As written before, the Stark County Political Report believes that the "fiscal emergency" currently underway in Massillon (since official State of Ohio Auditor [SOA] designation on October 8th) was politically inspired by Mayor Kathy Catazaro-Perry on the advice of her "Kitchen Cabinet" as "her best shot" at being reelected come the Democratic primary of May, 2015 and the general election in November, 2015.
As mayor-elect (December, 2011) she was writing Ohio auditor David Yost asking that an audit be done to determine whether or not Massillon was in a fiscal crisis.
Her basis was the long-term debt of Massillon.
This is a theme she hammered away at from her position as Ward 3 councilwoman as she lashed out at predecessor Frank Cicchinelli's administration in her ginning up a political basis to run against him in the Democratic Party primary in May, 2011.
It is strange indeed that she and her close advisors seemingly ignore that the loss of local government funds and other revenues has had on year-to-year fiscal operations in Massillon.
While the 24-year mayor Cicchinelli will not concede that the Catazaro-Perry/Maier political stratagem worked saying that it was the failure of his supporters to get to the polls in thinking that his "fixture status" would carry him on to victory, the SCPR thinks there is every reason to believe that constant attacks on him by Catazaro-Perry and by likes of Maier and his chief deputy and Stark County Democratic Party political director Shane Jackson (who The Report believes writes a political blog which shamelessly obsesses on Cicchinelli) may well have been the difference.
Yost, in making his determination, rested his finding of "fiscal-emergency" on the short-term or fiscal year deficit that Massillon is running which is somewhere in the neighborhood of $2.6 million. Not the the long-term stuff that Catazaro-Perry and her supporters keep talking about as being the reason for Massillon's financial difficulties.
Of the $2.6 million, only (not to minimize the "unwisdom" of running deficits of any kind) $654,088 (the 1/6th threshold figure on the total deficit) separated Massillon from a SOA finding that "Massillon is not in 'fiscal crisis' at this time.
Such was the cursory finding back in December, 2011 when the mayor made what the SCPR believes to be her first political move to embarrass the once robust and proud city.
The mayor, from the time she took office until she wrote a second letter to Yost (May 13, 2013), had ample opportunity to work something out with Massillon City Council to shore up "Deficit Fund Balances."
But in a "my way or the highway" mentality, apparently adopted from her chief advisor Johnnie A. Maier, Jr. (former Stark County Democratic Party chairman and current Massillon clerk of courts), she chose to "butt heads" with council rather than seeking common ground.
So now the state of Ohio will be putting together a seven member commission (Commission) to deal with creating a "unique to Massillon - common ground" solution.
For Massillon city council will be part of the mix as to what that solution will look like even though only the president of council will be an ex-officio member of the Commission.
The first question seems to be: How long will Massillon remain in "fiscal emergency?"
The SCPR believes that the mayor from her perch from within the Commission as an ex-officio member and in her official dealings with council has to have a personal political goal of having everything in place, hopefully, by the Democratic Primary slated for May 5, 2015 and certainly by the general election set for November 3, 2015.
A good piece of advice that Massillon officials are getting comes from Mansfield, Ohio officials (Mansfield, [August, 2012 fiscal emergency finding] like Massillon faces 'fiscal emergency;' Steven Grazier, The Independent, October 18, 2013), to wit:
Messer [Mansfield's special projects coordinator] said Massillon should not worry too much about “fiscal emergency,” but instead embrace the assistance from the state and welcome its financial advice.Good advice, indeed!
It could be that if the total Massillon Commission will impress upon the mayor and her supporters within the Commission that the Commission should take a new look at getting on board "wholeheartedly" with council's May, 2013 losing initiative on a .3% income tax increase that Massillon's fiscal emergency status could be short-lived.
Massillon has not had a tax increase since 1978 except for a 1995 .3% income tax for parks and recreation increase.
Numerous sitting councilpersons tell the SCPR that the failure of the mayor and her administration to get squarely behind the May, 2013 effort was the reason it did not pass.
For surely the passage of such a measure would satisfy the apparent criterion (like Mansfield) that Massillon faces to satisfy state officials and end the emergency, to wit:
To be removed from “fiscal emergency,” Mansfield must show the state a five-year financial plan in which revenues balance with expenditures, Messer said. He said a presentation to do so could come as soon as the first quarter of 2014.But the question in the SCPR's thinking on the recovery timeline is whether or not the mayor wants a quick solution.
Being connected and beholden to whom The Report believes are some of Stark County's most politically consumed persons in the entire county, it is hard to see that Catazaro-Perry looks at recovery in any what than on a political timetable basis.
So the SCPR sees a Catazaro-Perry (on the advice of her "political" Kitchen Cabinet) effort to push for a solution which will more or less coincide with her reelection in 2015.
She may face a challenge from Cicchinelli in the Democratic primary. If not, some Massillonians think Stark County prosecutor John Ferrero will find her a worthy opponent.
Should she fend off a challenge from the Dems, she could face a stiff Republican challenge in November.
If he shows well in the upcoming race to retain is Ward 6 seat, Ed Lewis IV could be the Republican standard bearer no matter who the Democrats nominate.
For some folks, politics is the "be all" and "end all."
Such seems to be the end game (i.e. all eyes on 2015) of Catazaro-Perry and friends.