Thursday, June 22, 2017

IS CANTON CITY COUNCIL UP TO PROTECTING A CRITICALLY "VITAL" WATER SUPPLY FOR ITSELF & STARK COUNTY?



VIDEO

Bethlehem Township Resident
Richard Regula
Speaks Out on Navarre Area Spill

Recently, it came to light (discovered by the Ohio EPA on April 13, 2017) that there was a "in the process of construction"  natural gas pipeline (Rover) drilling mud spill in Navarre located in Bethlehem Township, home of Stark County commissioner Richard Regula.

Later on in this blog, I will share Regula's in depth observations (via videotaped interview done yesterday) about the occurrence of the spill, its remediation and how our Ohio and national governments are responding.

However, an aspect of the spill that the commissioner did not know much about, that is to say—the city of Canton government—should be one that Cantonians and indeed

Initially, the company doing the drilling put out a press release saying that nearby wells and other major water supply wells (e.g. Canton's Sugarcreek well field, the Tuscarawas river, et cetera) were not at risk for contamination.


A number of years ago (December, 2010), I recall being at an event put on by Canton City Council president Allen Schulman in which he was touting Canton very large drinking water resources as a major asset in the arsenal of infrastructure with which Canton might lure job producing industry and commerce to come to Canton and Stark County.

Another key component of the-then being established Canton Water Commission (headed up by Schulman) was the "protection" of the water supply.

Why have a mission protecting Canton's drinking water supply?

The meeting occurred about the time that fracking for natural gas first came to Stark County.

Then Plain Township trustee (now Stark County clerk of courts) Louis Giavasis was the very first Stark County public official to note of the arrival of fracking the inherent dangers/problems that some see in fracking if not closely monitored and controlled by all levels of government; especially state and local governments.

Another key player in bringing Stark County-based public attention to the dangers that might affect Stark County is long time Stark County civic activist Chris Borello who now lives in Plain Township but formerly lived in Lake Township from whence she commenced her opposition (in the early 1980s) to the ways and means that the U.S. EPA, the Ohio EPA, Stark County-based legislative officials and other local government officials (specifically, the-then township trustees) were ineffectively dealing with dangers to public health potential posed by the Uniontown industrial landfill.

The landfill was the dumping ground for industrial wastes (some highly toxic) buried at a site about 1/2 mile south of Uniontown on the east side of Cleveland Avenue.

Strangely enough, all the hullabaloo generated by Schulman has faded away in terms of a continuing public highlighting of  marketability/protection of Canton's valuable water resource.

Why?

Likely because a consensus of government officials (in a macro view sense) post-2010-onset-alarm developed that Canton government was on-top-of-the-matter and there was very little if anything for the general public to be alarmed about.

With the April 13 discovered by the Ohio EPA Energy Transfers Partners (ETP) spill in Navarre, the alarm bells are again ringing loudly these days.

Despite the initial ETP assurances that the spill was nothing to be concerned about back in April, the controversy lives on on June 22, 2017.

This past Monday, Canton City Council had its water superintendent Tyler Converse come to council and deal with questions on whether or not Canton/Stark County-based Canton water customers had any reason to be concerned about in terms of whether or not the public could feel comfortable with drinking water from the Sugarcreek water facility.

Converse said that Sugarcreek wellfield was about 1/2 mile away from the spill and that he felt that it was very unlikely that any pollutants borne by migrating contaminated (according to the Ohio EPS) drilling mud would make it to Sugarcreek.

But Converse could not absolutely say that the migration would not take place; only, if it did, it would take six to nine months.

Another cautionary flag that Bethlehem locals (well water users), Cantonians and those of us out in the townships/Massillon (via Aqua Ohio) who pipe in generated water from wells located in the spill area, the fact that Canton has hired a law firm to look out for Canton and its customers' interests with regard to whatever longer term problems might develop with the water supply, should Converse be wrong and the contaminated drill mud does get into the Sugarcreek watershed.

It appears that the Ohio EPA is boring in on and staying intimately involved in monitoring and supervising the clean up.

The intense interest of Canton City Council as demonstrated in having the city's water superintendent stay on top of the matter and reporting to council on a continuing basis is encouraging that members are focused on protecting this critically important asset.

Mostly, these days, Canton is struggling to stay afloat with relatively little to cheer about.

Even the Pro Football Hall of Fame expansion project which Canton has invested $5 million in continues to have its skeptics as to whether or not the project will come anywhere near what Canton needs in terms of a economic development boon on the shoulders of which Canton hopes to pull itself out of financial/economic mire.

Sources tell me that the stadium rebuild project is now at $130 million and that the total project is estimated to cost some $800 million and that it is a puzzlement where the money will come from.

One source said that one of the more disturbing aspects of the project is that some of it is being paid for with borrowed (bond) money.

What Canton can be assured of is the tremendous value of its pristine water supply.  While a Canton asset, it has potential to redound to the benefit all of Stark County.

So its up to Canton/Stark County citizens, Canton government, Stark County government, the Ohio EPA and FERC to go all out in protecting this precious resource.

As indicated earlier in this article, a lead Stark County citizen in monitoring developments in dealing with the spill is Plain Township resident Chris Borello.

Here is the core comment of an e-mail she sent out (copied to a number of Canton city officials including council president Allen Schulman)  on June 2nd:

Sent: Fri, Jun 2, 2017 12:51 pm

Subject: Fwd: Rover Pipeline faces more environmental scrutiny

Folks,

This is exactly why I urged proper testing of the "spill", including water soluble radium 226, questioning whether the drilling muds could possibly be "recycled" given what all we have ready about the industry re - using various materials, asking if indeed, it could be "crapped up."

Now, citizens need to know what other parameters /chemicals were tested for , including radium, ( and be assured that proper scientific methods are used in the process, ie., gamma spec)....

Hopefully now the local newspapers will also listen to the concerns by those living near the Stark Countywide Landfill concerning the smoldering landfill fire and concerns about the proximity of this same pipeline to the landfill...!

Chris for Stark County Concerned Citizens

For its part, Aqua Ohio says that its on-going monitoring of water quality of its supply shows no contamination.

As indicated above, the SCPR sat down with Richard Regula (mainly in his role as a lifetime Bethlehem Township resident but peripherally as a Stark County commissioner) who has taken a deep interest in the spill having occurred and following up with state officialdom in a quest to see his community interests and the local and countywide water supply being remediated and protected.

Here is that video (16:44)

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

COULD NORTH CANTON'S MEETING LAST NIGHT BE THE "BEGINNING OF THE END" FOR TIM FOX AS NORTH CANTON LAW DIRECTOR?

UPDATED:  02:11 PM

BREAKING NEWS!

NCCS-BOE LIKELY TO APPROVE ABATEMENT AGREEMENT TOMORROW NIGHT


VIDEOS

OSBORNE ON "OTHER PARTNERS"

...

OSBORNE ON "DELAY THE VOTE"

...

FOLTZ "LET'S DELAY VOTE ONE WEEK"
(INCLUDES FOX ["DO NOT DELAY VOTE')
ALSO
HELD, KIESLING & FONTE

...

CITIZENS POINT FINGERS AT MAYOR HELD

...

HELD RESPONDS TO CITIZEN 

...

CITIZEN TRIPP ON COUNCIL PRESIDENT PETERS

...

 On the surface of it, I agree with North Canton Councilwoman Marcia Kiesling (Republican, at-large), council waiting six days is not going to change the ultimate outcome on council's quest to pass legislation approving the city entering into agreements with the North Canton City Schools (NCCS) and North Ridge Place, LLC (owned by developers William Lemmon, Robert DeHoff and Dan DeHoff) in settlement of an "imperfect" process (per Councilman Doug Folts) in which (2012) North Place Ridge, as part of an Held administration "administrative" process was awarded a 100% property tax abatement on a 40 unit apartment complex on the west side of North Main Street close to the intersection of Main and Applegrove.



But digging deeper, Councilman Doug Foltz's (Democrat, Ward 1) move to put aside the legislation until next Monday night when Councilman-at-Large Mark Cerreta (a Republican) returns to council proceedings inasmuch as the vote on the ordinances is as "an emergency," may, as implicitly warned by Law Director Tim Fox, give the opponents of the legislation time to put together bombshell revelations (my characterization; not Fox's) that might derail North Canton's "best plan of mice and men" to settle a tax revenue dispute among North Canton government, the NCCS and North Ridge Place, LLC.

This blog has heretofore written three installments on this overarching issue consuming North Canton government these days, to wit:


LINK TO INSTALLMENT #2

LINK TO INSTALMENT #3


Bombshell revelations?

That's what I am thinking more and more.

I have this sense that some of the opponents that Fox was referring to are looking deep and wide at relationships between North Canton School board members, North Canton council members and others involved in the abatement approving process in an effort to plant in the minds of North Cantonians that the proposed settlement agreements are not the "arms-length" work products that they appear to be on the surface level.

For those listening closely last night, citizen activist Chuck Osborne (a former councilman who has been a council "nemesis extraordinaire" ever since he departed council) brought up—during the "Visitor Comments" portion of council meeting— the "relationships" factor alluded to above, to wit:



Osborne went on to ask council to delay a vote on the abatement measures pending the return of Councilman Cerreta; a plea, it turns out, was picked up upon by Ward 1 councilman Doug Foltz.



Here is a video collage-esque presentation of Foltz in action in persuading his fellow councilpersons to vote 6 - 0 to hold off on vote until next week.



Note:  The SCPR has been in contact with NCCS treasurer Todd Tolson on the spectre offered by Law Director Fox that councils failure to act on the abatement pieces of legislation would likely result in an extended delay in getting the school and North Ridge Place, LLC agreement completed.
Apparently, Fox's analysis was more scare tactic than what he knew or, as it turns out, didn't know.  I think Fox should have "actually" known what the NCCS BOE is likely to do at its meeting tomorrow night rather than speculate as he obviously did with council members last night. 
It is reprehensible for a legal professional who knows better to engage in fear mongering.  
Look at this e-mail exchange between the SCPR and Mr. Tolson 
Tolson, Todd <tolsont@northcantonschools.org>  Today at 1:25 PMTo:  Martin Olson
...
Mr. Olson, 
It is my belief the NC BOE still plans to approve the agreement tomorrow evening with the contingency language, "...contingent upon North Canton City Council's approval of this agreement." 
Todd TolsonTreasurer 
On Tue, Jun 20, 2017 at 12:28 PM, Martin Olson <tramols@att.net> wrote: 
Treasurer Tolson, 
In light of North Canton City Council putting off its vote on the subject matter of this e-mail, will NCCS BOE go ahead tomorrow night with approving the agreement from its perspective?If not, when is it likely that the NCCS BOE will take up the matter again. 
Thanks,
Martin OlsonSCPR
While I believe that opponents focusing on "relationships" will not be able to produce revelations which will derail the Law Director Tim Fox crafted settlement agreement, this video collection of Fox's extensive plea to council to vote down Foltz's initiative, I believe the video reveals how utterly unnerved he is of the opponents having another week to re-think, double-down on techniques and strategies to undo his work.

Another aspect of last night's meeting which should be highly interesting are the comments made by various citizens on Mayor David Held's "I'm  against it" ([paraphrase], the North Ridge Place abatement) statement of August, 2016.

The irony of the past Held position, as pointed out by Councilman Foltz, is that the action of abating North Ridge Place was an "administrative" decision; not a legislative one.

The SCPR thinks that council is not off-the-hook because council in putting together the abatement process at its initiative should have provided for council "check and balance" procedures.

After all, North Canton is a strong council form of government.

Here the videos:

First, the citizens:


Secondly, Mayor Held's response:


And finally, here is citizen Larry Tripp making accusations on council president Dan Peters.  (note:  I gave Councilman Peters an opportunity to respond, but he declined which is included at the end of the video]):

All-in-all, Foltz persisting/prevailing with his fellow councilpersons on the vote delay is a "glimmer of HOPE" for North Cantonians that Foltz might be a catalyst going forward for reigning in Fox.



A number of North Cantonians think that council created Fox (a former councilman himself) and his overbearing ways vis-a-vis any citizen who questions him, Mayor Held or council members in some sort of "in a private counsels sort of way" back in September, 2012 when he was hired.

The SCPR subscribes to this point-of-view.

Now it is time for council to put Fox in his proper place as being a legal advisor and retract his de facto status as being a virtual "one-man-rule" of all of North Canton government.

It is fitting and proper for Foltz to assume this role, if, indeed, he has the chutzpah to do so.

For he is the dean of North Canton council having served longer than any other member.

My take on observing/taking with Foltz over my years of coverage of North Canton City Council is that he knows "dysfunctional" city government from the days he worked for the city of Canton.

Is he up to being a "spark of HOPE" that council will rein Tim Fox in and thereby make North Canton government more responsive to, interactive with and embracing of the city's "inquiring" citizens?

Monday, June 19, 2017

WHY DID EDMOND MACK CHANGE HIS MIND ABOUT RUNNING FOR RE-ELECTION?



On November 25, 2015, I wrote a blog thusly (LINK to the blog):


Mack's response:  (in part)

Mostly true, but not the entire story.  

I began discussions with firm management regarding joining the partnership in January.  

Initially, the discussions were that I would not run for re-election this year in light of my joining the partnership at the end of this year.  As a result, I had discussions with several persons about running for my position this past spring in my place, including Dr. Ferguson.  However, after further discussions, the firm and I both agreed that is best if I stay on council for at least another term.  

Hence, I ran for re-election.  

I do not intend on resigning mid-term. (emphasis added)

But "Lo! and Behold!! look at this.



Interesting, no?

As I am wont to do, I contacted Mack (who, heretofore, has been a Stark County Political Report [SCPR] favorite) for an explanation.

Although no Stark County-based public official is immune from SCPR political/government performance critique, Mack mostly has received accolades from me.  In fact, he holds one of the spots on my Stark County Top 10 Elected Official List.

For examples of SCPR recognition of some of Mack's more distinguished work as a legislator, take a look at these linked blogs.
But Mack did not distinguish himself in coming out "full-bore" for now former mayor William J. Healy, II when he was taken on by former Democrat and now political independent Thomas Bernabei in the November 15, 2015 Canton mayoralty election.

In the linked blog below, on May 6, 2015, I dubbed Councilman as the leader of "the Mack Pack" for Healy.
I do not criticize Mack for being part of the legal team that represent the Stark County Dems to "keep Bernabei off the ballot" effort, as such is in line with ethical American jurisprudence.

However, for Mack to have supported Healy with campaign contributions and advocacy was a serious mistake in judgement on his part by my standards.  And, in evaluating Mack going forward, voters need to take into account his drifting into political partisanship in aligning with Healy rather than focusing on the damage done to Canton future viability from eight years of Healy administration stewardship.

Had Healy been re-elected, it my assessment that Canton government would be in much more dire straits than it is under the Bernabei administration.  I think Healy's eight years as mayor was of such a poor quality of leadership that he put Canton in such a deep hole that a Bernabei administration is not likely to make much progress diigging out of, even over a four year period of time.

Mack's Healy support,  shows that he, like most politicos, has the capacity to put partisan political party interests and, perhaps, perceived personal political interest over the public interest.

In hindsight, Mack now says he is impressed with Mayor Bernabei.

But if he had had his way in November, 2015, Canton government would still be saddled the highly politically manipulative William J. Healy, II who, again, I think put Canton in a deep, deep hole.

The main point of this blog is Edmond Mack changing his mind about running again to retain his seat on Canton City Council.

In and of itself, there is nothing inappropriate of a person including a politician in changing his/her mind.

However, in the case of a politician, the public has a right to know the reason(s) for the change of heart.

So I e-mailed Mack to find out what those reasons are, to wit:


Mack's response:

Edmond J. Mack <emack@lawlion.com>  May 1 at 12:59 AM
To:  Martin Olson

Martin!
...

My decision to run for re-election was informed by several considerations, and was something I thought very hard about.  The views of Plakas, Bernabei, and Schulman were all weighed and very influential.  I have time tomorrow evening, so I will put together a more thoughtful email tomorrow evenings that explains. 

...

Edmond

After about a week and no follow up on his promise to provide "a more thoughtful" response "that explains," I did follow up on May 9th.

Here it is June 18th and no response.

I did attend the June 5th Canton council meeting, but not a word from Mack.

Obviously, someone has counseled Mack not to provide the "more thoughtful" explanation he committed himself too.

I am somewhat surprised to get stonewalled by Mack.

Perhaps, I will get a "I did respond—but it got lost in the 'e-mail."'

In these days of American, Ohio and local politics, it seems that politicos only respond to media inquires when they think it is going to be good public relations for them.

And they wonder why the general public confidence in government keeps trending downward.

My thinking about the propensity of public officials/figures to only want glorifying publicity and tend to stiff-arm penetrating questioning is that such is a preeminent factor as to why more and more of the general public is holding them in less and less esteem.

As suggested by his partisan stance in supporting Healy's run for re-election as mayor (a stance that I have taken as Mack's history of coming out for "good government" measure more than any other Canton councilperson), nobody including myself should ever doubt the capacity of a politician to put political party/self-interest above the public interest.

Although he is running uncontested and therefore set to be re-elected, he will, undoubtedly, be running for a contested political office probably the not too distant future.

That Mayor Bernabei and Allen Schulman are among his councillors and perhaps even his law office boss Lee Plakas, one who can read the political tea leaves might come to believe something is up and these Canton/Stark County political "powers that be" are not quite ready to share that "something" with the Canton/Stark County public.

Mack, at the very least, having initiated the promise to respond thoughtfully on his own, as a matter of personal accountability should have written back and told me he has changed his mind about becoming forthcoming err  being "thoughtful."

Of course, doing a respectful thing like that might not look good for this Ward 8 councilman.

Naturally a "I changed my mind" comment might just might prompt somebody to raise the question:  What is he hiding?

That question is seemingly stock-in-trade for many of a politician across the American political landscape these days, no?

This past week I have published a number of blogs on North Canton government which seems to be rife with mysterious processes of government and politics.

There seems to me that there may have been something akin to a political dance going on between Mack and former Stark County commissioner Pete Ferguson during the run up to filing petitions for the 2017 primary election.

Ferguson took out petitions in this year's primary election cycle for both a Canton council-at-large slot and for Ward 8 apparently while Mack was deciding what he was going to run for re-election or not.

Had Mack decided not to run again, it appears that Ferguson was being positioned to take over in Ward 8.

As in his bid to return to the Stark County commissioner's office in November, 2016, Ferguson turned out not to be a serious contender for either job.

Former commissioner Ferguson is a tremendously nice guy, but an effective public official he is not.

Canton can ill-afford genial office holders who are not up to the job.

And, believe me, Pete Ferguson is no Edmond J. Mack!

His ascension to Ward 8 councilman would have been a step down in quality of representation/input re: Canton city government.

Nonetheless, Edmond Mack needs, as his political star rises, to understand that a promise made is a promise kept whether to local media or to a constituent.

It could be that Mack is a future mayor of Canton.

There is no better standard for him to emulate than Canton mayor Thomas Bernabei, the SCPR's top rated Stark County elected official.

Friday, June 16, 2017

"THE 'IN-ART' OF THE DEAL" AT PLAY IN NORTH CANTON, OHIO?

UPDATED AT 11:00 AM

INSTALLMENT #3





VIDEOS

...

NCCS SUPT WENDORF SPEAKING TO THE ISSUE OF "ABATEMENT"

...

NCCS SUPT WENDORF ENGAGES COUNCILMAN GRIFFING

...

NCCS SUPT WENDORF ENGAGES COUNCILWOMAN KIESLING

...

NCCS SUPT WENDORF ENGAGES COUNCILWOMAN WERREN

"You know, I know, everybody knows" that President Donald J. Trump is the greatest deal maker in all of human history.  If you don't believe me, just ask him.  He will confirm what is already obvious to all of us Americans.

Unfortunately, he is so preoccupied these days politically surviving as president of our great nation that he is not available to North Canton government to assist the administration and council in working his wiles as explained in his book The Art of the Deal to get every stakeholder on board as North Canton government endeavors to strike a deal between itself, the North Canton City Schools and North Ridge Place, LLC and four North Canton citizen activists (i.e. the stakeholders) to solve a tax abatement controversy that has flowered out of a Community Reinvestment Area decision by the city in 2012.

A controversy because a core group of  North Canton civic activist are challenging a grant in the year 2012 100% real property tax abatement over 12 years to North Ridge Place, LLC for an apartment complex the limited liability company has constructed on the locale of a former mobile home park.

The contestants allege that the abatement was illegal because:
  • it is framed as a "new" residential abatement for a property that is in a zoned "commercial" part of North Canton, and that
  • the North Canton City Schools (NCCS), when an commercial property abatement exceeds 50%, must be part of the abatement process, which it was not
Yesterday's blog in the words of schools treasurer Todd Tolson set forth the actual/potential detriment the 2012 abatement action has for NCCS, to wit:


Today's blog focuses various parts of video taped presentation by NCCS superintendent Jeff Wendorf on the abatement to North Canton City Council on September 26, 2016.

First, Wendorf's prepared remarks.



Next, Wendorf's  exchange with Councilman Dan Griffith (at large).



Next, Wendorf's dialogue with Councilwoman Marcia Kiesling (at large).



And last, Wendorf's interaction with Councilwoman Stephanie Werren (Ward 3).



It is clear to The Stark County Political Report that Wendorf unequivocally states and restates that North Canton City Schools want and need every available tax dollars that North Cantonians have voted for over the years with "buts, ifs, ands about it."

Seventy percent of all property tax dollars go to the NCCS whereas 12% goes to North Canton government.

Of course, the schools want economic development going forward for North Canton even though there is no direct financial connection on the city doing well with enhanced income tax collections and the schools which rely exclusively on real property taxes for revenues.

Amen!!! Economic development for North Canton, indeed!  But on the city's tax revenue dime; not the schools'.

In the estimate of the SCPR it was comical if not farcical for Councilman Griffith to be asking Wendorf how city was going to do economic development if not at the expense of the schools through tax abatements.

Wendorf was exceedingly respectful in outlining ancillary ways that the schools raise outside-of-tax-dollars revenues.

While "holding bake sales" was not one of Wendorf's examples; some of the items on the list were not that far off "a bake sale" standard for generating additional revenues for the schools.

I can see it now:  Buy Your Pastry Holiday Needs at North Canton City Hall in the weeks leading up to Christmas next December.

The tag-team of Councilpersons Marcia Kiesling and Stephanie Werren showed they really do not understand the difference of the dynamics of how schools are financed as contrasted with city government.

The "short-term" versus the "long-term" strategic economic planning motif that Kiesling and Werren went on and on about, sound a bit like national economist Arthur Laffer's "trickle down-supply side" theory of economic development.

Oh yes! Kiesling and Werren (the rock-ribbed Republicans I think they are), the NCCS are excited about giving up "real" tax dollar revenues for some speculative philosophical "pie-in-the-sky" that might or might not add to the North Canton city treasury via income tax, which, of course, will not benefit the North Canton schools even if abatements generate companies locating in/expanding in North Canton which eventually translates into increase income tax revenues.

Some people naively think that national political party philosophy does not filter down to local levels of government.

The national Republican Party political agenda item is to cut taxation to the bare bones (see recent Kansas debacle on an extremist application of "trickle down" public policy) and thereby "grow" your way to increased revenues on the theory that benefitting companies/entrepreneurs will take the tax savings and generate new lines of business or expanded existing lines of business which will replace rollbacks in taxation.

While the North Canton tax abatement is not a "tax-cut" in the strict sense of the expression, it is a 50% tax-cut for the benefit of a single LLC over 12 years for North Canton schools and should be seen as such.

The state of Ohio Republican Party controls a supermajority of the Ohio General Assembly and, of course, the governorship and has for quite a few years and hence we get laws like those directly relevant to the North Canton situation in which local tax dollars intended by voters to be primarily for financing local education being re-directed to economic development.

This is an example of a state political party overall point of view becoming the law of Ohio.

A politics driven economics philosophy has been encoded in the law of Ohio even to the point of overriding the intention of the votes of rank-and-file citizens who had in voting for school initiated levy issues a "direct" intention to support schools.

Names to put with this subversion of the democratic will of local citizens:  Schuring (R, the 48th House District), Oelslager (R, the 29th Senate District) and Hagan (R, the 50th House District).

Are these folks small letter "d" democrats?

One has to wonder, no?

To balance things out (the SCPR being "an equal opportunity critic;" a national Democratic Party political agenda is the drive for an increase in the national minimum wage to $15 per hour.

North Canton government (the mayor and council) number six Republicans and only one Democrat.

Canton government (council) numbers 13 (including Allen Schulman as president of council) are ALL Democrats.

So with North Canton, one gets "trickle down economics" whereas with Canton you get sentiment for legislating at the local level for an increased minimum wage if rock-ribbed left-wing Democrat John Mariol has his way.

There are similar political party aligned philosophical analogies to be made on other practice/policy matters that course through government vertically from national down through the state to local government.

Make no mistake about it.

Accordingly, it is naive to accept the mostly mythology that partisan political points of view do not find their way into local government policy and practice.

I understand the need to have political parties to make the American system of government work.

But when partisan political party doctrines short-circuit the thinking process so that it becomes obvious that "the public good" takes a backseat to a perceived "political party good," a line is crossed which make partisan political party devotion highly damaging to the continued viability of the American system of government.

And there is more ridiculousness from Kiesling and Werren (and even Councilman Foltz (Ward 1) jumped in on this one):  (paraphrase)  "but we got rid of that mobile home park."

It is highly debatable whether or not the income tax based revenues for the  North Canton city treasury outweighs the costs of city services to concentrated apartment residents who in significant numbers do not work in North Canton and therefore contribute little to nothing to city finances.

It seems to the SCPR that most of North Canton council members do not understand Taxation 101 and consequently are well on their way to long-term (to use the Kiesling/Werren expression) drive North Canton into fiscal emergency.

In one exchange between the council members and Superintendent Wendorf, he opined that perhaps he needed to education them on "inside millage" as being the only way schools could increase their revenues without a vote by the people.

I think Wendorf should save himself the effort, nobody on North Canton council seems to me to have the mental sophistication to understand the Byzantine inside millage formula.

The days of The Hoover Company providing North Canton with more money than the city needed to finance city government are long over.  Nearly ten years now.  Kiesling has been on council for double that period of time and apparently has not learned the fundamentals of proven ways to sure up North Canton finances.

If she thinks the North Ridge Place, LLC abatement is a model for North Canton getting a handle on financial viability and if she is representative of the rest of the members of council, I'd say that North Canton as a matter of "long-term" financial planning is in "deep, deep doo-doo."

And, oh yes! while we (i.e. council) is at it; the effect of the 100% alleged to be illegal abatement is tantamount to "let's put the excellent North Canton City Schools in financial jeopardy."

That folks, is an expression of partisan political philosophy being implemented at the local level which damages our most important knowledge/thinking power resource infrastructure; namely, our public school system.

A healthy political party import is one where there is a competition of ideas debated in public forums and the results of which express a well-rounded buy-in to policy/practice legislation; not a doctrinaire political party point-of-view rammed down the throats of us all by supermajority political party zealots.

If and when we lose our democracy it is not likely to be at the hand of a military coup-d'etat but by a steady erosion of public confidence in our ability to be informed, respected, heard and included in the decision making at local levels of government.

As I see it, North Canton government is a contemporary kaleidoscope of the undermining of our democratic-republican system of government happening right before our Stark County eyes.

The real heros of this flap in North Canton are the likes of Daryl Revoldt (former mayor, councilman and president of council), Miriam Baughman, Melanie Roll and Chuck Osborne.


But for above-pictured locking on to the tax abatement debacle of 2012, North Canton schools would have, under the original abatement, lost tens of thousands of sorely needed tax dollar revenues.

These folks are not beholden to a political party point of view, but to what is for the public good.

I am told that Baughman, Roll and Osborne are in this fight for the "long-term."  Revoldt may or may not be.

These folks apparently are not into "let's make a deal" put together by "in-artful" council/mayor deal makers in that they failed to provide "checks and balances" on a bad deal for the NCCS.

Why?

Because they believe the original deal was illegal and that therefore North Canton schools should have all the dollars less those already abated to North Ridge Place, LLC.

The unremunerated consistent, persistent, skillful work ethic of the civic minded Baughman, Roll and Osborne far surpases the current crop of taxpayer paid councilpersons serving on North Canton council.

What a sad state of affairs, no?

Thursday, June 15, 2017

...NORTH CANTON SCHOOL OFFICIALS RESPOND TO QUESTIONS FROM SCPR...

UPDATED:  11:50 AM & 2:10 PM

INSTALLMENT #2

(LINK TO INSTALLMENT #1)

                 WHY CAN'T NORTH CANTON CITY OFFICIALS DO THE SAME?


I could not believe what I was hearing.

A source was telling me that on the presumption that North Canton City Council approves two proposed agreements (one with the North Canton Board of Education [NCCS-BOE]; the other with North Ridge Place, LLC [a company owned by North Canton-based developers William Lemmon and Robert DeHoff) that NCCS superintendent Jeff Wendorf would be signing the agreement with North Canton's city government without obtaining school board approval.

As one who writes blogs like I do, I always endeavor to talk with folks who definitely know the answer to a given question.

In this case, the question is will North Canton superintendent of schools sign a North Canton government (i.e. city council) approved agreement without first having obtained NCCS BOE approval.

As seen in the lead graphic in this blog, the answer is an emphatic "no!"

There can be a problem between media and political and governmental figures getting straight answers like that provided by Superintendent Wendorf

Some political figures and public officials (elected and appointed) think they are unaccountable to the public/media and refuse to respond.

And here is the kicker.

They frequently have no basis in law for not answering the questions.

On Wednesday of this week, the American public saw/read an example of the "refuse to respond" modality at the hand of United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions (the nation's premier "rule of law" enforcer) as he testified before the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee without any legal basis for refusing.  No asserting of executive privilege, just "stonewalling."

And before that intelligence officials Coats and Rogers did the same thing.  Coates even admitted that he was without any legal basis for refusing to answer

Such clearly sounds like these officials think that the USA and by implication the states and their political subdivisions are governments conducted according to the standards of men (i.e. which public officials themselves concoct) rather than standards that are in accordance with the rule of law.

At least, Rogers did testify on the matters in a closed session.  But, bottom line on the "closed" session testimony, only a select few know the answers to questions that ought to be in the public domain.

I think North Canton law director Tim Fox operates under the Sessions/Coats/Rogers standard.

In the latest chapter (within the last few days) of giving citizens a hard time getting public records, Fox gave a North Canton citizen a hard time getting a copy of the proposed agreement referred to above as same has to do with North Ridge Place, LLC.  Eventually that citizen had to secure the record from another source.



North Canton City Council bears full responsibility for Fox and his five years, by and large, of antagonistic attitude towards any North Canton citizen who questions his action and/or that of North Canton City Council and the Mayor David Held administration.

Every once in awhile Held will override Fox, but very rarely.

From the get-go of his being appointed law director in September, 2012, Tim Fox has been hostile to The Stark County Political Report.

In my very first exchange with him, he let be known how "tough" he is.

Undoubtedly, the reason for his defensiveness and belligerence in relation to me is my law background as a 41 year professional and his feeling highly insecure having to answer the questions from somebody who is not in awe of "the big bad city attorney."

He is not the only Stark County official/public figure who is wary of this blog and my no-nonsense pursuit of public official accountability.

Former Canton mayor William J. Healy, II once demanded that I turn the SCPR camera off as I questioned him about the-then Stark County commissioners Thomas Bernabei (who went on to unseat Healy in the November, 2015 general election) having filed with the Stark County Board of Elections as an independent candidate for mayor.

 Of course, Hell will freeze over first before anything like that would happen with the SCPR.



The Stark County Board of Elections once refused to allow me to videotape that body's meetings.

Kudos to Stephanie Ujhelyi of the Alliance Review for supporting my right to videotape those meetings.

It was very telling that The Repository reporter covering the board at the time uttered nary a word in protest nor did The Repository editorial board offer any support of my right or any citizen's right to videotape a public meeting and to fully engage public officials.

Consequently, I take The Repository's rhetoric on Sunshine Week, which is celebrated in March of each year, as being just that:  mere "rhetoric" and therefore to be taken as a obligatory "a grain of salt" in terms of "where the rubber meets the road" in supporting citizen/journalist and government official interaction except, of course, when the journalist is a Rep employee.


That is the price Stark Countians pay for living in a community like so many which dot the American landscape as a "one newspaper town."

All I can say on the matter of folks like North Canton law director Fox being unresponsive to inquiry is:  "what does he and his fellow cowardly public officials have to hide?

Apparently, quite a bit.

But in the experience of the SCPR, not the North Canton City Schools.

The SCPR compliments North Canton City Schools Todd Tolson for his quick and thorough response to my inquiry as to the financial impact of the proposed agreements (implemented or ultimately failed) on the NCCS.

Here is of my questions and Tolson's answers:

SCPR questions:
On Tue, Jun 13, 2017 at 11:18 AM, Martin Olson <tramols@att.net> wrote 
Treasurer Tolson, 
Please provide me with data on the effect (or an approximation thereof) of North Canton city government's granting of a real property tax abatement on North Ridge Place in the following contexts: 
If there ends up no agreement between the city, schools and North Ridge Place LLC,
If the current proposed agreement on a 50% clawback is agreed to and fully implemented. 
Note:  I understand that there is likely to be appraisal re-evaluation going forward (3/5 year intervals) so I am asking for an approximation. 
Also, I am hearing that there is talk within the North Canton administration/Board of Education of either a tax or bond issue in November, 2017. 
Are these reports accurate? 
If so, what are the alternatives being discussed? 
Thank you, 
Martin Olson
Stark County Political Report
Treasurer Tolson's answers:

Tolson, Todd <tolsont@northcantonschools.org>  Jun 14 at 8:15 AM... 
Mr. Olson, 
In the North Ridge Place CRA's current status, the North Canton City School District has foregone $126,296.68 for tax years 2014-2016. If there were to be no change in the CRA, and we use the last year of calculations with no increase over the duration, the total loss would equate to approximately $507,000. If the 50% goes into effect, we would recoup and generate new revenue of approximately $253,500. In the event the CRA is deemed to be illegal, the district would recoup the entire $507,000. 
As you mentioned, these numbers will definitely fluctuate over the years based on county auditor triennial updates and sexennial revaluations. We believe we have positioned ourselves to be in a no lose situation should the CRA stay in place. 
In regards to an upcoming tax issue this November, it is my understanding that a Resolution of Necessity will be on this month's Board of Education agenda. The need would be for a bond/facility and operating issue. 
Todd Tolson  
Treasurer
We all know that the NCCS are first rate as are the schools in my home area of Lake Township.  Lake school officials were not happy campers when they learned Jeff Wendorf was moving on from Lake to North Canton in March, 2016.

From the schools' standpoint, undoubtedly one would think, officials would like to have every dollar voted for in the past by North Cantonians specifically for schools.

For there is talk as the next Ohio biennium budget is nearing finalization that Ohio officials (i.e. the Legislature) are considering removing another $20 million from public education.

But "that horse is out of the barn."

Cities like North Canton have been empowered by that same Legislature who might take $20 million from Ohio public schools in the 2018-19 budget biennium to redirect 50% of previously voted property taxes for schools to abatement of those taxes for commercial enterprises who engage in economic development projects.

That's what North Canton government did to the NCCS  vis-a-vis North Ridge Place, LLC, apparently, with anybody knowing about it in 2012, if one believes past/present council members and the mayor that lack of knowledge was the order of the day.

You have seen what Treasurer Tolson says about the financial impact on the schools.

The SCPR is told that the four North Canton citizens who have filed appeals to the North Canton are not going to be intimidated by North Canton City Council and plan on continuing on their legal remedies in hopes that the abatement will be invalidated by Ohio courts.

As the SCPR sees it, if the four them, or any one of them, succeed, the NCCS will not recover the dollars already lost (nor will North Canton city government) but of course the NCCS will be restored to the full stream of revenue from the effective date of any invalidation order.

However, litigation is always chancy in outcome and sometimes requires multiple appeals which bring sizable legal fees with them.

If the appeals fail, then the agreements will be in full effect and the schools will realize 50% of the abated revenues.

The NCCS have to be thinking that "a bird in hand" is better than hoping for "two in the bushes."

Some have been highly critical of the schools for not carrying the fight to the bitter end.

The quarrel in the opinion of the SCPR should not be with school officials but rather with the lack of effective "check and balance" procedures on the abatement granting processes of North Canton government to ensure that abatements have community support (consent of the governed) and therefore legitimate (in terms of public support) for North Canton's council to enact.

It is quite possible that given the opportunity, the North Canton general public would have clearly signaled council whether or not the North Ridge Place abatements had the support the city's citizenry.

That there was no such opportunity for  accountability/"check and balance" mechanism in place in North Canton in the 2012 grant of a 100% real property tax (70% of which goes to the schools; 12% of which goes to the city).

Now the city is scrambling to cobble together agreements in a salvage operation to undo the harm that is said to have been done to North Canton City Schools finances on account of an alleged illegal 100%  "'new' residential construction" abatement (50% is the maximum by Ohio/North Canton law unless the schools agree to more when the to be abated realty is commercially zoned property, (as I understand same) regarding the North Ridge Place, LLC abatement.

Law Director Fox is reported to have told North Canton City Council members that the abatement as originally formulated by the city is legal.

In September, 2016, Superintendent Wendorf attended a city council meeting and engaged North Canton City Council and specifically members Griffith, Kiesling and Werren on abatements granted by the city under the auspicious of Ohio Community Reinvestment Area (CRA) law.

The SCPR has video of the dialogue.

In tomorrow's installment, I will include video footage of the exchange.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

TRUMP II & BIKER? JIM RENACCI FOR GOVERNOR


STARK CO GOP CHAIR JEFF MATTHEWS TO BE OUT FRONT FOR RENACCI?


Right now Republican congressman Jim Renacci (Ohio's 16th congressional district which includes northeast Stark County, a spur into Canton to catch the Timken Co and part of Lake Township) thinks that it is an advantage to run as Donald J. Trump, II in his quest to succeed Trump adversary and current Republican Ohio governor.

Renacci is reportedly one the richest congresspersons in all of the United States Congress.

But like his political idol, he likes to bill himself as the common person's advocate in government.

And to plant that notion more firmly in the public mind, he has taken to donning a biker's motif as a part of his campaign presentation.

Looking to Ohio's, the 16th congressional district and Stark's recent electoral history, the Trump II theme seems to be supported by 2016 exercised voters' preference, to wit:



But with the president's proclivity to shoot himself in the "political" foot, the Trump II Renacci strategy could be absolutely the worst theme come the 2018 Republican primary election,

Even as of May, 2017 Renacci has an uphill fight to "trump" declared fellow Republican candidates as shown in the following graph:


But Renacci can be sure of one thing.

Stark County Republican chairman Jeff Matthews will be squarely in his corner in this fight as he was when Renacci had primary opponents in the 2010 election to determine which Republican was going to take on then-incumbent Democratic congressman John Boccieri.


So why is The Stark County Political Report willing to predict this early on that Stark GOP chairman Jeff Matthews will be out of the gate with Renacci for governor.

For the same reason he weighed-in his attempt to persuade Ashland, Medina and Wayne GOP chairpersons to support Renacci over Miller, Schiffer and Smith.

Matthews wife Heidi had had a cushy political job with former and long time 16th District congressman Ralph Regula and undoubted it was in his self interest and the family finances interest that he work very hard to help Renacci unseat Boccieri.


And the apparent investment by Jeff Matthews in the 2010 campaign of Jim Renacci paid off in spades for the Matthews' family financial fortunes, to wit:



Which political investment seems to have a continuing payoff.


Matthews and wife have to be totally comfortable with Renacci's decision to try to be Trump II as further indicated by his logo "Ohio First" as clearly a take off of Trump's "American First."

When many people were counting Trump out as a potential victor in the 2016 general election, the Matthews were front and center at Trumps 2016 Canton campaign rally.


The "many people" were wrong and now the nation as to deal with "Tweeter Trump."

Another Trump-phile; namely, Jane Timken, a former vice-president of the Stark County GOP and now the Trump backed to take over the top Ohio Republican Party job in a highly competitive race for the chairmanship of the Ohio Republican party, one would think, has to be squarely in Renacci's corner in the race to be the GOP nominee for governor.

Witness this June 2, 2017 tweet by Renacci (is he picking up on Trump's tweet habit?).



In any event, the SCPR for one would not count Jim Renacci out in his quest to be the Republican nominee for governor come next spring's primary election in Ohio.

Maybe, just maybe he will come roaring into Canton/Stark County on his bike for a campaign rally between now and May 8, 2018?

Let's hope.

It would be quite a show, no?

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

NORTH CANTON COUNCIL IN MIDST OF "SALVAGE OPERATION?"

INSTALLMENT #1

UPDATED:  04:15 PM


As the author of The Stark County Political Report, I have been following "in detail" like no other Stark County media outlet, developments on the 5 year old or so real property abatements to North Ridge Place, Ltd (NRP; a company owned by North Canton developers William Lemmon/Robert DeHoff).

Initially it appears that a 100% real property abatement was granted sometime in 2012 without fanfare and therefore not picked up upon by the general public or, as it now seems—if one believes the denying North Canton public officials (e.g. Mayor David Held and North Canton City Council members or North Canton Board of Education members) suggestions that the abatement was totally and completely the work and only the work of the-then economic development director Eric Bowles.

The North Canton public official denials are in the category of "if you believe that, then I have some swamp land in Florida I want to sell you."

The abatement started being implemented in 2016 to the benefit of NRP.


Last night (June 12, 2017)  at a "Committee of the Whole" meeting, it appeared that North Canton City Council was into a full-blown operation salvage operation to reverse as best it can the loss of several hundreds of thousands of dollars by North Canton City Schools as a consequence of the "quietly" granted abatement to the Lemmon and DeHoff owned company.



It looks like that North Canton Council will be approving very, very soon negotiated agreements with NPR, Ltd and North Canton schools to compensate the schools for 50% of the real property tax abatement received/to be received by the DeHoff/Lemmon enterprise.




To The Stark County Political Report, the North Ridge Place abatement process is a textbook case of how "checks and balances" were not in place in North Canton government to have prevented (or, at the very least to have interested parties have their say) the diversion of sorely needed North Canton City Schools revenues to North Canton economic development projects.

This blog is the first of a number of installments to be published providing North Cantonians and other Stark County communities with the tools to understand how the failure of "checks and balances" failed in North Canton and in so understanding implement measures in their respective communities to ensure that the same does not occur there to the detriment of local education.

Former Repository editor Mike Hanke in 2006 (as referenced by North Canton civic activist Chuck Osborne) put it about as well as it can be in terms of the relative priorities of economic development through real property abatements and critically needed revenues to the schools, to wit:


There are reports that North Canton schools are considering putting on a tax/bond initiative this November.

If those reports are accurate, then not only does the NRP abatement deprive the schools of acutely needed revenues to the tune of nearly one-half-million-dollars, more or less, but seemingly factors into the reported thinking that the schools need to make up the missing one-half-million dollars, more or less.

All because North Canton city government did not have and perhaps continues not to have safeguards in place in the form of "check and balances" so that those North Cantonians who deem adequately education a priority over economic development projects like the Lemmon/DeHoff North Ridge Place endeavor.