FINAL UPDATE: NOON
REDUCING NUMBER OF MEETINGS
(to be posted)
MAYOR DAVID HELD
PROPOSED PARK LEVY
PROPOSED PARK LEVY
North Canton City Council - the SCPR's take - is in a swirl of controversy these days.
A list that the The Report has ginned up (not exhaustive by any means) include:
- attendance at council meetings,
- the structure of council:
- discontinuing "verbatim" transcribing of council meetings,
- reducing the number of council meetings,
- the proposed North Canton, Canton, Plain Township and Jackson Township collaboration (JEDD/CEDA) agreement, and
- a projected Parks Levy for the May, 2014 election
A North Cantonian posed the question to the SCPR - Do Marcia Kiesling and Stephanie Werren "really" want to be councilpersons on North Canton City Council (NCCC)?
What a strange observation, no?
For both were re-elected in November, 2013. Werren ran unopposed.
But on reflection, the observation may not be all that strange after all.
Maybe it was just a co-incidence, but it was interesting to the SCPR that Kiesling was not at Tuesday night's Committee of the Whole meeting.
Well, one would think she wouldn't miss a beat on attending meetings each and every time there is a meeting involving council members - in general - (under the 2013/2015 structure of NCCC all North Canton Council committees are composed of all seven council persons).
Because one of her opponents (McCleaster) in the 2013 council-at-large race made a "really, really" big deal out of statistics gathered by long time council critic Chuck Osborne in which he claims that Kiesling miss 28% of all "regular" council meeting, Kiesling says her miss rate was more like 17%.
And "God himself" only knows (only kidding Councilworman Kiesling) how many other committee and Committee of the Whole meetings she missed in the last term of council.
According to Osborne, Werren's attendance during 2011/2013 term (she was appointed to office on October 3, 2012) was 91%.
Moreover, the SCPR understands that she has struggled in "juggling the balls" of family life, other employment obligations and some times showed up late to some to some of last term's council meetings.
So the SCPR believes that the observation has some merit.
To repeat: Do Kiesling and Werren "really" want to be or have the time to be council members?
THE STRUCTURE OF NORTH CANTON CITY COUNCIL
END THE TAKING OF VERBATIM MINUTES
On Tuesday evening past as The Report walked into North Canton City Council chambers during the Committee of the Whole meeting, Stephanie Werren was speaking about the justifications for council going from its 53 year history (according to one source) of recording and then transcribing "verbatim" audio recordings of council proceedings into written form.
The transcribed records are available to anyone who wants to know "word for word" what transpired at any particular council meeting.
The Report is told that Law Director (Tim Fox) is saying that the "only" reason that North Canton transcribes its minutes is for the benefit of citizen activist Chuck Osborne.
It is common knowledge that Fox and Osborne do not get along. The Report thinks it is outrageous for Fox to try to lay his perceived need for a change at the feet of Osborne.
An apparent reason for the change that Fox is said to be (by a SCPR source) giving is his concern that requests for "electronic" requests for minutes (and, presumably, for any North Canton public records pursuant to Ohio's Public Records law) might be vulnerable to being intercepted and altered from their original form.
What a head-shaker, no?
If The Report's source is accurate, it is simply unbelievable to The Report that Fox would give such reason for changing a 53 year practice.
Another interesting factor is that the "non-verbatim" rendition is to be posted on a "cloud" storage site on the Internet.
Guess how "the only way" one gets files off an Internet storage "cloud?"
You've got it!
By electronic transmission.
What was that source assertion about Fox's concern?
Doesn't make sense, does it?
Another sub-issue to this issue that came up on Tuesday, was council's need to "approve" minutes.
The proposal was to have council approve a "paraphrase" of the minutes.
Now (sarcasm follows) that's a reliable way to ensure that council vouches for the accuracy of council meeting minutes, no?
Unbelievable, simply unbelievable.
North Cantonians should be a little more than upset with what is being bandied about on their city council these days.
Finally, Fox is showing (in the video) his "not-citizen-friendly" stance is wanting to pass the cost of reducing council minutes to print along to individual citizens wanting to be able to read the minutes at a cost of $200 per hour.
He makes no mention that council is not contemplating eliminating the position of the North Canton part-time employee who (The Report is told) makes about $26,000 a year.
Snyder is shown on the video below as saying that the employee spends 99% of her time doing transcribing. So if North Canton will no longer be transcribing, what is the need to keep the position in tact?
In short, The Report thinks that Fox is engaging in a lot of phony baloney in representing that North Canton taxpayers are subsidizing individual citizens wanting a transcript at $200 an hour.
To the SCPR Tim Fox is very unimpressive on the "transcribing issue" and - more generally - in his bearing/relationship with citizens making requests of North Canton government through his office.
Moreover, he seems to have a hold on council that the SCPR thinks is a bit too much.
He seems to have a particular problem with Citizen Osborne on the matter of Osborne (so Osborne tells the SCP$) getting his public records requests satisfied in a format (electronic) that Osborne asks for them to be in.
Sounds kind of like Fox's attitude (from Osborne's account) is "I am going to make your (Mr. Osborne) requests getting public records satisfied as difficult as possible."
In sum, the SCPR thinks he has shown as law director that seems on bent on creating barriers between North Canton government and the citizens of the city.
Here is a SCPR video of council's discussion of the topic.
THE STRUCTURE OF NORTH CITY COUNCIL
REDUCING MEETINGS TO TWO PER MONTH
This one probably goes back to Kiesling and Werren and the attendance thing.
On Tuesday night, Councilwoman Werren put the topic (going to two meetings a month) in terms of "seeing what is out there" in terms of what other councils are doing.
Well, the Werren thinking apparently goes (and maybe Kiesling), if council only meets twice a month then it becomes easier to fit into my hugely busy schedule.
And, it may be for some members.
For others, meeting weekly is no problem at all. And the SCPR's sense of the comments on Tuesday, the "no problem at all" group is by far and away the majority.
Whomever initiated this idea needs to drop it now!
Because it appears to have absolutely no chance of passage.
Councilman Foltz (see video below) talks about "how pressed" he would be to vote for any "emergency" legislation under a structure whereby a Committee of the Whole meeting immediately preceded the "regular" council meeting on the very same night. Moreover, he talked about how doubling up on the meetings would likely result in some very, very long meeting nights.
President Jon Snyder (see video below) says it has no chance. That's good enough for the Stark County Political Report.
What follows is a video in which various councilpersons talk very candidly about their concerns on the topic.
NORTH CANTON, CANTON, PLAIN TOWNSHIP & JACKSON TOWNSHIP
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT AGREEMENT
On October 30th, North Canton sent representatives to a meeting at Jackson Township Hall to "celebrate" what was touted as being a historical agreement between North Canton, Canton, Plain Township and Jackson Township whereby they agree to cooperate and collaborate in forming (as opportunities present themselves) JEDDs (Join Economic Development Districts) or CEDA (Comprehensive Economic Development Agreements) to encourage/empower/enable job creation activities in the participating communities.
While most of those present at the October 30th meeting (mostly if not exclusively government officials from the putative participating communities); not all were there to support. One of the opponents was the above-mentioned Chuck Osborne who states "the case against the agreement."
One of the foremost proponents of the agreement has been North Canton council president Jon Snyder.
Here Snyder responds to Osborne's opposition.
All of which is to say that Snyder is fully invested in having North Canton sign on.
And, as council president, he seems to have at least a of majority of council persons on his side.
Is there another side within North Canton government itself.
One would not think it is on the basis of their having - for the most part, an antagonistic relationship, with one another - but North Canton mayor David Held more or less agrees with Osborne.
And he may hold "the trump card," which may result in North Canton bailing out on the agreement before it even gets started.
North Canton is spending North Canton taxpayer money to hire Brickler and Eckler of Columbus to evaluate the agreement to determine whether or not said North Canton legal adviser thinks there is sufficient incentive for North Canton to enter into the agreement.
As the matter now stands, Mayor Held would veto any legislation passed by council authorizing North Canton's participation.
But, he says, in the following video, that should the law firm's analysis supplemented by arguments by the proponents of the combined Stark County political subdivision proposal convince him otherwise, he is open to withdrawing the veto threat.
For his part, Snyder says (as seen in the video above)t hat he thinks he has the votes (as of Tuesday night) for an override. Councilman Mark Cerreta is thought to be a "wavering" councilperson on either being a sustain or override vote.
Lurking in the background is Law Director Fox.
The Report is told that while he participated in the drafting of the agreement, he is with Mayor Held in having misgivings about it having enough of a benefit for North Canton to sign on.
Held said that likely within about four weeks he will know whether it a "go" or a "no-go" on his vote and a fight with council on an "override" attempt.
However, in speaking with Plain Township trustee Louis Giavasis last night, the SCPR is told that Giavasis has communicated to Snyder that North Canton has until its February 3rd meeting to come on board; otherwise, Plain will be moving on in its February 11th meeting with partners Canton and Jackson Township without North Canton.
Giavasis thinks that Held is softening in his opposition.
Come February 3rd, we shall know for sure, no?
This issue - no matter which way it goes - could be a point of dissension between council members and between council and Mayor Held for years to come.
A PARK LEVY ON THE MAY, 2014 PRIMARY BALLOT
North Canton like nearly every other Ohio village, city and township is reeling from the gargantuan cuts in local government funding that occurred over the first two - two and one-half years of Governor John Kasich's administration.
The effect of the cuts is for local governments to try to pass the burden onto local tax payers.
In Stark County, Canton and Jackson Township are examples of doing so in the form of Parks levies.
Here is a video of council's discussion of the matter.
Now it appears that North Canton is going to be seeking a levy that is projected to raise about $513,000 annually in revenue for a 5 year term with the revenue to be dedicated specifically to North Canton Park operations and upkeep.
Presently the Parks are maintained through the city's general revenue fund.
So a Parks levy will free up about one-half-a-million dollars annually from the general fund which represents a "back-door" tax increase to North Cantonians should council agree with Snyder that the levy needs to go on the May ballot.
Snyder says North Canton faces about an $800,000 deficit in its general fund in the upcoming year.
Here is Snyder addressing that issue with the SCPR on Tuesday night.
Whether the issue is:
- attendance at council meetings
- the management of the taking of meeting minutes,
- how regularly council meets,
- economic development agreements or
- revenues for the city,
The Dogwood City is "one gigantic SWIRL" these days!