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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

ARE THE STARK COUNTY COMMISSIONERS LISTENING?

Local attorney and community activist Craig T. Conley on March 16, 2010 "hand-delivered" to each of the Stark County commissioners (Bosley, Ferguson and Meeks) a letter asking that they "put pressure" (the SCPR's interpretation) on Stark County Sheriff Tim Swanson to reduce his per capita cost in the remuneration of sheriff's deputies (salary and benefits) as a way to help Stark County out of its looming financial crisis.

Here is an excerpt from the Conley letter:

In a SCPR conversation with Conley earlier this morning, Conley tells The Report that he hasn't heard a thing from the commissioners in response.

Craig Conley serves on the recently appointed Stark Citizen Review Committeel which met last Friday (the SCPR was out-of-town and could not attend the meeting, but plans on attending future meetings).  It is becoming apparent to the SCPR that Conley will ask the hard questions that many Stark Countians want asked of the likes of Tim Swanson (sheriff), Rick Campbell (recorder), Kim Perez (auditor), Zeigler (treasurer), and their colleagues who feed at the trough of Stark County taxpayer money.

Conley tells The Report that he faxed a copy of his letter to The Repository on March 16th.

No response from Stark County's only countywide newspaper of record.  Interesting, no?

Well, readers of the SCPR can rest assured that The Report will report on and do political analysis on the Conley entreaty and will closely monitor the work of the citizen review effort.

The SCPR supports Conley's prod of commissioners and Swanson to take a look at county employee per capita costs.  One of the things that public officials say, quite appropriately in the view of the SCPR, is that when America goes to war, everyone should share in the sacrifice.  By analogy, so should public employees in terms of their remuneration when the taxpaying public is struggling to get from day-to-day in the worst economy that the United States has experienced in many, many of a year.

Conley tells the SCPR that the median income at the Stark County sheriff's department is about $75,000 (including fringe benefits) whereas the median income of the average Stark County taxpayer is about $26,000 (many of whom have no fringe benefits).

Conley's question to the commissioners/sheriff is one that needs to be addressed.

Are the commissioners going to listen and address the matter or are they merely going to turn a deaf ear and try to scare (letting prisoners loose) Stark County taxpayers into supporting a new or renewal of a levy?

HEALY AT IT AGAIN: FIGHTING WITH ARCH-ENEMY GREG HAWK (FINANCE CHAIR) OVER SEMANTICS (NUMBERS)? ANOTHER TWIST: IS HAWK TRYING TO FORCE TREASURER ROBERT SCHIRACK TO RESIGN?


Hey, when you are a graduate of the New York Stern School of Business, why would you abide the audacity of Councilman Greg Hawk, Ward 2 in a quibble over semantics - err - numbers.

Word is that Healy put up an opponent against Hawk last November, but the Healy supported candidate lost to the venerable councilman who has been on Canton City Council since 2002.  Think there might not be some residual "bad blood?"


Well, the SCPR thinks there is and it spilled over at Monday night's Canton City Council meeting.  And it was over the silliest thing.  Is the $58,000 saved from the salary of the departing communications director Adam Herman to remain in the eighth floor kitty or is it to be part of a mere $100,000 carryover to the 2011 budget.

Because of Healy and his insistence on fighting over bragging rights (ego) as to the "accounting" location of the money, Council reconvenes this evening at 5:30 p.m. for Hawk to preside over the humiliation of Healy.  At least that's what the SCPR is told.  A source on Council says that Hawk will win this fight.

Speaking of Councilman Hawk, the SCPR hears that he is taking aim at Canton City treasurer Robert Schirak and is looking to replace him as treasurer.  But Schirak was just re-elected last year and is not due to run again until 2013?

Seems to be a long time away for Hawk to be posturing for an electoral challenge, no?

The Report's city hall source says that Hawk has been all over Schirack's job performance of late and that there is more to it than prodding Schirack to do a better job. Moreover, the source says that the talk at Canton City Hall is that Hawk is aiming to take Schirack on in 2013.


The source could be onto something, but something much more immediate than 2013.

More likely, the SCPR thinks, is that Hawk is trying to put so much heat on Schirack that the Canton treasurer will step down and Hawk - well connected to Stark County Democratic Party kingmakers - will be in the cat bird's seat to get the Central Committee appointment.

Political intrigue continues to plague Canton government as such is grounded in egoistic grandstanding and personal political ambition and, in the meantime, the citizens suffer!

ANALYZING THE THE REPOSITORY'S PROPOSAL FOR A CITIZEN/STARK DEPARTMENT OF GOVERNMENT "ONLINE" CONNECT


The Repository's proposal to put Stark's citizens in touch with Stark County departments/agencies of government:  a good idea?

It depends.

Here is the proposal as extracted from the editorial making it:

• Set up a Web site, and post the report on each department’s operations as it is finished.

• Ask visitors to the site if they have any questions — trust us, they will — and answer them online.

• After officeholders get the recommendations, they should update the public via the Web site as changes are made.

Here is the SCPR analysis:

First, the questions need to be published whether they get answered or not.  A prime value in the implementation of this proposal is to learn which questions are too embarrassing for department heads to deal with.

Second, the question/answer format must allow for a "thread-like" follow up between the questioner and the person (fully identified) answering.  Otherwise, answers are likely to be of the cherry-picked variety (i.e. - answer what I am comfortable with) and then cut the answer off.  The questioner ought to have the opportunity to pursue the Q&A until (within reason) he/she gets a satisfactory answer.

Third, the website should stay open as a permanent, continuing mechanism for Stark County citizens to hold officeholders accountable in public view.

If The Repository's idea gets implemented along the lines suggested by The Report, then the idea will be a workable one that has credibility with the Stark County public.

However, if it is filtered, censored and managed and only for the duration of the citizen review committee cycle, then it will have the touch and feel of having been a journalistic gimmick.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

WHAT GOOD IS IT FOR STARK COUNTY TO DO "TAX INCENTIVE REVIEWS?"


The SCPR wonders what good the Stark County Tax Incentive Review Council is anyway?

It seems as if companies who are not able to keep their commitments to produce jobs in exchange for local government real property tax breaks have little, if any, consequence for not.

Negative publicity appears to be a consequence. Is bad PR the only consequence?

And the SCPR is not the only one wondering.  A Repository commenter put the question of the value of the Stark County Tax Incentive Review Council's value very well in a comment to the prime Repository article (Stark keeps tax breaks for 15 companies, but warns 3 - Kelli Young, 03/24/2010), to wit:

Yes, what is Jimmie J missing and what are the rest of Stark Countians missing?

Note there was nary a word from any of the commissioners in Young's article.

Young said in her piece:  "This is the third year of probation for Precision Component Industries and the second year for Thakar Aluminum Corp."

Well, when is enough, enough?

How about some answers from the Commissioners?

Yours truly has spoken to Todd Bosley (president of the Board of Commissioners) who says that the commissioners understand that the depressed economy makes it hard for tax-rebate receiving companies to deliver on their promises to create jobs.

Bosley says that in agreements with companies there is "callback" language giving the county the right to seek return of part or all of the tax monies lost.  Moreover, said he believes that the county retrieved monies from a non-complaint company last year.

The SCPR did check with Mary Lee Sponseller of the Stark County Regional Planning Commission on these agreements which are entitled Enterprise Zone Agreements (EZA).

Sponseller says that about three years ago,  officials amended the program service phase of the agreement to include what Commissioner Bosley identifies as "callback" language.  This language, according to Sponseller, requires a payback of "forgiven taxes" by recipient companies on new/expansion buildings, if the company does not create/retain an average of 75% of the promised jobs over three years.  However, the three years only begins once the "effective date" of the agreement as articulated in the agreement itself is reached.

There are about 16 EZAs with only about half of them affected by the "callback" provisions.

There is a Sponseller qualification to Bosley's point of retrieving money.  She says no money has been collected, but efforts to do so are progressing.

Sponseller points out that "terminating" EZA is still a viable option and cites the termination of an EZA with GE Capital several years ago.  She also remembers at least one other termination.

While the SCPR supports the EZA concept as judiciously applied, there does come a day when it becomes clear that the purpose of a given EZA is not being realized and that such agreements need to - in the interest of Stark's taxpayers - be terminated and "forgiven" taxes repaid to the county treasury.

Monday, March 29, 2010

SMUCKLER RUNNING FOR MAYOR. HEALY RUNNING FOR MAYOR? A THIRD POSSIBLE "DEMOCRATIC NOMINEE" FOR MAYOR?

If the Stark County Political Report take on Canton's next mayoralty race takes hold, neither Councilman-at-large William Smuckler or Mayor William J. Healy, II would be the Democratic nominee coming out of the May, 2011 Democratic primary.

The SCPR has been saying for some time now, that Smuckler is in the race (The Repository Editorial Board finally squared up with the reality today) and that odds are good that Cantonians are going to see a rerun of the 2003 race between the two in which Smuckler came out the victor only to lose to eventual winner Janet Weir Creighton by a 300 plus votes in November.

Both Healy and Smuckler are yesterday's political news neither of whom, in the opinion of The Report, have what it takes to lead Canton out of its economic morass.  So why would anyone line up for either of them?

Rather, voters (Democratic primary voters) should be looking for a third way so far as the Democrats are concerned.

If the SCPR was choosing, who is a possibility to represent the Democrats in November, 2011?

Of course, this would take Healy deciding not to run.  For there is no way on God's green earth that Price would run against Healy.  But Smuckler?  Maybe.

The SCPR has not talked to Price about the possibility because to do so would be futile.  What's he going to say?  Anything he would say "can and would be used against him" by Healy.  Remember Bernabei and Nesbitt?

Rather, The Report will rely on Price's political history as a source for clues as to whether or not he would be interested in running on the condition that Healy gets smart and realizes he cannot be re-elected mayor of Canton.

Here is a brief bio of Price from the City of Canton website from when he was appointed service director [he has sense been appointed the additional role of being chief of staff]:
Prior to joining Mayor Healy’s administration, Price was the managing attorney at The Price Law Offices, LLC, which are located in Canton and Cuyahoga Falls.  He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Organizational Management from Malone University (formerly Malone College) in Canton and graduated cum laude with a law degree from the University of Akron Law School in 2004.

“I am honored to have been chosen to fill this important position in the Mayor’s administration,” Price said.  “There is much to be done, and I look forward to working with everyone as we accomplish our goals and objectives.”

Price served one term on Alliance City Council (2006-07) before running unsuccessfully for Alliance Mayor in 2007.  Currently a resident of Alliance, Price said he is moving within City limits at the request of the Mayor.
Notice from the bio "running unsuccessfully for Alliance Mayor in 2007" in a pretty close race against Mayor Toni Middleton of Alliance.   So we know he likely has a hankering to be mayor somewhere.


The SCPR believes that "somewhere" could be the City of Canton if Mayor William J. Healy, II was to do the noble thing and step aside.  As readers of The Report know, yours truly was the very first Stark County political observer to get on to the reality that Healy is not up to being an effective mayor of Canton and if Canton is going to get its act together it will have to be under new leadership.  And, long time Canton political fixture Bill Smuckler is not the cure for what ails Canton.

An additional benefit of Price being the Democratic nominee is that it would likely prompt Stark Republicans to go all out to put a formidable candidate in the Canton mayor's race because they think they may be smelling political blood.

Republicans may or may not inject political competition into the race, if Smuckler is the Dem's nominee.

The SCPR realizes that the proposed scenario is highly unlikely, but it is a scenario that might get Canton the new political/governmental leadership it so desperately needs!

CITIZEN REVIEW COMMITTEE: WHO DID THE PICKING? WHAT WERE THE CRITERIA USED? WILL THE COMMITTEE'S FINDINGS BE CREDIBLE TO EVERYDAY STARK COUNTIANS?


At first blush yours truly was struck by the fact that there is only one woman out of the 14 selectees for the hand-picked Citizens Review Committee on Stark County general fund finances.  Interesting, no?

Then there's Tom Bernabei (former Canton councilman, Healy administration official and SARTA interim head).  Now the SCPR thinks well of Bernabei, but he is a candidate for county commissioner.  He doesn't seem to be a good pick in the context of things.  Maybe someone from among the selectors has an explanation as to why Bernabei was one of the selectees?

Predictably, when names were being bandied about for selection in the talking stage of picking such a committee - their names came up - the list includes the names Craig Conley and Charles Snyder.

These two were primary Vote No Increased Taxes Committee folks who campaigned against the retention of the 0.50 of one percent imposed by the county commissioners in December, 2008.  So?  The Report thinks the duo is vulnerable to being perceived by the Stark County public as having been co-opted under a certain examination outcome scenario.

Such a scenario would be one in which the committee finds that county government is being efficient and very little, if anything, needs to change.

There is the matter of the heavy involvement of Prosecutor John Ferrero in the formation of the committee.  Moreover, he is to continue as liaison between the committee and Stark's elected officials.  And his office operations are being audited?  Hmm?

One has to believe, as the SCPR does, that the committee will vet the prosecutor's operations like any other of the examinees, but what will be the public perception given the  continuing connection between Ferrero and the committee?  Wouldn't it have been better to have someone other than an elected county officeholder serve in both capacities.  Say, someone like County Administrator Mike Hanke?

What will be real interesting is when the citizens review group shows up at the sheriff's office and at the courts.

Committee member Conley is already on record as having been "less than complimentary" of Swanson when he and Snyder showed up at the commissioners' regular meeting shortly after their Vote No Increased Taxes Committee recorded a smashing victory in leading Stark Countians in an overwhelmingly rejection of the retention of the imposed levy.

The SCPR has had a conversation with a leading Stark County citizen who wonders if Conley (an attorney) as a committee member will feel free at his initiative - or, if the committee's examination of court financial operations show room for improvement -  to join in any critique of court finances.

The SCPR thinks he will have no reluctance at all and that he will give Swanson a fair shake notwithstanding his very vocal past criticism of the Sheriff.  But again, will there be any public perception problems in the case of certain examination outcomes?

And there is Dan Fonte who the SCPR views as an ideal committee member.

The SCPR knows Fonte well and believes that he will ask the hard questions. The Report remembers Fonte for his aggressive questioning of then gubernatorial candidate Ted Strickland (whom Fonte was supporting vigorously at the time) at a local Strickland campaign event.  Fonte (now retired) is a no-nonsense labor leader (pipefitters) and The Report expects him to be a model examiner.

At first glance, these are the observations of the SCPR.

However, there are other questions that The Report thinks should have been asked before specific individuals were named to the committees.  And maybe they were.  If so, we just don't know what they were.  But in the interest of transparency we should know.

In the final analysis, the main consideration that should have been made of committee prospects and answered satisfactorily should have been: what qualities/attributes do these folks - in the combination of the committee settled upon - bring in terms of  complementary, non-biased characteristics to the table?

Of course, the public has no information on the evaluative factors employed, if any.  Not knowing, is a key ingredient that allows seeds of doubt to flourish in the public domain.

Moreover, an overriding question of the committee's work is this:  What will be the significance of the final report of the citizens review committee when it is finally issued?

The SCPR says not much - no matter what the findings are -  in terms of affecting voter response to what will surely be an attempt by county officials to gain passage of a renewal of a 1/4th of one percent county sales/use tax.

The down economy, Stark County's historical opposition to local sales/use tax add-ons to the state sales/use tax, and a growing distrust of government (aided and abetted by the imposed tax of December, 2008) will likely combine to make it nearly impossible to pass even a renewal.

The promoters of the review committee deny that building support for a levy effort is their motivation.  But the SCPR is not buying.  The denials of the obvious are evidence that public officials persist in thinking that the everyday citizen does not have enough sense - in a metaphorical way of speaking - to come in out of the rain.

Perhaps some day government officials will get it that once public confidence in the institutions of government take a dive, it takes more than hastily putting together a "blue ribbon" committee to restore public trust.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

CAN ALAN HAROLD FIGURE OUT WHO HIS NOVEMBER, 2010 OPPONENT IS?

It is beginning to appear that Republican Alan Harold cannot figure out who his November, 2010 opponent is.

According to Stark Board of Elections records, his opponent is Auditor Kim Perez (Democrat).

However, from reports that the SCPR is getting, Harold seems to be acting like his opponent is Democrat Stark County Commissioner Pete Ferguson.

As The Report understands a recent description of a Harold confrontation of Ferguson, Harold was taking Ferguson to task for a meeting of Stark County's elected officials to discuss the Stark County budget crisis.

The Report's source says that Harold was unhappy with Ferguson for somehow being involved in the call for the meeting and having not complied with the Ohio Sunshine law in terms of providing the notices required by the law.

The point of this blog is not concerning Harold's correctness or incorrectness on his complaint.  Rather it is whether or not Harold understands that he is in a uphill battle to unseat Perez who is a proven vote Stark County vote getter and that he (Harold) ought to be focusing on that race and leave it to others to pursue the Sunshine law question.

Maybe Harold knows something about the auditor race that the SCPR doesn't.  The Report's take right now is that it would be a huge upset if Harold were to defeat Perez in November.

It would be interesting to know Harold's rationale for getting embroiled with Ferguson on the Sunshine law matter.  

The Stark County GOP leadership ought to be taking note of the Harold distraction.  For if it continues, whatever chance Harold may appear to have against Perez will fast evaporate.

Does someone from Stark GOP headquarters need to get auditor candidate Alan Harold re-focused?

Saturday, March 27, 2010

TWO COMMISSIONER SEATS ARE UP FOR VOTER SELECTION THIS YEAR: ARE THERE ANY AMONG THE FIELD OF FIVE WHO CAN MATCH THE VISION OF RALPH REGULA AND FRED KRUM?

The Akron Beacon Journal recently published a story:   Big federal check lands at Akron-Canton Airport (Bill Lilley, March 15, 2010).

The key to the story was Lilley's focus on the vision demonstrated by longtime 16th district congressman Ralph Regula and longtime Akron-Canton Airport director Fred Krum over the years in bringing Akron-Canton along as a huge economic asset to Stark County, Summit County and, indeed, to all of northeast Ohio.

Krum passed away a little over a year ago and Regula retired from Congress in 2008.

With these two visionary giants gone from the Stark County scene, the question becomes who will pick up with their drive, dedication and determination as qualities which fueled their vision and made Akron-Canton Airport an engine and hub for future Stark economic development?

Said another way, who among Akron-Canton's public and private leadership circles will step forward to fill the void left with the absence of Regula and Krum.

The primary focus of the Stark County Political Report is, of course, the public sector and Stark's political and government leaders.

2010 brings the election cycle to the fore and presents an occasion for Stark Countians to focus on the two commissioner slots that are up for selection this November.

Here are the candidates:
The SCPR has been thoroughly unimpressed with the folks who have staffed the commissioners slots going back to the mid-1970s when yours truly first moved to Stark County.

Had Stark County had a Fred Krum or Ralph Regula in a commissioner seat over those years, Stark County would not be facing the gigantic financial crisis that is presently under way.

But who can point to one single commissioner during those 35 years that in any way, shape or form approximates Krum and Regula?

There are none!

And Stark County is now paying the price!!!

The question presented for 2010 voters is this: whether or not any of the five listed above as running for Stark County commissioner have characteristics and qualities that could, 35 years from now, have Stark Countians looking back in adulation at the sterling work done in a visionary fashion to bring Stark to the fore in economic productiveness and thereby make Stark a prime Ohio location to work and live in

These are critical times for Stark's future.

Right now, Stark is not, except for a few bright spots like the Akron-Canton Airport complex and Stark State College's high tech development footprint, headed in the right the direction.

Voters need to probe the commissioner candidates and find out which of the five provide the best visionary promise - in the Krum/Regula mode - for Stark's future.

UPDATE: STARK COMMISSIONERS DOG POUND ADVISORY GROUP NEARS DECISION ON THE FINALISTS TO BE PRESENTED COMMISSIONERS FOR NEW STARK CO DOG WARDEN

The SCPR recently checked in with the head of the Stark County Commissioners' Dog Pound Advisory Group as to the progress that the group is making in narrowing down the list of 127 applicants to 5 to 10 for the commissioners to interview.

Len Cooper, a Mount Union University communications professor, tells The Report that he and his fellow advisers have developed a list of four with the possibility more could be added before the recommended list is forwarded to commissioners some time next week.

The SCPR is impressed with the work of the Advisory Group and commends the Stark Commissioners for setting up and staffing the group as a effective way for Stark County to come up with a warden who has the credentials to solve the problems that have plagued Stark County's Dog Pound operations in recent years.

The best way to summarize the work of the Advisory Group is to let group chairman Len Cooper speak for himself, to wit:
So far all of our candidates have an excellent understanding of and experience with
1) human treatment of animals in their care
2) excellent experience working with rescue groups, foster programs, and community outreach in relation to animals; and
3) management experience in and around animal-care organizations, shelters and rescues.
We've got some real progressive thinkers in terms of ideas and plans for the dog pound and I speak for the entire board when I say we're excited about the possibilities.
SCPR readers can depend on The Report to keep tabs on the dog warden selection process with updated reports as the process matures.

When the group recommends to the commissioners, the SCPR will revisit the applications and provide more information to blog readers about the candidates so that readers are equipped to weigh-in with the commissioners about their concerns.


Thursday, March 25, 2010

BOCCIERI OFFICE EXPENSE: ABOUT $1 MILLION A YEAR, IS HE WORTH IT?

Which way will it swing for Congressman John Boccieri (Dem - Alliance).  Has he proven his worth to a majority of 16th congressional district voters or not?

Last year he cost 16th district voters and, indeed, all Americans about $1 million:

While it is seven plus months away from "accountability day" for Boccieri, the SCPR believes that Boccieri will survive the November, 2010 elections and remain in the United States Congress as the 16th's representative.

The Report does not believe that his reelection should cause Boccieri to think that the majority thinks he has been "worth every penny."  Rather, he should think, they value him enough, given the alternative, to give him another term.

Boccieri probably played it just right in being coy as to what his "true" position was on any given "big" issue.

Two big issues stand out as accountability factors in Boccieri's reelection try:  Cap and Trade and Health Care Reform.

His poorest performance was on Cap and Trade.

He had nearly everyone in the 16th believing that he would vote no on Cap and Trade.  In his "Congressman on Your Corner" cameo's throughout the 16th, he saturated his presentations with a negative on the environmental legislation.  But in the end he voted the Pelosi position and then got mad when it was pointed out by the SCPR that a little bit of ear-marking had gone on to get his vote.

Probably as an additional payoff, when it came to a series of votes on Health Care reform, the SCPR believes that Peolosi gave Boccieri a pass to vote no on the legislation in its earliest stage apparently because the Stupak amendment (prohibiting federal financing of abortions) was not part of the package.

In the end, this was an effective maneuver for Boccieri in the 16th.  This vote gave him some bona fides with the more moderate Republican types in the 16th. 

Why is this good for Boccieri?

Because the SCPR believes more and more that Matt Miller will be the Republican nominee coming out of the Republican primary in May.

None of the for extreme elements of the Republican right will be voting for Boccieri (a Democrat) under any cirumstances.  But the more moderate elements are a different matter.

And that, in a nutshell, appears to the The Report to be the core of Boccieri campaign overall strategy, to wit:

Paint the Republican survivor of the primary as being right-wing, and get to victory in November on the more flexible part of the 16th district electorate.

It seems to The Report that all the Republican candidates for the 16th district congressional nod are leaning to the right.  Former Wadsworth mayor Jim Rennaci (and car dealer) is supposed to be the "most" moderate among a group that includes Miller, Doyle Smith and the extreme right Paul Schiffer.  But at a recent "debate" at Plain Township Glenoak High School (if you can call it a debate), Renacci, Miller and - to a lesser degree - Smith were playing to Schiffer-esque right extremism.

The only one that will have this to come back to haunt him in a general election contest with Boccieri, is Renacci.

Why is that?

Because going into the primary, Renacci - as stated above - was thought by most area political observers to be a Republican moderate.

Voters already know that Miller is solidly right wing.  So he does not get hurt among core-right voters in a general election, even if he swings - during the primary - towards the Schiffer position.

Smith isn't a factor because his political identity is so low that he has no chance whatsoever to survive the Republican primary as the winner.  So, even though Smith gave every indication at Glenoak that he was the most moderate of the group - more moderate than Renacci - if such is perceived by the rank-in-file Republican primary voter, it places him at the bottom of the foursome in terms of outcome.  Even Schiffer will likely best him.

Renacci, if he can appear to be right-wing enough, may survive the Republican primary, but his primary positions will be worked big-time against him by the Boccieri forces in the November general election.

The SCPR believes that Renacci, as Republican nominee, will be sufficiently damaged by his primary race right-drift within 16th district Republicanism, that Boccieri will peel off enough moderate Republican votes and maintain enough of the district's independents in the general election to get a new term in the U.S. House. But the race will be won by a margin of one or two percentage points, if that.

If Miller is the Republican nominee, then Boccieri's win margin increases by two fold.

Miller will be an effective challenger, but his achilles heel will be his perceived pronounced right wingedness.   Accordingly, he will - on the result side of the general election - leave political pundits impressed by his electoral performance, but he remains the perennial 16th district political bridesmaid.

It is in a Boccieri/Miller match up that Boccieri benefit from having looked like a liberal at times and like a conservative at times.  Confused voters will likely perceive him to be the more thoughtful and flexible candidate and therefore the most acceptable.

In a Bocceri/Renacci race, the confusion hurts Boccieri and that is why the race could come down to the wire as a razor-thin margin for Boccieri.

Moreover, a Boccieri/Renacci match up will boil down to the Boccierians trying to paint Renacci (based on his Republican primary performance) as more right-wing than he had been previously billed and therefore unacceptable to the great middle of the 16th district's voter profile.

If Boccieri wins this race, then 16th district voters can expect to see Boccieri to be holding office for the foreseeable future.  He will be challenged biennially, but not seriously a la most of the Regula and Frank Bow times in Congress.

In an interesting twist, the SCPR believes that had Kirk Schuring been the Republican nominee this time around, he would have been very likely to defeat Boccieri in a re-match.

In politics, timing is everything!

SENATOR KIRK SCHURING (R-29TH) BILL TO REQUIRE IDENTIFICATION OF $125 PLUS CAMPAIGN CONTRIBUTORS (INCLUDING LOCAL CANDIDATES) NEARING PASSAGE? NEW ABILITY TO TRACK HEALY OUT-OF-TOWN CONTRIBUTIONS?

For about a year now, the SCPR has been working with Stark Countian Senator Kirk Schuring to have Ohio law amended to require "local candidates" to identify "large" (in the sense of $100 or more) contributors in terms of affiliation/vocation on "local" candidates' campaign finance reports.

On October 22, 2009 was The Report was one of several who testified in favor the change to campaign finance reporting.

Senator Bill Seitz made a couple of constructive suggestions to improve the original bill.  One was to index the reportable contribution amount to account for inflation and the second centered on requiring the Ohio secretary of state to audit campaign finance reports within a period of time or the report would be deemed to be correct.

Senator Schuring tells the SCPR that the initial indexing was done by the Legislative Service Commission and was recommended to be at $125.  Moreover, the amount is to be increased only in $25 increments over ensuing years.  In terms of applying the indexing, the amount would not be raised until the indexing process reached or exceeded $150, $175 and so on.

Another important change to the bill would require the Ohio secretary of state (SOS) to audit within one year of the filing of a given report or lose the right.  Anyone who has ever run for elective office will appreciate having "finalization" to submitted reports and not having the SOS come back years after the report was submitted with questions and requests for additional information.

Although there are not that many $125 or higher contributions to local candidates in most local races, it came to light to The Report in the Healy/Creighton campaign that there are local races that generate considerable $125 or higher contributions that merit scrutiny.

Accordingly, The Report asked Senator Schuring to sponsor legislation taking corrective action.

Schuring says that he is optimistic that the measure will pass the Ohio General Assembly and become law over the next few months.

A SCPR "tip-of-the-hat" to Senator J. Kirk Schuring.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

COULD NORTH CANTON USE ITS "WATER ASSET" TO GO A LONG WAY IN SOLVING ITS MORE IMMEDIATE BUDGET NEEDS PROBLEM?

UPDATE 03/25/2010 AT 9:00 AM

Hello Martin,
I have a number of rebuttals to your latest update. I am not sure who your “Very Knowledgeable Source” is but let me just say this about the assertions that source has made:
 
First, Are you trying to tell me that Arcadis had a hand in the original Aqua Ohio water agreement and then years later they are now rendering an opinion that it was a very bad deal for the City of North Canton and needs to be renegotiated?
 
...
 
If that statement is true, DO YOU THINK ARCADIS WOULD ADMIT THAT THEY GUIDED THE CITY IN FORMULATING THE ORIGINAL AQUA OHIO WATER AGREEMENT? I do not think they would admit that nor do I think anyone from Arcadis had any hand in the original Aqua water agreement. If you wanted to prove or disprove that statement, the individual to contact at Arcadis is water engineer Bob McNutt.
 
Second, I also do not believe that the Aqua water agreement had anything to do with getting the Akron Canton Airport as a customer. There is no reasoning for that statement and  never heard of any connection between those events.
 
Third, The council member involved in the current negotiations is the same council member who had a hand in the original Aqua water agreement and is the same council member who has defended that agreement for years.
 
Fourth, In my comments to council in the summer of 2006, I noted that the North Canton water superintendent was not consulted. That statement has never been challenged since the presentation to council nearly four years ago.
 
Fifth, If you will look at the Arcadis Water Study, they clearly state that the city sold water at a rate of $1.52 per thousand gallons while at the same time production costs (variable costs only) amounted to $2.20 per thousand gallons (see page six of the water study). THAT IS A NET LOSS OF $0.68 PER THOUSAND GALLONS. And Arcadis spells that out in black and white.
 
I also might suggest that you look to page four of the report where Arcadis breaks down production costs per “Expense Subcategory.” Budgeted 2009 water production costs per thousand gallons was $7.28 per thousand gallons. Projected water production costs for 2010 is $5.74 per thousand gallons up twenty-four cents from 2008 actual production costs of $5.55 per thousand gallons.
 
I hope you add this to your update on that post.
 
Thanks,
 
Chuck Osborne
 
 

UPDATE:  March 24, 2010 04:45

From a very knowledgeable source:

Water funds are enterprise funds. By law they may be only spent with the enterprise.  Water profit, for example, cannot be redirected to the safety services.

Here is another factoid:  the original contract was the work product of a group consisting of our engineer, water supt, administrator (
Mike Miller) and the very same rep from Arcadis.  It is my understanding that Miller accepted some recommendations and rejected others based upon his experience in Canton: hence the contract as it exists.

In addition, the contract gave the city a strategic customer: the airport.


And I point out that the current report explicitly states that depending on the accounting method "the city recognized a net operating profit of approximately $110,000 in 2009."

Better process now: yes because the negotiations include the law department, finance director and a member of council.


Other potential water sources for Aqua: Canton.

ORIGINAL POST

North Canton is facing upwards of $1 million in revenue shortfalls within the next year.  And, the deficiency could result in about 15 layoffs from the city's workforce.

If the layoffs occur, it would be nearly impossible for North Canton to provide "current" service levels to the citizens of the Dogwood City.

So what is the solution to what ails North Canton?

It could be that the doggedness of "pain in the _ss" (to many of North Canton's councilpersons and city administration members) activist Chuck Osborne will help North Canton find a way out of its dilemma.

Chuck has found, what he says is a $13 to $15 million give-a-way that North Canton officials have made to Aqua Ohio, Inc. (a company that competes with North Canton for retail customers).   Osborne says the give-a-way dates back to the Tom Rice administration.

Even if one accepts Osborne's numbers and rationale, it doesn't solve North Canton's current financial crisis.  North Canton desperately needs to find about $1million in short order and needs to have North Cantonians to pass two tax issues in the May primary (a 1-mill, 5 year levy for street repairs; a 1.5-mill levy for two years for emergency services).

To understand and see the validity of Osborne's overall point (not necessarily the $13 to $15 million figures), look at the table (from a NC hired consultant/expert at $18,500 - Arcadis) below:
North Canton is supposed to be "business" friendly.  But would a business believe it?

Businesses pay nearly 10 times what Aqua does while using about 1/3rd the volume.  Okay, one might get a "bulk" rate.  However, how does one explain that the big time "bulk" users - the combo "outside" North Canton user group (which would seem to more nearly match Aqua in terms of category) uses twice as much North Canton water as Aqua yet pays more that 12 times.  Doesn't seem like a whole lot of rationality to yours truly.

Let's take look at an Acadis quote in its report to North Canton (January 15, 2010).

Kind of startling, no?

Whatever is past stays in the past.  Now North Canton is about to turn a new page.

The City is negotiating with Aqua and is proposing to increase the price to Aqua at $3.60 per thousand gallons  less a cost of production of $2.20 per thousand gallons, leaving North Canton with a mere $1.40 per thousand gallons "profit."

However, with Outside City Business Accounts the City's "profit" is $7.52 per thousand gallons.

Alas, alas; this matter is not that simple.  There is a "market-force" factor that is at play, which the SCPR does not believe Osborne and Arcadis have reckoned with.
What is the maximum Aqua is willing to pay North Canton (who competes with Aqua at the retail level) before abandoning North Canton for an alternative?

One the the critical factors in negotiating with Aqua is for North Canton to know the "real" price at which Aqua would likely turn away from North Canton as a source for its water.

It appears that the only viable option is for Aqua to develop its own well-fields.  And this is a very expensive proposition.  How expensive?  North Canton does not know and it needs to find out before it negotiates any new agreement.  Once North Canton knows, then it can negotiate from power (remember:  "knowledge is power; ignorance is - merely - bliss").

How can North Canton find out a realistic approximation of Aqua's maximum price?

An answer?  Ask its consultant/expert Arcadis to supplement its study by going one more step.  North Canton needs Acadis to construct a model of what it would likely cost Aqua to develop its own well fields.

The SCPR believes it would be well worth the extra cost of paying for a supplemental study/report.

Will North Canton do it?

Probably not.

Why not?

One, because Chuck Osborne is he one pushing Council and the administration to get more money from Aqua for City water.

Wow!  That's a crazy suggestion.

It may be.  But the SCPR is convinced that some, if not most, Council members are so annoyed with Osborne and his agitation of North Canton officials over the years of his activism over many, many issues that they have a hard time accepting anything coming from him as something to seriously consider.

Osborne is suggesting a pause and reflection.  It is he SCPR's idea to have hard data developed.  However, that will take some more time.

Secondly, one City official told the SCPR that North Canton does not want to appear to be "gouging" Aqua.

That sounds kind of strange to The Report.  How many of us have been gouged by the likes of Aqua when a company thinks they have us over a barrel?

Gouging is perhaps the wrong word to use.  It is an emotionally charged word.  Market force should be the operative phrase.

Get Acadis to do the supplemental study/report and then North Canton has more or less objective data with which to do "rational" negotiating.

North Canton taxpayers get protected in the process.  This needs to be the prime concern of North Canton Council and Held administration officials.

The SCPR salutes Chuck Osborne for his work on this issue and he should be publicly recognized by Council and Mayor Held for his hard work in sifting through the Arcadis report and for reminding City officials of past mistakes made.

For it from our mistakes that we human beings learn the most.

It is looking more and more to the SCPR that North Canton is looking to repeat the mistakes of the past in selling one of its most valuable resources:  it's water and negotiating in too much of a hurry without an adequate handle on the negotiating landscape.

Who knows?  A pause in the North Canton/Aqua negotiating process and North Canton equipping itself with knowledge might provide an opportunity for North Canton with a serendipitous opportunity to plug some the $1 million dollar hole in its 2011 budget.

Perhaps there will be enough of an annual revenue increase from a more equitable (to North Canton taxpayers) water rate structure for Aqua that North Canton might lean - in negotiations - on Aqua to make a sizable advance.

Of course, such a willingness by Aqua would command a consideration on reducing the price to Aqua to correlate with the cost of loss of the value of money in the hand of Aqua, if such an advance were made.

It could be a win-win-win: for North Canton, for Aqua and for a citizen (Osborne) trying to help he City he loves.

Will wisdom prevail from whatever its source may be?  Or, will it be "damn the torpedos ... full speed ahead."

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

PLAIN TRUSTEE LOUIS GIAVASIS ONCE AGAIN PREPARED TO GO TO BAT FOR THE PEOPLE OF PLAIN TOWHSHIP. WILL NORTH CANTON, MASSILLON, HILLS & DALES, JACKSON, LAKE, LAWRENCE, PERRY AND TUSCARAWAS TOWNSHIP FOLLOW HIS LEAD?


UPDATE/CORRECTION:  MARCH 24, 2010

As pointed out by a SCPR reader, The Report missed that Jackson Township passed a resolution on Monday night with The Repository reporting that Trustee James Walters termed the expected  request for increase (20%) as being "outrageous."

UPDATE:  MARCH 23, 2010 AT 4:15 PM.

The SCPR just received a call from Trustee Craig Chessler (Perry Township) to inform yours truly that Perry Township will also be considering a resolution objecting to Aqua's 20% requested increase to be made by Aqua to the PUCO

ORIGINAL POST

Last week it came out that Aqua Ohio, Inc will be asking the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio on or about April 1, 2010 to allow it to increase rates 20% on its Ohio water customers which includes thousands of Stark Countians.

The commissioners will be considering a resolution soon to ask the PUCO to deny the request.

It will likely be the Plain Township trustees who will act first.  And, it is "fitting and proper" for Plain to be first.

Why is that?

Because one of Stark County's better advocates for the people is Plain Trustee Louis Giavasis.  He has written the SCPR to the effect he will be offering a resolution at tonight's regular township meeting.

Giavasis deserves credit for being the foremost Stark County government official to step forward to convince the PUCO to cut down on American Electric Power's request for a gigantic - over three years - increase about a year ago or so.

The Report applauds Giavasis for his work on behalf of ordinary types who need the voice of government to speak loudly and clearly on their behalf.

A SCPR "tip-of-the-hat" to Trustee Louis Giavasis for looking out for the people of Plain Township and by extension for all Aqua water users throughout Stark County!

GOOD POINT: "WHATSAMATTA," WHY CAN'T THE STARK COUNTY COMMISSIONERS KEEP THE MINUTES OF ITS WEEKLY MEETING MORE UP-TO-DATE?


Thank you, J Fugitt!!! (a Repository commenter)

Fugitt wrote, in part, as a comment to Jeff Gauger:  Government in sunshine can sometimes blind you (March 22, 2010) as follows:
Well lets see. I have asked numerous times that the Commisioners office keep their online meeting minutes reasonably up to date. After numerous requests, Commisioner Ferguson finally answered my request and gave a reason that the minutes were out of date. (new emplyoyee {sic} was not up to speed). I also emailed the REP and Mr. Gauger indicated he would pass my issue onto his primary person who handled such issues. Finally, the meeting minutes were updated to agree with my request of no older than 2 weeks. (emphasis added)
The graphic above proves Fugitt's point in a quote below.  The SCPR captured the Stark County commissioners website moments ago.
Well, you can check them now and the last minutes published are 1-13-2010. So you tell me what sunshine is good for if you can't get to the information. I even asked for hard copies for specific sets of minutes. Never got copies or even an acknowledgement of my request. Even if I might be required to pay for the copies or postage or come down to pick them up myself.
One of the problems with the National Association of Newspaper Editors focusing on "sunshine" one week out of the year is that local newspapers like The Repository do not do an effective job keeping the sun shining the remaining 364 days a year.

Shame on the Stark County commissioners for not being able to do a simple thing like keep its weekly minutes up-to-date.

Inattention to the public's right to have information as expeditiously as possible is one of many reasons why the commissioners and other county officials can expect difficulties in getting a renewal of the 1/4 of one percent sales tax come November, 2010.

Commissioner Pete Ferguson is a nice man; maybe too nice.  Obviously, he was not effective in bringing to the attention of responsible administrative people that the minutes need to be kept up-to-date.  The SCPR has long observed that being a county commissioner is not a job for Pete Ferguson.  In the opinion of The Report, he does not have enough of a grasp of how government works in its innermost recesses and therefore lacks the wherewithal to get things done.

The Report believes that Fugitt is too generous with the county.  Two weeks?  Way too long.  The minutes should be posted before the next ensuing meeting is held.

The SCPR is taking it on to see to it that the minutes are kept more current.

A critical difference between The Repository and the SCPR is that The Report gets on a story and stays with it until it is resolved in the public interest.

STARK CO PROSECUTOR JOHN FERRERO “POLITICALLY?” ATTACKS THE WRITER OF THE SCPR UNDER THE GUISE OF MAKING A “RULES OF PROFESSIONAL RESPONSIBILITY” COMPLAINT, BUT DISCIPLINARY COUNSEL ISN’T BUYING!


Since March, 2008, yours truly has been writing a political blog on the ins and outs of Stark County politics and government.

In January, 2009, a situation materialized in Marlboro Township wherein Police Chief Ron Devies and his son Kyle were being investigated on allegations of tampering with the township's computer operations.

In the opinion of the SCPR, when the facts of the case became known (and The Report did have the chief's version which was recorded on video and published on the SCPR), it was clear that the Devies had done nothing wrong and that the file-up was a consequence of improper communications between the Devies and township trustees (Wise and Wolf).

Accordingly, from the outset The Report believed that no charges would be filed against the Devies once Sheriff Swanson and Prosecutor John Ferrero got into the matter.

Well, the SCPR was wrong and the Devies both got charged with fourth degree felonies and some misdemeanor charges.

While yours truly does not write the Stark County Political Report as a lawyer commenting on the legal significance of legal-connected matters, it was abundantly clear to anyone - it doesn't take a lawyer - that something was not right about the Devies being indicted.

And, of course, even the general public knows that saying, which has a lot of truth to it, to wit:  "a prosecutor worth his salt could indict a ham sandwich."

Once the indictments occurred, The Report (believing quality of the case to be almost non-existent) predicted in these pages that Ferrero's legal staff would try to "plea bargain" out of the felonies.  And they did (confirmed to The Report by the one of the Devies' attorneys).  Only trouble with plea bargaining effort was that the Devies were not buying.

They were firm in their conviction that they had done nothing wrong.

The Devies went out and got a couple of outstanding local attorneys (Jakimedes and Reinbold [a retired Stark County Common Pleas judge.]

Once the trial began (the fall of 2009), the SCPR was there with camera-in-hand to record the testimony.  If anything, the testimony of Chief Deputy Perez (especially) and others reinforced The Report's (layman-vantage-point/yours truly is not a criminal defense attorney) take on the case.

The Report believes that most non-lawyers (and, perhaps, all criminal defense attorneys) would say that the case should NOT have been brought in the first place!

But it was and the long and the short of it is that Judge Lee Sinclair did the right thing in dismissing the case after chief criminal prosecutor Dennis Barr completed Ohio's case.

Hallelujah!  The system worked!!!

While the Devies were undoubtedly gratified at the results, they had to be thinking to themselves what an injustice it was that they had been put through this process.

People do make mistakes.  The SCPR believes that Ferrero's office made a mistake in not identifying this situation for what it was and resolving the matter well short of charges being made and, certainly, well short of an actual trial being started.

After the case dismissal, all John Ferrero had to do was to publicly apologize to the Devies and the Stark County general public for the mistake the SCPR believes his office made.

The Report has confirmed with Chief Devies that a Ferrero apology would make all the difference in the world.

In making such an apology, Ferrero owes it to the public to give some sort of explanation as to how Devies could happen and what structures and procedures of government he will put in place to ensure that there is not a Devies II.

Ferrero has had opportunities to apologize to Chief Devies (in terms of proximity) on a number of occasions, but never did.  On one such occasion, Devies tells the SCPR that he and Ferrero were within two people of one another. However, in the final analysis, it does not take proximity.

Undoubtedly, Executive Editor Gauger will provide a forum. It would be a shot in the arm for a mediocre - at best - editorial board.

After all, you have two honorable, community serving men who faced the prospect of prison time, if convicted. The Report is adamant that an apology needs to be forthcoming.

The SCPR is pleased to have written as no other Stark County media outlet wrote during this - what appears to have been - a miscarriage of justice in the sense of Ferrero seeking indictments and carrying the matter onto trial   But, of course, not when the matter got in Judge Sinclair's hand.

The Report (knowing Sinclair as well as yours truly does) knew that he would get it right.

Post-dismissal, Ferrero should have "eaten a little crow."  Ferrero should have said that the SCPR had it right from the get-go, apologized to the Devies and the Stark general public (with some explanation and remediation initiative), and then moved on.

Well, the only thing that Ferrero did was move on.

Where did he move to?

You are not going to believe this.

Ferrero (who hails from Massillon - any connection to Judge Eddie Elum and Massillon clerk of courts Johnnie A. Maier, Jr?)  files a violation of the Ohio Rules Professional Responsibility against yours truly, as if I had written the blog as an attorney and, as if what was written was not covered by an attorney's Ohio and U.S constitutional rights to free speech.


Of course, Ferrero was nowhere near yours truly's actual role in filing the complaint:  that of being an opinion journalist and politics/government commentator.

And the irony of it?

First, it got dismissed pretty much out-of-hand; as it should had been.  (Yours truly only learned about the complaint after the Disciplinary Counsel made her decision).

Second, the decision makes it apparent to yours truly that he was within his Ohio and U.S. constitutional right - EVEN WRITING AS AN ATTORNEY (which he wasn't) - to free speech in writing as has been written.

To emphasize, the fact of the matter is that yours truly was not writing as an attorney.

You would think that when Ferrero gets "slam-dunked" for a second time, he would have it in him to telephone yours truly and apologize for filing a totally unwarranted complaint. 

But he hasn't and, yours truly is not holding his breath waiting for the warranted apology.

Ferrero's action in filing the complaint, could not realistically be - in the opinion of The Report - a concern about the SCPR's respect for Stark County bar and its courts.  Anyone who knows yours truly, knows that The Report respects Stark's attorneys and judges to the highest degree.

However, as a journalist, The Report will not gloss over what The Report perceives to be a problem in the administration of justice in Stark County.

The SCPR believes that Ferrero was using the Ohio Rules of Professional Responsibility as a political attack.  Not only for John Ferrero, but many other Stark County elected officials who have been subjected to The Report's incisive political/governmental analysis.  They don't like The Report's findings and opinions and are desperately looking for ways - any way, including the clearly inapplicable - to shut Olson up.

So it could be that the general query among these politicos is this:  How can we stop Olson?  Obviously, Ferrero is going to deny such to have had such a motivation.  Nonetheless, that strong suspicion lingers with yours truly.

Again, The Report believes that Ferrero - if he was motivated as yours truly suspects -  was the lead not just for himself in a "what about my political future" context, but for number of  other Stark County officials who have come under intense scrutiny of the SCPR. 

The Canton Repository did a pathetic job of opinionating on the Devies matter.  But that is Executive Editor Jeff Gauger for you.  He appears to The Report to be so intent on maintaining his newspaper's insider relationship with the "powers that be" in Stark County that the SCPR sees him as directing the editorial staff to steer clear of the likes of Ferrero in any kind of critical vein.

At the end of this story, one thing should be abundantly clear.  Stark County needs a new prosecutor.  If a police chief can be put through what the Devies got put through, then shouldn't the rest of us worry?

Ferrero will have to stand for reelection in 2012. Who shall run against him?

Last time out, Ferrero ran unopposed.  Big mistake!  That will not happen again, even if yours truly has to (reluctantly) run. Campaign theme:  "Remember Devies!"

The SCPR plans to keep up the drumbeat for Ferrero being cast aside by voters in November, 2012.  Preferably, it will be at the hand of  one of Stark County's many able attorneys; someone other than yours truly.

Notwithstanding Prosecutor Ferrero's endeavor to tarnish the professional reputation of yours truly, the SCPR pledges to the Stark County public to keep the heat on; not only Ferrero, but all of Stark County government.  For sure, The Report expects to get "blow-back."

In the meantime, yours truly is waiting for a Prosecutor John Ferrero apology!

As is the Devies family!!

As is the Stark County general public!!!

Monday, March 22, 2010

A COMPLETE VINDICATION OF FRANCIS H. CICCHINELLI, JR? TODD V. CICCHINELLI, ET AL


DISCLAIMER:  This blog is posted in the context of being opinion journalism and has nothing to do whatsoever with the fact that the blogger is an attorney-at-law.

Mayor Francis H. Cicchnelli, Jr., tells the SCPR that the City of Massillon has been victorious on all counts in Massillonian Edward Todd's lawsuit versus Cicchinelli and other Massillon officials in their official capacities.

And, the SCPR has obtained a copy of Judge Haas' decision that validates Cicchnelli's claim, to wit:
Conclusion
Construing the pleadings, affidavits, and other supporting documents in a light most favorable to Plaintiff, the Court finds Defendants are entitled to judgment as a matter of law as set forth. herein.
Ordinance 235-2002 was not unlawful and the Recreation Board legally controls and directs the operation of the Legends.
Further, the Recreation Board has properly used Park Levy funds in its direction and control of the Legends.
With regard to Genshaft Park, the Court will not issue a declaration regarding the lawfulness of the Ordinance purporting to sell the Park as the issue is moot nor will this Court issue an advisory opinion as to whether or not City Council, in passing Ordinance 92-007, abused its discretion.
Finally, any future sale of Genshaft Park may be effectuated through the Massillon Community Improvement Corporation without Recreation Board approval or competitive bidding  
This is a final appealable order and it is so ordered.
The SCPR believes that Cicchinelli has it right and therefore has made the decision to post this blog noting the Cicchinelli-vouched result of the case.  Moreover, The Report believes that the source of the email with the face page of the court order attached is indication in and of itself that matters went well for the Mayor, his administration and other Massillon city officials named as parties in the lawsuit.

The case was filed in May, 2009.

Mayor Cicchinelli has told the SCPR that the litigation was the work of his political enemies, one of whom he identified as being Massillon Municipal Court Judge Edward J. Elum.

 

If Cicchinelli is correct in his assessment of the political motivation, then it will be interesting to see whether or not the result in this case has any affect on the relationship between Cicchinelli and Elum.

Right now there is a fuss underway between Elum and the Mayor appointed police chief Rob Williams.  This afternoon the Mayor repeated to The Report that nothing has changed and that he disagreed that a recent one and one half hour meeting between the Chief and Elum yielded positive results as Elum claimed in an email to the SCPR.

The next thing to look for in the Massillon political scene is whether or not Cicchinelli decides to run for yet another term.  He has been mayor since 1988, but is thought to be in for a challenge by Councilwoman Kathy Catazaro-Perry who is allied with another political enemy of Cicchinelli; namely, Johnnie A. Maier, Jr. who is Massillon clerk of courts and a former chairman of the Stark County Democratic Party.

Cicchinelli has told The Report he will be making his decision no later than this coming summer.

If he decides to run, a Cicchinelli/Catazaro-Perry will be a continuation of the political "cat fight" that has been going on in Tigerland for some years now!

The Report does not believe this is helpful to a city that is struggling in tough economic times, but such is politics.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

MANY STARK COUNTIANS ABOUT TO EXPERIENCE A "HUGE" WATER BILL INCREASE? WHAT WILL YOUR LOCAL GOVERNMENT DO TO STOP IT?

Certain Stark County users' water utility costs could go sky-high come next January.

How's that?

Aqua Ohio/America, Inc., has announced to the Stark County commissioners that the company will be requesting a 20% hike in its water rates effective January, 2011.

Here are a couple of excerpts from the Aqua letter to commissioners:


A little background about Aqua Ohio/America, Inc. ("America" being the parent company) courtesy of North Canton community activist Chuck Osborne:
Aqua Ohio, Inc. is Ohio’s largest investor owned water utility. It provides drinking water and wastewater services to nearly 84,000 customers (nearly 250,000 people) in five counties from surface and groundwater supplies.

Was most recently known as Consumers Ohio Water Company until it merged with Philadelphia Suburban Corporation (PSC) in 1999. PSC was renamed Aqua America, Inc., in 2004, and Consumers Ohio Water Company became Aqua Ohio.

Is the nation’s largest U.S. based publicly-traded water company. Aqua America is a holding company for regulated utilities providing water or wastewater services in thirteen states.
Other than what subscribers it has in North Canton, Aqua also buys water from North Canton.  Osborne has been critical of the Aqua/North Canton contract and the SCPR will be doing a blog on his work and North Canton City Council's "apparent" unwillingness to protect the North Canton taxpayers.

But the topic of this blog is whether or not Stark County local governments (Jackson, Lake, Perry, Plain Tuscarawas, Hills and Dales, Massillon, and North Canton will protect its residents from this huge (20%/all-at-once) increase.

Not long ago American Electric Power (AEP) and First Energy worked over its consumers of electric power for a gigantic increase.  However, that increase was over three years (AEP); not just in one year as is the quest of Aqua.

On the AEP issue a few local government officials worked big-time to keep the AEP increase within reason.

Who were those officials?

The two main ones were Commissioner Todd Bosley and Trustee Louis Giavasis (Plain Township) with special SCPR accolades going to Giavasis.  Moreover, community activists William Daugherty and Kevin Ellis were effective to tamp down on the AEP effort.

It looks as if the Stark County commissioners are going to lead the way in a fight for the county's 2,000 plus Aqua customers.

Massillon has 13,000 plus Aqua users and one would expect Mayor Cicchinelli and Massillon City Council to fight this increase big time within the hearing structure provided by the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO).

What will Stark's other - affected -  local governments of Jackson, Lake, Lawrence, Plain, Hills and Dales and North Canton do for their people?

Here is a video clip showing Commissioner Bosley's and Meek's reaction:

 

Saturday, March 20, 2010

HOW MUCH INPUT WILL THE STARK COUNTY DOG POUND ADVISORY GROUP HAVE IN THE "NEW" DOG WARDEN SELECTION PROCESS?

One of the ways local government officials get the trust of the everyday citizen is to include them in the process of governing.

On Thursday last, the SCPR attended a meeting of a group of the Stark County commissioner appointed dog pound advisory group headed up by Mount Union University communications professor Len Cooper.

These folks are embarked on a very important task.

They had before them 127 applications for dog warden.  The position became vacant when commissioners relieved Evert Gibson (warden since 2004) of the job.  (By the way, - ATTENTION:  STARK COUNTY COMMISSIONER WEBMASTER - Gibson is still listed as warden on the Dog Pound page of the Stark County commissioners website)  

Most people have dogs, dearly love them.  And it was clear to the SCPR that the six (of seven - there is one vacancy) member advisory group members love dogs, and are out to make sure that the new dog warden is top-notch.

But the SCPR's question is:  how much input will they have?

The Report picked up at the meeting that the advisers themselves have concerns.  A part of the Thursday discussion was a concern that once the group completes its task of winnowing the 127 applications down to 5 to 10, that they will be told "thank you" we [the commissioners and the commissioners alone] will make the final choice.

And, make the final decision, they should.  However, shouldn't an adviser be included in the final set of interviews (of the finalists)?  The advisory groups wants interim dog warden Fox to be part of the finalists interviews, too.

If the commissioners are smart, they will include an adviser and Fox.  Such will be a step in the right direction in making a quality decision as to whom to hire, and it will be a signal to everyday Stark Countians that the commissioners want citizen input.

The list of invitees stands at eleven.  Interviews begin today, will carryover to Monday and conclude on Thursday next with a teleconference interview with out-of-stater applicants and locals who, for one reason or another, cannot make an in person session.

What criteria have been set up as priorities for candidates?

First, some non-standard factors:

  • someone who is computer savvy.  The SCPR was surprised to learn that the Dog Pound is not using the Pound's computer system effectively.
  • someone who will not fall into "a good ole boys network."
  • someone who understands law enforcement considerations and will work closely with Stark County policing authorities.  One member complained that Stark's policing agencies did not have a quality relationship with former warden Gibson and said that his top priority was to have a new warden who would connect and coordinate the Pound's work with area law enforcement.
Next, the more standard factors: (taken from the goals of the Dog Pound as articulated on the Dog Pound page of the Stark County commissioners website:

  • "To enforce the rules and regulations relating to dogs in accordance with the Ohio Revised Code.
  • "To provide our customers (both internal and external) the best quality service." 
  • "To operate the department using sound business practices." 
  • "To patrol the county, respond to calls, and capture stray puppies and dogs using the best available methods." 
  • "To assist the general public with the redemption of lost puppies and dogs." 
  • "To work with the general public and rescue organizations in the placement of adoptable puppies and dogs." 
"To educate the general public in the areas of responsible pet ownership, spaying/neutering, and bite avoidance."  Interim warden Kevin Fox was at the meeting and he presented the Pound's February statistics.

Here they are with SCPR commentary:

  • 103 strays picked up.  Fox says this is a high number for February and attributed the increase to the downturn in the economy.
  • 1 surrender.
  • 13 requested destructions.  Surrender and requested destructions could entail up to $74 in fees ($50 Pound imposed fee plus $12 licensing charge - if unlicensed plus a $12 late licensing fee)
  • 5 quarantines.
  • 16 redeems by owner.
  • 58 adoptions
  • 3 transfers to the Stark County Humane Society
  • 30 euthanized (22 of them pit bulls)
Now for what the commissioners have in mind, presupposing, of course, that Commissioner Todd Bosley speaks for the entire board of commissioner:

Here is a video of a press conference that occurred immediately after the commissioners had relieved Evert Gibson of his dog warden responsibilities.

Friday, March 19, 2010

CONGRESSMAN JOHN BOCCIERI SHOULD VOTE FOR HEALTH CARE!

Apparently, the extreme right wing of the political spectrum (the SCPR won't say the Republican Party because The Report does not believe that most Republicans support the tactics of the 9-12/teaparty groups) has gotten the word that Congressman John Boccieri is about to support the President's health care initiative in a congressional vote this coming Sunday.

The Report got e-mailed the above flyer (in an unedited format) a day or two ago.  Yours truly has never had much use for the 9-12/teabagger movement and the flyer tells one and all why these organizations are not credible politically active organizations.

So let me get this right?

If Boccieri votes yes on health care reform, he's a traitor?

But if he votes no, he is a patriot?

Most Stark Countians and voters in the 16th congressional district eschew these kinds of tactics.  And so should Congressman Boccieri.

The SCPR views the rhetoric, the tactics and the strategy of these groups to be the equivalent of the John Birch Society of yore.  As an aside, reports have surfaced in the general media about the possible resurgence of the John Birch Society.  If so, the Society will no longer be out there in the fringe alone, it has company with the 9-12/teabagger movements.

Opposition/pressure from these extremists on Boccieri, should tell the congressman all he needs to know about how he should vote.

The SCPR challenges Boccieri to vote yes on the proposed legislation.

On what basis?

First, it is the right thing to do.  Health care insurance companies need to be reined in.  Well known for their arbitrary, excessive-premium-hiking ways to price "undesirables" off its insurance rolls and to deny, deny and deny even more on pre-existing conditions on the absolutely critical need of a human being for healthcare insurance.  They are completely out-of-control and need to be managed by the people of this great nation.

Second, Congressional Budget Office (CBO) figures published yesterday show that passing the current health care initiative will be a federal deficit reducer.

Third, as a Democrat, if Boccieri and enough of his Democratic colleagues vote to scuttle the President's initiative, then he has participated in creating a slippery slope which will likely make him, his colleagues, and the Democratic majority as well as the President "lame ducks" who cannot formulate and pass legislative measures that they think will help the country.

Those are the reasons why the Stark County Political Report urges Congressman John Boccieri to vote YES on health care reform!