REACTING TO REJECTION
COUNCILMAN PAUL MANSON
COUNCILMAN ED LEWIS, IV
CHAIRMAN HANRAHAN'S TAKE AWAY
Today's blog has on the lead graphic above "mud" (source) superimposed on the SCPR group photo as an oval center in the rectangular space between four tables set up for yesterday's Massillon Financial Planning and Supervision Commission (MFP&SC, Commission) "special meeting" that had as its assignment to either accept or reject a Massillon City Council submitted Financial Restoration Plan (FRP, Plan).
Massillon's need to come up with a FRP arose, the SCPR thinks, because of a Mayor Kathy Catazaro-Perry politically motivated (going back to December, 2011 though elected but not yet sworn-in as mayor) insistence that Ohio state government place Massillon into fiscal emergency.
And here is some more background so that Massillonians fully understand what the SCPR believes their mayor and her genius "Kitchen Cabinet" advisers (Johnnie A. Maier, Jr, Shane Jackson and Eddie Elum) has put this proud city through.
From a prior blog:
As it turns out, the State uses six criteria to determine whether or not a city is in fiscal crisis. And Massillon barely fit into one of the six on State of Ohio Auditor Steve Yost acceding to the Catazaro-Perry wish.
The placement of Massillon in fiscal emergency is one of the key battlegrounds in which the mayor and council have battled.
Because Massillon is in fiscal emergency, the mayor and council need to agree on a "restoration" plan or face 15% across-the-board cuts to all departments of Massillon government.The second council FRP formulation of March 18th of this year and submitted by the mayor on the following day to the MFP&SC lacked clarity; that is to say it was not specific enough due, in part, to clerical errors and therefore confusing.
Catazaro-Perry (grudgingly) and council recently formulated a second restoration plan after the first (also agreed to after much acrimony between the mayor and council) failed in November, 2014 with the overwhelming defeat of an income tax increase among other measures.
The Commission did the right thing in voting unanimously yesterday to reject the Plan.
Taking the lead in identifying the blurriness of the Plan was Commission chairman and Massillon Cable TV president Bob Gessner.
MASSILLON CABLE TV
The SCPR is impressed with Gessner's quick grasp of the confusion that was inherent in the joint plan (joint because the mayor "reluctantly" signed on to council's plan) documents submitted by the mayor to the Commission.
Gessner is clearly the lead assessor from among all the Commission members and appeared to be donning a statesman-like attitude in yesterday's meeting.
Being the skeptic that the SCPR is on nearly all things Catazaro-Perry, Maier, Jr., Jackson and Elum, The Report wonders whether or not the Administration has known since the 19th all about the somewhat confusing condition of the submitted documents and was content to sit back and watch council be embarrassed.
Four members of council were present at yesterday's meeting; namely, Councilpersons Manson, Halter, Lewis and Del Rio-Keller.
And the SCPR is impressed with Commission chair Sharon Hanrahan of the State of Ohio Office of Budget and Management Commission.
She kept the meeting moving and civil and did not let it devolve into hostility towards council which The Report is told marked previous Commission meetings in varying degrees.
A major factor that could have led to yesterday's "confusion" problems may have been in large part be owing to the compressed time frame (about 10 days) that council had within which to put the second plan together.
If the SCPR understands the abbreviated timeline within which (about 10 days) council had to obtain due diligence type information from the Administration needed to analyze the mayor's plan or to put together a council's own plan, it appears understandable that errors would crop into the process.
The Administration used most of the 30 day time period allotted for the formation of a plan agreed upon by council and the mayor as a condition precedent to the MFP&SC taking the matter up on an up or down vote.
As far as the SCPR is concerned, Mayor Kathy is to blame for creating conditions that led to yesterday's rejection.
As Councilman Paul Manson said in a SCPR post-meeting interview "haste makes waste."
Manson played the role of a gentleman in not landing on the mayor for putting council "under the gun." It was abundantly clear in council's March 11th work session that it was scrambling to cobble together its own plan which was in effect of the mayor's real property tax increase plan.
Again, being the skeptic the SCPR is prone to be of the good faith of the mayor, The Report tends to believe that the delay in providing council with critical data as being a political calculus designed to put council in a time crunch and thereby pressure council to throw up their hands in frustration and be left with no alternative but to accept the mayor's plan.
Well, council showed its mettle in not caving into the Administration generated compacted time span. But in doing so, it probably disserved itself in the public relations that seems to be part of a political game the mayor is playing on Massillon government finances.
If such is the mayor's gameplan, council is to be credited under the bipartisan leadership of Councilmen Manson (a Democrat) and Ed Lewis (a Republican) in persisting in due diligence deliberation and coming up with an alternative to the mayor's plan.
However, in allowing itself to be boxed in by the mayor timeline wise, yesterday was a PR coup for the mayor.
Yesterday's rejection is only temporary and council will fix things rather easily and quickly as articulated upon by Councilman Lewis in the following SCPR post-meeting interview.
But one can only imagine the chortling that is going on between the mayor and her political loyalists.
The Report has learned that the mayor's plan had its own defect which is interesting in view of the Administration taking the lion's share of the time available before the deadline for submitting a plan to the Commission.
The called for a property tax of 1.5 mills to be voted on in February of 2016.
The Report is told that Ohio law does not allow property taxi issues to be voted on in "special elections" and, if it did, the cost to Massillon would have been $15,000.
While $15,000 isn't a huge amount, every single dollar counts for a city said by the mayor to have been in need of being placed in fiscal emergency, no?
Chairman Hanrahan distinguished herself with her leadership of the Commission yesterday in keeping the discussion civil and in setting the time for councils' rework of its plan for Commission consideration on May 19th.
The chairman yesterday and has had over the course of Commission meetings had to walk a very fine line between the battling branches of Massillon city government.
She impressively has functioned as "quite the diplomat" and is slowly but surely inching Massillon government to a "all on the same page" solution to what the SCPR thinks from the very beginning has been nothing other than a cash flow problem.
Here is a SCPR interview on her assessment on how yesterday's meeting went.
Her bosses in Columbus should be pleased with her leadership.
The bottom line for all this with the SCPR is that as long as Catazaro-Perry is mayor and her confidant Johnnie A. Maier, Jr. is clerk of courts in Massillon, it is hard see Tigerland in any mode other than a political turmoil.
And The Report thinks that both could be around as Massillon elected officials for the forseeable future.
The political drama that the likes of Catazaro-Perry and Maier, Jr. foster is good for The Stark County Political Report but it is absolutely gut-wrenching for the good citizens of Massillon!
Here is the full video of yesterday's Massillon Financial Planning and Supervision Commission.
This video is about 55 minutes long.