To the SCPR, Mayor Kathy Catazaro-Perry has Massillon into a tail-spin and heading towards running this one-proud city into the ground.
This seeming dive to the ground has to be excruciatingly painful to her predecessor; namely, Francis H. Cicchinelli, Jr. who spent 24 years as mayor prior to be deposed in the Democratic Primary of May, 2011.
With the announcement about a week ago that the mayor had asked for and received approval for a State of Ohio Auditor (SOA) audit of Massillon finances which is to begin in June, financial matters could not be more dire for the city.
A consequence of the audit could be a finding that Massillon qualifies as being in:
- "fiscal emergency," or
- "fiscal watch" status.
City Budget Director Ken Koher is projecting that in 2013 a budget deficit of 2.7 million.
Back in December, 2011 Catazaro-Perry (before she actually took office) had asked the SOA to do an audit and was rejected.
Before that she was in discussion with North Canton mayor David Held as to the nuts and bolts of doing an audit at city expense a la what North Canton did a number of years ago.
According to Held, after preliminary discussion on the topic, it simply evaporated.
All of which generates with the SCPR, this question.
Is there a more effective way to put Massillon in a bad light insofar as prospective economic development activities taking hold than to try to gin up a "have the State Ohio" intervene in what is in the opinion of the SCPR a political dispute within Massillon government as to how to solve the financial crisis?
So why is Massillon in such dire straits?
What are the politics of this situation?
The SCPR's assessment is because of the obvious loggerheads that exists between Mayor Catazaro-Perry and city council.
It all pretty much started with the mayor's first revenue enhancement proposal of reducing the city's income tax credit to Massillonians working out-of-town and paying income taxes to the workplace city. Another part of her proposal included charging Massillonians an assessment for street lighting.
Her proposal has been rejected a number of times by council. But nonetheless she hangs doggedly onto the proposal.
So much so that she sat on on the sidelines - in quiet opposition - of a council lead effort to increase the city's income tax by .3% (there having been no increases since 1977/78 except for a Parks and Recreation levy in 1995 for .3%).
Catzaro-Perry may be correct in saying that whether or not she was on board with the income tax increase would not have made a difference in the ultimate outcome.
But she may not be.
When Stark County was in a fiscal crisis in 2011, the county commissioners did an impressive thing in getting Stark Countians to approve a 0.5% sales tax increase.
A key difference between the Stark County effort and the Massillon effort is that Stark County's elected officials were all-out for the levy. And, consequently, it passed by a surprising margin.
Any chance that Massillon had of passing the tax issue was lost when the mayor and her administration set a clear signal to Massillonians that it was okay for them to vote the levy down.
Seemingly, it has been one battle after another between Mayor Catazaro-Perry and council and some outside Massillon officialdom (i.e. Stark County Prosecutor John Ferrero, who is from Massillon and remains a powerful force in Massillon politics) from the day she took office.
The conflict is part and parcel of the infighting going on in the city among
- the Johnnie A. Maier, Jr. political machine (Maier is a former Democratic Party chairman and currently Massillon court of courts who the SCPR believes recruited Catazaro-Perry to run against Cicchinelli),
- the Frank Cicchinelli political forces, and
- the John Ferrero political camp,
While the SCPR does not believe that the Republicans oppose the mayor merely because she is a Democrat, it does seem that they do not share her philosophy of government.
And it needs to be pointed out that Democrats on council frequently join with the Republicans in opposition to Catazaro-Perry proposals. Republican Donnie Peters, Jr. (not seeking re-election) sides with the mayor here and there. He was one of three votes for the mayor on accepting a proposed deal.
It appears to the SCPR that Catazaro-Perry and her political handlers (Maier/Shane Jackson [a Maier employee and political director of the Stark County Democratic Party] are adding fuel to the political fires burning in Massillon in what seems to be a two-pronged strategy designed to help her get re-elected in less than two years from now (assuming the Republicans cannot put up a viable candidate), to wit:
- blame her predecessor Frank Cicchinelli for nearly all that ails Massillon nowadays, and
- to the extent that she cannot blame him, attribute her lack of success to an obstinate Massillon City Council
And there can be no doubt that it was a bad deal from the get-go as was the Cicchinelli administration's promotion of adding nine holes to The Legends golf course/restaurant complex. Cicchinelli himself admits that the addition was a mistake.
As the SCPR sees it, Massillon stands to lose either $3.4 million (accepting the Hampton Hotel proposed buy-out) or $4.6 million, if not accepted.
Consistent with a seemingly blooming Catazaro-Perry attitude (i.e. "my way or the highway" as demonstrated on her reduced income tax credit proposal), after being rejected on the Hampton Hotel Buyout proposal a week ago in a special council session, she was back at trying to get council to re-consider its rejection as last night's meeting.
This time around Economic Development Director Ted Herncane was the vehicle of her persistence.
Additionally, there is the ongoing squabble between the Massillon city administration (whether Catazaro-Perry or predecessor Frank Cicchinelli) and the Parks and Recreation Board as to who is going to control matters on the board: the administration (through its three appointees) or is the board to be its own entity making independent decisions?
It is hard to tell which city in Stark County is the most politically polarized between Canton and Massillon. Whereas the competition on the football field is just a "good old rivalry," the political dysfunction measure is not for the cities themselves and certainly not for Stark County as a whole.
For right now, it appears to the SCPR that Massillon may be winning the political/governmental dysfunction inasmuch as Tigerland (as personified by Mayor Catazaro-Perry) seems hellbent on being in a tailspin that just might lead to a crash landing.
And, pray tell, exactly who will benefit from that?