Thursday, June 14, 2012


As Stark County Commissioner Pete Ferguson nears the end of his term in office (he is not running for re-election), he is on the cusp of realizing a dream of his on one of his two primary goals that he has been working to achieve for a good part of the past three and one half years.

Ferguson's two primary focuses have been on:
  • proposing, promoting, facilitating and lobbying for the consolidation/collaboration of common local government services (e.g. building departments, health departments and informational technology), and
  • and convincing the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs to establish Veteran's home facilities in Stark County which would offer a range of services from independent living to assisted long-term medical care.
Recently, he learned that Stark County has been awarded an Ohio Department of Development (DD) grant of $75,000 out of the department's Local Government Innovation Fund (LGIF) which is designed to assist Ohio's political subdivisions with collaboration projects.  The winning Stark County grant is to be used to fund a Stark County Building Department Shared Services Feasibility Study.

Ferguson says there were a number of Stark County entrants for a grant including one advanced by the Stark County Council of Governments (SCOG) for its 9-1-1 countywide rehabilitation project and that he is thrilled with having had his building departments consolidation/collaboration proposal as being the one chosen.

Key figures cited by Ferguson in putting together the successful effort include Stark County Regional Planning Director Robert Nau and his staff as well as North Canton Mayor David Held, North Canton City Engineer Jim Benekos, and former state Representative David Johnson

Moreover, he singles out Stark Countian Daryl Revoldt for putting him in contact with Deputy Chief - Office of Redevelopment at Ohio Department of Development - Thea Walsh.  Commissioner Ferguson said that Walsh took an immediate interest in his project and worked with him to put together a plan that LGIF found merit in.

Revoldt is a Kasich administration appointee currently working in the Department of Development.  Formerly he has served as mayor and city council president of North Canton, chief of staff for now retired Congressman Ralph Regula, and as director of Region 9 (Akron office) of the Department of Development during the the Taft administration.

To get an idea of inter-local-government collaborations that Governor Kasich hopes to achieve with LGIF statewide, here is a YouTube video produced by DD as a concrete example which features a City of Green project and which also highlights Stark County Educational Service Center (SCESC) Superintendent Larry Morgan (yours truly's spouse is president of the the center's governing board).

Morgan is recognized statewide as the architect of Ohio's very best collaborative health insurance program which saves participating school districts many, many taxpayer dollars.

Local retail drug stores have fought COG's mandatory mail order prescription drug which saves taxpayers about $1 million a year.

Governor Kasich has taken a lot of flack from local government officials (in Stark County most notably Canton Mayor William J. Healy, II) for his 50% cut (to date) through fiscal year 2013 of Ohio's Local Government Fund and the threat that he will eliminate the funding completely in the state biennium 2014 - 2015 budget.

The SCPR believes that Kasich's cuts through his budget proposal was draconian and ill-advised and is an effort to force tax increases onto local taxpayers while appropriating formerly allocated state local government funds to Ohio's general revenue fund for broad state purposes.

This move is a breach of a promise made by past Ohio government officials to allocate local government funding in exchange for local officials supporting state income tax issues.

The governor says he is not bound by what prior governors have promised.

Isn't that interesting?

He has initiated some measures to lessen the impact of the funding cuts.

One such initiative was State Issue 2 (Senate Bill 5) which had a number of provisions which would have cut the cost of local governments.  Of course, as we all know, the issue was overwhelmingly rejected by Ohioans on November 8, 2011.

Another of those measures is encompassed in the LGIF and its prod on local government officials to become much more efficient in their operations.  This is the administration's "carrot."

But it is also administering a "stick" with its drastic local government funding cuts.

Anyone familiar with local turfism knows that each locality wants it own fire department, police department, its own school district et cetera, et cetera and only moves to consolidate and/or collaborate when deficit finances compels action.

It is interesting that Healy refuses to cooperate with Ferguson and his consolidation/collaboration work in his effort to make local government more efficient, less expensive and more citizen-user friendly. 

The SCPR's take on Healy has always been that he refuses to work with anyone on anything unless at the end of the day he or one of his proxies is in charge.

Here is a LINK to a prior blog (December 22, 2011) in which the SCPR writes about Commissioner Ferguson's interest in winning a LGIF and Healy's ire about his work for Stark County government efficiencies.

The question is fast becoming:  Will he be able to afford continuing to hang onto his [actually Canton's] turf?

Canton is under the gun with its finances.  Healy says that Canton will have a $4 million to $4.5 million deficit in 2013 because of the Local Government Fund cuts.  His solution is to get Cantonians to agree to a tax increase.

But what if the citizens of Canton refuse him?

All of a sudden, the Local Government Fund cuts "stick" comes into play in Canton, Ohio, no?

Won't he have to rethink his "protecting Canton's turf" stance?

Kasich's breaking of the faith (in past promises) might be morally reprehensible, but the evaporation of local government funding is reality!

The SCPR is impressed with Ferguson's persistence.  While he will be leaving office on December 31st of this year and likely will not be in office to see the realization of his consolidation/collaboration goal, Stark Countians will likely benefit from his work.

And who knows.  Maybe in time the city of Canton might be part of a consolidated Stark County Building Department along with Alliance, Louisville, Massillon and North Canton?

Here is a video of Commissioner Ferguson describing the grant process and what he hopes will come of the study it finances.

No comments: