Wednesday, September 24, 2014




Re: Tax credit

        Kevin Fisher
        Today at 8:30 AM

To:  Martin Olson


    Regarding your blog post this morning speculating  on the veto override vote from Monday, please allow me to address how I came to my vote.

First of all, while you are correct in your assessment that council members do have respect for Member Dougherty, he played zero role in my vote Monday, as he and I did not discuss the vote at all between June and September. In fact, I can not recall Member Dougherty ever contacting me about my vote on any issue. My vote Monday, was consistent  with my original vote in 2012. The change was on the vote in the middle, when I felt I did not have enough information on the impact the repeal would have on the increased staffing in both the police and fire departments. In the months since, I have seen an additional three monthly revenue reports and feel, that while there will be an impact, that impact will less than previously forecasted.

Kevin L. Fisher
Canton City Council - Ward 5

As readers of The Stark County Political Report know, The Report sees "politics" everywhere in the operation of Stark County and political subdivision government.

But the fact is that not everything is political.

The problem is rightly discerning what is political and what is not.

And rightly dividing is not as easy as one might think.

It could be that the vote by Canton City Council this past Monday night (10 to 2) to override Mayor William J. Healy, II's veto of a 7 to 5 "pro-restoration" vote on June 2, 2014 (LINK to blog of June 3, 2014)  of Canton's income tax credit to a full 2% for those Cantonians who work outside the city was not primarily political.

After talking with the principals (Mayor Healy and the Dean of Canton City Council - Councilman-at-Large Bill Smuckler), the SCPR thinks that as with whether one sees a beautiful woman or an ugly woman in the graphic headlining this blog is "a matter of perspective; a matter of perception."

According to Councilman Smuckler's interpretation of the vote, the predominant reason for the override was that council became convinced that Canton suffers from a public perception of not being citizen/business friendly.

And Smuckler is out to change that perception.

Some might say that Smuckler is being political in that he is preparing to run for mayor in the Democratic primary next May.

But the SCPR thinks not.

Smuckler has admitted to The Report that he has given thought to running against Healy for a third time (one win [2003] and one loss [2007]) but that he would only do so - if at all - on the condition that a third match up were a one-on-one race.

Though he has not taken out petitions yet, The Report understands; Canton City treasurer Kim Perez has announced that he will be running against the mayor for the Democratic nomination.

So it appears that Councilman Smuckler does not have any political motive for leading (along with Morris) the effort to rollback the credit reduction.

Kim Perez may.  But Mayor Healy downplays to The Report the possibility that his announced challenge is tantamount to his playing politics with this issue.

From Mayor Healy's perspective, the whole matter of the reduced income tax credit is about "not rushing to judgment" on the matter and that the prudent fiscal thing to have done was for council to have waited until December to decide if city finances are healthy enough to justify restoring the full credit.

He does get just a tad pointed and perhaps political in saying that council members can't have it both ways which is to say for them to demand more street department employees, firemen and police but vote to reduce revenues coming into city coffers.

To The Report, on this point the mayor is to be read as being "fiscally concerned," not "politically retributative."

As he pointed out in the conversation between the SCPR and himself yesterday, he is the person that the public will be focused upon if there is a shortfall or "unacceptable to the public" inadequate budgeting for street repairs, fire and police come his submitting a budget to council in December.

A big unknown to the mayor is the degree to which "in the legislative hopper" HB 5 will adversely affect Canton's finances.

For the SCPR, the mayor makes the more persuasive argument.

The only caveat to The Report's take is that Smuckler says that the recent authorization by council for Canton treasurer Kim Perez to update the treasury's computer system will not kick in for another six months and that reliable information of loss of revenue entailed in restoring the tax credit (estimated by some to be $400,000 or so) will not be available until after the December voting deadline.

If Smuckler is correct on the treasury input, then "why wait" becomes more viable.

Nonetheless, after mulling it over, the SCPR still comes out with what harm is there to the pro-tax-credit position forces having waited.

The most powerful thing about council's position is that Canton needs to begin yesterday to change the perception of Canton not being community friendly and each day lost is a day is something Canton cannot afford to indulge.

So whatever side one wishes to take, each has potent arguments that cannot be evaluated at the present time as to whom history will record as having the better "on the merits" take.

It is refreshing to the SCPR that Monday's differences between the mayor and council seem to be squarely in the camp of a different non-political perspective/model and not on political jockeying and Canton City Council "politics as usual" in the face of the upcoming 2015 council and mayoralty races.

This even though announced Healy foe and Treasurer Kim Perez has jumped on the bandwagon along with those councilpersons who supported the original council voted reduction on July 30, 2012 as a "temporary" measure" until city finances improved.

Ward 6 councilman David Dougherty (a former majority leader, who lost the post in a contested fashion to Ward 9 councilman Frank Morris, III) gave as his reason for switching sides from the June 2nd vote that "temporary is now over."

It seems to the SCPR that Dougherty, if he were a sore loser to Morris, would have, on Monday evening, found a reason to stick by the mayor.

That he did not, is evidence to The Report that his switch over was not in the least political.

Moreover, though the SCPR has blogged that Dougherty does not have "the best bedside manner" vis-a-vis everyday citizens as was manifested when he sat in the president's chair during the Public Speaks portion of council's agenda, The Report believes that he is highly respected by his fellow councilmembers and that he likely was a key figure in persuading the likes of Ward 5 councilman Kevin Fisher and Ward 3 councilman Jim Griffin (retiring from council after his current term) to join with the pre-existing seven in rescinding the income tax credit reduction.

Now that Canton's finances have improved, according to Smuckler, in that city income tax collections are at an all-time high and that Canton is receiving about $4 million annually in casino tax revenues which he estimates is a recovery of about 2/3rds the oft-Healy cited loss of some $5 million to $6 million in State of Ohio undivided local government monies, inheritance/estate tax revenues and utility taxes and the like; it was appropriate for council to act as it did on Monday night in overriding the mayor's veto.

One reader of the SCPR suggested yesterday to The Report that Majority Leader Frank Morris' words at Monday night's meeting, to wit:
Majority Leader Frank Morris intentionally kept his plans to reconsider the ordinance off the prepared agenda. Morris said it took several weeks of work among council members to establish the veto-proof majority.

“It took a lot of council work,” Morris said. “It was a collaborative effort. I think the attitude on council is beginning to change, and we’re starting to work better as a unit.” 
(Cite: City Council overrides veto, restores tax credit, Matt Rink, The Repository, 09/22/2014)
was clear indication to the reader that Morris had perpetuated a Ohio Sunshine Law meeting in recruiting a veto-proof majority.

The SCPR made a point of asking Mayor Healy in a Tuesday late afternoon telephone interview if a Sunshine Law violation was in his thoughts as the vote unfolded on Monday night.

He said that it did not and on reflection he does not think that Morris did anything wrong in going about persuading Dougherty, Fisher and Griffin to switch their votes.

Smuckler tells the SCPR that council had assurances from Law Director Joe Martuccio that the change from 7 to 5 on June 2nd to 10 to 2 on September 22nd would not be a violation of Ohio's Sunshine Law in the light of statutory interpretation by the Supreme Court of Ohio.

The Report tried to contact Martuccio prior to the writing of this blog but was unsuccessful.

The point of the SCPR bringing up the Sunshine Law factor is to further substantiate that the debate of the timing of the override vote was just that:  "a debate over the merits/demerits of proceeding on Monday night" witness Healy's unwillingness to ascribe a Morris.

Healy pointed out to The Report that only one councilperson needed to change votes from June to September for the vote to be veto proof.

It follows that even if Morris had caucused with three of the five voting no in June, three only represents 25% of council as a whole.  The question becomes how is that the equivalent of a majority deciding in a private session to vote to override?

It is rather unusual for the SCPR to side with Mayor William J. Healy, II on anything.

But The Report sees very little downside - with all due respect to the "perception argument" of Councilman Smuckler - to council to waiting until December to take a vote.

The most encouraging thing about the debate is that, insofar as the SCPR can determine, it was a largely, if not completely, a non-political process.

Perhaps "a debate on the merits of respective positions phenomenon," more than Smuckler's perception thing, is a reason for Cantonians to have hope that the out-and-out political days are over.

Not that the SCPR thinks that things between the mayor and council will not again have episodes of "politics as usual" at play.

But the debate on the override seems to be an instance of seeing a beautiful woman in the lead graphic with the lady of ugly politics being nowhere to be seen.

The SCPR commends Mayor Healy and Canton City Council for elevating the override debate to a level of their differences being a matter of perspective.

With more instances of this type of interplay between the mayor and council and the democratic processes of government in Canton could become "a beautiful thing to behold," no?

No comments: