Wednesday, July 31, 2013


Lame duck Councilman Larry Slagle (D, at-large; his term ends December 31st) is demonstrating the patience of Job as chairman of Massillon City Council's Parks and Recreation Committee.

It has been and continues to be a long, drawn out process. And nobody knows what the end product will be.

The process is sort of like a roulette wheel that goes "around and around and nobody knows where the marker will stop" when the roulette stops.

Several weeks ago, Slagle initiated an effort to resolve a seemingly endless controversy of who is doing what in the management of Tigerland's parks and recreation complex.

In Monday evening's work session, Slagle showed by way of his patient leadership that he is moving the city along towards creating a structure that may help end the interminable political back of forth between and among Massillon's warring factions on the parks and recreation issue.

While the SCPR thinks that Massillon has a solid core of councilpersons, a number of them seem to be somewhat timid about going public with viewpoints that might be taken exception to.  Accordingly, Slagle has had to coax them into sharing their viewpoints about his working document on the restructuring.

Monday night's session was one of the more candid but noncombative exchanges on the parks and recreation issue that The Report has witnessed.

At one point in the discussion, Chairman Slagle mused that a solution may not be forthcoming even by the end of his term.

Council should make it a point to come to a resolution before Slagle leaves.

For, in the opinion of yours truly,  he offers a unique set of skills and a depth of knowledge of the parks and recreation issues that make him the ideal broker of getting a deal done that should empower this department of Massillon city government to move forward meeting the needs of Massillonians.

Last week in a telephone discussion Councilman Paul Manson (D, at-large), he indicated to The Report that Slagle will be sorely missed when his term has been completed.

Another important ingredient in Monday's meeting was "born again" Mayor Kathy Catazaro-Perry's attitude.

Her outlook was conciliatory in terms of sharing power with council on the matter of who is to hire a new director notwithstanding that the chairman had stated in very clear terms ("absolute, 100%") that the ultimate decision on hiring a director should be with council.

In Monday's council's examination of Slagle's proposed legislation, items mulled over include:
  • the powers and dues of the parks and recreation board,
    • Note:  Manson cited Ohio Revised Code Section 755 in setting up board commissioners and the legislation as being a framework that Massillon adopts,
  • whether or not to continue having the Massillon City Schools Board of Education appoint two of the five members,
    • Note:  Lewis favors keeping the school board appointees but he did raise the question of whether or not appointees (mayor or school board) who were not working out could be removed, 
    • Note:  Scassa brought up the "slippery slope" of removing volunteer, unpaid board members in the sense of what standard would one use,
    • Note:  [Law Director Perry Stergios answered in the negative as to the ability under current legislation to remove]
  • the question of the authority to hire/fire a director,
    • Note:  Scassa indicated that she would not necessarily want to be involved as a councilperson picking a parks director and that perhaps such should be done by the parks and recreation board,
    • Note:  Halter questioned why council should have control over who the parks director is but question the quality of present park and recreation board members and in that light, favored the administration picking a director,
    • Note:  Slagle seemed amenable to have the parks and recreation board select a director subject to the approval of the mayor and "final" approval of Massillon council,
    • Note:  Chovan question whether or not in a parks and recreation, the mayor and council scheme of appointing a director, the members of the parks and recreation board are qualified to evaluate a candidate,
  • the credentialing (i.e. setting the qualifications) of a director and providing for the oversight of a director,
    • Note:  Scassa expressed concern that the legislation proposed doesn't have adequate measures to ensure that a director is accountable to a specific person,
    • Note:  Slagle pointed out that the quality standards of the proposed legislation may be such that current interim Director Nist cannot qualify and asked for suggestions to change them so that Nist could be considered as permanent director,
    • Note:  Mayor Catazaro-Perry:
      • cited the "failed" (her term) tenure of Bob Straughn as director which she said was done in haste and that therefore the lesson learned is that hiring a director should be done with caution, 
      • agreed with Councilwoman Scassa's point about administrative accountability, and
      • emphasized that the hiring process needs to fair and not pre-determined,
    • Note:  Lewis joined the mayor in cautioning against tailoring the qualifications biased in favor of a preferred person,
    • Note:  Chovan asked whether or not raising standards for a director would not also entail paying more money,
  • the right of a [future] director to state his/her case to council in the face of a contemplated firing,
    • Note:  Hampton raised questions of who disciplines of a director, if needed.
One particularly notable comment by Chairman Slagle as to his mission as chairman was: "I am just trying to set forth some kind of structure so they (parks and recreation board), we know, the administration knows and the public knows what is going on."

All-in-all the SCPR was impressed with Monday night's session and believes that hope is on the horizon that within six months or so Massillon will have put together a structure of governance of its parks and recreation function that should work reasonably well.

A SCPR "hats off" to Councilman/Chairman Larry Slagle for excellent work in bringing this matter to a slow but sure conclusion.

Indeed it is an "around, around it goes and where it stops nobody knows" process.

But Slagle's persistent patience seems certain to produce results which will bode well for the future of Massillon's parks and recreation system.

For those who want to see the entire video of Monday night's work session on the parks and recreation issue, here goes:

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