After taking in Canton City Council's Finance Committee meeting of last week, the SCPR believes that Canton's only chance to get voters to approve a tax increase in the November general election is if Council President Allen Schulman surfaces as the de facto leader of the effort.
It looks like a mistake to The Report that in the reorganization of council after the election of November, 2011 that former long time chairman Greg Hawk (Ward 1) was removed as chairman in favor of avowed Mayor William J. Healy, II ally Councilman-at-Large Joe Cole.
It was interesting to sit and watch as committee member Hawk largely just sat and watched as Cole more or less fumbled his way through the meeting. Hawk has been vexatious to the mayor over Healy's four plus years in office and you can bet that the pro-Healy forces (most personified by Majority Leader David Dougherty) now firmly in control of council saw to it Hawk got relegated to the sidelines.
As the SCPR sees it, the move ousting Hawk was foolish in light of the likelihood that it has been apparent for some time to the council leadership that Canton was going to need to convince voters to increase its revenues.
Here is a video of Cole invoking Healy and the need for unity on the tax increase question in getting the meeting underway.
A measure of redemption was nigh as Council President Allen Schulman intervened to give the meeting some structure insofar as identifying "real" factors that council and the administration has to deal with if there is to be a prayer that a tax issue will pass.
It is interesting to note that Schulman was the councilperson invited by The Repository to write an Op-ed in yesterday's edition. Hmm?
Here is a video of Schulman setting up the framework and specifics of the discussion at last Thursday's meeting.
One ray of light from the membership of the finance committee is Ward 8 Councilman Edmond Mack. He made a number of thoughtful comments and asked meaningful questions. One important question he raised (which nobody seemed to have an answer for) was about the impact of casino revenues as a partial offset to state of Ohio cuts in local government funding.
Also, newly appointed Ward 7 Councilman John Mariol showed he may be an up and coming council participant in terms of adding zest and zeal to council confabs.
Members James Babcock and James Griffin appear to The Report to be wallflowers who contribute very little if anything to legislative analysis. Nor do they seem to bring any insight as to how council can effectively interact with the Canton voting public.
Babcock, having been an employee of former Stark County Auditor Kim Perez, talked about the fluxation of real property rates in terms of taxpayers paying more or less taxes which raise an absolute amount of money depending on a given taxpayer's real property valuation.
Outside the finance committee Councilman Kevin Fisher (Ward 5) made significant contributions. He joined Babcock on the real property tax dynamics description and weighed in on dedicating any tax increase to the exclusive use of building up Canton's safety forces.
While Councilwoman Mary Cirelli (councilwoman-at-large) did participate in the discussion, The Report is not sure how relevant her contributions were to the discussion which focused (under Schulman's de facto leadership) upon which revenue raising measure would be the fairest to the greatest number of Cantonians, and figuring out ways and means of getting Cantonians to buy into a need for raising taxes in the first place. She did point out that other tax issues (e.g. Stark Parks and the Stark County District Library) will be on the November ballot.
All that can be said for Ward 4 Councilwoman Chris Smith is that she was at the meeting.
That's more than can be said for Councilman Thomas West and Majority Leader Dougherty (Ward 6). Both were inexplicably absent.
Councilman Frank Morris, III (Ward 9) was unable to attend because of a family situation.
At the end of the day, it looks obvious to the SCPR that whether or not a new tax issue passes, whatever its form, will largely be determined by how much time and effort Allen Schulman invests in the process.
Council veteran Schulman does have the political skills that one needs to be a de facto leader and not, in taking on such a role, offend the likes of a Joe Cole.
In the judgment of the SCPR, Cole is unprepared to put together a persuasive package that Canton's voters will accept.
Schulman can. But will he take the lead, even if in a background modality?
Canton's financial viability could depend on his willingness to do so.