Wednesday, March 6, 2013




Man oh man!  What a sight to behold:  Councilman Thomas West going after getting Canton City Council to agree to the installation of RedFlex Group traffic cameras as a pilot project (Market Ave., N & 12th St. and Tuscarawas West & Belden plus in school zones) in the Hall of Fame City.

As far as yours truly is concerned, the second ward councilman is "one spunky guy!"

At least for now.

West, who, by the end of his current term, will have been on council for ten years has all the credentials to be a mover and shaker in reviving Canton.

He came onto the Canton political scene in 2003 with quite a splash.  He defeated incumbent councilwoman Kathleen Altieri Bucher in the Democratic Primary before going to overwhelm the Republican candidate in the November general election.

Curiously enough, he may be facing a question of political survival in the 2013.

He does have Democratic Party opposition in May and two non-aligned (partywise) prospective candidates for the general election.

With three opponents looking at challenging his right to stay in office, one has to think there is some dissatisfaction with the quality of representation that he has been providing - of late - in the span of his ten years.

The SCPR would be surprised if he does not survive.  However, it has to be troublesome to him to see this much opposition.

And, the SCPR who has been observing West for years now, detects a heightened West activity mode on council recently which may well be borne out of a sense that he is politically vulnerable.

If he does survive, can Cantonians expect an re-energized Tom West in the 2014/2015 Canton City Council?

Is the traffic camera initiative an indication of an attempt at "real" leadership or is it merely a pretense at election time?

Canton does need invigorated service at the councilmantic level across the board.

West by length of service should be a leader on council, but is he up to it?

His apparent failure on the traffic camera issue to gain the support of his fellows suggests that he is not seen as a leader by most of them.

The SCPR has to agree with West:  on this particular matter, a majority of council has seemingly been dead set against him from the very beginning of his quest and there was no way "in God's little green acre of Canton, Ohio" that they were going to bend to his superlative effort.

A part of his problem with being a de facto leader on council may be that he is perceived to be too closely aligned with the Healy administration, no?

The Redflex traffic camera issue is one that is believed to be near and dear to Mayor William J. Healy, II and that once it became apparent to the mayor that he was as much the issue as was the notion of Redflex being the traffic camera provider, he handed the matter off to West as sort of a "designated hitter."

And there is no doubt about it, West has been swinging for the fences in his apparent endeavor to hit "a walk off homerun" for TeamHealy.

His last desperate move to get something out of his effort was to get one of Canton City Schools' officials to agree with him that installing the camera on school was a good idea.  And he did.

Moreover, the official said that the school district's bus drivers could only catch one in five violators who pass a bus unlawfully while it is loading/discharging students on two lane streets.

Here is a video of West's passionate argument  (as chairman of the Canton City Council Judiciary Committee) for traffic cameras at the March 4th council work session.

West's support of Redflex and its traffic cameras goes all the way back to December 8, 2008.

At that meeting, Canton City Council approved authorizing the-then safety director Tom Nesbitt to enter into a contract with Redflex by a 9 to 1 vote.

Voting for the ordinance:
  • Don Casar,
  • Joe Carbenia
  • Bill Smuckler,
  • Thomas West,
  • James Griffin,
  • Chris Smith,
  • Terry Prater,
  • David Dougherty, and
  • Karl "Butch" Kraus
And, of course, voting against it:
  •  Mary Cirelli
It is interesting to note that West in his comments before the vote, talked about how he had joined in voting against the RedFlex proposal during the Creighton administration.

But the vote did not stick.

By March, 2009 the whole Redflex issue had unraveled and council was prepared to reverse itself and did indeed vote the traffic camera out.

From a March 13, 2009 SCPR blog (LINK):
Wholesale citizen opposition developed as the Healy administration tried to sell the camera system to local citizens at a series of meetings held throughout Canton after the vote.
Then in 2009 to revive the traffic cameras was to no avail.

Again in 2012 (see September 18 blog LINK) a new try for Redflex was defeated:

From the September 18th SCPR blog:
Last night at Canton City Council Mayor William J. Healy suffered another damaging political blow.

His "crown jewel" piece of retrenching Canton finances - the installation of Reflex camera traffic control devices - went down in defeat largely at the hands of four new members of council:  Fisher (the 5th), Mariol (the 7th), Mack (the 8th) and Morris (the 9th).

The vote:

NO:  Fisher, Mack, Mariol, Morris, Cirelli, Griffin and Hawk (7).

YES:  Babcock, Cole, Dougherty, Smith and West (5).
But West and Healy were not quite done (LINK November 20, 2012 blog).

Apparently, since the September defeat they have been trying to figure out a way to get the Redflex foot in the door.

Hence the pilot project that West withdrew last night.

The only thing that remains but seems to be on life support is the school bus idea.

If he comes back with that idea but with a company other than Redflex, it is hard to see how council can turn him down.

But does he have the stamina for yet another effort?

Yours truly for one admires the grit and determination that Councilman West has shown in what he says is his effort to make his ward and Canton safer.

There are a number of Canton councilpersons who seem to be vegetating.

But certainly not Tom West.  At least, of late.

One has to ask whether or not what the SCPR perceives to be an "of late - resurgent Tom West" is the real deal or is it just an attention-getting device to get him reelected.

Has he become a spunky Tom West too late?

No comments: