Thursday, April 21, 2016



APRIL 19, 2016
(At End of Blog)



It is interesting to note how the long, long, long political feud between Massillon's John Ferrero and Johnnie A. Maier, Jr. (well, sort of inasmuch as he lives in Tuscarawas Township but was born and raised in Massillon) permeates so much of Stark County political subdivision government.

Both are former Stark County Democratic Party chairmen.  Maier, Jr. succeeded Ferrero as chair.

Yesterday, (LINK) the SCPR conjectured that the alarming backlog in unenforced arrested warrants for charged misdemeanants and felons roaming the streets and neighborhoods might well be owing to the political blood feud that many think exists between Stark County Prosecutor Ferrero and Massillon Clerk of Courts Maier, Jr. and of course Maier Junior's brother and Stark County Sheriff George T. Maier in that Ferrero and George T. Maier cannot because of the underlying political feud work together as Stark's law enforcement leaders should as the combined recipients of some $25 millions in Justice System Sales Tax money (passed by voters in November, 2011) to devise an all inclusive Stark County-based policing units task force to clean up the delinquent warrants.

Lo and behold! the SCPR was struck again with "the elephants in the room" (Ferrero and the Maiers) that nobody seems to see was apparent in a Massillon Chamber of Commerce meeting room as the Massillon Financial Planning and Supervision Commission (MFPSC) discussed Massillon financial health or lack thereof as a consequence of Mayor Kathy Catazaro-Perry having insisted in the State of Ohio placing Massillon in fiscal emergency beginning with a effort that started as mayor-elect (November, 2011) culminating in success in October, 2013.

"Elephants in the Room?"

How so?

A fight over the composition of how Massillonians will be approached fourth time (three, if one only counts MFPSC induced efforts) for a tax increase, that's how!

Ferrero has sent his emissary and Stark County prosecutor's office chief legal counsel John Kurtzman to Massillon City Council a number of times to weigh-in (in Massillon "Public Speaks" forum) on whether or not Massillonians working outside of Massillon and paying municipal taxes to other Stark County-based villages and cities will get a full credit on their Massillon income tax returns for the taxes paid outside of Massillon.

At the present time, tax credit Massillon taxpayers get a 75% credit.  The Ferrero-led forces want a 100% credit.

In yesterday's MFPSC meeting, Mayor Kathy (or just plain ole Kathy if you are Bob Gessner of Massillon Cable TV and MFPSC member) showed what a generous person she is in announcing at her own initiative that her administration is willing to discuss with Massillon's council increasing the tax credit to 87.5%.

Where does council stand on the matter?

It appears if one believes council president Claudette Istnick (who Mayor Kathy defeated for a councilperson seat in Massillon's Ward 3 in 2003) and the most senior member of Massillon City Council—Paul Manson, council is likely to reject the Catazaro-Perry overture.

All this Ferrero/Maier political undertow and financial realities indicate to The Report that no matter what happens with the levy, there is no scenario in which—as trumpeted by the mayor—Massillon becomes financially healthy anytime soon.

If council forces Catazaro-Perry hand and compels her to accept a 100% tax credit, then Massillon likely only nets about $600,000 even if there is a streets department specific levy increase of .2% that passes in a contemplated August 2, 2016 election which in and of itself could cost Massillon taxpayers $26,000 or more.

The levy, if passed, will raise revenues by about $1.2M but a 100% tax credit would cost city coffers general fund about $600,000.

Let's say that council gives in and goes along with an increase in the tax credit from 75% to 87.5%.

Result:  Massillon nets about $900,000 in increased revenues in the first Massillon income tax increase since 1977 (except for a .3% 1990s parks and recreation issue).

Let's see now.

Mayor Kathy says that the passage of  a .2%  tax increase makes the city healthy whereas a failure puts the city into "limp along" status.

Take a look at revenue collections from 2014 through March of 2016:

The SCPR believes that all of Mayor Catazaro-Perry's "Massillon can be financial healthy again" talk is "pie-in-the-sky" in her mode of being the cheerleader-in-chief for her adopted "City of Champions" motif.

Why is the mayor being so dogged in her pursuit of at least a .25% retention of a reduced tax credit?

The Report thinks it is owing to the Ferrero/Maier political feud not to mention the feud between Maier, Jr. and former mayor Frank Cicchinelli going back to the days when both were students at Kent State - Stark.

Maier, Jr. who many think was the person who hijacked Kathy Catazaro-Perry to run against and unseat Cicchinelli in the 2011 Massillon Democratic primary.

Normally, Democrat against Democrat would be a political unpardonable sin with former Dems' chairman Maier, Jr. but there are exceptions.  What greater merited exception could there be but the unseating of bitter rival Cicchinelli?

Doesn't it seem that anything that Maier, Jr. touches becomes mired in controversy, discord and/or political vendetta if things don't go his way?

Between Maier, Jr., Ferrero, and Cicchinelli and their political jockeying, Massillon has become a veritable Hell-hole of politics and the consequences have been devastating to this once proud city.

Historically, Catazaro-Perry and Maier, Jr. have been anti-tax as a matter of basic political philosophy.  While the mayor is included in the foregoing sentence on fiscal political philosophy, the SCPR does not believe she thinks deep enough to have a philosophy but merely adopts whatever Maier, Jr. happens to be spouting at the moment.

It appears that Maier, Jr. has been quite willing to use his political influence to put Stark County government (through Gayle Jackson) and Massillon government into to lean if not untenable financial modes.

If only there was a way to bring the fiscal austerity directly and specifically home to Maier,  his relatives and political allies who are on the public payroll in one Stark County political subdivision community or another,  maybe Johnnie wouldn't be so fanatically opposed to properly funding government.

For one thing he clearly understands is political self-interest.

As Ward 3 councilperson, Catazaro-Perry likely at Maier, Jr's prodding, opposed and led the "among council" fight for Massillon to forego an opportunity for Massillon to impose a $5 license plate increase (or lose it to the county engineer).

One source tells the  SCPR that Massillon 12 years later would have had about over $1 million additional in street department dedicated revenue had the increase been enacted by council.

And that was only if a $5 license plate increase had been enacted.

Maybe as much as $2 million, if council had enacted a $10 fee as it could have.

A source says that a main factor in Catazaro-Perry persuading four fellow council members to reject the opportunity to enrich Massillon's street department financial resources was then-Stark County commissioner Gayle Jackson, the mother of Johnnie A. Maier, Jr. protege and Massillon chief deputy clerk of courts R. Shane Jackson who is the political director of the Stark County Democratic Party.

The Report is told that Jackson was telling council members that the county would not step in to take advantage of the opportunity to increase the license plate fee which, of course, the-then engineer Mike Rehfus did not only to the tune of $5 per plate but to the maximum of $10 per plate.

Accordingly, in a financial tragic and heavily ironic twist, BUT FOR the Catazaro-Perry/Maier, Jr. opposition Massillon's streets and roadways as well as streets department equipment and number of maintainers would be the class of Stark County municipalities.

Another interesting twist from yesterday's meeting is the mayor building on her previous statements that unless council members get all-out behind the contemplated August tax issue, it will fail.

How can somebody who was at best lukewarm to at least one if not more of previous levy increase attempts since she became mayor be so hypocritical?

For Mayor Catazaro-Perry; NOT A PROBLEM!

There was another interesting development at yesterday's MFPSC meeting.

Remember the ballyhoo that the Catazaro-Perry administration about a $1.95 million carryover from 2015 to 2016?

Well, after yesterday's meeting and a review of unexpected expenses, guess what the number has be adjusted to?

 No at $883,693, to wit:

At the conclusion of the session, the SCPR asked dean of Massillon City Council Paul Manson (Democrat—at-large) for his take away on the meeting.

He provided some insight on how Massillon could get from about a $3 million deficit in the days that Mayor Catazaro-Perry was insisting that the State of Ohio place Massillon in fiscal emergency (which happened in October, 2013) to an $883,693.

While the mayor wants to take credit or the change, it evidence is that she and Massillon was the recipient of good luck in landing state and federal tax dollar provided grants that may not be forthcoming in future years.

And there is more.

MFPSC member  Gessner voted "no" on including in the MFPSC restoration plan a council passed measure (Monday night) to establish a Stabilization Plan (aka "Rainy Day Fund") whereby $300,000 has been set aside for fiscal emergencies to be added to at the rate of $30,000 annually but which is unavailable unless it meets extraordinary conditions imposed within the legislation.

He said during the meeting that with Massillon having unmet needs it makes no sense at all to tie money up in a hard to reach fund.

One of the "unplanned" expenditures that the SCPR thinks Massillonians through their councilpersons ought to be zeroing in on is Auditor Jayne Ferrero's (John's sister-in-law and spouse of Thomas Ferrero, one of the co-chairs of the March 15th levy effort) request for $50,000 to update Massillon financial software including the hiring of a company to deal with Obamacare ramifications of Massillon having employees.

There is no doubt that the auditor's office needs new software to publish readable/usable Massillon financial information for council and to satisfy public records requests to the Massillon public and the media in  the form of sortable data sheets (i.e. Excel compatible). 
And that would cost nowhere near $50,000.

The SCPR believes it is the hiring of the private sector to do the Obamacare work that will hog up most of the $50,000.

It seems to The Report that anytime Jayne Ferrero's office runs into an inconvenience (e.g. the petty cash brouhaha) or a difficulty like the Obamacare thing, then Auditor Ferrero gets cranky.

And, of course, she was a lead opponent to Council Ed Lewis's desire to have council and other Massillon elected officials take a small salary reduction as a show in sharing in the sacrifice that taxpaying Massillonians will be making if they agree to a tax increase.

To sum things up: the SCPR's take on the Massillon financial situation is:
  • the city is nowhere near financial health whether or not a .2% tax increase is approved and will be "on crutches" limping around either way.  Of course, it would be a worse limp without the .2% increase.  Despite what Catazaro-Perry says, a .2% income tax increase will not make Massillon finances healthy again,
    •  Some $4 million to $5 million in street and roadway infrastructure repair is needed,
    •  Keeping the police department and fire department fully staffed appears to be dependent on Massillon receiving grants from year to year which, obviously, IS NOT A SUSTAINABLE way of operating the city's safety forces at full staff,
  • the whole Massillon Financial Planning and Supervision Commission has been a forum of political theater that has been entertaining and good for bloggers but ineffective to solve what truly ails Massillon, 
  • The Report thinks that state officials are totally frustrated with the Catazaro-Perry administration and just want to be done with Massillon and are on a track to gracefully exit without embarrassing anyone,
There are too many self-serving politicians working feverishly with the bowels of  Massillon government for the city to rebound to any semblance of its former glory.

Massillon lost its chance to perhaps have a real shot at recovery when J.D. Ress lost narrowly to Catazaro-Perry in the Dems' 2015 primary and Republican Lee Brunkhart lost in the general election.

Ress tells the SCPR that he is considering a 2019 run.

Both are unsophisticated in the ways of politics, but maybe just maybe political purity and innocence is exactly what Massillon needs?

See a poem entitled Damn the Politicians by Franklin Price (LINK).

The video of the entire entire Massillon Financial Planning and Supervision Commission meeting of April 19, 2016.

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