Wednesday, August 1, 2012
(VIDEOS: ANDY BLACK, HEALY, COUNCIL MEMBERS & PRICE) MAYOR HEALY TAKES ON THE PEOPLE OF CANTON?
Canton Mayor William J. Healy, II may be on a trek with the current term of Canton City Council (2012 - 2013) to rack up a number of legislative losses.
As readers of the SCPR know, yours truly has written repeatedly that a profound weakness with Hizzhonor is that he brooks no opposition when he decides on a course of action.
It is one thing when he has control as to who stays and who goes (e.g. former chief of staff and service director Thomas Bernabei and former safety chief Tom Nesbitt), but it is quite another when he has no direct control as in the case of the members of council.
As The Report sees it, Healy does has his loyalists on council: Babcock, Cole, Dougherty, Griffin, Smith and West. However the remaining six (Cirelli, Fisher, Hawk, Mack, Mariol and Morris seem to have no problem whatsoever in differing with the mayor to the point of voting no on any one of his proposals, if they see that doing so is the right thing to do for the welfare of the citizens of Canton.
Interestingly enough, possibly even a loyalist or two might stray from the mayor's flock on occasion. Such appears to have occurred with respect to the administration's offering of a lease of city lands for oil/gas drilling ordinance, and perhaps might happen with respect the administration's proposal to have council dissolve Canton's Park Board.
Council Majority Leader David Dougherty provided Healy with a way out of a humiliating loss on the oil/gas legislation, when it became clear that council was not going to pass the ordinance in his suggesting in council's work session, in suggesting that the mayor might be wise to come up with an alternative.
As he always seems to do just in the nick of time, Healy backed off the lease ordinance and indicated that the administration would proceed on its own and then come to council when it had concrete leases to present for approval.
In addition to "the adjustment" made by the administration to the oil and gas leasing idea, there was on Monday night (6 to 6) on an administration ordinance to eliminate the municipal the income tax credit that Cantonians who work outside Canton have been getting to offset taxes paid elsewhere.
The only way the mayor avoided a loss on this issue was his rescue by council President Allen Schulman who only votes in the case of a tie among the remaining 12 councilpersons.
Here is a video of Schulman explaining why he went Healy's way.
The SCPR is told that when council members do not do as the mayor wishes, then he bides his time for an occasion to presents itself when such a councilperson wants something of the administration. Then, The Report has been told repeatedly, Hizzoner is apt to have a little "come to Jesus" moment with the recalcitrant councilperson.
A common practice, so The Report is advised, is that councilpersons who are overly critical of the mayor or vote against the mayor's wishes on key issues may find that they cannot get their telephone calls returned by administration officials.
It is interesting to watch, during these times of financial stress, Healy repeatedly invoke the line: "You either go with my plan or propose alternative ways to raise revenues/cut expenses or you - council members - will be responsible for Canton cutting back on the safety forces the city puts out into the city's neighborhoods." (paraphrase)
It has been suggested to the SCPR that his current effort to the dissolve the Canton Parks Department was born of a snub the mayor received in terms of not being invited to a Parks event about year to a year and one half ago.
Of course, he bides his time until an opportune moment arrives to spring into action.
With Canton experiencing difficult financial times, the climate is apparently ripe to punish the Parks Department for someone within its ranks having offended the mayor. So he has devised this scheme to dismantle the department under the guise of doing so as being necessary as a financial austerity move to help the city plug what he now says is a $3.7 million gap between city revenues and expenditures looming for 2013?
This proposal is a part of the mayor's package (which is to total five) of proposals (as is the ordinance eliminating Canton's income tax credit and the plan to lease city lands to the oil and gas industry for drilling) designed in toto to close the gap referred to above.
Yours truly listened to about an hour or so of Service Director Warren Price and Mayor Healy presenting Monday night on the idea of dissolving the board. It was painfully obvious that their plan for doing so is a mere skeleton of a plan which is poorly thought out and is to be implemented on the fly with council having to trust the administration in working out the details of just how to accomplish the feat. The broad outline is to take Canton's 64 parks which encompass about 750 acres and merge operations into (in the immediate future) the Department of Public Works which is part of the Department of Public Services. But the "devil is in the details" phase of the consolidation is anybody's guess what those details might actually ential.
It is hard to imagine that a prudent legislative body would sign onto such a broad, vague and unclear plan.
Andy Black, who is president of the Park Board, aptly summed up the ridiculousness of the mayor's plan in about three minutes.
Watch this video of him speaking during the Public Speaks portion of Monday night's meeting.
In addition to the plan being poorly thought out and more than sketchy in implementation detail, The Report sees the effort as a step up in effrontery for the mayor to have the gall to advocate the overriding of a vote of the people with legislative action.
Healy told council members on Monday night that they had the authority (vouched for by Canton Law Director Joe Martuccio) and hence it was their responsibility to undo the vote of the people of Canton done back in 1920 by a 3 to 1 margin.
So Healy-esque, no?
But yours truly is not surprised by anything this mayor does.
It appears to The Report that the administration ought to be bracing itself for a loss on this issue.
Councilman Hawk said to The Report that he will never ever vote to override the vote of the people of Canton.
And it was obvious in the council's "committee of the whole" work session on Monday that Hawk is not the only councilperson with that point of view. Normally Healy-support-dependable James Griffin appears set to vote against the mayor. Look for at least four other councilpersons to join Hawk and Griffin.
Here is a SCPR video compilation of council's Monday night work session so that readers can get a sense of how council members and others are reacting to the proposed dissolution of the Canton Parks Board.
The deciding factor could come down to Schulman again. Here's what he had to say about that possibility.
To the SCPR it is absolutely no surprise that Mayor Healy would challenge the will of the people of Canton if it was in his personal interest to do so, given the opportunity.
Well, the dissolution of the Parks Board is appears to be such opportunity.
The Report usually takes with a grain of salt claims that yours truly often hears about this or that public official doing such and such because he or she was offended.
The SCPR does not believe that most elected officials get that petty.
But in this case, it looks like there might be some credibility to the claim that the anti-Parks move is grounded in the mayor having been offended.
Because from what The Report has been able to gather, it is highly questionable that dissolving the Parks Board will result in $100,000 in savings.
And even if it turns out that the Healy administration can objectively and factually document the claimed savings, it still is the wrong thing to do or council to do. Does an overwhelming vote of the people of Canton mean anything?
As Councilman Hawk said to The Report on Monday, only the people of Canton have the right to make that decision no matter what Mayor Healy's druthers might be!