Within the bounds of Massillon government and politics is a seemingly incestuous body politic which The Stark County Political Report identifies as being the Maier Massillon Political Machine (MMPM) which The Report thinks is the work of political-power/muscle-man and Massillon clerk of Courts Johnnie A. Maier, Jr.
Jr's Chuck Colson-esque (the SCPR thinks) political action man (a Nixon administration political operative), is Maier's chief deputy; namely, R. Shane Jackson who is the son for former Stark County commissioner Gayle Jackson.
The brains of the MMPM appears to be Massillon Municipal Court judge Edward Elum.
The group's face obviously is Massillon mayor Kathy Catazaro-Perry.
At last week's Massillon City Council Committee of the Whole meeting, the SCPR was directed by a group of Ward 4 citizens to a nearly hour long harangue by Elum on the need to sell Massillon's city-owned "The Legends" golf course as recorded in the minutes of the Massillon Parks and Recreation Board.
(Note: Moe Ricketts term expired on 12/31/2014)
The reason for the referral appears to have been to get the SCPR to the source of the "real" position of the Catazaro-Perry administration on what ought to be done about the festering political score of the future of The Legends which is the backdrop to one of Massillon's poshest neighborhoods.
Look at this letter from Mayor Kathy as Elum likes to refer to her as:
From the Desk of Mayor Kathy Catazaro-Perry(color of text changed for emphasis sake)
October 14, 2014
Dear Massillon Resident,
When I became Mayor, I knew from my time on City Council that the City of Massillon had serious financial issues.
By the time I became mayor, it was much worse than anyone could have imagined.
At the beginning of 2012, the General Fund coffers held a token balance of only $416.79.
In addition, prior year unfunded encumbrances and outstanding bills represented a $2.6 million deficit.
Additionally, $180,000 in deposits made during the first ten days of the new year were backdated by the city auditor's office onto 2011's books in order to create the token $416.00 'surplus.'
I share this with you to show much work needed to be done to right the City's financial ship.
I am pleased to report that substantial progress has been made towards that end.
At the conclusion of 2013, our budget deficit was reduced from $2.6 million to $1.1 million, and in 2014 we are continuing to make substantial progress in reducing this inherited deficit.
As part of the financial stress impacting Massillon, the Legends Golf Course has become a concern regarding its profitability and debt.
Because of this, speculation and rumors about the course have been widespread throughout our community. I completely understand that property owners in and around the golf course are frustrated because the future of the course impacts their property values and their investment.
I too am frustrated, because as mayor, my options to address any parks/golf course issues are extremely limited due to recent action taken by City Council.
That action basically transferred control and oversight of the Massillon Parks and Recreation Department solely to City Council.
Currently, the only authority I have as mayor is to appoint three members to the Parks & Recreation Board, which is now merely an advisory board.
Let me state for the record that there is no plan to sell or close the golf course.
And let me further state 1 am not proposing any plan to sell or close the golf course.
Ultimately, the authority to take those actions currently resides solely with Massillon City Council.
That being said, we must now move beyond politics and recognize that mistakes have been made in the past regarding the golf course and take this opportunity to learn from those past mistakes so we do not to repeat them.
As Mayor, I am committed to working with all interested parties to find sensible and workable solutions to this very difficult issue.
As a resident of Massillon, I value your opinion and encourage you to let your opinions be known, I am always open to hearing-your views, and as such encourage you to share your ideas and thoughts with me.
Please don't hesitate to contact me if you have a question, comment, or concern.
City of Massillon
Again, "real" position?
Note the date of the mayor's letter: October 14, 2014.
Back on March 24, 2014 the SCPR wrote a blog analyzing a Catazaro-Perry administration to lease for $10 annually a part of The Legends for the construction of what now appears to have been "a pie in the sky" aquarium and waterpark.
Nobody realized it at the time, but the Administration's interest in the proposal was doomed from the get-go but did clearly indicate - notwithstanding Catazaro-Perry's statement to the contrary in the October 14th letter - that it has been the plan of the mayor and her advisers (Maier, Jackson and Elum) to unload the golf course.
Go to this LINK to get a sense of the desperation of the Catzaro-Perry administration in latching on to the aquarium/waterpark thing only to end up appearing to being "played the fool" in taking the proposal as a realistic proposal.
In a conversation that the SCPR has had with Canton mayor William J. Healy, Jr, since the Massillon thing fell apart, he laughed at Massillon officials as having taken the proposal seriously in the first place.
Now to Judge Elum and his May, 2014 appearance before the Massillon Parks & Recreation Board (P&RB).
Later on in this blog, there is a list of excerpts from the minutes of that May 8th meeting:
But first to explain the graphic in this blog wherein Elum is depicted as being St. Edward.
Where in Heaven's name did the notion of sainthood for Edward J. Elum come from?
How about the judge himself?
The SCPR's take (the list referred to above) on Elum's May 8th presentation at a P&RB meeting:
- Elum recited his involvement (apparently sometime in 2011) as the initiator of the restoration of Massillon's Veterans Memorial Park (built in 1949 but not maintained) and Duncan Plaza which fronts the main Massillon city government complex
- (SCPR Note: Here is a LINK to a website which goes into great detail about the beginnings of and progress of Elum's restoration effort.)
- (SCPR Note: While The Report applauds Elum for his initiative and continuing effort with regard to the Veterans Memorial restoration project, yours truly as a veteran with two daughters and a son-in-law currently serving as USAF officers, wants to know how Elum could stand by and allow his political pal and friend Stark Co. Sheriff George T. Maier work over Iraq/Afghanistan "multiple times in harms way" Marine Reserve Sgt. Major Dan Altieri.
- Maier denied Altieri a reserve sheriff commission so he could continue to be employed in law enforcement after serving honorably for 27 years as a deputy Stark County sheriff because:
- Altieri supported Lou Darrow in his opposition to Maier to get the Stark Dems' Central Committee appointment when 2012 sheriff-elect Mike McDonald proved to be too ill to take office. (February, 2013)
- And, therefore, in exercising his U.S. Constitution First Amendment right of "freedom of 'political' association," by how Johnnie and George calculate things, Altieri was not to be trusted as a "reserve" deputy sheriff.
- Mind you, being commissioned a reserve deputy is not a private relationship between George Maier and Altieri and therefore is not a matter of trust between Maier and his private political interests and Altieri. Holding a commission is a matter of public authority and his trustworthiness as having served as a deputy sheriff - honorably - for 27 years.
The SCPR thinks that is exactly what he was doing in interpreting Elum's expression as being one of false humility.
However, as readers know, the SCPR to a degree will allow subjects to "toot their own horn" in citing to self-laudatory material they utter and by linking to websites which are nothing more that testimonials to their good works.
However, the SCPR deals with such as being a "two-edged sword."
The Report digs out "the rest of the story" and publishes that too.
With the SCPR you cannot just have it one way.
One would think that Elum would be "bright enough, to let 'well enough' alone" in not bringing up - at his own initiative - his character qualities.
But "power politicians" have a propensity to bull their way through obvious deficiencies, weaknesses, limitations they have, thinking - apparently - that no one will "call them out" on their game.
Well, such may have been the case on the part of area media before the arrival of The Stark County Political Report.
Elum has tried his bullying with the SCPR.
And his political consort R. Shane Jackson has tried to push around The Report too. (Link #1, Link #2),
But The Report has, unlike many of those they apply their bullying to, a medium in which to respond.
The SCPR knows the ins and outs of how the likes of Elum, the Maier brothers and their allies play hardball politics and like no other Stark County media outlet shares with Massillonians and the Stark County public a look at the MMPM political operations underbelly.
Earlier in this blog, The Report gave the judge his due on his splendid work on the Massillon Veterans Memorial and linked to a website which goes into great detail about his good works.
But it was balanced out with a SCPR "shout-out" on deafening silence on the Maier/Altieri matter.
At the end of this blog, The Report recites the numerous recognitions (also linking to his bio on the Massillon Court website) going back to 1996.
However, there is another side to Edward J. Elum.
Not that long ago, Elum was disciplined by the Ohio Supreme Court for inappropriate conduct as a judge.
And this from 1988:
From Columbus Dispatch Archive:
1) CELEBREZZE APOLOGIZES FOR ELUM'S ERROR
Date: August 28, 1988
Publication: Columbus Dispatch, The (OH) Page: 6D
Word Count: 457
Document ID: 11B95F72895A9F70
Ohio Attorney General Anthony J. Celebrezze Jr. apologized for "inappropriate behavior" by one of his lawyers who used state facilities to campaign for a candidate for the Ohio House of Representatives.
State Rep. Charles "Red" Ash, R-North Industry, complained to Celebrezze that Assistant Attorney General Edward J. Elum was going too far to promote Johnnie A. Maier of Massillon, Ash's Democratic opponent in the Nov. 8... (reference LINK)
Here are links to a number of blogs that the SCPR has written which include Elum that detail a number of sins that some Massillonians think Elum has committed over his years as a Massillon community leader:
A non-sequitur, no?
But one tries any technique that might work.
Kind of like throwing "stuff" on the wall and seeing if anything sticks.
Elum had plenty to say about what he thinks should be fate of The Legends, to wit: (selected excerpts, LINK to entire P&RB minutes including Elum's remarks)
- I am asking this Independent Recreation Board, and I wish to remind you that you are not a City department, but you happen to run a department in the City called the P&R dept.
You are an independent Rec Board. Your appropriation authority comes from the city council just like they appropriate for the judiciary or the administration.
- I’m asking you to pass a resolution that city council and the Administration sell the golf course.
Divest itself of the golf course, close it down, and scuttle it.
It has been nothing but quicksand, and it has never shown a profit.
I’ll doubt that you’ve never seen a profit and loss statement. It has never shown a profit since we’ve owned it.
- So, the balls in your court. The citizens are angry.
You are going to have to do something; you can’t go on another year. (15:25)
To continue that golf course in its’ present situation. There hasn’t been one creative idea from any member of council and it will have to be you five to decide what you are going to do. (emphasis added)
- You can sit there and decide if you are going to continue to fund it and operate it but there’s only one person in this room have taken four groups of people down there to help you divest it and that’s me.
- Don’t ever tell me that Judge Haas decision says that you can’t disperse of that golf course.
It’s stating that operating a golf course, that only the city can sell land.
And that’s what that decision says.
Anybody who wants to argue that, they don’t know what they’re talking about.
- You have to sell it as what the mayor wanted to do, what the mayor wanted to do with the Aquarium project. (emphasis added)
You’re selling land; God is not making any more land.
I had a group of developers from Kent, Ohio and they wanted to keep 9 or 18 holes and make the rest Senior Assisted living for 40+ years and older. He said that when people get to be 60 years old they want to live like they’re 35 years old.
- 8 years ago I went to the previous mayor and asked him to contact Marriott Hotels, or call Courses of American to have a convention center like they have in Newark which was funded by State Farm money; it wasn’t his idea so it didn’t go anywhere. (emphasis added)
Selling or not selling is not her decision to make.
So the SCPR thinks.
As a matter of law, as Elum says, it clearly appears that it is within the scope of Massillon City Council and NOT a decision of the Parks & Recreation Board.
So what is all his goading the P&RB to act about?
If the SCPR understands the mindset of a majority of council, any P&RB pressure will be counterproductive.
Beyond the legalities, who thinks that Mayor Kathy Catazaro-Perry has the spunk and independence of/from Elum, Jackson and Maier, Jr. to disagree with them?
Let alone act independent of them?
The SCPR thinks that Catazaro-Perry's letter of October 14, 2014 is disingenuous at the very least.
A person who impresses the SCPR on the question of the fate of The Legends in Councilwoman-at-Large Michelle Del Rio-Keller.
As chairperson of the Massillon City Council Parks & Recreation Board she has been working hard in in good faith to come up with a viable plan to make The Legends pay for itself and thereby reassure area residents of the security of their investment and tranquility.
At a council work session of December 29, she gave a thumbnail sketch of the problems enveloping the Parks & Recreation Board, its functioning and specifically the operation of The Legends golf course, to wit:
- Confusion on the mayor's role on administering the P&RB:
- Del Rio says that a resolution passed by council in 2012 by council had nothing to do with the mayor's authority vis-a-vis the P&RB but only provides the director with some protection from being summarily fired,
- Need for an enforceable Code of Conduct on the part of the P&RB.
- Del-Rio said that the P&RB does not respect citizens who come before it and does not respect council and that provision needs to be made for the removal of P&RB members who violate the Code of Conduct,
- Need to move forward with naming a fulltime manager for The Legends,
- Need for the mayor to work with council in a cooperative fashion to solve the problems with the P&RB and The Legends
And here she is in a one-on-one interview with the SCPR after the meeting.
Any doubt which direction she is leaning in?
Give hiring a full time manager a go, no?
To underscore her druthers, here is an encore on a previous committee report Councilwoman Del Rio-Keller made in November.
Also weighing in on the conduct on Parks & Recreation last Monday evening were The Legends area residents Marsha and Bob Harris.
Here is a SCPR video interview of the Harrises and another Legends' resident.
Elum in his P&RB comments insults Del Rio-Keller in his: "There hasn’t been one creative idea from any member of council" unfounded remark.
There is no surprise to the SCPR that Elum would make an "over-the-top" remark.
It is hard to believe that this guy has been a judge since 1996.
The Report thinks that you cannot get more intemperate than he is. Although Stark County Common Pleas judges Dixie Park (Probate Division) and Frank Forchione (General Division) do compete with him on this score.
In the SCPR's book, Elum lacks the even-keeled temperament one expects of a judge in spades.
The SCPR "has no dog in this fight."
However, The Report does care about Massillon City Council standing its ground and not being bullied by the likes of Elum, Catazaro-Perry and others who make up the MMPM.
It could turn out that after Councilwoman Del Rio-Keller and her colleagues on council have worked through plans to deal with The Legends matter, that there will develop a consensus that selling the golf course is the thing to do.
However, if such is the ultimate solution, it is incumbent on council to do so in a way that does not affect the property values and aesthetics of those who live in the vicinity of The Legends.
As one citizen told the SCPR last Monday evening, the only reason he and his wife moved from North Canton was because of the appeal made to them of the desirability of living next to a golf course.
Here is a post Monday, December 27, 2014 Council of the Whole interview with a group of The Legends residents.
The Catazaro-Perry flirtation with the aquarium/waterpark idea was not consistent with the expectations of those who bought next to The Legends.
Consequently, the SCPR thinks that - if she gets opposition - Catazaro-Perry could end up being a political casualty of what appears to be her disingenuity on The Legends issue.
Another Massillon politico who could end up as a political casualty on The Legends issue is Ward 4 councilman Shaddrick Stinson.
Right now he appears to be a fence sitter on the matter.
Pretty much like he appeared to be with former mayor Frank Cicchinelli on the question of whether or not he was part and parcel of the MMPM.
Cicchinelli, notwithstanding his political sagacity, the SCPR thinks, got hoodwinked.
The Report sees Stinson as a card carrying member of the MMPM who is cultivating disingenuity into a fine political art.
The Legends interest group should not be misled by Stinson by any sort of equivocal position/statement.
Unless he makes a declaration that he is outright opposed to the sale of The Legends for at least the next two years (which, of course, corresponds with new term if he is reelected), then it would be foolhardy for those 400 to 500 prospective voters living in the vicinity of The Legends who do not want it sold to trust him.
The SCPR thinks that if Elum in May articulated the "real" position of the MMPM on The Legends issue, then Stinson, Catazaro-Perry will find a way to "fall in line" when it comes to crunch time.
With the MMPM it is "group-think, ram-rod" politics and governance all the way.
Such is not what our democratic-republican form of government with its "check-and-balance" function is to be.
The Johnnie A. Maier, Jr. contrived Massillon Maier Political Machine is about as anti-democratic as politics and governance gets.
To the degree that Judge Edward Elum participates in that political bullying operation, he is right in saying:
I’m not here to say I should be a saint.
To that the SCPR says: Amen, Amen & Amen!
And to take another Elum P&RB comment quote somewhat out-of-context:
Anybody who wants to argue that, they don’t know what they’re talking about.
But, of course, Elum-phile readers can go to Judge Elum's statement about himself to find out what he "really" thinks of himself.
It appears that after all is said and done, in his own mind - despite his feigned modesty - he is deserving being thought of as St. Edward after all, and, perhaps, The Legend of Massillon.
From the Massillon Courts taxpayer paid for website: (restructured for ease of reading)
- Judge Elum has been active in many civic, community and charitable organization.
- In 1999, Judge Elum received the Massillon Boys & Girls Club’s Man & Youth Award for outstanding service to the youth of the community.
- [Other Awards]:
- Grace Community Church bestowed on him the Servant of the People Award; and,
- Faith Community Fellowship Church honored him with their Community Service Award.
- Judge Elum also was awarded received the Civil Liberties Award from the Civil Liberties League of Massillon in 1996.
- Elum serves as a member:
- of the Advisory Board of Doctors Hospital and,
- Habitat for Humanity.
- Judge Elum was co-founder of The Family Living Center,
- a residential transitional housing program to assist homeless families with children obtain permanent housing, self-sufficiency and employment.
- Judge Elum, together with Judge Kettler, have initiated an aggressive Community Work Service Program
- that orders defendants to perform work for community and charitable organizations.
- Since this Program’s inception, the Program has generated over $850,000.00 in labor hours for the community.
- Judge Elum has also instituted procedures that will protect the Victims of Crime.
- He has presided over 15,000 cases as Judge and has increased the collection of court fines to record amounts.
Why would someone want to tarnish all the good that he obviously has done over his nearly 20 years as a Massillon judge with all the bullying?