Wednesday, May 25, 2016


UPDATED:  08:00 AM

Until the Canton Parks funding issued failed in the general election of November, 2015, notwithstanding the election of political independent Thomas Bernabei over Parks director Derek Gordon political patron William J. Healy, II; nobody believe that Gordon's job was in jeopardy in a Bernabei administration.

While the focus was on the mayor's race, many local political observers were surprised at the defeat of Issue 37.

And it appears to the SCPR that Director Gordon is being blamed by important persons in Canton government politics for the loss.

One of politically smart things that Bernabei did as mayor-elect was to announce that he would be retaining all of Healy's cabinet officials and department heads.

Another smart thing that Bernabei did was to authentically include Canton City Council in deliberations about how to make some $5.1 million in cuts to Canton's annual budget.

Yet another smart thing was his putting Sam Sliman (administration official), Gordon and J.R. Rinaldi together in a team effort to get funding for Canton's new parks and recreation entity which was going run out of money with —$0—funding as of January 1, 2017.

For there is no money in Canton's general fund to finance the CPC.

Note the dramatic turn around in the results.

Though Gordon and Sliman have been along with Rinaldi recognized by Canton City Council for their combined successful effort, most observers credit Rinaldi for the bulk of the success.

Besides making the aforesaid smart decisions, the new mayor has had a demeanor of "come, let us work together" with those Cantonians and Stark Countians who have a major say in the future of Canton.

But he may be about to ruffle the feathers of many Canton City councilpersons if Derek Gordon is not selected to succeed himself as director of the in the process merger of the Canton Parks Commission (CPC) and the Canton Joint Recreation District (CJRD).

While Bernabei does not make the choice himself, two of three members (Hanke and Sliman) are Bernabei appointees to the CPC which will make the decision and only the politically naive believe that the commissioners will make a choice that is not pleasing to Mayor Thomas M. Bernabei.

There is no doubt that the selection process could turnout to be a political "can of worms" a la the SCPR blog of April 14, 2016 (LINK).







As the SCPR sees the ultimate outcome of the three park commissioners selecting a director, it boils down to a "roll of the dice" as between Gordon and Rinaldi.

Interviews  of the candidates started on Tuesday evening and are to conclude on Thursday evening.

To The Report, Trustee Haines has no chance at all but likely made the list because he has political connections that are not apparent to local politicos.  For his rèsumè contains nothing whatsoever that suggest he would be an appropriate appointee.

Mytinger and Patterson likely made list because both are currently in the mix as either a Canton parks official or CJRD official.

Gordon, if the choice were up to Canton City Council would win reappointment hands down.

A couple of weeks ago Members Fisher (Ward 5) and Morris (Ward 9) told the SCPR that by their calculation most of council wants Gordon reappointed.  The SCPR has also been told by a source that Gordon is playing that support for all its worth in circulating a petition for supporting persons to sign up on for presentation to the board of park commissioners.

As an example of the support that Gordon is receiving from council members, here is a e-mail letter that Councilman Edmond Mack wrote to yours truly weeks ago:

From:  Edmond J. Mack, April 1, 2016
I had received your message, thanks for reaching out.  My thoughts on the directorship of the newly-merged Canton Parks and Recreation Department, for whatever they may be worth, are these:

I have not heard that there were efforts underway to consider applications for Director of the new PRD.  That is news to me.  Nevertheless, such an exercise would be entirely reasonable and appropriate.  T:\his will be a new entity, albeit very similar, and we want to be positive that it is being managed in the most efficient and effective manner possible under the best leadership available.  This is our obligation to the taxpayers.

In the event applications for the new Director of the new PRD are accepted, I would hope that Parks Director Gordon is strongly, strongly considered. This is for four reasons:

(1)    I have witnessed first-hand Director Gordon’s ability, leadership, and out-side-the-box thinking.  For example, Director Gordon and I both spent countless hours on formulating, and ultimately abandoning, the St. Mark’s Playground project.  It required a significant amount of time to formulate this potential project in a manner that was beneficial in both cost and resources for the City, the Church, and the neighborhood.  Yet, ensuring the voice of the neighborhood was heard, and then ultimately setting-aside this proposed project in response to this feedback, took just as much thought and preparation.  Director Gordon and I had many late night phone calls.  He and I literally evaluated and analyzed each necessary decision together.  While to this day I still believe the project warranted implementation on its objective merits, we made the correct decision in eliminating the proposal in recognition of our duties to the taxpayers.  While admittedly very difficult, it was the right thing to do.    

(2)    Director Gordon understands the need for strategic thinking in this City.  To that end, we have discussed the adoption and implementation of the Comprehensive Plan on many, many occasions.  In conjunction with Engineer Moeglin, Director Gordon is the strongest voice in our City for the creation of our new urban trail system.  His advocacy is not based upon a “gut feeling,” but rather expert data and analysis.  (See, Canton Comprehensive Plan, pp. 17, 53).  This is the exact type of thinking our City needs.

(3)    Director Gordon is a 31 year-old graduate of McKinley High school, the University of Mount Union, and holds a master’s degree in public administration.  Like nearly all of his similarly-situated peers, he could have easily left Canton for a larger city with more opportunities.  Yet, he, his wife, and his newly-born son chose to make Canton their home (residing on Johnnycake NE).  If this City intends to make progress, Director Gordon is the precise type of person we desperately need to retain – not effectively abandon.  (See, Canton Comprehensive Plan, pp. 12, 49).

(4)    Finally, it would be a mistake to consider the lack of the passage of Issue 37 in 2015, the park levy, as a negative on Director Gordon’s body of work.  As one who spent both time and resources on the passage of ballot Issue 47 that same election cycle, namely, the Charter Issue, I can truly attest that the Nov. 2015 election was highly unusual.  Driven by the lead contested race, the data reflects a voting pattern we have not seen in this City in nearly 20 years, and which we may never see again.  And this data from the unsuccessful Issue 37 campaign was very useful in the recent, very impressive passage of the park levy, to which Director Sliman and Board President Rinaldi deserve such incredible credit.  But to hold the failure of Issue 37 against Director Gordon is, in my view, unwarranted.  It would be no different than holding the failure of Issue 47 against me in my service as a Councilperson.  

In sum, I very, very strongly endorse Director Gordon for the position of Director of the new PRD.  Of course, I am not responsible for making this hiring decision, as it is entrusted to the Park Commission.  I have no doubt that they will do what is best for our City. 

Thanks again for your public service to our community, and hope to see you soon.

Edmond J. Mack

Canton Council, Ward 8

Rinaldi, a CJRD board member and also a member of the Canton City Schools Board of Education has a resource that trumps all others.

He is close to the mayor and the mayor's family.

And, of course, he is credited with getting the parks levy passed as contrasted to Gordon's failure in the minds of some highly important officials involved in the selection process.

However, his closeness to Mayor Bernabei may end up hurting him inasmuch one would think that the new mayor would not want to appear to be of the ilk of the leadership of the Stark County "organized" Democratic Party in that political insiders to that leadership seem to have an overwhelming advantage in gaining Democratic Party appointments to elective/appointive positions in Stark County political subdivision government.

Bernabei, a long time Democrat, of course, challenged the Stark Dems' establishment in declaring as a political independent a little over a year ago and went on to defeat incumbent Democratic mayor William J. Healy, II (again, Gordon's appointer) in November.

Remember, seven of the twelve Canton City Council members (including Mack, who also served as Dems' legal counsel with Lee Plakas) supported the Dems in litigation designed to deprive Bernabei of ballot qualifying independent status.

So Bernabei might feel a bit politically boxed in and therefore in order the very appearance of political impropriety and end up letting it be known that the commissioners should not select Rinaldi.

The SCPR's take on Bernabei is that in the spirit that "all is fair in 'love and war (political in this instance)" and seems to have no qualms in working with nearly all of Healy's appointees and friends on council.

If there is an exception, it appears to be one Derek Gordon.

And that could be no deeper than Bernabei's desire to have Rinaldi appointed to the parks' directorship.

In the foregoing lies a pathway for either Haines, Patterson or Mytinger.

The politics of selecting between Gordon and Rinaldi might be so sensitive that it becomes politically dangerous to the new mayor for either to be selected.

But if Bernabei's supporters on the park commission are willing to take that risk, one has to think that Rinaldi will surface as the selectee.

Nonetheless, the SCPR thinks that it really boils down to "a roll of the dice," and whom among Gordon and Rinaldi comes up with the greater number of dots.

Which, of course, means in the world of political calculation which of the two presents the least political risk to the relatively new Thomas M. Bernabei administration in receiving the appointment.

No comments: