As far as The Stark County Political Report is concerned, city of Canton Democrat voters, beyond veteran council member Bill Smuckler, have a Hobson's Choice as to whom to select from among Jimmy Babcock, Mary Cirelli and Tom Harmon to fill out the remaining two Democratic Party slots for the November election.
THE MAYORALTY FACE-OFF
With the Canton mayoralty race all but decided, in the opinion of the SCPR given the following:
- as of December 31, 2014 Mayor William J. Healy, II $115,000 in campaign funds available and opponent and Treasurer (City of Canton) Kim Perez - less than $10,000, and
- the advantage of being mayor enabling Healy to benefit from having an agenda in progress for example:
- oil and gas shale development in the Canton/Stark County area,
- a relatively low unemployment rate unfolding over the course of seven years being mayor,
- Note: with their attendant increased income tax collections
- Canton economic development and enhancement projects/plans like:
- the Citywide Comprehensive Plan which is to be unveiled likely before the May, primary election
- the VXI Calling Center employment numbers,
- the Onesto Lofts project,
- the Hall of Fame Village development planning,
- the Mahoning Road/12th Street corridor rehab projects,
- the revitalization of Canton parks and recreation infrastructure, and
- safety force employment being beefed up
Over the nearly seven years of the publication of the SCPR, yours truly has done many, many blogs on Healy detailing numerous goof ups and yet he lives on as perhaps Stark County's most skilled politician.
He indeed has to be the envy of the proverbial "cat with nine lives" in that he seemingly survived way more than nine times in escaping from one scrape after another scrape after another scrape over his seven plus years in office.
Even the competitive 2015 Canton City Council contests are of minimal significance, if any, in terms of producing new leadership that has to potential spark Canton to an accelerated and higher level of economic, financial, cultural recovery from decades of decline.
A Hobson's Choice is one in which there is only one substantive choice but appearances indicate otherwise.
Of the four Democrats running for three Canton City Council positions, the only who is prepared and who has demonstrated that he belongs there is the dean of council; namely, Bill Smuckler.
All the rest are in the opinion of the SCPR "no choice at all."
Jimmy Babcock did impress The Report in raising meaningful questions to the Healy administration in recent council deliberations on whether or not to pass the Onesto TIF (Tax Incentive Financing) whereby Stark County entrepreneur Steve Coon's enterprises will benefit the tune of about $2 million (a SCPR gestimate) over 10 years while costing Canton City Schools, Stark County government, Stark County mental health and children services, Stark Parks a like amount in revenue.
Why Babcock and and others (Morris, Fisher and Smith) were correct in voting "no" on February 2nd, the SCPR thinks, is that Coon was going forward anyway.
But Babcock is mostly silent in council sessions and does not appear to have qualities as a legislator that make him an overall asset on council.
What can one say about Mary Cirelli?
Mary is Mary, God Bless her!
However, her main value has been to be council's "naysayer-in-chief." While there is a time and place for voting "no," the SCPR's take on Mary is that she votes "no" seemingly for the mere sake of voting "no," while not offering positive alternatives.
The most that can be said for Tom Harmon is that he apparently is running at the behest of Bill Smuckler. Harmon was involved in Smuckler's campaign to be county commissioners in 2012.
While it is comforting to know that there is a close association between Harmon and Smuckler, should the long term former Canton Municipal Court clerk of courts, short term Stark County commissioner be elected to Canton City Council, one wonders what contribution he would make to the improvement of Canton (other than to follow the lead of Smuckler)?
The SCPR got to know Harmon from his days as commissioner and to say the least The Report was not impressed.
His big economic development project as commissioner was to promote the building of a horse show arena on the Stark County fairgrounds.
And, of course, we all know where that went: absolutely nowhere.
Unfortunately, Canton may end up with two at-large councilpersons (as among Babcock, Cirelli and Harmon) who in the judgment of the SCPR have little if anything to offer towards the revitalization of Canton.
Hopefully, independent Councilman-at-Large Richard Hart will run for reelection (filing deadline, May 4, 2015).
Hart does have a vision for Canton possessed by neither neither of the three mentioned above, at least, as demonstrated to date.
While Cantonians will elect three at-large council persons in November, in terms of substance there may be only one choice; namely Bill Smuckler, should Hart decide not to run.
And that is how the SCPR comes to equate the at-large candidacies as perhaps being a Hobson's Choice. The only "real" choice (absent Hart) being Bill Smuckler.
Greg Hawk is probably Canton City Council's most adept financial councilperson.
And, before Mayor Healy had his way in getting him removed as chairman of the finance committee for one term (2012 - 2013), he was a festering sore to the mayor.
Well, guess what?
With the change in the composition of council in the elections of 2013, he regained his coveted finance chairman post.
And Hawk does have a mouth on him.
He often weighs-in during council work sessions and has a decent handle on city finances.
It was painful though to hear him talk (several weeks ago) about the Onesto TIF as the "to be cut out of 75% of tax revenues" Stark County political subdivisions as getting 25% of something rather than 75% of nothing.
The SCPR thinks (as stated above) that Coon was going ahead with the Onesto project whether the TIF passed council or not.
So it appears that the TIF is one gigantic taxpayer give-away.
In most instances, The Report agrees with Hawk's financial take and believes him to be an effective watchdog of Canton taxpayer money but not on the Onesto thing.
Tim Porter does not seem to have any particular agenda/point-of view and likely would be like a potted plant waiting for the mayor or a city administrator to water the plant.
Long time Ward 2 CouncilmanThomas West may be the most talented of all Canton City councilpersons IF one looks at the "potential" of a person.
The SCPR sees him as:
- being intellectually sharp,
- having high grade communication skills,
- being politically sophisticated,
- having a astute awareness of Canton's problems, and
- demonstrating passion for issues he cares about
However, The Report sees him as excessively self-serving and prone to sophistry and "out-of-touch with reality" on some issues and largely misguided in how to achieve fairness for Canton's African-American residents.
If West could ever "get his leadership act together," he could be a dynamo in providing Canton Council with substantive issue expertise (meaning well researched and urbanely presented).
His work on the proposal to bring traffic cameras was impressive.
However, he failed to be in touch with the sentiments of the constituents of his fellow councilpersons (also, likely his own) and therefore was unable to close the deal.
West does aspire to leadership, witness his (in the opinion of the SCPR) disruption of Canton City Council getting going in its current term (ie. 2014 - 2015) in dragging out the selection of a new majority leader (vice president of council,) in competing with ultimate winner Ward 9 councilman Frank Morris.
That he competed was desirable. That he dragged the process out in technical legal grounds was not.
The SCPR thinks, though generally liked by his fellows on council, hurt himself in the leadership regard they hold for him in his "gilding the lily" on his vying with Morris.
The question with Councilman Thomas West if whether or not he can learn from experience and grow as a councilperson so that he can achieve a leadership role.
For West will be around as Ward 2 councilman for as long as he wants.
He seemingly has a nemesis opponent in Gloria E. Norris.
This year's May 5th Democratic Primary will be her third try going back to 2011.
West has trounced her but good in two tries to unseat him (once in the 2013 Democratic Primary and once in the 20122 general election).
What was that all about?
The SCPR longs for Ward 2 Councilman Thomas E. West to reach his potential as a Canton City Council leader and concomitant as an effective Canton/Stark County African-American leader.
One thing about West that absolutely drives the SCPR up a wall is his constant bellyaching about the futility of African-Americans achieving elected office proportional to their over all numbers place in Canton/Stark County.
More numerous African-Americans in Canton/Stark County government would be, the SCPR thinks, a good thing.
However The Report has seen nothing from West in the way of creating/developing a political, educational and "preparation for governance" structure that will enhance the prospects for African Americans to attain leadership posts.
West himself has shown (November, 2006) that he has wide political appeal across Stark County.
Note that West substantially out polled a well known former Stark County judge running for the same state senate position only four years before.
There are not 55,541 African-Americans living in Stark County. And there certainly not 55,541 registered to vote African-Americans.
Moreover, President Barrack Obama won Stark County in 2008 and 2012.
So it is utter nonsense that African-American cannot win in Canton citywide and countywide.
- Note: One of the reasons West is opposed to charter government for Canton is his concern that he fears that it could lead to less minority representation on council.
Councilman West needs to:
- forget the likes of "The Rooney Rule, and
- put his innate abilities to work on devising ways and means for getting African-Americans into their rightful place of being competitive across Stark County and Canton,
- for example: create an education and training structure which citizens are recruited to participate in so that a pool of candidates are at the ready to run in wards and at-large.
- now that would be leadership
The SCPR will say it again.
Thomas West has the potential to be one of Canton's and Stark County's finest leaders.
But time is moving on faster than he apparently thinks.
It could be that when his time has come and gone, the talk will still be about "the potential of Councilman Thomas West."
Late last year Ward 3 Councilman Jim Griffin announced he would not see another term as the ward's councilman.
The lingering memory of the SCPR is a campaign appearance a number of years ago in which the councilman's main point was "how much I enjoy being councilman."
Well, as far as The Report is concerned, that doesn't quite cut it in terms of qualification being a Canton councilperson.
So the news that Griffin was steeping aside was good news to the SCPR in the hope that more vigorous and intent in being engaged candidates might emerge.
And perhaps in Ryan Brahler and Jason Scaglione such might be in the offing.
However, they, despite their relative youth when compared to Griffin, may prove more of the same.
Scaglione has showed some fire in taking to the lectern during Public Speaks at Canton council.
Here is a LINK so that readers can get a sampling of Scaglione's approach.
Brahler is a member of the Canton City Schools Board of Education (president of the board, believe it or not) which is mired in a controversy about whether or not Canton's two high schools (Timken and McKinley) should be merged beginning with the 2015/16 school year under the banner of McKinley with all of Canton's grades 10 through 12 being sent to the current McKinley facility.
How he votes on February 25th on the CCS merger, could go a long ways in determining whether or not he realizes his dream of being a Canton councilman.
Two years ago Brahler toyed around with running as an independent but was denied ballot access by the Stark County Board of Elections.
It appears (given that he's jumping ship this election cycle) that his running for and being elected a CCS-BOE member in 2011 (unopposed) was not because he has passionate about being a BOE member. But rather as a way-station waiting for Griffin to step aside.
Brahler strikes yours truly in having an anemic public presentation tone to him that if elected suggests that he will be a Jim Griffin-esque city councilman.
Scaglione on the other hand appears to be a forceful personality.
Zutali has run for Ward 7 councilman before.
He is an able candidate but he has the misfortune insofar as the SCPR is concerned to be running against one of Canton City Council's more energetic, thoughtful and visionary councilpersons.
Mariol is one of a group of four "young" councilpersons, except, perhaps for Majority Leader (vice president of council) Frank Morris which group, in addition to Morris, includes Ward 5 councilman Kevin Fisher and Ward 8 councilman Edmond Mack.
Mariol has a visionary quality about him. He is a major proponent of the Market Square (3rd St, North/Market Avenue, North) project now being talked about and planned.
While the SCPR sees Mariol as one of council's better thinkers, he can get ahead of himself when he allows his enthusiasm for moving Canton forward cloud his judgment in considering whether or not council ought to be funding this or that project.
An example is to be found on the Onesto TIF project.
Mariol's reasoning for voting to approve the TIF is to put Coon's company in the best possible position to repay a $2 million loan which Canton has underwritten with its bonding power.
So you probe deeper with a company that you question whether or not it can repay a substantial loan?
Doesn't make any sense to the SCPR.
And, of course, "the going in deeper" costs Stark County political subdivisions some $2 million over ten years for a project that some think is going forward even if the TIF is not passed.
More vetting needed to be done by Mariol and other supporters of the TIF in order to make sure that BUT FOR council approving the Onesto TIF the project would not have gone forward.
The vetting was not done.
The SCPR expects more of Mariol and Mack.
Morris deserves accolades for penetrating the hype and cheerleading for the TIF in stepping back and looking at the Onesto thing and saying: "You know what, this guy (Coon) is going to complete the Onesto Lofts EVEN IF Canton does not give away $2 million of Stark County political subdivison money!"
That's what the SCPR expects of a thoroughgoing majority leader of Canton City Council.
Morris being the oldest of council's newest and youngest foursome may well also by virtue of greater life experience be the wisest, no?
CONCLUSION ON CANTON FILINGS
All-in-all, the SCPR is not impressed with the filings for Canton mayoralty/council candidates.
While Fisher, Mack, Mariol, Morris, Hawk, Smuckler provide consistent and well thought out leadership; it is "hit and miss" with the rest of them and in the case of a few "completely miss."
The Stark County Republican Party has shown itself to totally unworthy to call itself the "Stark County" Republican Party by virtue of its complete abandonment of having candidates for Canton government posts.
Not one Republican is vying for Canton government office.
One lady did take out petitions for Ward 3, but she did not file.
Jeff Matthews should have been dumped by the Party long ago.
Here's a guy who The Report is told by super-knowledgeable Republican "in-the-trenches" workers not to bother encouraging everyday Republicans to seek election as precinct committeepersons.
Undoubtedly, the SCPR thinks, because he is unsure whether or not he can control them.
When citizens do not run for the office, guess who gets to appoint them?
You've got it! Chairman Matthews.
Shame on Chairman Jeff Matthews and the "Stark County?" Republican Party for being absentees in Canton's and Stark County's political/government mix!
Had there not been what local civic activist Craig T. Conley names as being Zeiglergate (2009 - 2011); one has to wonder whether or not Republicans would hold any countywide non-judicial elective offices, no?