Democrat Stark County Commissioner Todd Bosley is running for the Ohio House (50th) and, if elected, he already has one item of legislation on his agenda: correcting a glaring problem with expedited annexations.
At Wednesday's commissioners' meeting, the commissioners (Meeks and Ferguson voting yes) were compelled under existing Ohio law as advised by Stark County Prosecutor (civil side) Debbie Dawson to approve a Massillon petition for annexation under Ohio Revised Code Section (ORC) 709.023. Bosley held out and voted no.
The video below shows all the commissioners' dissatisfaction.
As long as seven objective criteria as listed in the law are certified as having been substantially complied with, the commissioners have no choice. Had either Commissioner Ferguson or Meeks voted with Bosely, the county would have certainly faced a Mandamus action in Stark County Common Pleas Court brought by Massillon to force the annexation.
No subjective factors are allowed to be considered. Not the concerns (i.e. emergency services, snow plowing and the like) of any residents in the area being annexed have the right to testify at a hearing (if that is what you want to call it) held by commissioners as part of the approval process.
Massillon's petition is commonly thought to be nothing more than about income tax revenues for Massillon from the employees of the R.G. Drage Career Technical Center (Drage).
Mayor Francis H. Cicchinelli, Jr. affirmed to the SCPR last Thursday that the revenues are indeed a part of the goals. However, he insisted that long term Massillon will be pushing forward with additional annexations in the area which should yield true economic development for Massillon and Stark County.
He pointed out to yours truly that any jobs produced in Massillon are jobs that will be staffed by non Massillonians as well as Massillonians and therefore benefits all Stark Countians.
You talk about "taxation without representation," it is immediately clear that ORC 709.023 annexation has been used by Massillon as the vehicle to subject the employees at Drage to a reduction of 2% of their income (unless they happen to live in Massillon currently). The newly taxed folks having no say in the matter. They can't even vote against the Massillon elected officials (Cicchinelli and the Massillon councilpersons) who foisted the forced taxation on them.
The Mayor told the SCPR that not one Drage employee contacted Massillon to protest the taxation.
Does that mean they are glad to be taxed?
What their inaction means is that it is obvious to them that they can do nothing about being drug into being Massillon taxpayers. Undoubtedly, Cicchinelli understands this and it is disingenuous for him to take the employees' failure to protest as an endorsement by default.
In proceeding in this fashion with the added insult of no immediate economic development goal on the table, Massillon officials have joined Ohio elected officials, who passed the law in the first place, in undermining a basic democratic tenet.
What the Ohio General Assembly needs to do is to add "economic development" and "public safety" factors to ORC 709.023 and require the taking of testimony from statutorily defined interested parties including those who will have taxpayer status if the annexation is approved.
The timetables can remain the same (i.e. expedited). However, the process needs to be more consistent with the spirit of notice and opportunity to be heard (due process) that is at the very heart and soul of the American system of government.
Here is the video that is a compilation of the "public speaks" presentations made to the commissioners. Remember, the 709.023 hearing itself, allows no public testimony.