Canton Councilman Frank Morris, III
Possible Relocation of 2016 Hall of Fame Game
Canton City Council
Work Session 12/22/2015
TIF Financing of Hall of Fame Project
It is worth the time and effort to attend a Canton City Council meeting if for no other reason than to possibly see Ward 9 Democratic councilman Frank Morris, III in action at his finest!
Morris, also council's majority leader and vice president, is apt as a matter to spontaneity to utter some zingers.
He is not your typical politician who are generally known to weigh every word said as to whether or not it will put him/her in a good light and serve their ultimate goal of achieving political perpetuity.
While the SCPR thinks Morris is much more honest than and understanding of the complexities of government than Republican leading presidential contender Donald Trump; there is a directness and "not being politically correct" that is refreshing about him.
The Report thinks it is mostly that part (directness, not worrying about being politically correct) of Trump that is appealing to people. The problem with Trump is that he is an out-and-out demagogue whereas Morris is a "straight from the heart" politician.
While Morris last night didn't say a la Shakespeare (Henry VI) "Kill All The Lawyers," he may as well in remarks in blaming the lawyers for a hold up on legislation which would approve a TIF (Tax Incentive Financing) for the Hall of Fame Village Project (HOFVP) that is underway in its initial stages with the in process rehab of the formerly named Fawcett Stadium (now Benson Stadium).
The price tag for the total project is some $500 million.
The stadium part is reported to cost about $80 million.
The entire project is slated to be completed by 2018.
The stadium part by the time of the annual pro football "opening the exhibition season" game of the National Football League.scheduled for August 7, 2016. (LINK)
As Councilman Kevin Fisher (Democrat, Ward 5) noted last night, the weather is certainly cooperating.
Stark County, indeed all of Ohio, has enjoyed usually warm weather through Fall and the onset of Winter (December 22nd, this year).
And one other thing. Fisher the consummate friend of organized labor was pleased to hear assurances that all the contracts will contain language implementing a Project Labor Agreement (PLA) for all phases of the project.
The real question is the money question.
In recent confabs (early November) with multiple parties (i.e. the developers, for example IRG and Stu Lichter) involved in the stadium refurbishing, a point of major of concern of the shakers and movers who conceived and are shepherding the project was Canton City Council doing its part in getting the financing in place to finish the stadium.
Last night Councilman Morris expressed dismay that council is finding it necessary and expedient to delay action because of the dilly dallying around (the SCPR words, not Morris') of the attorneys for the respective interests.
Morris' preemptively put the blame where it will lie if relocation is necessary, to wit: "the lawyers."
But, of course, relocation would not be a good thing for the Canton/Stark County economy. Many Canton/Stark County businesses rely on Enshrinement Week as a key ingredient in making a profit for the year.
In an exclusive SCPR video interview (Part 1 - immediately below), Morris identified IRG as the main culprit. What likely concerns local government officials is a suspicion that change after change after change in the language of the agreements is evidence of an effort to put Canton, Plain Township and Stark County taxpayers in the position of "holding the bag" should the project come up short on financing.
Within the last six months, the SCPR had long conversations with a Stark County Political Subdivision elected official whose major premise was that the Hall of Fame Village Project (HOFVP) is a pipedream a that money might not be available to finish the first step in HOFVP undertaking and that either the Canton City Schools and/or the financially strapped Canton government (projecting a $4.2 million 2016 budget deficit) would have to foot the bill to complete the partially rehabbed stadium.
Despite all the hype and fanfare which has many Canton/Stark County officials gaga over the financial/economic benefit that promoters say will flow into the county for the foreseeable future, there are skeptics who say the project will never be completed because the legacy profession football shrine simply is not enough of a draw to produce the benefit to the Stark County number being bandied about, to wit: 13,000 jobs, millions, upon millions, upon millions of dollars in economic return.
It was palpable to the SCPR from the discussion at council's work session that there are those councilpersons who are concerned about the return Canton will get from the project.
Canton government has committed $5 million.
Canton City and Plain schools in approving the TIF are there by contributing 75% of property tax revenues over 30 years to the building/improving of the HOFVP. While Canton and Plain Township receive relatively little in real property taxes, it still is money that otherwise go to street construct and repair, snowplowing and the like.
Many think that the $5 million and the property tax monies being diverted into the construction of the HOFVP is just the tip of the iceberg of what Stark Countians will be paying in one form or another that will be difficult to identify as being for the HOFVP.
Cantonians and Stark Countians should be vitally interested in seeing the following two videos from last night's Canton City Council meeting.
First, the rest of thel SCPR/Morris interview (Part II).
Second, the entire discussion of Canton City Council with Canton officials on the TIF issue.
One final point.
The SCPR thinks that after Morris' pointed remarks about IRG's lawyers, matters will be in place for council to approve the TIF on December 28th.
With Morris, it is not "Kill The Lawyers," but rather "Kick The Lawyers in the Butt!"
The Report is betting that IRG's lawyers will being feeling this morning as if they get as real ass kicking from the foot of Councilman Frank Morris, III last night.
How's that for blunt, risque talk, Frank?