the lead of this blog, that is to say:  "the wrong question" being asked which in this case the SCPR thinks is "how to be fair to the two competing interests in obtaining title to the side lot;" it seems to The Report the "the right question" would have included not only being fair to the competitors but also being fair to the entire body politic of the city of Canton and the city's comprehensive plan for future development.

The Report thinks Canton representative Lem Green should have interposed the city of Canton's interest and, of course, Owens himself could have and should have interjected it.

Owens tells the SCPR that Community Building Partners will have a major role in administering Canton's comprehensive plan if it is adopted by Canton City Council when it comes down about a year from now.

To reiterate, it is critically important for the future of Stark County's urban areas, that in doing demolition and in reallocating the vacant city landscape that "the pertinent and 'right" questions" be asked by all the players in the process.

Here is the video of the "entire" Lank Bank board meeting of July 21, 2014.




APPENDIX OF SCRPC REPORTS

REPORT #1

Stark County Regional Planning Commission (SCPRC) Moving Ohio Forward Update

SCRPC Moving Ohio Forward Update:
July 21, 2014 @ 8:30 a.m.


Non-Match Approved Property Update:
Subrecipients


    1) City of Alliance - Twenty (20) demolitions (20 units of housing) have been complete, submitted, and reimbursed by the State AG's office, for a total demolition cost, including soft costs of $241,468.95; 100% reimbursed to the City of Alliance. Alliance has added 5 additional properties to the MOF demolition listing (match to be made up with DTAC funding). Work is underway.


    2) City of Canton - 5 approved demolitions (5 units of housing) completed, submitted, and reimbursed by the State AG's office, for a total demolition cost, including soft costs of $40,034.22; 100% reimbursed to the City of Canton.


    3) Perry Twp. - 3 approved demolitions (3 units of housing) completed, submitted to the State AG for reimbursement. Total demolition costs, including soft costs of $19,452.03; 100% to be reimbursed to Perry Township.


    4) Plain Twp. - 5 approved demolitions (5 units of housing) completed, submitted to the State AG's office for reimbursement. Total demolition cost, including soft costs of $25,357.12; 100% reimbursed to Plain Township.


Non-Subrecipients


    1) 43 demolitions (45 units of housing) completed, submitted, and reimbursed by the State AGs office. Total demolition costs, including soft costs - $619,466.57 ($500.00 match credit provided by Pike Twp.) (3 - Beach City, 1 - Canal Fulton, 1 - East Canton, 20 - Massillon, 2 -Meyers Lake, 1 - Navarre, 3 - Waynesburg, 2 - Wilmot, 1 - Canton Twp., 1 - Bethlehem Twp., 1-Lake Twp , 3 - Lexington Twp., 1 - Nimshillen Twp, 1 - Pike Twp., & 2 - Tuscarawas Twp.).


    2) 1 property under contract for demolition, for a total of $5,400.00 + soft costs/administration costs. (1 - Nimishillen Twp.)


    3) 2 properties out for asbestos evaluation. Once received, they will be bid for demolition. (1 -East Canton & 1- Waynesburg)


SCRPC Moving Ohio Forward Update:
July 21, 2014 @ 8:30 a.m. Page 2


Match Property - Subrecipient Update:

 
    1) City of Alliance - 7 demolitions (20 units of housing) completed, submitted, and reimbursed by the State AG's office. Total demolition cost, including soft cost - $177,457.36. A total of $102,457.36 reimbursed to date. (As expected, the overall demolition costs exceeded the "matched" funding, $75,000.00, provided by Alliance. This unmatched funding, $27,457.36, was made-up with "MOF non-match funding".) No additional demolitions will be undertaken by Alliance utilizing match funding.


    2) City of Canton - 289 demolitions (326 units of housing) completed, submitted, and reimbursed by the State AG's office. Total demolition cost, including soft cost- $1,950,136.89. A total of $975,068.36 reimbursed to date.   Additional demolitions are underway, but not yet submitted for reimbursement to RPC/State AG.


   3) Perry Twp. - No additional properties outside of the 3 non-match addresses will be completed.


    4) Plain Twp. - Eleven (11) additional demolitions (11 units of housing) have been complete, and submitted for reimbursement to the State AG's office. Total demolition cost, including soft costs - $74,389.33. A total of $37,194.65 reimbursed to date. It is not expected that Plain Twp. will undertake additional demolitions utilizing match funding.


>   Total Available MOF Grant: $2,343,607.00

---------------------------------------------------
>  Total Reimbursement submissions to date: $1,901,916.72

 (Balance available to submit: $441,690.28)    (Administration credited to date: $91,769,599)
---------------------------------------------------
>    Total Non-Match funding available - $510,703.08 ($500,000 non-match funding + $10,703.08 match credit)
Invoiced to date: $510,703.08
Remaining balance to be submitted for reimbursement: $ -0-


>    Total Match funding available - $1,832,903.92
Invoiced to date: $1,391,213.64
Remaining to be submitted for reimbursement: $441,690.28 


REPORT #2

Stark County Regional Planning Commission (SCPRC) Side Lot Update

SCRPC Side Lot Program Update:
July 21, 2014 @ 8:30 a.m.


Side Lot Program Update: 

Canton City Applications

1) Total: 484


All other Community Applications


1)    Cities:
Alliance - 37, Massillon - 38


2)    Other communities where side lots have been submitted:


Bethlehem Twp -2, Brewster - 1, Canton Twp - 5, East Canton - 4, East Sparta - 4, Hartville - 3, Lake Twp - 1, Lexington Twp - 4, Minerva - 1, Nimishillen - 1, Osnaburg Twp - 4, Paris Twp - 1, Perry Twp - 1, Plain Twp - 7, Sugarcreek Twp - 1, and Washington Twp - 1, Waynesburg - 1.

>Total Applications Submitted: 601
--------------------------------------------------
>Total Number pending approval: 281
>Total Number of Applications Denied: 110

>Total Number of Approved Applications:
---------------------------------------------------
>Total Number Pending Deposit Receipt / Request to Treasurer for Foreclosure / Completed Foreclosure Proceeding: 169

>Total Number Ready/Scheduled for Transfer: 12

>Total Number Pending Easement Restrictions from City of Canton: 7


>  Total Number Transferred to Date: 22
 

Monday, July 21, 2014

IT MAKES NO DIFFERENCE! DEMOCRAT OR REPUBLICAN, THE POLITICIANS TAKE CARE OF THEIR OWN? (TO THE EXCLUSION OF THE STARK CO. TAXPAYING PUBLIC?)



The Stark County Political Report's hope,
  • with Republican Alex Zumbar being appointed by the Stark County Democratic Party Central Committee (SCDP-CC), on October 31, 2011 to succeed Democrat stalwart Gary D. Zeigler as Stark County treasurer,
was that in Stark County,
  • a precedent was thereby set that we Stark Countians distinguish ourselves from "politics as usual" as is in place in most if not all of America, 
when it comes to filling the slots for elective or appointed office,
  • whereby political connections do not triumph the taxpaying citizens' right to have the very best person selected for the public position
And, moreover:
  • that everyday - unconnected - citizens have a "fair and square" shot of obtaining a given public employment position
It is now clear to the SCPR that the Democratic appointment of Republican Zumbar is a "100 year phenomenon" (a description, more or less, [i.e. the proverbial "100 year storm" that weather experts give to devastating storms which occur in a given locale.

It appears to The Report that it might be that Zumbar worked a political deal with Stark County Court of Common Pleas judge Dixie Park for Zumbar to hire Park's daughter into the treasurer's office and lo and behold! who ends up as an employee in the Stark County Probate Court?


The SCPR wrote collaterally on April 21, 2014 about Treasurer Zumbar hiring relatives of Republican county/county subdivision holders which The Report suspects were "a wink and a nod" political connectedness hirings.


Rhome (hired April 12, 2012; less than a year after Democrats appointed Republican Zumbar as county treasurer) is the daughter of Republican Alliance city councilman at large Roger Rhome.  Camilla Park (hired January 13, 2013) is the daughter of Stark County Court of Common Pleas judge Dixie Park.

Now this from a June 9, 2014 listing of county employees compiled by the Stark County auditor's office.


Allbritain would be the daughter of Zumbar's chief deputy treasurer and a Republican Jaime Allbritain who once was county treasurer for a few days when the-then county commissioners (Bosley, Meeks and Feguson; all Democrats) appointed her to replace Democrat Gary Zeigler.

Interesting, no?

Under Ohio law, it is illegal for one to hire one's relatives.

But there is nothing illegal for public officials with a "wink and a nod" to accommodate each other.

Recently, the SCPR had a brouhaha with Zumbar over a proposal that is pending for the Stark County Land Reutilization Corporation (a non-profit, quasi-governmental agency) to hire Chief Deputy Allbritain "as an independent contractor" without putting the job out for public bid.

To his credit, Stark County commissioner Tom Bernabei walked out of "the executive session" in which the possible of Allbritain was discussed.
It appears to The Report that Zumbar has an aversion to allowing the Stark County taxpaying public to have an opportunity at publicly financed jobs if he can achieve a political purpose in making a hire.

All the better, apparently, if the matter can be discussed in a "secret to the public" session?

An interesting SCPR opinion in light of how Zumber came to be Stark County treasurer.

Also, an interesting SCPR opinion in light of the numerous blogs that The Report has published lauding Zumbar for his exemplary work as treasury in terms of tightening up practices, policies, procedures and secure structures of operations and facilities so as to prevent a repeat of the theft of Stark taxpayer money as occurred with Zeigler's chief deputy Vince Frustaci to the tune of upwards of $3 million.

Zumbar spent the better part of an hour in a "sort of" debate with the SCPR giving reasons why the "independent contractor position" was not truly the equivalent of governments competitively bidding out jobs for awarding out to "the lowest and best" bid.

The Report was and remains unconvinced.

Moreover, undoubtedly, Zumbar and Park have an explanation why the hirings noted above in this blog were not quid-pro-quos (something for something).

Any "fair minded person," which is an apt description of the SCPR, would have to grant that obvious explanations (i.e. mere happenstance or co-incidence) might be true.

The problem for Zumbar and Park is this:  "Who is going to believe that the hires did not involve - in one fashion or another - 'political horse trading'?"

It appears now to the SCPR that the-then Stark County Dems' chairman Randy Gonzalez led central committee (October 31, 2011) appointment of Zumbar was not a case of "a breaking out" of "the best person for the job" irrespective of political affiliation," but rather a case of being placed "between a rock and a hard place" and having no publicly acceptable alternative.

And events post-October 31, 2011 have proved to The Report that whether Republican or Democrat, Stark County's elected officials appear to be using taxpayer provided for public positions to "feather the nest" of their respective political parties and to accommodate one another in hiring - on the public's dime - each other's relatives or those with political connections who have a desire to obtain public employment.

Sooner or later, once again (the SCPR thinks that Gary Zeigler's hiring of Vince Frustaci was a political connections hiring), one of these hires is going to politically "blow up in the face" of the official doing the hiring.

In the case of the official who suffers political and perhaps legal consequences, who cares.  But the Stark County taxpaying public deserves better.  Not only do "we" pay the bill, but "we" everyday citizens are denied a "fair and square" opportunity to apply for and perhaps obtain these jobs.

When Charles Brown and V. Lee Sinclair (both Republicans) stepped down as judges of the Stark County Court of Common Pleas (2012), the hope and prayer of everyday Stark Countians (most of whom [in their voting registration] declare not as Democrats or Republicans, but as "non-partisans"), had to be that Governor (of all the people?) John Kasich would pick the very best interested jurist to replace them.

But, the SCPR thinks, it is very clear that he did not do so.

For the Brown vacancy, he selected Alliance Republican (Brown a former Stark County Republican Party chairman is, interestingly enough, from Alliance) Kristin Farmer (daughter of 5th District Court of Appeals judge and extremely well connected Republican politician Sheila Farmer).

For the Sinclair vacancy Republican Kasich selected Curtis Werren who is the son of well known area Republican and well-placed local attorney (in the Stark County legal community) John Werren.  At the time of his appointment, Werren was president of the Stark County chapter of the American Red Cross who had not worked as an attorney for several years.

What is so damning about both the Farmer (December, 2012) and Werren appointments (June, 2013) is, that if Kasich and the Stark County Republican Party organization cared primarily about the quality of the Stark County bench; the person (namely, Democrat Chryssa Hartnett, who did apply) who should have gotten the appointment was Hartnett, who many think is Stark County very best prosecutor.

In the case of Werren, the Stark County voting public will be given an opportunity to vote on a Werren/Hartnett match up.

The SCPR believes and trusts that Stark Countians will pick merit over political connectedness come November 4, 2014.

And guess what?

Farmer gets a "free pass" (unopposed) to an elected term in office.

Isn't just swell that Stark County Democratic Party really does splendidly in protecting the public interest in ensuring that our elections are politically competitive? (sarcasm, of course)

Stark County Democrats have complained to and about the SCPR that The Report has focused on suspicions that there was a strong "political connectedness" factor in taxpayer supported public hires persons such as former Dems' party chairman Gonzalez son Kody
  • Democrat county recorder Rick Campbell hired him into the recorder's office, and
  • he has been "fast-tracked" into succeeding his father as chief deputy of the Canton Municipal Court by current StarkDems' chairman Phil Giavasis)
and the likes of Nancy Reinbold (the wife of Democrat and former Court of Common Pleas judge Richard Reinbold) to the exclusion (no applications taken from the general "taxpaying" public) and have ignored the Republicans.

What the Dems have not said is that up until Zeigler and former Democratic Stark County auditor Kim Perez fell on political hard times over a public perception that they had not effectively taken measures (i.e. practices, policies, procedures and structural safeguards) to prevent the Frustaci theft (Zeigler) or to bring irregularities to attention of public authorities (Perez), all countywide offices were held by guess who?

You've got it!

Democrats.

And it seems that the Democrats have not learned their lessons.

As this blog is being written, The Report is putting together material to give Stark Countians an in depth look at what appears to be politically-based appointments/hires in the city of Massillon government.

Now that the Republicans are making a resurgence in Stark County, the SCPR is now writing about what appears to be their sins and transgressions on apparently cutting the taxpaying public out so that they can use public positions to reward those Stark County Republicans who are politically connected.

Not long ago The Report wrote about a SCPR favorite (in terms of his work product as auditor) Alan Harold and his hire of the politically connected A.R. "Chip" Conde (a former Canton mayor Janet Creighton official and Republican candidate for mayor in 2011).

With the SCPR, it makes no difference whether or not one liked or disliked personally or in terms of job performance in a public position.  If there appears to be "a political connectedness factor" by which the Stark County taxpaying public is excluded from the possibility of public employment, the SCPR is going to write about it.

County administrator and Republican Brant Luther (a former Republican Alliance city councilman, Stark County auditor and Republican appointee to the Probate Court staff) seems to be doing an excellent job as a county official as does the county's budget manager Chris Nichols (a Canton Township trustee).

However it seems to the SCPR that it did not hurt one iota that they have strong Republican political connections.  At least in the case of Luther, the position was advertised to the public-at-large.

For the budget manager's position, which is something quite different from being the top administrator, the commissioners merely selected Nichols as being "the runner-up" to Luther for the administrator position.

To the SCPR, the Stark County voting public should be outraged when public jobs are handed out - whether a Nichols level position or a Kate Allbritain level position - without the Stark County taxpaying public having a "fair and square" opportunity at the job.

As The Report entitled this blog:

IT MAKES NO DIFFERENCE!  DEMOCRAT OR REPUBLICAN, THE POLITICIANS TAKE CARE OF THEIR OWN? (TO THE EXCLUSION OF THE STARK CO. TAXPAYING PUBLIC?)

Friday, July 18, 2014

BREAKING NEWS! (PRESS RELEASE - IN FULL) PETITION DRIVE STARTS TO BYPASS CANTON CITY COUNCIL ON CHARTER GOVT ISSUE

SCPR LINKS TO PRIOR BLOGS
July 18, 2014


OPEN LETTER TO THE CITIZENS OF CANTON, OHIO

"Democracy is the government of the people, by the people, for the people." President Abraham Lincoln made this observation during his address at Gettysburg. These words are just as true today as they were 150 years ago.

The concept of Charter Government is the embodiment of democracy in its purest sense. Our Ohio Constitution guarantees the Citizens of Canton the unalienable right to decide, for themselves, whether the City of Canton should adopt its own Constitution - a City Charter. Doing so can replace the inefficacies of our current statutory form of government, which is written by legislators in Columbus. If it is the will of the people, 15 elected Cantonians can draft our City Charter, reflecting the unique goals and needs of our City. After a draft is created, the Citizens of Canton may approve, or reject, the adoption of this proposed City Charter. This Constitutionally guaranteed process ensures our form of government can be written by the Citizens of Canton, for the Citizens of Canton.

Recently, your City Council deferred on whether to place the City Charter issue before the voters in November of 2014. Underlying this action by your Council was a clear understanding - this decision does not deprive the Citizens of this important City Charter Constitutional right. Pursuant to our Ohio Constitution, the Citizens of Canton have the right to decide for themselves if they wish to vote on the City Charter issue This is accomplished through the submission of a petition containing 762 valid signatures of voting Cantonians. Because this is an issue of such fundamental democratic importance, your City Council deferred to the people's exerase of this Constitutional right.

The right to petition your government is equally as important as your right to vote. It is therefore with great pride that the undersigned support and endorse the efforts of the Committee formed to accomplish this petition process The community leaders and civic activists serving on the Committee are:

Hon. Richard Reinbold (Ret), Chairman
Pamela Oster
Terry Prater
Rhoderick Simpson
Julie Sparks

We hope that you will join us in supporting this Committee and their petitioners as they visit our friends and neighbors throughout the City The goal of this Committee is singular - to place the issue of City Charter before you, the Canton City voter, on May 5, 2015. Should 762 valid signatures be obtained by December of 2014, the voters shall have their voices heard on this important issue There is little question that this goal can be achieved - and exceeded. And if so, the voters shall decide.
In Your Service,


SCPR SERIES - VOLUME 2: DID YOU? DID YOUR NEIGHBOR VOTE ON MAY 06, 2014?



Today, The Stark County Political Report continues (began on July 7th) its series on naming names on who did and who did not vote on May 06, 2014.

The data for this series comes from a database of registered voter information maintained by and downloadable from the Ohio secretary of state website. 

Hopefully, your name is not included in the listing as a non-voter.  If it is, please resolve to "turn over a new leaf" and become a voter each and every election.  As this is a minimal way that we Americans honor our founding fathers and those who have given "their last full measure" to preserve our free society.

This series picks up today with Alliance, Canton City, Massillon and North Canton precincts.

Check back throughout the day as precincts are added.








  • SCPR NOTE:  Councilman Doug Foltz (Democrat, Ward 1) is shown by BOE records to have voted in the May, 2014 primary.
Where the SCPR differs markedly from other Stark media is that The Report identifies offenders by name when a blog castigates one activity or another as a subject matter of a particular blog.

With this series of blogs, The Report takes on the 86.3% of Stark County's 249,614 registered voters.

In other words, this, prior and ensuing blogs in this series will be naming many of the SCPR's own readers, their relatives, their business associates, their colleagues, their fellow workers, their friends and, yes!, their neighbors in this series which will run to completion between today and November 04, 2014 - the date if this year's general election.

Many readers will want to dismiss the significance of the extremely low vote total in the May 06, 2014 primary election as not involving "important to the viability of our democracy" issues and candidates.

One of the "important to the viability to our democracy" primary election day matters was the election of precinct committee persons.

Important?

Indeed!

Our current sitting Stark County sheriff (George T. Maier) is in office as a consequence of the vote of the precinct committee persons of the Stark County Democratic Party on December 11, 2014 after having been removed from office on November 6, 2013 by the Ohio Supreme Court as having been "illegally" (in violation of Ohio Revised Code Section 311.01) appointed by those same precinct committee persons on February 05, 2013.

Steve Okey sits as the president of Alliance City Council as a consequence of having been appointed by a simple majority (8 for Okey, 5 for Ryan and 1 for a third candidate) of a mere 14 Alliance area voters who happened to be city of Alliance Stark County Democratic Party precinct committee members.

The SCPR can recite numerous examples of the "significance" of political party precinct committee members on governance in Stark County and its political subdivisions on both side of the political aisle.

In October, 2013, The Huffington Post Blog published an article on a precinct committee person election in the Detroit area.


In the article, O'Connor makes a number of worth quoting observations about the importance and significance of the election of precinct committee persons and the like (i.e board of education, et cetera), to wit:
Since these local campaigns are kind of low key, voters somehow get the impression these elections aren't all that important -- but nothing could be further from the truth. Positions on the school board, zoning commission and library board shape the quality of life and future direction of our towns -- the places where we live our lives -- in ways that are vastly more direct than the federal government. Obamacare certainly touches everyone's life, but the impact of putting a cocktail lounge next to the high school is more direct, and maybe even more important.

Somehow, voters don't see it that way, which is why over 50 percent of registered voters will turn out for a presidential election, but the turnout in a local election is usually less than 10 percent. In many cases, it can be as low as three percent.
"As low as three percent?"

In Stark County, Ohio?

How about lower?

On May 13th, the SCPR did a blog on Canton City Ward 4, to wit:


Indeed!

2.03% in Canton city councilwoman (Democrat) Chris Smith's Ward 4.

Former Stark County Democratic Party chairman Randy Gonzalez gets reverential when talking about the "importance and significance" of precinct committee persons to our democracy in meetings he has chaired when precinct committee persons are called upon to choose whom "to put in office" among the candidates for the Party's selection.

And well he should.

For the selected person - even if a Party hack - as a government official will be making decisions that affecting all of us.

In 1999, the Stark County Democratic Party precinct committee persons (countywide) chose Gary D. Zeigler to be Stark County treasurer when his predecessor (Mark Roach) was removed from office.

Who can forget April 1, 2009 when it was revealed that Zeigler's chief deputy Vince Frustaci had stolen upwards of $3 million from the Stark County treasurer.

While Zeigler has never been implicated in the theft, many Stark Countians and the State of Ohio auditor's office think he did not have adequate safeguards in place (after some 10 years in office, and, having run [2008] uncontested) to have prevented the theft.

The point is that whom constituted the Stark County Democratic Party precinct committee make-up in 1999 was extremely important in terms of the "elected" committee persons serving having the inclination and ability to vet the candidates for appointment to ensure that a person was up to doing the job of protecting Stark County taxpayer assets.

The SCPR offers the foregoing examples as substantiation "right here in Stark County" - not some far off place - that the election of 2014 just on the matter of precinct committee persons of both the Democratic and Republican parties are not only "important" and "significant;" they are vital - as are all issue and candidate elections - to the viability of our democracy.

Last Friday we celebrated the 4th of July; the founding of our great nation.

Late in May, we remembered those who gave "the ultimate sacrifice" in preserving our freedoms.

As the SCPR sees it, that 86.3% of Stark County registered voters did not vote on May 06, 2014 is to disrespect the work of our founders and to disrespect those who gave "their full measure" so that you and I can continue to live free.

Shame on those (with the very, very few exceptions of those who had reasons why it was impossible to vote) of us who did not vote on May 06, 2014.

The SCPR thinks "it is fitting and proper" that those Stark Countians who did their duty in honoring:
  • the deliberations and results our forefathers achieved with the "freedom-loving" Constitution of 1789, and 
  • those who laid down their lives or suffered untold injury in body and mind in fighting those who would enslave us
be recognized for doing so in the lists of voters/non-voters that follow.

For those who did not vote (with no acceptable excuse), it is fitting and proper that we all know who they are "by name."

Shame on them!

Accordingly, the SCPR will over ensuing weeks being publishing precinct by precinct the list of  of those eligible to participate who did or did not participate.

Readers from these precincts should be scanning the lists to know who honor the great American democratic-republic and those who are too busy to be bothered.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

(VIDEO: CITIZEN MORGAN - A WAY AROUND?) AN EASY PATH TO CIRCUMVENT COUNCIL ON DENYING CANTONIANS VOTE ON CHARTER ISSUE?



 UPDATE:  09:00 AM (Revised and Amended)

CLARIFICATION OF EFFORT
FROM EDMOND MACK

Edmond J. Mack
        Today at 8:20 AM

To:  tramols@att.net

Martin,

I read your blog with great interest this morning.  I can confirm that efforts are indeed underway to explore whether the issue of Charter Government can be presented to Canton voters.

At this time, the analysis does not include the potential for the adoption of a modified statutory City plan pursuant to R.C. 705.01.  This is because such a plan could, and likely would, involve dramatic change to the structure of our government.  In my view, the Citizens of Canton want efficient modifications, not a structural makeover.

With a Charter, efficient, subtle changes can easily be accomplished, and the structure of our government can be left intact.  However, an important consideration in presenting the Charter issue to the voting public of the City of Canton are the number of signatures required to do so.

OH Const. Art. XVIII, § 8 provides in part, "'The legislative authority of any city or village may by a two-thirds vote of its members, and upon petition of ten per centum of the electors shall forthwith, provide by ordinance for the submission to the electors, of the question, “Shall a commission be chosen to frame a charter.’”  There are over 43,474 registered voters in the City of Canton.  At first blush, this language would require 4,375 signatures.  Gathering this many signatures would be an impossible task.

However, recent additional legal research confirms that when interpreting the above Constitutional provision, OH Const. Art. XVIII, § 14 must also be applied.  This Section reads, “[t]he percentage of electors required to sign any petition provided for herein shall be based upon the total vote cast at the last preceding general municipal election.”  See, State ex rel. Concerned Citizens for more Professional Govt. v. Zanesville City Council, 70 Ohio St.3d 455, 457, 639 N.E.2d 421 (1994); State ex rel. Huebner v. W. Jefferson Village Council, 75 Ohio St.3d 381, 384, 662 N.E.2d 339 (1995).

Therefore, like the adoption of a modified statutory city plan pursuant to R.C. 705.01, only 752 (7611 x 10%) valid signatures will be required to place the issue of Charter Government before the voters.  This is a very obtainable number.

However, there are still many legal, practical, and political details that must be worked out before such an important endeavor is undertaken.  If this going to be happen, it must be done right.  These issues are currently being addressed, and I would expect a conclusion to be reached on this matter in the coming days.

Sincerely,

Edmond J. Mack


ORIGINAL BLOG

At Monday night's Canton City Council meeting seven (7) anti-democratic councilpersons (at least on the issue of charter government as provided for in Article 18 of the Ohio Constitution) voted to deny Cantonians the right to vote on whether or not they wanted wanted to form a "charter review commission" which would have the duty to present to Canton's voters within a year Canton charter government plan for an "up or down" vote.

Surprisingly to the SCPR among the "no" votes were Councilmen Frank Morris (D, Ward 9; the majority leader of council) and Kevin Fisher (D, Ward 5).

Both present themselves as "men of the people."

In terms of qualitative councilpersons, the SCPR rates both of them very high.

As far as The Report is concerned, the rest (Babcock, Dougherty, Griffin, Smith and West) Canton city government can do without.

The SCPR learned yesterday that a concrete movement is underway exploring the feasibility of proceeding under Ohio's Revised Code Section 705.01 (see Edmond Mack's 705.01 "not at this time" in his contribution to the discussion in this blog as posted above) to "go around the seven" and allow Cantonian voters to decide for themselves as to whether or not they wish to govern themselves (to the extent there is no conflict with State of Ohio law) or be governed by the Ohio General Assembly.

A general assembly, mind you, which has taken millions of dollars from Canton in local government funding.

The beauty of the 705.01 and/or Mack's contemplated procedure, if the SCPR's math skills are correctly applied, is that it will only take 762 eligible registered voters, more or less, to bypass council and put a "change of government" measure before Canton's voters.
705.01 Petition for submission of question of organizing municipal corporation under a specific plan.

Whenever electors of any municipal corporation, equal in number to ten per cent of those who voted at the last regular municipal election, file a petition with the board of elections of the county in which such municipal corporation is situated, asking that the question of organizing the municipal corporation under any one of the plans of government provided in sections 705.41 to 705.86 of the Revised Code, be submitted to the electors thereof, such board shall at once certify that fact to the legislative authority of the municipal corporation and the legislative authority shall, within thirty days, provide for submitting such question at a special election, to be held not less than ninety days after the filing of such petition.
(emphasis added)

To the SCPR, going charter government is a "no brainer," even if like Stark County city Canal Fulton did a number of years ago when its voters to make it "a charter government city," the identical statutory form of government in place gets transplanted into being the charter form of government.

With the seven Canton councilpersons, the rub is that there is no guarantee that a charter review commission would follow Canal Fulton's lead.

And that is - as the SCPR wrote on Tuesday - where fear kicked in.

The Report thinks the seven were afraid that a charter review commission might write them out of Canton city government in some shape or form and they had to sit idly by powerless to do anything about it inasmuch as Ohio law prohibits councilpersons from being members of a charter review commission.

None of the seven admitted to fear of personal political consequences, but the SCPR is convinced that the "heart and soul" of their objection was, in one way or another, based on ensuring that personal stakes they perceived themselves to have in the present form of Canton government - goes untouched.

Monday night, Councilman Edmond Mack (D, Ward 8), the prime mover behind the charter government ordinance, indicated after he lost on a 7 to 5 vote that he would go back to the drawing board and, perhaps, with a change in the composition of council, try again after the November, 2015 elections (reference:  his video statement that Canton needs to change some councilpersons) to get his ordinance through council.



Also, immediately after Monday's meeting, Canton civic activist C. David Morgan suggested to the SCPR that he and presumably the likes of former judges Harry Klide, Richard Reinbold; former councilman Robert Capestrain and others who spoke out in support of charter government during Public Speaks were considering taking the question of the structure of future Canton city government directly to the people of Canton and thereby bypass the seven anti-democratics.



Yesterday Ohio Revised Code Sections 705.01 was brought to the attention of Councilman Mack (who, undoubtedly, was already aware of the statute) by a Stark County civic activist from Massillon.

Later in the day, The Report learned that Mack ally and Councilman at Large Bill Smuckler was calling around to various Stark County political figures (the SCPR presumes "various" but has verified one such call) to get input on the advisability of "going around the seven" route and, secondly, whether to put such an initiative on the ballot in May, 2015 or November, 2015.

The one adviser that the SCPR knows about told Smuckler that May would be the better timing.  And The Report agrees.

Why so?

The issue is a hot one now and May, 2015 is less than 10 months away.

Adding another six months (i.e. waiting to the November, 2015 election) might work to advantage of those opposing a change in the structure of government for Canton.

There might be another opportunity in a May election in addition to a vote on the change of Canton's form of government.

Perhaps a civic group could cobble together a number of candidates to oppose in the May Democratic primary (the de facto election for a new council in heavily Democratic Canton) councilpersons Babcock, Dougherty, Griffin, Smith and West.

The Report left Fisher and Morris off the list which is not to say they should not have opponents; they should.  However, unless the opposition has clearly superior credentials, The Report sees them as having done an overall good job on council and therefore deserving of reelection.

A change in the five singled out above hopefully would - should Cantonians not approve the 705.01 plan presented - provides an opportunity for Councilman Mack to renew his charter government initiative, which the SCPR thinrks is preferable to the 705.01 alternative path.

The risk, of course, is that Cantonians will adopt a 705.01.  If they do, so be it.  Canton needs to change the structure of doing the peoples' business and the object of change will be to rid the city of a structure that is not serving citizens' needs as presently constituted.

But proceeding with the the ORC 705.01 way might be enough leverage to get the seven defiant council members to come to their senses and approve a charter government review commission vote in May, 2014.

As much as a charter government approach is an unknown, the SCPR thinks that the 705.01 was poses a much greater threat to personal political well being than does the Constitutional provided means of change.

Mayor Healy (reported to have been unenthusiastically supportive of the charter approach) might find himself without a job - more so - under the statutory way of change than as a casualty of a charter review commission.

And in the view of the SCPR that might not be a bad thing for Canton.

Under a plan submitted under a ORC 705.01 procedure, the form of Canton government could range over the following options:
  • A 5 member governing commissioner (705.41 through 705.48),
  • A city manager plan with nine (9) elected council members (705.51 through 705.60),
  • A federal plan in which the only "elected" officials would be a mayor and city council members ranging from five to fifteen members (705.71 through 705.86)
In thwarting Mack's effort, Councilpersons Babcock, Dougherty, Fisher, Griffin, Morris, Smith and West may have given birth to a citizen activism that Canton has not seen in many, many of a moon if ever. 

A charter government review commission is definitely the best path for Canton to new governmental beginnings but an ORC 705.01 or "other alternative" approach seems to provide an excellent opportunity as a way around the seven anti-democratics!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

(DAVID HELD AUDIO) CONCERNED CITIZENS OF NORTH CANTON BRING LAW DIRECTOR TIM FOX TO HEEL!



UPDATE:  06:51 PM

Public records

        [Jeff Peters, president of council]

        Today at 3:22 PM

To:   tramols@att.net

Martin, I would like to thank you for your report on the issue of public records. However, I will take you to task regarding your opinion on me.

I have always taken the stance that public records should be delivered to Chuck, Miriam and Jamie  and anyone else who may make a request in the medium that they request.

After I became president and before Gail retired, that is exactly what I did.

Even though we had an opinion from our law director, I instructed our clerk(Gail) to email records as well as the meeting agendas and all accompanying documents to all who wanted them.

When Gail retired and before our new clerk came on board, the law director was handling his and the clerks duties.

We knew, and I suspect that the few folks who make the majority of records requests knew, that there was going to be some hiccups.

Now that Mary Beth Bailey is in her new position, we are going to accommodate all requests in the medium that they request.

My reasoning for asking the OAG their opinion on the Law Directors interpretation was for my information only. I've had multiple phone conversations with Miriam and Jamie and told them that once our new clerk was on board, we would be back to normal business, and that is exactly where we are at today.

To characterize the situation as I or council trying to make life difficult for the few who make the majority of records requests could not be further from the truth.

For example, I've known Miriam since I was 9yrs old and I hold her and her opinions in very high regard. She is someone that I can go to for advice and direction, and know that she'll never steer me down the wrong path. I would never intentionally bring harm to her, or anyone else in our great city! It is my intention, moving forward, to lead in an open and transparent manner which will bring honor to all that call North Canton home. We have many difficult decisions on the horizon and we owe it to our neighbors to give that our full attention, and that is exactly what we are going to do.

Regards, Jeff Peters

UPDATE:  09:49 AM

E-mail regarding Public Records Training going on in North Canton this morning:

Public Records Training

        chuckosborne1949@gmail.com
        Today at 9:40 AM

To:  Martin Olson

Ironic that a Public Records training class is scheduled here in North Canton this morning. Has been scheduled for several months. Just arrived myself. Miriam Baughman will be here as well.

Sent from my HTC One on the Verizon Wireless 4G LTE network

ORIGINAL BLOG

A VIDEO ENCORE

CITIZEN BAUGHMAN
TAKES
FOX
NORTH CANTON COUNCIL
TO TASK ON
PUBLIC RECORDS

Although, at about 5:15 p.m. yesterday, North Canton mayor David Held called to thank The Stark County Political Report for The Report role in helping to bring about a change in the way North Canton responds to citizen public records requests, the credit belongs to the Concerned Citizens (chiefly Miriam Baughman) of North Canton, civic activist Chuck Osborne and citizen Holly Pierpont.



The import of the telephone call is that Peters sat down with Law Director Tim Fox yesterday (which the SCPR was told over the weekend was in the works when Peters returned from vacation) is a lesson of great significance to Stark County's core of civic activists who take on the hand of various branches of Stark County government when elected/appointed officials decide to become a problem rather than a help to Stark County's taxpaying citizen base.

Since he was appointed law director in September, 2012, former North Canton Ward 3 councilman Tim Fox assumed the role of "tough man" (which the SCPR thinks was his taking a cue from North Canton city council members and Mayor Held) and started giving everyday citizens "a hard way to go" in obtaining public records.

Not to exonerate Fox at all, but the SCPR thinks the North Canton public should blame Held (the mayor); former Ward 4 councilman Jon Snyder (as council president, apparently the leader in the effort), Jeff Peters (now the council president), Marcia Kiesling, Dan Griffith, Doug Foltz, Mark Cerreta and Stephanie Werren for the hostility that developed between North Canton government and North Canton citizens on the matter of access to public records.


While the focus has been on Fox's refusal (on council's approval, he says) to honor e-mail requests for public records (including one made by the SCPR), the difficulties run much deeper than the e-mail factor.

Right now we are only dealing with words.

Whether or not there has been a real change in the attitude of North Canton government through Fox and the clerk of council office will only be known through the passage of time.

The SCPR thinks that Law Director Fox will be drug kicking and screaming to a "new" citizen friendly posture on the matter of access to North Canton's public records.

The Report suspects Fox will continue to be Held's and Council's "tough guy" designee.

The Report credits Miriam Baughman (supported by Concerned Citizens leader Jaime McCleaster and the overall membership of the group) with putting the hard work of research and confrontation in motion that The Report believes has been the major factor in the North Canton turnaround.



The Baughman/Concerned Citizens/Osborne/Pierpont success should give heart to all Stark County activists who are dissatisfied with the way local governments throughout Stark County are interacting with the taxpaying citizen base.

Readers should take a minute and go back and review the SCPR blog of July 2, 2014 to get a full appreciation of Baughman's superlative work of poring over Ohio attorney general pronouncements on public records.

All too often, elected and appointed government officials forget who they are in office to serve.

However, one Miriam Baughman is enough to awake them from their slumber.

In all the developments on this issue, it appears that the SCPR right was "right on the mark" on the suggestion by North Canton officials (including Fox) that he was contemplating getting clarification from the OAG's office, to wit:
There has been talk that Director Fox might seek an opinion of the OAG's office as to the legality of his unwillingness to use e-mail to transmit copies of public records.

The SCPR thinks that such a suggestion is a lot of Fox "huffing and puffing" inasmuch as the OAG's mediation service is an  existing available forum that has been around for some time but which the law director appears to not have sought out.
Well, take a look at this "e-mail" (don't you just love the irony of the medium of the communication) exchange between the OAG's office and North Canton citizen Holly Pierpont.

Gold text equals Pierpont

Green text equals Ohio attorney general

        Holly Pierpont
        Jul 15 at 3:31 PM

To:   Rmccleaster@aol.com
        tramols@att.net [Stark County Political Report]

Mr. McCleaster,

Upon recently reading a blog on the SCPR website regarding your struggle to receive public records from the North Canton city law director, I forwarded the story to the Ohio Attorney General.  Below is the response I received from them today.

Take care,
Holly Pierpont

Sent from my iPhone

Begin forwarded message:

> From: Jeff Clark <Jeffery.Clark@ohioattorneygeneral.gov>
> Date: July 15, 2014 at 3:16:45 PM EDT
> To: "holly.pierpont@att.net" <holly.pierpont@att.net>
> Cc: Kristen DeVenny <Kristen.DeVenny@ohioattorneygeneral.gov>
> Subject: FW: CID # 940387 - Pierpont
>
> Dear Ms. Pierpont,
>
> I wanted to let you know we’d received your e-mail, and that we appreciate your interest in the area of public access law.  Although you hadn’t specifically asked us to contact the City, I gave Mr. Fox a call to see whether the city or the county prosecutor had contacted our Opinions Section for a formal opinion, and if not whether we could facilitate that contact.  However, Mr. Fox advised me that some further discussion of the legal points, and city policy, had already concluded, and that the results of that discussion will likely be posted on the city web site soon.  You may want to check their web site over the next couple of day.
>
> Thanks again for your interest.
>
> Jeff Clark
>
> Assistant Attorney General
>
> From: Kristen DeVenny
> Sent: Friday, July 11, 2014 4:38 PM
> To: Public Records Unit
> Subject: CID # 940387 - Pierpont
>
> This matter is assigned to Jeff.
>
> Thanks!
>
> -----Constituent Information-----
>
> MatterID:       940387
> Constituent:  Holly Pierpont
>
...
>
> County:         No County entered
>                     330-999-9999
>                     Email: holly.pierpont@att.net
>                     Received Date:  07/02/2014


> --------Original Message--------
>
> It has come to my attention that North Canton City Law Director, Tim Fox, has reached out to the OAG for assistance in interpretation of the Ohio Sunshine Laws pertaining to recent public records request originating with North Canton, Ohio constituents.
>
> I would like to bring to the attention of the OAG, this blog written by a local Stark county reporter, which has highlighted the true struggle that North Canton citizens are encountering in obtaining public records according to the law.
>
> http://starkpoliticalreport.blogspot.com/2014/07/elected-north-canton-officials-either.html
>
> http://starkpoliticalreport.blogspot.com/2014/06/videos-blast-away-session-at-north.html
>
> I would like the Attorney General to help by:
>
> I would like the OAG to consider the requests embedded in this blog, as well as the responses sent by law director, Tim Fox, in their "interpretation" to secure that the citizens of North Canton should not have to jump through extreme hoops to request what is rightfully due to them via a standard public records request.  Please review the links included in this concern, for a 360 degree view of the issue at hand. 


Thanks.

Undoubtedly, it was an eyeopener to Law Director Fox to have gotten a telephone call from the OAG's office.

An office which commented last week that Fox's position of refusing to send public records as being "ridiculous."

North Canton officials are trying to make the best of a bad situation that they and they alone created.

The SCPR encourage citizens across Stark County to take heart from the success of the likes of Baughman, Chuck Osborne, the Concerned Citizens of North Canton and Holly Pierpont and take up the mantle of holding their respective local government accountable to the taxpaying public.

An appropriate close to this blog is an e-mail response from Baughman to the SCPR on her reaction to the change in North Canton's public records policy, to wit:

Attorney General e mail

        Miriam Baughman
        Jul 15 at 8:17 PM

To:  tramols@att.net

My comment is:   Why did it ever come to this?     Why didn't our North Canton City Law Director read and interpret the Ohio Public Records Law correctly frpm the beginning?

Thanks

Miriam Baughman

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

(VIDEOS GALORE!) "THE FEAR FACTOR" PREVAILS IN CANTON CITY COUNCIL?




 UPDATED:  12:40 PM

The play last night at Canton City Council was "a play to fear!.

That's how The Stark County Political Report sees the 7 to 5 vote against allowing the citizens of Canton to decide for themselves whether or not charter government is right for this Hall of Fame City.

Seven members of council, for last night anyway, made Canton a Hall of Shame city in their denying the franchise on this issue to Cantonians.

We all know what a powerful factor fear is.

And we also know that fear can make otherwise good people do some very bizarre things.

To put the best spin on things (the decision having been a "political" one), Members Babcock, Dougherty, Fisher, Griffin, Morris, Smith and West were not able to conquer their fears that they would somehow be affected in their personal political stakes were they to allow Cantonians to, perhaps, start out on a path to change Canton's structure of government.

An example of the paralyzing effect that fear can play in a human life is that experienced by 1950s baseball player Jimmy Piersall.

From the website from the movie "Fear Strikes Out:"

The best part of the movie "Fear Strikes Out" was when John Piersall finally understood what he did to his son Jimmy in pushing him like he did. Later at the institution John was accepted by Jimmy who for a time wanted to have nothing to do with him. For once just being his father, not a hard as nails lion trainer, the two had an friendly but emotional game of catch.

Jimmy did in the end recover form his personal demons and went on to be an All-Star outfielder for Boston Cleveland and the New York Mets, among outer teams he played for. Despite his fine record as a professional baseball player Jimmy's overcoming the fear that almost destroyed him was by far Piersall's greatest achievement.
Well, "fear DID NOT strike out" with the seven Canton city council members who by their votes sent the clear message that they did not trust the voters of Canton to decide the city's future structure of government.

Pretty arrogant stuff, no?

Fear hit a Home Run last night, in fact, seven home runs in the personages of Members Babcock, Dougherty, Fisher, Griffin, Morris, Smith and West.

William McKinley must turning over in his grave at the sight of the spectacle of a majority of city council giving into personal political fear and letting person political interests triumph over a fundamental tenet of our democratic-republic.

But he would be pleased to see the courage of Ward 8 councilman Edmond Mack and the four councilmen (Hart, Hawk, Mariol and Smuckler) who put personal political concerns aside and did the right thing in our democratic-republican system of government and supported Canton's citizens' right to vote.

First, Mack:



Next, John Mariol.



Next, Bill Smuckler.



And last up for the "yes, let the people vote side:" political independent Richard Hart.



There couldn't have been a finer line up of distinguished Cantonians to have shown up and expressed themselves in pleading for council to allow Cantonians to exercise the fundamental democratic right of voting on an issue that may determine whether or not the once proud city of Canton gets to be great once again.

FORMER COUNCILMAN CAPESTRAIN



C. DAVID MORGAN



CITIZEN GAITEN



CITIZEN HALKIAS



CITIZEN STEPHANIE SWEENEY



FORMER JUDGE HARRY KLIDE



CITIZEN LEON COTE



FORMER JUDGE RICHARD REINBOLD



From the "we are afraid of the people" crowd, Councilman West had a particularly amusing moment when he asked for a show of hands from the audience of who would run for a slot on the 15 member charter review commission provided for in Ohio law should voters approve the writing of a charter which itself would have to be approved by Canton's voters.

From what The Report could determine, those raising their hands were run-of-the-mill citizens.

Then West tried to save himself embarrassment by following up with:   "do you know [all about] charter government?

Even West does not know much about charter government!  How disingenuous can you get?

Majority Leader Frank Morris had in his comments - the SCPR thinks - slammed some politically prominent Cantonians ("Who's Who in Canton Politics") who had been mentioned by Mack and others as potential candidates for the commission as being "the same old crowd" (The Report's characterization; not that of Morris)



That is all well and good for Morris to bash people who care about civic life enough to engaged.  But what has he and fellow member West (see below) done to get "everyday people" involved?  Morris and the opponents to Mack's ordinance have known for a year that the charter government ordinance was going to come up.  And they have known for about six months that last night's vote was on the political horizon.

The Report thinks that the claim that 23 days to gather 50 signatures is too sudden and burdensome is a bogus and disingenuous argument.

Richard Hart smoked out Morris, West et al on the 50 signature thing by proposing an amendment to the primary ordinance (#26) changing the requirement to 15 signature.



What did the seven opponents do?

As seen on the video, they all voted against the amendment.

Nothing precluded them from voting for the amendment and then voting against the amended ordinance.

But it would have been contradictory to do so.

Which to the SCPR just buttresses The Report's take that the opponents' arguments on the 50 signature requirement was a "throw everything in but the kitchen sink" exercise to mask what was really going on in prompting their "no" votes on allowing Cantonians a vote on charter government.

It appears to the SCPR that Morris likely was motivated by fears that his "fought hard for" majority leader status might be in jeopardy were Cantonians to ultimately change the structure of Canton's government.

Morris is a guy who presents himself as being "a what you see is what you get' sort of person.

Well, the SCPR is all for people being who they "really" are.  But The Report sometimes gets the impression that his "rough around the edges" persona has somewhat of an orchestrated tone to it.

Was his cite of a Harry Truman quote ( "I don't give them Hell, I just tell the truth about them and they think it's Hell.") last night designed by him to be in line with a Morris desired effect of being boorish?

Continuing the Morris theme of only the politically privileged will be on the review commission, West, when he took to the microphone asked those in the audience to stand who planned to run for a commission slot.



Apparently, West thought that "the prominent" were going to be the ones to stand up to the exclusion of everyday Cantonians.

Well, he was wrong.

To be sure, West et al gussied up their fundamental fear of personal political repercussions with cockamamie reasons why they were going to deny citizens their fundamental right to self-determine.

West stooped so low in what the SCPR thinks his pervasive entitlement attitude to complain that a Ward 2 minority person was not a part of the Healy administration leadership team.

Nobody thinks that Mayor William J. Healy, II is short of minority persons in his leadership team.

Nobody that is except for Thomas E. West.

Maybe the mayor ought to offer Councilman West an administration position?

What a laugh, no?

THE SPECIAL CASE OF KEVIN FISHER

Kevin Fisher is the SCPR's most disappointing Canton councilperson.

Fisher could be one whale of a councilperson. 

The Report thinks that of the seven voting to limit democracy in Canton, he knows better.

Here is a guy that embraces nearly every left-wing political cause known to man (e.g. a participant of the Occupy Canton movement) and thereby supposedly ought to be an ardent proponent of democracy and the sanctity of the vote.

And yet he was among the most dedicated of those committed to denying Cantonians their franchise on the charter government question.

Of the seven, he; day-in, day-out, appears to The Report not to be concerned at all about his sustained political viability.

All the SCPR can figure about Fisher is the adage:   "appearances can be deceiving."

The SCPR does not go by appearance.

The Good Book says:  "by their deeds ye shall know them."

Of the "play to fear" council team of seven, only councilpersons Morris and West spoke out at last night's meeting.

Of the remaining non-speakers (The
Report having dealt with Councilman Fisher above, the SCPR has the following observations:

Councilman at Large Jimmy Babcock

Babcock has the good political fortune to bear the surname of a former Canton mayor (Charles) and long term councilwoman (Mary) Babcock.

Other than that, Jimmy has little to recommend him for being a councilman.

Oh!  He is a nice guy who "dresses to the nines," but other than that appears pretty much "an empty suit" that enjoys the status of being a councilman.

Ward 3:  Councilman James Griffin

Jim is just glad to be a councilman.  He said so at a candidate's forum that the SCPR attended a number of years ago.  So he would not want to "upset the apple cart, no?"

Ward 4:  Councilwoman Chris Smith

Councilwoman Smith, the SCPR thinks, does not have a mind of her own.

She seemingly follows Councilman West's lead on nearly everything that council deals with.

Ward 6: Councilman David Dougherty

Dougherty is in the estimate of the SCPR "Mister Sour Grapes."  To see him as former majority leader conduct the Public Speaks part of council's agenda (when President Schulman was absent) was a sight to behold.

The Report thinks he was brusque, and generally communicates an aire of inhospitality.

Last night Schulman noted that he felt Dougherty was growing annoyed with him, which prompted Dougherty to do what?  You've got it.  Complain!

To sum up the seven, it is apparent to the SCPR that they all (except maybe for Fisher) are basically fear ladened people when it comes to their political future.

And last night they let their fears get the best of them and they stepped up to the plate and "hit a home run for fear."

What we need in government is not the all too many politicians who are "fearfully" looking out for their own political hides.   But rather we need more courageous types like Mack, Hart, Hawk, Mariol and Smuckler.

Citizens of Canton should be mindful of President Franklin Roosevelt who clearly understood the power of fear within humanity recall his statement:

"The only thing we need to fear is fear itself."

Roosevelt was right on the mark.

To repeat, last night the Canton 7 hit a home run for fear.

Let's trust that the courageous Councilman Mack will continue his fight for democracy-in-action and will look fear in the face and stare it down!

Then and only then will "Fear Strike Out" in Canton, Ohio governance.

One final note.

The SCPR agrees with Councilman Edmond Mack (see video below in the Video Appendix) that for the charter issue to pass council, there will have to be a remix of council's composition.

The Democratic primary next year hopefully will produce a number of fresh faces who - before the election - need to be vetted by citizens to ensure that they are committed to letting the people determine what form Canton city government should be.

VIDEO APPENDIX

POST MEETING COMMENTS

COUNCILMAN MACK



COUNCILMAN SMUCKLER



COUNCIL PRESIDENT ALLEN SCHULMAN