Monday, January 6, 2014


Yesterday, likely owing to what the SCPR thinks is an incestuous-esque tie-in with The Canton Repository (former executive editor David Kaminski is the Canton Regional Chamber of Commerce [Chamber] public relations main man), the Chamber's chief executive (along with several member entities' executives) got front and center entree to the pages of Stark County's only countywide newspaper to state their case for Stark County economic development.

Very few Stark Countians ever get such an opportunity.

While The Rep is not what it used to be, other than the Stark County Political Report (staffed by one person), it is a main pathway for local leaders to communicate with the Stark County public.

And, of course, in the four-author-shared-piece (Future of  Route 30 is vital to Stark County; Saunier/CEO/Chamber, Paquette/CEO/Stark Development Board Nash/CEO/Kenan and Sibila/Peoples Services), in Sunday's Repository, they only told part of the story on why Stark County is in jeopardy of falling further behind the rest of northeast Ohio's communities in the race to recover from the September, 2008 America "near" economic collapse and to use the recovery modality to bootstrap into realizing not only recovery but beyond that into an economic boon the which Stark County has not seen in a very long, long, long time.

The SCPR thinks that Saunier, Paquettee, Nash and Sibila are "spot-on" in pushing a project like Route U.S. 30 widening all the way to Pittsburgh as being one of a number of vital economic development cogs  to be realized in the quest for Stark County to have any chance whatsoever for a bright economic development future.

But nobody should think for a nanosecond that Stark's economic development future is keyed in so narrowly on Route 30 (as a corridor to the east) or even the expansion of Interstate 77 (as an enhanced commercial-way to the south).

There is much more that needs to be done with Stark's infrastructure on a number of fronts in order for Stark Countians to feel confident that Stark's public officials are on a track to ensure that future generations of Stark Countians will have a better economic development footprint than the county now has.

The SCPR understands that the focus of the column was on U.S. Route 30 and Interstate 77 because the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) recently issued an analysis of the transportation needs/plans? in a report named AccessOhio2040.

The Stark County Political Report today focuses on why Stark County is in the condition it is in (i.e. little if any local funding sources)  - so that it is laughable that ODOT's Jerry Wray (The Rep's companion piece, Local leaders rally against ODOT planning map) is reported as saying, to wit:
In a meeting at Stark State on Nov. 25, Wray told business leaders that if local governments and companies could provide much of the money that would improve the chances of extending Route 30.
Usually for high capital improvement projects money made available by the state or federal government, the local match ranges from 10% to 50%. 

For ODOT's Wray to say "much of the money" needs to come from local sources is like saying forget it Stark County in getting any financial help from the state of Ohio "you are on your own!"

To which the SCPR adds:

"Stark Countians, haven't you gotten the clear message that has come from the Kasich administration and the Ohio General Assembly since January, 2011?"

Less money; not more money is the central message insofar as the state of Ohio is concerned vis-a-vis its political subdivisions.

And even before the Kasich administration went draconian in 2011 and 2012, in one way or another Republican members of the Stark County delegation to the Ohio General Assembly (John Hagan and Todd Snitchler along with continuing-to-this-day Republican delegation members Scott Oelslager [the 29th Senate district] and Kirk Schuring [the 48th House district; formerly the 51st]) have worked with the Republican majority (except for two years that the Ohio House was controlled by the Democrats during the Strickland administration) to undermine local government finances and began the process that culminated with the gigantic Kasich administration sabotaging of local government funding '11 and '12.

So Director Wray "there ain't no 'much of the money'" for Stark local government to ante up.  And who believes that private companies will be forking any out anytime soon?

That Chamber is agitating for better treatment from ODOT is an implicit plea for more government money to be applied to Stark's vital commercial arteries to the east and south.

Being the political hypocrite he is, Kirk Schuring is quoted in the same Repository article, to wit:

Undoubtedly, the likes of Saunier, Paquette, Nash and Sibila ("the four") think that Republicans  Christina Hagan (of Marlboro Township) , Oelslager (of Plain Township) and Schuring (of Jackson Township) are terrific representatives.

"The four" are likely prone to be the first to glad-hand this legislative trio when they appear in Stark County.  And, of course, The Repository editors - "election in, election out" - endorse the three as being the best that Stark County can send to Columbus.

While it is all well and good for "the four" to try to rally everyday citizens to their cause in commenting on the ODOT plan (as the SCPR advocates that Stark Countians should make their collective voices heard); it is regrettably clear to The Report that the effort will prove futile.

For Stark County - due in large part to the work done over recent years by the likes of the Hagans, Snitchler, Oelslager and Schuring - has no meaningful local money to provide "much of the money."

To be sure, it is not only the Stark's Republicans at the Statehouse who have been factors in depleting Stark's local government funding.

Stark Countians should be placing part of the blame on the 2008 Stark County Board of Commissioners (Bosley and Harmon [Democrats], and Vignos [a Republican]) for "imposing a 0.50 sales tax).

The SCPR thinks that this triad set Stark County finances back more than anybody realizes in terms of undermining the public's confidence that the commissioners' are interested in hearing from Mr. and Ms. Citizen as to whether or not they think the county should have more money.

While the current Stark County Board of Commissioners:
  • Thomas Bernabei [a Democrat], 
  • Janet Creighton [a Republican], and 
  • Richard Regula [a Republican] have done much to restore the public's confidence that the commissioners seek out and listen to them, the fact of the matter is that they:
    • SCPR Note:  [Peter Ferguson - a Democrat - was commissioner before Regula when the decision was made],
had to go "bare bones" in asking for a 0.5% sales tax increase for eight years (which Stark Countians passed in November, 2011) because:
  • of the damage that the Bosley, Harmon and Vignos board had done, and 
and because
  • the damage done when nearly $3 million was stolen from the county treasury probably over a 5 to 6 year (thought to be 2003/2004 through March, 2009) span by former chief deputy treasurer Vince Frustaci,
the SCPR thought and said at the time (early 2011, when the levy increase was put together) that the commissioners should have put a full 1% request on the ballot.

It is understandable that the commissioners felt hamstrung and limited in what they could ask for.

Just a word on the loss of the nearly $3 million.

The damage done to the commissioners' ability to ask for more than a 0.5% increase, many Stark Countians believe - in reference to the Frustaci matter - was due to a public perception that the-then Democratic county treasurer Gary D. Zeigler (originally appointed by the Stark County Democratic Party Central Committee in 1999 who served until October 19, 2011) did not have in place adequate practices, policies, procedures and physical facilities to have prevented the theft.

Zeigler consistently rejected (in media reports) that he was in any way remiss in the administration of his office.

Understandable or not, the fact of the matter is that Stark County is on a very tight budget and there is "no extra money" to put into something like a local match for U.S. Route 30 expansion.

The major blame though, the SCPR thinks lies with Stark's Republican dominated delegation to the Ohio General Assembly and their unwillingness to fight the firestorm rush in the legislature the draconian cuts (millions of dollars in Stark County alone) in local government funding.

There is no doubt that Hagan, Oelslager, and Schuring have been key factors by way of  their supportive votes of the Kasich administration initiative to cut local government funding and now Stark County is "reaping what they have sown" and the financial "Chickens are - now - coming - home - to - roost."

This year Stark Countians will have Christina Hagan, Kirk Schuring and Scott Oelslager on the ballot once again seeking reelection.

If they are voted in again, then Stark Countian voters in effect ratify (double ratify in the case of Hagan and Schuring) their legislative work to undermine Stark's local governments from having the financial resources to participate in essential economic development infrastructure improvements and enhancements.

The SCRP is reasonably sure that Stark's Randy Gonzalez-led Democrats will not be able to mount and effective campaign with politically viable candidates against Hagan, Oelslager and Schuring and they, consequently, will be returned to the Statehouse for a new term.


So what is the alternative for Stark County government to have the resources to get into serious and effective economic development infrastructure projects?

Doesn't a November, 2014 vote validating Hagan, Oelslager and Schuring mean that Stark Countians should be willing to approve additional revenue sourse (e.g. bumping the sales tax up to a full 1%) to provide monies to fund economic development essentials such as pushed by "the four?"

In a videotaped conversation that the SCPR had with Commissioner Janet Creighton last Monday, she drooled over the fact that Franklin County has a $190 million "rainy day" fund.

While Stark County should have an emergency fund, it should be no more than $5 million.

What would be more visionary and enhancing of Stark County's economic development would be for the county to be able to put $15 million or so in an economic development fund annually (a full 1% sales tax levy would raise about $45 million)?

For Stark County governments to have local match capacity and monies for other types of capital projects,  the commissioners could use/revise (on the agreement of the political subdivisons) the formula currently in place among Stark County's political subdivisions (i.e. the SCOG [Stark County Council of Governments] funding mechanism:  consisting of Stark's villages, cities and townships [and the county itself]), to take the extra $22 million or so over current revenues that a full 1% would produce and distribute the revenues for the political subdivisions to use "exclusively" for economic development purposes.

Now that Hagan, Oelslager and Schuring "chickens have come home to roost," as the SCPR sees it, there is nothing else for Stark Countians to do (presumably in this fall's election having chosen to keep them in office) but to square up with the reality that it will take a local taxes revenue boost if future generations of Stark Countians are going to have a bright economic future, no?

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