Wednesday, December 5, 2012


Austin Carr, a former basketball star at Notre Dame and later with the Cleveland Cavaliers, likes to say when a Cavalier slam-dunks the ball through the hoop that the Cav has "brought the hammer down!!!

One has to wonder whether or not former North Canton Councilman Chuck Osborne is feeling like he is experiencing having the hammer brought down on him these days as he continues his civic work as a citizen "check and balance" on the actions of North Canton City Council.

Last week, as reported in the SCPR (LINK), North Canton Council trotted out newly council appointed law director Tim Fox at their regular weekly meeting to administer, in the opinion of The Report, the first hammer blow to Osborne to drive home the point that council was on a path to rein him in.

Council president Jon Snyder went to great pains to emphasize to yours truly that Fox's lecture (The Report's interpretation of Fox's exercise) on the proper rules of decorum for the Public Speaks portion of regular North Canton Council meetings was directed at everyone (including council members) in attendance and was not directed at Osborne.

The SCPR was skeptical of Snyder's claim when made and there has been a development since the meeting of November 26th that heightens The Report's skepticism.

Apparently, some on North Canton Council got anew-exercised about chronic critic Osborne (going back at least 10 years) upon reading in area media that Canal Fulton had been sued by Canal Fulton community activist Michael Mouse for what he claims to have been violations of his person and rights (First Amendment) by certain Canal Fulton council, fire and police officials.

In hindsight, the SCPR is beginning to wonder whether or not council's run through a number of law directors in recent years doesn't have something to do (at least in-part) with former directors' seeming inability to aid them in developing legal strategies to mute Osborne's civic activism.

Like such is an appropriate goal for legislative councils in democratic America?

And, of course, the current director (Fox) has had first hand experience (from a council perspective) in having to deal with Osborne.

Having "shared in their pain," could it be that Fox has Osborne under special scrutiny all to the delight of council members?

Now to the additional development heightening the SCPR's skepticism of Snyder's claim.

On or about November 20th, Osborne sent out a "public records" request to various Stark County municipalities (including North Canton) like this one to Massillon:

To which Massillon responded thusly:

In Massillon, an administrative clerk for council responds and fulfills Osborne's request.

But North Canton?

Not so simple.

From North Canton, Osborne gets a response from Fox:


"[Does] not appear," "If you wish to restate your declaration into a request for reasonably identifiable records ... ."

Hmm?, again.

So Fox chooses to make "a federal case" out of a simple request for information?

Citizens can get on-file "written" records but not information that exists "electronic" form somewhere within the bowels of North Canton government?

How unimpressive that Fox would take the time to pen such a response (which, of course, is an "opportunity cost" to be doing other more productive work [in the opinion of yours truly] for the taxpayers of North Canton.

Hmm? a third time.

Osborne tells The Report that he will play the game with Fox and council and he will refashion his request to deal with Fox's obvious and marked effort to be difficult.  For Osborne there is nothing new about this technique.  He says it has been ongoing for years with various North Canton officials.

The SCPR has not known much about Tim Fox other than his published bio.

Having talked to him "off camera" (at his insistence) after the November 26th council meeting, The Report is getting the impression that he is imperious sort of guy.

In that conversation, he out-of-the-blue volunteered to yours truly:  "I am a tough person."

Wow!  What brought that on? A mirror-image of what yours truly has heard from at least one North Canton councilperson.  Interesting, no?  

And, to boot, such is a strange attitude for public officials who are, in our democratic system, to be open, accessible, transparent and communicative, no?

Fox went on describe his role for council as being a kind of shelter from having to take tough positions on dealing with citizens of North Canton in the context of talking about the rules for Public Speaks.

Councilpersons are elected officials and they have to walk a fine line between keeping order and decorum at public meetings on the one hand and not being brusque, perhaps even rude and insulting, on the other in enforcing rules of procedure.

The Report believes that Fox has gotten the idea from council members that a primary function for North Canton legal counsel is to be "the cop on the beat" and thereby help them avoid the messy business of managing democratic forums.

And The Report takes the position that if the "cop on the beat" assessment accurately portrays council's attitude; council is making a huge mistake in terms:
  • of chilling the exercise by citizens of the U.S. Constitution First Amendment Right and, of course, 
  • of placing roadblocks in the way of the  expectation that many in the public have that citizens will endeavor to become as informed as possible before taking civic action.
So what profit was there to the democratic integrity of North Canton governmental processes for Fox to be difficult with Osborne in his quest to be a fully informed decision?

Sorry, Council President Jon Sndyer, but the SCPR believes Fox is taking his cues from council and, accordingly, council is making Osborne (based on the recent evidence cited taken in the historical context of Osborne/law director/council relationships) a special case.

The Report further thinks that North Canton's using the Canal Fulton situation as a justification for reformulating the ground rules for public interaction with council is more pretext than squaring up with real concerns.

From the SCPR's perspective, there are few in any of the current lot of North Canton councilpersons who have or have had (for those who have been around for a while) the skills to deal with the likes of a Chuck Osborne.

While Daryl Revoldt was council president, he demonstrated that he was willing to engage/embrace the messiness of democratic institutions and managed to maintain control notwithstanding a number of run-ins with Osborne.

Shucks!  On one occasion he had Osborne removed from council chambers when he felt that he had gotten out-of-hand.  

Did he like having to do so?  Of course, not.  But was Osborne welcome back at the next meeting of council to participate in accordance with the rules administered judiciously and generously at the hand of the skilled former council president.

Revoldt was not interested in sacrificing our treasured right to redress grievances of government in the context of First Amendment expression because of a temporary disruption or discomfort.

It appears to the SCPR that North Canton Council is embarked on a course of action that is not consistent with America's democratic-republican values.  

It appears that council is trying to systematize procedures of democracy and thereby corral Osborne.

But democracy is person-to-person, citizen to government, and government bureaucratization of channels of communication stifle citizen participation and involvement.

There is no doubt to the SCPR that Citizen Osborne can be a proverbial "pain in the _ss."  But such is what one has to be at times when pursuing civic causes.

There is no doubt that council is smarting from Osborne having lucked on to an issue which resonated with the North Canton voting public.  By North Canton's initiative ordinance procedure, he convinced about 80% of voting North Cantonians at last month's general election that the taxpayers should not be paying (for future councils, being part-time) for members' health care benefits.

Now, from council's perspective, this is serious stuff.  

His citizen activism is getting into their pocketbooks.

Now they have to figure out a way to raise salaries ($4,800 per year) to offset the loss in benefits, no?

That could prove politically difficult to do.

So The Report believes that what appears to be "bringing the hammer down" could well be grounded in some comeuppance.

The Report has gone round and round with Osborne a number few times.  In fact, he has been the subject of several critical blogs.  But it never occurs to yours truly that he should be discouraged in his civic pursuits.

While the SCPR has and will continue to take exception to Osborne (like yours truly does with nearly everyone (at one time or another) in the course of writing this political blog, Chuck Osborne and all his ilk make a very important contributions to the health and well-being of our democratic institutions.

Accordingly, North Canton Council needs to in the name of promoting democratic values to back off of what seems to the SCPR to be a resurgent "bring the hammer down" mentality.

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