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Friday, June 29, 2012

FROM ACROSS THE ATLANTIC TO STARK COUNTY, THE SCPR CONTINUED BLOGGING



Readers of the SCPR will recall that in May, 2011 yours truly traveled to the Peoples Republic of China.  An effort to continue to write the Stark County Political Report was attempted (LINK to May 30, 2011 blog) but, because of censorship in play in "Red China," the blog was off the Internet for about two weeks.

While the trip to China was instructive and enjoyable in that it was made with yours truly's youngest daughter Kasi and her family (she is married to China mainland native William Chu, now an American citizen and a flight surgeon in the United States Air Force shown below with Kasi and their children Austin and Aspen partaking of Chinese cusine on the trip), it clearly was inhibiting to know that there are political police all over the place in China suppressing basic human freedoms.


No such problem in the United Kingdom.

From the time the trip began (June 20th) through today (June 29th), the SCPR hasn't missed a beat though some 4,000 miles away in Great Britain.

As we all know, England in a free loving nation from which much of the United States' political heritage comes.

This trip was the idea of middle daughter Heidi (working on her PhD in English literature) to go to Stratford-upon-Avon which is the birthplace and the burial place of William Shakespeare,

Also accompanying was Heidi's husband Mark Silcox. 

Mark is a Canadian whose father and mother were born in England.  And his grandfather was a mayor of a British town years ago.

Mark and Heidi are shown in the following photo with wife Mary who is enjoying "High Tea" time with uniquely British scones.


Thursday, June 28, 2012

OBVIOUSLY, CHRISTINA HAGAN KNOWS "SOMEBODY OF IMPORTANCE" AT THE REPOSITORY?


If state Representative Christina Hagan sneezes, it gets reported in The Repository.

On April 10th, Hagan sent a text message to "her contact" at The Rep to let him know that she had just gotten engaged.

Now (on Tuesday of this week) we are finding out she likes to read stories to the youth of her district.  It just so happens that her interest coincides with her effort to be elected (she currently is an Ohio House Republican Caucus appointee - "Caucus") for the first time as state representative to the 50th district.

Moreover, The Repository reports every legislative move she makes although none of them in the SCPR's judgment does anything significant for Stark County or for Ohio.

It is clear to the discerning that Hagan does not have the heft needed to be a lead legislator on major legislation.

But someone at The Rep must think otherwise.

Undoubtedly, readers of The Repository and CantonRep.com are going to be besieged over the next 130 days with regular reports of Christina-Hagan-minutia that keeps her before the voters of the 50th courtesy of her special contact at Stark County's only countywide newspaper.

Perhaps the Ohio secretary of state ought to be taking a close look at Hagan's campaign finance report to see whether or not she reports The Rep's freebies as "in-kind" political contributions (lol).

The Report has seen a lot of campaigns over the years but never one in which a candidate who has never been elected to anything gets so much help and attention.

When her father, John Hagan, got term limited out of the Ohio House in 2008 (he also represented the 50th) she appears to have felt entitled to inherit the seat (LINK).  In those days the favorite of the Caucus was Todd Snitchler (R - Lake).   But Christina saw no reason for that and challenged Snitchler in the Republican primary losing badly.

The Hagans reportedly were so mad at Snitchler and the Caucus that they asked Snitchler Democratic opponent Celeste DeHoff to put a sign in the yard of the Hagan homestead out in Marlboro Township.

And, initially, Snitchler was not cool with Christina replacing him when he was tapped by newly elected Republican Governor John Kasich to be his point man on the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio.

But father John was hard at work greasing the rails for daughter Christina to assume her rightful (by right of inheritance?) place in Columbus.  Apparently, John was able to convince the Caucus to lean on Snitchler to have a "come to Jesus" moment with the Hagans.  Ultimately, Sntichler capitulated and Christina walked away with the Caucus appointment on March 4, 2011.

Since then Christina has gotten all sorts of help in her quest to stay in Columbus.  And, insofar as the SCPR is concerned, she is demonstrating that she needs all the help she can get.

In addition to her father, Snitchler and the Caucus; there are her Ohio General Assembly minders Ron Amstutz and David Hall (who supervised her first and "only" town hall meeting [held in Louisville in May, 2011]; the oil and gas lobby has given her campaign contributions to the tune - at last count - of $7,500 inasmuch as she unabashedly advocates for their fracking interests; and, of course, her special contact at The Repository.

Undoubtedly, there are others. The SCPR just hasn't learned who they are yet.

One has to wonder whether or not this woman can do anything of a political nature for herself.

The most offensive of the helpers is The Repository.

The others are Republicans who want to keep the seat for the benefit of the Ohio Republican Party.

But The Rep?  Why is the publisher and executive editor allowing her to order up politically helpful public relations-esque pieces apparently at will?

Her opponent Democratic Alliance Councilwoman Sue Ryan hardly gets a mention in The Reps pages.

Who believes that she is not doing things that could turned into free ink in The Rep?

Could it be that she is not trying? 

Or is it because The Repository is turning a deaf ear to her because the deciders-in-chief have already made their minds up?

Stark County's dwindling number of newspaper readers deserve a better balance on political figure reporting than what they are getting out of The Repository.

But they should not be holding their breath while waiting for that to happen!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

WISDOM PREVAILS AT THE STARK COUNTY OFFICE BUILDIING!



What a difference a change of Stark County commissioners can make.

Back in December, 2008 when Todd Bosley, Tom Harmon and Jane Vignos were the Stark County commissioners, they set back the public trust in and confidence in county government when they unanimously voted to "impose" a county sales tax of 0.5%.

Bosley, Harmon and Vignos were afraid to face-to-face with Stark Countians and have to justify the need for the increase.

This triumvirate tried to sell  voters on going along with the imposed tax on the pretext of doing an "urgently needed?" fix of the county's 9-1-1 emergency call/dispatch operations which had been tabbed as being broken in a 2007/2008 commissioned report.

As we know now,  the voters were not buying and overwhelmingly defeated the tax by voting to repeal it November, 2009.

The SCPR's read on the 2008 effort is that then-commissioner Todd Bosley thought he had come up with a full proof way to survive what he had to know was going to be a challenge to the imposed tax.

He led the commissioners in promising Stark's political subdivisions (townships, villages and cities) that they would get a "free" state-of-the-art upgrade of their emergency call response capabilities with the county's rehab of the broken county system.

Apparently, Bosley's thinking was that virtually all of Stark's police, fire and emergency medical services personnel would get behind the commissioners and thereby ward off a citizen-based challenge; if it came.

If such was the case as the SCPR has reason to believe that it was, then Bosley badly miscalculated.

When it came to light that not only was the imposed tax going to raise money for the 9-1-1 fix, but was also set up to raise money for the county general fund, then any chance the tax was to survive was done!

Fast forward to the Spring of 2011.

Janet Creighton (a former Canton mayor, Stark County recorder and auditor and White House official) and Tom Bernabei (a former Canton city councilman, law director and executive director of SARTA) had been elected Stark County commissioners in November, 2010.

Mission One for the new commissioners on taking office was to restore the public's confidence and trust in Stark County government.

No only did they have to deal with the smashing repeal of the Bosley, Harmon and Vignos imposed sales tax; they also had to deal with a swirl of controversy surrounding the Stark County treasurer's office.

Former Stark County Chief Deputy Treasurer Vince Frustaci had been convicted of stealing some $2.46 million (some believe it was as high as $2.96 million) of Stark County taxpayer money.

While the then-treasurer Gary Zeigler was not implicated in the theft, there was a obvious public perception that he had not implemented procedural and structural safeguards to prevent a theft of county funds.

Given the sales tax matter and the problems in the county treasury, Bernabei and Creighton had a major job on their hands in restoring the public trust.

It became apparent (a second validation) that they were on their way towards accomplishing their mission when they brokered a deal for Zeigler for resign on October 19, 2011 (LINK to prior blog).  A prior board of commissioners (Bosley, Ferguson and Meeks) had been found by the Ohio Supreme Court to have illegally (i.e. unconstitutionally) removed Zeigler from office. 

Meanwhile, Bernabei, Creighton and Ferguson had to deal with the expiration of a 1/4 cent sales tax.  With the loss of this tax revenue, Stark County would be the only county in the entire State of Ohio receiving no sales tax revenues whatsoever.

It had to be difficult for them not to put a replacement sales tax issue on the ballot for the May, 2011 primary election, but their read was that county voters were still caught up in distrust of county government and that it would be futile to go forward.

In early 2011 the commissioners embarked on a series of some 20 community meetings designed to reconnect county government with Stark County's communities. 

Area media, including the Stark County Political Report, reported to the public that the commissioners' expressed intention to be that they were in the process of bringing a new accessibility, accountability, openness, community communicativeness and interaction and transparency to county government.

The response of the community was such that is fair to say that the meeting series was the first validation that the commissioners were on the right path in reconnecting.

By mid-summer, the commissioners committed to bringing a 0.5% sales tax issue to the Stark County public for the November, 2011 election after having made deep cuts to the county budget.

The commissioners discipline paid off and county voters provided a comfortable margin in passing the issue which, of course, was a convincing confirming validation that the commissioners were making mostly correct judgments in interacting with the Stark County public.

In deciding yesterday at a county commissioners work session not to place a renewal of a 1/10th of a mill property tax issue dedicated to the Stark 9-1-1's call receiving operation on the November, 2012 ballot, the commissioners are once again showing good judgment.

November's ballot will likely have quite a number of village, township, city and board of education tax issues for Stark County voters to deal with.  The final count will not be known until August 7th (the issue filing deadline) comes and goes.

Moreover, there will be a Stark County District Library 1.7 mill property tax issue and the Stark County Parks District will have a 1 mill property tax issue on the ballot.

While the 1/10th mill levy (9-1-1 levy) is, according to Stark County Emergency Management Agency Director Tim Warstler, critical to the ongoing viability of Stark's emergency call receiving operations (it raises about $500,000 annually) and it does expire at the end of 2012, it will continue to be collected upon into 2013.

Accordingly; there is time for the commissioners to put it on in May, 2013 and still maintain the needed revenues consonant with the budgeting that Warstler has done.

In deferring on the 9-1-1 levy, the commissioners likely enhance chances that Stark voters will retain the levy when it is placed on the ballot and moreover they help other Stark County Political subdivisions get their issues passed this November by reducing the list by one request.

It is a "no brainer" that commissioners defer, but previous boards of county commissioners have had "no brainers" which they could not or refused to recognize.

What a refreshing change, no?

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

STARK'S FOUR LARGEST TWP GOVERNMENTS SAY THEY DO NOT HAVE ENOUGH "CLOUT" WITH STATE GOV'T. THEY ONLY HAVE THEMSELVES TO BLAME!


Last Wednesday evening representatives of Stark County's four largest township (Jackson, Lake, Perry and Plain) met in Jackson to begin action to attain more "clout" with funding decision makers in Columbus so as to avert a local government funding crisis that looms as they use up reserves in the face of draconian cuts at the hand of the State of Ohio.

Ohio through the Ohio General Assembly (which includes Stark Countians Christina Hagan [R - Marlboro; 50th Ohio House], Scott Oelslager [R - Plain; 29th Ohio Senate], Kirk Schuring [R - Jackson; 51st Ohio House] and Stephen Slesnick [D - Canton; 52nd Ohio House]) has in large part balanced Ohio's biennium budget [fiscal years 2012-2013]  on the backs of local government.

Gone is the Ohio Estate Tax (effective:   January 1, 2013) and dramatically sliced (50%) is Ohio's Local Government Fund (LGF).  And there are indications that the LGF might be eliminated in its entirety come the 2014-2015 biennium.

Back in 2005 the Ohio General Assembly began phasing out the personal property tax with the promise to hold local governments harmless on the cuts.

Well, guess what?  That promise was only partially kept and now the revenue is entirely gone.

Officials from Jackson, Lake, Perry and Plain have known for some time that they are somewhat different from Stark County's other 14 townships.  In fact, Plain Township trustee Louis Giavasis tells the SCPR that he, Perry Township trustee Craig Chessler and Randy Gonzalez (current Jackson Township fiscal officer) put together CLOUT (Coalition of Large Urban Townships) as part of the Ohio Township Association (OTA) in 1994.



Other points made by Giavasis in an email response from The Report about Wednesday's meeting include:
  • that the meeting was attended by the following:
    • Jackson
      • Trustee James N. Walters
      • Trustee John E. Pizzino
      • Trustee Todd J. Hawke
      • Fiscal Officer Randy Gonzalez
      • the township law director
      • the township administrator
    • Lake
      • Trustee John Arnold
      • Fiscal Officer Ben Sommers
    • Perry 
      • Trustee Craig Chessler
      • Trustee Lee Laubacher
      • Fiscal Officer Joe Schlegel
      • the township administrator
    • Plain
      • Trustee Louis Giavasis
      • Trustee Scott Haws
      • Trustee Al Leno
      • the township administrator
    • Stark County
      • Auditor Alan Harold
  • that a prime discussion topic was a consensus that neither the OTA nor CLOUT was effectively serving the needs of Ohio's largest townships.  (CLOUT  has about 50 member-communities of about 1310 (more or less) a  total number of township in Ohio)
  • that Jackson, Lake, Perry and Plain function as cities but do not have the option to ask voters to pass an income tax or sales tax in addition to their only other option which is a property tax.
  • that additional revenue sources are needed the larger townships in the face of State of Ohio revenue cuts or they will have to cut services to residents.
  • that the Wednesday meeting produced a discussion of combining duplicative services but seek authority through the Ohio Legislature to create combined taxing authorities to support the more efficient and less costly combined services.
  • to continue to work with the OTA, CLOUT (notwithstanding the thinking that they were not getting the job done for larger townships) to find ways and means for larger townships to obtain from state government the tools that they need to function as city-like entities, and
  • to consider hosting a meeting with the Stark County delegation to the Ohio General Assembly being present to hear face-to-face what the larger townships need that is different from less populated townships.
As far as the SCPR is concerned, Stark's largest townships' structural and financial will not be solved UNLESS and UNTIL they band together to put the continuance in office either Kirk Schuring and/or Scott Oelslager in jeopardy.

The Report is not calling for local CLOUT-esque officials to get ugly or even uncivil.  Both men are gentlemen and cordial and deserve to be treated respectfully at the person leve.  In a word, "civility"  should continue to reign.

However, the trustees and fiscal officers, elected in the own right,  need to look Schuring and Oelslager in their capacity as elected public officials in the eye and tell them they are not getting the job done for Stark County political subdivision government and that its time for a change in the the 48th and the 29th, respectively.

Both have been part of the problem of local governments losing revenues from the State of Ohio and not having the statutory structural resources required for these Stark's largest townships to deal with their unique situation.  And between the two, the current local problems have been many years in the making.

It makes most sense for the CLOUT townships to target either Oelslager and/or Schuring as they are from Plain and Jackson Townships, respectively.  Moreover, both represent Perry and Oelslager represents Lake.

However, the SCPR has seen many of the township officials listed in this blog as having attended last Wednesday's meeting interact with Oelslager and Schuring in a love-in fashion, uttering nary a word of criticism of their shortfalls and therefore The Report does not believe that the locals have the intestinal fortitude to get in duo's faces on their votes on policy issues which hurt local government.

So the likes of  Gonzalez, Pizzino, Walters, Hawke, Arnold, Chessler, Laubacher, Giavasis, Haws and Leno get no empathy from the SCPR on their "woe is me, look what the Ohio Legislature has done to us" complaints.

To say it again.

Concerted and unified action by the 16 elected officials (a mix of Republicans and Democrats) of Stark's BIG FOUR townships against Republican majority party members Oelslager and/or Schuring would have a terrific chance of success and would send shock waves through the Ohio General Assembly were either or, perhaps, both voted out of office.

But it ain't gonna happen.

For the complaining Stark County township officials simply "do not have the guts" to act in a way that the Ohio General Assembly will understand!

Monday, June 25, 2012

CONGRESSMAN JIM "I CANNOT TELL A FALSEHOOD" RENACCI? AT LEAST "AFTER THE FACT" AND, APPLYING DIFFERENT STANDARDS TO HIS POLITICAL OPPONENTS COMPARED TO HIMSELF.



Recently, The Cleveland Plain Dealer in its PolitiFactOhio series (LINK) did a piece on a tiff between the Congressman Jim Renacci (R - Wadsworth - the 16th) and Congresswoman Betty Sutton (D - Copley - the 13th) on the matter of whether or not Renacci has it correct as to whether or not Betty Sutton was investigated by the FBI for contributions made to her campaign in 2008.

Because of congressional redistricting mandated by the U.S. Constitution every ten years if a given district gains or loses seats in Congress due to a population gain/loss within the 50 state configuration, Renacci and Sutton have been thrown into a race against each other in the newly configured 16th congressional district which means that one of them will be an ex-congressperson come January 1, 2013.

So one can only imagine the ferocious political fight that is unfolding between the two.

For now the political swirl is focus on two public figure factors:  Suarez Corporation Industries (Suarez) and its tycoon principal Ben Suarez and New York Congressman Charlie Rangel (Rangel).

When he ran against Democratic Congressman John Boccieri (D - Alliance) in 2008, Renacci leveled charges against Boccieri (whom he defeated), to wit:
As if John Boccieri’s voting record isn’t troubling enough, the fact that his campaign coffers have been fueled by the fruits of Washington’s culture of corruption raises further questions about his judgement and his ethics.
Boccieri had received campaign contributions from fellow Democratic congressman Charles Rangel (New York), the legality of which has never been questioned.

Here it is four years later and lo and behold Renacci's own campaign faces questions about the legality of campaign contributions made to it.

Recently, the FBI announced it was investigating campaign finance contributions made by employees of Suarez to the campaigns of Republican and U.S. Senate candidate Josh Mandel (his opponent is incumbent Democrat Sherrod Brown) and to Renacci's campaign.

Why?

Apparently there is a suspicion that Suarez may have asked key employees to make individual contributions to the candidates (to be reimbursed to them by the company) in order to get around campaign finance contribution limits in place at the time the contributions were made.

For the record, Suarez has denied that such was the case.

Notwithstanding Suarez's denial, Mandel's campaign almost immediately returned the donations it received.

However, Renacci's campaign is standing fast with its Suarez employee contributions pending the outcome of the investigation.

And it is reviving the tactic it used against Boccieri against current opponent Betty Sutton.  Actually, worse than against Boccieri.

Here is the Renacci statement about Sutton.

"My opponent, in 2008, had contributions investigated by the federal government."

Which Plain Dealer/PoliticFact says is a false statement.

And, which the Renacci campaign now says was a "misspeak" by the congressman.

Okay, make a false statement and then claim it was a misstatement.

The misstatement according to a Renaci spokesman:   the investigation was about donations should have named Rangel; not Sutton.

Hard to believe that one could make a mistake on something so basic.

And when the House of Representatives Ethics Committee made findings on Rangel, Sutton returned $7,000 though there was no legal taint to the money.  And she asked Rangel to resign from the House.

Media reports indicate that Renacci is holding about $100,000 pending the outcome of the FBI investigation of the Suarez situation which does involve a question about the legality of contributions.

Hmm?

Let's see. 

Rennaci claimed that Boccieri should immediately donations from Rangel the legality of which was never under question.

Renaci claims that Sutton should have immediately returned $7,000 in donations from Rangel the legality of which was never under question.

Renaci refuses to return some $100,000 in donations received in the Suarez situation the legality of which appears to be under investigation seemingly unless or until there is an adverse finding though the Mandel campaign has returned $105,000 in such donations.

So Renaci is not only wrong about Sutton having been under investigation.

He is also wrong in the comparison:  Boccieri and Sutton received donations the legality of which have not been questioned versus donations to Renacci and Mandel, the legality which are being questioned.

Clearly an apples to oranges comparison Renaci is making, no?

Renacci had to understand the difference but that didn't seem to keep him from trying to sew confusion starting with a falsehood, only to be corrected but in a fashion in which he is obviously comparing apples to oranges.

And this is only June 25, 2012.

It appears that this man is very much worried about his chances of being returned to Congress.

Friday, June 22, 2012

WILL NORTH CANTON CIVIC ACTIVIST CHUCK OSBORNE "SNATCH DEFEAT FROM THE JAWS OF VICTORY" ON PART-TIME ELECTED OFFCIAL HEALTH INSURANCE BENEFITS?



UPDATE:  06/24/2012 AT 4:45 PM

Martin,

Osborne's insurance costs are incorrect. Three members of Council receive health benefits, the Mayor also receives health benefits. In addition to, I at present, receive single coverage at $5380.08. The at present total cost to the city of North Canton is $61,047.60.  His argument that the council member work part time is disingenuous. Personally, I average 30 to 35 hours per week conducting city business between constituent concerns, telephone calls, in preparation and conducting of council meetings. 

Let's have all the facts correct before it's spun. The cost to conduct a successful council campaign in the city is currently approximately $4000.  At present, the current council yearly rate of pay is $4,800.00, the Mayor's pay rate is $16,000.00.  The last pay increase was the year 2000. Council members make less than minimum wage.

Best regards,

Jon Snyder

ORIGINAL BLOG

The Stark County Political Report knew before anyone but North Canton civic activist Chuck Osborne himself what a superlative job he did on collecting "valid" signatures.

The Report examined a couple of pages of his initiative petition to enact an ordinance by a vote of the people of North Canton to deny part-time elected officials city paid for health insurance benefits, and found that on the two pages checked out, it appeared that Osborne was well north of 90% in having collected the signatures of validly registered North Canton voters.

Here is a LINK to a prior blog reciting the finding.

In that same blog, the SCPR mused that Osborne likely has hit the political gravy train on this one and that he is likely to be successful on the November 6, 2012 ballot.

As it turns out, the Stark County Board of Elections has verified that Osborne collected 1108 signatures of which 1090 are valid for a validity rate 98.3755%.

Collecting valid signatures is a really simple enterprise.

All one has to do is to get a copy Stark County voter registration list which can be downloaded for free from the Ohio secretary of state website and create a sub-list of voters in the affected geographical area (in this case, the city of North Canton) where the vote is to take place (issue or candidate) and "bingo" the circulator can know with a extremely high degree of certainty whether nor the solicited petition signed is validly registered.

And that is exactly what it appears Osborne did.

But every election it seems that the Stark County Board of Elections bounces candidates who have filed petitions for office from having qualified to run because of why?

You've got it:  not enough valid signatures.

And for many local and even state office (e.g. state representative) only 50 valid signatures are required.

Can't collect 50 valid signatures?  Unbelievable!, no?

Osborne had to collect about 745 valid signatures.  No sweat.  He gets 1090.  Truly impressive!

So what, some might say.  A lot more North Canton voters vote than the 1090.

True enough.

But remember Senate Bill 5 (State Issue #2) - the anti-collective bargaining bill?

Collectors for that initiative petition collected about a million total signatures. Way more than what was needed.  A high percentage of which were valid.

Governor Kasich was impressed.

After he and his allies in the Ohio General Assembly jammed SB 5 down the throats of the Democrats and their union allies and thereby generated the reaction of the initiative petition and seeing the numbers of signatures collected, what did he want to do with the Dems and their union friends?

You've got it!  Negotiate.

With their numbers, the petition circulators were in no mood to negotiate and it was all of a sudden jam down time for them courtesy of Ohio's voters and the voters obliged with a massive defeat of State Issue 2.

It appears to the SCPR that Chuck Osborne is pretty much in the same place as the Dems and friends were on the state issue.

The only question is so far as the SCPR is concerned is whether or not Osborne will blow it.

On June 13th he sent The Report an e-mail which, in the  opinion of yours truly, is laced with political paranoia and conspiratorial thinking and therefore not helpful to his quest.

Exactly the kind of thing that may turn North Canton voters off on his latest initiative.

Here is an the bulk of what was in the e-mail:
Hello Martin,
I wanted to bring to your attention something that is being talked about here in North Canton as a way to for North Canton elected officials to get around proposed changes to minimum salary requirements to qualify for PERS.
I heard this from a former North Canton City Councilman last year.
I expect you are aware that there are proposals in Columbus to raise the minimum salary to qualify for PERS. I am not sure how far this proposal has gone through the legislative process but I was told that the minimum monthly salary being discussed is $1,000 per month.
As I noted above, a former city councilman told me last summer that there has already been discussions among councilmembers that if the new monthly salary requirements actually become state law that North Canton is prepared to drop city-paid health care coverage that is currently offered to part-time elected officials and then raise the salary of city council members from $400 per month to the minimum $1,000 per month. Coupled with the salary increase, council members would be allowed to buy in the city’s health care plan.
With that thought already being formulated among certain councilmembers to undo what the legislature is proposing, it is clear that those actions will also undermine the intent of the Initiative Petition.  
North Canton part-time elected officials feel entitled to the level of benefits they have received for the last 20-30 years.
I do not think any of them realize that the level of benefits they presently receive was tied the fact that the City of North Canton had The Hoover Company with several thousand high-paying jobs and a product that was known worldwide.
I suspect that the reason that Massillon, Alliance, Louisville, and Canal Fulton have never offered the level of benefits to part-time elected officials that North Canton provides is because they were never graced with the likes of a Hoover Company in their town.
And if Timken ever pulled out of Canton, I don’t think Canton would continue to offer the level of benefits it offers to its part-time officials.
The proposed Initiative Petition is modeled after what is now in place in the City of Green.
I fully expect that North Canton City Council will undermine the intent of the Initiative.
Whether they stop it from going on the ballot or undermine it with changes outlined above.
I would not be surprised to learn that the City has already employed Bricker & Eckler to find ways to block the issue from ever getting on the ballot.
Your friends, Alex Zumbar and Daryl Revoldt, did exactly that in 2008 after the Stark County Board of Elections validated the signatures I had collected on another Initiative petition.
The Columbus Law Firm of Bricker & Eckler was hired to derail the issue going on the ballot and they succeeded.  North Canton taxpayers paid $8,300 for those efforts.
How do you like that – use taxpayer money to fight the taxpayers and halt a Constitutional right to the Initiative Petition process.
...
At any rate, don’t be surprised what North Canton City government will be dishing up. And it will not benefit the citizens of North Canton.
Chuck Osborne
Of course, Osborne can campaign for his initiative petition any way he wants.

But it seems to The Report that the key for the voters is what it is costing North Cantonians to provide the health insurance benefits to its part-time elected officials.

First, there is this e-mail that he received from the clerk of council (Gail Kalpac) documenting the premium cost at about $111,000, to wit:



Moreover, there is what the SCPR believes is a highly relevant and valid point that he made to an area media person in an e-mail which he provided a copy of to The Report, to wit:
Without violating HIPPA Laws, the city should be able to provide the aggregate cost of the claims made to the city’s health care plan by the part-time council members and their families.
That number could be in the tens of thousands of dollars in terms of costs to North Canton notwithstanding stop-loss insurance carried by the city.

If Osborne can develop that number like he did the premium cost number, he adds clout to his case for initiative approval.

In the judgment of the SCPR, Osborne has some powerful arguments to make to the citizens of North Canton on the costs to the city for part-timers in a time when voters across the nation are taking a careful look that the benefits (pension benefits, insurances et cetera) pubic officials (not just part-timers) are getting from taxpayers.

And he can do so without getting off message with speculation galore, ad hominen-esque attacks and perhaps playing into the hands of those who may wish to discredit him.

In the end, the SCPR's take is that Osborne may be embarking on a course of political campaign action that ends up with his "snatching defeat from the jaws of victory!"

Thursday, June 21, 2012

IS CANTON COUNCIL UP TO "TRULY" VETTING HEALY'S BUDGET PLAN?



The Stark County Political Report believes that Canton Mayor William J. Healy, II, being the consummate politician he is, has counted noses and likely will get his recently announced budget plan (Plan) through Canton City Council pretty much intact.

About the only provision that has much of a chance of being excluded is the red light violations traffic monitoring cameras. 

In the SCPR's way of nose counting, yours truly believes that Councilpersons Joe Cole, Jimmy Babcock, David Dougherty, Thomas West, Chris Smith and Jim Griffin ("the Healy Council Caucus") are a lock for Healy on any of his "must have" provisions which need council approval.

While The Report does not think that council president Allen Schulman is a lock for Healy, he does appear to lean the mayor's way on most council issues.

The difference between Schulman and the Healy Council Caucus is that he will ask penetrating and critique-esque questions from time-to-time. And in doing so he may force the Healy administration to make some modifications to the Plan.

But if push comes to shove and the normally non-voting council president is forced to break a tie (which The Report thinks is highly unlikely), it is pretty clear that Schulman is going to back the mayor.

There has been a big shift in Schulman's attitude towards and relationship with Mayor Healy from the days that Healy was into firing the then-Healy administration chief of staff Thomas Bernabei and making other "shoot-myself-in-the-foot" moves which The Report thinks damaged and continues to damage Canton and, indeed, all of Stark County in the public perception.

Hmm?

Media reports of the initial reaction by various council members to the Plan does indicate that there is likely to be some scrutiny going on in that questions are already being asked about the cameras and about Healy's desire to lease city property so that it can be fracked for natural gas and oil products.

But as the expression goes, the "proof will be in the pudding" of how council handles a consideration of the various items of the Plan it must approve.

However, the SCPR is skeptical that a thoroughgoing examination will take place and The Report is even more skeptical that those who indicate they are unalterably opposed to this or that provision of the Plan can muster the necessary six votes to force even a Schulman tie-breaker voter.

Moreover, The Report does not see that there is anyway that a dissenting councilman could cobble together seven votes. As yours truly sees the Healy Caucus, there "ain't no way" one of the number can be peeled off of what "the boss says."  So forget the seven!

There is a lot of pressure to come on council.  First, on the camera issue and, second, on the fracking issue.

Healy had to scuttle the camera proposal once before and so he must have done his political homeworkand is confidant that he can hold his six councilpersons together and lure one or two out the "not-in-lockstep-with-Healy" group to get to seven votes.

On the fracking issue, there is likely to be a loud and sustained opposition by a group of environmental activists.

Here is the essence of an email the SCPR has received from an organizer of the group:
So here is the plan...


Canton City Council is not only considering the sale of water but also the leasing of land to frack within the city limits.  

Two Mondays from today, July 2nd, Canton City Council will again meet.  We will rally in front of Chesapeake's offices before marching to City Hall where City Council will meet at 7:30 p.m.  

After protesting in front of City Hall, we will head inside to give testimony as to why fracking should be banned within the city limits and why the sale of water should not be allowed.  
...   
  As soon as all is finalized, we will be blowing up Facebook about this event!!!

I think we should rally in front of Chesapeake starting at 6:30 p.m.  I will also get info on contact numbers of City Council members -- we need to blow up their phones as well!!!     
But do not look for most council members to be impressed.

The Report thinks they will look at anti-fracking-initiative much as they did with the "trap-neuter-release" Canton City Council "Public Speaks" initiative a few months back (where are the great number of Cantonians who object to our present program?) with one exception.  Do not look for council to refer the issue to committee for further study. 

Of the two main sticking points of the Plan, the lease for the fracking proposal seems to have the most support on council.  Maybe as much as 9 or 10 votes?

Maybe the SCPR has council all wrong?

A Healy Council Caucus?

Is The Report kidding?

Only time will tell.

The "proof will be in the pudding" of council deliberations!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

ANGUS KING OF MAINE: A MODEL OF HOW POLITICIANS SHOULD BE!



Recently, Maine United States Senator Olympia Snowe decided not to run for reelection.

Reason?

Well, let's allow Senator Snowe to speak for herself as she did in a Washington Post Op-ed on March 1st:
... I have spoken on the floor of the Senate for years about the dysfunction and political polarization in the institution. Simply put, the Senate is not living up to what the Founding Fathers envisioned.
The Senate of today routinely jettisons regular order, ... ; serially legislates by political brinkmanship, ... ; and habitually eschews full debate and an open amendment process in favor of competing, up-or-down, take-it-or-leave-it proposals
Again, the reason?  Frustration with how organized Republicans and Democrats put political party interests above the the nation's interest.

Oh! that we had an Olympia Snowe in Ohio.

For the nation, the state and localities desperately need politicians who will stand apart from their political party agenda on crucial  and important issues and push to develop policies that are in line with what is good for us all.

But we do not.

The battle over Senate Bill 5 ("the collective bargaining bill" - State Issue #2 on the November 8, 2011 ballot) is a demonstrative of the intransigence that plagues "organized" Republicans and Democrats in our state.

When he realized that the Democrats and their union allies were going to be successful in overturning SB 5, Republican Governor John Kasich wanted to compromise.

Simply unbelievable!

And it was a pity too.

Because, as Stark County assistant prosecutor Michael Bickis (a Democrat, by the way) said in his analysis of SB 5 to the Stark County commissioners in July, 2011, there were some very helpful provisions in the bill for local government officials to use in getting their finances in order.

Kasich and his highly politicized minions in the Ohio General Assembly (which included Republican state Senator Kirk Schuring and state Representative Christina Hagan) did what Olympia Snowe described as happening in the United States Senate, to wit:  "take-it-or-leave-it" on Ohio Senate Bill 5!

Had the Republicans included the Democrats and organized labor in pre-Senate Bill 5 passage negotiations, chances are  that some of the Bickis-described "good parts of the bill" would now be Ohio law.

But no.  The Republicans had to engage in political machismo.

So Ohioans and Stark Countians will face a round of highly politicized confrontations beginning in January, 2013 on the detritus of SB 5 in a piece by piece by piece fashion.

It will be "up-or-down" vote after "up-or-down" vote after "up-or-down"vote and "take-it-or-leave-it" vote after "take-it-or-leave-it" vote after "take-it-or-leave-it" voter after "take-it-or-leave-it" vote!!!

You can bank on it.

And the votes will be followed a "repeal-that-bill" initiative after "repeal-that-bill" initiative after "repeal-that-bill."

You can bank on that too.

The only way for Ohio to get out of this morass of confrontation politics is for someone to take the lead of Maine's Angus King.

A former "independent" governor, he is running to replace Snowe.

According to a USA Today (Maine candidate:  don't assume party affiliation, June 19, 2012) article King says:  "He is running a campaign on a platform of changing Congress and resisting partisanship ... ."

So should everybody running for a national or state legislative post.

There is nothing wrong with "checked" partisanship.

But that is not what we have on both sides of the aisle in Ohio.

No doubt that Oelslager (he voted against Senate Bill 5), Schuring and Slesnick (a Canton Democrat) are better than most of their fellows in the Ohio General Assembly, but they all still could stand some distancing from their respective political parties.

Christina Hagan (Republican - the 50th)?

She is the personification of the worst kind of example of the "up-or-down," "take-it-or-leave" it mentality that dominates in the Ohio General Assembly.

Pure and simple.  She should not be elected to the House.

But she is exactly the kind of politician that a political party caucus will go all out for.

Why?

Because she will do whatever the caucus tells her to do!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

MASSILLON'S MAYOR CATAZARO-PERRY'S "OWN WORST ENEMY?"


Indeed, it appears to the SCPR that none other than Mayor Kathy Catazaro-Perry is her "own worst enemy" in terms of getting Massillon headed in the right direction.

Nowhere is this more obvious than in the ongoing saga of the Catazaro-Perry administration's decision to layoff a combined total of 19 policemen (9) and firemen (10) effective May 20th.

Ostensibly, it was designed to pull Massillon out of a $1.1 million or so deficit that Catazaro-Perry says political bogeyman Frank Cicchinelli (the former mayor) left her.

But there is disagreement as to whether or not the layoffs will do the trick in pulling Massillon even in its budgetary numbers.

In the short term, they certainly will not.

Perhaps, over the longer term.

But Massillon needs financial relief and it needs it now!

And there is some thought that the layoffs were a "roll of the political dice" calculated to scare Massillon City Council into approving Catazaro-Perry's insistence that Massillon needs to reduce the city income tax credit for those who work outside the city by 50% then 35% so that the city can get several hundred thousands of dollars into city coffers this year.

If such was the motivation of the mayor's closest strategists and advisers (e.g. her "kitchen-cabinet" of the likes of de facto mayor Johnnie A. Maier, Jr., [former Stark County Democratic Party chairman] and Shane Jackson [Stark Dems political director] and others), Mayor Kathy should be looking for advice elsewhere.

Reading Matt Rink's piece Layoffs complicates fire talks, June 17 (The Independent) CLOSELY, it seems to The Report that all the mayor succeeded in doing with the layoffs was to "dig her financial hole deeper" and complicate her life "by leaps and bounds" and she has to attribute the troubles to no one other than herself thus being her "own worst enemy."

From Rink's article:

Layoffs announced in April threw a wrench in contract talks between the city and its firefighters union, says union President Pat Perkowski.
And an excerpt on Safety-Service Director Maier's take on the talks:

If you had asked me this question a week ago, I would have told you ‘soon.’ But some things have changed a little bit. So, to be straightforward, the answer now is ‘I don’t know.’ I’m hopeful we can come to an agreement on a few things, but I’m guessing there will be some things we’ll have to go to the next level (mediation) on.
For the layoffs to provide the kind of budget savings her numbers cruncher (Budget Director Ken Koher) projects there will have to be a rework of the "minimum staffing" mandates that are in the current working agreement.

Getting to such an agreement has to be a road the fire fighters do not want to take.  For if they agree, then the need to hire back the 10 laid off firefighters evaporates, no?

The SCPR asked Massillon Fire Chief Tom Burgasser (last Thursday) whether or not he was hopeful that the 10 would be coming back.  Yes, he said, he is hopeful.  However, he added he could offer no concrete specifics to justify his hopefulness.

And this is just the firefighter negotiations.  The police union negotiations will not begin until the end of this month.

It appears that Massillon City Council for the most part wants to work with the mayor, but is not about to be politically manipulated and bullied into doing things just because "word has come down from on high."

If Catazaro-Perry wants to be successful mayor of Massillon, she should be learning by now that that her "kitchen-cabinet" is not going to get her there.

Establishing a mutually trustworthy relationship with Massillon City Council will be far more productive for her becoming NOT her "own worst enemy!"

Monday, June 18, 2012

(VIDEOS: GONZALEZ & SCHURING) SCOG 9-1-1 GOVERNANCE BOARD SETS PRIORITIES. IS GONZALEZ'S FRUSTRATION EXPERIENCING SOME RELIEF?



Last Thursday 9-1-1 Stark Council of Governments (SCOG) Governance Board Chairman Randy Gonzalez called the board ("GovBoard") together for the express purpose of determining what the board wished to recommend to the Stark County commissioners as to how to spend some $2.1 million that the commissioners are holding for the rehab of the countywide 9-1-1 system.

Back in 2007/2008 a commissioned study found the system to be broken and in dire need of fixing.

In December, 2008 former Stark County commissioner Todd Bosley came up with a plan to "impose" (which fellow commissioners Tom Harmon and Jane Vignos went along with) on Stark Countians a 0.5% sales tax as a way to fund the repair of the countywide 9-1-1.

Moreover additionally in the mix was a, "let's say - a less publicized," side plan to put monies into the Stark County general fund.

The SCPR's take is that "imposed" factor coalesced with the "general fund" factor to deal an overwhelming defeat for the tax in a referendum on the tax in November, 2009.

When the tax was "imposed," Gonzalez was elated that finally, finally, his 20 year effort to bring a "state-of-the-art" countywide 9-1-1 was a reality to Stark County.

This is not to say that Gonzalez (also Jackson Township's fiscal officer, a employee of the Canton clerk of courts and chairman of the Stark County Democratic Party) was pleased with the way the funding was brought about.  Being the skilled politician he is, one has to think that he worried that the revenue would be short lived.

And, as already pointed out, it was!

However, the county did collect monies from the "imposed" tax of which the $2.1 million remains.

Since the "imposed" sales tax collection ended in mid-2010 (because of a built-in lag in collecting on/ending levies), the GovBoard through 9-1-1 Project Manager Joe Concatto has been working on five aspects of completing the "dispatch" side of fixing 9-1-1, to wit:
  • a "CAD - Computer Aided Dispatch" (i.e. software) system,
  • getting Stark County's first responders outfitted with "state-of-the-art" 800 mhz radios,
  • up-to-date consoles,
  • figuring out a way to pay for the annual upkeep on CAD to the tune of about $100,000, and
  • reserving some of the sales tax revenues to use as leverage (the local match) to qualify for state and federal grants that might be available for the CAD, radio and console aspects of upgrading the Stark 9-1-1 dispatch side of the equation.
It was this latter factor (i.e. the $100,000 annual upkeep cost) that gave Stark County Commissioner Tom Bernabei "pause for thought" as to whether or not purchasing a CAD system was a wise thing to do.

Anyone who knows Bernabei is well aware that he is a painstaking, detailed type when it comes to analyzing the costs and other factors associated with implementing local government initiatives.

He is so highly regarded in the county (except, of course, for Mayor William J. Healy, II of Canton who fired him as Canton chief-of staff back in 2008), The Report does expect that Commissioners Creighton and Ferguson will follow his lead as the commissioners move towards a final decision as what to do with the $2.1 million.

The options are, as pointed out above, the CAD software and/or 800 mhz radios and/or new consoles or any combination thereof.

The Report believes Bernabei is genuinely undecided but is leaning towards the radios.

Undoubtedly, Gonzalez and Concatto are likely tuned in on Bernabei's wavering.

It has always been the impression of the SCPR that Gonzalez and Concatto favor (as the top priority) getting the CAD system.  CAD will probably cost between $1 million and $1.3 million.

Beyond that, their likely priorities are getting as many radios as they can and setting aside money for the local match factor.

The hope is that bringing dispatchers together in two central facilities (the Stark County Sheriff's Center and the Canton Communications Center [or alternative, the RED Center] will significantly reduce the need for upgraded consoles and therefore the console factor appears to be their last priority.

But the decision on priorities in not Gonzalez's/Concatto's decision to make.

It is that of the GovBoard which is made of various fire/police/emergency force units and, of course, various representatives of Stark County's political subdivisions (township, villages, and cities).

While the SCPR believes that the GovBoard discussion was thorough, open-ended and frank, there is little doubt that the members caught the Gonzalez/Concatto drift and and that their carefully crafted advocacy resulted in their priorities being endorsed by the board.

And for yours truly's part, the Gonzalez/Cancatto priority plan appears to be the correct one.

But it remains to be seen as to whether or not Tom Bernabei will be convinced.

The SCPR understands that the GovBoard will have representation at this coming Wednesday's regular commissioner meeting to pass onto the commissioners the GovBoard's recommendation that the CAD be put out for bid as a first priority.

Here is a videotape on the GovBoard's vote on the priority:



As was pointed out in the GovBoard meeting, merely bidding out the CAD does not necessarily mean that the CAD will actually be purchased.

A concern of Concatto is that movement take place on the $2.1 million soon as a convincer (e.g. putting CAD up for bid) to the Fund for our Economic Future (Cuyahoga County) that the 9-1-1 rehab is a "go," so as to secure payment of a $100,000 EfficientGov-Now grant won by the 9-1-1 GovBoard in June, 2010.

But it still remains for them to convince Bernabei.

Another aspect to the 9-1-1 rehab is on "the call receiving side" of the countywide system.

Stark County emergency call receiving is currently "state-of-the-art."

However, two key parts of the future funding of this side of Stark's 9-1-1 includes:
  • a 28 cent per month, per cellphone user fee which is due to expire on December 31, 2012.  The fee produces about $1 million per year for Stark County 9-1-1 emergency call receiving.
  •  a Stark County 1/10th of a mill property tax levy dedicated to 9-1-1 which is set to expire at the end of this year.  The tax produces about $500,000 per year.
The 28 cent fee is a State of Ohio imposed fee as voted by the Legislature.  Accordingly, Chairman Gonzalez asked state Representative Kirk Schuring (Republican - Jackson - the 51st soon to be the 48th) to look into extending the fee beyond this year.

To track Schuring's progress, Gonzalez asked Schuring to be at Thursday's meeting and make a public presentation and take questions from the GovBoard's membership.

Schuring acquiesced and explained that he has heeded the GovBoard's call as evidenced in his amending House Bill 509.

The amendment provides for a complete review of Ohio's emergency services call receiving/dispatch system with recommendations of the review to be voted upon after November 15th of this year when the Ohio General Assembly returns to Columbus for a "lame duck" session.

Obviously representatives and state senators up for re-election this year would not want to be on record as having favored the tax increase.

While it is not known how much, if anything, the review will recommend in a continued fee, Schuring in this on camera with the SCPR appears confident that his efforts will be productive not only for the Stark County SCOG 9-1-1 GovBoard, but for 9-1-1 call/dispatch functions for all 88 Ohio counties.



As for Gonzalez's 20 years plus frustration, the SCPR asked whether or not he is optimistic that there is "light at the end of the tunnel" and, perhaps, his frustration is on its way to being ended?

Here is his video response to The Report:



The SCPR is skeptical that a complete fix of Stark County 9-1-1 will be realized.

However, it could happen.

The key?

Getting Canton Mayor William J. Healy, II on board.

The only way The Report sees that happening is Gonzalez brokering some kind of deal with Healy.

Healy being the cause of the stalemate is not good politics for him.

But will his ego allow him to do what is good for Stark County's citizens and sacrifice being the "man in charge?"

Hmm?

Friday, June 15, 2012

(VIDEOS) PLAIN TWP STARK CO. COMMISSIONER-HELD COMMUNITY MEETING OF MAY 14TH COULD RESULT IN 200 CANTON POST JOBS BEING SAVED? SEE PLAIN TWP CITIZEN JACKIE GEORGE STATE HER CASE. SEE COMMISSIONERS' REACTION.

 

From the SCPR's perspective, Plain Township resident Jackie George makes a compelling case that Stark County departments of government (i.e. the Stark treasury, auditor's office and the sanitary engineer's office and, perhaps, others) could save about 200 Canton postal jobs if they would mail such things as real property bills, dog license renewals, and water bills from the Canton Post Office mail processing center rather than from Akron.

On May 14th, the Stark County commissioners resumed their practice which began last year of making evening visits to Stark's townships, villages, and cities in order to make county government more accessible to citizens who cannot make the commissioners' meetings which are Mondays and Tuesdays (work sessions) at 10:00 a.m. and Wednesday (formal meeting) at 1:30 p.m.

First stop:  Plain Township.

At that meeting Ms. George, prompted by a media report of a reconfiguration of the Stark County sanitary engineer's office billing practices and procedures, asked why county offices were not using the Canton postal facilities to do their mailings inasmuch as by doing so Stark County government could possibly help retain 200 postal jobs in Canton.

It has been well publicized over the last year or so that the United States Postal Service (USPS) has been in the process of streamlining its mail processing nationwide because it is losing scads of money and that it is contemplated that as a consequence, perhaps, Canton will not continue to be a mail processing center over the long term.

Accordingly, local officials such as Canton Mayor William J., Healy, II, former Congressman John Boccieri and other public officials have waged a campaign to retain postal jobs in Canton.

Many Stark Countians including yours truly have felt that the well intentioned efforts of the politicos have been in vain.

But not so quick!

Citizen George, who says she is in the printing business herself and has 17 years experience and knowledge in working with post offices, is convinced that the Stark treasury, auditor's office, and the sanitary engineer's office, with the volume of presorted, commercial class mailings they make annually, could be a difference maker in making the Canton Post Office an attractive facility for the USPS to keep open and thereby save 200 jobs for Canton.

Currently, she says, and county officials do not disagree, the vendor who handles the Stark County mailings is depositing the mail in Akron which might have the effect of giving Akron an edge in the fight between the Canton and Akron facilities for survival.

Moreover, she contends that under the current processing setup in terms of how expeditiously the mail is delivered,  it makes no difference whether the county mail is deposited in Akron, Cleveland, or Canton in terms of the time between a mailing and receipt by Stark County recipients.

According to her, the turnaround time is 24 hours so long as the mail is in place at any of the three post offices by 8:00 a.m.

Accordingly, under the current arrangement Stark County government appears - by depositing the mail in Akron - to be helping Akron, perhaps, to be ultimately chosen over Canton as a processing center to be kept open.

Here is how George expresses it.

In writing:


And by video at Wednesday's commissioner meeting:



After the meeting the SCPR asked the commissioners for their reaction.  Here is the video of the exchange.



Also, The Report went to the office of Stark County treasurer Alex Zumber (where George had just been with her written information addressed in this blog above) to inquire as to whether or not he was open to changing his mailing practices to help Canton possibly retain 200 postal jobs.

His answer?

Not for the current mailing which is due out in matter of days.

However, he is open to reviewing and perhaps changing the office's mailing practice for real property tax bills that will be mailed out after the first of the year, 2013 so as to help Canton and, of course, Stark County with its employment picture.  He does say that he will have to have guarantees that a switch to Canton will not lengthen the the time lapse between mailing and receipt of the mailed item.

He says he is under a statutory duty to see to it that real property bills get to a Stark County taxpayer (in terms of the mail process) not later than 20 days prior to the due date of the bill.

The Report has not been in touch with either Stark County Auditor Alan Harold nor Stark County Sanitary Engineer Jim Jones but they need to conduct a similar review and consider similar adjustments to help out the local economy.

The major point of this blog is that incidents such of this is proof positive that over time the community meeting series brings out persons like Jackie George who make input that has the potential to boost the well being of Stark County's citizens.

The Report applauds the commissioners for resuming the meetings that were started last year when the county needed to communicate with county residents about the need to get a 0.5% sales tax passed.  One of the things public officials need to fight is the general citizen impression is that about the only time one hears from an elected public official is when they are up for reelection, or when there is need for a tax increase.

Since the Plain meeting the commissioners have engaged Stark citizens in Washington Township, North Canton and Lawrence Township.

In North Canton and Lawrence Township they have encountered residents with particular concerns (North Canton:  flooding problem; Lawrence Township neighborhood roadway issues).

While the meetings do get testy from time-to-time, they go a long way towards solidifying the trust that Commissioners Bernabei and Creighton (both elected in November, 2010) have purposed to bring access, accountability, interactive community communication, openness, and transparency to the processes of county government in the public's mind.

Now that the tax issue is behind us, there is less suspicion of the commissioners' motives and such an environment makes for a better opportunity for them to bolster citizen trust in their management of county government.

Obviously, Ms George would not have appeared at the May 14th Plain Township meeting unless she thought she would be heard and responded to.

It is heart warming and inspiring to hear a citizen like her say this:


Bravo to the commissioners for presenting Ms. George with the opportunity to participate in processes of Stark County government by listening seriously and intently to her with their implied promise that they will support her request should their own investigation confirm the information she presented.

And bravo to Ms. George for being willing to bring her 17 years of experience to bear upon not giving up on jobs which have not yet left Canton and Stark County, and for exercising continuing industry in endeavoring to make a persuasive case to the decision makers (Zumbar, Harold and Jones) that Stark County government can help retain jobs for Stark Countians.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

(VIDEOS: FERGUSON & KASICH) STARK'S COMMISSIONER PETE FERGUSON LEADS THE WAY FOR CONSOLIDATION & COLLABORATION. CANTON MAYOR HEALY CONTINUES TO RESIST.



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.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

DO YOU REALLY WANT TO HEAR LOCAL GOV'T OFFICIALS WHINING TO & THROUGH THE MEDIA ABOUT LOCAL GOV'T FUNDING WOES?


Updated:  11:00 a.m.

Ever since Republican Governor John Kasich announced through Ohio House Bill 153 (the 2012-2013 biennium state budget) that he was cutting back on local government funding, we have been hearing the whining coming out of Stark's various local governments about the hard times, even devastation that the cuts are going to reek on operations.

But the SCPR just has to wonder.

Really?

Why would the The Report muse as to whether nor not media reports of dire consequences are accurate?

One telling reason is that there is very little if any flap by city, village and township officials directed in name, rank and serial number fashion directly upon or in the face of the Republicans (Hagan, Oelslager and Schuring -  "The Three") who make of three-fourths of the Stark County delegation to  the Ohio Statehouse.

Yours truly gets around quite a bit in Stark County local government venues.

But The Report has not experienced nor heard of one incident of local government officials calling any of The Three in for a face-to-face and frank discussion of the consequences of their votes on the ability of an unit of government to financially operate.

If anything, when these officials do show up at town hall, the local officials are most likely to "kiss-up" and fawn; they do not take them to task. 

And The Report is not criticizing civility, but what one sees at all too may local government meetings when the staties or feds show up, is more like a love-in rather than merely being civil and respectful.

If the whining to the media is, in fact, merited, then The Three and their colleagues are to blame because the Republicans control the Ohio General Assembly "lock, stock and barrel."

In addition to voting for the original budget (Oelslager sort of [he voted early on for it, then against it but for reasons other than local government funding issues] and then again in a recent mid-budget revision, they have helped to eliminate the Ohio Estate Tax local government revenues beginning with 2013 and have failed to wholly hold local governments harmless on the loss of  tangible personal property tax revenues which has been phased out as a part of a Republican inspired mid-2000s tax reform initiative.

So there is no doubt that Stark County Statehouse Republicans Hagan, Oelslager and Schuring have been part and parcel of the statewide Republican effort that is changing the funding model of local government.

More and more, local taxpayers are going to have to determine how much in the way of local government services they want and, of course, to pay the bill pretty much all on their own.

An example.

The Stark County Crime Lab.

From all accounts Stark County "could" get by without having a local crime lab which is currently funded by Ohio's Local Government Fund monies.  It costs about $1 million a year.

After mid-year 2013, there is some thinking that Governor Kasich and his fellows in the Ohio Legislature will cut the Local Government Fund in its entirety and that there would be "no money" for the Stark Crime Lab (SCCL).

So does this mean that law enforcement officials would have no means to get crime scene evidence evaluated?

No.

There is the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) located in Richfield, Ohio probably about 35 miles from Stark County.

Obviously, it is much more convenient to work with the Canton-based Stark County Crime Lab.  Moreover, there are reports that SCCL processes evidence far quicker that BCI does.

But the fact of the matter Stark County law enforcement could survive with BCI.

So doesn't it stand to reason that if Stark County wants physical proximity and faster service that Stark County taxpayers should pay for it.  

And maybe they have.

What was the November, 2011 ballot initiative Issue 29 (the county proposed 0.5% sales tax) about?

Answer:  funding county law enforcement and the administration of justice, no?

It passed, didn't it?

So haven't Stark Countians prioritized and provided the money for the continued existence of the SCCL notwithstanding the loss of Local Government Fund monies?

Of course, what local government official wouldn't want the Columbus cash cow to keep producing money-milk?

Has flow from Columbus insulated them from the need to lead and justify to their local taxpayers the essential nature of this or that program or policy or practice?

The SCPR is disposed to think more and more that all the whining to the media is somewhat disingenuous as evidenced by the "kissing up" that continues to take place in the relationship of local government officials vis-a-vis The Three who have endorsed (by their votes) the changing of the funding model for local government finances.

Isn't it time to stop the whining and start to lead?

Or, perhaps, put their Columbus representative on the spot in the public spotlight?

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

(VIDEOS: RENACCI, HELD, MARTIN, SNYDER) - RENACCI - YOUR CONGESSMAN TO FIX STARK COUNTY'S FLOODING PROBLEM WITH FEDERAL TAX DOLLARS?


There was a heavy touch of political irony taking place in North Canton last evening.

On the one hand, you had 16th District Congressman Jim Renacci (R - Wadsworth) decrying the growth of the national debt and vowing to fight to put the brakes on federal spending so as to protect, he says, the wealth of future generations of Americans.



On the other hand, you had North Cantonians present last night and last Wednesday (at the Stark County commissioners community meeting) beseeching public officials (the commissioners, North Canton Mayor David Held, North Canton City Council et cetera) to seek federal funding now to help fix Stark County's flooding problem.

One such person is Marty Martin of North Canton.  Last night he got in the ear of Congressman Renacci as he was trying to make his way out of the meeting.  Martin wanted to know of Renacci:  Why can't the federal government fix the infrastructure problems of America rather than doing nation building in Afghanistan.



While Mayor David Held seemingly was content with lauding Renacci for merely showing up to North Canton to have an eyeball look at the the problem, the reality is that he expects the congressman to deliver federal money to Stark.



As does North Canton Council president Jon Snyder.



The focus of officials dealing with Stark flooding is on Zimber Ditch which courses down the middle of Stark, but is by no means the only flooding problem in the county so says Gary Connor who is Stark's chief hydraulics engineer working out of the Stark County engineer's office.

But just to fix Zimber Ditch will take millions upon millions of dollars and many years of continuous repair projects.

Some estimates have the total bill ranging from 60 to 80 million being spent over a 10 year period of time.

Where is the money to come from?

Certainly not Stark County, remember just months ago the county faced financial ruin.  The sheriff had laid off 41 deputies and all departments of Stark County government were cut severely.

And, had a November, 2011 0.5% sales tax issue not passed, Stark County would be facing even more drastic cuts for years 2013, 2014 and on and on and on.

As it is, there is no money for finding millions upon millions upon millions to use in fixing Stark's flooding problem.

So where is the money to come from?

Answer:  the United States treasury at the expense of other American taxpayers, that's where.

Like it or not Stark Countians either directly to federal elected officials (e.g. Renacci) or through local elected officials (through Renacci) are asking Congress  for "a transfer of wealth" from the nation to Stark County.

That, folks, is a form of lobbying!

We typically think of the likes of the following as lobbying groups:


However, anytime anyone asks of the government: a grant, a tax break or for an exclusive government enforced right; the activity is lobbying, pure and simple.

It is not a question of the justness of the cause.  It is a question of the persuasive power of those doing the asking.

Congressman Renacci says he is for protecting future generations which means cutting the federal deficit and federal spending, but can he deliver for the future when he is being pressed by the "here and now?"

Is he a man of his word?

If he is,  Stark County will get precious little, if anything, in terms of federal funding in order to fix its long neglected ditch maintenance.

But the congressman will come and look.   And he will write letters like he did to the Army Corp of Engineers.  After all, it is an election year.  He is running (because of redistricting and the loss of two Ohio congressional seats) against another incumbent:  Betty Sutton, Democrat of Copley, Summit County, Ohio.

Maybe Mayor Held's first expression last night will prove to be prophetic in his saying that its more than North Canton could have expected that the congressman came to visit council and take a look at the ditch.

While the effect of citizen and public official requests for federal funding is lobbying for the rest of America and future generations to pay to fix Stark's problem, the local political pressure factor is not the equivalent of an AARP.

But lobbying it is.

So the generalized Renacci described problems of deficit and spending really does have a reality and a share in local communities clamoring for federal dollars.

Here is a video of Congressman Renacci's entire talk at North Canton City Council last night.