Monday, June 11, 2012


Anyone who believes in keeping public officials accountable to the voting public has to admire North Cantonian Chuck Osborne.

The one time North Canton councilman (2001 - 2003) who ran for mayor in 2003 after serving one term on council has been a regular on the public speaks portion of the North Canton City Council agenda ever since his term as councilman expired. 

He ran for Ward 3 councilman in 2005 and for councilman-at-large in 2011 but was defeated on both occasions.

Osborne told the North Canton Patch's Morgan Day in an article pertaining to his campaign for councilman-at-large (published July 27, 2011):
I feel government should be run as a business and that government must work for the citizens. Further, government must be held accountable and the only way to do this is for there to be citizen participation in the democratic process.
After extensive research, I have contributed to this process on many issues. Compiled on a North Canton Blog, titled “Open, Honest Government for North Canton,” are many whitepapers I have presented to North Canton City Council. (emphasis added)
The former North Canton councilman has been ruminating on the matter of part-time North Canton elected officials getting city contributions for the purchase of healthcare insurance benefits stopped for some time.  As can be seen in the sampling of titles of Osborne's so-called "whitepapers" (see below), dated September 26, 2011 was titled: North Canton's Health Insurance Benefits to Part-time Elected Officials Are Overly Generous.

So it was only after council refused to act on his request that he determined he had to go the next step in order to get something done about what he termed "overly generous" health insurance benefits that he began on May 9th to circulate a petition to force a vote on the issue by North Canton's voters this November.

It is truly impressive that Osborne has been able to collect 1,108 signatures in a little less than 30 days.  And it appears from the SCPR's examination of the petitions that Osborne circulated each and every one of the 30 pages of petitions.  He needs approximately 746 valid signatures to force the matter onto the ballot.

The SCPR has examined two pages (76 signatures) of the filed (with the North Canton clerk of council) petition and as able to confirm that better than 90% of the the signatures "appear" to be those of registered voters.  Of course, readers of The Report are reminded that it is the Stark County Board of Elections which determines whether or not a signature is qualifies as a valid signature.

If that trend hold true for all 30 pages of signatures, then the required 746 or so required signatures will be exceeded by a comfortable margin.

The collecting of 1,108 signatures had to be somewhat surprising to several of North Canton's part-time elected officials.  The Report was told that Osborne might have trouble collecting signatures on the basis that these same officials reporting to yours truly that a number of residents recited to them that whenever Chuck Osborne showed up on their doorstep (in his campaigns for office) they did not answer the door.

Somewhat related to the current initiative petition is one circulated by Osborne back in 2003 in that he was told how wrong he was by the editors at The Repository, to wit:

Well, editors, it turns out that Osborne was likely correct on the issue.

The Report was told by council president Jon Snyder recently that the appraisal of Arrowhead stands at $1.9 million and that obviously, in hindsight, North Canton overpaid for Arrowhead.  To this day North Canton government is trying to figure out what to do with Arrowhead.

The strangest thing about The Repository's editorial was:  "If you see Chuck Osborne coming toward you with a clipboard and a pen, run away."

A newspaper that celebrates Sunshine Week each and every year says this about a citizen who not only talks democracy but goes out and does it.  Strange indeed!

Obviously, Osborne did not prevail on Arrowhead, but the SCPR thinks if he gets the 746 or so validated signatures he needs, he may well win with North Canton voters on this one.

A June 7th New York Times piece (San Diego and San Jose Lead the Way in Pension Cuts, Michael Cooper and Mary Williams Walsh) the following appeared:
Residents of San Diego and San Jose voted overwhelmingly to cut the pension benefits they give city workers. And they did so in a way governments traditionally avoid: moving to cut not just the benefits of future hires, but also those of current city workers, whose pensions generally have much stronger legal protections than those of private-sector workers.
While pension benefits are not healthcare insurance benefits, how much different are they in terms of local governments having been in the past "overly generous."

And what is the headline in Osborne's whitepaper?  North Canton's Health Insurance Benefits to Part-time Elected Officials Are Overly Generous!

While Osborne's batting average on changing the minds of North Canton's councilpersons on various ordinances, or in convincing the 5th District Court of Appeals (in 2008) to let his initiative petition on North Canton's use and disposition of Community Improvement Corporation (CIC) monies stand, or in getting North Cantonians to sign onto his drive to undo the Arrowhead deal, the SCPR believes he may have struck "citizen-activist" gold this time around.

But we still have to wait to see if there are enough valid signatures.

However, in the opinion of the SCPR Osborne needs to acquire additional measures of political maturity.

It appears to The Report that Osborne at one time thought that yours truly was so well taken with his obvious dedication to whatever North Canton civic cause he might be engaged in that he was immune to scrutiny.

But he was and is wrong, if such is his perception and will be in the future if he persists.

The Stark County Political Report is not into giving public figures and public officials immunity from examination merely because they have done some good things for the community in the past.

Osborne has not in the judgment of The Report handled SCPR criticism nor other public criticism of his ways and means and, sometimes, the substance of his activism with  aplomb.

Osborne renders a valuable service to North Canton and the Stark County communities with his civic activism as long as his discourse is civil and ordered.

A number of North Canton officials has spoken positively to The Report about Osborne's dedication to task and thoroughness of effort.  But they lessen their overall evaluation of his civic contributions in the face of the all too frequent temper tantrums and the like they say they have experienced when things do not go his way.

Again, the SCPR thinks Osborne's petition stands a good chance of success if it reaches the ballot.

If his proposal does make it to the ballot and passes, how will Osborne manage the success?

It will be interesting to see going into the future whether or not he will see the wisdom, in terms of civic effectiveness, in considering making adjustments to his tone and temperament in his political give and take with others.

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