A number of Canton councilpersons tell the SCPR that "all Hell broke loose" (The Report's interpretation) at last night's council meeting.
Chances are normally pretty good that the SCPR would have been there to video record the event "blow-by-blow." However, yours truly underwent surgery on Thursday of last week and is not quite up to making it out to local government meetings.
But of course the SCPR has a rich base of "on the scene" resources upon which to write a blog.
One might ask, why the need to write a blog (an opinion supported by data/facts) on a matter that appears to be nothing more than a turf war: that is to say a "ward councilperson perspective" versus "Canton as a whole councilpersons?"
Answer: The SCPR thinks this battle is one of a number that have been fought and will continue to surface as Canton's government sorts out "what really is important" for the Hall of Fame city to drag itself out of decades of decline.
The fight going on among Canton city council members appears to be the age old among humans "short-term" versus "long-term."
Last night the short-termers where Councilwoman (and assistant majority leader) Chris Smith, Ward 4 and Councilman David Dougherty, Ward 7 (former majority leader).
Interestingly enough, the SCPR thinks Dougherty was ousted as majority leader January, 2014 because he had run afoul of Canton City Council president Allen Schulman who clearly is foremost among council's long term thinking councilpersons.
And, the SCPR is told (which Schulman vehemently denies), that President Schulman has been working "behind the scenes" to replace Smith as assistant majority leader (1st vice president) because of her opposition to recent council initiatives including the Onesto Loft project and the $5 million that Canton has designated for the long term economic development project known as the Hall of Fame Village.
What prompted last night's fight?
Answer: The repaving of Fulton Road Northwest from it terminus at Tuscarawas Street Northwest to out at the city limits which is at point beyond the Pro Football Hall of Fame complex.
The short-termers are furious that $400,000 set aside recently to be used for road maintenance projects "in the wards" is now being proposed to be tapped into in order for Canton to come up with "the local match" dollars needed for Canton to get $1.25 million in state of Ohio and federal grant monies with which to repave Fulton.
There is no doubt that one way or another Canton WILL come up with "the local match" to get the $1.25 million.
Can you imagine the political ruckus that foregoing $1.25 million would create in Canton?
The SCPR would daresay that such an occurrence would doom Dougherty and Smith in the November elections.
Though neither has a Democratic opponent in the May primary, should Dougherty and Smith convince five other councilpersons to join them in defeating the diversion of the $400,000 to the Fulton Road project (which the SCPR thinks is highly unlikely); does anybody doubt that an "independent" candidate will file before the May 4th filing deadline?
Such fate is not likely what Dougherty and Smith have to look out for.
What should be of concern to these short-termers is the "long-term" effect on their respective relationships with their fellow councilpersons.
It should be instructive to both that, though we live in a deliberative democratic-republic in which legislative debate is prized; if they are perceived "overall" to be on the wrong side of issues important to the power brokers, their devotion to their respective wards in council deliberations may be retributed upon by the "real" powers in Canton City Council.
The SCPR appreciates Dougherty and Smith "standing their ground" on last night's issue and encourages them in their short-term pursuits for the interests of their respective wards.
However, on this issue The Report agrees with the long-termers.
That we can disagree with one another in the United States of America without retribution is a quality that sets us apart from the rest of the world.
Of course the stakes were much higher.
But we saw in Russia this past weekend how some body politics handle their disputes.
To The Report, the blog of February 17th (though denied by Schulman), is this writer's contribution to the notion that we Americans can disagree in a deeply felt manner and life goes on as before.
And such should be the case on the Fulton Road repave issue.
He says that he is working with Canton's finance director to find those dollars in the nooks and crannies of Canton city finances and thereby satisfy both the short-termers and long-termers.
Another top-flight Canton councilman is Ward 8 councilman Edmond Mack.
Here is what he has to say:
RE: Fulton Road Matter
Edmond J. MackIn last night's meeting there was the offer by Councilman Morris to release some $120,000 of the $400,000 for projects in Ward 9 to help reach "the local match."
Today at 10:31 AM
Thanks for the note, Martin.
The Fulton Road NW re-surfacing project is simply a no-brainer. It is a major corridor in our City. This road is not only a residential thoroughfare, but it connects our major tourist attraction, the Pro Football Hall of Fame, with our downtown and arts district. And anyone who has driven on this road recently knows that it is in absolutely deplorable condition. Though this road is not in my ward, the economics are clear – if we have the opportunity to accept a grant that pays 80% of this desperately needed project, we capitalize on the opportunity. Regardless of the ward a particular councilperson may represent, the policy conclusion that should be drawn is obvious. End of story.
Regrettably, last night’s council meeting devolved into a ward versus ward turf battle, with members criticizing the Fulton Road project as an expense to their ward’s self-interest. This was very disappointing. While each ward councilmember has an obligation to advocate for their respective ward, fighting for a member’s ward should not come at the expense of the City as a whole. We have made much progress overcoming this old “ward versus ward” mindset, and it seems as if last night was a bit of a backslide. The fact of the matter is that we all rise and fall together.
All of our wards – including my own – have been the recent beneficiary of critical infrastructure grants. E.g., The 55th Street NE Improvement Project (Ward 8: $1.1 Million); Sherrick Road SE Resurfacing (Ward 4: $1.27 Million); 12th Street NE /Mahoning Road NE Corridor Project (Wards 2 and 6: $53.55 million); Southeast Community Center Spray Park (Ward 4: $556,363). These projects provide an undeniable ROI, often at rates in excess of 400%. We should therefore encourage the utilization of these grants on projects that are needed, such as the Fulton Road NW project. Not opposing them simply because they are not in our respective ward.
I do believe, however, that yesterday’s backslide was temporary. It was simply a manifestation of the frustration all of us on Council feel regarding the extremely limited resources we have to manage our City’s roadways and infrastructure. The funding cuts imposed upon us by the Columbus State Legislators are very real and very deep. We are all human with human emotions, and our frustration will invariably express itself from time to time. Nevertheless, we have a very good City Council, and I believe every one of us are serving for the right reasons. I predict that the vote on the Fulton Road NW project will be unanimous, and our body will maintain its excellent work of collectively moving our City forward.
Edmond J. Mack
Canton Council, Ward 8
This folks is mature leadership and being responsible councilpersons.
The SCPR compliments Morris and Fisher for stepping forward with their offer.
Both short-term and long-term interest are legitimate in terms of dealing with city priorities.
The players (Canton's councilpersons and leadership) need to cultivate a climate of satisfying both in the give and take of council's proceedings.
It looks to the SCPR that the actions of Morris, Fisher and Smuckler are in the right direction.
In order for "the soul of Canton" to be saved consistent with the American structure of government, it is imperative that various ward and citywide interests be debated and resolved without there being a lingering ill feeling and possible retribution hanging in the air!