Friday, June 28, 2013

FROM A POLITICAL PARTY WHICH STANDS FOR "LESS GOV'T;" WE GET MORE "UNNECESSARY" GOV'T? STARK TO GET A "DWART."




Everybody knows that the Republican Party has lopsided control of the Ohio General Assembly (OGA) these days.

And one of the "prime" mantras of the GOP from the national level to the local level is what?

You've got it!

Less government is better government.

Back in October, 2011 a Zanesville area resident released a slew of wild and exotic animals from his property which resulted in law enforcement having to slay some four dozen of them in order to protect the public.

While it was a tense situation, the fact of the matter is that  state of Ohio officials and local law enforcement were up to handling the bizarre actions of the Zanesville wild and exotic animal owner.

The outcome is lamentable.

But, again, it got handled and it is hard to see how another layer of government would have altered the outcome more in tune with the sensitivities of animal lovers.

In signing the bill (Senate Bill 310, sponsored by Zanesville Republican Senator Troy Balderson), Republican Governor John Kasich said he didn't think such an incident would ever occur again.

Implicitly, Kasich acknowledged at the signing that the Legislature got bullied by a "'small but loud and emotional' animal owners group."

How unRepublican?

But the SCPR does have to hand out kudos to Stark Countian and state Representative Christina Hagan (R-Marlboro; hardly a favorite of The Report) for being loyal to her political beliefs in not unnecessarily expanding government in voting "no" on SB 310.


Predictably, Stark County Democrat Stephen Slesnick (Canton - 49th House District) voted for the bill.  Democratic officeholders, by and large, love to expand government.

Interestingly enough so did (who knows what his political philosophy is, if he has one) Republican Kirk Schuring (Jackson - 48th House District) and a bunch of other supposedly "less government" Republicans.

In the Ohio Senate, Scott Oelslager (R - Plain Township - the 29th Senate District) followed Schuring's lead.


Note that in the Senate, there was only one Republican true believer in smaller government is better government.

Democrats do not have enough votes to pass (or even get out of committee) bills on anything in the OGA.

But they were probably "ga-ga" over the opportunity in April, 2012 to join with Republicans in a "perfect political storm" setting to add another layer of state and local government (and its expense of implementation and continuing operation) on Ohioans.

Just look at all the things that SB 310 does (LINK).

And take a look at the work of the Ohio Department of Agriculture in getting the bill implemented and grafted into the permanent bureaucratic scheme of Ohio and local government (LINK).

A clear cut example of the expansion of unnecessary state government at the hands a Republican supermajority, no?

On Wednesday Director Tim Warstler of the Stark County Emergency Management in responding to the bureaucratic overlay put in place by SB 310 under the Ohio Department of Agriculture.

He appeared before Stark County commissioners in his bureaucracy imposed job to get a Dangerous Wild Animal Response Team (DWART) initiated.

Warstler needed a commissioners' resolution authorizing same for Stark County and he got it.

In his presentation, Warstler did muse on whether or not SB 310 was an overreaction on the part of the legislature.

In a one-on-one interview with the SCPR after his session with the commissioners,  Warstler gave the most persuasive case for the OGA having passed SB 310 and Stark County having a DWART.

He said that perhaps an unarticulated reason for the law was the fear that terrorists would latch onto the idea that they could create mayhem among the population by releasing secured wild and exotic animals from the controlled environment.

Nearly every county of Ohio has some facility or citizens who harbor wild and exotic animals.

A prime example for Stark County is the Stump Hill Farm (LINK) which is located on Klick Road.


And here is a list of Stark Countians who are being considered for membership on the Stark County DWART.


In the end, the SCPR thinks that the next time a Stark citizen hears a Republican candidate/office holder opine about "less government is better government," the citizen should say "Oh, yes!  Tell me about the Republican initiated and passed Chapter 935 of the Ohio Revised Code.

Is ORC Chapter 935 legislation an example of "less government is better government?"

Thursday, June 27, 2013

(VIDEO) OBJECT LESSON: MAYOR KATHY CATAZARO-PERRY SHOWS HOW TO KEEP HER DEPARTMENT HEADS ON A SHORT LEASH?



UPDATED AT 09:30 AM

VIDEO

A COMPOSITE OF
ADMINISTRATION/COUNCIL INTERACTION
WHICH PROVIDES A VIDEO RECORD
OF
THE
PRONOUNCED DIFFERENCES BETWEEN
THE ADMINISTRATION & COUNCIL

The SCPR has been hearing from the very first days of the Mayor Kathy Catazaro-Perry (KCP) administration that it appears that nearly everybody who works for the administration is on a "watch list" of sorts.

The Report's reading (between the lines) of The Massillon Independent's work (Massillon police chief's demotion clarified, Steven M. Grazier, June 26, 2013) seems to be a bit of hard evidence that the talk is not merely anti-Catazaro-Perry-political-chatter.

Also, the exchanges between interim Safety Director Jim Johnson and several members of Massillon City Council at Monday's work session is indication to yours truly that Johnson is on a mission to carry out "a command and control" on behalf of the mayor and her "kitchen cabinet" of close, close advisers (led by Massillon Clerk of Courts Johnnie A. Maier, Jr.)

THE INDEPENDENT PIECE
Former city Police Chief Keith Moser faced a series of allegations related to misconduct and failed communication days prior to being demoted to the rank of captain. But the Massillon mayor said those charges had nothing to do with a decision to remove him as chief.
Hmm?

"[H]ad nothing to do with a decision to remove him as chief."

Of course, no one can get inside the mind of the mayor, but her problem is convincing any reasonable minded person to believe her protestation.

It should be obvious to outsiders that the Catazaro-Perry administration and her adviser friends had made a determination (probably by the end of 2012; his appointment was on June 4, 2012) that "he was not a fit" for their requirement that anyone who works for the mayor must accustom themselves to "being on a short leash."

Once that determination had been made, all the administration monitors had to do was to sit and wait for things to start happening.

It is a truism that in any enterprise (private or public) events inevitably occur at random and provide fodder for foes of those in charge of the enterprise to jump on this thing or that thing in a second guessing fashion to show that the leadership is not up to effectively doing the job.

That, the SCPR believes, is what Keith Moser has been the victim of.

A key line in each of The Independent's revelation is:

  • January 10, 2013 - the invoicing incident - "not producing results" from a safety director ordered investigation,
  • March 18, 2013 - the patrol car crash incident - "not communicating both the traffic accident and injury to [interim Safety Director] Johnson and the mayor.'
  • March 18, 2013 - the burglary in process incident - "not communicating the incident to Johnson in a timely manner."
  • April 22, 2013 - the negligent discharge of a shotgun by a sergeant incident - "not communicating the incident to Johnson in a timely manner."
Moreover, the mayor wants to have it both ways.

She needed to rid herself of a suspect person in terms of his unfettered loyalty to her and her advisers, but she was smart enough to realize that Moser is a highly respected police officer both in and out of Massillon and that she needed to say nice things about him while giving him the heave-ho; to wit:  "the Massillon mayor said those charges had nothing to do with a decision to remove him as chief" (Grazier).

Also, there is the matter of internal police morale.

It is tricky business to play politics with whom is in and whom is out as police chief (Catazaro-Perry is now into her fourth chief), and maintain police morale.

Mayor Kathy has to be concerned that too much "politiking" with Massillon's police force will create a public perception that she is more concerned with her personal political security than she is with the safety of Masillonians.

So it is in her interest to have had "The Independent published reports" dis the police chief on the one hand, and then, on the other hand:  "for public consumption purposes," for her to say positive things about one deemed "not loyal enough" to the KCP administration to merit his continuing as chief.

The SCPR has reason to believe that Moser did look into the legal aspects of taking on the administration on the issue of his termination.

But given the fact that he was still on probation when he was let go, it is likely he concluded that it would be unavailing for him to challenge his dismissal.

The Moser situation is not the only one the mayor appears to have stuck her nose into.  There is the whole Rogers matter that is currently under litigation whereby Officer Rogers is challenging his denial of promotion to sergeant in the light of competitive civil service exams in favor of Officer Michael Maier (son of former Safety Director George T. Maier and nephew of Johnnie A. Maier, Jr.,).

As things now stand legally speaking, Rogers stands to gain promotion to sergeant.  The SCPR has been told and believes that the appeal of the Stark County Court of Common Pleas John Haas decision in favor of Rogers is being insisted upon by Catazaro-Perry and that Law Director Perry Stergios may not have his heart in it.

In the end, if Rogers prevails legally and becomes sergeant, it seems that the Catazaro-Perry administration in its actions have further complicated the inner workings of the Massillon Police Department and by implication may be playing with the safety of Massillonians.  And, of course, the doubling up of sergeants impacts the deficit fiscal situation (anywhere from $2.5 to $2.7 million) that Massillon faces for fiscal year 2013.

Some people may think that playing politics is like a parlor game in that who wins and who loses has no "real world" consequences.  

But such an analogy is not a healthy take on the significance of "playing politics" with governing the hoi pollio.

Real people, everyday people get hurt big time by political game playing and sometimes there is a spin off to the public that damages public interests.

At last Monday's work session, the SCPR believes that the mayor made a big show of having newly appointed interim chief Mike Peel relocate from the audience in general and come sit beside her as she took in the work session.

Such is very much the political persona of Kathy Catazaro-Perry.

As the following video shows, Monday's meeting exchange between interim Safety Director Jim Johnson and the mayor vis-a-vis council is clearly antagonistic.

An interesting aspect is how focused Catazaro-Perry is on defending the failure of former Safety Director (now interim [pending the outcome of litigation] Sheriff George T. Maier) is on defending Maier for his failure to fully understand the consequences of changing street lighting electric generation providers from Ohio Edison to American Electric Power.

The video.



As the SCPR has written before, the mayor shows that she is acutely aware of the public relations aspects of being mayor and tries to play to that aspect to the hilt.  

She seems to be very much into "pomp and circumstance" but very little into the discomfort of having to engage in political give and take with folks who see things differently than she and her party-esque (i.e. the Johnnie A. Maier, Jr. "party within a party" political machine) loyalist camp.

Nearly every politician that yours truly knows, displays tendencies to political paranoia.  By breed, politicians are suspicious of those who do not "bow and scrape" to them.

The Massillon Maier faction, in the opinion of the SCPR, is an epitome of the phenomenon.

And that is all well and good if kept in check and does not spill over over into public policy and the implementation of government.

However, the SCPR's assessment is that in the KCP administration the need for loyalty is not kept in check.

Unless the mayor has a "road to Damacus experience," Masillon is in for hard, hard times over the next two years.

It is looking more and more to the SCPR that the outcome of the November election for city council is not heading in the mayor's preferred direction.

So if anything, there is likely going to be more probing, more questioning and more rejections by council of proposals from the mayor's suite of offices.

The bottom line question that the mayor should be asking herself is this:

Do I care more about my personal political fortunes and having it my way or about the welfare of the citizens of Massillon?

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

(VIDEOS) IT AIN'T EVEN THE 4TH OF JULY AND THE FIREWORKS ARE GOING OFF AT MASSILLON CITY COUNCIL!



CORRECTION:  The second Massillon BOE appointee is Moe Rickett and not Ester Bryant as originally reported.

VIDEOS

LAW DIRECTOR PERRY STERGIOS
AND
COUNCIL
ON
HIS OPINION ON PARKS & RECREATION

THE RELATIVELY CALM PART
OF THE DISCUSSION ON THE
PARKS & RECREATION ISSUE

PARKS & RECREATION MEMBER
JOHN WOLF'S
SOLUTION TO THE
PARKS & RECREATION ISSUE
(GETS INTO IT WITH COUNCILMAN PETERS)

COUNCILMAN LARRY SLAGLE
ON
HIS PLANS
TO RESOLVE
THE PARKS & RECREATION ISSUE

SAFETY DIRECTOR JIM JOHNSON
&
MAYOR KATHY CATAZARO-PERRY
TAKE ON COUNCIL ON THE
STREET LIGHTING ISSUE

COUNCILMAN PAUL MANSON WEIGHS-IN

COUNCILMAN ED LEWIS WEIGHS-IN

All the ingredients were in place for fireworks at Massillon City Council's work session last evening.

Indeed, a few of fireworks banged loud in a spectacular display of political combustion involving:
  • Mayor Kathy Catazaro-Perry, 
  • interim safety director Jim Johnson,
  • Law Director Perry Stergios,
  • Councilman Paul Manson (D - at large), 
  • Councilman Milan Chovan (R - at large), 
  • Councilman Donnie Peters, Jr (R - Ward 5), and 
  • Ed Lewis, IV (R - Ward 6) as well as
  • Parks and Recreation board member John Wolf 
But it took more than the mix of these persons to set things off.

Okay.  Exactly what is the "more than?"

Add in two issues:
  • What to do about the Parks and Recreation issue of appointing a new director, and
  • Who is to blame for Massillon over paying by perhaps as much as $100,000 plus (when early termination fees are included) for street lighting expenses.
THE PARKS AND RECREATION ISSUE

The explosiveness of the meeting all started with (after Parks and Recreation Committee chairman Larry Slagle opened the topic what to do about the Parks and Recreation Board) Director Stergios.   Check out this video of Councilman Ed Lewis asking for Stergios for his imput:



Chairman Slagle went on to conduct a discussion of what to do about the seemingly forever controversy in terms of what authority the Parks and Recreation Board (Board) has with respect to:
  • controlling its finances (which with an 0.3% income tax levy [1995] and fees takes in about $4 million annually, and 
  • determining who is to be the Board's director
The SCPR was very impressed with how Slagle kept the discussion on track amidst the outbursts.

It appeared that Slagle's mission was simple.  He was intent on gathering information from council members as to their feelings about the aforementioned primary issues and the lingering issue of what to do with the golf course aspect of Board operations.   After the meeting, The Report spoke with Slagle as to what is next.

Most of the meeting discussion on Parks and Recreation went smoothly, witness this video:



That is until Parks and Recreation Board member John Wolf (one of two member appointed by the Massillon Board of Education [the other being Moe Rickett]) was invited to speak by Chairman Slagle.

With Wolf came a second round of pre-4th-of-July fireworks.

First, he compared the 30 or so minute council discussion  on Parks and Recreation to the Battle of Gettysburg (which, by the way, yours truly is a native of Gettysburg and the Battle of Gettysburg marks the 150 anniversary of "the turning point in the civil war" 1863 conflict next week).

Second, he announced to council that Parks and Recreation Board is to meet on July 12th and that he was confident that the Board would cobble together its idea(s) of what's its authority should be and that he would present it council soon thereafter.

Wolf's plea with council to be patient with the Board while it came up with a resolution expressing its desires set off Donnie Peters, Jr (Ward 5.).  Here is the video.



At the end of the day, it appears to the SCPR that Chairman Slagle has the matter of Parks and Recreation in hand and will be the catalyst in solving this long simmering Massillon department of government problem.

Here is Slagle post-meeting sharing how he plans to approach resolving the Parks and Recreation problem:



THE STREET LIGHTING ISSUE

Ward 1 Councilwoman Sarita Cunningham-Hedderly heads up council's public utilities committee.

She has been waiting until Ohio Edison area manager Ray Martinez could make it to a work session to get into an issue that has been bugging council for a couple months now.

It came to light in April, that Massillon was paying about $15,000 more a month in street lighting rates since former Safety Director George T. Maier (now serving as the "appointed" sheriff of Stark pending the outcome of Ohio Supreme Court litigation as to his qualifications to hold office) negotiated a deal in September, 2012 (effective in October) with American Electric Power (AEP) to  what he thought at the time (according to administration officials) was a good deal for Massillon and would result in substantial savings to the city over the two year life of the contract.

But he thought wrong.

How's that?

It appears to the SCPR that on the surface of the consideration,  Massillon was getting a better deal from AEP than it was from Ohio Edison (OE).

However, because of the rules of Ohio's Public Utility Commissions (PUCO) on rates (called tariffs by the PUCO) that allowed OE to issue credits to Massillon, the fact of the matter turned out to be that existing OE contract, notwithstanding the seeming better AEP rate, was much the better deal for Massillon on street lighting.

What came out of council's discussion last night was that Maier failed to get back to OE's Martinez and let him know that Massillon was thinking about switching to AEP and that the failure is the core reason why Massillon got nailed for about $15,000 a month more in street lighting costs (January through May).

To add insult to injury, when the lights came on (no pun intended) with Maier replacement and interim Safety Director Jim Johnson in April (in consultation with Martinez) that Massilon had made a costly mistake in negotiating the switch to AEP, it was only some splendid work by Martinez that got Massilon back on track with OE.

In other words, the Catazaro-Perry administration looked like a bunch of fumblers and bumblers.

And there was nothing Martinez could do to make that embarrassment to vanity part of the administration's problem go away.

What came to light at last night's meeting (likely the first that council knew about it) is that in addition to paying AEP a higher rate for street lighting, Massillon had to pay OE/First Energy Solutions (FES) a termination fee of $150 for what one source tells the SCPR is some 100 or so Massillon accounts held by OE/FES or combination thereof.

It appears, but nobody seemed to know for sure, that AEP must have waived a $16,000 early termination fee when Massilon switched back to Ohio Edison for street lighting.

Somebody had to eat "humble pie" to pull that one off, no?

"Nobody seemed to know" (from the administration standpoint) was at the heart of the matter of the resulting fireworks-esque discussions that took place between Mayor Catazaro-Perry, Safety Director Johnson from the administration side, and Massillon council  led by Councilpersons Manson, Chovan and Lewis.

A note:   Councilman Donnie Peters, Jr. took the tack that the matter is over and done with and the council persistent questioning was unavailing.

The SCPR sees the street lighting brouhaha as a proxy for the overall issue between the administration and many if not most of council that the adminstrators and councilpersons do not trust each other.

The video (on the street lighting discussion) at the end of this blog amply demonstrates the deep, deep distrust that exists between the administration and council.

It is hard to see how Massillon gets it fiscal affairs straightened out in such a climate.

The key problem, as The Report sees it, is that the tone of the administration (not communicating with council) comes from the clerk of courts office and Clerk Johnnie A. Maier, Jr. and his chief deputy Shane Jackson.

He and his sidekick (as well as other Massillon officialdom adherents to the Maier power model) seem hellbent on beating down any opposition to their plan and vision for Massillon.

Unless and until Mayor Catazaro-Perry separates from the Maier political machine, she is destined to be a one-term-mayor and will likely be remembered as a monumental failure as the city's chief executive after the 24 reign of Frank Cichinelli as mayor.

While Cicchinelli may have brought troubles onto himself which provided the Maier forces an opportunity to pounce on him, his 24 years had to have been - by and large - a very good time for Massillon.

Those days are long gone as Massillon now faces the prospect of being placed in fiscal watch or emergency ironically at the initiative of Mayor Catazaro-Perry herself.

At one time in her political career, yours truly thought she had a very bright future.

But that all vanished when she threw in "lock, stock and barrel" as the political appendage to the former Stark County Democratic Party chairman.

In doing so, she has lost her individual political identity and is largely seen as the window dressing of a de facto Maier administration.

Here is the full video of the street lighting fiasco discussion including sharp exchanges between Safety Director Johnson and the mayor with council members:



Weighing in on the night's fireworks were Councilman Manson:



and

Councilman Lewis:

Monday, June 24, 2013

THE OUTRAGEOUS CHRISTINA HAGAN. HAS THE "BRASS" TO CLAIM SHE IS FOR OPEN GOVERNMENT!



Revised and Updated at 08:51 AM.

On May 29, 2013 Republican state Rep. Christina Hagan (Marlboro Township) voted for SB 67.


SB 67 was rushed through passage in the Ohio House on the 29th and on the 30th in order to insulate Jobs Ohio (which uses public money in the context of being private entity to do economic development for the state of Ohio) from audit by the State of Ohio Auditor (Republican David Yost).

On June 21st she was writing a press release touting how much she was for "open government" witness, not her effort, but that by the Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review (JCARR) to put up a website to allow Ohioans to track rules implemented in the way of fleshing out Ohio General Assembly (OGA) passed legislation.

To demonstrate how skilled she has become at being disingenuous in her short time in Columbus, she in the press release on the 21st (LINK) did a tortured equivalency between JCARR's website initiative and one of two bills she has offered this legislative year, namely HB 10.

HB 10 has to do with local government fiscal accountability.  Not quite the definition of open government, no?  Moreover, it appears that the bill is going nowhere on a fast track witness this status report on the Ohio House's website (LINK).

While in an overall sense the SCPR does not believe that Hagan is supportive of opening up government to public access, she does deserve some credit for co-sponsoring with state Rep. Mike Duffey (R - Worthington) an OhioData Initiative measure in the currently being negotiated (between the House and Senate in conference committee) state budget bill whereby $3.5 million in grants would be made available for local governments (cities, villages and townships) at $10,000 per grant to come up with online ways and means for the general public to access local databases so that the public can know more about the operations of local government units.

According to Jim Siegel (Columbus Dispatch, April 29, 2013 re:  Easy access to local government access sought), the program has:
... the goal of one day having all local governments posting their public data online in a uniform, digestible and easily accessible format.
However, there several criticisms of the bill.

One being that the bill to be an effective lure to local governments needs to be funded at a much higher level to cover the approximately 2,300 local government units which exist in Ohio.  Originally, the proposal was for $25 million.  However, it has been watered down to $3.5 and therefore is more resemblent of tokenism rather than a "real" effort to data out to the consuming public.

Another is that the legislation is "permissive," meaning that it is an option on the part of local governments as to whether or not to participate.

Yet another is that it appears that informing the general public better about the ins and outs of local government is not the primary goal of the legislation.

Rather, it appears, to be primarily about providing a treasurer trove of information to enterprising individuals and companies to convert "paid for by the taxpayer" public information into a profit-making activity.

What should happen is that the state should flat-out allocate $10,000 to each and every Ohio local government (perhaps, with a qualifier in terms of population base) and "require" each and every unit to submit a plan to the state whereby taxpayers and citizens have better access to information about their local governments.

In sum, the SCRP sees the Duffey/Hagan proposal to be mostly "window dressing" which is line with the growing perception that the Statehouse Republicans are more interesting in concealing information than making it readily available.

A couple of days ago The Cleveland Plain Dealer (Robert Higgs - Changes pending in the General Assembly could reduce Ohioans' access to public records, meetings of public bodies) did an excellent summary of the assault on openness in government which is currently in process of being put together by the Republican caucuses of the House and Senate.

Higgs offers this statement
One open government advocate estimates that lawmakers have proposed at least 10 measures that would affect Ohioans’ ability to keep watch on their government.
It is likely that most if not all of the Republican legislators put out similar releases inasmuch as they have to be feeling the heat being put on by media across Ohio to back off the assault on America's/Ohio's democratic/republican form of government.

Some of the ten bills which have either passed or pending include (according to the PD report):

  • A bill that would close the doors at meetings to discuss complaints of misconduct by fiscal officers, from county auditors and treasurers down to those for schools, towns and townships.   ...
    • The bill would not only exempt the meetings from the state’s open meetings law, but also seal records from the meetings unless specifically made public by the Ohio attorney general.
  • A bill that would allow public bodies to privately discuss applications for certain public economic development assistance for businesses. ...
  •  A bill that would repeal part of Ohio’s concealed carry law that allows journalists to review records on issuance, renewal, suspension and revocation of state permits to carry a concealed weapon.
  • [A bill that] deal[s] with school security plans that secretly designate which employees may carry concealed handguns in school safety zones.
  • [A bill] blocking online access to some information about auto accidents that involve minors, and 
  • [A bill which institutes] prohibition on acknowledging when a person under age 21 is confined in an adult detention facility.
The media and everyday citizens should be blitzing the Legislature with protests and opposition to the emerging pattern of anti-open-government legislation that is pervading the Ohio General Assembly.

And, Ms. Hagan, in the name of probity and telling the who story needs to be addressing her caucuses' formulation and championing of more and more secret government.

Being the Republican loyalist she is, for those votes which have not occurred SCPR readers can be sure that she will be among the "ayes" have it!

Friday, June 21, 2013

COUNCILMAN WEST FOR LESS CANTON COUNCIL ACCOUNTABILITY?



Canton councilmen have taken a fancy to tinkering with the city's political structure.

Recently, Councilman Joe Cole (lame duck - at large) offered an initiative to eliminate Canton three at-large representatives.

Cole's main argument for the change?

Save money.  Some $93,000 he said.

But on May 20th, except for Cole himself, Councilman (and majority leader) David Dougherty (D - Ward 6) and Edmond Mack (D - Ward 8); the rest of council voted "no" on Cole desire to put the question to voters.

Some feel (including the SCPR) that the ostensible reform was more sour grapes on Cole's part than any genuine desire to make council more efficient and responsive to the Canton citizenry.

In a series of political maneuvers between Cole and Councilwoman Mary Cirelli, Cole got finessed out of running again for council-at-large in what turned out to have been an almost certain pathway to his returning to council.

The SCPR's thumbs down on Cole's proposal was that it would have eliminated a valuable perspective on council:, to wit:  "a citywide perspective."

The latest attempt to change the way council does business with its constituents is one initiated by Councilman Thomas West (D - 2).

West, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, proposed changing the term of Canton council members from two years to four years.

On Monday night, council approved sending the measure to Canton's voters for consideration on the November ballot.

Councilperson Mary Cirelli (lame duck; D - at large), Kevin Fisher (D -5) and Frank Morris voted against the West measure.

West gave as his reason, the low voter turnout, and therefore holding an election every two years is a waste of money.

By that logic, why have general elections.

The SCPR took a look at all of West's elections from his first in 2003.


Look at the numbers.

Even in the general election, a maximum of 1,075 voters in all West's years running for Ward 2 councilman in any one election.  The 1,075 represents about 25% of all the voters in Ward 2.

In his 2011 primary election contest, 1023 voters showed up.  Again, about 25% of all the Ward 2 voters.

A waste of money, Councilman West?  A general election, a waste of money?

To boot, in the eleven elections taking place; West has run unopposed five times.

It is very interesting that Councilmen Cole and West want to save money at the expense of Cantonians having voices in a varied perspective (citywide) and in terms of frequency (every two years).

While Cole's proposal certainly would have saved Canton taxpayers money in eliminating three council positions; West's proposal in the opinion would not.  Elections will be held in off odd numbered years whether or not Canton ward and at-large races happen to be on the ballot.

Closer to the truth, the SCPR thinks, is that it is pain for West and some other councilpersons to get off their duffs and be out there connecting with their constituents.

Poor voter turnout?

Maybe because West is such an utterly unexciting councilman who does not have the leadership ability to get his people (the councilman in council presentations like to refer to Ward 2 voters as being "my people,") involved in their government.

Being the unmotivated person he appears to be in terms of energizing "his people" to participate in their government, undoubtedly West has enjoyed running "unopposed" in five of his eleven elections.

Rather than feeling burdened by elections, West should take up the challenge of ginning up more involvement and participation.

Maybe even school some young Ward 2 citizens as potential rivals in upcoming elections?

What's more, West could let the idea of Canton's going to a charter government see "the light of day" in his role as judiciary chairman.

The Report's recollection is that West deep sixed (as judiciary chairman) former Republican Councilman Mark Butterworth's proposal to submit to the voters the question of charter government during his term as councilman.

Doesn't sound like West is all that strong on democratic principles of government, does it?

Cirelli, Fisher and Morris in their votes show that they are less self-serving than their peers.

The SCPR, for one trusts that Canton's voters will soundly reject Councilman West's anti-democratic proposal!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

(VIDEOS) CRANK THE STARK COMMISSIONERS "JACK-IN-THE-BOX;" OUT POPS CANTON TWP TRUSTEE CHRIS NICHOLS AS NEW COUNTY BUDGET MANAGER



UPDATED:  AT 10:50 AM

VIDEOS

REVISIT THE PHIL DAVISON VIDEO

COMMISSIONERS HIRE OF
CANTON TOWNSHIP TRUSTEE
CHRIS NICHOLS
AS
DIRECTOR OF MANAGEMENT AND BUDGET

COMMISSIONER EXPLAIN CIRCUMSTANCES
OF
NICHOLS
HIRE

Of late, Stark County commissioner meetings have been like "watching paint dry."

But that all changed yesterday when County Administrator Brant Luther read a resolution to hire Canton Township trustee and current First Communications employee Chris Nichols into a position entitled Director of Management and Budget at $70,000 per annum after a 120 day probation period with a start date of June 26th.

The SCPR's ears perked up immediately.




This announcement had shades of the Phil Davison over-the-top political rant of September, 2010 in terms of being a surprise to everybody in attendance.

One of the persons present at that Stark County Republican Party executive committee event was current Stark County commissioner Janet Creighton.

The meeting had been called to select a person to run for Stark County treasurer (which turned out to be Alex Zumbar) to replace Gary Zeigler who had been, as it turns out, unconstitutionally removed from office by the-then county commissioners Todd Bosley, Steve Meeks and Pete Ferguson.

Then this.



The Davison caper took everybody by surprise including Creighton who told yours truly that the rendition was out-of-character for the Phil Davison she knew.

Well, yesterday's move by Stark County commissioners was not a surprise of Davison dimensions, but it did seem to come "out-of-the-blue."

And, it was a tad disconcerting insofar as the SCPR is concerned in that the hire was made without any public discussion of the need to do so and in terms of not putting the position out there in a public-at-large advertisement to prospective applications.

The Report is told that the commissioners did mull over whether or not to advertise for the position but decided not to.

"Disconcerting" as in "so much so" that the SCPR thinks that the commissioners have taken another step back from the days that Republican Creighton and Democrat Tom Bernabei were elected in November, 2010 to replace Democrats Meeks and Bosley (who chose not to run for re-election).

At the time, Bernbei's and Creighton's election presaged a new day dawning in terms of a new emphasis on county government openness, accountability, transparency, communication and access.

Bernabei and Creighton were so committed to restoring trust in county government that they allowed a .025 sales tax to expire because they thought the county had not yet restored itself to a sufficient trust level growing out of situation in the county treasurer's office (LINK for background) that it would be unavailing to as Stark Countians to renew or replace the levy.

Consequently, in 2011 and going forward through 2012, Stark County experienced a financial crisis that resulted in dramatic cutbacks in county services.

By the November, 2011 election, the commissioners had instituted austerity moves and democratizing moves and had gotten out into the outlying regions of Stark County so that the were able to convince voters by a rather healthy margin to pass a 0.50 sales tax increase by a comfortable margin.

Since then, the SCPR has sensed a gradual deterioration of the commissioners' commitment to the reforms they made both in structure (e.g. instituting public accessible work sessions so that the public could witness first hand the inner workings of county government) and in commissioner attitude towards their constituents; namely, the Stark County taxpaying public.

There have been a series of events which has raised the eyebrows of yours truly in the sense of signaling a diminishment of commissioner due diligence in maintaining  the heyday (November, 2010 - November, 2011) of the "restore trust to Stark County government."

And yesterday's hiring of Nichols out-of-the-blue without any work session or equivalent being held (in the SCPR's knowledge) to discuss the need for an additional budget person and their inclination not to make the job publicly available should be disturbing to Stark Countians.

The Report thinks that the lead up to the Nichols hire was a ripe topic for discussion as to whether or not the commissioners would hire a top level employee at $70,000 per year as contrasted to hiring perhaps two employees at substantially lesser compensation level and thereby help the commissioners office better in serving the Stark County public.

What is going on with the commissioners appears to the SCPR to be akin a person who ends up getting boiled to death one degree at a time.

While the SCPR's sense of commissioner internal operations is that they do need an employee or two as they under Bernabei and Creighton have seemed to be operating on a shoe string and in a "lead by example" austerity/efficiency modeling paradigm, the way they did the Nichols hiring should be wholly unacceptable to the Stark County public.

Nothing against Chris Nichols.

He seems to have the qualifications for the job for which he has been hired.

Nichols was a candidate for the job to replace Mike Hanke as county administrator.

It was apparent at the time that the commissioners were having a difficult time choosing between the eventual selectee (Brant Luther) and Nichols.

By The Report's calculation, advantage Luther by virtue of having worked for Creighton when she was Stark County auditor and having succeeded her in office.

And the SCPR's take is that Creighton is every bit the equal of Bernabei if not moreso in factoring into the ultimate decisions made by the commissioners as a body.

If there was an irreconcilable difference between her and Bernabei, one has to believe that fellow Republican Commissioner Richard Regula is going to side with Creighton both in the politics of things and as a matter of personal affinity.  On the latter factor, these two have known each other for years and years and have, undoubtedly, worked with one another on various matters over those years.

Getting back to the Nichols hire, it appears to yours truly that finding a way to bring him on board has been under consideration since he interviewed for the Hanke-vacated position.

There are a number of curiosities surrounding the Nichols hire.

Luther says that he is hiring in at 12% less than what he makes as Revenue Assurance Director (LINK for general definition) since May, 2002 at First Communications which by the SCPR calculation would be about $78,000.

Hmm?

Why would anybody take a 12% cut for a county job?

Did the commissioners explore this line of questioning and the potential bearing those reasons might have is doing the job for which he was hired?

Another thing.

The political aspect of the hiring.

Because he had a long, long history of intense political involvement with the Stark County Republican Party (as an office holder [Alliance councilman and Stark County auditor] and as Republican Auditor Janet Creighton's employee and Republican Probate Judge Dixie Park's employee), the commissioners in hiring Luther got a commitment from Luther that he would cut all activist ties with Stark Republicans.

Chris Nichols, too, has political aspirations as a Republican.

In a story appearing in The Repository in 2010, Nichols talks about his lifelong ambition to one day be United States Senator Chris Nichols.

Luther tells The Report that Nichols agrees to be constrained in his political party activism on the same standards as Luther himself while a commissioner employee.

The SCPR's thinking is that for his employer to have implemented his hiring as the three commissioners did is not exactly the best circumstances under which for Nichols to be hired and that so doing they have undermined their own credibility on the ongoing issue of public trust in how they conduct the county's business.

Another moral of this story is that one never knows on cranking the Stark County commissioners' Jack-In-The-Box what is liable to pop out!

After the meeting, the SCPR brought the matter up to the commissioners.

Here is the video.



Wednesday, June 19, 2013

INTERNET CAFES GOOD FOR STARK COUNTY? NOT IF YOU ASK CANTON WARD 8 COUNCILMAN EDMOND MACK



UPDATED/REVISED:  10:58 AM

Editor's note:

Gonzalez has pointed out to the SCPR that townships are not part of the revenues that are dispersed to local governments throughout Ohio.

Some counties, cities and Ohio's schools are.

Gonzalez also looks takes a perspective different from that of The Report.  He sees the discussion solely about whether or not townships will loose money.

The Report extrapolated from the issue articulated upon in the Rink report and conjectured as to whether or not he, Giavasis as compared to DeWine and Mack favored or disfavored Internet cafes.

Gonzalez does not say one way or the other if he favors or disfavors Internet cafes.

The same appears to the SCPR to apply to Giavasis.

Gonzalez says he have never talked to Giavasis about the matter.  The SCPR in using the expression "Gonzalez joined with Giavasis" was not meant to imply that the two had had a discussion.  "Joined" as in the SCPR's take of their sharing a perspective.  Language in the original blog changed to make it clear that The Report's take is a matter of opinion.

UPDATE:  09:13 AM - RESPONSE TO BLOG FROM PLAIN TOWNSHIP TRUSTEE LOUIS GIAVASIS:

Martin,

At the time Plain Township went through the process to add zoning regulations for this internet sweepstakes they were not illegal at the time we did this. These business's were opening everywhere and the state did not regulate them so we went through what I believe was the proper process to try do it ourselves. We added language to our zoning text that outlined where they would be allowed to open and not in residential zoned area's, we wanted to make sure they met safety guidelines for buildings they opened in, we submitted that language to the Stark County Regional Planning Commission, public hearings were held, our zoning commission held a hearing and so did our board of trustees. The language was approved by all three board members not just myself.  

Now as the article you mention I state in it " I think we all were surprised at the amount of revenue they generated", and yes they amount was substantial but in no manner do I condone any illegal activity or some of the other things that you mention at times happens in some of these establishments such a tax evasion and some of the other things. The reason for our regulations was to try to curtail illegal activity by making the owner's and operators register with us, license with us, and follow the all county occupancy building codes fire safety codes. The other purpose was so we could provide this information to law enforcement.  We were doing something the State Could not or would not attempt to do, regulate them and that is what I believe the legitimate owners in this industry in Ohio was asking for, regulate us, tax us, force the illegitimate operations out of business, not all of us. Now I am sure no illegal activity happens in or around Ohio four casinos's as the honorable councilman from Canton states, I think those major casino's foster other elements he mentions such as prostitution, drugs and other criminal activities. 

As that articles also mentioned the State of Ohio could not get these owners to register and provide information about the number of machines among other things, our zoning department did. The hypocritical things is that Canton City benefits financially directly from Ohio's 4 casino's as non of the Townships in Stark County get a dime from their legalization in Ohio as the revenues that come back to the local level are only shared with the Stark County General Fund and Canton I believe?  I did not read anywhere that Mr. Mack is willing or wants to introduce an Ordinance to refuse those dollars from Ohio's 4 casinos because of the criminal element. I those 4 casino's in Ohio will not create very criminal activities mentions since Ohio says they are legal to operate and Canton benefits from. The bottom line is evident and does not change the fact the Ohio Gaming Lobby successfully lobbied to get skill games parlors eliminated and while doing it the leadership in the Ohio Legislature told everyone member to return any campaign contributions they may have received from the skill game industry or business owner, but only before passing a law to eliminate them? 

The bottom line is Plain and other townships will continue to take cuts in revenues in multiple area's and will comply with whatever the State of Ohio law says, Canton will continue to profit largely from this so called legal gambling industry and everything that comes with it while no other subdivision in the county gets a nickle. It's laughable, and Hypocrisy is what it is called Martin.

Lou Giavasis

ORIGINAL BLOG

A number of Stark County government officials do not share the the view of Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine and Canton Councilman Edmond Mack that Internet cafes are not good for Ohio's localities.

According to Matt Rink of The Repository (Communities could lose funds if Internet cafes close, June 16, 2013), Stark County has a number of public officials, desperate for monies to fund their local governments, who do not share the DeWine/Mack viewpoint.

However, unless some kind of legal action prevents the enrolled Ohio House Bill 7 (HB 7) from becoming effective on September 4th (LINK), it appears that the end is near for the cafes in Stark County and, of course, all of Ohio.

The Stark County delegation split 50/50 on passage of the bill.

Republicans Scott Oelslager (Plain Township) and Christina Hagan (Marlboro Township) both voted for passage.  However, Republican Kirk Schuring (Jackson Township) voted against passage and thereby joined Canton Democrat Steve Slesnick in opposition.

The overall vote by the House (66 for, 29 against [LINK] and the Senate (27 for, 6 against [LINK]) was not close.

The likes of Schuring and Slesnick argued for tight regulation whereas most of the legislators constituting the majorities took a more moralistic and evangelistic approach (Christina Hagan but not likely the motivation of Schuring and Slesnick) in wanting to make it next to impossible for the cafes to operate profitably.

DeWine and Mack, in the view of the SCPR, took the appropriate tack.

For them it appears that law enforcement problems they associate with Internet cafes were persuasive that HB 7 should become the law of Ohio.  In fact, DeWine was very helpful to those opposed to the cafes' spread in terms of providing them with non-religious based support in their opposition.

The Ohio Legislative Service Commission (LSC) analyzed the bill thusly: (click on graphic to enlarge it)


Rink reported that Plain Township (to the seeming delight of Democratic Trustee Louis Giavasis) had revenue of $135,000 from licenses issued in December, 2012 and January, 2013.

Jackson Township fiscal officer and Stark Democratic Party chairman Randy Gonzalez appears to the SCPR to have joined Giavasis in the Rink piece as being in favor of the cafes for the revenues the produce to township operations.

The only other Stark County local government entity that realized meaningful revenue was Perry Township.

The SCPR thinks the neither understands the mentality that abounds in Columbus these days with the Republican religious right (exemplified in Stark by Christina Hagan) pretty much being in charge of Ohio's legislature.

Gonzalez, in particular, the SCPR thinks, is way off the mark in his posing that the passage of HB 7 was some sort of plan to deny a source of funding for local governments.

Duh.  Doesn't a major share of state revenues from the recently authorized casinos go to local governments?  [LINK]

Giavasis is much more credible in suggesting that perhaps Ohio's casinos were a significant factor in tapping into the inclination of religiously motivated legislators to place barriers to the spread of already profligate state sponsored/enabled gambling in Ohio.

Implicit in Giavasis' point is the hypocrisy among state legislators (including some of the religious right) in giving the go ahead for certain forms of gambling which serve as a "cash cow" for the coffers of state government.

But then he loses it in saying:  “Again, Columbus is giving a knuckle sandwich to the mouth of local government.”

Apparently, he had talked to Gonzalez.

The Internet cafe industry is poised to try to get Ohio's voters to overturn the work of the Ohio General Assembly.

For them to succeed, they will have to wage a successful "urban" versus "rural" political war.

The SCPR doubts that the pro-cafes can win that battle.

For there is another side to this story that is not bound up in taxing sin (notwithstanding Gonzalez's claim in Rink's writing:
Gonzalez said the Jackson’s ordinance “wasn’t really a money grab,” but rather an attempt at regulation done through its zoning department.
Gambling costs taxpayers, pure and simple!

Not only the gamblers and their families, but communities which have gambling establishments in their midst.

Canton Councilman Edmond Mack (a leader on Canton City Council in gaining passage of a moratorium on new permits to operate within Canton, pre-effectiveness of HB 7) in response to the Rink piece articulated compelling (non-religious) arguments why the passage of HB 7 is good for Ohio and derivatively for Stark County, to wit:
Mr. Olson,

I did read the [Rink] article with great interest.  My reaction is as follows:

There can be no doubt that the Ohio General Assembly placed a huge financial burden on municipalities by substantially eliminating our local government funds.  For this reason, I respect the views articulated in the article.  However, from the City of Canton’s perspective, just because municipalities are searching for new revenue sources does not mean we should embrace questionable and illegal industries within our jurisdictional borders.

With respect to internet sweepstakes cafés, I agree with Attorney General DeWine when he remarked: "The real purpose of these sweepstakes is not to promote the sale of a product; rather it is to get people to play the electronic machines. These operators answer to no one and often rip-off their customers.”  DeWine, M., Ohio Atty. Gen., Gambling in Ohio: A Guide to What is Legal, What is Not, and What Needs to be Fixed, [LINK substituted by SCPR for Mack's long form cite]. 
Keith Whyte, executive director of the National Council on Problem Gambling, continued:

“What we’ve seen a lot with these Internet sweepstakes cafes is it’s a way to get around gambling laws.   The only reason people are going to these facilities and spending so much time and money is because it’s gambling. If it wasn’t gambling, it wouldn’t be popular.”  [LINK substituted by SCPR for Mack's long form cite].

However, the potential for illegal gambling is only part of the problem.  In addition to tax evasion and other financial illegalities documented by the article, with internet café arcades comes a marked increase in incidental violent crime.  As examined by The New York Times, skill game and internet café arcades are considered “magnets for crime because they usually have large sums of cash on hand.”   [LINK substituted by the SCPR for Mack's long form cite]  This results in a significant burden on our already strained police and prosecutorial services.  This is likely the reason why Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty issued a statement in support of the Ohio General Assembly’s efforts to end this illegal industry [to wit:] (click on graphic to enlarge it)
For the City of Canton, the Ohio General Assembly did the right thing by eliminating this illegal industry with the passage of HB 7.  I will not criticize this effort due to the fact that Canton can no longer tax this parasitic industry.  Canton would probably stand to financially benefit if we could tax illegal drug use or prostitution.  That does not mean that we should seek to have these indisputably destructive industries de-criminalized.  As with illegal internet sweepstakes cafés, from my perspective, the cost to Canton simply outweighs the benefit.

Edmond
Could it be that if Internet cafes were to become prolific enough in Plain, Jackson and Perry and turned out to be the source of a huge law enforcement problem, then, perhaps, maybe Giavasis and Gonzalez would not be so supportive of their spread?

Has their judgment of what is good for their respective communities been clouded by their incomplete take on the money issues?

Gaining revenues is one thing.

But ignoring the likely costs and potential attendant law enforcement problems is quite another, no?

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

(VIDEOS) CANTON MAYOR HEALY & GROUP 175 VASSAR PARK RESIDENT BRUCE NORDMAN "DUKE IT OUT" AFTER LAST NIGHT'S CITY COUNCIL MEETING



VIDEOS

HEALY/NORDMAN FACE OFF 03/25/2013

NORDMAN BLASTS MAYOR 06/17/2013

HEALY/NORDMAN BARE KNUCKLE BRAWL
06/17/2013

Updated at 03:45 PM.

Since March of this year, Bruce Nordman, a resident of Councilman Frank Morris, III's Ward 9, (an area of Canton known as Vassar Park), has been pressing the city to bring the Canton Police Department (CPD) up to 175 officers.

Here is a video of a March 25 exchange between Nordman and Healy.



And here is a LINK to a SCPR blog of April 1, 2013 which provides much of the background to the "bare knuckle brawl" (figuratively speaking, of course) which erupted between Nordman and the mayor after Canton City Council meeting last night.

One supplement to the information contained in that link, though.

Whereas at the time Nordman was claiming the beef-up could cost Canton some $825,000 in March; it turns out (and Nordman uses the higher number in current presentations) is really about $1.3 million.

The heart of the fight between Nordman and Healy has always been about whether or not Canton has the money to get up to the Nordman "demanded" 175 Canton Police Officers.

Nordman's main argument has been that the mayor seems to find money for his pet projects, he can't seem to come up with the dollars needed to bring up the CPD.

Mayor Healy counters with "everything but the kitchen sink" (in classic Healy fashion) in rebutting Nordman.

As readers of the SCPR know, yours truly has been particularly hard on Healy because The Report believes (a la former president Bill Clinton) that one never gets the best of Hizzhonor as long as he gets air to breathe and his vocal cords vibrate.

Remember Clinton's "Well, that depends on what is is?" caper in his deposition in the Monica Lewinsky case.  And there were others before that.  But Clinton slipped out of each and every one of them to become what?  Yes, "the comeback kid."

The SCPR's take on Healy is that he is every bit as accomplished as the former president as slipping the noose before it strikes it fatal blow. The only seeming difference is the level of government involved.

If he can make his frantic political ambition work for him, Healy may yet achieve a very high level in American political/government circles.

We all need to remember that Clinton was once counted among "the political dead, " only to wiggle out of his self-inflicted bind to move on to bigger and better things.

The Report thinks - in terms of political eeliness - Healy has Clinton-esque talent.

Nobody should underestimate William J. Healy, II.

Stark County has never seen the likes of this consummate political being.

So such is what Nordman is up against.

The SCPR has a lot of admiration for Nordman and his civic activism.  But The Report believes that he and his Group 175 is no match for the mayor.

Last night Nordman appeared at council on what seems to have been triggered by Parks and Recreation Director Derek Gordon's request to Group 175, through Nordman, that Group 175 come out in support of November's Parks and Recreation levy.

Here is Nordman's response given during the Public Speaks portion of the council meeting.



Looking at Healy during Nordman's presentation, one could easily see that Healy was "pi_ _ ed."

Some of the best Canton City Council meetings have not be the meetings themselves, but rather the fireworks that sometimes take place after the meetings.

On December 21, 2009 council president Alan Schulman got into it with Mayor Healy (post-council-meeting) (LINK) over Healy's insistence on retaining Adam Herman as his communications director.

While Herman eventually did leave Canton's employ, it does appear that Healy has mollified Schulman who pretty much anymore support Administration positions on various controversies between council and the mayor.

Last night was somewhat an exception in that Schulman (in a tie-breaker role) voted with the anti-administration position (i.e. no retroactive pay) as to whether or not currently enrolled police cadets will be paid retroactively to January 1, 2013 at the increased pay rate (from $26,000 per annum to $31,000) for cadets.

Moreover, last night was a classic post-council-meeting confrontation between the mayor and Nordman.

The Report was busy videotaping Ward 8 Councilman Edmond Mack and Councilwoman-at-Large Mary Cirelli (on their having voted "no" in support of a resolution of councilmanic support of the upcoming November vote on Canton's Parks and Recreation levy), when, during the Cirelli interview, a citizen tapped yours truly on the arm to alert that something noteworthy was going on elsewhere.

It took a nanosecond to figure out that Healy and Nordman were involved in a seeming "bare knuckle brawl" near the lectern position in council chambers.

So the SCPR hustled over to the site to catch the action.

What follows below is most of the face off.

Yours truly was a little late in arriving to catch the actual beginning and as the 9:30 p.m. hour arrived (council meeting probably ended about 8:30 p.m.) the SCPR video camera ran out of recording space.

This video runs 45 minutes.



While the SCPR normally does not put this much video up in a blog, for those of readers who take it in will get a direct and frank view of Healy at his oily finest.

In the end, the SCPR expects Healy to pull his political magic and talk Group 175 into supporting the Parks and Recreation levy.

While Nordman may think he has a commitment from Healy to bring the CPD up to 175 within the next year or so, the SCPR thinks that the only think Mayor William J. Healy, II is truly committed to is his own political aggrandizement.

The Report will not be surprised to learn in coming weeks that Nordman et al have succumbed to Healy's mesmerizing political charms.

We shall see!

Monday, June 17, 2013

REPUBLICAN GOVERNOR JOHN KASICH HANDS STARK DEMS A COMMON PLEAS COURT SEAT "ON A SILVER PLATTER?



Why is Stark County Chief Assistant Prosecutor Chryssa Hartnett's photograph gracing a "silver platter?"

THE SHORT ANSWER

Last Thursday Republican Governor John Kasich appointed Stark County Republican J. Curtis Werren to replace retiring judge V. Lee Sinclair (Stark County Court of Common Pleas).

Of the candidates he had before him recommended by the Stark County Republican Party Executive Committee for appointment, in an overall sense; Werren is least likely to be able to retain the seat should Hartnett decide to challenge in November, 2014.

A MORE DETAILED ANSWER

While she is not listed on the Stark County voter registration records as having a party identification, presumably Hartnett considers herself a Democrat inasmuch as she works for Prosecutor John Ferrero (who is a former Stark County Democratic Party chairman).

She did ask Stark Republicans to send her name down to Columbus as one of the Party's recommended group of three for Governor Kasich to consider in selecting a replacement for retiring Stark County Court of Common Pleas judge Charles Brown, Jr. (a Republican) who retired not all that much prior to Sinclair's announcement.

But, predictably, she did not get the support of the Stark GOP Executive Committee.

Keeping her company on the "not receiving a recommendation" list were avowed Republicans Jean A. Madden and Werren.

Getting the recommendation were:
  • Kristin Farmer (Bair) (Judge Sinclair's magistrate),
  • Lori Flowers (Judge Brown's magistrate), and
  • Republican Canton Municipal Court judge Stephen F. Belden. 
    • Note:  Belden withdrew his name from consideration in replacing Sinclair because - in his own words - his Brown replacement interview with the Kasich folks did not go well in terms of his explanation of a 2009 courtroom incident of having the mouth of a defendant taped shut.
The Sinclair move provided yet another opportunity for Hartnett, Flowers, Belden, and Madden to become recommended to the governor for selection to replace him.

Interestingly enough, Hartnett did not apply whereas Werren, Flowers and Madden did along with Belden.  However, Belden withdrew (see note above).

Hmm?

Why didn't Hartnett apply to replace Sinclair?

Likely because she got the message that there is no way the Republicans were going to send her name on to the governor.

Had they sent her name to the Guv, if he cared about the relative merits of the candidates (who were likely going to be Werren and Flowers in addition to Hartnett); Kasich was going to have an awfully hard time not appointing Hartnett.

She has a stellar record as a prosecutor being earned in cases such as the Bobby Cutts murder case and the Vince Frustaci (former chief deputy Stark County treasurer) theft-in-office case.

And, if the presence of her name on the recommended list was a political threat to Farmer (Bair) and Flowers; she is an all-the-more a vastly superior candidate over J. Curtis Werren, the eventual Kasich "replace Sinclair" pick.

While Madden was on the "replace Sinclair recommendation list" along with Werren and Flowers, it is hard to believe that a Republican governor would pick a person with some 20 years in the public defender's office as Sinclair's replacement.

Madden's obvious identity as a public defender with the down-and-out is hardly a trump card with a political party which likely lost the 2012 presidential election because of its inability to identify with minorities.

Especially that part of the minority community (African American/Hispanic) which the public seems to perceive as being held to account in the criminal justice system more than any other segment of American society.

Also, Madden had lost to Democrat Frank Forchione in 2008 by a pretty substantial number.


Interestingly enough,  SCPR is told that Madden is thought by many in the Stark County bar to be eminently more qualified than Werren.

Some leading Stark County Republican attorneys sent letters to Kasich say so.

However, she lacks the classic Republican pedigree that Werren possesses.

Since Werren became chief executive officer of the Stark County office of the American Red Cross (ARC) in 2010, he appears to have pretty much vanished from the practice of law.  He is still listed on the Day Ketterer law firm website as being "of Counsel."

He did tell The Alliance Review that being CEO at the ARC (a favorite charity of the poobah-class) taught him how to raise money.

Like raising money for disaster relief is akin to raising money for a political campaign.  Really?  Wow!

No doubt that Stark County's patricians will open their wallets to him.

When Werren was practicing law full-time, The Report is told that it was in "civil law;" not criminal law.

What does the public care most about?

Maybe public safety issues in terms of knowing how to deal with the criminal element?  Think maybe?

Of course, the strong suit to present to the public as a candidate in terms of criminal justice involvement is what?

You've got it.

Having been a highly effective prosecutor a la Chryssa Hartnett.

Between now and November, 2014 there undoubtedly will be other high profile cases that come along that she stands to take on a leading role in.

Wouldn't it be irony on top of irony if such a case surfaced and was assigned to appointed-Judge J. Curtis Werren with Hartnett being the leading candidate and both had filed to run for the remaining unexpired term of Judge Sinclair?

Such would icing on the cake for Hartnett.

For Werren, he desperately needs the notoriety of being front and center in area media in an public attention-getting high profile case.

If it happens, it will be clear proof that the political gods are favoring him inasmuch as Stark County Common Pleas Court cases are assigned at random.

You can be sure that if there is to be a Hartnett/Werren face off in November, 2014; all high profile Stark County prosecutor cases will be Hartnett's for the asking.

While Flowers promised in the Brown replacement political sweepstakes that she would be a "loyal Republican," there is no way that she could match up with the Werren name in Stark County Republican circles.

It is obvious to the SCPR that J. Curtis is not much of a politician.

He was Janet Creighton's campaign chairman in her losing effort to be re-elected as mayor of Canton against current mayor and Democrat William J. Healy, II.

It is hard to believe that Janet relied very much on Werren, but maybe she did and perhaps that was her "really big" mistake in the Healy face-off.

Running against a Democrat in the 2000s within the confines of Canton is a tough, tough order for a Republican.

Creighton narrowly defeated former Councilman at Large Bill Smuckler (a colorless Democrat) in 2003.

While the SCPR thinks William J. Healy, II has been an ineffective and deficient mayor of Canton, he is an accomplished politician.

Accordingly, she and her political advisers should have been forewarned that defeating Healy was going to take all the political talent that the Republicans could muster if she was going to win in 2007.

And J. Curtis Werren had no track record of having political talent or savvy.

In 2003 he ran a relatively close race to be the third person chosen in a "one of three to be elected" council at large race.

For sure, in a lopsided registered Democrats over Republicans political venue (Canton), the Democrats were going to run three candidates.

A politically astute Republican should have thought:  "Gee, if the Democrats are going to get a lot more voters to the polls, wouldn't it be smart for the Republicans to run just one candidate?"

But no.

The geniuses at Stark GOP Headquarters (apparently, including Werren) decided to run three candidates.

This is the brilliant strategy that resulted all three Republicans being losers.


The highest Democrat was 9,057 (Bernabei) and the lowest was at 7,625 (Mary Babcock).  (The combined Democrat candidates got 25,033 of the total 40,143 votes cast and counted)

The number of voters voting for the three Republican candidates?

Answer:  15,110.

Which means that three Republicans splitting the vote makes it highly, highly unlikely that any of the three Republicans will win even one of the three slots.

Hmm?

So if the Republicans run only Werren, does he win?

Highly, highly likely, no?

The botch job in the 2003 council at large elections suggests that Werren needs a lot more political acumen than he appears to have inasmuch he was a key part of the election strategy debacle.

Undoubtedly, Janet Creighton (a Republican Stark County commissioner) will be solidly behind him in his 2014 effort to retain the newly appointed judgeship.

But she was behind A.R. "Chip" Conde in 2011 when he ran against Healy.

The only qualifier on the comparison is that Conde ran only in Canton whereas Werren will be running countywide.

And there is no other public official that one should want in one's corner countywide than Janet Creighton.

The Report believes that she is the best vote getter in all of Stark County.

However, unless he initiates a Stark County Probate Court name change, Werren is not going to be able to run as J. Curtis Werren-Creighton.

If he were, that might be enough to pull it off.

In getting the Kasich nod, it is obvious that when a Farmer is not in the picture, Werren is the Republican name of note in the governor's mansion.

Undoubtedly, the Timken family was squarely in his corner in lobbying the governor to appoint him once Kristin Farmer (Bair) (a scion of another prominent Stark County Republican family) already had her judgeship.

Werren's law firm (Day Ketterer) represents The Timken Company.  And J. Curtis Werren's father (John) has been with Day Ketterer since 1966.

While John has never run for office himself, the SCPR is told by one who is aware of his political ties and clout that John Werren is about as Republican as one can get.

Even Lori Flowers with her attesting, in local media articles, to being a zealous Republican is not going to be able to top the Werren family Republican political clout.

The only way that Madden (currently magistrate for Alliance Municipal Court judge Bob Lavery [likely Stark County's most liberal elected Republican, according to one SCPR contact) to become a judge as a Republican is to run again against the, perhaps, politically troubled Frank Forchione.

The SCPR believes that if she chooses to run again against Forchione it might well be lot more competitive given all the adverse publicity he has been receiving at the hand of local attorney and civic activist Craig T. Conley.  (See SCPR LINK1 and LINK2).

Madden is quite a contrast to Werren in Republican politics.

One Stark County local Republican political observer told the SCPR:

Just look at Werren's picture as posted in the local media.

His image presents the personification of a poster child stereotypical Republican.  

White, clean-cut-looking, privileged and being propped up by prominent father and the local Republican Party political establishment with tons of money available to put in his campaign.

All the foregoing recited political negatives on Werren indicates to the SCPR that Governor Kasich may well have served up a "silver platter" opportunity to Chryssa Hartnett to take Werren on and replace him as judge.

It is axiomatic among politicians that the time to run against an incumbent appointed office holder is the first time on the election ballot.

Next November is that time for Harnett?

The Report is hearing that she recently attended a judicial conference.

Could it be that she is preparing to run in 2014 and is adding judicial attributes to her resume?

If so, would it be against Farmer (Bair) or J. Curtis Werren?

A note of interest on the choice.

If she wants a pretty clear path to election, the obvious choice is Werren.

However, the SCPR notes that a member of the Day Ketterer law firm is none other than Chryssa's husband Thomas Hartnett.

Hmm?

Things could get a little bit testy within the hallowed halls (to some) at Day Ketterer were she to run against Werren, no?

But, remember, she did vie with him in trying to get on the Stark GOP recommended list to replace Brown.

While Werren likely will have a fund raising advantage given his access Stark County's wealthy; Hartnett certainly will be able to raise enough money so that she can be competitive.

And, as pointed out above, how about all that "free ink" she will get from prosecuting "all" the high profile cases that surface between now and November, 2014?

Now that she has a Kasich generated "silver platter" electoral opportunity, how can she possibly turn it aside?

Friday, June 14, 2013

VIDEO (PARKS & REC BD BYLAW CHANGE APPROVAL) NOW WE KNOW THE REASON WHY KEITH MOSER IS NO LONGER POLICE CHIEF IN MASSILLON?



UPDATED:  09:30 AM TO INCLUDE VIDEO OF BOARD APPROVAL OF BYLAW CHANGES

The Stark County Political Report is being told that the reason that short term Massillon Chief of Police Keith Moser was let go suddenly on June 4, 2013 and replaced by Bill Peel was that the Catazaro-Perry administration did not agree with his internal discipline of two Massillon police officers.

Look at what Massillon's top officials were saying about Moser on June 7, 2012 (the date he was selected to be police chief):

“We’re very excited for him. We believe that he is going to do a super job.”   (Mayor Kathy Catazaro-Perry)

“This is a great opportunity for the Massillon Police Department to bring about some effective change.   I’ve worked with him over the last five months and he seems to be very anxious to address some issues ... I think he’s going to do a great job.” (The-then safety director George T. Maier)

But that was then.

On June 4, 2013:   “He’s still a valued member of our force, but did not successfully complete the one-year probationary period."  (Mayor Catazaro-Perry)

The Report is told that the administration accolades ceased and Moser was put on the block for firing when it became apparent to administration officials that Moser was going to be his own man and not take to administration micromanaging.

Since Catazaro-Perry took office on January 1, 2012 a number of terms have surfaced as descriptors of her management style.

The first was that she is not transparent as she promised she would be as mayor and that therefore she could not be trusted to keep her word made in the context of governing Massillon.

Now this.

It is said that a pattern is emerging that she is a micromanager who will not let her department heads make their own calls on matters that the mayor and her handlers (Clerk of Courts Johnnie A. Maier, Jr and his chief deputy Shane Jackson) deem important.

The Report is being told that promotions/demotions and the like are such that folks in the Massillon Police Department (MPD) do not know whether or not they are coming or going these days.  And, the parade of chiefs during the Catazaro-Perry administration (four in number, now) constitute evidence that life in the MPD is topsy-turvy these days.

"Unsettled" might be a good word to use in describing nearly all aspects of Massillon city government these days.

Councilman-at-Large Paul Manson complained at last Monday's work session about the number of "interim" department heads staffing Massillon administration these days.

It appears that the mayor herself is unsure of what step to take next and consequently the path from her office to the Clerk of Courts office is taking on a well-worn path these days.

Last night the SCPR went to the regular monthly meeting of the Massillon Parks and Recreation Board (Board).

What of note appeared to be going on?

The Catazaro-Perry administration ("interim" Safety Director Jim Johnson) trying to convince the five member board what criteria the Board should use in determining whether or not a person qualifies to be a Board member.

Here is the video of the exchange that went between Board members among themselves and between them and Johnson:



As seen on the video, the Board by a 3 (Del Rio-Keller, Rickett and Hicks) to 2 (Wolfe and Bryant) voted to disqualify from future Board composition anyone who has a  financial connection with either Massillon city government or the Massillon Board of Education.

However, any non-qualifying present Board member is "grandfathered in."

Apparently, according to a SCPR source, one of the members who would not be eligible under the new criteria for continued membership when her current term expires would be member Esther Bryant.

Bryant is director of the nonprofit agency Lighthouse Visions which is said to receive Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) from the city of Massillon.

A person familiar with the voting patterns of Board members says that Bryant is a dependable administration position supporter on votes that come up with the body.

Member Wolfe, who only recently was appointed to the Board, is said to be a close friend of Johnnie A. Maier, Jr. and therefore can be depended upon to be an administration supporter for whatever position the administration takes on key issues.

An interesting change that seems to have taken place is the transition of Board member (the president) Michelle Del Rio-Keller (who likely will take an at-large Massillon City Council position on January 1, 2014) from being an administration support into being her own person.

Accordingly, she was, of course, the key last night for making the change in Parks and Recreation Board bylaws last evening.

Any one familiar with the goings on between the Catazaro-Perry administration and the Board know that there is a tussle underway as to who is going to have authority to appoint a new Parks and Recreation Department director.

It appears to the SCPR that Massillon City Council is likely to decide the question in favor of the Board.

Well, if that happens, then the administration's apparent pattern of micromanaging in the bowels of Massillon city government will suffer a telling blow.

And, if that happens and the new director can maintain the support of the Board, then the question becomes:

"Will the Parks and Recreation Department become the envy of all of Massillon government?"

"Free at last, thank God Almighty, free at last" from the Catazaro-Perry administration micro-managing?"