While the selection of Joe Cole to Canton City Council has turned out to be a disappointment (in terms of a progressive thinker for what ails Canton) to the Stark County Political Report, the election of Kevin Fisher (the 5th Ward), Edmond Mack (the 8th Ward), Frank Morris (the 9th Ward) and the appointment of John Mariol, II (the 7th Ward) holds great promise for Cantonians that help is on the way for a city that has been tracking on a steep decline.
In the meantime, the mayors during this period and, perhaps, more importantly Canton City Council has stood helplessly by and presided over the decline of this once proud city, all to the dismay of those fewer and fewer brave souls who remain residents of Stark County's largest city and county seat.
Over the last few weeks it has been heart rendering to listen to speaker after speaker after speaker at council's Public Speaks ramp up their pleas for somebody to something about the rampant problems plaguing Canton.
A big part of the complaints have had to do with the violence and turmoil that has mushroomed in Canton's neighborhoods seemingly correlated with the loss of the numbers of police officers serving the citizens of Canton. Losses tied to declining city revenues.
And a large part of violence and turmoil has been fueled by the huge number of vacant and abandoned residences (perhaps as many as 7000) that vex the Hall of Fame city.
What to do about this problem?
One would think that the solutions would be forthcoming from the veteran members of council.
Well, think it again.
It has been first term 5th Ward Councilman Kevin Fisher aided by Canton civic activist Norma Mills.
Not a surprise to the SCPR. For Fisher in 2005 bucked the "powers that be" in the Stark County Democratic Party (i.e. then-chairman Johnnie A. Maier, Jr) in running against then-incumbent Councilman Terry Prater and coming up just short of pulling a big time political upset.
He and Mills have been working for eight months on an ordinance (passed this past Monday, August 27th by a 12 - 0 vote of council) which requires the owner or new owner (in terms of foreclosed property on a defaulted mortgage) to post a $10,000 bond to ensure that the property is maintained while such a property is vacant.
Canton would be able to make a claim against such a bond when its workers are put to work by the city performing upkeep and maintenance of the property. Moreover, it it comes to it, the money could be a source to tap into if the property deteriorates to the point of requiring demolition.
There are however major problems in implementing the legislation, to wit:
- Foreclosing entities (usually banks) do not actually take title after foreclosing, leaving the city to go after a defaulting owner. Obviously, a "defaulting on a mortgage owner" is not likely to be a viable financial resource for the posting of a bond and/or keeping the property up to city of Canton code standards, and
- A lack of state/federal legislation which puts "oomph" in what Fisher, Mills and the city are trying to do with the legislation.
The SCPR has taken note of the keen interest that Fisher has demonstrated in formulating solutions/incentives for citywide Canton neighborhood maintenance and improvement.
The Report also notes that Fisher is emblematic of a new breed of councilperson that has surfaced on Canton City Council with the election of November, 2011 and with John Mariol, II's selection to replace former 7th Ward Councilman Patrick Barton (now Canton's Information Technology director).
The Report believes that the best way to describe this "new" group of four is "the young turks."
Councilman Edmond Mack of the 8th Ward, even before he was councilman, at a community forum Neighborhood Associates Votes Empower [NAVE], was articulating ideas for solving Canton's neighborhood problems.
Currently, Mack is one of the leads (Joe Cole/councilman-at-large collaborating with him) to stop the spread of Internet cafes across the city of Canton. These cafes are viewed by many a illegal gambling havens which bring undesirables into Canton's neighborhoods. On April 30th, council passed a resolution placing a moratorium on any "new" cafes from opening up. The hope is that the state of Ohio will step up and provide regulations that will protect neighborhoods from the problems associated with the cafes.
But is the state of Ohio willing to step up to the plate and help out?
Cantonians and all Stark Countians ought to be putting a "full court press" on state Reps. Stephen Slesnick (D - Canton), Kirk Schuring (R - Jackson) and Christina Hagan (R - Marlboro) as well as state Senator Scott Oelslager (R - Plain) to help Canton and all of Stark County out in pushing through legislation to help Stark County communities and communities statewide to curb the problems connected with the cafes.
A third member of the SCPR's "young turk" set is Council Frank Morris.
What a terrific contribution towards putting the heat on city administration officials to find ways and means to solve the intolerable (remember Zero Tolerance?) jeopardy of personal safety which is increasing the case within the city limits of Canton.
Administration officials can no longer slough off this festering problem as isolated and limited to anecdotal situations.
Morris has put this matter front and center and the Healy administration will increasingly find itself the target of failing to deal with the problem if it doesn't soon come up with effective solutions notwithstanding the lack of police resources.
And then there is new Councilman John Mariol, II. He has only been on the job since May and he is already showing that he is willing to put his neck on the block. At Monday's council meeting he was the lone councilman to speak out in support of Planned Parenthood of Stark County and Council President Allen Schulman on the issue of United Way of Stark County discontinuing funding of Planned Parenthood's counseling of Canton/Stark County women on women's health issue.
Kind of bold for an "unelected" councilman, no?
Also, he has been part of what the SCPR sees as an emerging voting block of "the four young turks" (accompanied often by Councilwoman Mary Cirelli, to a lesser degree Councilman Greg Hawk, and sporadically, by other "more seasoned" councilpersons but seemingly never Smith, West and Dougherty) which has forced the Healy administration to think twice about its desire to lease city owned lands for fracking for oil and natural gas, to retreat from it plan to disband the Canton Parks Commission and making Council President Alan Schulman break a tie of a vote of council on reducing Canton's reduction in its income tax credit.
The emergence of "the young turks" could be the "light on a shining hill" that Cantonians need to be seeing as a possible "light at the end of the tunnel" for the future of Canton.
The danger is that the enthusiastic and energetic council foursome will grow weary over time.
Much of American government is filled with politicians who are not committed to solving the nation's, the state's and local community problems.
These jaded politicians are more interested in preserving their own places in government than is actually rolling up their sleeves and becoming part of the solution that the likes of Fisher, Mack, Morris and Mariol are emblematic of.
Councilman Fisher tells the SCPR that the likes of U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown, state Rep. Stephen Slesnick,and state Senator Scott Oelslager have shown no interest in helping Canton be more effective with his creative and innovative legislation.
This is where the citizens of Canton and Stark County can and should step-in.
They should be besieging these folks as well as Stark's other federal (Congressmen Gibbs and Renacci) and state (Hagan and Schuring) to come to the aid of local officials who are taking "the bull by the horns" and getting something done legislatively about the many problems that beset local communities.
Councilmen Fisher, Mack, Mariol and Morris do give Cantonians reason for hope.
A SCPR "HATS OFF" to Canton city government's "young turks!"