Tuesday, December 7, 2010

(VIDEO) LOCAL GOVERNMENT ACCESS "IN ACTION?" MORE LOCAL GOVERNMENT SCRUTINY?



With the election of Janet Creighton and Tom Bernabei as Stark County commissioners, "good ole boy" politics have taken a nosedive in the county; especially, that is, for those doing business through the commissioners' office (Board).

The Board of Bosley, Meeks and Ferguson was not a bad one in terms of access.  However, it does appear that the new folks are going to bring a level of scrutiny to those who beseech county government for one thing or another.

Yesterday (see video below) Creighton (commissioner-elect) and Bernabei dug deep into Stark Fairground President Jim Tressel (Bethlehem Township) and Treasurer William Locker on questions of the finances of the Stark County Agricultural Society (Fair Board).





Why?

Because the Fair Board wants more than $200,000 of Stark County taxpayer money to repair its grandstand, that's why.

Did the Fair Board duo pass scrutiny?

Perhaps, in terms of establishing authentic need, but "perhaps not" in terms of qualifying for a level of priority that requesters will have to meet from now on to get into the county's capital improvements fund which stands at about $1.9 million.

The higher level of scrutiny should not be confused with acrimony.  Both Creighton and Bernabei are courteous and cordial, however, both as veteran public service officials (and Bernabei, a former long term law director for Canton) know how to bore into the heart of the matter.  

The SCPR believes that Creighton and Bernabei will have no problem whatsoever in denying the Fair Board what appears to be a critical and real need if they determine that the $1.9 million will be more effectively used for other claims made on the capital improvement monies.

Interesting in yesterday's work session was a forthright statement by Tressel (see video immediately below this sentence) of the Fair Board that he believed that former commissioners may have lied to him about their intention to fund repairs at the fairgrounds.  Why would any commissioner mislead the Fair Board?  Answer:  politics is politics.  The Report does not believe that any commissioner told an out-and-out lie to Tressel.  



What The Report believes is that whomever Tressel is referring to was likely running for the office or, at least, had an eye towards running for the office and knew the tough straits that county was facing in terms of its budget and therefore may not be able to deliver on promises but made them anyway.

For a commissioner to take this tack of doing the politically self-serving thing is exactly the kind of interaction that gives government a bad name.  Look for this to change with the infusion of Bernabei and Creighton into the commissioner picture.

Both are straight talking political and public service persons who do not mince words, but nonetheless able to get along with constituents and other public officials alike.

Hopefully, readers noted, on seeing the video above, how Bernabei and Creighton did not hesitate to respectively challenge Commissioner Bosley and his unilateral assurance to Tressel that the commissioners would make a decision by the end of 2010.  Bosley has demonstrated some good qualities as county commissioner.  Moreover, he has shown some bad ones, too.  Of course, we all know about his work in initiating an "imposed" 0.50 sales tax increase.  Because he is a strong leader, he sometimes takes on more authority to speak for a three person board than he actually has.  In this respect, Bernabei and Creighton likely will be different.

The SCPR encourages the Stark County public to pay close attention to Bernabei and Creighton (and The Report believes Fersguson will follow suit - although Ferguson does not appear to have quite the backbone that Bernabei and Creighton have) govern and reconsider providing the Board with the financial resources the Board needs to govern Stark County effectively.

The SCPR has applauded the work of the Vote No Increased Taxes Committee (Craig Conley and Tom Marcelli) on their scrutiny and defeat of the imposition of a 0.50 sales tax by the Board (Bosley, Harmon and Vignos) back in December, 2008.  However, with the new and improved leadership coming on board with the county commissioners, a new day is dawning in Stark County in terms of a restoration of trust of how our county government operates.  It is now time to jettison the "No" mentality of at least one of the "Vote No" folks:  Tom Marcelli.

Instructive on this point is an exchange between local talk show host Ron Ponder ("Points to Ponder" - WHBC1480 AM) and Marcelli in the comments forum of The Repository on the topic:  Meeks named interim director of Jackson-Belden Chamber.


As The Report has written in the immediate post-election period regarding the election for new commissioners, Stark Countians may have averted a huge, huge crisis in county government by the loss of Jackson Township Jamie Walters as a candidate for commissioner.  

Walters had committed himself to a non-renewal of a 0.25 county sales tax voted in by Stark County voters in 2003 (under the leadership of now deceased Stark County prosecutor and probate judge Robert D. Horowitz and Janet Creighton).  Problem is, as put by Tom Bernabei during his campaign for the "unexpired" Harmon position also sought by Walters and independent candidate Stephen Todd; the Walters scenario has the county operating on $35 million in the face of a criminal justice need for $39 million.

While the SCPR appreciates the work of the likes of Walters and Marcelli, Ponder makes a telling point.  It is not good enough to be against something.  Responsible leadership includes presenting affirmative solutions.

With the work sessions (now at two a week:  Mondays at 10:00 a.m. and Tuesdays at 11:00 a.m.), the new board of commissioners is opening up to Stark Countians in a way never done before by the commissioners, and with the sessions the public can see "in front of the public" scrutiny by commissioners of all who come to the Board with requests for county action.  The backroom politics model appears to be on its way out at the initiative of Creighton and Bernabei insofar as the commissioners are concerned.  

All county elected officials need to follow the Creighton/Bernabei style of leadership.

And county voters need to be receptive to the notion that with Bernabei and Creighton in place, perhaps, taxpayers can once again trust local government officials to ask the tough questions "in public" to ensure that taxpayer money is being used in the most effective and efficient way possible.

The Vote No Increased Taxes Committee needs to get active in examining the new way and direction that the Board appears to be heading and using its influence with Stark Countians to consider ways and means that the county might avert a monumental financial crises which is just around the corner if nothing is done.

The 2011 will be tough as upcoming budget hearings (beginning at commissioner meetings next week) will show.  However, 2011 will be a "walk in the park" compared for what the county will see if nothing is done in 2011 to shore up county finances.

It is time for Stark Countians of all stripes to get engaged in a positive fashion with the new face of county government!

1 comment:

Victor said...

County government as we have unfortunately known it for the past 6 or so years is already changing for the better!!

Kudos to Commissioner Bernabei and Commissioner-elect Creighton, and also Commissioner Ferguson!

Commissioer Bosley -- if you ram something through before the end of the year -- rest assured anytime you attempt to seek elected office ever again (and you likely will try), this will follow you!!