Wednesday, September 1, 2010


In the budget bill (House Bill 1) for fiscal years 2010 and 2011, (enacted in the summer of 2009) there was a very important provision which does not deal directly with Ohio's budget.

It had to do with setting up a 15 member commission known as The Ohio Commission on Local Government Reform and Collaboration (Commission) to study ways to make local government more efficient and effective.

The Commission was charged to come up with recommendations to the Ohio General Assembly and the Governor by July 1, 2010 on:

Well, July 1st has come and gone and, of course, there has been slippage on the due date of the Commission's report to today, September 1.  However, the last meeting of the Commission was on August 27th.  One has to wonder if today will actually be the day.

In any event, the report will be issued very soon, if not today.

The SCPR believes this is a very important report for Stark County.

Why so?

In the opinion of The Report, Stark County is in need of restructuring. More so than even Canton.  Canton only elects an auditor, treasurer and law director in addition to the mayor and councilpersons.

Stark County has nine centers of political power.

The whole fiasco with the Stark County treasury and the lack of checks and balances within county government to prevent the admitted theft by Chief Deputy Vince Frustaci of some $2.46 million makes it obvious to yours truly that Stark County government needs reworked.

One current option under the law of Ohio is for Stark to go charter government a la Summit County (1974) and Cuyahoga County (2009).  Lucas County (Toledo) is mulling charter government over, but note one of the co-chairs of the Commission is the auditor in Lucas County.

And that may turn out to be the choice for Stark Countians to make.

However, the work of the Commission may contain recommendations that are even better for Ohio's counties, cities and villages in a more collaborative and regional context.

On April 30, 2010 the Ohio Council of County Officials (elected officials) submitted written testimony to the Commission which appears to the SCPR to be opposition to as good part of the work of the Commission (i.e. efficiencies).  The Report takes the inviolability of the right of county officials to be elected is code for opposition.

Although Stark citizens are likely to besiege the county commissioners when they have county problems.  In actuality, the commissioners have very little control over the functions of county government other than their own office.

An example is their inability to get independently the elected auditor, clerk of courts, coroner, engineer, prosecutor, recorder, sheriff and treasurer to anticipate the immense financial crisis (exaggerated by the $2.96 loss in county funds in the treasurer's office) under way in county government and make voluntary cuts.

Over the next few months there will be a lot of squabbling and infighting within county government over who gets cut and how much.  What Stark Countians will witness is likely to be wrangling not cooperation.

Here is a diagram of the structure of Stark County government today:

 While the SCPR has never be wild about Councilman Bill Smuckler of Canton because he has a very uninspiring personality (which makes it difficult for everyday citizens to buy into his program), the work of the Commission might, if its recommendations include true intergovernmental collaboration mechanisms, be a godsend for his candidacy for mayor of Canton.

Canton desperately needs to get its act together after four years of disastrous Healy administration leadership (even after factoring in the bad overall national and state economies).

Because of his many years of work on regionalism, Smuckler appears to be ideally suited to adapt whatever local government structural reform opportunities come out of the Commission's work to do collaborative (consolidation/merger/integration, et cetera) work with Stark County government and Stark's other political subdivisions.

The SCPR continues to believe that former Canton mayor Janet Creighton and Thomas Bernabei (who has had multiple roles with Canton government as well as experience with the Stark Area Transit Authority) will become Stark County's next commissioners.

If their elections materialize and Smuckler wins next May and the Ohio General Assembly adopts cutting edge government structural reform coming out of the work of The Ohio Commission on Local Government Reform and Collaboration, then the trio can go to work on restoring the public trust in the way government operates in Stark County.

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