Tuesday, December 14, 2010


UPDATE:  12/15/2010 AT 7:20 PM

Plain trustee Louis Giavasis, Points to Ponder's Ron Ponder and Senator Schuring will be meeting on Friday to determine the times of the two meetings referred in the original blog which are to be held in January.

Originally, Ponder reported that the meetings are to be held at Stark State College, but that is not the case. 

The meetings will be held in Plain Township at Oakwood Middle School, 2300 Schneider St NE.


To his credit, Ron Ponder host of WHBC-AM1480 Points to Ponder worked hard over the weekend brokering a deal among state Senator Kirk Schuring, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) and Plain Township trustees (Lou  Giavasis and Scott Haws) to solve the conflict (in terms of timing) to do away with competing meetings on the issue of fracking (the removal of natural gas embedded in rock).

The competing meetings were set for tonight. One (sponsored by state Senator Kirk Schuring at the Plain Community Branch of the Stark County District Library and to be moderated by Ponder) was to feature ODNR officials who were to answer questions of the inquiring public.  And, the other (sponsored by Plain Township's trustees - mainly Lou Giavasis) was to feature so-called fracking experts from inside and outside Ohio, ODNR officials and, of course, the inquiring public.

Being the mediator he is, Ponder (who was set to moderate Tuesday's library sited meeting) worked over the weekend to end the competition and to set up complementary meetings for after the 1st of the year.  One meeting was to be with the pro and anti-fracking people answering the public's questions.  The other with ODNR officials answering the public's questions.  This plan was announced on today's edition of Points to Ponder.  Both are to be moderated by Ponder and are to be held at the Stark State College of Technology.

Obviously, Ponder thought he had everybody on board with his mediation effort.  But he did not.  At the tail end of Ponder's show (the last five minutes), Giavasis let it be known that Plain Township would be holding its regular bi-weekly meeting (2nd & 4th weeks of each month) at 5:30 p.m. (usually held at 6:00 p.m.) and that ODNR officials would be there to answer the trustees' questions.  While the public would not be allowed to question the ODNR officials during the meeting itself, they were to be afforded an opportunity to express an opinion on fracking.

Listening to Ponder, yours truly got the definite impression that he felt he had been hoodwinked by Giavasis.

Being the classy guy he is, Ponder did not outright accuse Giavasis of welshing on the agreement he had brokered, but to the SCPR, the disappointment in Ponder's voice was unmistakable.

Giavasis couched the going ahead with today's meeting as being his having no choice.  He said it was a regular township meeting and he could not unilaterally (there are two other trustees) make it anything other than what it was originally set to be. But political/government knowledgeable persons know that all it will take at tonight's meeting is for a motion to amend the agenda to be offered (by Giavasis' Democratic ally Al Leno) and the ODNR appearance and fracking issue discussion come flying off.  In fact, if an Akron Beacon Journal report published early this morning is accurate, the township is going forward with today's work session meeting and the fracking issue is not on the agenda.
In their radio conversation, Ponder made a trump point insofar, as the SCPR is concerned, in his telling Giavasis that he should not have agreed to the post-January 1 set up at all if today's township meeting was going to go forward nonetheless with the fracking issue and ODNR still on tap.

Ponder had dealt with him in good faith, but it appears to the SCPR that Giavasis was always playing politics with the meeting structure.  Giavasis stood by and let Ponder announce "the breakthrough" early in Points to Ponder yesterday, knowing full-well that ODNR official(s) were still scheduled to be at the Plain Township trustees' regular meeting this evening.

The expression "best laid plans of mice and men often go awry" seems to apply to Giavasis' handling of this situation.  The Report hears via e-mail from Giavasis supporter Chris Borello that the township meeting will go forward with out-of-town expert(s) appearing, but no ODNR. 

The Report is told that Giavasis talked with ODNR official Tugend before getting on the air with Ponder and received assurances that ODNR would be showing up at the Tuesday Plain Township meeting.  But those assurance did not last long. Senator Schuring tells yours truly that ODNR has  e-mailed Ponder confirming that they will not be appearing tonight in Plain Township.

The Report doubts that Ponder will reflect negatively on Trustee Louis Giavasis in public on Giavasis' conduct in dealing with him on the setting up of the fracking meetings.

As to Trustee Haws' and state Senator Schuring's involvement, the SCPR is somewhat skeptical of what Haws and Schuring say their position on fracking is, given that officeholding Republicans, in general, favor business and industry and seemingly whatever they want to do.  Moreover,  The Report is skeptical in Schuring's case, in particular,  because of his prior published strong support of ANWAR drilling and off-shore drilling.  He tells yours truly that "fracking" is an altogether different matter because it involves a potential harm to the drinking water supply.

Both Scott Haws and Kirk Schuring tell The Report that they are neutral on the fracking issue.  It could be that both will eventually join with Giavasis and oppose fracking in Plain Township and Stark County and, of course, in Schuring's case - all of Ohio.

The Ponder initiative appears designed to provide the space for such a possibility to eventuate. 

The SCPR believes it was very unwise for Giavasis to do what he did to Ron Ponder.  Clearly, Ponder felt he could trust Giavasis to back off today's meeting insofar as it was constructed to touch on the fracking issue in light of the agreement referred to above.  Who could blame Ponder if he refused to engage Giavasis in the future?  However, again, The Report does not believe this is how Ponder operates.

Fracking and whether or not it jeopardizes the safety of the public's drinking water supply is a top issue for localities these days.   Developments since the end of October emanating from Plain Township and Canton government defines "localities" to apply to Stark County in a big way.

It is commendable that Stark local governments such as the Plain trustees (and now, we hear, the Canton City Council because of the work of Councilwoman Mary Cirelli and Allen Schulman - president of council) are looking into the matter of protecting the safety of drinking water.

Fracking is not a matter to be playing politics over.  The health, safety, and welfare of Stark Countians could be at stake.  So shame on anyone who has political motives at play in the back and forth as to what meetings on fracking are to be held, and when and where they are to be held, and who the players are to be.

While there is no doubt that Ron Ponder has something to gain from entering the Haws/Schuring-Giavasis fray (i.e. the notoriety of hosting the controversy on air and moderating the events), the SCPR believes that in trying to broker a resolution of the stalemate that had developed between Haws and Schuring, on the one hand, and Giavasis on other, Ponder was bringing his considerable and valuable mediation experience to bear on the matter.

Points to Ponder is one of Stark County's most valuable assets in terms of getting controversies such as fracking before Stark Countians in an orderly manner.

Some months ago Ponder tried to bring Canton, Jackson and North Canton officials together on their annexation dispute, but was unsuccessful.  But he is to be applauded for trying.

While the SCPR and Points to Ponder have different styles, as yours truly sees it, the objective is the same:  prodding government officials to get their acts together to get Stark County moving forward in a constructive way!

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