Saturday, January 31, 2009

DISCUSSION: IS A GOVERNMENT "FEE INCREASE" A TAX INCREASE?

On Wednesday (January 28th) Governor Strickland gave his "State of the State" speech. In that speech he promised not to raise Ohioans (and derivatively Stark Countians) income taxes.

But he did say he would recommend to the Legislature that it raise "state agency fees" (perhaps - drivers licenses, license plate fees, hunting licenses, et cetera - the possiblities are endless) to help offset the 2009/2010 fiscal year budget that the Ohio General Assembly must pass by June 30, 2009.

Is raising "state agency fees" a tax increase?

Yours truly remembers that when I first started the practice of law in 1973 that the cost of recording a document at the county recorder's office was $3.

Now the fee is $28. Over a 900% increase!

The STARK COUNTY POLITICAL REPORT (The Report) holds that hiking "state agency fees" or "county government fees" is a sneaky way for elected officials to increase (let me get out my euphemisms dictionary) revenues - err - taxes.

Strickland and Stark County connected legislators Oelslager, Okey, Schuring, Shiavoni, Slesnick and Snitchler (assuming they will vote for the Strickland plan) will - at the next election cycle - jut their chests out and brag about how "in tough economic times" they coped with budgetary problems without raising taxes.

Many voters will be fooled by these politicians.

The question is - will you?

DISCUSSION: CAN KIRK SCHURING WIN COUNTYWIDE IN STARK COUNTY?


It was truly shocking. No, not that Republican Kirk Schuring lost to Democrat John Boccieri in November, 2008 in the contest for the 16th congressional district. The STARK COUNTY POLITICAL REPORT (The Report) early on in the race predicted a Boccieri victory by about 10%. Which turned out to be pretty much on the money.

The Report thought Schuring would lose Stark County because Stark has turned into a Democratic county - if the Democrat runs to his/her strength, to wit: the cities of Alliance, Canton and Massillon.

But not 57% to 42%. Not for all the ink that Schuring has gotten in area media and all the campaigning he has done in Stark over the last 14 or so years. The Report thinks the size of the loss was mostly due to the strong Democratic tide that is sweeping the nation. Schuring gets more specific. He blames Taft (former Ohio governor) and the now ex-president Bush. Taft left office with a favorability rating of 19% and Bush was in the 20s.

Does the pounding Schuring took from Boccieri signal that he is a vulnerable candidate, no matter what he runs for in Stark in 2010? If he chooses to run for anything.

Schuring and his musical chairs partner - except there is a chair for each of them to sit on; just different looking chairs - have exchanged the 29th Ohio Senate seat and 51st Ohio House seat over the last several election cycles. Why? Because in the early 90s the Ohio Republicans came up with the idea of term limits as one of their tools to wrestle control of the Ohio General Assembly away from the then "in control" Democrats.

So Oelslager and Schuring have defied the "spirit of term limits," but Stark Countians and Jackson Township voters have left them get away with it. Of course, there is the factor of Stark County Democratic Party chair Johnnie A. Maier, Jr.. who gave Oelslager a "free pass" in the 2008 elections.

Oelslager has already announced that he is running for the 29th come November, 2010. The question is: will he have a viable Democratic opponent or will Maier and the Democrats either put up a token candidate or none at all.

Schuring? Well, he is undecided. He has told The Report that he may run for Oelslager's seat in the House, leave politics altogether and re-enter business or - are you ready for a surprise? - run countywide for either county commissioner or county auditor.

It could be that Stark County Republican Party chair Jeff Matthews is urging Schuring to run for a county post. Right now, the Republicans have NO countywide elected officials except for a few judges. Would Schuring running for commissioner or auditor be the beginning of a Republican resurgence in Stark County?

Friday, January 30, 2009

DISCUSSION: WHAT GIVES AT THE REP? SCPR SOURCE CONFIRMS HEALY ATTEMPT TO FIRE MCKIMM!


Executive editor Jeff Gauger in his blog - sort of - dealt with the alleged (not doable) attempted firing of Canton Police Chief Dean McKimm.

The STARK COUNTY POLITICAL REPORT (The Report) has a triple take on the Gauger blog.

First, he tries to discredit that the event ever took place because it is "chatter" on the blogs including his own.

Second, Gauger tries to discredit that the event ever took place by taking the position that everybody who is aware of the history of Canton politics know about former Mayor Janet Creigton's attempt to discipline Chief McKimm for not following her directive.

Third, Gauger cites the following responses:

Trouble is, we haven’t found proof to support the rumor suggesting that the mayor tried to fire the police chief. Rep Reporter Ed Balint has talked to the people involved — or, more accurately, to those who would have been involved. They deny it.

Here’s McKimm: No one talked to me about firing me. Not the mayor. Not Tom Nesbitt, the mayor’s public safety director and, on paper, the chief’s boss. Not anyone speaking for the mayor.

Here’s Nesbitt, and I quote him directly: “Absolutely nonsense” and “total malarkey.” Nesbitt even told us that after hearing the rumor himself he called McKimm to assure the chief that there was no plan to try to fire him. “I wanted to make (McKimm) comfortable,” Nesbitt said.

Here’s Joe Martuccio, the independent city law director: Neither Healy nor anyone speaking for the mayor sought my advice this week about firing McKimm.

And here’s City Councilman Bill Smuckler, a former candidate for mayor and a frequent, out-spoken critic of our current hizzoner: the chatter is a bunch of bunk.

Because of the foregoing The Report went back to the source of the story in the first place. The question. "Are you sure that Healy tried to fire McKimm,"

Answer: "Yes." Then the source went on to detail (in a persuasive fashion to The Report) the basis of the certainty.

So this is a very interesting stand off.

On one side: An impressive list of people who say an attempted firing (remembering, of course, the mayor cannot, only the Canton Civil Service Commission after due process of law) never occurred.

On the other: The Report's source. The Report will be quick to retract its story should it become apparent that the source was in error.

As of now, The Report has no reason to doubt the source notwithstanding the denials (including Law Director Joe Martuccio - whom The Report has the highest respect for).

Public official denials are nothing new to sophisticated observers of political processes. These folks are known to parse the dotting of the "i" and crossing of the "t" in the quest to construct a plausible or nuanced denial.

DISCUSSION: STARK'S ONLY "COUNTYWIDE" NEWSPAPER - FINALLY - DEALS WITH HEALY ALLEGATION

The STARK COUNTY POLITICAL REPORT (The Report) had all but given up on the prospect that Stark County's only countywide newspaper would delve into the allegations surrounding Canton Mayor William J. Healy, II.

The Report was told several times within the past week: "tomorrow." Well, tomorrow came and nothing.

There are a couple highly interesting nuances to The Rep's approach in today's piece.

First, the article acknowledges that the "anonymous" letter writer wanted The Rep to get the scoop on the story. The lack of The Rep's response, until today, probably means that "the powers that be" at The Repository didn't have the journalistic guts to dig in as a good investigative daily newspaper would.

Is The Rep's failure on this story indicative that Stark County no longer has a newspaper that is interested in or capable of solid investigative journalism?

Second, as written, this piece posits the notion that the "anonymous" letters were planted by interest groups; that is, anti-Healy interest groups, to wit:
A 40-something man who engaged in an improper relationship with a high school girl? Or is he the target of an orchestrated political smear campaign, with the goal of destroying his reputation, credibility and career?
The Report thinks it is preposterous to suggest that Canton councilpersons or Canton policemen might be part of "an orchestrated political smear campaign." Where is this coming from? The writers of the article do not connect the dots, other than to refer to the fact that the Canton police unions are in contract negotiations with the city and no money has been set aside for raises. What a leap? Is this responsible reporting?

As for the councilperson part, The Rep article makes no connection as a reason for even suggest that anyone on council is trying to smear Healy. The Rep reporters are probably relying on common knowledge among area political observers that Healy has never had a smooth relationship with council. In fact, his saving grace on the relationship (such that it could be at least a working relationship) was owing to the respect that council members had for Tom Bernabei (Healy's former service director and chief-of-staff).

So all-in-all, The Rep has bungled this story badly.

One other item: The Rep's commenters. The Report has had a number of comments from folks who regularly comment on The Rep's material, and, are they upset about having the comment removed by presumably Executive Editor Jeffery Gauger.

What a way to run a newspaper?

DISCUSSION: IF NESBITT DOESN'T GET 9-1-1 PROJECT MGR POST (SCPR SAYS: "NOT LIKELY," WILL HEALY KEEP HIM AS SAFETY DIRECTOR?


The STARK COUNTY POLITICAL REPORT (The Report) does not believe that Canton Safety Director Thomas Nesbitt will be selected from among 10 finalists to be Stark County 9-1-1 project manager.

The Report further believes that Nesbitt making the final 10 list was along the lines of a "professional courtesy" rather than a real interest in hiring Nesbitt.

For its part, The Report believes that there has to be someone among the 10 who is far more familiar with Stark County and all its political subdivision "nooks and crannies" (i.e. the unincorporated areas of the county such as Uniontown, villages, cities and townships) than Nesbitt could possibly be (he's only been in the county a little over a year).

Additionally, there has to be an experienced, knowledgeable and respected Stark County-based 9-1-1 person who is in tune with the particularities of the geographics of the county that the Stark County Council of Governments (SCOG) 9-1-1 Governing Committee can, and in the opinion of The Report, should hire.

If The Report is correct and Nesbitt is not a "real" candidate for the 9-1-1 post, an interest question remains.

Will Mayor Healy want to keep him on as safety director?

The Report has been told by an area law enforcement official that Nesbitt would not last the week. Well, it appears (of course, the day is not over yet) that the official's assessment may not be correct.

The official's assessment is not necessarily that Healy is itching to fire Nesbitt. It could be that Nesbitt is looking to leave on his own. Evidence that it is the latter rather than the former is in Nesbitt's applying for the 9-1-1 project manager's job in the first place.

Many Stark County political observers were stunned by Nesbitt's move. His action was a tip off as well as a confirmation (i.e. based on other developments) to those of us that have some understanding of politics that all was not well within the Healy administration. Of course, the unfolding of events has made it clear to one and all that these are, indeed, troubled times for the Healy administration.

The Report believes that we will not know for sure what Nesbitt's standing is with the Healy administration until the 9-1-1 project manager hiring is done. Obviously, if The Report is wrong and he does get the job, then the "standing matter" becomes a moot issue.

However, if he does not get the job; then we will know more.

DISCUSSION: WHEN SHOULD WE TAKE MAYOR HEALY AT HIS WORD?


One the problems with all too many elected public officials is that if you check their statements and actions on any given topic, you are likely to see that they are a bundle of contradictory statements/actions.

The STARK COUNTY POLITICAL REPORT (The Report) thinks that Canton Mayor William J. Healy, II ("tongue in cheek") deserves an award for his believability.

Working our way back from today to the beginning of his administration.

1. His hiring of Warren Price as service director. Of Price, Healy said:
"I am thrilled to have Warren Price join my team as service director," "With his valuable experience in local government and his strong work ethic, I know he will be an incredible asset to my administration and the people of Canton." (The Rep, 1/29/2009)
Rewind to November, 2007. Price applied for the service director job. Healy selects Price's predecessor - Tom Benernbei.

How could Healy have failed to hire an "incredible asset?"

2. Healy's hiring/firing of Tom Bernabei and service director and chief-of-staff.

Healy: "Tom Bernabei did a great job, ... a wonderful public servant."
Six months after giving his chief of staff a glowing review, Mayor William J. Healy II has fired Thomas Bernabei, a veteran of city government. The move drew harsh criticism from some council members. (quote and reference to Healy evaluation of Benabei - The Rep - 01/26/2009)
Ever heard about "actions speak louder than words," Mayor Healy?

3. There is the matter of Mayor Healy hiring a Cleveland firm to do Canton's workers' compensation claim representation.

As The Rep framed the matter (01/16/2009):
During his mayoral campaign in 2007, Healy received campaign contributions totaling $4,600 from four associates of 888-OHIOCOMP and $500 each from the Cuyahoga County Auditor Frank Russo and Cuyahoga County Commissioner Jimmy Dimora, who are both under investigation by federal agents, according to The Plain Dealer.

During an interview in December, Healy said the campaign contributions did not influence his decision to select 888-OHIOCOMP. Citing his campaign theme of bringing positive change to Canton, Healy said he picked the firm because it offered an opt-out clause after six months and because it would consider opening a branch office in Canton.
Do you believe Healy?

4. And there is the hiring/firing of the finance director Frederick Green. The hiring was announced January 11, 2008. Four months later Green was fired.

Four months on the job and the guy gets fired?

Who interviewed this guy anyway?

Mayor Healy.

Really.

Someone with Mayor Healy's business experience can miss the mark this widely?

When he hired Green, this is what Healy had to say:
Healy said the finance position is key [emphasis added], since the city's revenues are not projected to grow significantly, if at all, this year and next year. 'We need someone who can look at the way we're spending money and find ways to trim the fat, Healy said in the press release. From what we.ve seen and heard thus far, I think that.s exactly what Mr. Green will be able to do for the city of Canton. (The Rep - 01/11/2008)
FOUR MONTHS LATER, YES - FOUR MONTHS LATER:
Frederick J. Green was fired by Healy in May. Healy made the announcement Monday [of a replacement hire] in a press release (07/29/2008) In explaining the decision to fire Green, Healy said in May that the administration decided "to go in another direction." With Green as finance director, Healy had said the administration "had a difficult time getting through the (city) budget (process)," (from The Repository/07/29/2009)
Does the mayor's hiring skills belong in "Ripley's World of Believe it or Not?"

So with all the foregoing in mind, The Report awards Mayor William J. Healy, II it coveted "tongue-in-cheek" Most Believable Character ? award.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

DISCUSSION: IS JOHN HAGAN ABOUT TO RETURN TO A LEVEL OF GOVERNMENT THAT - MAYBE - HE CAN HANDLE?

Things are topsy-turvey in Marlboro Township government these days.

According to a Stark County police official observation to the STARK COUNTY POLITICAL REPORT (The Report) who knows all the parties in the Devies/Township trustee flap; the trustees are hurting themselves by not telling all they know about the basis of Devies situation.

It will be interesting to see whether or not the official has good advice to the trustees. Of course, we will not know until this matter comes to a conclusion.

If the answer is yes, this would be an indication that THE PETER PRINCIPLE is in full swing in Marlboro Towship.

If he turns out to be correct, it could be said, perhaps, that THE PETER PRINCIPLE is in full swing in Marlboro Township government.

THE PETER PRINCIPLE is thusly defined in Wikipedia:
The Peter Principle is a special case of a ubiquitous observation: anything that works will be used in progressively more challenging applications until it fails.
The Report brings this up because The Report believes that former Marlboro Township trustee John P. Hagan is the Stark County personification of the principle once he got out of township government.

And it may have been in full operation when he was township trustee.

The Report simply does not know enough about how he performed as trustee to make a judgment.

But The Report has had an up close look at Hagan as state representative and in his attempt to become a Stark County commissioner.

All Hagan can do to survive at a higher level is to find someone to attach to that can do his thinking for him and provide him with some model of how to handle himself. This guy is not a leader. He is a follower who tries to bluster himself so as to appear to be a leader.

From the comments that have been made on The Report's story, there appears to be some interest in Hagan returning as a township trustee.

Is township trustee, in a rural township where, John Hagan truly belongs?

DISCUSSION: AREA LAW ENFORCEMENT TELLS THE REPORT HE DOUBTS FBI WILL INVESTIGATE HEALY LETTERS

A highly respected Stark County law enforcement official tells the STARK COUNTY POLITICAL REPORT (The Report) that he doubts the FBI will investigate the 12 to 15 letters Canton Mayor William J. Healy II turned over.

The official speculates that Healy knows this and is gaming the system for appearances sake.

An number of folks have mused to The Report (including the area law enforcer) as to why Healy has not asked his own police department to investigate.

The Report points out that the observations were made before it leaked that the mayor had tried to fire Canton's police chief on Wednesday.

Another perspective on the Healy/FBI connection is that while Healy may be playing the FBI for the foil, Healy's initiative may have been an unwitting delivery to the FBI of an entre for the FBI to pursue other investigative objectives which may include a possible Stark County connection to the FBI's Cleveland corruption investigation.

The Report has learned that the FBI is a part of the Stark County investigation in which a Stark County investigative arm is talking with the female who is the subject of the "inappropriate relationship" allegation that WKYC reported earlier this week.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

AN EXPLANATION FOR DELAYED POSTING OF COMMENTS


The STARK COUNTY POLITICAL REPORT (The Report) treasures comments to The Report's articles.

The Report tries to be quick about posting comments.

Today, yours truly attended a continuing legal education and therefore did not have the time nor means to access to The Report to do the comment posting.

Thank you for commenting on the STARK COUNTY POLITICAL REPORT posts.

VOTE: SHOULD HEALY REMAIN AS MAYOR?




DISCUSSION: 9-1-1 RESTRUCTURING MARCHING RIGHT ALONG - PROJECT MANAGERS ABOUT TO BE HIRED?


The STARK COUNTY POLITICAL REPORT (The Report) has learned that project managerS (yes "capital S") will be hired within two to three weeks as part of the reformulation of how 9-1-1 calls are to be handled in Stark County.

Apparently, the thinking is that rather than hire one manager, the Stark 9-1-1 Governing Committee will take the salary for one and split it into two. The idea is that as 9-1-1 will itself have redundancy, so should the management. This way, it was explained to The Report, there will always be a manager on hand to oversee the proper functioning of Stark's 9-1-1 operations.

Any comments on this plan?

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

DISCUSSION: TODAY AT CANTON CITY HALL - HEALY TRIES TO FIRE POLICE CHIEF MCKIMM?


The STARK COUNTY POLITICAL REPORT (The Report) has learned that the beleaguered and besieged Mayor William J. Healy, II of Canton tried to fire Canton Chief of Police Dean L. McKimm today.

Canton Law Director Joseph Martuccio stepped in and stopped the firing.

It appears that Mayor Healy is coming unglued.

The Repository today reported that the mayor issued a directive to city workers not to talk to recently fired service director and chief of staff Tom Bernabei. Why would he need to do that. Probably because Healy put Bernabei in a position in which city workers saw Bernabei functioning as the mayor.

Further evidence that the mayor may not see himself as being in control.

The Report also has an observation of a city hall observer that Safety Director Tom Nesbitt may not last the week.

What news will be coming out of city hall tomorrow?

DISCUSSION: FBI INVESTIGATION? HOW ABOUT A STARK COUNTY INVESTIGATION?


The STARK COUNTY POLITICAL REPORT (The Report) has learned that a Stark County investigation has been launched with respect to the female with whom Mayor William J. Healy, II is alleged to have had an inappropriate relationship with.

Healy adamantly denies the allegation and has, in fact, asked the FBI to investigate a number of anonymous letters which have surfaced making the allegation.

It is difficult to believe that Healy would be so audacious as to seize the initiative in asking for an investigation by a government entity unless he was certain that the results would exonerate him.

But The Report recognizes that many public officials have been known to vehemently posture innocence only to be found later to be culpable.

For the sake of Canton and Healy himself, The Report hopes this is not a case of "be careful what you ask for."

In any event, the investigative process needs to proceed with deliberate haste so that the city of Canton can move beyond the turmoil this situation brings with it so that city government can resume some semblance of normalcy.

Meanwhile, Cantonians and Stark Countians will just have to wait and see.

The Report is mystified as to why Stark County's only countywide newspaper has not dealt with this matter. But The Report is advised that The Rep will be posting a story tomorrow, January 28th.

The Report has linked up with WKYC's report on Healy's response and action vis-a-vis the anonymous letters: CLICK HERE TO SEE THE WKYC VIDEO REPORT.

DISCUSSION: CAN MARLBORO TRUSTEES WISE & WOLF SURVIVE? WHAT IS TAKING SHERIFF SWANSON SO LONG?



On December 31, 2009 Marlboro Township trustees Dave Wolf and Tim Wise are due to end their respective terms as trustee.

Undoubtedly, both will run for re-election.

But in light of the Marlboro Township Police Chief Ron Devies matter, can they be re-elected?

Area press reports have recounted how Marlboro Township trustees voted on January 12th to put the chief on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of an investigation by the Stark County sheriff's department on possible misconduct involving township computers.

Today, Stephanie Ujhely of The Alliance Review reports that a furious crowd of Marlboro residents showed up at a regular township trustee meeting last night to demand Devies' reinstatement.

The STARK COUNTY POLITICAL REPORT (The Report) understands that Chief Devies is a community institution.

And anyone who understands the political life of a community. If authorities go after a community institution, they had better be right or their own political future is in great jeopardy.

Such is exactly the position Trustees Dave Wolf and Tim Wise find themselves.

Their only hope for political survival is that Sheriff Swanson turns up a prosecutable offense in his investigation of Devies'. If he doesn't, then Wolf and Wise are political dead ducks.

It is now over two weeks since township computers were confiscated for investigation.

Why is it taking the sheriff so long?

DISCUSSION: CANTON SELF-DESTRUCTING? INTRA-COUNTY WARFARE - JACKSON V. NORTH CANTON! WHAT IN THE WORLD IS GOING ON?


Is the the week from hell in Stark County?

It is the battle of which story is the most compelling?

William J. Healy, II, mayor of Canton, and his problems. Or, the clash between Jackson Township and its partner Canton versus North Canton.

Benjamin Duer of The Rep reports this way on Jackson Township trustees reaction to North Canton's annexation efforts of the Fosnaught Auto Parts business located in Jackson in order to block a Jackson/Canton Cooperative Economic Development (CEDA) agreement, to wit:
Pizzino [Jackson trustee & president of the board] said the board is “united” in its fight, and would explore all legal action to stop North Canton.

He also said the board might eliminate free mutual-aid agreements they have with North Canton for police and fire services.
Is Pizzino willing the jeopardize the safety of North Cantonians because of the Jackson trustees' tiff with North Canton officials?

On the other side.

The STARK COUNTY POLITICAL REPORT (The Report) has learned that North Canton may renege on its deal to provide water to Jackson Township over this fight. Do North Canton officials have any concern for the well-being of the water users?

Folks, this is real warfare!

The question. Is this fight in the best interest of Stark County?

Most would probably agree that it is not.

But who is going to step forward and bring the warring parties to a truce and, in fact, something beyond that - a win-win-win situation for Jackson, Canton and North Canton?

DISCUSSION: CANTON IS NOW LEADERLESS? HEALY SHOULD RESIGN!


With the "wipe-out" that occurred at Canton City Hall yesterday - Monday, January 26, 2009 - CANTON'S BLACK MONDAY; the Hall of Fame city is now leaderless.

Yes, Healy has the title of mayor. But he as lost the confidence and respect of many Cantonians and Stark Countians.

What confidence he had was wrapped up in the public perception that Service Director/Chief-of-Staff Thomas Bernabei was the man really in charge. In the end, this perception proved to be more than Healy can bear. The details are and will continue to leak out.

Increasingly, Cantonians will be treated to Healy and Council being at loggerheads. Smuckler, Cireill, Schulman will be names to surface that have equal if not superior billing to the name Healy.

The STARK COUNTY REPORT (The Report) believes that if William J. Healy, II lingers, he will be doing so to the great detriment of Canton, and, because of Canton's key position in larger Stark County - to the great detriment of Stark County.

The entire nation has its back up against the wall on the economy. Stark County and Canton shares that plight. Trudging through the quagmire of one political intrigue after another has and will continue to mire Canton in a cesspool of conspiratorial-esque poltics that make it impossible to begin solving the local aspect of the economic downturn.

If Healy cared about Canton and Stark County and their future economic viability, he would resign today.

Canton in losing precious time on it economic rehab quest being embroiled in Politics-Team-Healy.

The Report is not optimistic that Healy will resign.

But he should!

SCPR BULLETIN: WKYC - CLEVELAND - SCOOPES THE REP ON HEALY STORY


A story on the WKYC-TV (CHANNEL 3) website describes the breaking Canton Mayor William Healy story thusly:
Mayor William Healy asked the FBI to investigate a series of anonymous letters sent to his office and to family members that included implications the first-term city leader had crossed the line with a female.
As the STARK COUNTY POLITICAL REPORT (The Report) mused in our earlier post, it is hard to imagine the mayor's political survival if the allegation proves - as an outcome of investigation - to have substance.

Even though the story was first published by Channel 3, Stark County readers are likely to get much more substance by reading The Repository print edition or online.

What will be particularly interesting is whether or not the Safety Director Nesbitt's desire to exit the administration and Service Director/Chief-of-Staff Benabei's forced exit have anything to do with reactions they may have had on first getting wind of this hubbub surrounding the mayor on this matter.

Monday, January 26, 2009

SCPR BULLETIN: CHECK FREQUENTLY WITH THE "THE REP" ONLINE, MAJOR STORY INVOLVING MAYOR HEALY ABOUT TO BREAK!




The STARK COUNTY POLITICAL REPORT (The Report) has learned that The Repository is about to break a major story about Canton Mayor William J. Healy, II.

Well, you say we have already had a major story: the sacking of Service Director and Chief-of-Staff Thomas Bernabei.

True enough.

Nevertheless, The Report has learned from a highly reliable source that an even bigger story is about to break. The Report has no precise timeline, but cannot imagine that the cap will stay on this bottle very long.

The Report know something was terribly wrong within the Healy administration when Safety Director Nesbitt applied for the 9-1-1 leadership position.

Today - which has to go down as BLACK MONDAY for the city of Canton - we get another bombshell with the Bernabei firing. The Report speculates that Bernabei may have given the mayor an some very direct advice about staying in office - and - the consequence: "you're fired."

From what The Report knows of about the story about to hit the front page of The Rep, it is hard to imagine that Healy can withstand political pressure to resign if the allegation he is dealing with is shown to have any substance.

Advice from The Report, check frequently with:

DISCUSSION: HEALY SAVES BERNABEI FROM A SINKING SHIP?


It should be obvious to one and all that the city of Canton Healy adminstration is in crisis. Exactly what Canton and Stark County needs in a time of national, state and local economic severely troubled times.

Earlier in January, Safety Director Thomas Nesbitt tries to jump ship by applying for a 9-1-1 post.

Now this.

Mayor Healy pushes Services Director and Chief-of-Staff Thomas Bernabei overboard (fires) - according to a call from an elected official to the STARK COUNTY POLITICAL REPORT (The Report).

Earlier this month Bernbei was subjected to questioning by the FBI about whether or not there was any connection between campaign contributions received by Team Healy, if any, from a trio of Cuyahoga County political figures and a switch ordered by Healy to 1-888OhioComp (a workers' compensation processing company).

One step further.

Is there any connection with Bernabei's firing and the answers he gave the FBI? Or, is the reason that Bernabei has too much clout among administration staffers and most members of Canton City Council.

The Report has recounted previously on reports that Bernabei had assumed the role of being de facto mayor in light of the crisis atmosphere that is enveloping Canton City Hall.

The Report has been hearing for months of ongoing friction between the mayor and city council. Asked by The Report about these report, Bernabei acknowledge that there were problems but that he (Bernabei) had a handle on matters and that there was a working relationship between council and the mayor.

Another possible reason is that there is a dispute as between Mayor Healy and Canton City Council as to whether or not the contemplated Cooperative Economic Development Agreement (CEDA) being proposed by Council is good for Canton.

De facto, leader Bill Smuckler (Don Casar is the de jure leader) is pushing the CEDA. The Report believes that Healy may remain opposed to the council initiative (primarily because of the 99 year agreement not to annex) and, perhaps, blames Bernabei for not managing council effectively on the Canton/Jackson Township dance.

The Repository's coverage of the firing today has the following in terms of Healy's evaluation of Bernabei:
In a written job performance review on July 25, 2008, Bernabei scored 49 of a possible 50 points. In it, Healy noted Bernabei was “across the board — great,” and “I am honored to have you as Chief of Staff.”
Why do you think Bernabei got fired?

DISCUSSION: DID COUNTY COMMISSIONER FERGUSON "FLIP-FLOP" OR "SEE THE LIGHT" ON THE STARK COUNTY ENGINEERING MERGER? HOW SO?

The STARK COUNTY POLITICAL REPORT (The Report) has learned that newly elected Stark County commissioner Dr. Peter Ferguson was "against" the merger of the Stark County Sanitary Engineer with the Stark County Engineer before being "for" the merger.

Fair enough.

Public officials change their minds on issues everyday in Stark County and across the nation. Whether its a "road to Damacus" experience or a slower process, citizens want their elected officials to be "open minded."

So why would The Report even raise the point?

One gnawing little fact.

The imminent hiring of Ferguson's brother-in-law as Project Compliance Officer on Ohio's prevailing wage law in the office of the Stark County engineer.

To be fair to Ferguson, this merger was going to take place whether or not he voted for him. Commissioners Todd Bosley and Tom Harmon had let it be known that they were going to vote in favor of the merger - so - even if Ferguson voted no (as now retired county commissioner Jane Vignos had vowed to do), the merger was going to happen anyway.

But still, at the very least; shouldn't Ferguson at least abstained on the vote?

The Report acknowledges that the hiring of the relative could be totally unrelated to Ferguson's change of heart. Someone could have persuaded Ferguson that on the merits alone he needed to vote for the merger. Or, he could have had a "road to Damacus" experience.

These are public jobs that should be open to every Stark County citizen to apply for. County engineer Mike Rehfus has told The Report that he looked no further than the Ferguson relative once Ferguson let it be known that his brother-in-law was interested and he, Ferguson, recommended him highly.

What do you think?

Does this whole situation pass the smell test?

Sunday, January 25, 2009

DISCUSSION: JACKSON TOWNSHIP STOPPED IN EFFORT TO GO PROVINCIAL?


Jackson Township Board of Trustees president John Pizzino and the Township's fiscal officer Randy Gonzales had to be two surprised dudes when they learned that city of North Canton administrators filed Type I and II annexation petitions with the Stark County Commissioners on Friday (January 23, 2009).

Especially Gonzales.

Why?

A person that works for Gonzales and, of course, Canton Municipal clerk of courts Phil Giavasis?

Yes, North Canton councilman Pat DeOrio.

Some area officeholders speculate that one of the reasons Gonzales wanted Councilman DeOrio hired by Giavasis was to keep tabs on Mayor David Held of North Canton and his administration. If that was the case, then the strategy didn't work.

Witness: Friday's annexation move.

Again, the Jackson folks did not have a clue!

Held does tell the STARK COUNTY POLITICAL REPORT (The Report) that he kept certain key members of council (Revoldt, Snyder and Kiesling) informed, but that plan was an administration plan that has been in the works for some time. Held did not mention DeOrio as being a person with inside knowledge.

All along (while formulating the annexation backup plan) North Canton has been negotiating with Jackson Township.

The hang up?

The 99 year promise not to annex from Jackson Township unless approved by the Jackson trustees.

Held says the deal "killer" (the Report's label) part of Jackson's proposal is the 99 year thing. Moreover, he describes the Canton/Jackson Township deal as being a move by Jackson Township to stay provincial. In other words, Jackson Township is worried about be swallowed up by surrounding municipalities: Canton, North Canton and Massillon.

From Canton's side, it seems as if Councilman Bill Smuckler is the big enthusiast and apparently has been bringing his fellow council members along. In local media reports, Mayor Healy (who, once, clearly opposed the move) now says he is uncertain.

But he need not worry.

The Report believes the annexation move by North Canton is a checkmate of Trustee Pizzino and Fiscal Officer Gonzales. And, in the opinion of The Report, for the betterment of Stark County- and - certainly for Canton. Why would Canton want to tie itself up for 99 years?

Held tells The Report that the annexation does not foreclose working with Canton, Jackson Township and Massillon in a cooperative, collaborative way that has positive results for all the players.

The Report's take on Held's reaction on any 99 year proposed agreement is that it would be irresponsible for government officials of any entity (are you listening Bill Smuckler and Canton council?) to give away growth and expansion possibilities.

It appears to The Report that Jackson Township officials have been outfoxed by the North Canton administration. By being reactive and not proactive, it seems that Jackson officials will be in one pitched battle after another with surrounding area municipalities. If the 99 year plan is any indication of "realpolitik" thinking in Jackson, then Township officials need to go out and get new thinking caps.

The Tuscarawas Township trustees seem to have the same mentality as Jackson trustees. Just take a look at the archives of The Massillon Independent. Celeste DeHoff et al have been in a prolonged battle with Massillon Mayor Cicchinelli for quite a while now.

Township government is an antiquated form of meeting the needs of citizens. Enlightened trustees should be "seeing the handwriting on the wall" and working with neighboring villages and municipalities "to think outside the box" to more efficiently and effectively to meet the needs of Stark County's township residents.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

DISCUSSION: STARK COUNTY LEGISLATORS COST STARK COUNTY $55,200 IN 2009 ($140,000 - 2011?) ON COUNTY BUDGET VIA UNFUNDED MANDATE!


Who should pay for the operation of the Stark County Law Library?

Lawyers and other users - right?

Not right.

In its collective wisdom the Ohio General Assembly including Stark Countians Kirk Schuring (R - 29th Senate), Scott Oelslager (R - 51st Ohio House), John Hagan (now term limited out R- 50th), John Boccieri (now 16th District congressman - but then D - 33rd - Senate), Steve Slesnick (D 52nd - Ohio House) and Mark Okey (D - 61st which included a part of Stark County) voted to reverse direction on who pays for the operations of the Stark County Law Library.

Now yours truly is a lawyer and a dues paying member of the Stark County Law Library.

But should I and my colleagues-at-the-bar and other users of the library be subsidized by Stark County taxpayers?

A resounding no! - so says the STARK COUNTY POLITICAL REPORT (The Report).

Kelli Young of The Repository reported on 1/22/2009 that a Stark County Board of Commissioners obligation to pay for the library on a phased out basis was abruptly reversed in December, 2008 when the Ohio General Assembly completed action on HB 420 to re-institute - immediately - an non-reimbursed (from state of Ohio funds) mandate that Ohio's counties (of course, including Stark) pay for the operation of county law libraries.

If you were to ask any of the supporters of HB 420 whether or not they are in favor of "unfunded mandates," undoubted they would also say an unequivocal no.

What these legislators hide behind is no one pointing out chapter and verse where the rhetoric doesn't match the action.

One of the missions of The Report will be to go and check on how these folks vote on "unfunded mandates" and report to Stark Counties name, rank and serial number of the offending legislators.

There is nothing like a "high intensity light" on an legislative activity to put the actions in the public spotlight.

So thank you Stark County - courtesy of your Stark County legislators - for the subsidy.

Friday, January 23, 2009

DISCUSSION: BULWARK OF STARK COUNTY UNIONISM AND DEMOCRATIC POLITICS CONTINUES AS HALL OF FAME AFL-CIO CHIEF


Recently, Daniel F. Sciury was re-elected, by acclamation, to a 10th term as the local AFL-CIO president.

Congratulations to Dan. He has served the interest of Stark County's organized labor and, indeed, the interests of all of Stark County's working men and women with distinction.

On a political note, the STARK COUNTY POLITICAL REPORT (The Report) checked in with Dan this past Tuesday as to how things were going between him and the local union movement in general with Stark County Democratic Party chairman Johnnie A. Maier, Jr.

Of course, Dan Sciury has been a fixture in local Democratic politics before Maier even got started in local politics.

In recent times Maier had intimated to Sciury that he intended to work at repairing their relationship that became especially frayed when Maier replaced respected unionist Billy Sherer (ironworkers) with Maier's handpicked nonunion on the Stark County Board of Elections.

Sciury did tell The Report that the relationship between him and Stark County's organized labor had improved, but as quoted in the accompanying graphic "It will never be the same as it used to be."

In the same conversation Sciury lambasted Maier's handpicked candidate for Ohio's 50th House District (Trustee Celeste DeHoff of Tuscarawas Township) for continuing to fight the reinstatement of two Local 92 Teamsters who were fired by township trustees because of an altercation between them at the township workplace a couple of years ago.

Scuiry told The Report that he is hopeful that the plight of working men and women will improve with the election of Barack Obama.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

GRAPHIC "CALL TO ACTION" BY THE STARK COUNTY POLITICAL REPORT

DISCUSSON: SHOULD COUNTY PART-TIME JOBS BE ADVERTISED? DOES THE STARK CO PUBLIC ACCEPT ELECTED COUNTY OFFICIALS' RELATIVES GETTING COUNTY JOBS?


The STARK COUNTY POLITICAL REPORT (The Report) has learned that Stark County Engineer Michael Rehfus is about to hire a part-time (no benefits) Project Compliance Officer which is a job designed to investigate whether or not contractors hired by Stark County are complying with Ohio's prevailing wage law.

Stark County has a Prevailing Wage Coordinator; namely, Marilyn Hoover who works in the commissioners' office. But she does not do field visits. She only checks the paperwork. That's where the need for a Project Compliance Officer comes in. He will be the field work aspect of enforcing Ohio's prevailing wage law.

What are prevailing wages, anyway?

The website of the Ohio Department of Commerce - Division of Labor & Worker Safety defines "prevailing wages" this way in a broad sort of definition:
Ohio’s prevailing wage law applies to construction projects undertaken by public authorities and requires that the public authorities pay the locally prevailing rate of wages to workers on the project.
is hiring a "project compliance officer" a good thing for Stark County?

Yes, according the local tradesmen.

And the STARK COUNTY POLITICAL REPORT (The Report) agrees.

What is the rub then?

From The Report's perspective, it is the fact the person being hired is a relative of recently elected Stark County commissioner Doctor Peter Ferguson.

As far as The Report is concerned there are too many relatives, political supporters and the like of elected officials that somehow end up with public jobs and the general public never had a chance to apply.

Yes, public jobs.

That is what they are.

But somehow the public never learns about these jobs.

How did all this hiring stuff of the Ferguson relative come about?

The Report did contact Mike Rehfus for an explanation.

Rehfus told The Report that this hiring (the position, not the specific person) has been under discussion for a year or more. He said that Stark County ironworkers among other tradesmen have pushed the county to hire an investigator to better equip the county in its efforts to effectuate prevailing wage compliance.

According to Rehfus, in discussions among county commissioners including commissioner-elect Ferguson, a decision was made to hire a Project Compliance Officer. And it was decided that the hire would come out of the Stark County Engineering Department budget.

Rehfus further says that within a week of the discussion and concomitant decision taking place, Commissioner-elect Ferguson contacted him to tell him about a relative who was interested in the job; a person that Ferguson - again, according to Rehfus - recommended.

Paraphrasing Rehfus: "It was nice to have Ferguson's relative fall right into my lap." Not because the person is Feguson's relative. But just to have someone readily available to plug into the position.

Rehfus said he does not advertise for part-time workers. Moreover, he says that he probably gets six applications a week from truck drivers who want part-time work and so he doesn't need to advertise.

Asked by The Report if he had any concerns that the public might see this hire as a political hiring. Rehfus said he had not given the public's possible perception any thought.

Lastly, Rehfus indicated that the trade unions are on board with the planned employment action.

The hiring is to take place in about two weeks.

Recently The Report was down to Engineer Rehfus' office and did an "on camera" interview with him. One of the topics that came up in the interview is what role, if any, politics plays in the operation of the engineer's office.

Watch Refus' response below, then comment on whether or not you are okay with the hiring process.

More specifically, is it appropriate - in your judgment - for Commission-elect Ferguson to weigh-in on behalf of a relative? Shouldn't the position be advertised to the public-at-large? Is the fact it is part-time position, a distinguishing factor?

The Report thinks not. What do you think?

View the following Rehfus video and then make a comment.

DISCUSSION: IS PLAIN TWP TRUSTEE LOUIS GIAVASIS ABOUT TO UPSET THE AEP/OHIO POWER APPLE CART?



The STARK COUNTY POLITICAL REPORT (The Report) has learned that Plain Township trustee Louis Giavasis is leading an effort to undo legislative crafting that American Electric Power (AEP) and First Energy (FE) lobbied the Ohio General Assembly to include in SB 221.

What is the object of Giavasis' work: a veto power (to AEP/FE and the like) over the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) modification of a AEP/FE or any other electric utility submitted Electric Security Plan (ESP) for a rate increase.

The veto power was not included in the original Ohio Senate version of SB 221.

It is only when Ohio Speaker of the House Jon Husted and his political, servile minion - Stark Countian John P. Hagan (R - 50th, now term-limited out) - in his capacity as chair of the Ohio House Public Utilities Committee got their hands on the bill, did the veto power get included.

As written about by The Report in previous posts, Stark County connected legislators were "asleep at the switch" and failed to notice that the utility company veto power was in SB 221.

Here is the test of an e-mail sent by Giavasis to Stark legislators: (in yellow)

From: lougiavasis1@hotmail.com
To: sd33@maild.sen.state.oh.us; sd29@senate.state.oh.us; district61@ohr.state.oh.us; district52@ohr.state.oh.us; district50@ohr.state.oh.us; district51@ohr.state.oh.us; rponder@whbc.com; jeff.gauger@cantonrep.com; scott.brown@cantonrep.com
Subject: State Legislators Senate Bill 221
Date: Wed, 21 Jan 2009 11:35:07 -0500

January 20, 2008

Honorable State Senators: Kirk Schuring and Joseph Schiavoni

Honorable State Representatives: Steven Slesnick, W. Scott Oelslager, Todd Snitchler, Mark D. Okey

Dear Sirs,

I am writing to you in regard to S.B. 221 and but specifically I would like to discuss with you defect in this bill that needs immediate attention.

On April 10, 2008 The Coalition for Affordable Energy Law Committee questioned and pointed out this defect in submitted testimony to the House Public Utilities Committee before the bills final approval. “This bill is worse for consumers than S.B. 3. Taken as a whole, this bill could lead to circumstances where Ohio ratepayers will be paying rates higher than market rates. When multiple surcharges are layered on top of rates, which could start at levels close to market, Ohio consumers could be put in the worst of all worlds.” If that was not enough t raise a red flag to the House Committee this part should have, Absolute Utility ESP Veto Power,The bill at lines 1073 to 1086 gives the utility an absolute veto over any changes made by the PUCO to an ESP as filed, allowing the utility to go to the MRO whenever the PUCO modifies the utility’s desired ESP. This invests the utility with enormous bargaining power.”

They concluded their testimony by stating, “All told, Sub. S.B. 221 would cause the rates of Ohio Power to go from about the lowest in the United States to the highest. The economic effect from this massive transfer of wealth from Ohio ratepayers of approximately $800,000,000 per year by the end of year five, to Ohio Power’s shareholders would be significant.”

Giving the energy companies ABSOLUTE VETO AUTHORITY to withdraw a filed ESP in the event the PUCO modifies it and go to the open market in my opinion goes against what I have been told was the original intent of this bill and it must be corrected. AEP is asking for a 15% annual increase for the next three years, when this is compounded the residents in my community will be realizing a 52% increase in electric rates. If the PUCO tries to modify this request, AEP is open to withdraw and take their rates to the open market. I do not believe that any of you that voted for S.B 221 in good conscience thought this was the intent of the bill.

Our residents are asking for a unified coalition of the Stark County Legislators get together to protect them and initiate legislation to remove the Absolute Veto Authority from S.B 221. Time is of the essence because First Energy is already going to the open Market because the PUCO modified their filed ESP, not one of our residents can afford to wait for someone else in the legislature to figure out this bill as written is going to harm everyone in Ohio.

Respectfully,

Louis P. Giavasis

President, Plain Township Board of Trustees

CC. Ron Ponder WHBC

Canton Repository

Massillon Independent

Alliance Review

Times Reporter

Kudos to Giavasis!

The Repository has only devoted "token" attention to the effort by AEP/Ohio Power to get a huge 52% (residential), 62% (business) increase over three years. One has to wonder why. Very strange indeed.

Readers of The Report can help Giavasis by e-mailing all of the public officials (see the Giavasis e-mail for their e-mail addresses) insisting that the Giavasis requested correction to SB 221 be made.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

DISCUSSION: WHAT IS TO BECOME OF STARK COUNTY? A BRIGHT FUTURE - A DISMAL FUTURE?


The STARK COUNTY POLITICAL REPORT (The Report) has learned that the Stark County Board of Commissioners is planning an economic event in February having to with getting the county into the economic hunt for developing a local industry in alternative energies.

In a conversation with one of the commissioners, a question surfaced: Does Stark County have the leadership infrastructure to make this happen?

If yes, who are the specific Stark Countians who are to staff and spearhead the county initiative.

If no, does Stark County need to go out and hire an economic development czar?

The Report believes that this is a open question. at best.

On the surface, it appears the obvious answer is yes. For after all, the Canton Regional Chamber of Commerce has created a mechanism which it named Leadership Stark County (LSC) which for all appearances should be supplying Stark County's leadership needs.

The Report, on examining the promotional materials provided by LSC and assessing its mission, its activities, the forums in which its graduates operate, and the structure of the organization; does not believe that LSC is in a position to provide the political leadership Stark County needs to create, develop, nurture and bring to fruition a vibrant alternative energy industry in the context of a highly competitive global economy.

But Leadership Stark County could with some retooling.

LSC needs to, in the context of its Government Leadership Academy, tailor-train interested participants to move into a county economic development structure as citizen-volunteers The Report advocates the county commissioners create. To put a name on it let's call it: Stark Energy-alternative Economic Development (SEED).

Such an effort by the LSC could provide Stark County government economic development efforts with a resource-rich, talent-rich and specifically-purpose-driven group of Stark Countians working voluntarily for the common good.

Absent such an effort, the Stark County Board of Commissioners owe it to Stark Countians to go out and hire the needed person (paid on an incentive basis on reaching specified benchmarks) to get Stark County moving towards becoming a state, national, and indeed an international player in alternative energies.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

DISCUSSION: ANOTHER STARK COUNTY "GOP" LOSS - JACKSON'S BURGER TURNS DEMOCRAT - DEMS CONTROL THE TOWNSHIP

Countywide Republican candidates still can rely on getting a majority out of Jackson Township.

For how much longer?

Stark County Board of Elections records shown above, indicate that William M. Burger has changed from being a Republican (May, 2007) to being a Democrat (March, 2008). This change gives control of the Jackson Township Board of Trustees to the Democrats.

In recent years it has been brought to the attention of how often - then Republican - Burger was attending Democratic political events. In 2005 he had a hotly contested race with union favorite (especially Hall of Fame AFL-CIO president - Dan Scuiry) Kathleen Kelly who, herself, was a union member.

The last the STARK COUNTY POLITICAL REPORT (The Report) checked Scuiry (a powerful Stark County Democrat) - to put it nicely - has nothing good to say about Jackson Township Fiscal Officer and Democrat de facto Democratic Party Randy Gonzales. But Burger has developed a close political relationship with Gonzales and Democrat John Pizzino (although he does live in the hobnobish Glenmoor).

The Report has received information that Burger credits his 2005 victory over Kelly to Gonzales, Pizzino and former trustee Steve Meeks (now Governor Strickland's Region 9 Director).

Burger's recognition of who his political benefactors most likely led to the political affiliation switch.

But where this this leave the Republicans?

A commenter to The Report has said that the Republicans have given up on Canton and that they are going to concentrate on the townships.

Well, Jackson is a biggy to lose?

Is the Matthews-led (Stark County Republican chair) GOP going to make of fight of it against Burger in Jackson?

Monday, January 19, 2009

DISCUSSION: LEGISLATIVE ACCOUNTABILITY - HOW STARK COUNTY LEGISLATORS FAIL TO PROTECT STARK COUNTY INTERESTS


On Saturday the STARK COUNTY POLITICAL REPORT (The Report) attended an information session put on by the Stark County Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities (MRDD) administration.

The Report will be putting on a series of reports discussing whether or not Stark Countians should be willing to support a 1.4-mill property tax levy (projected to be the levy which the Stark MRDD Board is likely to ask the county commissioners to put on the May ballot) which is to raise $10 million per year and which is to last through 2014 to enable Stark MRDD to "tread water" through 2014.

One of the pet projects of The Report is to show how important it is as to which candidate(s) Stark Countians should be electing to send to the Ohio General Assembly.

Because the Ohio General Assembly voted to re-structure taxes (HB 66/FY 06/07), the Stark MRDD (among a long list of other local governments) will face huge cuts in state funding beginning in 2011.

For MRDD the cuts will amount to $4.6 million over the span 2011 - 2017.

Who will have to make up the difference local entities including Stark MRDD?

Either Stark Countians vote increased millage for Stark MRDD or drastic cuts will have to be made.

All of this points out how deficit the foresight of members of the Ohio General Assembly is (including locals - in the order pictured above - Scott Oelslager (R - 51st - Ohio House), , William Healy (D - now mayor of Canton; then 52nd Ohio House),
Kirk Schuring (R- 29th Ohio Senate), Mark Okey (D - 61st Ohio House), John Hagan (R - now term limited out; then 50th Ohio House) and last, but certainly not least, John Boccieri (D - now 16th district congressman; then 33rd Ohio Senate).

The Report remembers how optimistic these legislators were that the new tax formula which focused on a Commercial Activities Tax (CAT) that they believed would stimulate new business in Ohio and provide the needed revenues to continue to "hold harmless" entities like Stark MRDD on the loss of state support.

So three years later; Ohioans and Stark Countians learn how utterly irresponsible it was for legislators to legislate on a "hope and a prayer."

Now the "chickens are coming home to roost," are they not?

Sunday, January 18, 2009

DISCUSSION: ARE STARK COUNTY'S LEGISLATORS WILLING TO FORM A "STARK COUNTY CAUCUS?"


The STARK COUNTY POLITICAL REPORT (The Report) has long advocated that there be a consensus among area legislators as to developing a list of legislative priorities for the "particular" good of Stark County.

Area Republican and Democrat legislators need to join together in agreeing on a consensus of what the legislative priorities are for our county and agree to vote together on the agreed items irrespective of the Ohio House/Senate Democratic/Republican caucus positions.

There is an "unwritten" rule in each caucus that if 80% of the caucus members vote on a certain position on an issue before the House/Senate, then the remaining 20% will vote to support the caucus position.

That's what political parties do for the citizens of Ohio.

It is all about the political parties and their respective leadership. Not about legislators voting (win or lose) for the direct interests of their specific sets of constituents.

More and more Stark Countians and Ohioans consider themselves very fluid on their politics. Citizens are beginning to realize that political parties are in the main out to aggrandize themselves and, secondarily, work for the good of everyday citizens.

A good example of the parties "screwing the people" is SB 221, the bill which supposedly protected Ohio's electric consumers from the ravages of "free market" electric rates.

"Free market" electric rates were the brainchild of supermajority Republicans who controlled the Ohio General Assembly in 1999. They placed "free market" electric rates in motion in 1999 when they included a "free market" structure and mechanism in SB 3.

In 1999 the Stark County delegation to Columbus would have included Democrat Johnnie A. Maier, Jr, (Ohio House) as well as Mary Cirelli (Ohio House) and Republican Scott Oelslager (Ohio Senate) together with Kirk Schuring (Ohio House).

The Report assumes Maier and Cirelli voted against SB 3. So Stark Countians Oelslager and Schuring were part of the "cram-down" by the supermajority Republicans.

SB 3 constructed a phase-in through 2005 when full-fledged market rates were to hit full force on Ohio residential and business users.

Only problem? There was no COMPETITIVE "free market" (no matter what former 50th District Ohio House Republican John Hagan says) in 2005 nor in 2008 or 2009 - you name the year. So the Legislature, fearing a political backlash went to a regulatory scheme call the "Rate Stabilization Plan."

Rate Stabilization Plans, which did protect residents and businesses from spikes in their electric bills, expired on December 31, 2008. Hence you get SB 221.

We all know that SB 221 was a total shaft of Ohioans and derivatively Stark Countians - especially the part that gives electric companies the right via an "absolute veto mechanism" to increase their rates to whatever level they wish.

Oh yes, there is in SB 221 the Electric Security Plan (ESP) that the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio has final say on, BUT NOT REALLY.

Why?

Because the electric company who proposes an ESP can, under SB 221, veto any modified ESP and go to market rate.

All Stark County legislators were "asleep at the switch" on this one: Hagan, Healy, Oelslager, Okey, Boccieri and Schuring (remember how he - as head of the Ohio Retirement Study Commission - was "asleep at the switch" on STRS abuses of educator retirees' money and his responsibility to oversee the STRS) and even Governor Ted Strickland!

Now that the damage is done, those pictured above need to come together to amend SB 221 to take out the veto power.

You the citizens of Stark County ought to be flooding their offices with e-mails, letters and telephone calls insisting on it.

To prevent this from happening in the future we need to have a Stark County Legislative Caucus that meets with area citizens and has a dialogue with Stark Countians to determine the contents of proposed legislation that is good for or bad for Stark Countians.

Citizens who meet with the legislators should not just take the elected officials' word for what is contained in a given bill. No! Never!

Read the bill. Go to the website of the House/Senate get the analysis of the Legislative Service Commission (LSC).

Stark Countians should insist that the Stark County delegation vote Stark County's interest. Not the Republican/Democratic parties interest. Or, the governor's interest.

The Report will be putting pressure on area legislators to put together a structure to meet collectively with everyday Stark Countians and from the dialogue construct a Stark County agenda which the make known to the Stark County public.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

DISCUSSION: HOW LAZY CAN YOU GET? HUGE CONSEQUENCES FOR STARK COUNTIANS!


The STARK COUNTY POLITICAL REPORT (The Report) has learned that when the Ohio House of Representatives voted in April, 2008 to pass the new legislative regime "regulating" (if that is what you want to call it) utility companies operating in Ohio, one, probably two area legislators, did not know that the likes of American Electric Power (Ohio Power) and First Energy (FE - Ohio Edison) were given veto power over any regulatory action the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) took on electric utility rates.

An area elected official has told The Report that in a discussion within the past few days he had with Republican Scott Oelslager (51st House District - Jackson Township) that Oelslager revealed that did not know about lines 1073 to 1086 in SB 221 which gave AEP and First Energy the right to veto any scaling down of proposed rate increases and go market rate.

Also, The Report has learned that the then chair of the Ohio House public utilities committee John Hagan (R - Marlboro) could not answer certain questions about the bill when asked by one of his constituents.

What is going on?

Oelslager's excuse. The bill was bipartisan and passed unanimously.

Wow!

So he didn't read the bill because the word was: "there's nothing in the bill to be concerned about, after all both political parties are supporting it and no legislator plans to vote against it."

How lame and, if The Report may add - LAZY!"

Obviously, Oelslager is not an actively engaged legislator who seeks to protect Stark Countians from the likes of Ohio Power and Ohio Edison.

He has said that he plans to play musical chairs again in November, 2010 (to circumvent the spirit of term limits passed - by the way - by his political party) and run for the 29th District Ohio Senate seat currently held by fellow musical chair Stark County politician Kirk Schuring.

The Report's plea to Oelslager. Don't do it. Anyone who lacks the energy or inclination and enthusiasm for the job to thoroughly understand legislation he is voting on; shouldn't be in the legislature.

At least Stark Countians are now rid of John Hagan.

What does this mean for Stark Countians and their monthly electric bills?

An example: If the PUCO denies AEP its request for a 52% rate increase over three years (which The Report fully expects it will), then AEP (Ohio Power) can veto the PUCO action and go ahead and increase rates by the 52% or even higher.

What's next?

An effort is under way by a local elected official to get Oelslager, Slesnick (Democrat - 52nd) and Todd Snitcher (Republican - 50th) and Kirk Schuring to work together to fix the unacceptable "veto power" given AEP and FE in SB 221.

Stark Countians should be flooding the offices of these elected representatives with demands that they take united against to undo this aspect of SB 221.

Here are the e-mail links to each of these officials.

Click on the name.

OHIO HOUSE - STARK COUNTY REPRESENTATIVES:

Oelslager

Slesnick


Snitchler

OHIO SENATE - STARK COUNTY SENATORS:

Schuring


Schiavoni

Friday, January 16, 2009

DISCUSSION: WHOA NOW! STARK COUNTY REPUBLICAN PARTY CHAIR (DEPUTY DIR STARK CO BD OF ELECTIONS) MARSHALING STARK SUPPORT AGAINST OH SOS BRUNNER?

The STARK COUNTY POLITICAL REPORT (The Report) has learned that Stark County Republican Party chair Jeff Matthews (also Deputy Director of the Stark County Board of Elections) is trying to rally Stark County officials to oppose certain actions of Ohio Secretary of State and Democrat Jennifer Brunner.

Recently, the lame duck Republican-controlled Ohio General Assembly - in its waning days of the 127th Ohio legislature - passed a bill to shrink the number of early voting days.

Apparently, Matthews is the local face of a rear guard action by the Ohio Republican Party to make Brunner its focal point of political attack. Of course, none of these people opened their mouths when Democrats complained bitterly about how Republican Ken Blackwell ran the office when he was secretary of state.

The STARK COUNTY POLITICAL REPORT (The Report) has learned that Matthews has specifically asked a number of Stark County public officials to help him rein in Brunner in the spirit of "bipartisanship."

The Report believes this is an indication of how "politically unreal" and naive Jeff Matthews is.

Stark County is dominated by Democratic officeholders. What chance does this guy think that area Democratic officials will join him in this surreal political effort.

What Matthews ought to be devoting his time to is rejuvenating the Stark County Political Party so that Stark Countians have some political competition to choose from. Matthews needs to let state Republicans deal with their differences with Brunner. One more thing, Jeff. Read the

One more thing. A leading Stark County Republican has told The Report that Jeff Matthews and former chair Curt Braden are indistinguishable. The Report's source says that the duo are so tightly bound together that Matthews does not have the ability to strike out on his own in Stark County.

Perhaps that explains his silly foray in to state politics and the attempt to drag Stark Countians in.

A suggestion to the Executive Committee of the Stark County Republican Party.

How about reining Jeff Matthews in!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

DISCUSSION: WILL THE FBI BE SUBPOENING CANTON CITY HALL RECORDS?


UPDATE: January 16, 2009. Here is a link to a Plain Dealer story in which Mount Union (Alliance) political science professor and North Canton resident Jack DeSario (who worked with the Healy mayoralty campaign) denies that he had any role in fundraising from Cuyahoga County political figures caught up in the FBI investigation.

The story also does confirm that the FBI has talked with Stark County chief administrator Michael Hanke and Healy chief of staff Thomas Bernabei.

As an aside, the STARK COUNTY POLITICAL REPORT (The Report) has learned that it appears that Mayor Healy is so distracted by all the hubbub of the workers' compensation managed care discussion that Bernabei seems to be operating as the de facto mayor of Canton.

Another interesting Stark County tidbit is a tip from a Stark County source to the effect that there is also a Jack DeSario connection to the last Stark County Auditor Kim Perez campaign. Perez also got campaign contributions from some of the Cuyahoga County figures. Undoubtedly, (as in Healy) DeSario, if asked, would be denying that he had anything to do with Perez receiving these campaign donations.

The Report recalls that Stark County Democratic Party chairman Johnnie A. Maier, Jr. has been known to recommend to various Stark County Democratic political candidates that they consider using DeSario as a political consultant.

Also, Maier appointed DeSario to the committee to screen candidates to recommend to Governor Ted Strickland to fill a Stark County Common Pleas Court vacancy which came about when Republican Sara Lioi was appointed to the federal bench by President Bush. Ultimately, Taryn Heath received the Strickland appointment.

THE ORIGINAL POST IS SET FORTH BELOW


On December 14, 2009 The Repository did an article on a decision made by Canton Mayor William Healy to change the company that manages Canton's workers' compensation claims.

Why was the change newsworthy?

Because the company (1-888-OHIOCOMP) that was changed to has been mentioned in an FBI corruption investigation being conducted in Cuyahoga County.

A point of interest in The Rep's piece was whether or not Healy's decision to make the change had anything to do with campaign contributions received by Healy's campaign for mayor from 888-OHIOCOMP company associates and as well as two Cuyahoga County officials (Frank Russo, the auditor and Jimmy Dimora, a county commissioner) who are being investigated by the FBI.

Healy denied that the change was in anyway connected to the campaign contributions.

So why would the Plain Dealer and the FBI be calling the Stark County Board of Commissioners as the STARK COUNTY POLITICAL REPORT (The Report) learned to be the case today?

Mostly likely because of The Rep's December 14th report which recites that "the mayor spoke with Stark County officials about the possibility of switching the county's workers' compensation business [then placed with and remains with AultComp] to 888-OHIOCOMP" and county officials' response confirming the Healy contact as reported by The Rep, to wit:
Stark County Administrator Michael Hanke and Commissioner Todd Bosley both said their discussions with Healy were not lengthy and that the mayor did not pressure them. Stark County stayed with the same vendor, AultComp.
Today, The Plain Dealer reports (Feds subpoena records from North Royalton on 1-888-Ohio Comp, Joseph O'Malley) the scope of the FBI is widening.

The question for Stark Countians and Cantonians is this. Will the Healy administration be asked to provide records to the FBI?

A prompting factor might have been generated by a comment to The Plain Dealer Story:
Posted by JosephSmith on 01/14/09 at 8:41AM

Perhaps the FBI should also subpoena records from the city of Canton while they're at it. Our fair city mysteriously changed to 888-Ohio-Comp after the election of our new mayor who just happens to be a democrat.
Mayor Healy admitted that he did indeed receive contributions from the key players of this firm.
FBI...please follow up on this.

These are indeed interesting times for Stark County and Canton. It will be interesting to see what tomorrow brings in this unfolding drama.

DISCUSSION: WILLIAM HEALY, II ON HIS WAY OUT-OF-TOWN?

Safety Director Thomas Nesbitt's application to become 9-1-1 project manager has set off a swirl of speculation that Mayor William Healy, II could be next.

The STARK COUNTY POLITICAL REPORT (The Report) has learned that The Repository is furiously pursing this story.

The question being asked?

Why is the mayor making inquiries about alternative job opportunities far and flung?

Some reports have Healy getting an Obama administration job. Others having him asking about various university positions. And, of course, being the paragon of knowing the business community inside and out and being an entrepreneur himself, it wouldn't surprise The Report to learn he is looking to make his mark with a Fortune 500 company.

Apparently, Healy doesn't want to be the last one to exit. The Report has learned that Services Direct Tom Bernabei has told the mayor he will not be staying on beyond 2009.

Who else, The Report wonders, in the Healy administration is looking for alternatives.

But the big question is this.

All this uncertainty that the Nesbitt application triggered. Is this bode well for the future of Canton?

DISCUSSION: SCOTT OELSLAGER - JACKSON SCHOOLS ON THE VERGE OF BANKRUPTCY AND HE IS WRITING "PR-ESQUE" LETTERS TO PUCO?

Scott Oelslager (Republican - 51st). What to make of this teflon politician? Not much - is the answer.

Oelslager is the quintessential "ruffle no feathers" politician who has gotten next to nothing done as a member of the majority/supermajority Republican-controlled Ohio legislature (until January, 2009 when the Democrats took control of the House).

Someone needs to examine this guy to see whether or not he has a backbone.

If there ever has a no brainer for a politician who represents a significant part of Stark County, it would be to adamantly oppose AEP/Ohio Power's request for a gigantic increase in electric power rates over the next three years.

The STARK COUNTY POLITICAL REPORT (The Report) applauds state Senator Kirk Schuring (Republican) and newly elect Todd Snitchler (Republlcan) for standing front and center with the people and businesses of Stark County opposing Ohio Power's request.

All Scott ("I don't want to offend AEP/Ohio Power") Oelslager can do is write a "cover letter" passing on the comments of citizen-activist Kevin Ellis of Louisville who Oelslager incorrectly identifies as a constituent.

Actually Ellis is a constituent of Todd Snitchler (R/51st - Lake). Undoubedly, Ellis is glad of it.

Oelslager ranks only above term-limited-out and bottom-ender John Hagan (Republican - Marlboro who enabled the Ohio Power request while chair of the House public utilities committee) in the The Report's rankings of the legislators who have represented Stark County in the Legislature.

Oelslager has made a career of:

1. Sending out congratulatory letters to Stark Countians of achievement,

2. Photo oping with national and statewide politicians who come to Stark andglad-handing voters,

3. Sending out cover letters like the one in the accompanying graphic,

4. Sending out letters of inquiry BUT does not follow through. He sent one out onThe Report's complaint about the lack of currency and quality of the Ohio ElectionCommissions' website - but to be sure no substantive correctives have beendone -any follow up by Oelslager? No!

5. Speaking on public issues in a highly evasive and vague manner.

Oelslager has made a career of being the former aide to retired congressman Ralph Regula who glad hands to the nth degree while getting nothing done for Stark County.

Meanwhile, his core constituents (Jackson Township citizens) are about to have their school system sink into mediocrity because he has been a non-starter (notwithstanding all his years and experience in the Lelgislature) on the issue of solving public school funding.

Teflon may be good for frying pans, but not for politicians.

They need to be held accountable!

DISCUSSION: IS STARK COUNTY DEMOCRATIC PARTY CHAIR JOHNNIE A. MAIER, JR SUPPORTING REPUBLICAN ROSEMARY DIAMOND OVER DEMOCRAT INCUMBENT "BUTCH" KRAUS?

The STARK COUNTY POLITICAL REPORT (The Report) has learned from a Republican source that Stark County Democratic Party chairman Johnnie A. Maier, Jr may be supporting Republican 8th Ward Canton City Council in her bid to re-take the seat from Democrat Karl "Butch" Kraus.

The Report's source did not know what to make of the Maier/Diamond political alliance scuttlebutt going around in the Stark County Republican Political Party, but was furious at the prospect of Diamond carrying the Republican banner on seeing the adjacent graphic showing that Diamond has a record of supporting Democrats - especially the liberal, left-wingish Democrat Dennis Kucinich who is impossible for most Republicans to swallow.

If the information on Maier is correct, you can bet his support of Diamond will not be front and center. Rather, it will be through surrogates while maintaining the perfunctory political pokerface consistent with being the county party chairman.

Apparently, Maier and Kraus are not getting along very wall. That is one thing. But it is quite another that the relationship is such as to generate talk in political circles that the "not getting along" has devolved into opposition: obvious or not.

A Canton Democrat has told The Report that he is not surprised that that there would be difficulty between Kraus and Maier as both are strong-minded individuals. The Democrat source considers himself to be a friend of both Kraus and Maier.

Results from the 2005 race between Kraus and Diamond:

ROSEMARY DIAMOND
1,283 47.41%
KARL A. KRAUS, JR.
1,423 52.59%

Results from the 2003 race:

ROSEMARY DIAMOND                            1,795         55.15%
KARL A. KRAUS, JR. 1,460 44.85
%
This rematch could prove the be the most exciting political contest in all of Stark County. No?