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Thursday, December 29, 2011

ALLIANCE VOTERS DENIED OPPORTUNITY TO WEIGH-IN ON PAY INCREASE?


Four years ago former Alliance Police Chief Larry Dordea decided to go political as a Republican  and run for Stark County sheriff against long time Democratic Sheriff Tim Swanson.

The SCPR's take on Dordea is that he is one of the least political of those holding or aspiring to office in Stark County.

The Report has believed that Dordea shows more political courage (in the sense of being independent minded and not a political party puppet) than many who seek office, but an article by Stephanie Ujhelyi of The Alliance Review in today's edition (Alliance elected officials to see pay increase) may show that Dordea is changing in that he seems to yours truly, perhaps, to be fitting in more and more in with "the politics as usual" crowd.

For the record, Dordea emphatically denies that any kind of political fix was in the making as Alliance City Council (Council) voted last night 5  to 2 (including three lame duck council persons Andreani, Rhome and Thompson voting yes and Democrats Okey and Phillips being the two no votes) to increase the salaries of a number of elected city officials with the advent of the new year (except for mayor which takes hold after Mayor-elect Alan Adreani's first term).

One of the matters that the SCPR has worked hardest on in the nearly four years of the blog's existence is exposing backroom politics deals designed to thwart public imput and participation in the decisions of government.

In the view of The Report, one such major example was the December, 2008 deal in which the commissioners (then Bosley, Harmon and Vignos) imposed a 0.5% sales tax.

Notwithstanding Dordea's denial for both himself and the advocates of the Alliance public official salary increase, The Report sees in what happened in Alliance as having all the earmarks of a process to avoid the public in terms of electoral accountability in the context of the ward council, council-at-large and mayoral races of November 8, 2011.

Yours truly has heard numerous Stark County political subdivision officials lament the general public's disdain, skepticism and cynicism of local government and seemingly always deny that backroom deals are going on in Stark.

If one takes these local officials at face value, political chicanery happens elsewhere.  Not in Stark!

Hmm?

An interesting case study of "what if" may be present in the Alliance council-at-large race.


Dordea says that he would have welcomed a discussion of the merits of the pay increase issue in the midst of his campaign for re-election as councilman-at-large.

Question.  Would the candidates and their positions on the issue have changed the outcome of the results?  Dordea won over Dierre Upshaw by 203 votes.  If they differed on the issue, could the difference have resulted in a 102 vote turnaround and a Democrat Councilman-elect Dierre Upshaw?

But the fact of the matter is that there was no such discussion.

Dordea is a Republican candidate for Stark County sheriff which was a poorly kept secret that he would be even as he filed for re-election as councilman-at-large.  If he ends up being elected, then, of course, he will have to resign from Council and his successor appointed by whom?

The Alliance members of the Stark County Republican Central Committee.

Hmm?

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

GIAVASIS OUT: A TOTALLY CHANGED SITUATION INSOFAR AS STARK CO. IS CONCERNED?


ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED 12/27/2011 (UPDATED 12/28/2011)

A surprising announcement yesterday!

Plain Township Trustee Louis Giavasis drops out of county commissioner race.


Martin, I am releasing this to all the Media.



Press Release

12/27/2011

After long and careful thought, I have decided not to seek to the Democratic nomination for Stark County Commissioner in 2012.  I’ve based this decision on three things. First, what is in the best interest of my family; next, my current commitment to the people of Plain Township; and, my full time position with Stark County Clerk of Courts, Nancy Reinbold.

My heart remains in Plain Township serving the residents that have elected me 5 times. I love my community and those that share it with me and my family.  My father raised me to fulfill commitments made; and I will fulfill the commitment I made first to the residents of Plain Township.
I want to thank those of you who have promised and shown your support to my candidacy for Stark County commissioner.  Currently, Stark County is blessed two have capable commissioners that I believe are leading this county in the right direction. 
Dr. Peter Ferguson is not seeking re-election and I want to thank him for what he has done to help our county. Canton City at Large Councilman, William Smuckler is seeking to succeed him and I believe he will make great commissioner. 
I look forward to supporting him and working with the other commissioners in the future as a Plain Township Trustee helping to move the Stark County community as a whole forward.
Respectfully,

Louis P. Giavasis

Plain Township Trustee
To the SCPR Giavasis' withdrawal (who The Report believes would have been elected had he stayed in the race) means that it is likely that long time Councilman William Smuckler will be elected to succeed outgoing commissioner Pete Ferguson who decided not to run for re-election.

The Report sees the race between Democrat Smuckler and Republican and former commissioner Richard Regula as being competitive but with Smuckler being the ultimate winner.

A major advantage to having Giavasis remain in the race and likely be elected (in the SCPR's assessment) is that he has a relationship with Canton Mayor William J. Healy that offered hope that he could be a coordinating factor in convincing Healy to work with the county to effect consolidations/mergers of Canton's duplicative services (along with other Stark County political subdivisions) with the county's.

Although, as the likely successor to Ferguson, Smuckler has the longest running and deepest commitment to regionalization among the prospective commissioners come January 1, 2013 (the SCPR believing that Commissioner Bernabei will be re-elected), he only adds to the animosity that exists between the Stark County commissioners and Mayor William J. Healy, II.

Smuckler is fresh off having lost to Healy in the Democratic primary of March of this year and, of course, Commissioner Creighton lost to him in the general election of November, 2007 and, of course, he fired Commissioner Tom Bernabei as his services director and chief of staff in early 2008.

So the exit of Louis Giavasis is clearly a loss to Stark County in terms of bringing Stark County government and the city of Canton together.

Monday, December 26, 2011

THE "FINGER-POINTING-GAME" UNDERWAY IN MASSILLON?


As the transition of political power approaches in Massillon, yours truly is getting the impression that Mayor-elect Kathy Catazaro-Perry is getting more than a tad worried about having the burden of the resurrection of Massillon on her shoulders.

While she is not the real political power in Massillon (the SCPR says it is Clerk of Courts Johnnie A. Maier, Jr et al), Catazaro-Perry will go down in Tigerland infamy as being responsible (as the de jure leader) for the city's final decline into economic oblivion should her administration (ladened with Maier loyalists) not be able to pull Massillon out of its seeming Cicchinelli induced 45 degree economic decent.

Catazaro-Perry indeed is about to inherit a number of ulcerous problems from outgoing Mayor Francis H. Cicchinell, Jr., to wit:
  • a financially broke city that cannot pay its bills on a timely basis including a failure to pay Massillon's share of emergency call/dispatch services currently provided by the R.E.D. (Regional Emergency Dispatch) Center,
  • a park system falling into disrepair because its infrastructure monies have be diverted to keep a money sucking golf course complex going, and
  • making mortgage payments on a senior citizens high rise and a private sector hotel
Rather than act like the adult in the room, it seems to the SCPR that the Catazaro-Perry entourage (as articulated by her "anonymous" apologist [Shane Jackson - Maier chief deputy clerk of courts and Stark County Dems political director - likely being the unidentified chief spokesperson] is bellyaching, moaning, groaning about the legacy left by Cicchinelli and thereby setting themselves up for an excuse if they cannot reverse the inexorable slide that Massillon seems to be in the midst of.

Catazaro-Perry has been on Massillon City Council for eight years and has done precious little to impede/correct the errant Cicchinelli direction that she and her supporters allege and cry about.  Nor has she, on the cusp of assuming office, set out a plan to turn Massillon's fortunes around.  A plan that the voters of Massillon could use as a benchmark for holding her accountable by her own standard as her administration unfolds.

It appears to The Report that the mayor-elect vacillated about running for mayor in the first place.  Having allowed herself to be nudged into running for mayor by backroom Massillon political operatives and now that she has been elected, Catazaro-Perry is now looking for ways to have a win-win situation for herself.

The stratagems?

Lower expectations and publish a "work in progress" list of bogeymen who endeavor to make her an officeholding failure.

Now the list includes Cicchinelli, Gamber, Slagle, McCune, Manson, Hersher, Jayne Ferrero, Stergios and Todaro-Kirchner and Brunckman.

After January 1st, whose names will grace the Maier/Jackson enemies list?

Answer:  anyone who disagrees with the Catazaro-Perry approach, however helter-skelter, chaotic and directionless it may prove to be.

Disagreement of a stripe will be the key to making the list however well-founded particular opposition might be.

It is apparent that the greatest fear of the Maier led cabal is that failure of a Catazaro-Perry adminstration to turnaround Massillon, (not unlike Maier political hero and former Democratic Governor Ted Strickland's failure to turnaround Ohio).  Such appears to the SCPR to be the most likely outcome of the Massillon regime change.

Of course, the ultimate fear is that Francis H. Cicchinelli, Jr., being young enough and intentional enough,  will be there waiting in the Democratic primary of 2115 to return the favor of his 2111 defeat.

In the meantime, a  Catazaro-Perry enemies list headed by Cicchinelli will be written, rewritten and rewritten again and likely be accompanied by political smear after political smear and political smear in order to distract Massillonians from the real problems which continue to plague them, the change in leadership notwithstanding.

Such is the nature of power politics.  The only politics that Maier and friends know.

Look for the blame game to continue.

The politicians will thrive as Massillon bottoms out.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

2011 "LUMP OF COAL" AWARD TO CANTON MAYOR WILLIAM J. HEALY, II


2011 was not a good year for Stark County government.

Though the Stark County commissioners rid themselves of Gary Zeigler as treasurer by negotiating a questionable resignation/retirement deal from a Stark County taxpayer standpoint (Zeigler got over $200,000 when one includes his attorney fees), the persistent Zeigler in the headlines factor appear to the SCPR to have been a drag on citizen morale and confidence in county government.

The commissioners did get a 0.5% sales tax issue passed but they had to pull out all stops on "a fear factor" campaign and ended up with added revenues designed to allow county government to limp along until another financial crisis emerges in a year or two or three from now.

Despite the talk about making Stark County government (including county government itself) more efficient by  working collaboratively with outlier villages, cities and townships, very little progress has been made mainly due to the foot dragging opposition of Canton Mayor William J. Healy, II.

Healy's consistent and persistent "my way or the highway" attitude and conduct earns him this years "all by myself" 2011 "Lump of Coal" award from the Stark County Political Report.

Whatever topic it is, if William J. Healy, II or one of his loyalists is not "in charge" at the end of the day, "it ain't going to happen - no matter, no way!"

The SCPR has written extensively over the nearly four years of The Report's existence of the hugely detrimental force Healy has been for real progress and development in Canton and, because it is Stark's county seat and largest city, for Stark County.

Because of Healy and his demand to be in control, a fully repaired and functioning 9-1-1 emergency services system cannot be finalized all at an annual cost savings to Canton itself of nearly half-a-million-dollars.  Of course, there is the unquantifiable savings in lives, aggravated medical conditions and injuries that might be sustained by those in need of optimum 9-1-1 response that can only be reached by a fully rehabbed and thereby integrated Stark County-wide system being in place.

Because of Healy and his demand to be in control, Stark County will come up short in having a complete and total consolidation of health department services, building code enforcement services and informational technologies service.

Commissioner Pete Ferguson signaled this past week that he going full speed ahead on merging county's other than city of Canton building departments (though he is giving Healy one last try).  Good for Pete. Shame on Bill that it is likely that Ferguson can save his time and breath on Hizzhoner.

Healy's end game seems to be in the view of The Report in using Canton to catapult himself into much higher political office.

In his own mind, he appears to the SCPR to think he is gubernatorial/U.S. senatorial type material or perhaps a second-term Obama appointee prospect.

However, to get there he must use Canton and Stark County government and political successes, as he spins them, to get the attention of statewide and national kingmakers and thereby benefit himself to attain at a level he believes he is eminently qualified for and deserving of.

After he has created a series of  faux and temporal local successes, he likely will move onto the bigger and better and leave Cantonians and Stark Countians holding the bag.

For being the self-serving politician he is, the Stark County Political Report awards Canton Mayor William J. Healy, II its 2011 "Lump of Coal" award!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

BELT TIGHTENING IN STORE FOR STARK CO GOV'T IN 2012?



To some Stark Countians, Stark County government is still a pig that needs more than belt tightening.

One such person is the Republican commissioner candidate Craig T. Conley who is running against incumbent Democrat commissioner Tom Bernabei next November.

The SCPR's take on Conley is that he is for a recasting of Stark government from being thought of as a pig into a svelte gazelle or the like thereof.

Yesterday, Kelli Young of The Repository did a follow up piece (After the Headlines: County still studying the citizen-review report) on the follow through by Stark County commissioners and other county elected officials on the recommendations of the Citizens Review Commission (CRC) which shows that much work needs to be done to meet the benchmarks set by the CRC.

Conley, who led a group known as the "Vote No Increased Taxes Committee" in 2009  in a highly successful tax repeal effort after the then Stark County Board of County Commissioners (Bosley, Harmon and Vignos) imposed a 0.5% sales tax in December, 2008, was a member of the CRC but had very little active involvement in the group's scrutinizing of county operations and accordingly cannot be thought of a owning an interest in seeing that the CRC's recommendations are implemented.

The Report believes that he is for implementation but that he sees the recommendations as putting a band-aid on a wound that is much larger than that indicated by the Citizens Review Commission Report (CRCR) issued in January of this year.

He sees much bigger fish to fry.  Target?  The Stark County sheriff's department and the pension benefit and health insurance contributions which the county makes from general revenue funds as its negotiated share according to terms of the county/union contract.

He has already signaled where he is heading with his campaign in a recent appearance on Points to Ponder (WHBC1480).  He talked about the commissioners (Bernabei, Creighton and Ferguson) failure to even discuss in any detail in public session why they wouldn't want to save Stark County about $200,000 by increasing non-bargaining unit county employee share of health insurance from its present 10% to more like 15%.

For county officials, the CRCR is likely the "bible" to follow verse by verse as a demonstration to the Stark County public that they are streamlining county government into a profile that Stark's citizens will accept as "mission accomplished" in terms of government frugality and slenderizing.

Conley is going to have the argument advantage in the campaign.

If the county continues to lag on implementation of the recommendations of the CRC as pointed out by Young, Conley can and undoubtedly will needle Bernabei about the lack of progress.

To him, meeting CRC goals is along the lines of belt tightening on a pig.

He will be more than suggesting to Stark County voters that a vote for Conley will be a vote for converting the pig into a gazelle come 2013 and onwards.

The SCPR sees the Bernabei/Conley battle as being the most interesting county level race in 2012.

(VIDEO) PERSISTENT COUNTY COMMISSIONER "PETE" FERGUSON. NOT GIVING UP ON A MORE EFFICIENT STARK CO. GOV'T!


Some time ago Pete Ferguson as a member of the Stark County Board of Commissioners initiated an effort to bring all the cities of Stark together under an umbrella department of local government to offer Stark Countians "a-one-stop-shop" building inspection operation.

The commissioners appointed a group of citizens headed up by former Commissioner Tom Harmon to look into whether or not consolidating far flung building code compliance inspection functions (i.e. Alliance, Canton, Massillon, North Canton et cetera) with the Stark County wide (covering the townships) building inspection department was practical and efficient.

Well, the Harmon led group came back to the commission and the report was "affirmative;" it is the thing to do.

But there was a major problem.

Mayor William J. Healy, II of Canton.

If it ain't his idea and, more importantly, if he ain't going to be in charge at the end of the day - "it ain't going to happen!!!

And it did not help matters that Harmon was part of the Bill Smuckler campaign to unseat Healy from the Canton mayoralty

Ferguson tells the SCPR that when Harmon made his positive report on building inspection department merger, he got a phone call from an irate Mayor Healy.

One would think that Ferguson would simply give up on the project for as long as Healy is mayor of Canton.

But not the eternal optimist Ferguson.

On Tuesday he got an email from the County Commissioner Association of Ohio detailing a new Kasich administration Ohio Department of Development program designed to promote realization of ideas such as Ferguson's, to wit:

Local Government Innovation Fund Application
Program Overview

The Local Government Innovation Fund consists of $45 million to be awarded in the form of grants and loans to political subdivisions for local government innovation projects. Of the $45 million, $9 million is available for grant awards and $36 million is available for loan awards. Funds will be awarded to projects that promote efficiency, shared services, coproduction, and mergers among local governments. Projects are also expected to facilitate improved business environments and promote community attraction.  (Source:  Ohio County Commissioners Ass'n website)
Here is a video of Commissioner Ferguson speaking about his consolidation efforts at yesterday's commissioner meeting. 

The SCPR applauds Ferguson for his persistence. 

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

IS THE KASICH/DEWINE FIGHT OVER DEWINE REMAINING CHAIR OF THE OHIO GOP SPILLING OVER INTO STARK COUNTY?


IS THE KASICH/DEWINE FIGHT OVER DEWINE REMAINING CHAIR OF THE OHIO GOP SPILLING OVER INTO STARK COUNTY?

In two words, "apparently not."

With a battle going on between Republican Governor John Kasich and Ohio Republican Party Chairman Kevin DeWine on whether or not DeWine would remain as chairman, it was tempting to read into the fact that long term 33rd District Republican State Committeewoman Sarah Brown is being opposed for re-election (now in the 29th due to Alliance - where Sarah lives - being redistricted into the 29th from the 33rd this year) that the competition was a local spillover.


But such does not appear to be the case.

As far as the Stark County Political Report can determine, both Brown and her opponent Beth A. Williams are supporting the Kasich side of the state GOP chairmanship argument.

In a conversation with Brown yesterday, she told the SCPR that she sees Kasich as the titular head of the Ohio Republican Party and has been totally supportive of him as governor.

So why did Williams decide to take on the politically experienced (as a former councilperson on Alliance City Council), connected (married to former Stark County Republican Party Chairman Charles E. Brown, Jr. [now a Stark County Common Pleas Court judge], savvy and Republican passionate Sarah Brown?

The Report has been unable to contact Williams but has exchanged e-mails with Jim Woods and The Report believes that Woods has shed light as to why Williams has filed to contest the Republican 29th District state committeewoman seat.


The Report's interest in the Brown/Williams was piqued on receiving a broadcast e-mail yesterday from Woods.  Witness these extracts:


  • For our part, this divisiveness began when DeWine "broke the bank" to defeat "Tea Party" Republicans in the 2010 primary, leaving the party short of funds to defeat democrats in the fall.
  • [H]e [DeWine] will not step down as Chairman.  Not in order to prevent a costly Primary battle for state central committee seats, consuming resources that should be applied to the general election.  Again, as he did in 2010.  
  • He is adamant that he will remain Chairman no matter what, until January 2013.  Not if the war between him and the rest of the party continues right through the general election, with all the implications of infighting and intrigue within the party has on the Ohio Presidential election, and the possibility that the divisiveness in Ohio may result in Obama's re-election. 
  • This is not the action of a man who is committed to the cause.  It is the action of a man who has put himself first.  Conservative Republicans, liberal Republicans, social conservatives, and the "Tea Party" may disagree on many things, but one thing I think we can all agree upon is that a person who is in it for their own self-interest above all else, is not "one of us". 
Hmm?

While Williams may have a special edge to her in being a member of the Stark 912 Patriots (since April 21, 2011 according to the group's website) and thereby absorbing the intensity of the Tea Party's feeling against DeWine, it is clear to the SCPR that Sarah Brown is firmly ensconced in Kasich's corner and supports his desire to have a person as chairman to his liking.

It appears that Williams candidacy is grounded in the Tea Party's effort to get a prominent place at the table within the Republican Party.

Here is how Woods puts it to The Report:
The Tea Party movement has been encouraging its members to run for central committee positions since 2009, in order to increase our influence in the major political parties.  We also believe that both major party's should be more open, inclusive and responsive to the rank and file members of their party.
 Moreover, he adds this:
I note that the GOP Chairman (DeWine) does not have a candidate of his own for this seat.  Whether either Beth or Sarah decide to withdraw or proceed is up to them.  They are both clearly on the same side of the "Head of the Party" issue.  If neither chooses to withdraw, then may the best woman win!
For her part, Sarah Brown tells The Report that she welcomes the political competition from Williams pointing out she has had numerous opponents in a various runs for Alliance City Council.

You can be sure that those seeking votes in Stark County in future elections are keenly interested in knowing exactly how much clout the Tea Party has in the county.  

Unless one of them withdraws from the race, one thing that the outcome could reveal is an indication of the answer to that question.

NEW ALLEGATIONS ARISE THAT COMMISSIONERS ARE NOT EFFECTIVELY OVERSEEING THE STARK COUNTY DOG POUND. IS PRIVATIZATION THE ANSWER?


An October 8th blog went into some detail about problems which are said to persist at the Stark County Dog Pound (SCDP - Pound) (CLICK HERE for a refresher).

Going on nearly three months later and very little, if anything, has been done to solve the seemingly eternal problems in the operation of the SCDP.

Well, if you believe an e-mail that the SCPR received yesterday from a member of the Stark County Dog Pound Advisory Board (SCDPAB), that is the state of affairs is in these days.

The commissioners have space on Monday and Tuesday of each week to schedule work sessions to work out problems such as those said to exist in the e-mail.  That is precisely what The Report thinks the commissioners should do.  They need to bring in Dog Pound Warden Reagan Tetreault, SCDPAB members and interested Stark County citizens as a forum in which to lay out the problems that all agree exist and to establish an agreed plan of action to resolve the agreed to list of items to be remedied.

Or, alternatively, perhaps the commissioners should piggyback on a look see initiative by SCDPAB members on the viability of privatization of the Pound.

In yesterday's e-mail, the following additional (in addition to those recited in the October 8th blog) allegations are made:
  • A worker, who,  apparently, had been on sick leave for some six weeks while working a similar job elsewhere and who avoided sanction because Warden Tetreault did not provide the employee with a "light duty" alternative.
  • Suspicions that Pound dogs were not properly fed over the Thanksgiving holiday period.
  • Some time in the fall of this year Warden Tetreault worked out a "trade" with the Stark County Humane Society of adoptable Pound dogs in exchange for Humane Society pit bulls which the writer of the e-mail says are not readily adoptable and therefore become prime candidates for euthanasia thereby creating conditions for enhanced euthanasia numbers at the Pound.
  • There is an atmosphere of "communication" distrust (the SCPR's interpretation) between Warden Tetreault and SCDPAB volunteers at the Pound.
  • A perceived Warden Tetreault inability to make timely decisions and overreliance on Stark County Chief Administrator Mike Hanke for decision making.
  • A belief that commissioners do not take the SCAB seriously (e.g. Commissioner Creighton has told a SCDPAB member that the Pound is a low priority for her) and has either directly or inadvertently communicated such to Warden Tetreault and that a "not take seriously" has taken hold on the SCDPAB/Tetreault interaction to the point that the Warden no longer attends SCDPAB meetings.
  • Although the SCDPAB raised $7,800.00 to replace an inadequate ventilation system, the commissioners seem to be dragging their feet in getting the ventilation system improved.
The SCPR has been covering the Stark County commissioners for several years now and one festering problem that neither former boards nor the current board have effectively dealt with is the longstanding and chronic complaints about the Stark County Dog Pound.

The Report did not expect much from the former boards.

However, yours truly does expect that the current board with its more citizen-friendly/responsive attitude will move to solve the pound's problem. 

And to be fair with respect to Commissioner Creighton's purported statement, if she made it, The Report has to believe it was made in the context of dealing with county budgetary matters and getting the November sales tax passed.

As The Report has written frequently since Commissioners Bernabei and Creighton came on board in November, 2010 and January, 2011 respectively; the current Stark County Board of Commissioners is vastly improved over recent boards.

But it is not perfect and one aspect of its imperfection seems to be centered on a lack of resolve to solve the persistent problems of the Pound.

Again, the SCPR calls on the commissioners to schedule a public work session(s) sooner than later and work with the SCDPAB to get to an agreed bottom line definition of the problems and develop a plan of action to remedy the inadequacies in the context of a defined timeline.

Alternatively, the commissioners may wish to get out of the dog pound business.

Because of their dissatisfaction with the way Stark County oversees the operation of the Pound, members of the SCDPAB are looking into privatizing the county's dog pound operations.  Perhaps the commissioners should jump onboard and join in on the inquiry.

The SCPR's historical take on the Stark' commissioners' oversight of the Pound is that it has been "a pain in the neck" and it is a function in terms of the commissioners wholeheartedly embracing it and finding lasting solutions to its problems they would rather not be into.

As it is, the SCDP is not a general fund department of county government, it is rather an enterprise fund type operation supported by various licensing and services fees it charges users.

So if having a county dog pound and seeing to it that it is run properly is a bother to the commissioners, then should it not be full bore ahead with privatization?

Sunday, December 18, 2011

"RIP VAN" SCHURING WAKES UP IN TIME FOR 2012 ELECTIONS?


If Stark Countians could only keep J. Kirk Schuring (Republican - Jackson) awake, he might actually be an effective legislator or the county.

But the best we can do is get him in a awakened mode at re-election time every other year (if he is in the Ohio House) and every fourth year (if he is in the Ohio Senate) and./or, perhaps,  running for the U.S. Congress as he was in 2008 in his effort to succeed Ralph Regula to the Congress.


Well, it is re-election time for this state representative (currently Ohio's and Stark County's 51st House District - reconfigured as the 48th with the decentennial constitutionally mandated redistricting done a few months ago).

Review this (CLICK HERE)  prior SCPR blog for a detailed account on Schuring's  history of becoming attentive to Stark County's legislative needs as an election looms.

Awake!  Awake!! Awake1!! Representative Schuring.  You have opponents waiting for you in November, 2012.

Get some bills passed, man!

And, he has.

To boot, he has the press release pipeline to the Canton Repository up and running.  (Reference: Boards and ballots: Dyslexia specialists, redistricting of Timken plants, Robert Wang, The Repository, December 17, 2011)


The Schuring shout (apparently, by press release) goes out and about that Representative Schuring has shepherded two pieces of legislation through the Ohio Legislature.

H.B. No. 225


In the SCPR's thinking, the most important is Amended H.B. No. 225.


Of the thirteen provisions, two were the handiwork of Schuring, to wit:
Authorizes a regional council of governments to operate a public safety answering
point (PSAP) as part of a countywide 9-1-1 system under an adopted or amended
final plan.
Requires a regional council of governments operating a PSAP to pay all costs
associated with the PSAP, and to allocate costs among itself and the subdivisions
served by the PSAP based on the allocation formula in the final plan.
SOURCE: Ohio Legislative Service Commission
In Stark County under the leadership of Stark County Council of Governments (SCOG) Governance has been working years to rehab the county's broken 9-1-1 emergency call/response system.

Almost $3 million lies in the Stark County commissioners bank account awaiting finalization of Stark 9-1-1 rebuild.  Gonzales and the remainder of SCOG's board have been frustrated as one impediment after another hitch (e.g. Canton Mayor William Healy, II and Safety Director Thomas Ream renege on participation) after another delayed progress on finishing 9-1-1.

Enter Schuring.  The bill was introduced on May 11th (Schuring was not a prime sponsor).  He piggybacked the 9-1-1 onto the bill.

H.B. No. 157

Probably was not needed, but "better safe than sorry."  After all a somnorific legislator needs a reason to stir from his sleep.  An election is on the horizon.

Unlike H.B. No. 225, Schuring was a prime sponsor of this bill.  However, it was introduced on March 15, about nine (9) months ago and it took Schuring all this time to get a bill through.   Hmm?

It:
Permits an educational service center (ESC) to engage the services of a "dyslexia specialist" to provide training for K-4 teachers in school districts and other public schools that contract with the ESC for training services on (1) the indicators of dyslexia and (2) the types of instruction that children with dyslexia need.

Permits groups of local school districts within an ESC's territory to engage the services of a dyslexia specialist if the ESC does not provide the training.
... .  Though current law does not expressly prohibit this now, the bill expressly authorizes ESCs to engage the services of a dyslexia specialist to provide training for teachers of grades K through 4 on the indicators of dyslexia and the types of instruction that children with dyslexia need to learn, read, write, and spell. ... . (emphasis added)
SOURCE: Ohio Legislative Service Commission
The piece by Wang shows the tremendous advantage that a incumbent like Schuring.  Politicos like to cite media reports like this as being example of  "earned media."  

Schuring's opponents (Democrat Trump and Libertarian Deegan) have to doing a slow burn as Stark County's only countywide newspaper pumps out public relations-esque material without affording them an opportunity to evaluate/respond and thereby increase their voter ID factor.

For all the time Schuring has been in the Ohio Legislature (some 16 years) he has produced precious little of significant legislation to benefit Stark County or even the state of Ohio in an overall sense.

He has been trading back and forth with fellow Stark County Republican Scott Oelslager between the 51st House District and the 29th Senate District (a game of musical chairs except that in this version Schuring and Oelslager each get a seat; just a different seat) in order to avoid the consequences of term limits having been voted in by a Republican majority back in the 1990s with Schuring and Oelslager being among the supporters of term limits.

From time-to-time the editors at The Repository will complain about the deficient productiveness of the Ohio General Assembly.  However, they seem never to point the finger at either Schuring or Oelslager.

Apparently for the likes of Jeff Gauger (the executive editor of The Rep), it is all those other bums who staff (as a elected representatives) the Ohio Legislature; not Stark Countians Schuring and Oelslager.    These two have served in supermajorities (veto proof) and thereby should have been able to do much done for Stark.

It appears to the SCPR that they not only get a pass from The Rep.  But to add insult to injury, the editorial and news managers at The Rep seem to set a tone that it is okay for The Rep to be a conduit for ensuring Schuring and Oelslager have a lock on statewide public office.

Schuring has yet to produce on Stark County Court of Common Pleas Tayrn Heath's request (made months and months ago) that he, Oelslager and Democrat Stephen Slesnick (Democrats are in a distinct minority) do something to rollback unfunded mandates which strap Stark County finances (the passage of the recent 0.5% levy notwithstanding).

But we do not see questions on Schuring's failure in this in Wang's piece.

Hmm?

Friday, December 16, 2011

$10 MILLION, $6 MILLION? THE HIT THAT STARK COUNTY (CANTON CITY) SCHOOLS TO TAKE IF HB 136 (THE "VOUCHER" EXPANSION BILL) PASSES

Stark County school districts appear to be in a fight for their very existence.

How's that?

H.B. No. 136 (Parental Choice and Taxpayer Savings Scholarship Program - PACT) introduced by Republican state Representative Mark Huffman of Lima, Ohio and a graduate of Lima Central High School which stands to be a beneficiary, as do all parochial/private schools, of the legislation he is, as majority leader of the House Republican Caucus, shepherding through the Ohio General Assembly.

As it now stands, according to Ohio School Board Association (OASBO) and the Buckeye Association of School Administrators (BASA) see it, PACT "is a new entitlement program that subsidizes private school tuition with no accountability for taxpayer dollars.

OASBO and BASA claim that "Ohio ha[s] the most voucher programs of any state in the nation."

School districts throughout Ohio are busy passing resolutions opposing HB 136.  Over 300 hundred of Ohio's 614 districts have passed such resolutions.

Here is a resolution by the Tuslaw Board of Education which is typical of what the other 300 plus districts have passed.


Stark County Educational Services Center (SCESC) Superintendent Larry Morgan (yours truly's spouse is president of SCESC board) tells The Report that Stark County schools stand to lose $10 million annually whereas Canton City stands to lose $6 million if HB 136 (PACT) passes.

One Stark County school district that will suffer if PACT gets passed will be the Tuslaw schools.  Tuslaw's losses could be anywhere from $67,500 to $450,00 depending how many students the legislation allows to participate in the voucher program.

Tuslaw Superintendent Al Osler told The Report that even $67,500 is no little amount for Tuslaw and amendments to the bill limiting losses for now is exactly what one should expect.  For the idea is now to "get the foot in door" in just getting the bill passed and then voucher expansion advocates would be to come back in successive years to increase the number of eligible students.

Right now if Tuslaw was maxed out on the total number of its residents who attend parochial/private schools,  which is now at 100; then Tuslaw would take a $450,000 hit.

The SCPR agrees with Osler that over the longer haul, the number of eligible students will certainly increase as legislators get inundated with complaining parents of excluded students and the pressure will be such that eventually all will be made eligible.

Such would be a convenient political cover for doctrinaire (mostly, but not exclusively, Republicans) voucher proponents who as a matter of political philosophy are hellbent to do what they can to undermine public education which they view as a lost cause.

Where do Stark County legislators stand on HB 136?

STATE REPRESENTATIVES

Christina Hagan  (Republican - Marlboro - the 50th House District) is definitely for the bill.  She has told Morgan as much in conversations they have had earlier this month.  Moreover, the SCPR's take on her is that she will do whatever she is told by Republican Speaker of the House Billy Batchhelder.

Stephen Slesnick (Democrat - Canton  - the 52nd House District) has to be against the bill.  Canton to take a $6 million hit because of the bill.  How could he vote any other way?

Kirk Schuring (Republican - Jackson Township - the 51st House District) is likely to vote yes in the opinion of the SCPR.   Schuring likes to make the likes of Morgan think he's going to vote their way, but in the end he almost always bends to Republican political pressure to vote the party line.

STATE SENATOR

Scott Oelslager (Republican - Plain Township - the 29th Senate District) is the most likely to vote no among the Republican side of the Stark County legislative delegation.  Here is a copy of a letter he sent to Superintendent Morgan:


Thursday, December 15, 2011

KEEPING THEM HONEST: DID GOP STATE REP. CHRISTINA HAGAN SEEK TO SPONSOR DEM REP BOB HAGAN'S BILL TO REQUIRE "ALL" RECIPIENTS OF STATE FUNDING TO FIRST HAVE PASSED A DRUG TEST?


Earlier this month Ron Ponder of Points to Ponder (WHBC - 1480 AM) had appointed Republican state Representative Christina Hagan on his radio program.

Initially the conversation was about H.B. No. 368 sponsored by Hagan.  It is a bill  "to create the Long-range Financial Outlook Council for the purpose of informing the public and the General Assembly about the financial status of the state by studying financial and other conditions and issuing an annual long-range financial outlook report

Creating more government proposed by a person who says she is for smaller government?  Hmm?

But anyhow, the discussion quickly turned to a bill passed recently by the state of Florida requiring welfare recipients to pass a drug test as a condition of receiving welfare benefits.

A bill recently introduced in Ohio is a take off of the Florida legislation.


Ponder asked Hagan whether or not she supported state Sen. Schaffer's bill?

Answer:  pretty much of a yes but she did express concern for the children of welfare receiving parents and what their fate would be in the face of the family being cut off from its only source of income.

Ponder then turned to asking about the fairness of singling out welfare recipients as compared to many others (included state legislators) who, of course, receive state monies.

Hagan then brought up Democrat Robert Hagan's H.B. No. 343.


Again, here is what she said:


Though she gratuitously presents herself as a especially devoted religious person, the SCPR had just an inkling that Christina Hagan was not being fully honest in her characterization of her involvement with Democrat Hagan and his bill.

Accordingly, The Report contacted Bob Hagan and here is his response to Christina's claim:

On Wed, 12/7/11, District60 <District60@ohr.state.oh.us> wrote:

From: District60 <District60@ohr.state.oh.us>
Subject: RE: HB 343
To: "'Martin Olson'" <tramols@att.net>
Date: Wednesday, December 7, 2011, 10:46 AM

Hi Martin,
 
The process for signing on as a co-sponsor in the Ohio House is pretty straight forward. It is usually done electronically through the e-mail system. The co-sponsor request went out to all Democrats and Republicans in the House on 9/1/2011. Everyone is afforded a reasonable opportunity to reply “yes” or “sign me on” -or simply call my office line and leave a message indicating they would like to co-sponsor the proposed legislation (In this case by 9/30/2011). Rep. C. Hagan never did these things. As I understand it, she did leave two messages with my aide, asking that I call her back. I was unable to call her back before the legislation was introduced. I can only assume she wanted to change the legislation or offer some alteration to the bill.
 
Rep. C. Hagan is still able to add her name as a co-sponsor if her caucus ever brings this legislation up for consideration.
 
Bob


 
Rep. Hagan has asked that members wishing to co-sponsor this legislation do so by tomorrow at noon. Additionally, this legislation will extend to members of financial institutions that received T.A.R.P. money.
Thanks!
Jordan
Jordan Plottner
Legislative Aide
 
State Representative Robert F. Hagan
Youngstown, Ohio
614.466.9435

While it true that Christian Hagan did contact Bob Hagan's office relative to H.B. No. 343, that is a long way from becoming a co-sponsor of the bill as she clearly implied she was intent on doing in her conversation with Ponder.

Bob Hagan point is there is nothing to prevent Christina from signing on even as this blog is being written.

Christina Hagan as co-sponsor of H.B. No. 343, fact or fiction?

Well, unless and until she actually signs on as a co-sponsor, a fair minded person would have to say that it is fiction, no?

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

IS MORE POLITICAL DIVISION COMING TO MASSILLON?


A telling quote?

If the Democratic party would have done it, that would have been one thing.  If I go in there and they (Democrats currently on Massillon City Council?) vote against it, that’s going to be embarrassing. We (Republicans) ran as a team, won as a team and will be sworn in as a team. I feel more comfortable being sworn-in Jan. 1. One meeting is not going to make a difference.  
 Sarita Cunningham, Ward 1 councilwoman-elect
Massillon in no hurry to fill Council seat, Matt Rink, The Massillon Independent, December 9, 2011.
First of all for Cunningham to have thought for one New York second that Stark County Democratic Party Chairman Randy Gonzalez was going to recommend to his Ward 1 central committee members to select another Republican to office was way out there somewhere.

No way!!!

If he agreed to that he might as well just move over to 2727 Fulton Drive, NW (the site of Stark GOP headquarters) and take up a co-chairmanship of the Stark County Republican Party alongside of Jeff Matthews.

Another Dem appointment a Republican was never in cards.

But that didn't keep Mayor Cicchinelli from tweaking the beak of his arch political opponent Johnnie A. Maier, Jr.  According to Rink's piece, Cicchinelli was all set to see to it that first warders did not go without representation for the one Massillon City Council (Council) meeting remaining before new terms kick in on January 1st.

Of course, it is nonsense that first ward residents would go unrepresented.  A little thing called "councilmen-at-large."  Think they don't have an obligation to take up the causes of first warders if they need to get the ear of Council.

Perhaps, though, the most interesting thing about the Cunningham quote is the implication that Republicans on Council are going to be a tight knit group that is going to stake out Republican positions a la the political caucus way of doing things as a unified body.

Now that the Councilperson-elect Republicans have wrestled political power from the Dems, there is going to continue to be split within Council?  No longer Clerk of Courts Johnnie A. Maier, Jr.  (who, the SCPR believes, has achieved de facto mayoral status in Massillon) versus Cicchinelli as a internal Democratic Party fight.  But rather a more traditional Republicans versus Democrats division?

There has been talk recently that Massillon would pull back part of the income tax credit in order to get much needed revenue for Massillon to pay its bills.  Massillon has been running months behind in getting its bills paid.

The SCPR notes that it appears that newly elected Coucilman-elect at Large Milan Chovan, Jr has taken a position against any monkeying with the income tax credit.  So, if such is the case, will his position become the position of "Team GOP - Massillon?"

A Cicchinelli administration source tells The Report that Republican Choven was supported by the Maier-led faction of the Massillon Democratic Party over incumbent Democratic Councilman at Large David Hersher.

If indeed Maier and his political cohort support of Chovan gave the Republicans the edge they needed to gain control of Council, it would sort of be a political kick-in-the-pants of Maier if a Massillion City Council Republican Caucus gave his protege and de jure Mayor Kathy Catazaro-Perrry (mayor-elect; that is) fits on implementing her cures for what ails Masillion city government.

Hmm?

Monday, December 12, 2011

WAS 16TH DISTRICT CONGRESSMAN JIM RENACCI AN "UNIDENTIFIED" PERSON INVOLVED IN THE "SECRET" PART OF THE REDISTRICTING OF OHIO?


When it came out in November that through mysterious ways and means the Timken Company headquarters was remaining in the Stark County portion of Congressman Jim Renacci's 16th congressional district, one just had to know that political chicanery was at play.


Yesterday, in a report - Ohio Redistricting Transparency Report/The Elephant in the Room (Transparency Report) published by the Ohio Campaign for Accountable Redistricting (a project of the League of Women Voters of Ohio and Ohio Citizen Action), it became abundantly clear that United States Speaker of the House John Boehner's (Republican - Ohio 8th congressional district) office was "up to its eyeballs" in facilitating an accentuated slicing and dicing of Stark County for the benefit of the Republican Party and particularly for Republican 16th District Congressman Jim Renacci.



Before the transparency report, a spokesperson had denied that Boehner was involved in the political butchering of Stark County which, by the way, Ohio Representative Christina Hagan (Republican - Marlboro Township) thinks is a good thing, to wit:
Having three congressional leaders is an extremely positive thing especially when we have both Republican and Democratic representation.  (Alliance is now in the 13th Congressional District likely to be represented by Democratic Congressman Jim Ryan)
Extreme partisanship like that demonstrated by Boehner and perhaps his colleague and 16th District Congressman Jim Renacci as well as  the Republican controlled Ohio General Assembly (including Stark County's Hagan and state Senator Scott Oelslager [who claimed he had no choice but vote for the slicing up of Stark County] is what is driving public distrust of public officials upward.

The only answer that the Republicans have is that Democrats do it too.  And they do, but that is not an excuse that most of us are buying and we - the citizens - are increasingly saying "a pox on both their houses."

Republicans and Democrats who allow partisan political advantage to trump the public good (which in redistricting is "one person, one vote;" not supervotes for Republicans or Democrats), are working very hard to completely discredit themselves in the public eye and thereby are creating conditions that is increasingly making difficult to govern witness the emergence of the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street.

Disconnects between the governors and the governed are brought on by the out-of-public-view undermining of public trust by government officials who politically advantage themselves and their political parties and political loyalists in secret arrangements and meetings.

When everyday Americans, Ohioans and Stark Countians then take on more and more of a tone of incorrigibility vis-a-vis government, one does not want to hear the complaint of the instigators of the mistrust.

The perpetrators bring on heightened citizen cynicism and apathy and in doing so, find they are developing an increasingly unmanageable populace which benefits nobody in the long run including themselves.

The Transparency Report was built upon records obtained through public records requests but leaves many unanswered questions particularly involving the likes Boehner and Renacci.  From the report:
Because many records have still not been provided even though public record requests were made over two months ago, many things are still not known, including:
  • What lobbying did legislators and congressmen engage in for their districts? 
  • What congressional district plans have been proposed in private negotiations between Democratic and Republican politicians? 
  • How many other district boundaries were manipulated to raise campaign funds? 
  • What else was discussed in the political backrooms?
Back on October 31st, Stark County's Democrats did the right and "nonpartisan" thing in selecting Republican Alex Zumbar to be Stark County treasurer after Gary Zeigler resigned on the 19th of the month.

With the revelations of the Transparency Report, one has to wonder if there is anyone within the Stark County Republican Party or a Republican Stark County elected official who will go on public record in lambasting Republican Speaker of the House Boehner, local legislative Republicans Christina Hagan and Scott Oelslager for violating the public trust.

Don't hold your breath!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

CONLEY V. BERNABEI MATCHUP FOR COMMISSIONER IS "DEJA VU - ALL OVER AGAIN" ON COUNTY SALES TAX?


BACKGROUND

It was somewhat surprising to the SCPR when Craig Conley revealed to yours truly in a pre-filing telephone conversation that he had decided to run for county commissioner against incumbent Tom Bernabei.

Here is his entire press release making the announcement:
Earlier today [December 7, 2011], I filed with the Stark County Board of Elections my Declaration of  Candidacy Petition as a Republican Candidate for Stark County Commissioner in the March 6, 2012 primary.
I am private sector attorney and business man.  I am not a career politician and I am not a public sector employee.

I am a fiscal conservative, mindful that tax money belongs to the public, not to politicians, not to any special interst group that supports any particular politican.

In short, it is my position that the County, as is the case with the private sector. must learn to live within its means without further burndening its already hardpressed taxpayers.

Therefore, if elected Stark County Commissioner, I will neither support nor vote for any Stark County tax and fee increases and I will not ask the public to do so.
As The Report told Ron Ponder of WHBC 1480's Points to Ponder in an appearance last Friday and has said directly to Conley himself, - so far as the SCPR is concerned -  he would have been better advised to run against Stark County Prosecutor John Ferrero.

After all it was Conley (who, in addition to being a Stark County civic activist, is a Stark County grounded attorney of long standing) who wouldn't let Ferrero rest on the situation that Conley termed as being Zeiglergate.

While federal and local prosecutors did not find evidence that former Stark County Treasurer Gary D. Zeigler (resigned/retired on October 19th) had done anything criminally wrong; state of Ohio auditor officials and many Stark Countians (including Stark County Auditor Alan Harold) believe that Zeigler did not properly manage the Stark treasury (denied by Zeigler) in that he did not have the physical configurations and appropriate administrative practices, policies, and processes in place to have, perhaps, prevented his Chief Deputy Treasurer Vince Frustaci from making off with at least $2.46 million of Stark County taxpayer money.  Some believe the amount was actually $2.96 million or so.

It was Conley who forced Ferrero to take action to recover the missing money from bonding/insurance companies and Zeigler himself (pursuant to Ohio Revised Code Section 327.37) which The Report believes was the key as to why Zeigler was ultimately amenable to retiring/resigning from office on October 19th.

There were a whole series of pressure applying tactics instituted by Conley to keep Ferrero's office on the move in recovering the missing moneys and securing Zeigler's removal from office.  And the sparks flew between the two at the time.

While it was the Stark County Board of Commissioners who made the deal to obtain Zeigler's resignation, they did so on the counsel and advice of Presecutor Ferrero.

Interestingly enough, Conley tells the SCPR that one of his campaign points against Bernabei will be "the bad deal" that he thinks that the commissioners got for Stark Countians in getting Zeigler to step down from office. It was a deal in which Zeigler walked off with about $200,000 (which attorney fees are included) of Stark County taxpayer money.

The Report believes that Conley would have stood a much better chance to unseat Ferrero than he does Bernabei.  What the SCPR knows of Stark GOP candidate Michael J. Grady for prosecutor is impressive and suggests that he does have a chance (once his credentials get known), if he puts together an effective campaign, to unseat Ferrero.  However, as The Report sees it, that likelihood is a lot less than a Conley candidacy would have posed.

The main question posed by this blog is:  how vulnerable is Commissioner Tom Bernabei to being unseated by Conley?

Answer:  Conley has an uphill fight, at best, on his hands!

A better possibility of defeating Bernabei would have been Jackson Township Trustee James N. Walters.  Recently re-elected as trustee by a huge margin, it is strange indeed to the SCPR that Walters did not take on Bernabei once again.

Back in November, 2010, Walters - in the opinion of the SCPR - had the highly conservative and independent Stephen Todd not been in the race, would have defeated Bernabei.


Whereas a November, 2012 replay would be much more difficult for Walters than the 2010 race (even as assuming he would get most of the 12,285 Todd votes), he at least has a political base to build upon that Conley does not have.

However, fact of the matter is that Craig T. Conley is the Republican candidate and Walters is a non-factor.

REASONS WHY CONLEY HAS A UPHILL BATTLE

So why is it that the SCPR thinks he has such an uphill fight?

First consideration is what is called the political I.D. factor.

The reason the SCPR was surprised that Walters ran so strong against Bernabei was that Bernabei had the relative advantage of having been on the ballot multiple times in Stark County's biggest city (Canton) and was repeatedly re-elected law director and was also successful council-at-large candidate.  Walters had only been on the ballot once in Jackson township.

At least Walters had some voter I.D.  Conley has none.  To The Report's knowledge, he has never run for office. 

Second, Commissioner Bernabei appears to have distinguished himself as being the chief architect of the successful effort by county officials to convince Stark County voters agree to support a county piggyback (0.5% - Issue 29) on the state of Ohio sales tax (5.5%). Moreover, as architect, he was the de facto leader of some 5,000 plus Stark County employees (Republicans and Democrats alike) who helped him achieve a substantial margin of victory.

Billy Sherer (a former ironworker) who served as co-chair along with Massillon businessman Dan McMasters of Yes for Stark Safety told The Report this past Friday that he credited Bernabei with being the mastermind behind Issue 29's success.

Had the issue not passed, many Stark County business, civic and government officials projected that come 2013 Stark County would have been in financial chaos with quite of a number of county employees losing their jobs.

Is there any doubt that the 5,000 plus county employees will be solidly behind Bernabei's candidacy in 2012?

Third, the SCPR believes that key Stark County Republicans such as Stark County Treasurer Alex Zumbar, Stark County Auditor Alan Harold, and Stark County Commissioner Janet Creighton will, in a background sort of way, be supporting Democrat Bernabei.

They worked hand-in-glove with Bernabei on the sales tax issue and consequently developed a strong camaraderie with him and confidence in him that The Report believes overcomes their political party label identity with Republican Conley.

Also, Bernabei led the way whereby Stark Democrats selected Zumbar (October 31st) to fill out the term of Zeigler in teaming up with fellow Democrat Commissioner Pete Ferguson and Commissioner Janet Creighton to appoint Zumbar on the 19th, the day that Zeigler resigned.

The Report believes that Bernabei and Ferguson part of the action put Stark Dems Chairman Randy Gonzalez in an impossible political position, given all the political turmoil that Stark has experienced over the past two years or so, and that he had no choice but to ask the Stark County Democratic Central Committee to select Zumbar.

Somehow the SCPR thinks that the magnanimous role that Bernabei played will not be lost on some very powerful Stark County Republicans.

Fourth, Bernabei has the advantage in 2012 in running in a presidential year election in which Democrats and independents leaning Democratic show up in much greater numbers than in non-presidential years.

In fact, 2010 turned out to be a Republican year in Ohio and Stark County in which Democrats were swept from statewide office (governor, auditor, secretary of state, treasurer and both houses of the Ohio General Assembly) and county office (auditor and treasurer).

That Bernabei could survive in the Democratic-hostile 2010 election speaks well of his political durability especially in a year in which the environment is likely to be improved.


WRAP-UP

2012 is likely to be a competitive political environment that will bode better for Stark County Democratic candidates.  Also, it will be helpful that Conley's Zeiglergate will pretty much be out of mind in November, 2012.

The Stark County Political Report likes Craig T. Conley as a Stark County civic activist.

He deserves immense credit for getting Prosecutor Ferrero rightly directed.  Moreover, he has put enormous pressure on county officials to get much more efficient in how they run their offices.

For this, Stark Countians should be grateful.

However, an effective civic activist does not necessarily translate into being a viable political candidate.

Conley chose not to reactivate his Vote No Increased Taxes Committee to oppose Issue 29.

The "Vote Nos" obliterated the "imposed" 0.5% sales tax (December, 2008 by the then Commissioners Bosley, Harmon and Vignos) in the committee's November, 2009 repeal initiative.

Had Conley led an organized effort to defeat Issue 29 and succeeded, then it would been an better situation for Conley in a run for a county commissioner seat.  For he would have a "fresh from political battle, victory energized core of campaign workers" at his ready to help catapult him into office to finish the unfinished business (from his point of view) of making Stark County government finances sustainable.

Moreover, The Report thinks, had he won on Issue 29, his opponent would not have been an incumbent Commissioner Tom Bernabei.  Perhaps former Commissioner Todd Bosley?  A much easier political foil?

But Conley did not do what The Report thinks a politically attuned/savvy person should have - would have - done.

Consequently, the SCPR comes back to the main premise:  Craig T. Conley, at best, has an uphill fight on his hands.

Conley is a resourceful guy and therefore yours truly does not count him out. 

In the final analysis, the framework of the Bernabei/Conley match up will not primarily be political in the sense of Democrat versus Republican.

It will be a battle over whether or not Commissioner Bernabei is judged by the Stark County electorate (in the light of the campaign debate) to have been an effective voice in county government for wringing out every last cent of inefficiency from county government and, alternatively, whether or not Conley can deliver on his promise to do more than Bernabei has been able to and thereby put Stark County into a sustainable financial condition.

Conley's major effort will be to show how out of line the county's contribution rate is to county employee pensions and health insurance coverage premiums when compared to the public sector.

He is already talking about the failure of commissioners to require Stark County's 705 non-bargaining employees to pay more than 10% of their health insurance premium when it came up in a November meeting.  On Friday's Points to Ponder, Conley cited the possibility that commissioners could have saved the county about $200,000 per year had they raised the employees' share to 15%. 


Conley does not think that the present county financial picture is sustainable even with the 0.5% sales tax and vows to work to correct what he thinks is an imbalance in county finances.

Another interesting aspect of what Conley says will be part of his campaign is his thought that certain county employees are overworked and underpaid.  He points out county assistant prosecutors as being an example about what he talking about.  

Finally, he says that he will fight to end the practice of having "double-dippers" on the county payroll.

The Report doubts that Conley's nuanced play on employee pay equity will win him much county employee support.  For if he had had his way (i.e. the sales tax going down to defeat), they would be looking at losing their jobs going into 2012/2013.

Undoubtedly, Commissioner Bernabei will press Conley over the next 11 months as to exactly how he proposes to achieve his announced campaign objectives given the limited power of county commissioners, and given the reality that his cures involve the operations of more or less autonomous elected officials.

Will Conley be able to come up with convincing answers?  For if he can, he will be a challenge to Bernabei on the merits of his case that more work needs to be done to achieve county fiscal sustainability and that he, uniquely, is the person that voters should put in place to see to it that the job gets done.

In the end, it could be factors like Bernabei:
  • being better known to voters in the sense of frequency of being on the ballot, 
  • getting overwhelming support from county workers out of appreciation for his having led the fight to get Issue 29 passed,
  • having key Stark County Republican leaders privately, if not publicly, supporting him, and
  • running in a better political environment (a presidential election year) for Democrats.
which will be differences that Conley may not be able to overcome.  As he has said, he is not a politician.

It is largely within political factors (not necessarily partisan political) where the SCPR thinks the larger part of Conley's uphill battle lies.