Monday, February 5, 2018


UPDATE:  02/6/2018


See Entire Bernabei Letter to Council in Appendix


Income tax ordinance passes on unanimous basis:

Councilwoman Corey Minor Smith speaks:


The Stark County Political Report (SCPR) predicts that the all Democratic Canton City Council (12 members plus council president Alan Schulman, who only votes in the case of a tie) will vote to approve the following resolution which will cause the Mayor Thomas M. Bernabei (a political independent) proposal to increase Canton's income tax to be placed on the May 8, 2018 primary election ballot.

In a Q&A telephone 35 minute conversation, more or less, (the SCPR is currently in Hawaii), with Mayor Bernabei on January 30th, he said he felt confident that a substantial majority if not a unanimity of council will vote to place the tax issue on the ballot.  (see proposed ordinance in appendix)

It appears that a lone holdout in voting "aye" on the resolution might be Ward 9 councilman Frank Morris who was recently stepped aside as majority leader and vice president of council.

However, Morris remains a formidable force on council inasmuch as he is chairman of the critically important and strategically placed Canton City Council Finance Committee.  And, the SCPR's impression of Morris' attitude towards the mayor has been "skeptical" if not hostile.

In the November, 2015 race between "independent" Bernabei and "seeking a third term" and "dyed in the wool" Democrat William J. Healy, II most of council was overtly supportive of Healy with Bernabei doing well to get several council members to stay neutral.  Only dean of council councilman-at-large Bill Smuckler was an out-and-out Bernabei supporter.

Mayor Bernabei says that proposing a tax increase has been in the works for two or three months and he emphasizes the word "we" in the context of the proceedings a steering committee set up at the suggestion of the consulting company that did a $350,000 study on the future of Canton and published in February, 2016 as the Canton Comprehensive Plan.  (see appendix for the full report)

Mayor Bernabei was highly complimentary of Ward 4 councilwoman (also majority leader and vice president of council) Chris Smith and Councilman Edmond Mack (chair of judiciary) in the manner in which they have worked with the administration to achieve a broad range of council support for the tax ballot measure.  He pointed out that he not only has coordinated with Smith and Mack in that he has held discussions with other council members on the matter.

As most Cantonians likely know, Canton has be sliding into an economic/financial abyss for upwards of 75 years (the number Bernabei used in our conversation.  Of course, 75 years takes in a lot of prior administrations.

An interesting side note is that Councilman-at-Large Jimmy Babcock's father is included in the Bernabei defined time frame.

However, the Babcock administration was early in the period and likely at that stage Cantonians had not noticed that Canton's slide was underway.

With the tax base as it is in 2018, it is projected that an increase from 2% to 2.5% will yield about $11.5 million annually of which 60% of the increase will be set aside annually to the tune of about $6.9 million for phased in implementation of the Canton Comprehensive Plan (CCP).

Of course, the tax base could vary over ensuing years and so the time period over which it will take to raise (from public sources) some $125 million (which the mayor says is an inexact number) as is the estimated (according to the authors of the CCP) to also be $125 million.

The fact of the matter is that it took 75 years for Canton's economy/finances to decline to where they are in 2018 and the work of rehabbing the city infrastructure including revitalizing Canton's residential neighborhoods will go beyond the 15, 16, 17 or 18 years it might take to raise the start out figure of $125 million.

An important factor is how the money might be spent is Bernabei media reported statement that the only money he contemplates spending relative the the Pro Football Hall of Fame Village Project is on the corridor from downtown Canton to the village.  He has noted that Canton has been $5 million in the project itself and clearly implies that the $5 millon will be it.

"There is no magic in the number $125 million," to put the foregoing paragraph in the exact words of Mayor Bernabei.

If Canton's voters approve the tax increase in May, the tax will begin to be collected in July, 2018.  However, the mayor says that the creation of a fund cannot be done until the city obtains State of Ohio Auditor approval and therefore he could not tell the SCPR how the fund is to be nominated.

The same goes for the $1.15 million a year of the increased revenue designated as being for neighborhood development.

Here is a statistical picture of the work that has already been done by the Bernabei administration under the supervision of and guidance of executive specialist J.R. Rinaldi.

The legislation that council will be voting on tonight does have language that provides for some flexibility in that while the CCP is the starting point, language does include the ability for it to be amended.

However, there will no immediate spending with the receipt of the new revenue in the CCP project and the mayor thinks that a likely first project for the money might be creating a "greenfield" economic development project.

Here is a definition of "greenfield" from Wikipedia:

Literal examples of greenfield projects are new factories, power plants, airports which are built from scratch on greenfield land. Those facilities which are modified/upgraded are called brownfield land projects (often the pre-existing site/facilities are contaminated/polluted

Mayor Bernabei says that ideas for how to spend the money will come from three sources:
  • Deputy Mayor and Economic Development Director Fonda Williams when inquiries come in from businesses who are interested in relocating to Canton if there is sufficient financial assistance available,
  • Director of Planning Don Angus (hired in January, 2016) who, Bernabei says, has a wealth of experience as a planner with many contacts in the planning community and might well be the first person to come forward with an idea of how Canton ought to get started investing the CCP money for the betterment of Canton, and
  • developers coming forward to Canton officials with ideas for the city to consider
Canton citizens will absolutely be included in the entire implementation process, so says the mayor.

Citizen involvement is a critical factor in getting the increase passed.  It appears that the mayor and other city officials will be depending on citizens to step forward and help out in the campaign.

Beyond the campaign and assuming, of course, the increase passes; a non-profit IRS regulation meeting 501(c)(3) entity will be created and staffed with Cantonians who have the expertise to run such and entity effectively.

Bernabei says that all one has to do is look at the Steering Committee of the CCP to get an idea of who will be part of the non-profit entity which will have a mission of raising money from the private sector and locating ideas on how the city can efficiently and productively invest the additional monies.

He went to great pains to explain that Canton's neighborhood leaders and leaders in other citizen groups would be asked to join the non-profit effort.

When asked by the SCRP whether or not any polling has been done to detect whether or not there is community support for the notion of increasing Canton's income tax rate, Mayor Bernabei said that some area unions have done some polling and that the results show that there is indication of community receptivity to the idea of a tax increase.

The polls indicate a special receptivity when it comes to public safety, police and fire protection, roads, potholes, neighborhood development and things of that nature.

While there seems to be a substantial amount of support now, Mayor Bernabei says he understands that a job needs to be done to educate voters as to why the additional revenue is needed and how it will be used in a very "concrete" sort of way in order to convince voters to approve the income tax boost.

This effort is not Mayor Bernabei's "first rodeo."  He says that he has been involved in a number of revenue requesting projects.  A prime example of Bernabei prior experience is when he teamed up principally with fellow county commissioner Janet Creighton to persuade Stark Countians to agree to a 1/2 cent increase in Ohio Sales Tax the increase having been nominated as being a Justice System Sales Tax (JSST).

A final strain of the SCPR questioning of Mayor Bernabei broached the topic of whether or not he would be running for a second term in 2019.

He would not provide a direct answer to that question but he did say his decision one way or the other would be made late this year or early in 2019.

The criteria for whether or not he will run again?

Progress, pure and simple.

It appears to the SCPR that if he thinks he being effective as a leader in making progress in alleviating what ails Canton and the prospects for picking up the pace in a second term are apparent, he is likely to run.

Thomas M. Bernabei is a tireless leader.

The Report has observed his leadership style and productiveness from a close perspective from 2010 through the writing this blog.

Being commissioner and redeeming a bad financial picture with his fellow commissioners for the county was one thing, but making a difference in the long-in-the-making problems of Canton in quite another.

The Report thinks that for whatever time and effort he has left to devote to marshalling Canton's human resources to achieve the seemingly impossible is a godsend to Cantonians.

Canton City Council likely will tonight provide the mayor, his administration and themselves with the opportunity of having "a chance to succeed."

2018 could be a pivotal year of whether Canton can restore herself to being among Ohio's great cities.

But it will not be if Cantonians do not provide the revenue for Canton to comprehensively rebuild itself.

Council and Canton's voters need to focus on giving Mayor Thomas M. Bernabei and themselves a chance to succeed!





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