UPDATED AT 07:40 AM
Both Ward 8 councilman Edmond Mack and Councilman-at-Large Bill Smuckler are ardent proponents for providing Canton's citizens with the right to determine whether or not the city shall operate under its own operating rules (i.e. a city charter) or under those provided by for by the State of Ohio.
On the eve of Canton City Council's vote, the SCPR spoke with both and Mack thinks proponents will get the votes (eight needed) to get the issue on the November 4th ballot.
Bill Smuckler, on the other hand, thinks it is likely that only six, perhaps seven, councilpersons will vote to allow Cantonians to decide for themselves.
But Smuckler does concede that there is a chance that Mack's optimism might prevail.
The SCPR has tabbed Mack as being "Captain Courageous" for working for more than a year to get this matter before council.
Charter government has had a tough way to go, Mack is the guy who The Report thinks will see it through to the end and ultimate success. (In the video below [June 30th Canton City Council Committee of the Whole], Mack gives detailed justification for Canton going charter
To The Stark County Political Report, it would be a sad day indeed in the history of Canton city government were five city councilpersons to deny thousands of Cantonians the opportunity to vote on the future structure of Canton government.
As Mack tells it, the councilpersons to watch the vote on the third reading of the proposed ordinance are Councilperson Morris, Dougherty and West.
As Smuckler tells it, even though he says Mayor William J. Healy, II supports the measure, the proposal will likely fail because Stark County trades union leader David Kirven (who lives in North Canton - "a charter city") has lobbied hard and often with councilmembers to deprive Cantonians the opportunity to weigh-in with a vote on how the city will conduct the business of government after January 1, 2016.
Kirven is said to be demanding "a guaranty" that minority Cantonians will have a place among commissioners to be elected to a charter review commission should the voters agree that a plan be developed and presented to them within a year.
Particularly disappointing to the SCPR is the likelihood that the thoroughgoing liberal of Canton City Council government (matched only by council president Allen Schulman; namely, Kevin Fisher of Ward 5, (see his video at this LINK) seems set to deny Cantonians the basic democratic value of "the vote."
His concern is that areas like his southwest Canton ward location will be left out in the cold when it comes to:
- having its interests protected in the make up of a Charter Commission which has one (1) year, if voters were to give a "go ahead" - if allowed to vote on at all - to formulate a proposed "new" structure of Canton government which itself is subject to voter approval.
- having its interests protected in the "new" proposed structure,
Mack has said in the past that he considers going to a charter government to be "a no brainer" inasmuch even if the Canton were to make no changes whatsoever in the shape of its government, the city would be benefited by being loosened from the strictures of State of Ohio control on every aspect of local government and acquire a flexibility that most Ohio city governments now enjoy (LINK to Ohio Municipal League [OML] list of Ohio cities having charter form of government; Note: Mayor Healy is president of the OML)
The SCPR trusts that Fisher will reconsider his articulated opposition and show that he trusts democratic processes to provide for the interests of all Cantonians including Ward 5.
The Report was surprised to hear from Mack that he thinks of all people, Ward 2 councilman Tom West might be a "yes" for allowing Cantonians to decide for themselves on the issue.
For on July 22, 2013 as the-then chairman of the judiciary committee (Mack is currently the chairman), he and Mack debated the relative merits of the charter form of government with West being in the negative.
It would be astounding were West to vote for Mack's proposed ordinance.
More importantly, a "yes" vote would be a demonstration that West is more thoughtful than some think.
The SCPR's perspective on West is that he, like Fisher, is a political liberal and political liberals say they are bullish on folks "having the opportunity" - via the ballot box - to make their own political determinations.
Were he to vote "no," the SCPR sees his seeming devotion to democratic processes as being "selective" indeed.
Not long ago, West got an initiative on the ballot to change councilpersons current two year term to four years.
His issue failed, but he had every right to pursue the question with voters.
The flip side of that is, of course, that he should favor Cantonians have the same right on the charter government issue.
Councilman Mack shared with the SCPR a poll taken by Ward 9 councilman Frank Morris on whether or not Ward 9 citizens wanted the right to vote on the charter issue.
While the SCPR appreciates having the poll results and if Frank Morris wants to be in tune with his constituents and America's basic democratic values he will vote "yes" on the ordinance, The Report thinks that our basic democratic values rule and command that our elected officials (the "republican" side our "democratic-republican" form of American government) demand that "the people - at large - be allowed to vote" no matter what a sampling (i.e. a poll) might indicate.
Here is an extract from the Ward 9 Facebook poll:
The third of Mack's "councilpersons to watch" as the vote unfolds tonight is Ward 6 councilman David Dougherty.
Mack tells The Report that Dougherty voted to place a charter issue before Canton voters in 2006 and he expects the former council majority leader to stay committed to "letting the people decide."
Councilman Smuckler told The Report that he thinks Mayor Healy is supporting Mack's initiative because he intends to run for a spot on the 15 member commission provided for by Ohio law and use the position to get rid of the likes of himself, Councilman Richard Hart (a former Republican who now say he is an "independent") and the possibility that Councilwoman Mary Cirelli may try a political comeback in the November, 2015 elections.
Mack addressed with The Report the concerns of Councilpersons West and others that minorities would be left "high and dry" in that they may be excluded from election to the commission (the vote for the commission is citywide) and perhaps suffer a "double-whammy" with a commission proposal that has the potential to dilute minority representation from the wards.
Mack thinks their concerns are merited.
And he pledges that he personally will do everything within his power to promote the election of minority members to the review commission.
He said he thinks that there are "stand up for minority rights" Cantonians who will follow his lead.
Mack cites Corey Minor-Smith (ran against Richard Kubilus for Canton Municipal Court judge) and Kelley Zackary (ran a very respectable race against Republican Alex Zumbar in November, 2012 for Stark County treasurer and Kim Perez for Canton city treasurer in November, 2013) as examples of potential candidates who have demonstrated vote pulling power that he and other Canton political/government officials could get behind to enhance their chances of winning a commission spot in a citywide election process.
Councilman West and Councilwoman Chris Smith (Ward 4) are prohibited by Ohio law as councilpersons from running for a commission spot.
The bottom line for The Stark County Political Report that Canton needs a "shot-in-the-arm" in terms of a more flexible government like say Columbus (since 1914) has to gain more ability to respond to the demands of its citizens.
Those councilpersons set to vote "no" tonight will undoubtedly object to the SCPR characterization of their vote as being either "for" or "against" the fundamental values of our cherished democratic-republican form of government.
But that is how The Report sees it.
No matter what kind of dressing the "no" voters want to put on it, the SCPR thinks that such a vote is grounded in personal political concerns of one form or another.
Councilman Smuckler may be right.
He and others may be the target of those who want to eliminate his historical storied critical assessment of matters that come before council.
It says volumes of his commitment and devotion to the American democratic-republican form of government that he is willing to take the risk that he will personally suffer from a restructuring of Canton government.
Smuckler is the lead on this issue that all of Canton's councilpersons should be following tonight!
Exercising community leadership on the charter government issue includes the Canton League of Women Voters. This non-partisan group (as a local branch of the national League of Women Voters) has for decades and decades promoted the placement of democracy-enhancing structures and procedures into all levels of American government.
That the Canton branch has weighed in on the Canton charter government is not surprising.
Here is a copy of a letter sent by the Canton League to Canton's councilpersons:
July 7, 2014
President Allen Schulman and members, Canton City Council
Canton City Hall
218 Cleveland Ave SW
Canton OH 44702
Dear Council Representatives:
On July 14, Canton City Council has an opportunity to allow the voters of the city of Canton to make an important decision regarding the organization of our city going forward.Although the SCPR thinks well of the League of Women Voters, The Report thinks that the hardened councilmembers will likely view Canton group's letter as the effort of "a bunch of do-gooders" who do not understand "realpolitik."
As president of the League of Women Voters of the Canton Area and on behalf of the League’s board, I urge you to vote “yes” to allow Canton’s voters to make the determination whether the city should or should not adopt a charter form of government. This form of direct democracy will empower the residents of Canton to shape our city’s future.
Amy Shriver Dreussi, PhD
President, Canton Area League of Women Voters
It could be that the SCPR is too cynical of the motivations of elected officials and that they do pay attention to the likes of the League
Moreover, let us trust that Smuckler's skepticism is unwarranted and Mack's optimism that Canton's legislative glass ends up 3/4th full at the conclusion of the vote is well-founded.