Wednesday, January 31, 2018


In early  2016, Canton at a cost of $350,000 adopted a plan to revitalize the city that had fallen a part over the previous 75 years over both Republican and Democratic administrations.

By June, a steering committee was put together to implement the plan.

The committee when formed included: (and as far as the SCPR knows in pretty much the same)
  • Mayor Thomas M. Bernabei
  • Fonda Williams, Canton, deputy mayor and director of economic development
  • Councilwoman Chris Smith, D-4,  (currently) vice president and majority leader of council
    • Council committees (2018-2019)
      • Downtown Development
      • Environmental & Public Utilities
      • Personnel
      • Public Property Capital Improvement
      • Rules
  • Councilman Edmond Mack, D-8
    • Council committees (2018-2019)
      • Annexation
      • Downtown Development
      • Judiciary (chairman)
      • Public Safety & Thoroughfares
      • Rules
  • Karen Brenneman, Hall, Kistler and Co, managing partner
  • Jim Porter, Repository publisher,
  • Mark Samolczyk, Stark Community Foundation, CEO/president, (Strengthening Stark)
  • Dennis Saunier, CEO/president Canton Regional Chamber of Commerce
  • William C. Shivers, Huntington Bank vice president
But alas, no money!

There is a "working number" for the plan that being some $250,000 million with about $125,000 to come from city coffers.  However, Mayor Bernabei tells the SCPR that the total amount it will take to revitalize Canton into being a competitive city in terms of attracting new residents and companies is a work in progress.

When former Democrat turned political independent (May, 2015) Thomas M. Bernabei took on "seeking a third term" incumbent Democrat William J, Healy, II in the general election of 2015, he thought he knew how much of a hill he had to climb to get the city of Canton on a trajectory of financial/economical wellness and wholesomeness.

In the 2015 campaign he revealed that, if elected, he understood that Canton faced a $3 million budget deficit for fiscal year 2016.

What he found when taking the reins of office was a $5.1 million deficit and another $1 million, more or less, deficit for 2017 and perhaps to be repeated in 2018.

On Election night, Bernabei was all smiles as the congratulations rolled in.

For two years now, Mayor Bernabei has tried every way imaginable to get Canton solvent.

But there is only so much one can do with cutting and economizing to turn a negative into a positive.

Bernabei has likely known all along that the day would soon come that he will have to deal with "reality" (and, believe the SCPR, Thomas Bernabei is a "political realist like no other elected leader in all of Stark County) that expense cutting was never, ever going to "cut it" to get Canton headed in a positive direction.

Accordingly, his administration has come out "full-bore" for a tax increase.

Mayor Bernabei tells the SCPR that asking Cantonians for a tax increase has been in the works for some two to three months.

Refreshing about Bernabei is that he knows he is taking a huge risk in asking for a .5% income tax increase of Cantonians, to wit:  (from the below referenced and copy provided letter)

As county commissioner (2010 through 2015), Bernabei (then a Democrat) teamed up with Commissioner Janet Creighton (a former Canton mayor herself) to bring Stark County government out of the abyss of mistrust of government as a consequence of a few of then elected officials (e.g. in the opinion of the SCPR) Treasurer Gary Zeigler having failed as an exercise due diligence in the management the Stark County treasury so as to prevented his chief deputy from stealing what is believed to have been upwards of $3 million of Stark County taxpayer money.

Bernabei and Creighton's rehab effort resulted in November, 2011 of county taxpaying voters approving a 1/2 cent "for the Justice System" countywide sales tax which was critical to pulling Stark County government out of its financial meltdown from 2009 through 2011 and even leeching into 2012.

The point is that Bernabei "has been there and done that" and therefore deserves the confidence of Canton voters to take an $11 million annually and use at the springboard to bring Canton out of the financial doldrums.

Every Cantonian who reads The Stark County Political Report (SCPR) needs to take a few minutes and read a copy of Mayor Bernabei's letter to Canton City Council as council discussed and debated the mayor's request that Canton place on the May 8, 2018 primary election ballot a question of whether or not Cantonians are willing to provide city officials with $11.5 million in annual additional revenue so that the city can get its head above water in time.

Here is a copy of that letter: (4 pages)

Pretty compelling stuff, no?

And here is a copy of the resolution (4 pages) that council will have to vote "yes" or "no" upon next Monday.

While SCPR readers are at it, in order to be fully informed so as to be in a position to hold Canton City Council/Mayor Bernabei accountable how the additional $11.5 million is spent especially in light of the plan to allocate 60% of the $11.5 million to implementation of  the Canton Comprehensive Plan, the plan (included in the appendix to this blog deserves reading).

In this series of blogs, The Report will provide readers with a detailed look:
  • how the idea to ask Canton's voters for a .5 tax increase was spawned (today's blog),
  • who was involved in the decision making in addition to the members of the steering committee,
  • how is council likely to react on Monday, when the resolution comes up for a vote,
  • what kind of support an increase is getting across Canton,
  • the risk that approval of a tax increase will cause companies/residents to leave Canton,
  • how the request for an increase will be presented for the May 8 primary election, and
  • whether or not Mayor Bernabei is likely to be around for a second term to shepherd implementation of the early stages of the comprehensive plan when it finally sees some dollars (assuming the voters approve the requested increase) generated by the tax beginning in the second half of 2018.


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