The powers that be at The Canton Repository had to be slapping hands in high five fashion when somebody from among them came up with what they apparently thought was a "brilliant" model for evaluating Canton City Council.
But as my mother used to say: "There is many a slip, between the cup and the lip."
And such is what yours truly thinks happened when the very first publication on the new model evidencing accountability in action was published on January 5, 2016 by The Repository, to wit:
While it is understandable that Ward 4 Councilwoman Chris Smith suspects that a tinge of racism by some unknown Repository employee was an operative factor in her and Councilman West's omission from the above published list, the SCPR does not believe for a nanosecond that racism was at play.
Here is an excerpt of what Smith had to say (LINK) in her January 8, 2016 published letter to the editor of The Rep:
I find it very strange that the two people omitted were the only two African-Americans who hold a Canton City Council seat. I was told that the article had been proofread, but no one has been able to tell me why this occurred. After the scorecard was given for Ward 1, the progression should have occurred naturally with Wards 2, 3, 4 and so on. I’m not sure what part of this equation isn’t understood. The Repository, on Monday, stated they would start evaluating council’s performance. It appears to me that they need to evaluate their own performance, beginning with their reporters, editors, printers, etc.There may have been and the SCPR suspects and thinks it is plausible that some pranksterism was going on as part of some tit for tat between newspaper management types and union members.
It’s sad when any community feels racial tensions, but to find that you have been thrown into the midst of it is very unsettling. This incident has not been justified and it cannot be solved with a mere “I’m sorry.” The damage has been done. Before this article was finalized and printed, there should have been some discussion. Who’s keeping a scorecard on the Repository?
If such was the case, the non-union leadership part of Stark County's only countywide daily could ill-afford to give any inkling to the general public that any degree of management/labor strife exists at The Rep.
Of course, it is possible that it was a plain old stupid error that escaped every eye that saw the goof "in plain sight" as it got inked and broadcast across Stark County.
But as Councilwoman Smith in effect clearly implied in her letter to the editor: Who is going to believe that?
For the record, here is The Rep's official response:
Editor’s Note: The omission of West’s and Smith’s names occurred during production. This mistake did not occur during the reporting process. The complete attendance list and a correction ran in Thursday’s Repository. Editor Rich Desrosiers also addressed this issue in a column, “Reputations build slowly, fall quickly.”If a get even prank it was on the part of some unhappy laborer(s), the omission - from management's reaction - really set the upper echelon of back on their collective heels as was evident in their bumbling, fumbling effort to explain how in the world something so obvious get by the paper's sharp eyed proofreaders.
As intriguing as to what was going on within the bowels of the edifice at 500 Market Avenue, South that was the genesis of the incomplete list; the real story as far as the SCPR is concerned is that though obviously well-intended, The Rep's Canton City Council Accountability Plan (Plan) was highly undeserving and unmerited in being accorded the self-congratulations that The Report speculates recently unfolded in the higher reaches of the venerable building on the south side of town.
The articulated criteria of evaluating/rating Canton's council seems to be twofold.
One, the attendance record of councilpersons.
Two, who productively/effectively contributes to Canton's legislative process and who is not.
On the attendance factor, the SCPR can say that going back over eight years that yours truly has covered council, attendance has at least been acceptable if not good.
In Stark County, only North Canton appears who at one time appeared to have an attendance problem (LINK).
And, as Majority Leader Frank Morris, II said at the January 4th council meeting, most of council's real work (not just Canton but every city/village council) is done outside of the regular meeting times.
So, if a councilperson has a 100% attendance record at regular Canton City Council meetings but does to answer constituents' telephone calls, work on solving neighborhood problems as they occur or do homework on legislative proposals so as to prepared to ask incisive questions of those city officials in favor of a given piece of legislation, he/she gets high marks?
On the contribution factor, the SCPR knows over above-referenced eight years The Report's coverage of council which council persons are generally productive as contrasted to those who are not.
ON THE PRODUCTIVE SIDE
While unsuccessful, Ward 8 Edmond Mack's work on trying to bring charter government to Canton stands out to the SCPR as having been a herculean effort that included a healthy legislative debate with Ward 2 councilman Thomas West.
Mack's work was rejected by he fellows on council but he persevered to get the matter on the ballot for Cantonians to consider this past November. Had it not been for the selfish-interest work of Dave Kirven on behalf of the trade unions, Canton treasurer Kim Perez and Auditor R.A. Mallonn and a few others with self-serving agenda, The Report thinks the measure would have passed.
Was he bitter on being defeated?
Not at all!
West has had his own day in the sun with his unsuccessful work on bringing traffic cameras to Canton. Agree or disagree with him as majority of council did, he did thorough work in presenting his side of the issue.
Mack was impressive in relating to the constituents of his ward in the face of overwhelming articulated opposition to having a park on St. Mark's Episcopal Church.
Councilman Mack stood tall at a public meeting in the ward as Ward 8 citizen after citizen shared their mostly opposed point of views in the finest tradition of our democratic-republican form of government.
Greg Hawk (Ward 1) endured being punished by the council friends of the former Healy administration in being stripped of his finance committee chairmanship (2013-2014 term) because of his vetting of and opposition to various administration financial proposals, plans and budget manipulation schemes.
Kevin Fisher (Ward 5) worked successfully several years ago to bring to fruition to a plan (LINK) to help stop deterioration in neighborhood housing.
Frank Morris, III was willing to put himself up for a leadership post on council when it became apparent that the former leader was out-of-sync with a majority of council.
Morris of Ward 9 is a refreshing curmudgeonly type who leaves very little doubt on whatever controversial issue is before council.
While the impulse on the part of his fellow councilpersons to go along with former Mayor Healy's desire that council fund at $350,000 the development of a Canton Citywide Plan was visionary and therefore laudable, Morris appears to have had the foresight to know that it was likely going to be $350,000 (Canton is now dealing with about a $4.2 million deficit in 2016) that the city could ill afford to be spending because the price tag (estimated to be about $250 million) for implementation would be impossible to come up with.
Councilman-at-Large William Smuckler has worked hard to try to achieve cooperation between Canton and the rest of Stark County's political subdivision. But his antagonist William J. Healy, II stood in the way at nearly every turn. With a new mayor, look for Smuckler to enjoy success going forward.
ON THE UNPRODUCTIVE SIDE
The political fight between Councilmen West and Morris as to whom was going to be majority leader in the 2014-2015 council term.
Ward 6 David Dougherty idea of Canton making a $25,000 investment (LINK) in selling Canton memorabilia/merchandise to a disinterested Canton public.
Councilman-at-Large (always dressed to the nines) Jimmy Babcock seemingly only functions as council's wallflower.
In a rare instance for the two of them, it was unseemly and hence unproductive for Councilmen Fisher and Morris as principals to conspire to put poison pills in place for citizens who wanted to run for a place on the Councilman Mack led charter government initiative which included a 15 member charter commission.
Most of if not all of the foregoing were years in the making.
For the folks at The Rep to think that they can make a meeting to meeting meaning assessment as to who is contributing, who is being productive and who is being effective is foolhardy.
The SCPR does not question the good intentions of The Rep leaders as one perspective for holding Canton City Council accountable for the quality of government which emanates council's midst.
But The Report does question the superficial, short-term an insubstantial criteria conjured as a vehicle for implementation.
Former Repository executive editor David Kaminski (now with the Canton Regional Chamber of Commerce) once bragged (a paraphrase) that The Rep was the equivalent of an 800 pound gorilla with tons of ink at its disposal.
The Repository was once the equivalent of being an 800 pound journalistic gorilla in its 200 year history.
But no more.
With council's reaction to the ill-considered Plan, it is time for The Rep's leadership to wake up and smell he coffee, no?
The Report is unsure of who is responsible for the debacle within the confines of The Repository.
But it smells of inexperience and therefore lack of institutional knowledge of this body of Stark County political subdivision government.
Over the eight years that The Stark County Political Report has been in existence, yours truly has seen some four or five in not more reporters come and go either on a continuing or sporadic basis covering the goings on at city halls throughout Stark County.
Having a foundation built on years of consistent coverage of specific government entities by as few media persons as is feasible is a key ingredient in order for a media outlet to be taken by the reading public as being credible as a judge of those entities be they councils, boards, judges or executive officers.
As the SCPR sees The Rep's last eight years, it is apparent that the foundation that once existed, no long does.
And that is not good for Stark County political subdivision accountability by the media going forward.
As Councilman Morris said last week at council meeting, the primary persons holding elected officials accountable are the voters in the official's electoral district.
However, going full cycle, solid media coverage of a given official's work is a critical factor on whether or not voters have resources with which to be informed voters.
For now The Repository's plan to hold Canton City Council is a failure.
The question is: Do The Repository powers that be have the resources and persistence to as Donald Trump says "be great again?"
The editors needed to read a book entitled Black Box Thinking (LINK).
Failure can be a spur to greatness if handled properly.