Wednesday, May 29, 2013


UPDATED:  11:15 AM




It is said that "hindsight is 20/20."

It was not all that apparent when she took office, however, in hindsight from the beginning of her administration, it is becoming increasingly clear to the SCPR that Mayor Kathy Catazaro-Perry sees her relationship with Massillon City Council (Council) as being akin to a chess match with the wrinkle that the moves in this game of city governance are of the "political - one up" variety.

But there is a huge difference in the thinkers behind the moves.

On the Catazaro-Perry side, the "deep-thinking?" comes from the self-styled "political pundits of Massillon;" namely, Clerk of Courts Johnnie A. Maier, Jr. (a former Stark County Democratic Party chairman) and his "loyal one;" namely, Chief Deputy Clerk of Courts Shane Jackson (political director of the Stark County Democratic Party).

On the Council side, it seems to the SCPR that there is genuine consensus building going on.

It does not appear to be a Republican and Democrat thing on Council.  Rather it appears as if Council members are authentically seeking the counsel of their constituents in their taking a stand on the various issues that compose the face of the chess match of issues evolving between them and the mayor.

One needs to go back to the beginning of the Catazaro-Perry reign to the first major issue.

Was Massillon to raise needed revenues through an administration promoted reduction in the credit in the city income tax for those Massillonians who live in the city but who pay taxes to other localities (plus assessing residents for street lighting), or was it going to be putting everybody's shoulder to the wheel (including the mayor's) and persuading Massillonians raise taxes by .3% for a tax that had not been raised since 1977/78 (except for a .3% tax increase specifically for the Massillon Parks and Recreation Board circa 1995)?

Catazaro-Perry lost several pawns in repeated moves to get Council to go along with the reduced income tax credit.

In a bizarre sort of way ("quietly opposing the proposed tax increase"), Catazaro-Perry exacted pawns of Council when Massillonians overwhelmingly rejected a .3% income tax ballot move supported by eight of the Council members (excepting Catazaro-Perry/Maier/Jackson automatic Tony Townsend) on the November, 2012 ballot.

Another big fight between the administration and Council has been what to do about the Hampton Inn financing situation.

Here is Citizen Cynthia Balas-Bratton addressing Council on the issue at its May 6, 2013 meeting.

Under the Catazaro-Perry administration generated proposal would be for the Hampton Inn folks to pay Massillon $1.2 million in exchange for Massillon giving up all rights to participate in a possible eventuation of a future in which the hotel turns respectfully if not hugely profitable and gets sold at a substantial profit.

Council would not agree and recently moved to squelch the idea in a six to three vote against the administration two weeks ago.  Another loss of chess pieces to the administration.  But the administration was not quite done.  Quickly after the loss, Economic Development Director Ted Herncane penned a letter to Council asking them to reconsider.  Answer:  No!

Then came the mid-May Catazaro-Perry "Let's have a State of Ohio Auditor (SOA) audit of city finances" move in which Massillon could come out as being less in control of its own financing depending on whether or not the SOA finds Massillon to be in "fiscal emergeny," or "fiscal watch" status.

A political chess-move gambit if the SCPR ever saw one.  It just reeks of "the behind the curtain boys" Maier and Jackson whispering instructions to the mayor after they had done some "deep, deep thinking?" about how to best dissenting majority of Council to administration moves.

What will Council do in rebuttal to the Catazaro-Perry/Maier/Jackson ploy?

Cuts to the mayor budget!  Cuts designed to make big inroads to Budget Director Ken Koher's projected $2.7 billion 2013 deficit.  That is what the SCPR is hearing.

If such cuts are exacted, don't they undermine anything that Catzazaro-Perry hopes to gain in negativity on Massillon's fiscal responsibility in the results of a SOA audit?

A side effect of Council generated cuts might be to expose the administration protection of certain Maier/Jackson favorites as continuing to be protected while cuts more critical to the everyday Massillon residents are implemented, no?

Yet another issue being played out on the chess board of Massillon government and politics is the Parks and Recreation Board (MP&RB) control issue.

Mayor Catazaro-Perry is intent on controlling the MP&RB and has told the board to submit a list of three names to her from which "she will select" a new director of the board.

Behind the political machinations of who will appoint the new director is a desire by a least three of the board members (thought by one councilperson to be members Del Rio Keller, Rickett and Hickey) for the MP&RB to be autonomous and make the selection and to rid itself of the annual obligation to pay some $500,000 or so annually (according to one Council person) in the financing/servicing obligations of The Legends (a Massillon owned golf course).

Of course, if such happens, then where would the $500,000 or so have to come from?

You've got it! - Massillon's general fund.   Which off course means more cuts to other city services, no?

The Massillon Parks & Recreation Board has been scheduled twice (May 20th and May 28th) to appear hold meetings at Council chambers in the hope that all of Council would be present to hear the case being made for board independence (of the administration).

Neither meeting has materialized which the SCPR believes in indication that backroom "politiking" is going on exactly what the presentation is to be.

The Report is told that legislation is in the works to tighten up Massillon's ordinance so that it is clear to everyone that the MP&RB is an independent entity that is to use the .3% 1995 monies to develop and maintain Massillon's park and recreation system.

Here is a video of Councilman-at-Large Larry Slagle (not running for reelection in November) offering his understanding of the controversy surrounding the power to hire/fire and direct activities at Massillon's parks and recreation facilities.

And, if that happens, will the mayor veto the legislation?

Beyond that, are there the votes to override a veto?

So look for the chess match to go on and on and on and on ad infinitum.

It appears to the SCPR that the November elections for Council offers no relief to the Catazaro-Perry administration.

It is looking more and more like there is going to be a Republican pick-up in Ward 4 (who would have thought this in Tony Townsend's old seat and one of Massillon's Democratic wards).  See this LINK to a prior SCPR blog for a detailed explanation).

No matter who wins in Ward 1 (former safety/services director and Democrat Mike Loudiana [Cicchinelli administration] versus incumbent Republican Sarita Cunningham-Hedderly), there is going to be no sympathy from either for the Catazaro-Perry agenda.

The Catazaro-Perry/Maier/Jackson forces are apparently banking on upsets in Wards 2 (Irwin versus Halter) and 6 (Litman versus Lewis) to make inroads on Council support.

The SCPR does not think that upset will materialize.  Halter and Lewis appear to be on the right side of the issues with Massillon voters.

Councilwoman Halter tells the SCPR that after the six to three vote defeat of Catazaro-Perry on the Hampton Inn issue, she received "the phone ringing off-the-hook-esque" telephone calls commending her for her "no" vote.  And, she says, other councilpersons had similar reactions from Massillonians.

In the at-large races Republican Milan Chovan (generally part of the Republican collective of Cunningham-Hedderly, Halter and Lewis [but not Peters, Jr], who incisively scrutinize Catazaro-Perry administration proposals) returns and does veteran Councilman Paul Manson.

Manson is a swing vote on Council (e.g. he voted for the administration's Hampton Inn proposal but in the opinion of the SCPR was equivocal on the vote).

Newcomer (at-large) Michelle Del Rio Keller (a Democrat) is an unknown factor.  However, there are indications that she is shifting or perhaps has shifted from being a Catazaro-Perry supporter to, at the very least, to being neutral, ironically enough, perhaps, over the control of the MP&RB issue.

So, in the Council race venue aspect of the chess match, the administration is not faring very well either.

For now, it appears to The Report that the Catazaro-Perry governance/political chess match is pretty much at a stalemate.

But over the longer term it is hard to see how the mayor wins this match.

While next mayoralty is two years away until the next election, it occurs to yours truly that all the moves now taking place will end up with Mayor Kathy Catazaro-Perry being checkmated.

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