If Canton/Stark County has had a more divisive political figure than Democrat William J. Healy, II, please, somebody step forward and identify whom that might be.
It seems to the SCPR that everything Healy touches in Stark County government and politics turns into division and acrimony.
Yesterday, it was whether or not 9-1-1 emergency services countywide dispatch was going forward with Healy in charge (in the person of Stark County Council of Government Chair & Canton Safety Director Thomas Ream) or not.
While it appears that Healy lost yesterday's battle, the war is not yet over. And it likely will not be unless Canton's Democrats decide to put Healy on lame duck status come the Democratic primary election on May 3rd. Even if they decide to do so, he will still have seven months to reek havoc in Canton/Stark County government and politics.
As he has done with Stark County Commissioner Pete Ferguson's effort to consolidate the building departments of Canton and Stark County (and eventually, those of North Canton and Alliance) into one-stop-shopping, Healy appears to the SCPR to be sewing seeds of division over the 9-1-1 in an attempt because of the turmoil and confusion he sews to cause the whole effort to blow up in smoke.
The more specific apparent battle yesterday was whether or not Joseph Concatto (a former administration official in the cabinet of bitter Healy foe and former Republican mayor of Canton Janet Creighton [now Stark Commissioner]) is to be retained in employment as the project manager of the 9-1-1 countywide consolidation.
So in some respects the Concatto battle is a Healy harkening back to to the 2007 election in which he defeated Creighton who was the incumbent Republican mayor in a heavily Democratic city.
In hindsight, The Report believes that Cantonians would really like a "do-over" on that one. What Healy has wrought in terms of economic, social and political devastation on Canton since becoming mayor was simply unimaginable in November, 2007. But no more.
The Report believes that Healy's work of dividing Canton and Stark County government and politics is unparalleled going back to the beginnings of the county and Canton - Stark's county seat.
In addition to his effort to make Canton the center of countywide 9-1-1 operations and the building department mergers, Healy seems to be working non-stop to:
- keep Canton and Stark County health department consolidation from happening, and
- dividing Canton City Council into a "your either for me or against me" body
He swept back into town as sort of a "savior" figure in the early 2000s having been off to New York City making his mark in "the big apple" getting his MBA from New York University's Stern School of Business and starting his own marketing company (which nobody can seem to get a handle on).
His father, also William Healy - now deceased, (a long term state legislator from Stark County) had lost to Republican Richard Watkins in Canton's 1999 mayoralty race.
So, in addition to saving Canton from itself, Healy has a motive to redeem the family's political fortunes.
The first opportunity?
Challenge Bill Smuckler!
And he nearly pulled it off. He lost to Smuckler by a mere 139 votes out of 7,852 cast. The Report believes that had it simply been a Smuckler/Healy match up, Healy would have won.
But it wasn't and Healy failed, for the short term. An interesting side note to Healy's role in the ensuing Creighton/Smuckler general election race is Smuckler's statement to The Report that Healy circulated an email urging his supporters to vote for Creighton.
Though hardly a friend of Creighton (remember, they had not yet hooked up in a one-on-one political race), Healy apparently was thinking "the enemy of my enemy is my friend."
Having failed against Smuckler, Healy immediately started looking around for another Democrat that he might oust from office. Aha! He must have thought to himself: Mary Cirelli, she's vulnerable.
Mary is not the most polished Stark County politico in terms of articulation skills and political sophistication, but most will tell you that she is a good-hearted and nobody advocates more for her causes and constituents than Mary. She had gotten some negative press from The Rep's Paul Kostyu (the then Repository Columbus Bureau chief) for having been voted by the statehouse press in 2003 as the Ohio House's least effective member (the 52nd).
Healy jumped all over that designation and challenged Mary in the 2004 Democratic primary for the right to the representative for the 52nd. While Republicans do run candidates in this Democratic stronghold; the 52nd is a "safe" Democratic district.
So Healy defeats Cirelli but in the process picks up another avowed political enemy who will later turn out to be "thorn in the side" as a Canton councilwoman.
Of course, being in the Legislature was not a venue that was going to satisfy Healy for very long. One of 99, you have to be kidding! A man born to be in charge, no way!!!
And he was very unspectacular as a member of the House.
Undoubtedly, he was chomping at the bit to find a place to be in charge and the 2007 Canton mayor's race was ripe for this aspiring Democrat's to bring his Stern School of Business and entrepreneurial skills to bear on a city that was struggling to stay afloat.
As mayor he, right away, was in (and continues to be) the middle of controversy which includes - as a partial list:
- out-of-town campaign contributions and political associations that raised eyebrows,
- the letting of city contract which seemed to have political overtones,
- allegations of a improper relationship with a staff member that county law enforcement officials subsequently found to be unsubstantiated,
- his firing of the well-respected and independent minded Tom Bernabei as service director,
- his obvious disenchantment with the very able and somewhat independent minded Tom Nesbitt (whom Healy brought in from Nebraska [a former honcho with the Nebraska Highway Patrol] who left - sort of being pushed out the door, and
- his sparring with Councilmen Alan Schulman (president) and, of course, Smuckler; his key ally Greg Hawk (Ward 1), Cirelli and Republican Mark Butterworth over Healy's fight to keep a communications director on staff in the face of Canton's financial crisis
Healy is a consummate politician who has chosen as his preferred method of staying in power a "divide and conquer" political strategy staffed by every divisive technique he can conjure up.
The 2011 Democratic Canton mayoralty election is about whether or not Cantonian Democrats want to swirl around in sea of engendered chaos, confusion and fragmentation.
The do have an alternative.
Councilman Smuckler is not the most exciting political figure to come down the pike. However, he is about unifying Stark County's citizens and constructing government coalitions to make Canton and Stark County government for efficient and effective.
Even if Smuckler loses, there will be another opportunity to stop Healy with the Republican-selected primary candidate. However, it seems the best chance is in the Democratic primary in a city which has a 9 to 1 Democratic registration plurality.
Accordingly, the stakes could not be higher in the Democratic primary: four more years of division and strife, or a new beginning with a man who has built of political career on encouraging a countywide coming together that benefits all units of Stark County government.
The choice that Cantonians make on May 3rd will hugely impact all of Stark County!