Thursday, October 31, 2013


UPDATED:  11:30 AM



One of Canton Mayor William J. Healy, II's goals for his entire nearly six years in office has been and continues be to restructure Canton's parks and recreation over a three-year period so as to make it more efficient and responsive to the needs of Cantonians and, I might add, to many outside-of-Canton Stark Countians who use Canton's parks.

There appears to be no organized opposition to the 4 mill levy to be voted upon by Canton voters next Tuesday.  It is designed to raise about $2.9 million per year and, if passed, would free up about $1.2 million for other general fund applications.

Currently, the Canton park system is run by an independent (of the mayor and city administration) by a Board of Commissioners, to wit:

On the Canton Parks "levy committee" website there is a thorough discussion of what park officials plan to do with the $2.9 million if it becomes available.

And, undoubtedly, there are a number of interests both in and out of Canton government who will be pressuring the Healy administration and Canton City Council to use "the new found money," if it materializes for pet projects.

One interest that has already surfaced is one named Group 175 formed by Vassar Park (located in Ward 9 - Councilman Frank Morris, III) residents Bruce Nordman and Bruce Brewer (president of the Vassar Park Neighborhood Association).

Earlier this year, this collection of Cantonians prevailed on Councilman Morris to sponsor an "informal resolution" wherein council goes on record as putting the Healy administration on notice that should the park levy pass, the resulting new infusion of $1.2 into the general fund is to go towards beefing up Canton's safety forces (police and fire) numbers.

The measure passed unanimously.

The goal of Group 175 is to get the police force up to 175 strong (now about 150) and the fire department to 175 strong (now about 140).

Because the mayor is proceeding cautiously (acceding only to step increases of 12 new hires for the police and fire departments; likely over the next year)  and not committing to Group 175's goals within the foreseeable future, Group 175 is taking a "hands off" approach in terms of supporting the levy.

Parks director Derek Gordon has tried to get Group 175's endorsement but has failed to corral it due to Healy's refusal to commit to the 175 with a timetable certain satisfactory to Norman, Brewer, et al.

For a full presentation on the history and the current status of Group 175's ongoing fight with Mayor Healy, the SCPR presents the following videotaped October 30, 2013 interview with Nordman that provides all the details:

To the SCPR, should the park issue fail, in terms of cobbling the available financing together to fund Group 175's goals; it seems that the loss of the $1.2 million would severely damage the prospect that the Healy administration would have the financial wherewithal to get to the 175 policemen and firemen level.

However, The Report suspects that in the mind of the Group 175 folks, there is this plan to seize the day should the parks levy fail and generate a citizen initiative for an income tax increase specifically designated as being for police and fire operations only.

Such a levy (if for a reasonable amount) probably will be relatively easy to pass.

County officials were surprised when in November, 2011 they were able to pass a 0.5% countywide sales tax increase on the promise that the $22 million, more or less, that it generates would be dedicated to spending for "law enforcement purposes 'only.'"

It passed by a surprisingly comfortable margin.

Nordman will not admit to the SCPR that a "for police and fire manpower only" tax issue is in Group 175's future and therefore the group sits on their collective hands on the parks issue.

A dedicated "for police and fire ONLY" levy would be the surest past for Group 175 to ensure that Canton achieves and maintains the 175 police and fire staffing level, no?

Reading between the lines, it seems to the SCPR that Group 175 does not trust Mayor Healy to energetically and with purpose to work with them to find funds (including the $1.2 million) from various sources to get Canton's police and fire to 175 in force each.

While the SCPR above all understands the "lack of trust of Healy," it does appear that his plan for restructuring makes sense and should be supported by Canton voters.

Councilwoman-at-Large Mary Cirelli opposed the plan when the levy issue was up for a council vote because 4 mills, she says, generates too much money.  She would support it at 2 mills or $1.45 million.

Councilman Edmond Mack (Ward 9) also voted "no" because, he says, that the 4 mills is too expensive for what Ward 9 residents will get out of it.

Nearly all city officials (including 11 of the 13 councilpersons) are supporting the parks levy.

Impressive is the list that promoters of the levy have come up with in terms of contributors to the levy campaign, to wit:

In the pre-general report filed on October 24th, the levy committee shows that it has raised some $23,000.

But in the end, the levy's passage or failure could boil down to the "silence" of Group 175.

But have they thought of this possible consequence should the parks levy fail?

Given this is a "pet project" of Mayor Healy and if he is convinced that the failure came at the hands of Groups 175's "silence," won't he prove to be much more resistant to their achieving their goal any time soon?

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