MAYOR HEALY ON CRIME LAB ISSUE
STARK COUNTY COMMISSIONER TOM BERNABEI
NEW STARK COUNTY BUILDING DEPARTMENT HIRE
The week of August 12th in the year of our Lord 2013 could go down as one of the most momentous in modern Stark County times.
It seems that real momentum could be underway to make Stark County local government less costly, more efficient, of a higher quality in terms of service to citizens and done more speedily.
In the immediate moment, it appears to the SCPR that the break through towards achieving a heightened cooperation among Stark County government entities was evident in a statement (see letter below) which Canton mayor William J. Healy, II read at Tuesday's Stark County Council of Governments (SCOG) Executive Committee meeting.
However, The Report believes that real break in undoing the bottleneck, which yours truly identifies as being the mayor, was born in March of this year when Healy overstepped his bounds in trying to rework the scheme of the operation of the Canton-Stark County Crime Lab (CSCCL - Crime Lab) in having its operating document changed to allow for a director without scientific credentials to be appointed.
Once the change was made, then he sprang like a jackrabbit coming out of the brush and appointed a political crony Rick Perez (a former chief deputy in the Stark County sheriff's department under Tim Swanson) to the position.
County and township officials (who, by and large, make up SCOG) were caught unawares. But when it dawned on them what Healy had done, they recovered quickly and reacted by demanding that the appointment be rescinded.
At Healy's request, Perez quickly resigned the position.
For face-saving sake, Healy blamed his safety director Tom Ream for the "over-the-top" move. But the SCPR is not buying and takes the position that Healy threw Ream "under-the-bus." Shortly after the incident, Ream announced his retirement as safety director.
Ever since, under the leadership of Stark County Commissioner Tom Bernabei (chairman of the SCOG executive committee), SCOG has worked to restructure the CSCCL in a manner that will reflect the reality that most of the financing, use and equipment of the Crime Lab belonged to SCOG.
A major remedial step occurred Tuesday with the reading by Healy of his statement.
In addition to reading his statement, Healy (as seen on the video below) carried on with more talk of Canton and the county working collaboratively by suggesting strongly that Canton was interested in discussing the details of the city joining with the county in a five year effort (actually 20 years for prime proponent and Jackson Township fiscal officer Randy Gonzalez) to put together a rehabbed countywide centralized emergency (fire, police and EMS) 9-1-1 call receiving and dispatch agency of county government.
Yours truly could peripherally see Gonzalez as Healy dropped the bombshell about his willingness to have Canton participate as a full partner in a reworked county system.
What did The Report hear and see?
A gasp and an huge smile donning the face of Gonzalez, that's what.
In 2011, it was thought by Gonzalez and Joseph Concatto (project manager for the rehabbed 9-1-1 system) that it was merely a matter of putting "the icing on the cake" in terms of getting a "state-of-the-art" system together and in place except for Nimishillen Township's CenCom.
Here is a LINK to a prior SCPR blog which explains why CenCom will remain outside of the county system in the immediate future.
But before the ink dried on a letter written by Canton officials to the effect that they were on board with bringing the Canton Communications Center into alignment with the Stark County sheriff's dispatch center as a key and critical factor in the implementation of a centralized countywide system, word spread like wildfire that Healy was off-the-reservation and that consequently the 9-1-1 rehab might be on its deathbed.
Of late, Warren Price in his role as a key Healy administration official (most recently as safety director [succeeding Ream]) became a huge conciliatory factor in bringing Canton and the county together on the CSCCL matter and the 9-1-1 project.
With his sudden resignation mere weeks ago (his last day with the administration is August 31st), many of us wondered whether or not Healy would - once again - be off the reservation.
So now readers should understand the context of Gonzalez's gasp and smile when Healy spoke up affirming Price's work and direction as described by The Report above.
A third thing that happened this week which bodes well for collaboration between Canton and perhaps Alliance, Massillon, North Canton and Canal Fulton was the hiring away by Stark County of Canton's chief building officer (Angela Cavanaugh) to run the county's building department.
At yesterday's Stark County commissioners' regular weekly meeting, Commissioner Bernabei expressed optimism that a consequence of the Cavanaugh hiring that Canton and Stark County can forge a cooperative and collaborative alliance in the form of the Stark County department contracting with Canton to provide building department services.
Some may think that Mayor Healy has had a religious-esque "born-again" experience. But the SCRP is not among those thinking such.
The Report's take is that more and more Healy is understanding that his time is running out in getting in one scrape after another and by virtue of his considerable political skills being able to escape unscathed.
Moreover, the SCPR believes that there are financial factors which weigh-in also.
Especially on the 9-1-1 matter.
Canton's dispatching equipment and software is approaching being out-of-date if not already so. To replace its CAD (Computer Aided Dispatch) system would run the city anywhere from $1 million to $2 million (including annual maintenance). Hence the financial motivation for now being willing to join a countywide system.
Angela Cavanaugh was running the city's building department for about $118,000 (including benefits) a year. And, it appears she was itching to leave.
With the county looking for a new building official, Cavanaugh took advantage of the opportunity to jump ship at Canton.
The Report believes that in financial terms she has pretty much made a lateral move from Canton to Stark County. However, it is said that she had much larger responsibilities in terms of volume and focus of her work than she will have with Stark County.
Of course, yours truly thinks that nearly everybody who works for the mayor wants to be elsewhere because of his constant intermeddling with them doing their job because, in The Report's assessment, he overestimates his own abilities.
For good reason, local government officials who have had to deal with William J. Healy, II do not speak candidly in public about their frustration in having to deal with this mayor of our county seat in addition to being Stark's largest city.
The SCPR interprets what yours truly has heard from many quarters across the city and county that he is generally viewed as being an obstacle; a veritable bottleneck - if you will.
However, they still have to try to work with him.
Moreover, The Report increasingly is seeing Mayor Healy as a man being "on-the-run."
While he has demonstrated a teflon quality about him much like former president William Jefferson Clinton, there are signs that the teflon is wearing precious thin these days.
Yours truly thinks the only possibility for him to stay in elective office is for him to try to become a fixture as the mayor of Canton.
Canton with its 9 to 1 Democratic majority should be an easy venue for Healy to reign as the chief executive for years to come.
But is it?
The SCPR calculates that with the results that are sure to come with November's Canton City Council election, the mayor will be in a 7 to 5 minority on key issue votes when the new council takes office.
If such proves to be the case, then look for him to be in even more battles and confrontation beginning with the new council taking office in January, 2014. As things stand with the current council, he has had to modify or withdraw quite a number of his legislative proposals because he realized that the votes were not there for passage.
We now know that the Stark County Republican Party has "given up the ghost" in Canton politics. It was astonishing to see former 8th Ward councilman Mark Butterworth run this year to regain the seat he lost to Democrat Edmond Mack in 2011.
The Report is already projecting a relatively easy win for Mack in the eighth.
Facing a 7 to 5 deficit in the council serving in the 2014/2015 cycle, what should Healy expect next?
The Report believes that the "handwriting is on the wall."
Those seven anti-Healy's will likely band together to lead a concerted effort to find a viable challenger to Healy in May 2015.
Though The Report thinks William J. Healy, II is "on-the-run," nobody should expect that he will not "stand his ground" in the 2015 Democratic Party primary election.
For where else is there for him to go?
There is no way he could survive politically in a competitive voting jurisdiction.
The good thing for Stark County of his being "on-the-run" is that this modality and its inherent political vulnerability presents a opportunity for Stark's county, city, village and township governments to move forward in realizing cost savings and greater efficiency, quality of government services, and speed of service to the benefit of Stark Countians.