UPDATE: 02/08/2012 at 09:45 AM - Having realized that a post-Canton-City-Council meeting mini-press conference (involving the SCPR and a WHBC reporter) was inadvertently omitted from the original video featuring Councilman Barton (at the end of the blog), The Report is supplementing via this update a video of the post-meeting interview.
For the past two weeks what Canton is going to do in terms of animal control within the city has been a "hot button" with Canton City Council (Council).
And it hasn't helped any to defuse the controversy that Canton's animal control officer, Phil Sedlacko, submitted his resignation to Safety Director Thomas Ream last Thursday in an apparent move to force the hand of Council to renew his contract for an extended period of time.
The SCPR's take is that most if not all of her fellows do not agree with Councilwoman Mary Cirelli; nevertheless she expressed her view that the Sedlacko action was a ploy tantamount to putting a gun to the head of Council.
Her description caused a sharp reaction from Majority Leader David Dougherty. Here is a video of that part of last night's meeting.
Understanding time considerations (about 18 people on the list to speak) Dougherty himself last night was in the view of the SCPR unnecessarily brusque and caustic with citizens appearing before Council (not just on the feral animal issue) who spoke more than the 3 minutes allowed by Council rules. Dougherty was sitting on the timer as if he was timing the finish of a highly competitive 100 yard dash. Hmm?
The Report has been at a number of Council meetings in recent years and is well taken with how Council President Allen Schulman handles the exact same situation with diplomacy and classy treatment of offenders.
Dougherty would do well to take lessons from Schulman or defer to another councilmember (when Schulman is absent) who has better skills in interacting with citizens addressing Council.
It seems to the SCPR that Canton will in time solve the controversy over the treatment of feral animals running the streets of the city.
Everybody appears to be united on whether or not Canton needs to continue to have an animal control officer and the consensus seems to be: absolutely, Canton will continue to have an animal control officer.
So what is the question?
First, whether or not it will continue to be Phil Sedlacko? Councilwoman Chris Smith and Councilmen Greg Hawk and Tom West and spoke highly of him but he drew negatives from Councilwoman Cirelli and Councilman Frank Morris.
Here is a video of councilmembers talking about Sedlacko himself.
If Sedlacko's surprise resignation (which Ream, as of Monday night, was holding in abeyance) is an indication of a "my way or the highway" (which is typical of a number of Healy administration folks including the mayor himself), then he could be history at his own hand. For The Report's sense of the situation is that if he will abide with whatever policy Council settles on, he will be renewed for a longer term. Area media reported yesterday that Sedlacko has accepted the 90 day contract passed by Council on Monday for $6,782.25.
Because it seems to The Report that Council is of a mood to change its animal control policy to accommodate some of the concerns of the opponents to current Canton policy. However, the SCPR believes that Council will only do so provided that the opponents present Council with a viable, workable and realistic plan.
A simple "Trap, Neuter and Return" policy is not going to fly in Canton. As Councilman Hawk told yours truly is that he has to deal with ward residents who will not accept as an answer that a trapped cat is returning to the neighborhood to take up where it left off.
So abating the unacceptable wild animal behavior (cat or otherwise) seems to be the key. And if opponents to the euthanasia track that the city is currently on want to be effective, they must come up with a plan that empowers councilpeople to solve ward resident problems.
The SCPR did contact one of the opposition leaders for elaboration on this point and this is how he (Toby Franks, who appears on the video below) responded via e-mail, to wit:
We do work with people in the neighborhoods resolve their issues, and its actually rare that we find an area that cats simply cannot be returned to. Cat-haters & cat-lovers, we ALL want the same thing - less cats outdoors.
The issue is how do we do it humanely & effectively.
If it truly is a hostile environment & the cats lives would be in danger, there is the last resort option of relocation to a farm or other feral-friendly location. Relocations are rare & must be done carefully. Alley Cat Allies offers a guide to safe relocation of feral cats.
The removal of feral cats from an area creates a vacuum that is quickly filled by new cats. Survivors of the cull invariably breed back to capacity & new cats move in. It’s called the Vacuum Effect & it’s very well documented. Trap & Kill is expensive, ineffective & inhumane.
Thankfully, forward-thinking communities are moving away from it & adopting the TNR approach. Even our neighbor to the east, the Village of East Canton has a S/N program for feral cats.
With TNR the sterile, vaccinated cats are returned to their territory, so the breeding stops. The population is stabilized immediately & begins to decline naturally & gradually over time. And nuisance behaviors like scent marking, yowling, fighting stop as well.
So instead of a vacuum that is quickly filled by new cats, you have a stable population that creates a disease-free, kitten-free buffer zone & the population decreases over time.
... .Canton City Council has the very best forum in Stark County (when Schulman is at the head) for citizens to express themselves at the Public Speaks part of Council's agenda. And The Report's take is that the speakers are genuinely welcome and councilmembers appear to listen to them very attentively. And, from time-to-time, it is apparent that citizens do affect councilmembers' thinking as they formulate policy.
Here is a video from the perspective of the citizens (in abbreviated format) that is a representative sampling of the feral animal Public Speaks debate which occurred Monday night.
Last but certainly not least is a video of Councilman Barton and his management of the issue.
Councilman Barton in his "on camera" response is especially impressive in the way he, as chairman of the Personnel Committee, is managing deliberations and the process of solving Canton's animal control problems.