Tuesday, April 29, 2014


Since the 2003 Democratic Party primary election, William J. Healy, II and Bill Smuckler have sought to convince Cantonians that each, respectively, is the man to lead Canton out of the economic doldrums into a promising and productive future.

Smuckler lost to Republican Janet Creighton in the general election of 2003 whereas Healy defeated incumbent Creighton in the general election of 2007.

However, Bill Smuckler has been a fixture on council (except for a couple of breaks when he ran for mayor and from 1990 through 1991) going back to 1987 according to Canton's website:

Last night, the battle for the "hearts and minds" and the "political" allegiance of Cantonians surfaced once again in their ongoing fight to demonstrate superior "effectiveness" in the quest to lead.

Taking a page out of the perhaps the greatest book ever written on the essential qualities of leadership - The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People  (1997) - the Stark County Political Report sets up the continuing vying for leadership of the Hall of Fame city on the basis of two of author Stephen Covey's seven principles.

Last night in the work session of Canton City Council (which takes place immediately before each and every Canton City Council meeting), Mayor Healy stepped forward to advocate for his April 8, 2014 "State of the City" speech promise to create a "plan" for Canton's economic and financial recovery.

His focus, The Report thinks, is at its heart a manifestation of Covey's second principle of leadership:  Begin With the End in Mind.

Smuckler's focus, on the other hand, is based on another important Covey articulated principle:  Put First Things First.

Wait just a minute, Olson!

Two well-healed politicians contending on the basis of "principles."  You have to be kidding!

Well, yes and no.

There is no doubt about it.  William J. Healy, II and Bill Smuckler of two of Canton's more accomplished politicians.

However, the fight over a plan for Canton is more than for political advantage.  Both understand that Canton is in a fight for its very life.  And there comes a point in time when politics has to take a back seat to economic leadership principles if "real" economic and financial accomplishment are to be "actually" realized.

Politics is mostly a rhetorical game.

And rhetoric is not going to cut it for Canton.

Last night might have been the beginning of some soul searching on the part of city officials as they must surely realize that political gamesmanship has not worked for Canton over the last five decades or so as Canton has headed down a slippery slope into economic oblivion.

Let's back up a minute and begin a video trip from the Mayor Healy's articulation of his plan in his April 8th "State of the City" address.

On the Canton City Council agenda last night was the Healy "State of the City" promised authorization for the administration to enter into a contract with with CBZ, LLC for $350,000 to develop the Comprehensive [City of Canton] Citywide Plan.

As one might imagine, with the price tag for the Citywide Comprehensive Plan (CCP) being $350,000; there was bound to be some thoroughgoing discussion.

In addition to the price tag, there is, of course, the suspicion that Bill Smuckler wants a "rubber match" with Healy in the Democratic primary next May (2015) in order to be more than a political bridesmaid.

Smuckler has told the SCPR that he is not ruling out a third run for mayor.

While he won't say it, he has to worry (assuming he is seriously contemplating a 2015 run against Healy) that in funding the proposed CCP, council will in effect be putting $350,000 of city of Canton taxpayer funds to the advantage of Healy.

Healy, if he can get council to adopt the CCP early in 2015 (in the days leading up to the May primary), undoubtedly will be running as "the man with a plan."

Healy reminded the SCPR last night that Smuckler in 2011 ran as "the man with a plan" who now, Healy suggests, to be "a man against the plan"

On thinking about it, The Report thinks that such is an unfair characterization of Smuckler's stance.

Simply stated, Smuckler is for a plan once the city of Canton gets its house in order in terms of getting a handle on the conditions of its streets, its deficient police and fire operations, and its inadequate ambulance services.

The setting started last night when council majority leader Frank Morris brought up Ordinance 10 in council's work session and elicited questions from council members.

And did he get one!

And guess from whom?

You've got it.  Healy nemesis Bill Smuckler.
  • SCPR Note:  Quotes are paraphrase approximations
Where is the money going to come from to implement the recommendations of the CCP, he asks.

Chief of Staff Fonda Williams answer:  "We need to prioritize in a collective effort and take advantage of this opportunity to start planning.

Next up.  Ward 7 councilman David Dougherty (former majority leader).

He wonders in the context of prior plans which went nowhere "where council support is going to come from (i.e. "one for all; all for one).

Majority Leader Frank Morris (Democrat, Ward 9) worries about whether or not council will adopt the plan when completed and therein "pissing away" $350,000.

Finally, "wholehearted support of the Healy administration Comprehensive Citywide Plan from Ward 5 Democratic councilman Kevin Fisher.

Spending $300,000 (actually "up to $350,000) in the face of a $206 million (overall city of Canton annual spending [$2 billion over 10 years] does not seem to him to be all that significant.

He acknowledges that councilpersons may fight over how the recommendations of CZB, LLC gets implemented (i.e. the money that flows into a given Ward).  But he touts the city doing its part to work with the Canton Regional Chamber of Commerce and its plan that has been in existence for years (last updated in 2013).

Finance Committee chairman Greg Hawk weighs in and (1) agrees that some Wards may get shorted in the short term but will benefit over the long haul as the city improves, and (2) gets assurances that Chief-of-Staff Williams will promote the city providing $100,000 (next year) out of Community Development Block Grant (CDGB) monies so that the outlay from the city's general fund will be limited to the initial payment to CZB, LLC of $200,00 out of the city's general fund.

To summarize, $350,000 is to be paid to CZB, LLC for its work.  $200,000 from Canton's general fund (which could end up being $300,000 if the CDBG money does not materialize) and $50,000 from the recently passed Park levy.

Councilman at Large Jimmy Babcock (a Democrat) brings Canton's Regional Chamber of Commerce representative Bill Gill into the discussion regarding the Chamber's fairly recent Downtown Development Plan (DDP) in the sense that he notes that a Canton CCP would be a positive development complementary of the DDP.

Joining Smuckler with a critique of the CCP is Councilman at Large Richard Hart, an independent.

Hart pretty much mimics Smuckler and also adds that he thinks the Canton City Schools should be part of funding a CCP.

Next addressing the Comprehensive Citywide Plan was Mayor Healy.

His emphasis is - as indicated in the graphic of this blog - "beginning with the end in mind."

Smuckler rejoins: (his "first things first" approach in detail)

His powerful ending was his refusal to accept the notion that Canton for the overall good of the city needs to accept the reality that some Canton neighborhoods will be written-off and not included in a CCP in its implementation.

Fonda Williams says that Smuckler does not have it correct in thinking that the CCP includes writing off certain neighborhoods.

Councilman Thomas West joins the mayor, Kevin Fisher and Fonda Williams in an enthusiastic embrace of the Comprehensive Citywide Plan.

Interesting indeed was the SCPR interview post-work-session.

The Report will use Frank Morris' term.  The mayor was pissed with Smuckler.

He had no idea what Smuckler had said, he (Smuckler) was being political, he was not a visionary, and (off camera) chided Smuckler for in the 2011 Smuckler/Healy Democratic Party primary of claiming to be the candidate with a plan.

Of course, the SCPR always provides an opportunity for the likes of a Bill Smuckler to respond:

Next council moved on to its regular meeting.

Noteworthy during the meeting were opinions expressed by five Cantonians on the CCP, to wit:

Also, The Report captured council president Allen Schulman and Ward 8 councilman Edmond Mack (Democrat - Ward 9) being supportive of the CCP.

Both embraced the "vision for Canton" approach.

Councilman Mack:

And President Allen Schulman:

But there were some procedural fireworks as Councilman Smuckler was not giving up without a fight.

In the end, the mayor prevailed on the question on a 7 to 4 vote.  (Morris, Babcock, Hart and Smuckler voting "no")

Councilman Smuckler deserves high marks for persisting in raising questions on the plan and the manner in which it was being pushed through council.  Though he differed with Smuckler, Finance Committee chair Greg Hawk went to great lengths to ensure that the measure passed "according to Hoyle" as a parliamentary procedure matter.

Hopefully, Mayor Healy has this one right and the spending of $350,000 will prove "to be the real deal" in terms of getting Canton on track to quit spinning its wheels if not regressing as Stark County's flagship city.

Time will tell.

The political significance of the Comprehensive Citywide Plan is that Healy will ride getting it adopted by council and implement right into a third term as mayor.

He says that Smuckler is being political.  And he may well be at least in part, though he denies it.

As The Report told Councilman Smuckler, obviously both he and the mayor want good things for Canton's future.

For cynicism not to completely overtake the citizens of Canton and doom Canton to continuing if not irretrievable decline, it is important that council and Mayor Healy put "first things first" and now that is seeing to it that the "beginning with the end in mind" results in a revived and resurgent Canton!

Councilman Smuckler's final word:

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