Wednesday, August 21, 2013


In order for Canton Ward 8 Councilman Edmond Mack to get the issue of Canton's going to a charter form of government before city voters, it is going to take a dramatic turnaround on the thinking on the part of most Canton City Council members.

A vote on the legislation, which Judiciary Committee chairman Tom West has said he will sign off on (on the condition of Monday night's town hall meeting having been held) in order to get the Canton Law Department to work drafting the legislation, will likely take place between January 6 and March 6, 2014 in order for the question (if council approves the legislation) to make the filing deadline for it to be on the May, 2014 primary election ballot.

By the SCPR's nose count of councilpersons, it appears that Mack has an uphill fight to get council to approve presenting the matter to voters.

Co-sponsor Mary Cirelli will not be around to be one of his "yes" votes inasmuch as she - having opted not to run for re-election to council - will not be around.

Additionally, Cirelli announced Monday that she will not be a candidate for the charter commission should city council place the question on the ballot.

Come January, he will acquire a superb ally to aid him in the cause.  Longtime charter advocate and former councilman Bill Smuckler will be returning to Canton council.

On Monday council minority members West (D - Ward 2) and Chris Smith (D - Ward 4) said flat out that they will not be voting for the legislation.

The SCPR is disappointed in West in that he argues for citizens and fellow council members to be educated on city issues (e.g. Redflex traffic cameras) before forming a position while seemingly, in The Report's estimate, having made up his mind on the charter issue.

In an interview with him Monday night post-meeting, West appears to be open to the possibility of changing his mind.

However, The Report thinks that his seeming hedging on having made up his mind is more a case of wanting to give the impression of openness rather than being genuinely open to changing his mind.

After all, it is a tad hypocritical to decry others for not being informed and then close one's own mind to perhaps mind-changing information - is it not?

Another SCPR criticism of West has to do with what yours truly thinks is unfounded focus on the diversity issue.

Canton now has two African-American council persons out of total of thirteen total councilpersons when one includes the council president.


A little math lesson is in order:  2/13 = 15%.


Canton has a 24% black population.

So why is he and why is Chris Smith (D - 4) zealously protecting the status quo?

Are they willing to settle for a mere 15% of black leadership roles in Canton government in the face of African-American composing 24% of Canton's population?

It is hard to see how African-American representation in any proposal that a charter commission might come up with would be less than 15 per cent.

The potential is there for African-American politicians to achieve citywide and countywide offices.

Kelley Zachary ran a very respectable race for Stark County treasurer and Canton treasurer.  West himself ran well against Kirk Schuring a number of years ago for the state Senate in a district that covered about 90% of Stark County.

There is a case to made that BUT FOR Mary Cirelli being a candidate for Canton treasurer that Zachary would have defeated Kim Perez.

But for African-Americans to improve their numbers one would think that a Canton/Stark County African-American needs to step up to the plate having designed a workable plan for electing blacks citywide, even countywide.

Of course, it is not enough to come up with a plan. Someone will have to actually "roll up the sleeves" and do the hard work of selling the plan to the electorate.

Who better than Councilman West?

Being the social worker, politician, businessman and educated man he is, West should have inner characteristics, qualities and resources to get creative and be a pro-active Stark County minority leader that gets results.

To boot, he has been a councilman ten years.  Hardly a novice, no?  But in all fairness one has to ask what does he have to show for it?

While yours truly personally likes Tom West, it seems that he needs to be challenged "to be all that he can be" in terms of making his mark in Canton and Stark County as a leader among leaders.

That is not what The Report is seeing in Tom West of 2013.

West is no different than another other Stark County-based elected official who is not measuring up.

The Report typically prods those Stark County political subdivision "a day late and dollar short" leaders holding public office who are not delivering a quality of leadership that Stark County cities, villages, townships and boards of education so sorely need.

Stark County does have a model of county level of leadership being ratcheted up to a higher level with the election of Tom Bernabei and Janet Creighton in 2010.

Before Bernabei and Creighton, SCPR readers will recall what a mess Stark County government was in.

It is encouraging to see that Canton in Edmond Mack as a person who is willing to take on a "the odds are against me" issue and seek to turn the negative thinking around. Folks, this is leadership.

Not to pit them against one another, but yours truly thinks Councilman Edmond Mack (only now finishing up his first two year term) demonstrates far more in the kind of leadership that the SCPR is looking for than West does.

There is no doubt about it.  Mack seemingly faces insuperable obstacles of bringing charter government to Canton.  But do not tell him that.  He embraces the challenge of adjusting and accommodating to various perspectives in quest of reaching his ultimate goal.

The Report presents via video the entire formal presentation of both from Monday's town hall meeting on the charter government issue.

Edmond Mack.

Thomas West.

The Achilles Heel of Mack's presentation was his failure to tie in creating a charter government to specific benefits to be derived by everyday citizens.

West was far too much into "the fear factor" and resting on the security of the maintaining the "status quo" in appealing to the base instincts of people.

Lastly, yours truly has a special word for Stark County organized labor as personified by Stark County trades union president David Kirven.

Kirven did what he is paid to do which is look out for the interests of unions.

But for elected public officials to factor special interests into their decisions as to what structure of government is best for the public is not a responsible basis for decision making.

While The Report personally favors Project Labor Agreements (PLAs), prevailing wage laws and protecting public workers' pensions, it doesn't follow that maintaining a statutory form of government has anything whatsoever to do with those matters.

To sum it all up, it appears to the SCPR that the private, political and special organization interests of a number of Canton city councilpersons (i.e. turf interests) are playing into the decision on whether or not Cantonians will have the democratic right to determine their own structure of government.

The overall interests of the citizens of Canton appear to be taking a back seat.

The obvious decline of Canton that is underway should be an wake up call to the city's councilpersons.

As one citizen said on Monday night on recounting the dramatic loss of population since 1950, "don't you think we might be doing something wrong" in terms of how we do government in Canton.

And it is noteworthy that Cantonians took a look at fashioning charter government in 1962.  Unfortunately, the 1961/62 set of commissioners came up with an ill-founded plan of electing all of of the commission member at-large.  In doing so, they took away the ability of Cantonians living in clustered neighborhoods (e.g. Vassar Park) to hold individual councilpersons accountable.

Cantonians reacted the way they should have at the ballot box in voting 78% against that proposal.

The beauty of the chartering process is that the voters can always say "no," if out-of-touch charter commissioners loose their heads.

But does anyone think that a new commission would repeat the mistakes of the 60s era group?

Canton council needs to approve letting a new group of 15 give formulating a charter a new try.

Having at the ready flexible tools (whether or not they are ever used) to do a more efficient and effective job for the taxpaying public equips government to more responsive to public demands to fix things gone wrong.

The Report understood Ward 5 councilman Kevin Fisher on Monday night of having talked about getting the Ohio General Assembly to change the formula for the election of charter members to reflect the demographics of a city.

Fisher's idea is a good one that the Canton's representative to the Ohio House (Stephen Slesnick - D/Canton) and Stark County's representative to the Ohio Senate (Scott Oelslager - R/Plain Township) should pick up on.

For Canton, such a change could mean electing a 13 member charter commission:  Nine (one each) from the existing wards plus four at-large members.

But there is no chance that any change in state legislation will be forthcoming over the next six months.

Nevertheless Canton desperately needs a fresh start with as much flex as Ohio law allows for charter cities to structure themselves for the maximum benefit of the citizenry.

Seventy-three percent (73%) of Ohio's cities are charter cities.

If statutory status meets the optimal need of cities, why have 3/4ths of Ohio municipalities opted for the charter form?

As long as Canton is represented by the self-centereds who pretty much flesh out a "public be damned" underlying attitude in pursuit of their perceived special interests, the city will continue its downward spiral.

More and more Cantonians should be asking themselves this.

Is a Detroit scenario really all the far away from Canton's doorstep?

No comments: