A mere four and one half months after Canton Mayor William J. Healy, II declared Canton as the "Utica Capital" and now he gets challenged on two fronts.
- In yesterday's Repository was a headline which had to be a jolt to Hizzhoner, "Utica HQ in Louisville," and
- A battle rages on between Healy's administration and Canton/Stark County anti-frackers to win "the hearts and minds" of Canton's city council members over whether or not Canton will offer up the possibility of having city owned property up for lease for oil and gas drilling to deep under the earth deposits in the Utica shale formation via a process known as fracking in which a chemical and sand mix are injected high pressure into a deep well to fracture shale in order to release oil/gas products to the surface.
Before yesterday's meeting, the SCPR spoke with Mayor Healy.
His reaction to the Louisville headline:
- Canton remains the "Utica Capital" much like it is the "Pro Football Hall of Fame" capital. While there are focal points of oil/gas drilling outside of Canton proper, Canton is the center of it all. Louisville, has been in the making for months and it was simply a matter of Canton not having a suitable (acreage wise) site for Chesapeake and anyway, the Louisville site is just one mile outside Canton city limits.
- Interesting enough, the mayor does not know which way council is going to go on its vote as to whether or not to approve the ordinance to "authorize Service Director Warren Price to advertise for, receive and enter into a lease agreement(s) for mineral rights on selected city owned properties."
- That it does not appear that huge numbers of jobs are coming the Canton/Stark County area as a consequence of Canton being the "Utica Capital," and
- So far council has only heard from the anti-frackers. Now that the administration gets the opportunity to put on its case, he appears confident that his administration can make a convincing case for council to at least put out requests for bids. He points out that if the bids are not to liking of the council and administration, the process stops there and goes no further.
The SCPR's take on the debate going on in council is that it is productive in that council members appear to listening carefully to both sides of the argument.
The Report is impressed with Council President Allen Schulman and his handling of the many, many presenters at council meeting on the issue.
In contrast to how Majority Leader David Dougherty handled the "trap-neuter-return" debate of a few months ago (Schulman was absent for that meeting), Schulman operates in a fashion that everyone feels welcome and appreciated and the debate is a study in orderliness and mutual respect.
As to the political significance of the debate the SCPR sees to points.
First, this lease issue could be a test of how much sway that Mayor Healy has sway has with council. There is little doubt to The Report that councilpersons Babcock, Cole, Dougherty, Griffin, Smith and West will side with the mayor. Moreover, there is little doubt that councilpersons Cirelli, Fisher and Hawk will vote "no" on the lease. The battle ground is with Mack, Mariol, and Morris.
In order to have any hope of defeating the administration's proposal, the anti-frackers will have to convince Mack, Mariol and Morris to join with Cirelli, Fisher and Hawk and then get Council President Allen Schulman to side with them in his tie-breaking role.
Second, if the anti-frackers prevail, Canton's refusal to consider leasing will be trumpeted across America as one more win for the anti-fracking forces in the ongoing war between them and the oil and gas industry.
But, of course, the key is for the anti-frackers to get to seven votes.
Can they do it?