As the Stark County Political Report has said from the beginning of their terms (Bernabei in November, 2010; Creighton in January, 2011), these newly elected commissioners have really picked up the pace in terms of their accessibility, their transparency and keeping the Stark County public informed.
One of the new measures that they have instituted which Stark Countians should be taking advantage of in droves is their scheduling of work sessions on Monday and Tuesday of nearly every week and sometimes they even schedule a third meeting. One such "extra" work session was held on April 22nd for Stark's Ohio General Assembly delegation (all showed up except for Christina Hagan) to hear:
- about a list of "unfunded mandates" that various county officials (as presented by Stark Common Pleas Judge Tayrn Heath) want funded or eliminated,
- about the desire of former Stark County Commissioner to get state authorization to impose an increase in the county's hotel and bed tax to fund a horse show arena at the Stark County Fairgrounds
- about the impact that cuts in local government funding that the state of Ohio is about to exact of governments across the state will have on Stark,
- about Commissioner Pete Ferguson desire that they get behind a $30 million project to Stark County to bring a veterans home to Stark County, and
- about concerns on the impact (very abbreviated in scope) of Senate Bill 5 on local government operations.
Topics of the work sessions started out being put on the "regular meeting" weekly county agenda so that citizens could know in advance what was going to be discussed at a given work session. However, somewhere along the way the topics to be discussed disappeared.
While the Stark County public has not availed itself yet, in meaningful numbers, of the opportunity to come and see Stark County government in process, The Report, for one, will be hammering away at citizens to take note of the work sessions and to attend, to listen and afterwards make input to the individual commissioners as to their thoughts on particular the particular topics discussed (e.g. countywide 9-1-1 rehabilitation, the Stark County ditching program, the collection of delinquent property taxes, economic development and the like).
In lieu of the public showing up, yours truly is very likely to be at the meeting in order to do an analysis of the significance of the session to Stark Countians. But, of course, The Report urges the public to come and see for yourselves and also in showing up to encourage the commissioners to continue their work (which includes evening meetings out in the townships, villages and cities of Stark on county operations) of being accessible, transparent and informative to the Stark citizenry.
As stated above, "somewhere along the way the topics to be discussed" at the work sessions came up missing on the agenda. Today, The Report had occasion to make an issue of the "missing topics" with County Administrator Mike Hanke.
Not long ago Commissioner Creighton brought up the fact that the minutes of the regular weekly meetings were not being prepared in a timely fashion.
The Report thinks that Hanke (former managing editor of The Repository and who was heavily supported for the job of county administrator by former Commissioner Tom Harmon) has done a generally competent job as administrator under some very trying circumstances (i.e staff cuts). However, The Report believes he has fallen short in several areas:
- making sure that the public has access to the happenings of the commissioners as reported in the minutes of the board of commissioners (which appears to have been corrected),
- listing the topics to be discussed at the work sessions so that the public and the media knows what to expect as discussion items.
Of course, Hanke denies that his former employer has an advantage. However, The Report is skeptical that such has been the case.
It would unfortunate if the progress being made by commissioners in improving the processes of and visibility of county government for their effort to be undermined by a lack of administrative due diligence.
The Stark County Political Report has every confidence in the current Board of Stark County Commissioners that they will see to it that adjustments are made to correct the current administrative deficiency discussed in this blog.
Here is a copy of the community meetings list; which, by the way, was ably constructed and coordinated by Administrator Hanke, whereby the commissioners have been getting out into greater Stark County (and will continue to do so). Stark Countians should be attending these meetings and making their input with commissioners on the various issues that they deal with on a daily basis.