Friday, December 31, 2010

VIDEO: STARK COUNTY POLITICAL REPORT'S "STARK COUNTY POLITICIAN OF 2010"


Councilman Phil Davison of Minerva, Ohio was absolutely stunning with his presentation at Wednesday evening's Stark County Republican Party's executive committee meeting to select a nominee to run for Stark County treasurer to replace Stark County commissioner deposed treasurer Gary D. Zeigler.

Commissioners forced Zeigler out of office under the authority of Ohio Revised Code Section 321.38 because of the loss some $2.96 million of county money under his watch as county treasurer.  Former Chief Deputy Vince Frustaci has admitted to stealing of $2.46 million of the missing money. The remaining money has not been accounted for.  Zeigler has had a civil suit filed against him by the county commissioners to recover the missing money from him on a legal theory of personal liability.   Zeigler is contesting the suit.

Davison rocked the assembly at The Johnson Center of Malone University located in Canton, Ohio with his "hellfire and brimstone" political presentation the likes of which few politically involved citizens have ever seen.

It could be that earlier in American history, the Davison-esque style was not all that uncommon.  But in 2010, it certainly is.

While Davison did not get the nomination (North Canton Finance Director Alex Zumbar did), he certainly "stole the show!"
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GIAVASIS, CIRELLI & SCHULMAN LOSE ON THE FRACKING (HORIZONAL HYDRAULIC DRILLING) ISSUE IN STARK COUNTY? KASICH IS ON RECORD AS BEING HIGHLY IN FAVOR OF EXPLORING MARCELLUS SHALE NATURAL GAS DEPOSITS


Earlier this week, Plain Township resident and Canton-based Attorney William G. Williams sent a letter to the Plain Township trustees telling them, in essence, to back off of Trustee Louis Giavasis' bold initiative via trustee resolution to banning oil and gas industry plans to explore, drill and extract natural gas encased in the rock of the Marcellus Shale underground strata or face possible dire personal consequences.

Even before Williams sent his letter (expedited via e-mail and published in full on the SCPR blog), The Report predicted that pressure from "on-high" would be forthcoming.  Apparently, Williams is the "designated hitter" for the oil and gas industry in Stark County.  

And he is a well connected Stark County Republican.


Although Republican state Representative-elect Kirk Schuring (51st) denies that he is allied with the oil and gas industry on the fracking issue, the SCPR is skeptical.  

The Report believes that something is going on between Schuring, Plain Township Trustee Scott Haws and, perhaps, Attorney Williams to thwart Giavasis' effort in Plain.  And they all are, in varying degrees, undoubtedly committed to the Republican Party point-of-view which is generally favorable to the oil and gas industry (i.e. "drill, baby, drill").

There is little doubt from The Report's standpoint that there are clearly Republican/Democratic differences on the lateral high pressure fracking per se and its concomitant oil/gas exploration, drilling and extraction.  Stark Countians are seeing the party feuding up close and personal.

The fracking issue became dicier today with a wire report that Republican Governor-elect John Kasich said today that "the Marcellus Shale could give a needed economic boost to the state."  Moreover, "The Associated Press" reported that Kasich said that Marcellus Shale development "would be ...  'a God send' for Ohio if the formation yields a significant amount of gas."

The SCPR contacted Williams yesterday evening inquiring as to whether or not he had a heads-up from the Kasich-elect administration that Kasich was committing himself on the fracking issue and Williams responded that he had not been in touch with the Kasich folks relevant to the issue.

Undoubtedly, the likes of Republican elected politicians Haws, Schuring, Oelslager and Snitchler will be emboldened by the Governor-elect's announcement and will turn out to be important allies of the oil and gas industry to put a stop to the Democratic Party centered opposition to developing local reserves of natural gas.

The political stakes are high for each political party.  Developing new sources of energy is a high priority for the nation.  Natural gas resources are of growing importance.  And there is a local twist.  A number of Ohio school districts (including the Canton City Schools) are seriously entertaining the thought of converting school bus fleets to natural gas.

While the advocates of going ahead with fracking acknowledge some risk to water contamination   and the release of explosive gases when drillers do not follow drilling protocol, they say that the risk is minimal.  They like to point out that all of life has inherent risk and equate drilling and extraction problems to such risk.

Opponents counter that any risk whatsoever to drinking water supplies is unacceptable and vow to fight fracking to the bitter end.  The only realistic vehicle for opponents is through Democratic elected officials who are willing to make that fight.  

Why would they be willing the to make the fight?

Perhaps on the hunch that Republicans are so wedded to the oil and gas industry (as was apparent from the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico) that should the Republican position be a miscalculation, then those who defended the fresh water supply will come out in a politically advantaged position.

Such is politics folks.

The question that the SCPR has in light of the Williams letter and Governor-elect Kasich's annoucement  is whether or not the primary elected official-opponents to surface so far in Stark County (Trustee Giavasis, Canton City Council President Allen Schulman and Councilwoman Mary Cirelli) will stand their ground.

The Report believes that they will not.

Local environmental activists tell the SCPR that Schulman is already showing signs of fading.  It also appears to The Report that Giavasis is also in full retreat by virtue of his readily agreeing to a tabling of Tuesday's Plain Township consideration of his proposed resolution. 
However, the SCPR is not sure that the Democrats who have spoken out against fracking will abandon ship.

We should all know, as far as Stark County is concerned, in very short order.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

WILL "HE" (BOSLEY) BE BACK?


Today is Democrat Todd Bosley's last meeting as a Stark County commissioner.  But that was to be the case no matter what happened in his race against Republican Todd Snitchler (Ohio House 50th) this past November.  As it turned out, Bosley suffered a crushing defeat at the hands of Snitchler notwithstanding his extremely well financed campaign and his all out support from Statehouse Democrats. 

Because of the wide-margin defeat, the question now becomes whether or not Bosley can rise from the ashes of the loss to once again be a Stark County political leader.

Bosley chose not to run for re-election as county commissioner; a seat he won in stunning fashion in 2006 against Republican Richard Regula (son of retired Congressman Ralph Regula).  Years ago, as Bosley tells it, his father ran for county commissioner, but was not victorious.

Sweet it was for the Bosley family, when Todd won in 2006.


It was somewhat of a surprise when neophyte politician Bosley defeated incumbent Nimishillen Township trustee Arthur Lynch in 2003.  And Bosley started off as a politician with a quality that was to follow him throughout his as a politician:  being "brash."  In the end, it may have been the characteristic that led to his political demise.


As a trustee, he picked a fight with then sitting trustee Russ Goffus, a fellow Democrat and therefore somewhat surprising.  But it shouldn't have been.  Because Bosley seems to be a politician whose style is to buy into the notion that the way to political success is get one's name into the limelight (i.e. the newspaper, on television, on blogs; whatever) and electoral success will surely follow.

Because of his early success using "in your face" tactics, Bosley appears to have bought into the notion that "bare-knuckle" political fighting is a key to political success.  Probably a key reason that Richard Regula lost to Bosley is that Regula underestimated the hardball political tactics that Bosley was capable of and appears to have employed successfully against Regula.

Bosley latched onto the brokenness of Stark County's 9-1-1 central dispatching services as a key issue to pummel Regula seemingly day-after-day-after-day in his drive to be elected commissioner.  Aided by Nimshillen Fire Chief Rich Peterson (who provided emergency force expertise), Bosley forged a campaign that portrayed Regula as an ineffectual commissioner in dealing with the life and death needs of Stark Countians.  The result?  A rather shocking Bosley victory from out of nowhere!

As commissioner, Bosley attempted to forge a coalition of niche political interest groups as his political base.  He really was never accepted as a mainline Stark County Democratic Party establishment (the SCPR believes because of his "brash" style) and therefore turned to interest group coalition building as his political base.

Some of his niche groups included those that were interested in correcting perceived Stark County Dog Pound problems, Nimshillen and Louisville residents who suffered flooding problems from 100 year floods due to Stark County's inadequate ditching and drainage systems, Tuscarawas Township residents and their frustrations with Massillon Mayor Francis H. Cicchinelli, Jr. and his annexation ambitions as well as other Stark County mini-groupings with micro-political group interests.

His model for building a political machine of Bosley loyalists that could propel him to higher office might have worked had he not made a major miscalculation on how to go about fixing Stark County's broken 9-1-1 central dispatch.

The SCPR believes that Stark County officials became aware by the latter part of 2008 that county finances were headed for a disaster.  Amid of the discussions and considerations of what to do, tt appears to The Report that Commissioner Bosley had a "brainstorm" of sorts.  A brainstorm?  Yes, a true "eureka" moment, if only in the mind of Bosley.

The plan:  impose a 0.50 sales tax levy on Stark Countians (because they would never approve the new taxes that "quietly" included general revenue fund monies)  and convince voters that their lives (in an emergency context) could possibly depend on coming up with the revenue to fix the 9-1-1 countywide dispatch.  An additional part of the plan appears to have been to sell Stark County's political subdivision (townships, villages and cities) officials (townships, villages and cities) on the notion that the imposed tax would provide them with "free" dispatching services and therefore they (police chiefs, fire chiefs, mayors, councilpersons and the like) needed, as a matter of self-interest,  to enroll in any effort to stop any anti-impose-the-tax-group(s) that may arise in opposition to the tax.

What is amazing to the SCPR is that Bosley was able to convince fellow commissioner, at the time, Tom Harmon (a very politically "close to the vest" Democratic politician) to go along with the imposed nature of the tax.  All the SCPR can figure is that Harmon was and is very close to Stark County Democratic Party chair Randy Gonzalez and Gonzalez has been a huge force behind fixing 9-1-1 for about 20 years now.

Of course, Harmon had just been retained as commissioner by Stark Voters on election day, November, 2008; less than 60 days prior to his vote to impose the tax.  The SCPR believes Harmon's original appointment was orchestrated by then Dem chair Johnnie A. Maier, Jr. and other Democratic powers like Gonzalez.


Republican commissioner Jane Vignos is less of a mystery.  She was not going to be running for re-election so what did she have to lose

In a true testament to citizen activist and Canton attorney Craig Conley and his fellows Charlie Snyder (now a Fairless school board member) and Bethlehem Township citizen Tom Marcelli, the "anti's" ("Vote No Increased Taxes) got themselves together and met "the plan" head-on and utterly - via the electoral process - destroyed "the plan."

In an ironical twist to the campaign on whether or not the tax should be repealed, former Bosley ally - Nimishillen Fire Chief Rich Peterson - seems to have teamed up with the "Vote No" folks in terms of providing the rationale for an alternative way (needing no new revenues) to construct an effective countywide 9-1-1 dispatch system.

In the end, the "Vote No" group was so effective in their campaign that many Stark political observers believe that Stark County will not approve even a renewal of a 0.25 sales tax that must be put on the ballot in May, 2011 or fall by the wayside entirely.



The SCPR believes that Bosley was the lead to impose the sales tax and thereby created the primary condition which puts his political future in Stark County in question.

Apparently, Bosley did not know Stark County political history on sales tax isues when he put his "can't fail" plan together.  He should have contacted Richard Wingerter who serves on the Board of the Stark County Educational Service Center to get an education on the political pitfalls commissioners fall into who push sales tax increases in Stark County. 

The Stark County political graveyard is full of ex-commissioners who did not understand the pride that Stark Countians in being the lowest taxed county - in terms of add on sales taxes (to the base state of Ohio rate) - in all of Ohio.

A number of Stark Countians tell the SCPR that they would have voted to retain the tax had it been only for a 9-1-1 rehab.

Would limiting the imposed tax to 9-1-1 been enough to save he tax?  The SCPR thinks not and that "imposing" the tax was a political sin that would prove to be a significant factor in Bosley's political undoing.

However, leading the "imposed" sales tax effort was not the only reason that Bosley lost in such a resounding way to Snitchler.

Two other factors played in to ensure Bosley's overwhelming defeat.

One was the temperament of Bosley's campaign. 

Bosley's handlers, in the opinion of the SCPR, gave Bosley some bad, bad advice.  They talked Bosley into equating Snitchler to being a rat for his support of a bill that would, over time, eliminate Ohio's income tax and thereby jeopardize - according to the Bosley campaign - the jobs of thousands upon thousands of public jobs (e.g. school teachers).  Moreover, the Bosley forces tried to make out that Snitchler by virtue of the way he voted on various bills was somehow in favor of allowing those with criminal record backgrounds including some involving sexual offenses to drive school buses.  Of course, very few believed that Snitchler was in favor of sudden wholesale elimination of public jobs, and, no one believed that Snitchler wanted to put those with criminal records behind the wheel of a school bus.

Bosley desperately tried to disassociate himself from his Columbus-based handlers, but voters were not buying.  Given Bosley's history of playing "hardball" politics, The Report is skeptical that Bosley was not buying into the Columbus generated game plan.  Moreover, there is a public perception that a candidate "at the end of he day" owns the tactics and strategies of his/her campaign and it does not seem to work to disassociate.

The other was the Republican tidal wave which swept Stark County, Ohio and the nation. 

Moreover, it likely politically hurt Democrat Bosley, being a county commissioner, that the former Stark treasury Chief Deputy Vince Frustaci was convicted of stealing $2.46 million (with federal Judge John Adams saying he thought it was more like $2.96 million) in September, 2010; about two months before the election.  The treasury through August 23, 2010 was headed by Democrat Treasurer Gary Zeigler who was not implicated in the Frustaci matter.  Some Stark Countians, The Report believes unfairly, held it against the commissioners (Bosley and Meeks [defeated in his bid for election as commissioner]) for not doing more to push along more quickly a resolution of the Frustaci matter which first surfaced in April, 2009.

At the end of this blog, the question persists:  will Bosley make a political comeback in Stark County? 

Will he, like the mythological Phoenix, rise from the political ashes to be reborn as a Stark County political figure?

The Report's guess-estimate; not likely.  He has no discernible political base and, moreover, has never been a favorite of the Stark County Democratic Party political organization. 

If Bosley's political resurrection is to take place, it will truly take a divinely appointed miracle!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

IS THE CITY OF CANTON GOV'T ABOUT TO GET AN FINANCIAL BLOW? THIS TIME AT THE HAND OF THE OHIO CHAMBER OF COMMERCE & ITS LOCAL AFFILIATE - THE "CANTON REGIONAL CHAMBER OF COMMERCE?"


For nearly three years now the SCPR has been doing blogs by the score forewarning Cantonians that newly elected Mayor William J. Healy, II was taking the city over the financial/economic precipice.  Any chance Healy had to avoid the financial mess that Canton finds itself in today vanquished when he fired now newly elected county commissioner Tom Bernabei as one of his top lieutenants early in his administration.

Anyone who knows Healy at all, knows he cannot abide critical thinkers and courageous "Pardon me, King William, but you do not have any clothes on" types.

Finally, Cantonians are getting some stand up people on Canton City Council ("Council") to sound the alarm.  But it is likely too late to avoid a financial calamity.  However, they are suspect because they have a political incentive to diss Healy.

Monday night President Allen Schulman (of Council) and a Bill Smuckler supporter is reported by Ed Balint of The Repository (Canton in death spiral?) as saying
“... This boat is sinking,  This is a death spiral we’re in. This is not sustainable. We will go broke. We will be unable to pay bills.”
Contrast this to Balint's report of Mayor Healy being in denial by virtue of reporting Healy's feeling good about the budget.

When Healy took office in January, 2008 he had a $57.7 million budget.  Last night Council passed the 2011 budget at $47.9 million.  Feeling good?  You have to be kidding Mayor Healy!

Healy, February, 2011, Democratic primary foe Bill Smuckler; along with his sidekick and arch-Healy enemy Councilman Greg Hawk, voted "no" on the budget as did Republican Mark Butterworth.  So there is no doubt that politics is at least part of the reason for the no votes.  However, anyone who does not realize that Canton is in a "real" financial crisis must be spending most of his/her time on another planet.

The SCPR believes that the finances of Canton are going to get a lot worse than the currently are.  And, interesting enough, one of the players pushing a state of Ohio policy on local government funding that The Report thinks will exacerbate Canton's financial difficulties is none other than the Canton Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Hmm?

How's that?

In the last few days the Ohio Chamber of Commerce ("Chamber")  has come out with it economic policy recommendations for the state of Ohio entitled "Redesigning Ohio - Transforming Ohio into a 21st Century Institution."


The recommendations as they relate to Canton, and, indeed to all of Ohio's 3700 local governments is that the Chamber promotes the slashing of guaranteed levels of Local Government Fund monies from flowing from Ohio state government to localities.

One might say, "the Chamber can make its recommendations, so what?"  

Well, anyone making such an observation does not understand that the Chamber is the economic policy arm of the newly elected Republican Governor John Kasich, to wit:


So the SCPR believes that a Chamber statement is a Governor-elect Kasich "to be implemented" policy.  And with the Republicans firmly in charge of the Ohio General Assembly the "to be implemented" policy is not an overstatement of what new local government funding policy and reality is to be.

Accordingly, there is no doubt that Canton is about to take a major hit on its local government funding from Ohio which now stands at about $6 million annually.  Talk is that the cuts in 2011 could be anywhere form $600,000 to $1.2 million.  So Canton's "real" 2011 deficit is more likely about $2 million to $3 million with the latter figure being the more likely figure.

Again, note that the Canton Regional Chamber of Commerce ("CRCC") is signed on to the Redesigning Ohio.

As readers of the SCPR know, The Report has very little use for the CRCC.  And the "little use for" applies to the Ohio Chamber.

21st century for Ohio?  Hmm? How about the Chamber and its satellites themselves?

The CRCC has had no answer for many years to help shore up, boost and rebuild the economy of Canton and, indeed, all of Stark County in recent years.  Nor has the Ohio Chamber insofar as the State is concerned.

Yours truly remembers attending a meeting in the City of Green put on by the Green Chamber of Commerce at which, then Republican candidate for Ohio's 50th House District (a Stark County district), Todd Snitchler was in attendance.  The Ohio Chamber was in a dither about the possibility that a constitutional amendment to the Ohio Constitution (sponsored by organized labor - which holds great sway with Democrat officeholders) was going on the November, 2008 ballot to guarantee sick leave to Ohio workers.  The Chamber was fanning its personnel over Ohio to resist the union effort in what turned out to be a successful attempt to keep the measure off the ballot.

One of the points of the Chamber reps was that if the measure made the ballot and passed, it would devastate Ohio's economy.

Your truly then asked the Chamber rep the following:  "Well, the Republicans have been in control of Ohio government going back about 20 years and it is common knowledge that the Chamber is the idea bank for the Republican statehouse crowd,  how is it that Ohio's economy is in such feeble shape?"

Answer:  "Statehouse Republicans have not followed "all" the recommendations of the Chamber."

The Report is skeptical of the Chamber disclaimer.  A more candid answer would have been:  "our recommendations were not up to solving Ohio's problems."

Nor are the proposals in the Redesigning Ohio.  It appears to The Report that Ohio and Stark County are in for another round of market based panaceas that do not work in reality as they seem to in a theoretical plane. While aspects of the Redesigning Ohio package might be effective, as a total package it consists of tired old bromides that Libertarians have been offering seemingly forever.

Canton will be a victim in the Ohio Chamber's rework of local government funding for sure in the short term and very likely in the long term, also.

The goal of the Ohio Chamber of Commerce, its client Kasich administration and the likes of thorough-going "government as free enterprisers" state Representative Todd Snitchler (Republican - Lake) apparently is to make the state of Ohio one big gigantic corporation.  Perhaps they will renaming the "State of Ohio," "Ohio SuperCorp' and at the local level, perhaps, we will see:  "Canton SuperCorp," "Jackson SuperCorp," "North Canton SuperCorp" and the like.

While Ohio and Stark County is visited upon by these unbalanced "true believer" libertarian-esque economic fixes, the state and the county (including, of course, Stark's cities, villages, townships and boards of education) get further behind the rest of the nation.

As financial matters get worse for Canton city government as well as all of Stark County's local governments, their elected officials need to look no further than the Canton Regional Chamber of Commerce and their urban-based fellow organizations working in concert with the Ohio Chamber in a collective drive to reconfigure local government funding as being a primary cause!

As unions have a perspective, so do chambers of commerce.  Neither perspective is complete and balanced enough to serve Ohioans and Stark Countians well.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

OIL & GAS ATTORNEY WILLIAM G. WILLIAMS PUTS PRESSURE ON PLAIN TOWNSHIP TRUSTEES TO VOTE DOWN TRUSTEE GIAVASIS' RESOLUTION TO BAN "FRACKING" IN PLAIN. THE SCPR PREDICTED THAT GIAVASIS WOULD BE PRESSURED. WILLIAMS' LETTER IS ONE YOU ABSOLUTELY HAVE TO READ. IT IS - AT LEAST, IN PART - A "CLASSIC" POLITICAL PRESSURE LETTER!!!


UPDATE:  PLAIN TOWNSHIP TRUSTEE VOTE TO TABLE RESOLUTION at December 28th meeting.

ORIGINAL POST

The Stark County Political Report predicted in yesterday's blog that Plain Township Trustee Louis Giavasis would be put under pressure to abandon his motion to pass a resolution to ban hydraulic fracking in the township.

The Report did not know exactly where the pressure would come from, but now that "the cat is out of the bag" yours truly can say that it certainly is no surprise that Attorney William G. (Bill to me) Williams is the messenger for the oil and gas industry.

Stark Countians will now see what kind of public service mettle Trustee Giavasis is made of.  He does say that he is taking on this fight for the public health, safety and general welfare. 

For in antagonizing the oil and gas industry and the bevy of Stark County moneyed stakeholders that Williams represents, he truly has a well-financed "tiger by the tail" and the SCPR believes that Williams' et al  will work tirelessly to make him ex-Trustee Giavasis in November, 2013 - even if Giavasis caves in!


The Report believes that much of Giavasis' problems are owing to fellow Trustee Scott Haws.  Giavasis is a thorough-going Democrat and Haws (a Stark GOP central committeemen) is a devoted Republican.  

Who was the first person Haws hotfooted it to when he learned of Giavasis' plan?  Probably to Stark County GOP chairman Jeff Matthews who likely in turn redirected him to state Senator Kirk Schuring.

But it could have been Haws to Schuring direct.  Anyway, what the SCPR believes was a "tear apart the Giavasis plan" for going public with the fracking issue was likely hatched in the midst of the counsels of Haws and Schuring.  Both are trying to appear to be non-partisan in their efforts.  It would take a terribly politically naive person to believe that one.

Giavasis, to is credit, has tried to kid himself that he and Haws could work together.  However, when you get public officials so consummately tied to one political party or the other; working together for the public good goes flying out the window very quickly.  

BACK TO BILL WILLIAMS AND HIS LETTER

Yours truly made the acquaintance of Bill Williams when as a law student he was an intern at the Stark County Legal Aid Society located in Canton where yours truly was managing attorney back in to 70s.

So it is a delight for the SCPR to be a position to publish Williams' hybrid "political pressure" and "for my clients?" and for the "oil and gas industry?" letter designed to get the Plain Township trustees "to come to heel" on Giavasis anti-oil & gas industry move.  Just goes to prove that one never knows when paths will cross again and under what circumstances. 

While the SCPR agrees with Williams' basic premise of "why the rush" by Giavasis.  To be fair, The Report asks Williams why he is playing the political hammer?  If he is so right on the law -  as "his reputation apparently suggests he undoubtedly is - i.e on the Ohio Super Lawyer list -  as it is finally promulgated by the legal heights of Ohio, and perhaps, the nation; why not let justice take its course? 

He sounds a little like Allen Schulman (also a well known and powerful local attorney) but from the opposite direction.  Schulman started out his involvement in the fracking discussion saying that there is only one side to the discussion and that any threat whatsoever to the safety of the drinking water supply makes the case in and of itself for not allowing fracking.

Williams, on the other hand, seems to be saying in his letter to Plain Township trustees (reproduced below) that the Ohio Revised Code - without a judicial determination of any constitutional challenges that might be made to the specific statutes - per se precludes even a test of the statutes he cites.  Kind of sounds like to the SCPR that Attorney Williams wants to be judge, jury and executioner, no?

Another interesting parallel between Schulman and Williams is the high degree of political partisanship both partake in.  Schulman is a main player in Stark County Democratic politics as Williams is for Stark Republicans.

As The Report wrote yesterday, the battle over fracking has political overtones galore.  Republican officeholders are generally supportive of oil and gas interests whereas Democrat officeholders are prone to take the side of the environmentalists.

The SCPR believes that the fracking issue could become a huge national battleground between the right (Republicans) and left wings (Democratic) of the two political parties.

What generally happens in these kinds of partisan fights is that the public interest gets sacrificed in the heat of political battle.

If the Republicans win, do we end up with polluted water?  If the Democrats win, do we end up with an energy crisis?

Here is a copy of Williams letter which was e-mailed to the Plain trustees at 5:54 last evening.

Again,  the letter is in the opinion of the SCPR a political classic intermixed with what appears to be a plea for his clients.  While not writing this blog as a lawyer, yours truly in all my 37 years of being a lawyer has not quite seen the likes of this letter.

Take a close look at the names copied at the end of the letter, interesting, no?


Monday, December 27, 2010

PLAIN TOWNSHIP TO TAKE ON THE STATE OF OHIO & THE OIL & GAS INDUSTRY ("THE OTHER SIDE") ON TUESDAY?



UPDATE:  12/27/2010 AT 10:00 AM

A RESPONSE TO GIAVASIS INITIATIVE

John Fenno, a reader of the SCPR, has submitted a commentary on this blog about Plain Township Trustee Lou Giavasis' plan to offer a resolution to ban fracking at tomorrow night's regular trustee meeting.

Here, in its entirety, is Fenno's view:

Martin:

From SCPR, “The coming week Trustee Giavasis will - at a regular session of the Plain Township Board of Trustees - be offering a resolution that he says is intended to safeguard Plain Township fresh water drinking supply from pollution that some say come from the fracking process.

On January 20th (for pro and anti-fracking forces) and January 27th  (for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources) informational meetings will be held at Oakwood Middle School in Plain Township on the safety of the fracking issue.  The meetings will be hosted by WHBC1480's Ron Ponder of Points to Ponder (10:00 a.m. through Noon, Monday through Friday).”

Martin, now I am confused.  Mr. Giavasis has to know by now that a "resolution” (which carries no authority under Ohio law unless there is an ORC that I am unaware of) gives every appearance as being political posturing.  One would expect a seasoned politician and elected official such as Mr. Giavasis to solicit state assistance if he is sincere in his beliefs and knowledge on this issue. I am also troubled that he would use legal resources, taxpayers' money, to draw up such a meaningless resolution BEFORE the commencement of the two scheduled public meetings. Didn't he allegedly call for one of these meetings personally?  This is also a disservice to Mr. Ron Ponder whom he asked to emcee.  Why would he disregard his commitment to Mr. Ponder, whom I believe has every intention of hearing both sides of this issue?  This only leaves a cloud hanging over this whole discussion.  It gives every appearance as a "rush to judgement" with a resolution before allowing his own scheduled meeting to take place.  It is also unfair to Mr. Ponder in his effort to bring a meaningful dialogue and debate to the citizens of Stark County on this very important issue.

Respectfully,

John Fenno


ORIGINAL BLOG

Plain Township Trustee may end up feeling like The Lone Ranger this week.

How so?

He is and has been for some time the lead in Stark County to stop fracking (especially horizontal fracking) which is designed to release natural gas encased in deep underground rock.  He has had a resolution drawn up by legal counsel which he says he plans to move for adoption by his fellow trustees (Leno and Haws) this coming Tuesday at a regularly scheduled meeting of the Plain trustees.


For a while it appeared that he had an ally in Allen Schulman (president of Canton City Council).  But proponents of anti-fracking legislation being passed at local levels are beginning to doubt that Schulman is truly committed to such a quest in Canton. 

Chris Borello of the Concerned Citizens of Lake Township (CCLT;' now seemingly expanded to Concerned Citizens of Stark County (CCSC), put out this analysis of Schulman's position yesterday, to wit:
Canton City Council is also apparently stalling out now, despite the very strong proactive statements made at a Canton water meeting by Canton Council President, Allen Schulman, captured on Martin Olson's video camera at a water meeting we attended down in Canton ....See "Stark Poltical Report" (sic) by typing this in under google, (sic) and then scroll down...you'll see Shulman's face/video and some direct quotes about there not being a need for a debate or need to hear from both sides if their water is at stake, that the Canton water shed was valued at a billion, and must be protected from contamination at all costs.....Well, now we are hearing he has since gone silent ; isn't reiterating this strong stance for some reason, and so now there is major concern that Canton moving forward on a ban like Plain is being stalled out.....If our sources are correct, WHY has  Mr. Shculman (sic)  now backed away from his strong position suddenly?  We are disheartened, but hope this is only a temporary setback....
While the SCPR would be surprised if Trustee Al Leno (a fellow Democrat with Giavasis) did not end up supporting him, it is certainly possible and probably likely that Trustee Haws will not support him on an up or down vote.

One more thing.

The Report would not be shocked if Giavasis got cold feet between now and Wednesday.

Giavasis has had enormous pressure put on him to slow down the fracking prohibition process.

Readers of the SCPR will recall that Giavasis had originally planned to have a meeting on December 14th with Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR), area governmental officials (including some of the Stark County members of the Ohio General Assembly) and anti-fracking experts to provide information to Plain Township residents, indeed, to all Stark County citizens so than they can make informed input with local officials pro and con on whether or not to prohibit fracking.

Giavasis also invited officials from the oil and gas industry to be present, but they declined.

Before the meeting of the 14th took place, state Senator Kirk Schuring (having been contacted by fellow Republican Scott Haws), intervened to undermine Giavasis' plan to discuss fracking on the 14th by getting ODNR and fellow Republican legislators Oelslager and Snitchler to withdraw.

Plain did have a meeting on the 14th with fracking issue on agenda, but the overwhelming drift of the discussion was anti-fracking.

While all the participants (including Giavasis himself) deny that there is anything political in the maneuvering that has taken place whereby it was arranged to have two meetings (one for the anti-fracking position proponents to inform and the other ODNR and area legislators to inform) to be hosted by Ron Ponder of WHBC's Points to Ponder (now set for January 20th and 27th, having been previously set for the week of the 14th), the SCPR is not buying.

The Report believes that some local Republican elected officials are concerned that the Giavasis move is a "rush to judgment" on the issue and that there is "the other side" of the fracking issue which needs a full airing.  The SCPR thinks there is ample evidence that the Republican Party in general is more comfortable with and allied with the oil and gas industry.  It was former Vice President Dick Cheney (a former Halliburton official) who lobbied Congress to exempt fracking from federal regulation.

Democrats, especially civic activists Democrats left of the political center, tend to be environmentalists and are prone to fight any economic activity that has the mere possibility of harming the environment and do not seem the least bit reluctant to rhetorically diss any attempt to present another point of view.

Chesapeake Energy company officials (the company set to do the fracking in Stark County where hundreds if not thousands of leases have been recorded) met privately with Giavasis on Friday the 17th.  Trustee Giavasis tells The Report that it was a frank discussion, but that his mind is made up and he is determined to push for a fracking prohibition this Tuesday. 

One should not be surprised if additional pressure is not brought on Giavasis to withdraw the resolution between today and tomorrow's meeting to, at the very least, delay a consideration of a resolution until after the Ponder hosted meetings of the 20th and the 27th.

An area civic activist tells the SCPR that when he sought out a copy of the proposed Plain Township resolution, he was initially told that it would not be presented tomorrow night, but rather after the first of the year.  To The Report, such is an indication that "behind the scene" maneuverings are still going on.

So, again, the SCPR will not be shocked if the resolution evaporates at tomorrow night's meeting.

It will be interesting to see what happens in Canton City Council tonight on the issue. 

Will Borello's suspicions on Schulman's commitment be borne out?

Recently, the SCPR received an e-mail from a reader pointing out that there is another side to the fracking issue and on the superior importance of water to oil as expressed on December 16th by Councilman/President Allen Schulman (see quote above).  The theme of "the other side" arguments is that "water is not the new oil."

Among the arguments:
  • Oil gets used up, but water is inherently reusable.
  • Unlike oil, our planet has a huge stock of water, at mostly known locations.
  • Even fresh water, almost ready to drink, is quite abundant.
    Freshwater resources account for just one or two percent of Earth’s water (depending on what you count as a potential resource), but that’s still a huge amount, many times greater than what mankind consumes yearly.
  • No substitution.  There’s no “renewable energy” analog in the water market. You can use water more efficiently ...  but you can’t really phase it out in favour of some alternative.
  • Water is a local market.  Like energy, water is consumed everywhere. But whereas energy sources, such as oil, can profitably be traded across the world, from oil-rich nations to oil-poor nations, water is just too bulky (or, equivalently, too cheap per volume) to be transported cost-effectively, and thus be a truly global commodity.
Moreover,  the oil and gas industry argues that the fracking process itself is safe (having a safety track record of many decades) and while there have been some accidents; they are at the hand of drillers who do not drill according to regulatory standards and that they are few and far between.

In essence, the argument seem to boil down to, on the one hand, that water is such a vital human need that "no risk" is acceptable in terms of water getting polluted as against a countervailing argument that nothing is life is risk free and that it is critical to a continuance of the American lifestyle that exploration, drilling and production of abundant natural gas supplies be permitted under "reasonable" regulatory supervision at the state - not local - level (e.g. for Ohio, ODNR).

The SCPR believes that "the other side" of the fracking issue will be argued whether or not Trustee Giavasis presents his resolution tomorrow night or not and whether or not it is passed.

The battle over fracking is just beginning in the nation and in Stark County.

And, if it occurs, the passing of the proposed Plain Township resolution tomorrow night will be monumental Stark County event.

However, which side ultimately prevails is far from certain.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

IS WARDEN REAGAN TETREAULT MAKING SATISFACTORY PROGRESS ON "GETTING A GRIP" ON DOG POUND PROBLEMS? SCPR THINKS COMMISSIONERS NEED TO TAKE A NEW LOOK AND REPORT BACK TO STARK COUNTY PUBLIC.


It is said that "dog is man's best friend."  However, can it be said that "man is a dog's best friend?"

Apparently not in Stark County.  Unless "man" is defined to be the Stark County citizens who serve as volunteers at the Pound.

For years now, there have been problems reported to the Stark County commissioners about the operations of the Stark County Dog Pound (SCDP - "Pound").  But it appears that very little, if anything, has gotten better for dogs who have found their way to the SCDP.  Or, for that matter the selfless volunteers who expend many, many unpaid hours providing the unmet needs of Stark County's strays.

On January 27, 2010 (nearly one year ago), Stark County commissioners (Bosley, Ferguson and Meeks) fired Evert Gibson as dog warden because of unresolved problems.  Gibson had been on the job for several years.

After some controversy between the commissioners and members of the Stark County Dog Pound Advisory Board (SCDPAB) over the appearance of an non-SCDPAB recommended person as one of five finalists, the current warden Reagan Tetreault (on the list) was appointed (May 5, 2010) with a starting date of May 24, 2010 subject however to a 120 probationary period.

September 24th (the end of the probationary period) came and went with nary a word from commissioners that Tetreault was experiencing any difficulties getting a handle on Pound problems.  In fact, the SCPR specifically asked the commissioners that question and was told that all was going well.

Hmm?

It wasn't 30 days before big time problems surfaced about operations at the SCDP.  October 13, 2010 was a particularly bad day for the Pound.

One involved a dog who had been at the Pound well less than a required minimum of 72 hours (by Ohio law) and whose owner had contacted the Pound to claim the family pet was inadvertently euthanized.  A second incident involved a properly restrained dog that was mauled by a neighbor's dog notwithstanding the fact that the owners of the mauled dog had brought to the attention of Pound officials allegations of violations of law on the part of neighbor in the maintenance and control of his dog.

An excerpt from a Repository report of November 2, 2010:


These two incidents set off a firestorm of protests by the dog owners, members of the Stark County Dog Pound Advisory Board and Pound volunteers as to the quality of management that was being administered at the Pound.

The SCPR began hearing that members of the Stark County public and volunteers working at the Pound were not being treated respectfully by Pound employees.  And these allegations were being made to commissioners at their regular meetings.

These allegations found their way into action by Warden Tetreault and the SCPR wrote on December 13th that it may be that Tetreault was getting a grip of matters at the SCDP.

 In a follow up with Tetreault (see The Report's take on her delayed response below), she tells the action she meted out was a three-day suspension of Pound employee Vince Williams to be served December 29th,  January 19th and February 16th.

It appears to The Report that Tetreault "getting a grip" may have been wishful thinking by yours truly.

Since the 13th, The Report has had occasion to contact Warden two times for information about Pound operations and both time came away feeling that Treteault was - to put it euphemistically - less than enthusiastic about dealing with the SCPR.  On the second occasion, The Report made a telephone call (early in the day, then a late afternoon follow up) for certain information on Monday and only after intervention by county Chief Administrator Mike Hanke did yours truly get a Tetreault response two days later.

So this got The Report to thinking, what are others' take on how Tetreault is doing?  Accordingly, The Report contacted a member of the SCDPAB and obtained these responses:

Response #1 (December 16th - before the SCDPAB meeting)

We have an Advisory Board meeting tonight, but I doubt if we will make much progress b/c Reagan (warden) has said she will not be attending. It would be helpful if she could answer some of our questions. Also she has postponed sharing the volunteer handbook she has written until after the first of the year,, saying that the commissioners need to approve it . In my opinion, it would be a good idea if she communicated with the volunteers and the Advisory Board.  ... .

I personally have not been to the pound since Vince's disciplinary action: however in talking with other volunteers, I have not heard that anything has changed for the better  regarding the employees' relationship with the volunteers and/or the public.

Also we are asking commissioner Ferguson to respond to a recording  we have of him speaking at an Advisory Board meeting ( believe it was in July) where he states he is extremely upset by a video he had seen of dog abuse at the pound. If you recall, he denied seeing a video  - when you asked him about this after a recent commissioners' meeting.
Response #2 (December 16th - after the SCDPAB meeting)
Warden Regean did not show up at the meeting; the Board discussed how we can not move forward until we have communication with the warden. Topics such as ; poor ventilation at the pound, the volunteer manual she is completing, reporting abuse of the dogs , answering volunteers' questions about feeding, procedures, etc. need to be adresseed so as to stem rumors and suspicision.

the Board agreed we would wait until the new year to approach the commissioners about the need for communcation between the warden and volunteers and the Advisor Board, and also if Dr. Ferguson has not yet reponded to his comment that he had not seen a video of dog abuse, when he is recorded on audio at a July Advisory Bord meeting stating how upset he was after seeing abuse to pound dogs on a video .
The SCPR is reassessing whether or not matters have improved at the Pound and so should the Stark County Board of Commissioners.

Commissioner Pete Ferguson needs to meet with the SCDP Advisory Board (whose members are appointed by the commissioners) and clear up once and for all whether or not he has seen dog abuse on video captured on cameras in place at the Pound.

Beyond Ferguson acting, the entire board (which will have in a few days Janet Creighton and, of course, the recently recently in Tom Bernabei) needs to take a fresh look at operations at the Pound and make a determination as to whether or not Reagan Tetreault is making satisfactory progress in "getting a grip" on the long time problems at the Pound.

While the SCPR understands better than most that the commissioners are in the throes of dealing with severe county budgetary problems, the chronic difficulties at the SCDP also require their urgent attention.

The Report urges Ferguson to meet with the SCDPAB at its January meeting and thinks it would be a good ides for the "new" board to assess Tetreault's progress or lack of progress and report back to the Stark County Public at a regular commissioners' meeting not later than the end of January, 2011.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

3RD ANNUAL SCPR "LUMP OF COAL" AWARD - STARK COUNTY OHIO GENERAL ASSEMBLY DELEGATION: OELSLAGER, OKEY, SCHIAVONI, SCHURING, SLESNICK & SNITCHLER


Here it is Christmas season 2010 with the likes of Trustee Louis Giavasis (Plain Township) and Councilwoman Mary Cirelli (Canton) working hard to make Stark County safe and secure in its fresh water drinking supply only to be undermined by the Stark County Ohio General Assembly delegation. Messers Oelslager, Okey, Schuring, Schiavoni, Slesnick and Snitchler (three Republicans; three Democrats) voting either for Senate Bill 165 (2010) and/or House Bill 278 (2004).

Bills 165 and 278 cumulatively took away what little say that townships, villages and cities across Ohio (including, of course, Stark County) had on the exploration of and extraction of oil and natural gas from beneath our homes and farms.

Republican officeholders in particular deify local government and local control.

Congressman-elect Jim Renacci (Republican, the 16th Congressional District) even said that civil rights should be a matter for local governance during his successful campaign against Democrat John Boccieri this past November. While the SCPR profoundly disagrees with Renacci, The Report is all for a local say in when, where and how oil and gas companies explore for and extract oil and natural gas.

Over the coming months Stark County will be a battleground between pro oil and gas company forces and their endeavor to bring hydraulic horizontal fracking drilling operations and those (including Giavasis and Cirelli) who, while not anti-oil and gas, insist on having a say in making sure that any fracking be done in such a way to protect Stark Countians and our water supply.

The coming week Trustee Giavasis will - at a regular session of the Plain Township Board of Trustees - be offering a resolution that he says is intended to safeguard Plain Township fresh water drinking supply from pollution that some say come from the fracking process.

On January 20th (for pro and anti-fracking forces) and January 27th  (for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources) informational meetings will be held at Oakwood Middle School in Plain Township on the safety of the fracking issue.  The meetings will be hosted by WHBC1480's Ron Ponder of Points to Ponder (10:00 a.m. through Noon, Monday through Friday).

Members of Stark's delegation to the Ohio General Assembly should plan to be present at the meetings to hear what Stark Countians have to say about the votes for Bills 165 and 278.

For the SCPR's part, today's blog bestows the dubious honor of Oelslager, Okey, Schuring, Schiavoni, Slesnick and Snitchler receiving the 3rd Annual SCPR "Lump of Coal" Award for their collective efforts in undermining local government.

Friday, December 24, 2010

INNER "POLITICAL" FIRES BURN IN NORTH CANTON GOVERNMENT OVER FAILURE OF FIRE HYDRANTS?


Bliss and delight can be replaced with irritation and discord in a heartbeat within the confines of North Canton city government. While there are times that all seems love and kisses at North Canton City Hall; other times produce charge, countercharge and finger pointing. The latter is prone to flare up when there is a failure in city services.

One such failure happened this past Monday (December 20th) when an accidental fire occurred in a home located on Pittsburg Avenue in North Canton.

The outstanding North Canton Fire Department headed by Chief John Bacon responded lickety-split to the call, but alas, alas there was no water at the first hydrant and a second - a least momentarily. However, the third time turned out to be charm for getting water with which to fight the fire.

People familiar with the situation and in a position to know say there was no disruption in fighting the fire due to the failed hydrant.  Because Stark County's fire chiefs (as well as their peers in Summit) do a terrific job of working in a coordinated fashion through what is known as "mutual aid," Jackson Township and the City of Green were "Johnnies on the Spot" with their tankers to begin quelling the fire while the malfunction hydrant situation was overcome.

One thing that the general public might not understand about tough financial times is that government all the way from the top to the bottom (Stark County based government) are looking for ways to cut costs. What matters most to the citizenry is whether or not the cuts affect public safety services.

The one thing that city officials in any locale are loathe to do, is to cut such services. For elected officials, if there is a failure in safety services laid at their feet, the consequences might result in the official(s) becoming "unelected." For appointed officials, dismissal can come in nanoseconds.

During Mayor David Held's tenure as North Canton's chief executive, the city has been looking very hard at ways to keep The Dogwood City in a balanced budget.  It was not that long ago that city officials were holding meetings at the North Canton Civic Center to inform the North Canton public about the coming financial crisis. Not that many months ago, city officials were predicting deficits in the $1 million range for 2012.

Through belt tightening in the form of letting a number of employees go (e.g. the former chief administrator) and refinancing some of its bonded debt, North Canton is now projecting a surplus for 2012.

Apparently, part of the belt tightening threatens to interfere with the city administration's ability to keep tabs on the "ready or not" status of the city's hydrants. So when the hydrant mishap was discovered in the midst of dealing with the Pittsburg fire, the SCPR is told that there were pointed words exchanged between Mayor David Held and various council members.

The nature of the pointed words?  "I told you so;" more or less.

Held reminded  current city council President Daryl Revoldt and Councilman Jon Snyder of a prior council's refusal to fund what he calls an "efficient and effective" restructuring of North Canton's workforce he requested of council a number of years ago.

According to Held, about four years ago North Canton was having difficulty manning the the annual flushing of hydrants and checking attendant waterline valves.   His solution:  create "cross-utility" employee positions in which employees working in the streets department (general fund workers) be cross trained to flush hydrants and turn valves as water department (an enterprise fund) employees.

In this Held concept, the workers would rotate back and forth between the two departments on a "as needed" basis in the ebb and flow of the two departments' workload.

However, the former council refused to fund the Held initiative and therefore he has had to hire summer temporary help in order to accomplish the work of ensuring that the hydrants are functioning properly.  In Held's thinking, since properly performing hydrants are a public safety factor, it is far more prudent to have veteran city workers doing the hydrant and valve work rather than 18 year-olds working a summer job.

Of course, North Canton City Council controls the purse strings. We all know that "the power of the purse, is the power to control" - period!  Held says that the hydrant that failed last Monday was checked this fall by what The Report understands to have been a full time water department employee.  But he feels that the failure is a "wake-up call" that servicing of the 900 or so North Canton hydrants should not be dependent on bringing in summer temporaries.

Held did not put it this way, but the SCPR will.  If there is a future hydrant failure that records show was serviced by a temporary employee and the failure affects the fire department's ability to effectively deal with a fire, how is that going to go over with the property owner and by the North Canton public-at-large?

It seems to The Report that Held has a good plan in his cross-training proposal and it deserves serious consideration by council.  Held tells The Report he will be resubmitting his proposal to council over the next month as council deals with North Canton's 2011 budget.

However, the rub between Held and several North Canton councilpersons runs deeper than the fire hydrant incident.

Council as the purse-string controller is moving deep into the administration of Mayor Held to reorder and reconstruct how with what personnel the city does its administration.

Held did everything he could possibly do to save his former chief administrator's job as the personnel who serves in city administration at Held's discretion by city charter. But it has been known for some time that there have been councilpeople who wanted Held's former chief to be gone. Being the conciliator type of person he is, Held agreed to a face-saving way of the chief's removal without it appearing that council forced his hand.

But the SCPR believes that is exactly what happened.

While Held is the ever cheerful mayor for public appearances sake, he has to know when he has been manhandled and occasions such as the hydrant incident provide him with a perfect cover to get back at council.

Look for more difficulties to plague North Canton government internal relationships in the coming weeks.   Held has the task of hiring an aide to combo Chief City Engineer and Administrator Jim Benekos.  Council will be replacing former finance director Alex Zumbar.

Council, in what the SCPR believes was pressuring the removal of Wise,  was party to placing a workload burden on Benekos that is unsustainable. That the city has well over 100 applications to sift through for a deputy city administrator position, may draw the process out.  However, it could be that North Canton officials have already decided to hire Police Chief Michael Grimes (one of the applicants as confirmed to the SCPR by Mayor Held) but is nonetheless going through the winnowing process to ensure that there is no "knock-'em dead" applicant with tons of experience who could provide more instant relief to the Benekos' overload.

It is critically important for North Canton to get the right person for the finance director job. Zumbar did superlative work for the city in the midst of tight finances and his replacement will have to have similar Houdini qualities if North Canton is stay on a positive track of keeping its finances in the black.

For if North Canton falls into the financial red, then there will be no peace and harmony at city hall because there will have to be an additional trimming of personnel. Cuts in staffing very likely will mean that the remaining staff will be spread so thin that they cannot stop, by implementing proactive preventive measures, failures in service.

And if public safety equipment and services are among the failures, there will be quite an uproar to say the least.  Moreover, there will be a reigniting of a blame game and finger pointing!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

THE IMPORT OF A WALL STREET BOND RATING DETERIORATION: MAYOR WILLIAM J. HEALY, II IS NO MIRACLE WORKER?


Not good news for Canton's financial rating is a recent report (December 17, 2010) on the wire services as follows:
NEW YORK--(BUSINESS WIRE)-- Fitch Ratings downgrades the following rating Canton, Ohio's (the city) limited tax general obligation (LTGO) bonds as a part of its continuous surveillance effort:
--$655,000 LTGOs series 2001 downgraded to 'A+' from 'AA-'.
The Rating Outlook is Stable.
RATING RATIONALE:
--The downgrade to 'A+' reflects the city's weakened financial position as reflected in erosion of general fund reserves due to softening of economically sensitive revenue sources. Somewhat offsetting this concern is management's demonstrated ability to address ongoing spending pressures and volatility in general fund revenues.
--The local economy is challenged as reflected in weak wealth and employment indicators, which is expected to exert downward pressure on the city's tax base and income tax receipts. (emphasis added)
The SCPR recalls how the then newly elected William J. Healy, II related to The Report what a financial mess that his predecessor Janet Creighton had left Canton in.

In hindsight, it seems as if Healy was setting himself up to be some kind of financial/economic/business miracle worker who swooped into town and saved Canton from a sure financial/economic disaster.  The Report's take however is that Creighton left Canton is decent shape and it is Healy himself who has presided over the wasting away of Canton's financial and economic viability and, perhaps, with the diversion of some capital reserves to city operations, the erosion - over time - of Canton's infrastructure.

The question now becomes whether or not the wire report set out above is a leading indicator of more bad news to come.

Who will Healy be blaming for that?

Of course,  the general downturn in the economy.

And he could be correct.

But Canton's continuing decline does establish once and for all that there is nothing special about the leadership qualities of  Healy as he tried to portray in his campaign against Creighton.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

HARTVILLE IS BECOMING HIGHLY POLITICIZED ONCE AGAIN?



It has been almost three years ago to the day that political allies Beverly Green (mayor of Hartville) and Anna Erb (clerk-treasurer) were in the process of stepping down from public office and their combining to re-enter Hartville's political mishmash this month.

Green stepped down involuntarily as a consequence of  being defeated for re-election as mayor by Edsel Tucker in the November, 2007 election.


Erb, voluntarily; in resigning (December, 2007) after serving since 1984 as clerk-treasurer.

Now the two are apparently politically rejuvenated in joining forces to put a stop to a planned Hartville sewer treatment plant expansion in a collateral way.

A collateral way?  Yes, Hartville's mayor (Tucker) and the majority of council want to raise sewer rates to provide some of the financing for the estimated $6.2 million project.

Green and Erb have filed a petition with the village (December 13th) as a prelude to verification of the validity of signatures by the Stark County Board of Elections for placement of the issue on the ballot for a vote of Hartville voters.  A previous effort by Green and Erb failed in June of this year when Ron Starkey (the village solicitor) ruled that their petitions did not meet state requirements for referendum. 

Hartville is under Ohio Environmental Protection Agency orders to expand its sewer treatment capacity and is trying to do so with a combined federal grant ($2.8 million) and loan (nearly $3.5 million).  The loan repayment is to be financed with a 52% increase in residential sewer rate increases for a period beginning in 2009 and continuing into 2011.

In June, state officials instructed village officials to stop the expansion project pending the resolution of the issue at the ballot.  Since the issue did not make it to the ballot on the June initiative, presumably the same state applies and there will be a halt in the project pending the outcome of a vote.  This has already engendered several hundred thousands of dollars in planning expenses.

The SCPR believes that the fight over the plan to achieve the mandatory sewer expansion is at its heart a political fight between pro-Tucker forces and pro-Green/Erb forces.

Tucker was the lead person in scuttling a Green (as mayor) project to extend a water line to the Hartville Industrial Park.  As an interesting aside, last week at the Canton City Council formed Canton Water Commission meeting, discussion included an observation that Canton's expansion of its water line to Hartville does not appear to have been a good investment.  Had the Green plan gone forward, would the thinking be different?

Anyway, there are those that believe that the Green/Erb initiative on the sewer rate reduction as a way to stop the Tucker sewer expansion plan is political payback for Tucker's action against Green's water line extension plan, and the fact that Tucker unseated Green as mayor and his being behind a change (in concert with Green/Erb enemies on council) to eliminate Erb's clerk-treasurer position.

In the November election before Erb resigned (December 21, 2007), she handily defeated Tucker political ally Tom Hough (who sits on Hartville's council).


With Tucker's election, Erb undoubtedly could see the handwriting on the wall and resigned rather than face political humiliation by Tucker et al,

In the spring of 2008, the clerk-treasurer position became a council appointed position.

An interesting twist to the political intrigue going on in Hartville is a prediction by a leading Hartville figure who is not hostile to Tucker that if he were taking bets on whether or not Tucker will run for re-election, he would bet that Tucker will not run again.

Hmm?

If not Tucker himself, who would be Tucker's stand in?  Councilman Tom Hough?

Perhaps an Erb/Hough rematch, but for mayor this time?

Or would it be Bev Green returning to office?

Hartville offices are non-partisan in the official sense.

But in reality, they are highly political.

With the resignation of Tucker ally Ron Currie, council itself could be in for a political remake.  Right now it appears to the SCPR that Councilpersons Cynthia Billings, Kelly Ries and Jim Sullivan are more or less in the Green/Erb camp whereas, Ron Beltz and Tom Hough are Tuckerites.

Council has thirty days to decide on a Currie replacement.  If The Report's estimate on alignment is correct, then Beltz and Hough could find themselves in a minority real soon.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

WHY DIDN'T CANTON'S "MAYOR DOOM & GLOOM" HEED "DR. DOOM" OF NYU'S STERN SCHOOL OF BUSINESS?


One of Canton Mayor William J. Healy, II's proudest achievements is having graduated with an MBA from New York University's Stern School of Business.

In recent years, Stern's most distinguished academic is not (sorry to say) Mayor Healy.  Rather it is economist Nouriel Roubini.  He has been tabbed as being Doctor Doom for his work back in 2005 in correctly predicting that a downturn in the real estate market would have devastating consequences for the American economy.

Roubini's work was published two years before Healy became mayor-elect of Canton in a surprising victory (November, 2007) over Republican Janet Creighton whom had defeated Democrat Bill Smuckler four years before.


Healy should have been paying more attention to his NYU Stern School of Business fellow.  If he had, perhaps, Canton could have prepared for the financial disaster that was on the horizon and mitigated if not avoided the hard times Canton has fallen upon.

One aspect of Roubini's work that has not been focused on enough is his analysis that much that ills the world's economies are owing to mismanagement.  The SCPR's take on Canton's economy and finances is exactly that:  "mismanagement galore."

And the mismanagement has come from the top.  Despite his self-heralded academic credentials, it is clear to The Report that Healy has never been up - management skill wise - to being mayor of Ohio's eighth largest city.

While Healy, on the surface, is a cheery kind of guy, the reality for Canton under his non-leadership is "doom and gloom" and outright despair.  The latest round in bad news for Canton is another projected deficit.  Same as last year.  This year it is at $1.7 million.  But no one should be surprised.

Naturally, he wants to blame global and national circumstances beyond himself.

And there is some basis for his excuse making.

However, for the SCPR, Healy has mismanaged Canton from the get-go.  Initially, it was that he could not work with strong personalities (e.g.  Bernabei and Nesbitt) who has the wherewithal to help Healy perhaps make Canton somewhat of an exception to Doctor Doom's prediction.

Sensing that he was not up to the task, he tried to enlist the help of Cicchinelli, Middleton, and other Stark County mayors with his ill-fated start up:  the Stark County Mayors Association (SCMA).  The SCMA seems to have had the lifespan of a butterfly (6 to 8 weeks).  Hardly enough to prop up Healy's mayoralty skills.

Now that Canton is into the election season, Canton will be a virtual standstill through at least May, 2011 when Canton's Democrats will likely choose who Canton's next mayor will be.  We have already seen Healy veto legislation on mandatory housing inspections pushed by his arch-enemy on Council; namely Ward 1 Councilman Greg Hawk.

Hawk, as finance chair,  is also standing in the way of Healy's "smoke and mirrors" budget.  Healy's enemies on Council will milk this budget proposal for all its worth in terms of negativity for the mayor.

What is saddest of all for Canton is that there appears to be no viable alternative to Healy.

Cantonians may well turn to Bill Smuckler in May, 2011, but to what avail?

There really seems to be no light at the end of the economic/financial tunnel Canton finds itself in these days.

To escape the doom and gloom Canton does need a knight in shining armor.

But alas, none are on the horizon!

Monday, December 20, 2010

AS IF 16% CUTS IN COUNTY GOV'T ISN'T ENOUGH WITH A POSSIBLE 30% ADDIDITONAL IN 2012; HOW ABOUT ADDING 10% TO 15% MORE IN STATE OF OHIO REDUCTION IN LOCAL GOVERNMENT FUNDING?


Stark County may be headed towards a total catastrophe in terms of its funding through the next several years.  And the plummet may not just be limited to county level departments; it may be on the brink of filtering down to townships, villages, cities, boards of education, park districts and library districts.

As this blog is written, county commissioner officials and county department officials are busy hammering out 16% reductions in departmental budgets for 2011 as a function of reduced revenues to Stark County's general fund as a consequence of the repeal of the 0.50 imposed sales tax of December, 2008.

What's more is a possible additional 30% plus reduction in the 2012 budget if an existing .25 sales tax voted in by Stark Countians in 2003 is allowed to expire in 2011. And that may not be all.

Stark County's general revenue fund receives about $5 million from the state of Ohio in "Local Government Funds" (LGF) and early projections by some anticipate a 10% to 15% reduction in 2011 funding. If this reduction materializes, Stark County could be in for about $500,000 in less money than is being calculated in current computations on reduced departmental budgets. Moreover, the reduction of local government funding has ramifications not only for the county general fund, but also for the revenues of townships, villages and cities as well as other miscellaneous local government operations.


Yesterday on the CBS program 60 Minutes, the plight of non-federal government (state, county, township, cities, villages, public schools, libraries,  parks et cetera) was highlighted.  One of the commentator threw out a figure of $1 trillion in shortfalls for all levels of state and local government.

Ohio's new governor-elect John Kasich (Republican) and the Ohio Senate and House of Representatives (Republican-controlled) are facing an $8 billion hole in the state budget for fiscal biennium 2012 - 2013.

And the $8 billion make-up will filter down to counties, villages, cities, townships, school districts, park districts, libraries and the like in more ways than through the projected LGF reductions.

What will be interesting to see is how Ohioans living in the localities handle the reduced level of government services in the tangible ways outlined above in LGF graphic.

Will citizens just grunt and bear the reductions or will they complain loud and often to elected officials at every level?

At lot of what local government does is unseen by the public at large but nonetheless is critically important to the smooth functioning of day-to-day life. Take for instance, the Stark County treasurer's office working in coordination with the Stark County auditor to see that property tax billings and collections get done so that local government gets the money that taxpayers have already approved.

Units of government that operate primarily on such funds (townships and boards of education) cannot help but be concerned when they hear of the Stark County treasurer (Zumbar) worry about being able to have a sufficient number of employees (now at 14 - down from 22) to actually get the bills out and do the collecting. 

To the average Stark Countians, the publishing of bills and the collection of property taxes is a largely unseen function of county government.  However, if this process experiences a problem; there are consequences to all levels of Stark County government.

One of the primary goals of many Republican officeholders is to reduce the size and scope of government.  And all of this is well and good in theory.  But now that they have a real opportunity by force of the down economy to effectuate a reduction of government, the main question is how will such a reduction play with the average citizen.

The answer?  Nobody really knows.

The further question is - will the likes of Jim Renacci (Republican Congressman-elect/16th), Scott Oelslager (Republican and state Senator-elect/29th), Kirk Schuring (Republican and state Representative-elect/51st) and Todd Snitchler (Republican and state Representative the 50th) and their fellows at their respective levels of government have the fortitude to act on their campaign rhetoric of less government.

These are fascinating times for political observers of America, Ohio and Stark County.

It is becoming increasingly apparent that there is a permanent readjustment (downward) taking place in the lifestyle of the citizenry.  Moreover, it appears that the so called government sponsored and implemented "safety-net" may be vanishing.

The bottom line question?  Will the downturn/reduction in government services be accepted as a new economic/financial reality?

We in Ohio and Stark County are going to find out soon; very, very, soon!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

JOHN BOCCIERI: ON THE ROAD BACK TO WASHINGTON?


One of outgoing Congressman John Boccieri's best political friends is Governor Ted Strickland.  Strickland has be sort of mentor to Boccieri and may serve (by way of his own political history) as a guide as to how Boccieri can find his way back to Congress.

In 1992 Strickland defeated incumbent Republican Congressman Bob McEwen in the newly formed 6th Congressional District (a merger of the 6th and 10th district because of census driven redistricting).  In 1994, Strickland was defeated by Republican Frank Cremeans whom he defeated in 1996 to regain his district.  Thereafter, Strickland was pretty much an automatic in the 6th.

If he runs to regain a seat in Congress, Boccieri may have the reverse of Strickland's situation.  It is unlikely that the 16th as we know it will exist insofar as Stark County is concerned.  It is less likely that both Boccieri and Renacci will actually live in the same district (whatever the number assigned to it is).  However, as the politically knowledgeable know, it is not a requirement that you live in a district in order to run for a congressional seat.

The SCPR would not be completely surprised to see Boccieri to relocate out of Alliance.  It appears that the main reason that he moved into the district in the first place was to blunt criticism about not living in the district by then opponent Kirk Schuring.  It should not have been surprising that Boccieri moved into the eastern fringe of the 16th congressional district.  After all, his lifelong base has been Mahoning County (the Youngstown area).

However, there is no chance at all for Boccieri to become the congressman for Mahoning County as that is locked down by sitting Democratic congressman and Boccieri friend Tim Ryan.  So maybe Boccieri will stay put in Alliance.

Should Democrat Boccieri choose to run for Congress again, will there be a rematch with Republican Renacci?  Probably not, because of the redistricting.  But it could be and if such turns out to be the case, then an attempted political resurrection of John Boccieri could have an added element of drama to it.

The SCPR has little doubt that Boccieri will be running for Congress somewhere in Ohio in 2012.  This past week the Boccieri's communications director Rebecca Kershaw was busy sending out press releases on Boccieri's vote supporting the Obama/Republican compromise on the Bush tax cuts and the continuance of unemployment benefits for the long term unemployed.

So while Strickland - in sort of a way - is a structural model for a Boccieri pathway back to the United States House of  Representatives, whether or not the soon-to-be ex-congressman can make it back in 2012 is tied to Barack Obama and his success in convincing the American voters that he has achieved over four years what he did not achieve in two years (likely causing the defeat of the likes of Boccieri), and therefore should be re-elected.

Despite noises to the contrary on various issues during his term in office ("Cap and Trade," and the healthcare bill), Boccieri has proved to be an Obama loyalist.  In the long run this probably was a wise decision by Boccieri.  While the loyalty and merely being a Democrat officeholder likely cost him his seat in 2010, he remains one of the bright stars of the Democrats' political aspirations and should Obama pull off a political renaissance, Boccieri should realize political dividends for his loyalty.

In the meantime, will the Obama administration find a White House political appointment for Boccieri as a way station from which to plan his political comeback?

One has to believe that such will be the case.

In the final analysis, look for John Boccieri to be spending the next year and one-half (until the 2012 Democratic primary election) positioning himself for a return to Congress.