Monday, February 15, 2010
WILL CANTON CITY COUNCIL (CANTON WITH A $1.5 2010 DEFICIT) GET ROLLED BY COUNCILWOMAN CHRIS SMITH?
The SCPR is told that Councilwoman Chris Smith gets real ugly with anyone on Canton City Council who acts like he/she might not support her pet project of having the State of Ohio and City of Canton finance a water park at the Edward L. "Peel" Community Center located in southeast Canton.
Back in December '09, Smith (D - 4), who is passionate and determined about the project, introduced a resolution in Council to have the entire Council go on record in supporting her pet project.
The SCPR has learned that even though the resolution passed unanimously, on the track for an up or down vote, it is bottled up in the Canton City Council Finance Committee. Smith's initiative may not make it out of committee, however, it would be a mistake to count her out on dislodging the matter out of Finance.
Her major ally, at the moment, is Mayor William J. Healy, II.
The water park idea has been brewing for about three years, but has never gotten off the ground.
The SCPR believes because it is not economically sustainable and Council as a whole knows it.
The Report is told that Corey Minor Smith (compliance officer for the Healy administration) is working on the sustainability issue for the project and has no satisfactory plan nor answers on how a water park, if built, would not be a drain on city finances which is at least $1.5 million in the hole for 2010.
One matter, which has not hit public print until this blog, is the condition in the $500,000 Ohio Department of Natural Resources grant that the project be up and running for 15 years or Canton will be required to repay Ohio the $500,000.
Coupled with the $800,000 Canton is putting up, if the project fails, which appears likely because of the virtually nonexistent sustainability plan, then Cantonians could be out $1.3 million plus have to deal with any liabilities should an accident occur in the use of the facilities.
The liability concerns is why even the Smith-friendly Healy administration is talking about a "shallow" pool or waterway, if any at all.
The SCPR believes that whether or not the water park is sustainable may prove to be beside the point.
For whatever reason, Councilwoman Smith has taken the project under her wings and apparently is daring the rest of Council to have the political guts to turn her down.
A SCPR source believes that Smith is impliedly playing the race card.
A Democratic primary fight over the Canton mayoralty is on the political horizon in 2011 (as well as three council-at-large seats) and that none of the incumbents can afford to offend Smith who represents a minority dominated ward and is a major center of influence in the African-American community to whom many black Cantonians look for advice and counsel on voting matters.
The Canton black vote can be determinative of who wins citywide in an otherwise close vote in Democratic primaries.
While Bill Smuckler (who The Report believes is itching to run against Mayor Healy in 2011) cannot expect much support at all from Canton's black wards.
His poor showing - in terms of black support for his candidacy - in his 2003 run against Republican Janet Creighton for Canton mayor is the reason, in the SCPR's assessment, why he lost to Creighton by a scant 300 plus votes. Accordingly, Smuckler would not want to become a Smith target because of being perceived to not be supportive of measures deemed by the Councilwoman to be desirable for her ward. Nor would fellow councilpersons such as Mary Cirelli nor Joe Cole.
So political considerations of mayoralty/council candidates seem to be the major asset in favor of Councilwoman Smith in getting Council to force Finance chairman's Greg Hawk's hand to release the legislation.
While racial politics (in terms of whom the black community will support in the 2011 city elections, or, on the flip side - politicians pandering to political correctness) is not openly discussed in the interplay among the Canton's political players in the context of the water park issue, the SCPR's source appears to believe that a subsurface race is a subtle factor in the consideration of whether or not certain councilpersons - if not Council as a whole - end up supporting the project.
If the the source's suggestion is an accurate perception, then the question becomes whether or not there are any Canton city councilperson who will stand up to Smith and force her and the Healy administration to prove that a water park is a sustainable enterprise and decide the matter on that basis alone?
No monies should ever, ever come from the Canton general fund for the park. The project, if it goes forward, should only be constructed as an "enterprise fund" type operation that sustains itself.
The SCPR is not optimistic that Canton officials will ensure that the project is developed on a fiscally sound basis.
After all, these folks (the councilpersons and Mayor Healy) are politicians. One should never, ever forget that.
Although Healy likes to blame the recent $4.5 million deficit wholly on the downturn in the economy, the SCPR believes that he and his top administrators failed to read the tea leaves and put Canton's fiscal operations on solid footing and thereby contributed unnecessarily to Canton's current financial woes.
The final question?
Are Canton City Council members and Mayor Healy about to allow another unsustainable project in the form of the proposed water park burden city coffers on the basis of being the politically correct and expedient thing to do?