Friday, June 6, 2008


The Repository reports ballyhoo after ballyhoo on Canton/Stark County efforts to get the local economy going. One wonders if The Rep editors will ever (in the light of many previous false starts) develop a healthy skepticism to these supercharged announcements. Or, will they remain cheerleaders as a mimic of their longtime favorite Janet Creighton (former Canton mayor)?

The latest report centers on a tag-along-effort promoted by the Canton Regional Chamber of Commerce. The STARK COUNTY POLITICAL REPORT supports this effort to streamline government. But it is not a Stark County economic development plan.

The Chamber is a well-meaning organization that is currently on a hunt to ferret out every last penny of ill-spent public school funds. Who can quarrel with eliminating all waste and inefficiency? In addition to his “cost-cutting” modality, wouldn’t it be impressive if Chamber came up with a positive plan to provide the proper finances for Stark County’s public schools?

One other note on the Chamber. If you are conscious, it should be apparent that the Chamber (i.e. the Ohio Chamber of Commerce) has an incestuous relationship with the Ohio Republican Party. This is the same party that has controlled Ohio for most of the past two decades. The Chamber has been used as the economic development tool for Ohio by the Republicans. Have the Republicans and the Chamber been a success story for Ohio over these two decades?

If the leaders of 21st Century Government Initiative can get localities to stop bickering among themselves, more power to them. Stark County, in particular, has a gaggle of elected officeholders (not necessarily leaders) who spar with one another and lose sight of common community economic goals.

It is disturbing to read that governments in Stark County are costing more than can be explained by inflationary factors. While costs are important, what is more important is producing high paying jobs which yield higher government revenues. Just ask Mayor Healy (Canton).

Stark County has no articulated, comprehensive plan to create such jobs. And, The Repository turns a blind eye on accountability. For example, The Repository sends its reporters to Tom Harmon’s press conference announcing his appointment as county commissioner . The reporters report his promise to lead Stark County’s economic revitalization. But The Rep does no follow-up by pressing Harmon (and Bosley - who, at least, has initiated fragmented efforts) to publish an “ in writing” plan with benchmarks subject to review to determine whether or not they are being met.

Evidence that The Rep editors have their collective heads in the sand is indicated by their recent editorial characterizing North Canton’s raid of a Massillon based business as “win-win.” Aren’t they aware of other businesses located in Stark County who get tax breaks who produce no new jobs? Shouldn’t these folks withhold judgment until the result is known?

Even if the North Canton raid turns out to be beneficial, intra-county competition is not a wholesome economic development approach. At best, it is a tactic; not a plan, and certainly not an economic development strategy.

Questions: Isn’t the long term and continuing Stark County economic downturn an indictment of Stark County leadership? When will The Rep and its editors stop giving a pass to area Chambers, the Stark Development Board, the Stark/Canton Convention & Visitors’ Bureau on their deficiencies?

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