LEGISLATION APPEARS SET TO SAVE CANTON AT LEAST $250,000 IN LAWN MOWING AND OTHER EXPENSES THE CITY NOW SPENDS ANNUALLY ON FORECLOSED PROPERTIES
In October 2011 when KevIn Fisher was in effect Councilman-elect having won a contested Democratic primary in May and was running unopposed in the general election, he was contacted by Canton community activist Norma Mills who asked him whether or not he would be willing to introduce legislation in Canton City Council to hold foreclosing banks as being responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of properties being foreclosed upon.
Councilman Fisher had gone to an OccupyCanton meeting and had taken in and participated in a discussion the group was having about doing something about the urban blight that is afflicting Canton.
Fisher says that MIlls was the prime mover then for the legislation passed originally on August 27, 2012.
He started on the bill in late January, 2012 which was the same month he took office.
It was some seven months of arduous work before he was able to convince colleagues to pass his and Norma's pet project. As can be seen from the graphic below, it was July 30th before his bill got a first reading.
The Stark County Political Report captured Fisher on August 13th at a council work session explaining to his fellows the import and specifics fo Ordinance 128 - 2012.
And, you will note from the graphic set forth below, he had three council allies sign on to help him; namely, Councilwoman Mary Cirelli (D, at-large), Councilmen Greg Hawk (D, Ward 1) and Frank Morris (D, Ward 9).
Later on, when it was learned that the original legislation was deficient in terms of "ease of enforcement," Councilman Thomas West (D, Ward 2 and chairman of council's Judiciary Committee) became a very important figure in getting the legislation in shape for "full speed ahead" in terms of enforcement.
The SCPR captured Fisher at a work session of the Canton City Council to explain the import of the-then proposed legislation.
Fisher first challenged for the Ward 5 council seat in 2005, when he took on sitting Democratic councilman Terry Prater.
And the Stark Democratic Party leaders were not happy about Fishers challenge of Prater.
That he only lost by 38 votes was clear indication that Fisher was a "comer" and by 2011 (when Prater moved on to a job at the Stark County Board of Elections) he proved he was ready for political prime time in winning the 2011 Ward 5 Democratic primary very handily.
Even though Ordinance 128 - 2012 passed on August 27th and was signed into law by Mayor Healy, very little, if anything, was done by the administration to enforce the legislation.
Mayor Healy would tell Fisher one-on-one that he was favorable to the legislation but he had no money to hire staff to implement its provisions.
But Fisher also knew the Canton's chief building enforcement officer Angela Cavanaugh (recently hired away from Canton by Stark County) reportedly was saying she had problems with the language of the original legislation and therefore was unenthusiastic about enforcing it.
The Ward 5 councilman compliments Cavanaugh for being a first-rate plans persons for permitting purposes, but is unimpressed with her attitude towards the enforcement issue.
So here is a mayor and his administration allowing taxpayers to in effect subsidize banks who it appears were gaming the legal system by filing foreclosure but aborting them just short of taking legal title.
The taxpayers of Canton were paying to have non-city-owned-properties boarded up, their lawns mowed and otherwise attended to - to the tune, Fisher says, of some $250,000 or better annually.
And the mayor says that saving Canton $250,000 in general revenue fund dollars annually in expense and plus getting revenue at $200 to $300 per ordinance enforcement action is not enough to hire someone dedicated to enforcement?
The SCPR will say it. Councilman Fisher will not. It is more phony-baloney from the mayor. Knowing this guy, there has to be some political motive for his not firing up his chief building officer.
Here is a guy who does not abide members of his administration not following his direction.
What is he afraid of? Offending the banks?
Guess who is lurking in the background while this procrastinating was going on?
You've got it!
And Norma Mills, Fisher says, is someone to be put off when she is on a mission.
Fisher credits her with keeping the heat on him, on his colleagues and the administration to get the enforcement mechanism up and running.
If The Report's conjecture is correct that Healy had a political motivation not to press Cavanaugh on enforcement, then one has to believe that Norma Mills and her political dynamism trumped what other political factor may have been in the mayor's mind.
Meanwhile, the city of Youngstown picked up on the legislation (which Norma Mllls and an Ohio citizens activist group she is associated with [Stand Up for Ohio] had discovered had been passed and implement in Springfield, Massachusetts) and for some reason was able to solve the supposed language problem with Canton's ordinance.
One has to wonder about the Canton Law Department and it apparent inability in reviewing Fisher's legislation (i.e. the Mills Stand Up for Ohio bill modeled after the "working" Springfield, MA ordinance) to have his original legislation in shape to be enforce when passed on August 27, 2012.
Youngstown has $800,000 or so in bonds posted.
In April of this year Mills had had enough. She organized a rally held at Nimisilla Park hosted by Stand Up Ohio.
She also arranged for local officials (which included a representative from the Canton Law Department, Ward 2 Councilman Thomas West and Canton's building department) to meet with Youngstown officials to learn how Youngstown was able to do what Canton's official family seemed unable to figure out.
Councilman West appears to the Stark County Political Report to have been a key person as chairman of Canton City Council's judiciary committee to get "amending" legislation on the books so that Canton officials now feel comfortable in enforcing the legislation that Fisher got passage of in August, 2012.
West gets high marks from Fisher for being an integral force in getting the legislation in shape.
Amending legislation passed on September 30th.
Fisher is optimistic that the administration finally "gets it," that the delays in implement his legislation are over.
He says that Kyle Stone who is the Healy administration's Fair Housing officer will be doing the enforcing rather than the building department. Soon, he says, Stone will be meeting with the banks to get them on board with ordinance compliance.
He sees Stone as being a highly aggressive enforcer.
So it appears that the Canton foot dragging cost Canton taxpayers perhaps as much as "a quarter of a million dollars" and a plentitude of neighborhood eyesores.
This from a mayor who says he cares about Canton's neighborhoods.
Political rhetoric is something that the mayor is quite accomplished at.
But if citizens' priorities are not his, then, they can forget it.
Canton subsidizes banks $250,000 or so annually and then says he does not have enough money to keep all fire stations open and cannot afford to bring the police department up to levels they were at when he took office.
Such poor mouthing rings hollow, doesn't it.
He seems to find money for whatever tickles his fancy, no?
One has to wonder how long Cantonians are going to put up with this guy.
Councilman Fisher, West, Cirelli, Hawk and Morris all deserve praise for their work on this important piece of legislation.
But Fisher says the most deserving person in Stand Up for Ohio's and Canton's Norma Mills.
A SCPR "Hats Off" to Norma Mills for working to make Canton a better place to live in!