Today the Stark County Political Report blogs from Grand Turk Island in the Carribean.
Whether The Report is in China, Fairfax, Virginia, England, Colorado Spring, Colorado, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma or on the Grand Turk Island, readers of the SCPR can depend on a valiant effort to get a blog up on any given day.
These are clearly “times of desperation” in the city of Massillon these days.
It is in times likes these that very bad decisions get made.
With the announcement last week that a combo aquarium/waterpark is proposed for the city, it is exactly a time for the city’s leadership to step back and take thorough look before leaping.
Already the developers are talking about having the facility in place by either late this year or by Spring of 2015.
Hmm? Just in time for the primary elections 2015. Isn’t that interesting?
It appears that the Catazao-Perry administration has already leapt and that cannot be a good thing.
What’s the rush?
All that the burst of cheerleading shows is that the mayor is a desperate politician looking for a “miracle” to come and rescue the city from her - at best - lackluster leadership which if anything has left Massillon worse off than former Mayor Francis H. Cicchinelli, Jr left the city in.
An argument can be made that Catazaro-Perry with her belligerent attitude towards and resultant antagonistic relationship with Massillon City Council has worsened the city’s financial crises.
Even Frank Cicchinelli admits adding nine (9) holes to original eighteen (18) The Legends golf course ideal was a mistake. For Cicchinelli to admit that the extra nine were a mistake is quite a concession for a man who thinks he left office with the city in decent if not good shape.
It could be that his aggressive annexation policy proved to be his political undoing (i.e. the proposed Tuslaw schools annexation), but an argument can be made that in terms of cash flow the income tax receipts from annexations (especially with little or no added infrastructure cost to Massillon [e.g. the R.G. Drage annexation] has kept Massillon within or within shouting distance of financial solvency.
Ever since she took office on January 1, 2012 Catazaro-Perry has been casting about for “a gift from heaven” to make up for her obvious shortcomings as Massillon’s chief executive.
There have been a number of faux-Catazaro-Perry claims of economic development success (Baker, Hughes and Shearers [which would have happened in a Cicchinelli administration had he been reelected]). It appears that the aquarium/waterpark is about the only thing that Catazaro-Perry that doesn’t have a Cicchinelli taint to it can cheer about.
Let the SCPR say this as a qualifier to blaming Catazaro-Perry for all that ails Massillon these days.
The Report does not believe and has never believed for a second that she is the brains behind the ideas for running Massillon. Way before she was elected, the SCPR was saying that Catazaro-Perry did not have the wherewithal to be an effective mayor of Massillon and that the real administration would come from her political sponsor and mentor Johnnie A. Maier, Jr.
Of course, if you ask Maier, he thinks he has the intellectual power to be an idea man. But that only means he does not understand himself and his limits. No one that The Report has ever talked to describes him as being an idea man.
What he does get described as being is a man who believes “might makes right/”
That is how he has handled himself in any political fracas he has been involved in over his 25 years or so as being a significant political factor in Stark County government and politics.
To make matter worse, Maier, Jr abides no dissent from whatever and his most trusted confidants settle on as being “the official position.”
That is how insecure people act and thereby end up being their own worst enemies. But when the failures come, they always point the finger at others. Never at themselves.
On the aquarium/waterpark project, look for the administration (and Wizard [?} Johnnie, Jr. behind the curtains) to resort to form (i.e. being the political bully) and try to force council to approve a sweetheart deal for the company behind the project and to do so lickety-split.
Catazaro-Perry has hurt her administration’s ability to turn Massillon around or at the very least take it out of stagnation in her having adopted the Maier, Jr power politics model.
The SCPR does not see her acting any different in her relationship with council on this matter than she has in playing “The Iron Lady” role in supposedly negotiating with council on the composition of Massillon’s financial fiscal emergency recovery plan.
As the SCPR sees the negotiations on the plan, Catazaro-Perry gave very little. Council has demonstrated far more give in pursuit of getting Massillon a positive track than the mayor has. But what would one expect in light of the source of her political training?
Look for her to push a deal that brings very little to Massillon in terms of sure-fire and substantial revenues.
If “due diligence” is applied to analyzing the project proposed it likely to reveal a great deal of expense in terms of roads and other infrastructure and related expenditures placed, of course, on the backs and shoulders of Massillon’s taxpayers.
Expect the mayor to ignore intangibles such as the residential integrity and aesthetics of single family residences (after all it is not her neighborhood) which surround the golf course complex by “sweeping these qualities under the rug” and relegating them to inferior status in a milieu of orchestrated hubbub focusing on speculated benefits to the city as a whole.
Even on the face of it, the proposed aquarium/waterpark is clearly “a bad idea” on top of “a bad idea (i.e. holes 19 through 27 of The Legends).
Under the proposal the city is left with ownership of the “the bad idea ‘holes 19 through 27' if the “on top of it bad idea” lease for 30 years at $10 per year stands.
Massillon should insist that the deal include a cash payment outright purchase for this burdensome part of the golf course.
Moreover, there needs to be a thoroughgoing vetting of the proposal and some significant modification to ensure that the neighborhood and the city is held harmless in the wake of the proposal going forward.
What if the project goes belly up?
Is there going to be a skeleton of constructed remains left to be wasting away the cost of removing same will fall to Massillon’s taxpayers?
What other likely consequences of the aquarian/waterpark failing might fall to the taxpayers?
Doesn’t “due diligence” demand that they be protected from same?
The proposal apparently needs a lot of administration ballyhoo (witness the many newspaper articles over the past week) to deflect serious inquiry into whether or not the business model is a viable one which has enough potential for direct/indirect employment (good paying jobs; not minimum wage types) in sufficient numbers to justify any taxpayer assistance to make the project a reality in Massillon.
The owners are already on record as redirecting the project from the economically booming Austin, Texas area because of a reported determination that Austin is “entertainment saturated” and therefore apparently makes it problematical that it could succeed there.
This diversion should be a “red flag” to locals who examine whether or not the project is worth the risk of putting Massillon taxpayer dollars into the project.
The only leadership in Stark County that the SCPR thinks is up evaluating the worthwhileness of economic development projects in terms of whether or not taxpayer dollars should be used to support a given project is the Stark County Board of County Commissioners and it financial man Chris Nichols.
Certainly the Catazaro-Perry administration has no such person.
Because Maier, Jr does not abide the likes of a Chris “Tell It Like It Is” Nichols, the Catazaro-Perry administration should not be trusted to adequately vet the project.
Massillon taxpayers can only hope that there are enough Massillon City councilpersons who have the intellect, the strength to resist being steamrolled and the determination to hold firm and require that hard numbers indicate that Massillon’s citizens will benefit before one taxpayer dollar is put into the aquarium/water park project.
Massillon City Council is the best hope for Massillonians avoiding a trap of trying to solve former may Frank Cichinelli’s bad idea with current mayor Kathy Catzaro-Perry’s bad idea!