Sunday, March 7, 2010
STARK BOARD OF ELECTIONS ALLOWS "SCPR" VIDEOTAPPING OF ITS MEETING. THE STARK COUNTY PUBLIC CAN DEPEND ON THE SCPR TO PROVIDE VIDEO COVERAGE OF IMPORTANT BOARD TRANSACTIONS
Readers of the SCPR will recall that The Report was denied the right to videotape the February, 2010 regular meeting of the Stark County Board of Elections (SBOE). While the reason for the change of heart is not known to yours truly, it is a welcome change.
Something that the Stark County public should note is the failure of The Canton Repository reporter who was present at the February 22nd meeting to protest the exclusion of The Report's camera or, worse yet, to report the Board's action.
The Rep's ignoring of the denial of one more point of access to a public body's proceedings is particularly disturbing that the snub came from a publication that subscribes to the newspaper industry's annual Sunshine Week which begins this year one week from today (March 14th).
Saturday's meeting did not deal with any momentous matters. William Cline was re-appointed chairman of the Board, Curt Braden - vice chairman, Jeanette Mullane - director and Jeff Matthews - deputy director. Additionally, the full time employees of the Board were reappointed to their jobs for another two years.
After the meeting, yours truly and Stephanie Ujhely of The Alliance Review had an interesting conversation with Deputy Director Jeff Matthews. Director Matthews revealed that while Cuyahoga County Board of Elections has four times the work load of the SBOE, it gets ten times the money.
Other interesting revelations included Matthews' description of the difficulty in maintaining a needed level of polling place workers. Some 200 to 300 workers decide not to participate in the last week or two before any given election. Even on election day, the SBOE has to be prepared to supply upwards of 50 or so poll workers to replace workers who do not show up as they said the would.
Matthews says that more and more poll workers are doing the work for the income and not out of civic duty, even though the pay is a minimum wage level when one considers the length of the day worked. He says that having advanced placement high schoolers as a resource for poll workers has been helpful and successful.
Now that The Report is permitted to videotape, attention will now be turned towards getting the Board to agree to scan in candidate petitions and campaign finance reports so they can be placed in an online database for Stark Countians to access without the necessity of citizens going to the time expense and traveling expense of actually going to the SBOE and paying copying costs, if actual document copies are desired.
And, the SCPR believes, not only does the consuming public save, but so does the SBOE itself.
As retrieving records is done now, a citizen goes to the SBOE, identifies the requested records to a Board employee who then must go get the file and, if copies are wanted - which they usually are, then the Board worker has to start, watch over and complete the copying process.
Readers will recall there was a lot of public attention paid to certain Cuyahoga County-based contributions made to Stark County auditor Kim Perez and Mayor William J. Healy. Undoubtedly, the Stark BOE was besieged with multiple requests for the campaign finance contribution records of Perez and Healy. Had they been online, then the BOE would not have had to expend employee time on multiple requests and could have used the time for completing other important SBOE tasks.
Intially, The Report was told that the SBOE did not have the necessary equipment that was up to doing the job. That problem has been solved by the purchase in January of the needed copying/scanning equipment.
Now Director Mullane says that the Board will get to it when the Board gets to it.
The SCPR had asked her to put an agenda item on the February 22nd agenda requesting the board members to address this matter in public discussion. Mullane tells The Report she did not put the item on the agenda as she was told by the Board (refusing to disclose which board member(s)) not to put the matter before them.
The Board has a real problem in relating to the public in the first place because the four of them are appointed by the Republican and Democratic Party executive committees. In other words, they are not put in place by the voting public.
One would think that the Board would be especially sensitive to allowing public input since their selection is not a high water mark of American democracy. But the SBOE doesn't appear to be. The SCPR request has been rejected out-of-hand. Moreover, the Board agenda provides no place on it for the public to address the board with questions/requests.
Isn't it more than a bit ironic that a Board charged with the responsibility of protecting the integrity of our choosing our local, state and national leaders seem to be rather cavalier in its relationship with the Stark County public.
One of the reasons the SCPR has taken up this cause is because of The Report's perception that the SBOE, in particular, does not have a track record of being voter accommodating (reference: getting online access to petition/finance documents) and voter friendly (reference: lack of public speaks and entertaining public initiated agenda items).
Here is a short video that introduces the Stark County public to the SBOE board members except for Sam Ferruccio who was not present.