Sunday, March 31, 2019

VOL 2 - IN A SERIES: A RIFT BREAKS OUT AMONG STARK COUNTY LEADERS ON HOF-VP CENTENNIAL PLAZA DEVELOPMENT?


UPDATED:  12:43 P.M
UPDATED:  MONDAY, APRIL 1ST


SEE JULY, 2018 THE "ENTIRE" PRESENTATION 
PUT ON BY THE STARK COUNTY FOUNDATION FEATURING CANTON MAYOR THOMAS BERNABEI
RE: MARKET SQUARE PROJECT
IN THE APPENDIX SECTION OF THIS BLOG, ITEM# 3


Phase 3 of the Market Square (3rd St NW & Market Ave, North) has become a controversy brought on, surprisingly, by an e-mail (see copy in appendix section of this blog) sent out by core Stark County Foundations which were supportive of Phases 1 and 2 of the project which has been in the works for some two years announcing that the foundations under the umbrella Stark County Foundation would not be supporting Phase 3 because of major deficiencies in the planning and design of the entire project by those local private sector (thought to be Professional Football Hall of Fame officials) and government sector officials the principal of which the SCPR thinks is Canton mayor Thomas Bernabei.

Apparently, the foundations are not trying to "fan the fires" of acrimony as evidenced by its executive director's ignoring of a SCPR request for an "in depth" interview.

This blogger is disappointed in the non-response, however, the foundations are to be applauded for going public with the deficiencies in the downtown Canton Market Square project which is a normal approach for the foundations.



How the west side of 3rd NW & Market looks, more or less, today.


On July 24th, the projected "finished" look of the project (which the SCPR is told has changed from a $6 million project into being a $12 million project) was this.




The SCPR has asked Canton mayor Tom Bernabei for a current projected design (among a number of questions) should the $12 million materialize, to wit:

Tom,

In the foundations' letter, reference was made to that fact that Canton by virtue of recent voter approved income tax increase would be going into the CP project.

What portion of the tax increase is going into and/or is projected to go into the CP?

Moreover, what amount is the state of Ohio putting into the project?

Credible sources tell me that the project which is said to have started at $6 million is now projected to be $12 million.  Is this report accurate?

Are there any drawings of the project as presently planned?

If so, please send me a copy.

Thanks,

Martin Olson/SCPR

Bernabei has, in the experience of the SCPR, been one of, if not the very best, of transparent politicians/government officials in all of Stark County.

This blogger thinks he is without parallel within Stark County political/government leadership circles.

Undoubtedly, he is under pressure by HOF enthusiasts to minimize the foundations' decision not to participate in Phase 3 of Market Square.

Bernabei is known throughout Stark County political/government leadership circles as a very exacting, demanding and thorough manager who brooks no sloppiness and insists that his support staff dig deeper with questions than most government officials do.

Despite his doggedness, most of his retinue of staffers enjoy working for him.

This blogger will be surprised if Mayor Bernabei does not live up to his reputation for transparency and subject himself to the thoroughness standards he applies to others on this inquiry sooner or later, hopefully sooner.

The major Stark County foundations, as mentioned in the first paragraph of this blog, have stirred up things regarding the financing/funding of the projected Pro Football Hall of Fame Village (HOF-VP) connection to downtown Canton.

For these foundations under the auspicious of The Stark County Foundation to send out such an email to the main players/government officials in leadership positions is unprecedented.

That the likes of Jack Timken, Chuck Hoover, Steve Deuble and Mark Samolcyzk to do such the means, the SCPR believes, at a deeper level of analysis, that there are a great deal unanswered questions that it has dawned on the foundation folks that the Hall of Fame leadership folks have not been forthcoming upon which likely has prompted the foundations to say to themselves:  its time to back off our involvement in thing HOF-VP connected.

If the HOF-VP ends up going "belly-up" with having done very little other than build a "way over the top" $139 million (a conservative estimate; likely somewhere in the neighborhood of $175 million) stadium and athletic complex which HOF CEO C. David Baker himself once told Canton City Council that no private investor wants to invest in a stadium because there is no chance that there would be a return on investment for the investors.

Sounds roughly analogous to a project in Geneva, Ohio (called which (look at this Plain Dealer exposè (LINK) and this video description  of the Spire Institute, which like the HOF-VP, is an athletics-centered project which appears to have difficulty generating a revenue stream beyond the complex itself because of who wants to go to Geneva, Ohio other than to see/use the complex facilities.


Like it or not, there is very little to see in Canton, Ohio and it appears to this blogger that the HOF-VP folks (chiefly CEO C. David Baker), Repository publisher Jim Porter and Canton Regional Chamber of Commerce chairman Denny Saunier are trying to force the Market Square project in a desperate attempt to make downtown Canton a draw to visitors the HOF which also close to an interstate roadway (i.e. I77).

We will know that real progress in downtown Canton becoming a tourist/visitor to the HOF destination, when we start seeing things like this in the local media.


Readers need to remember that David Baker generated what the SCPR believes he must have known that was "never, ever, going to happen," a spin about the  NFL draft might be coming to Canton in 2020; the 100th anniversary of the founding of professional football with Canton being one of the charter members.

Even teaming up with Cleveland (where there is always something to do downtown) with the Browns, the Cavs, the Indians, the Rock n' Roll Hall of Fame, the Great Lakes Science Center, a number of theatrical productions and the like was not enough to attract the NFL to come to Cleveland/Canton.

But the NFL did consider the Cleveland/Canton proposal.  If the Cleveland/Canton were to be successful, Canton was only in line to get the third day of the draft which practically nobody attends.

Is it any surprise that Las Vegas (perhaps, the entertainment capital of the world) bested Cleveland/Canton bid?

Getting back to the foundations' letter.

Here are some key excerpts from the March 14, 2019 letter emailed (obviously) to key players in Stark County leadership circles.  (see appendix to this blog, item 1; also be sure to see (item 2 in the appendix) the entire presentation that the SCF/Bernabei made on Phases 1 and 2 on July 24, 2018)

WHAT PROMPTED THE LETTER? (telling excerpts which, in the opinion of the SCPR, appear to be directed at HOF officials)

The Timken, Hoover, Deuble and Stark Community Foundations have all received inquiries related to support of the Market Square/Centennial Plaza project in downtown Canton and those inquiries prompt us to share our position with you.

Various project concepts have been developed for Phase 3 over the years but all have been plagued by questions of 
  • appropriate scale, 
  • lack of community process and 
  • sustainability.
It is our hope, and the purpose for this letter, that ongoing private fundraising for Phase 3 does not impact:
  • the willingness and generosity of individuals and companies to support 
    • existing and important community development programs and 
    • capital campaigns and fundraising efforts.
Note:  SCPR restructured excerpts from the Foundations' emailed letter of March 14, 2019 for emphasis sake.


APPENDIX TO THIS BLOG

ITEM 1

Mark Scheffler
Executive Director
Timken Foundation

March 14, 2019

Subject:  A message from Stark County foundations:  Centennial Plaza

Greetings!

The Timken, Hoover, Deuble and Stark Community Foundations have all received inquiries related to support of the Market Square/Centennial Plaza project in downtown Canton and those inquiries prompt us to share our position with you.

Those of us who lead the largest community foundations see real value in the ongoing transformation of the Kresage lot into Centenial Plaza that potentially draws people downtown and allows us to showcase ongoing downtown development.  At the same time, it will celebrate the 100 year anniversary of professional football born a few blocks away.  A vibrant downtown Canton is critical to regional development which is why our foundations have invested hundreds of millions of dollars in Canton throughout our existence.

Canton Centenial Plaza project has received foundation support for the design and planning for Phases 1 and 2.  These first phases are being funded by the increased city income tax as well as funding from the State of Ohio.  Phase 3 of the project, however, will not involve our financial support.  Various project concepts have been developed for Phase 3 over the years but all have been plagued by questions of appropriate scale, lack of community process and sustainability.  The current plan as presented has nearly doubled the original cost of the project and lacks the detail related to financial structure, project management and accountability that would traditionally be required for funding of community projects of this scale.

More than 40 years ago, community leaders with a vision for Canton/Stark County created a process by which large capital drives were evaluated to determine how best to allocate foundation and community resources.  The Capital Campaign Committee structure, through the guidance of the Stark Community Foundation, was adopted for this purpose.  In the case ofhe Centennial Plaza project, the failure to address the aforementioned issues in a timely fashion, and the avoidance of the vetting process that has served the community well for many years, may have an adverse impact on funding for other proposed projects.

We find ourselves in an unusual situation as for many years we have supported community projects of this scale.  Those initiatives, however, have succeeded through collaboration, consensus, and respect for process and have had a lasting impact locally in areas of education, health care, housing and the arts.  They have advanced because of a broad cross-section of individuals within the community who are passionate, reasoned, well-intended and are able to accept dissent just as well as consent.  Community development comes in a variety of forms but never reaches it potential when a single purpose is served at the expense of others.

It is our hope, and the purpose for this letter, that ongoing private fundraising for Phase 3 does not impact the willingness and generosity of individuals and companies to support existing and important community development programs and capital campaigns and fundraising efforts.

Jack Timken, President
The Timken Foundation of Canton

Chuck Hoover, Chairman
The Hoover Foundation

Steve Deuble, Chairman
George H. Deuble Foundation

Mark Samolczyk, President & CEO
Stark Community Foundation

Mark Scheffler
Executive Director
Timken Foundation

ITEM 2



ITEM 3

Mayor Bernabei's initial response to SCPR's seeking of comments about the Foundations' email, to wit:

Thomas Bernabei <thomas.bernabei@cantonohio.gov>
To:  Martin Olson

Mar 18 at 3:04 PM

Hi Martin,

I am in receipt of the letter/email from the Foundations referenced in your email to me.  The Foundations have been supportive in providing grants for design development for the Centennial Plaza/Market square project and I thank them for that. 

I have met with the leadership of the Foundations to keep them apprised of the status of the project.  

I am very appreciative of the extraordinary work which the Foundations do in Canton and Greater Stark County in helping so many important projects and needs. I well recognize the many demands on their resources;  in view of that, we have not intended nor have we asked the Foundations for capital funding for Centennial Plaza. 

The City has a close working relationship with the Foundations which is continuing.

Monday, March 25, 2019

ADD STATE SEN. SCHURING TO LIST OF ACCOUNTABLES IF STARK ROADS GO TO "POT" err MORE POTHOLES!

UPDATE: (10/17/19)  STATEWIDE POLL ON GASOLINE TAX INCREASE 

GRAPHICS A COMBO FROM OHIO CHANNEL, SENATE WEBSITE & BALLOTPEDIA

One of the most important issues that each and every Stark County should have an interest in is the fate of Republican governor Mike DeWine's proposal that the Ohio gasoline tax be raised by 18 cents.

On March 18, The Stark County Political Report (SCPR. The Report) published a blog featuring state Rep. Scott Oelslager (R, 48th) who as chairman of the House Finance Committee probably has/had the ability to do better on Governor DeWine's request for a 18 cent increase in gasoline taxes splitting the revenues 60%, the state; 40 % to local governments.

Instead, the Ohio House voted to increase the tax by 10.7% with a 55%/45% split.

A majority of Stark Countians appear to support DeWine's request for an 18 cent increase according to an ongoing poll being conducted by the SCPR.


A sizeable part of the poll supporting DeWine's request comes from Oelslager home base of Jackson Township and North Canton.




Only 27% of Stark Countians support no increase whatsoever.

Which, of course, means that a sizeable portion of Stark Countians seem to support (54%) some sort of increase (73%) with the percentage ranging from 11 cents to 18 cents per gallon with is at 54%.

Moreover, the DeWine plan is supported by Stark County commissioners Richard Regula, Bill Smith and Janet Creighton; all Republicans.

Here is a video response to the SCPR's questions put to the Commissioners Regula and Smith.



It is interesting that Representative Schuring was not interested in seeing the video before his vote on HB 62 last Thursday.  

Undoubtedly, if the words of a C. David Baker (the HOF), Jim Porter (The Repository) and/or Denny Saunier (Canton Chamber of Commerce) were the subject matter of the video, Schuring at "breakneck" speed to look up the video.  (see an account of Schuring's disinterest later on in this blog)

In his vote last Thursday, Schuring demonstrated that while he can expend great effort to grease the skids to put Ohio/Stark County money into the supposedly private enterprise Hall of Fame Village project, he could care less about putting adequate monies into Stark County's and Ohio's roadways.

Also, strongly supporting DeWine's plan is Stark County engineer Keith Bennett, a Democrat.

Here are excerpts of what Bennett had to say about the matter :(large type for emphasis by the SCPR):

BENNETT SUPPORTS DEWINE'S REQUEST OF 18 CENTS

Myself and the County Engineers Association of Ohio (CEAO) are in support of the $0.18 per gallon originally proposed by Governor DeWine.  

WHY?

REASON #1
Due to the rising cost of construction materials and labor in the past 14 years, our buying power has been reduced by 50%.  Our revenue remains flat while prices increase every year.  It has been determined that County Engineers have a funding deficiency of 60% comparing our current revenue to current needs.

SENATE BILL NOT INDEXED FOR INFLATION; (HOUSE VERSION IS)

BENNETT:

More importantly, it (the Senate bill which Schuring voted for last Wednesday) does not include indexed increases due to inflation.  (the text about Schuring was added by the SCPR)

... [R]egardless of the final increase in gas tax, it is imperative that some type of inflation indexing be included.  Without the indexing, the increased revenue would quickly be lost to inflation of materials and labor costs and we’ll be right back to our current situation – insufficient funding to maintain our current infrastructure.

CONSEQUENCES:

BENNETT:

ODOT has stated that at this level they will be able to continue to maintain their infrastructure but it would not provide sufficient funding to complete major projects necessary for safety and capacity that are planned around the State.

Apparently, the Ohio House part of the Stark County delegation (i.e. in the House:  Oelslager, Stoltzfus, 50th [Republicans] and West, 49th [a Democrat] to the Ohio General Assembly is out-of-step with most of their constituents in supporting Oelslager sponsored (HB 62)  transportation two-year transportation budget and rejecting DeWine's request which, to say it again, is supported by the Stark County commissioners and County Engineer Bennett.


But, as signaled above with the main graphic to this blog, so is (i.e. being out-of-step with a majority of Stark Countians and core Stark County government leadership) Republican state Senator Kirk Schuring representing Ohio Senate District 29 which includes most of Stark County.

Schuring bested Oelslager, Stoltzfus and West (10.7 cents) in supporting a mere 6 cent per gallon increase (which, of course, is 1/3rd the DeWine request).  One improvement in the Senate version of HB 62 is that the state/local government split is 55%/45%.

On the morning before the HB62 vote, the SCPR sent Schuring this e-mail on the Senate portal:



RESPONSE FROM SCHURING

Nothing, absolutely nothing!  That is what happens when an elected official thinks he/she is invulnerable to being defeated at the polls at the next ensuing election.

One reason Oelslager had an opponent in the 2018 District 48 election was due to his
blowing off of 48th District resident Lorraine Wilburn.

Moreover, Schuring and Oelslager are unwilling to subject themselves to the incisive questioning of the SCPR, the political cowards they are.

If one does not tell them how great they are, then, neither will subject themselves to possibly having to engage a critique of their work product or lack thereof in Columbus.  This pair has been in the Ohio General Assembly a combined 50 years.  Of course, they have some accomplishments over those years but not nearly at a pace one would expect over such a timeframe.  

Oelslager refused, several years ago (when he was state Senator and Canton was in his district), to hear the plea of then Canton City Council president Allen Schulman to come meet with council about the devastation that the state of Ohio local government funding was visiting on cities, villages and townships in Stark County and across Ohio.

Oelslager's reported exact response:  "I am too busy."

The point of this blog is that if over the next several years there is a decline in the construction of new roadways and the maintenance of existing roadways, then Stark Countians in deciding to vote for Oelslager, Stoltzfus and West in 2020 (Schuring, 2022) then one of the main components of that decision should harken back to their failure to support DeWine's proposal.

Only the SCPR holds Stark County politicians and government leaders accountable.

DEWINE'S REACTION TO THE HOUSE/SENATE BEATDOWN OF HIS REQUEST

For his part, DeWine says that he did not high-ball his request to he says 30 cents in order to get really where he wants to get to (i.e. 18 cents) in order to meet realistic needs for Ohio to add to existing highway construction for infrastructure improvement as a component for attracting new businesses to Ohio.

Moreover, he is reported to have said post-House/Senate rejection of his proposal GOP Gov. Mike DeWine said lawmakers have a “moral obligation” to fully fund the transportation budget – and his version of the gas tax ..."

THE FUTURE

The Ohio House and Senate have until March 31st to reconcile their differences in the conference with one another.

THERE SHOULD BE POLITICAL CONSEQUENCES

Even if the House bill prevails, the roads we Stark Countians drive on will "go to pot" because of a lack of legislative funding.

Every time we hit a pothole and scream out an oath we ought to remember on election day 2020 and 2022 that Oelslager and Schuring have once again failed not only Stark County but the entire state of Ohio.

And, of course, voters should remember come November 2020 that Representatives Stoltzfus and West joined in the smackdown of DeWine's effort to make Ohio's roadways competitive with the states which constitute the rest of the United States of America.


Wednesday, March 20, 2019

VOL 1 - IN A SERIES: A RIFT BREAKS OUT AMONG STARK COUNTY LEADERS ON HOF-VP CENTENNIAL PLAZA DEVELOPMENT?


STARK COUNTY POLITICAL REPORT
READS
THE "TEA LEAVES" 
OF STARK FOUNDATIONS' LETTER


Virtually the only voice in Stark County questioning/critiquing the viability/transparency of the Professional Football Hall of Fame village expansion project (HOF, HOF-VP) has been The Stark County Political Report.

However, that all changed on Thursday, March 14th with the sending of what the SCPR believes to be "a bombshell of a letter" endorsed by Stark County's major foundation executives to Stark County community leaders who obviously fear that the capitalization of downtown Canton's Centennial Plaza/Market Square project, believed now to be up to $12 million from its original projected $6 million, will affect in a significant way the foundations' ability to raise funds from the private sector for infusion in to "other than HOF-VP interests"

Note: Readers will recall that the HOF-VP started out being an estimated $500 million project (now projected as being nearly $1 billion) and in particular, the former Fawcett Stadium rehab, at $22 million originally which has become at least $139 million.

The letter in its entirety:
  • (note:  Director Scheffler has not responded to the SCPR's request for a copy of the original letter and so this blogger typed up from an IPhone message what is hoped is an exact replication of the original but there may be typos)
Mark Scheffler
Executive Director
Timken Foundation

March 14, 2019

Subject:  A message from Stark County foundations:  Centennial Plaza

Greetings!

The Timken, Hoover, Deuble and Stark Community Foundations have all received inquiries related to support of the Market Square/Centennial Plaza project in downtown Canton and those inquiries prompt us to share our position with you.

Those of us who lead the largest community foundations see real value in the ongoing transformation of the Kresage lot into Centenial Plaza that potentially draws people downtown and allows us to showcase ongoing downtown development.  At the same time, it will celebrate the 100 year anniversary of professional football born a few blocks away.  A vibrant downtown Canton is critical to regional development which is why our foundations have invested hundreds of millions of dollars in Canton throughout our existence.

Canton Centenial Plaza project has received foundation support for the design and planning for Phases 1 and 2.  These first phases are being funded by the increased city income tax as well as funding from the State of Ohio.  Phase 3 of the project, however, will not involve our financial support.  Various project concepts have been developed for Phase 3 over the years but all have been plagued by questions of appropriate scale, lack of community process and sustainability.  The current plan as presented has nearly doubled the original cost of the project and lacks the detail related to financial structure, project management and accountability that would traditionally be required for funding of community projects of this scale.

More than 40 years ago, community leaders with a vision for Canton/Stark County created a process by which large capital drives were evaluated to determine how best to allocate foundation and community resources.  The Capital Campaign Committee structure, through the guidance of the Stark Community Foundation, was adopted for this purpose.  In the case ofhe Centennial Plaza project, the failure to address the aforementioned issues in a timely fashion, and the avoidance of the vetting process that has served the community well for many years, may have an adverse impact on funding for other proposed projects.

We find ourselves in an unusual situation as for many years we have supported community projects of this scale.  Those initiatives, however, have succeeded through collaboration, consensus, and respect for process and have had a lasting impact locally in areas of education, health care, housing and the arts.  They have advanced because of a broad cross-section of individuals within the community who are passionate, reasoned, well-intended and are able to accept dissent just as well as consent.  Community development comes in a variety of forms but never reaches it potential when a single purpose is served at the expense of others.

It is our hope, and the purpose for this letter, that ongoing private fundraising for Phase 3 does not impact the willingness and generosity of individuals and companies to support existing and important community development programs and capital campaigns and fundraising efforts.

Jack Timken, President
The Timken Foundation of Canton

Chuck Hoover, Chairman
The Hoover Foundation

Steve Deuble, Chairman
George H. Deuble Foundation

Mark Samolczyk, President & CEO
Stark Community Foundation

Mark Scheffler
Executive Director
Timken Foundation

This blogger has asked Scheffler to agree to an interview so that the SCPR can ascertain in particular what the foundations' somewhat "diplomatic and generalized letter" is speaking to.

So far, no response.

The SCPR is in the process of eliciting responses from Canton/Stark County political leadership.  Hence, this blog is only the beginning of an analysis of the import of the letter to future Canton/Stark County development.

It is a bit ironical that Scheffler has not quickly and readily agreed to a SCPR interview (hopefully on camera) in that it appears rather clearly from the foundations' letter that one of their main beefs regarding the HOF-VP as its being an uncommunicative  "elephant in the room."

It appears to this blogger that the foundations apply transparency/inclusiveness standards obviously directed to the likes of C. David Baker (HOF executive), Jim Porter (Repository publisher) and Denny Saunier (Canton Chamber of Commerce) that the foundation executives themselves are unwilling to accord to a Stark County media outlet.

Nevertheless, the SCPR will keep digging on what has to be a "firestorm" generated by the foundations sending of the letter.

There are Stark County leaders who have nothing to hide and willingly answer the questions of the SCPR.

And here is a list of those questions:



In future volumes of this series, the SCPR will provide readers with specific reactions on the part of Stark County leaders to the foundation letter.

For an overall look at the progress on the HOF-VP see this Repository report (LINK) by Alison Matas; last revision dated March 19th.

Monday, March 18, 2019

IF YOUR STARK CO ROAD IS NOT FIXED, WILL SCOTT OELSLAGER BE THE LEGISLATOR TO BLAME?

UPDATE:  (8:55 AM) 
STARK CO ENGINEER KEITH BENNETT COMMENTS ON HB 62

UPDATE:  03/19 
STILL TIME TO VOTE IN SCPR POLL (SEE APPENDIX)


SCPR STARK COUNTY POLL RESULTS TO DATE
(HOUSE BILL 62)
Oelslager is Chairman of the House Finance Committee

There is a tug of war going on between members of the Ohio General Assembly (overwhelmingly controlled by Republicans) and newly sworn-in Republican governor Mike DeWine.

DeWine's position: (from the Cincinnati Business Courier)

The first-year Republican’s request would raise about $1.2 billion annually, with DeWine billing the new money as vital to maintaining safe roads and protecting Ohio’s economy. An Ohio motorist with a vehicle that averages 30 miles a gallon who drives 15,000 miles annually would pay an extra $90 a year if lawmakers approve DeWine’s request. (excerpt, emphasis added, SCPR taken photo added)
DeWine is proposing that the additional revenues in his request be split 60%/40% between state and local government.

According to the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT), if DeWine's request is not funded in full there will be consequences for all Ohio political subdivisions including, of course, Stark County.

ODOT lists 20 Stark County project funding factors that may be affected in there is a revenue shortfall on ODOT funding needs.

Here are three of the 20 Stark County project to give readers a flavor of what the ramifications might be if DeWine's proposal is not agreed to by the OGA.


It appears that the Ohio General Assembly (OGA) is going to rebuff the governor if House Bill 62 is approved as written in that it provides for a 10.7 cent increase with the state/local gov't split being 55%/45% rather than that being proffered by DeWine.

The Stark County Political Report (SCPR, The Report) has repeatedly criticized Oelslager and his fellow Republican Kirk Schuring (with their combined 60 years, more or less, as OGA members playing musical chairs in switching House and Senate seats) for being ineffective in protecting Stark County interests given their legislative longevity.

One of those criticisms has been their failure to protect Stark County local government (and, of course, all Ohio local governments) from the draconian cuts initiated by former Republican governor John Kasich and approved by the Republican-dominated OGA in 2010.

Oelslager, currently chairman of the House Finance Committee and formerly a chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, if he gets his way as THE ONLY PRIMARY SPONSOR of HB 62 (the bill dealing with DeWine's request for a gasoline tax increase) in changing the DeWine recommended split so that local governments will more state tax imposed dollars and thereby correcting a degree of his and Schuring's past failures.

Under the provisions of HB 62 if adopted by the Ohio Senate and signed by Governor DeWine, counties would receive $6 million more beginning in July, 2019, $11 million beginning in July, 2020 with a continued escalation through July, 2022.

Kudos to Oelslager for picking up on reversing the slide in state funding to local government.

Hopefully, the Ohio Senate (which begins considering HB 62 today) with strong input by (serving in the Senate again as Stark County's senator) Kirk Schuring will maintain the increased funding to local governments.

"Time is running out ... says the Ohio Municipal League (OML) for local governments (focusing on cities, of course) to weigh in on ODOT funding, to wit:
[T]ime is running out for local officials to voice their support of the Governor's original 18-cent gas tax increase. The bill must be sent to the desk of Gov. DeWine by the end of this month. We urge our members to continue to contact their Senators and urge that the initial 18-cent gas tax increase be restored.
Here is what Stark County Engineer has to say about HB 62 and the position of the OML, to wit:

Keith A. Bennett <kabennett@starkcountyohio.gov>
To:  Martin Olson

Mar 18 at 8:51 AM

Martin,


Myself and the County Engineers Association of Ohio (CEAO) are in support of the $0.18 per gallon originally proposed by Governor DeWine.  

As originally proposed the fee would be split between ODOT and Local Agencies, 60 – 40 and included indexing the tax to inflation in subsequent years.  The last time the Ohio gas tax was increased in 2005 and there has been no indexing for inflation.  Due to the rising cost of construction materials and labor in the past 14 years, our buying power has been reduced by 50%.  Our revenue remains flat while prices increase every year.  It has been determined that County Engineers have a funding deficiency of 60% comparing our current revenue to current needs.

HB 62 which is being considered by the Senate reduced the Governor’s request to a proposed gas tax increase of $0.107 per gallon and a split between ODOT and Local agencies of 55 – 45.  More importantly, it does not include indexed increases due to inflation.  ODOT has stated that at this level they will be able to continue to maintain their infrastructure but it would not provide sufficient funding to complete major projects necessary for safety and capacity that are planned around the State.  The other concern for counties with a lower tax and lower percentage spilt would be a reduction in discretionary funding that ODOT provides to the locals.  ODOT currently provides discretionary funds to the Metropolitan Planning Organizations around the State (SCATS in Stark County) as well as funding to CEAO.  Stark County relies heavily on both of these funding opportunities to fund larger maintenance / rehab / replacement projects.  We utilize our gas tax and license fee revenue to provide our local match for these projects.  Any reduction in these discretionary funds directly affects our department.

All that being said, we agree with the Ohio Municipal League and their support of the Governor’s original proposal.  

However, regardless of the final increase in gas tax, it is imperative that some type of inflation indexing be included.  Without the indexing, the increased revenue would quickly be lost to inflation of materials and labor costs and we’ll be right back to our current situation – insufficient funding to maintain our current infrastructure.

Sincerely,

Keith

As seen in the chart at the beginning of this blog, the continuing polling by the SCPR shows that over 50% of Stark Countians responding to the poll support DeWine's 18 cent a gallon increase adjusted annually for inflation.

But it appears that members of the House side of the Stark County delegation have not picked up on the majority desires of what appears to be a representative sampling of the druthers of Stark Countians on the increase of funds for the Ohio Department of Transportation favoring the DeWine request in the biennial (two years) funding of Ohio highway construction and maintenance as evidenced by how they voted in the House on HB 62, to wit:

 (that part of the vote which shows how Stark Countians voted)

So in the name of accountability, if the funding increase as proposed by Governor DeWine proves to be prophetic in defining "the real needs" of ODOT to boost highway construction and maintain existing roadways, then, the fault will be those 72 representatives (including Reggie Stoltzfus [R, the 50th], Thomas West [D, the 49th] and, of course and most assuredly Finance  Committee chairman Scott Oelslager (R, the 48th).

We shall see how this battle plays out.

Readers can depend on the SCPR analysis of the contending factors so that they as citizens and voters know whom to fault or praise when the results are known of whether the governor is correct or that the Legislature has properly discharged its "check and balance" function in a manner that provides needed funding of Ohio's transportation infrastructure at an efficient and effective level.

APPENDIX (VOTE ON OHIO TRANSPORTATION BUDGETING AS IT AFFECT STARK CO. HIGHWAYS)

THE POLL



Tuesday, March 12, 2019

A CLOUD ON HOF-VP SCRUTINY HOVERS OVER 500 MARKET AVE., SOUTH DURING "SUNSHINE" WEEK?


CELEBRATING
11 YEAR ANNIVERSARY OF THE
STARK COUNTY POLITICAL REPORT


This week is the annual American Society of News Editors and Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press (ASNE) "Sunshine  Week."

Sad to say, on the Professional Football Hall of Fame village enhancement project, Stark County's only countywide newspaper-The Canton Repository-in the person of publisher James A. Porter has been the public relations arm of the HOF-VP, notwithstanding that the project has been funded in part with millions of dollars of Ohio/Stark County taxpayer money.

Today is the 11th anniversary of The Stark County Political Report which is dedicated to the objectives of the ASNE, to wit:


And, again, sad to say, The Canton Repository is not listed as a participating member of the ASNE sponsored "Sunshine Week."

One of the sponsors of ASNE's "Sunshine Week" is the late and "great" Akron Beacon Journal publisher John S. Knight.

During the years that Knight was an active journalist, this blogger read his columns/editorial voraciously and is the primary inspiration for this blogger's zeal for public governance accountability and transparency.

Stark County's politicians, appointed and elected government officials, and the reading public has Massillon clerk of courts Johnnie A. Maier, Jr to thank for the birth of and persistence of the SCPR.

Back in 2008, there was a blog named The Stark Political Report (no longer published) which the likes of Maier thought was a "shill" for Republican Party candidates and positions involved in Stark County's political and governance

Maier entreated Martin Olson to be the face of a countervailing Democratic spin blog.

It did not take long for this blogger to put the squelch the notion that Olson would shill for any political party.

The answer to Maier, Jr was an emphatic "no," which was followed up with the first issue of The Stark County Political Report on March 12, 2008, which, of course, has been and continues to be the most "independent" political analysis publication in all of Stark County.


Over the ensuing 11 years, the SCPR has published over 3,500 blogs.  A number of them scooped The Repository which when one thinks about it is astounding given The Rep's inside track access to Stark County government officials.

In particular, the SCPR believes that under James Porter's leadership as publisher The Rep has shamed itself on the HOF-VP in becoming by contract in 2016 "the official newspaper of the Pro Football Hall of Fame" and publisher Porter becoming a HOF board of trustees.

And there are other Porter community relationships (e.g. the Canton Regional Chamber of Commerce) which the SCPR thinks affects his ability as publisher to be on the forefront of accountability and transparency of the HOF-VP in the context of largely unaccounted for use of taxpayer dollars and, moreover, sunlighting  HOF-VP operations, again, focusing on the taxpayer dollars which have gone into the project.


If only "private" money was infused into the HOF-VP, then it is incumbent on private sector investors to look out after their own interests.

This blogger is 76 years old.

Sooner or later, the SCPR will only be in the archives of Stark County history.

Hopefully, someone else will pick up on the challenge of being a conduit for "letting the sunshine in" on Stark County governance focusing on accountability and transparency on the spending of taxpayer dollars.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

IS HE SAINT STU OR SATAN STU?

Updated March 12, 2019  

Confirmation factor of SCPR sources' saying Stu Lichter has purchased the McKinley Grand?


For over a week now, The Stark County Political Report (SCPR, The Report) has been hearing that Pro Football Hall of Fame Village Expansion (HOF, HOF-VP)  developer Stu Lichter (also, IRG Lichter bio) has agreed to purchase the McKinley Grand Hotel located in downtown Canton.

Here is an e-mail from an indirect source:

It was announced at an annual Civil War Ball [Ohio Military Regimental Ball on or about February 16, 2019] that the hotel was bought out by Lichter and people should book their rooms ahead for next year. ... then told me her boss confirmed it and said the hotel was bought out by the Lichter organization.

The SCPR has been checking the Stark County auditor's office real estate transfer log and has not so far in detected a transfer so far this year of the McKinley Grand.


If true, the Canton city government may think of him as being Saint Stu.  Mayor Thomas Bernabei's administration is making strides in turning Canton's economic/financial slide of some 60 years.

However, the Bernabei administration must ramp up Canton's effort to encourage the development of "attractions" so that out-of-towners want to come to Canton and be downtown to enjoy the attractions.

Recently it was announced that downtown Canton is going to get a state-of-the-art WiFi infrastructure boost.

A purchase of the McKinley Grand by anybody (Lichter or some other person/entity) with a promise to plow money into updating the hotel would be would be music to the ears of Mayor Bernabei and Canton City Council members.

Such a development would be one more step forward on the long trek to recover some of Canton's greatness.


An attempt was publicly revealed (LINK) in September 2017 through December 2017 to sell Canton's only major hotel:  The McKinley Grand which originally opened in 1986 as a Hilton hotel to become briefly a Marriot hotel but mostly as an independently operated hotel which is its current status.   It's current owner took over in 2001.

In December 2017, it was reported that the downtown Canton hotel was taken off the market, it seems, because nobody was willing to offer the asking price.

If the report of an imminent sale to Lichter is true, one has to wonder how much Lichter paid for it.

According to Stark County auditor records (see below in this blog), the current appraised value is $4.5 million.

But who believes, again, if reports of the hotel's sale to Lichter is in the works, that he has paid $4.5 million.

Perhaps so but the SCPR would be shocked if a sale to Lichter is made and consequently the transaction gets processed through the Stark auditor's offer that it will show $4.5 million or better purchase price.

Lichter has demonstrated over years that he is a savvy real estate developer who makes terrific deals for himself through his company Industrial Realty Group (IRG).

To say it again, if a sale is in process, the threshold question is:

Does Canton and Stark County want more of Stuart Lichter as a new owner of the hotel?

This blogger has not heard many positives about Lichter in discussing with various Stark Countians their view of Lichter's role the HOF-VP and the Hoover complex (a North Canton redevelopment project.

The most heard observation made to this blogger is that when Lichter is gone from the local scene, then, and only then, will the hoped-for HOF-VP have a good chance of succeeding.

Those folks obviously see Lichter and the barrier he seems to embody of keeping the HOF-VP stagnate as being Satan Stu.

However, Hall Fame official C. David Baker likely remains a big fan of Lichter and probably addresses him as Saint Stu given this Repository article about the duo in July 2016.

Repository publisher Jim Porter and the likes of Denny Saunier (president, Canton Regional Chamber of Commerce), the SCPR thinks, are likely to be advocates of Saint Stu.

Here is Lichter of Industry Realty Group (IRG) Twitter page image which appears to be his (and, perhaps, HOF top official C. David Baker) originally envisioned expansion plan, to wit:


But as we all know, the project is nowhere near the evolving vision (i.e. started out at about $500 million (including a stadium rehab of $22 million) to a nearly $1 billion (including the incomplete stadium rehab of at least $139 million) which should be (according to numerous promises made by HOF connected officials) nearly finished in time for the 100th anniversary of the National Football League birth.

HOF officials had hoped to bring the 2020 NFL draft to Canton.  That plan got modified to include Cleveland as the primary base for the draft with the third day in Canton, which plan, was rejected in early December 2018 inasmuch as Las Vegas was selected.

So far, it appears, approximately $200 million of a projected nearly $1 billion has been raised from the public (i.e. taxpayer money) and private sources.

And, from all appearances, is currently stopped "dead in its tracks" while the M. Klein financial group works feverishly to find some $800 million to complete the project as envisioned or, of course, a lesser amount if the project is in the process of being scaled down, which, The Report is told is the reality.

For instance, the original plan called for a 5-star hotel to be built on the HOF Village site.  Now, sources say the-hotel-to-be-built plan has been scaled down to a 3-star hotel.

Take a look at this Google search listing in order to get a sense of complaints made against Lichter/IRG over the years on previous projects he has embarked on.

We should not forget the troubles (LINK) the HOF-VP ran into in paying contractors who worked on Phase I on the project.

So if it is true that Lichter is buying the McKinley Grand the question is:  A Good or Bad thing for Canton and Stark County?

From a Google search:  There is a lot of difference between a 5-star hotel and a 3-star hotel. A 5-star hotel is a live expression of lavishness and luxury. Whereas a 3-star hotel is meant for travelers who can compromise a bit on facilities offered at the hotel in exchange for more relaxed and reasonable rates.
  • One-star hotels: average $80, ...
  • Two-star hotels: average $112, ...
  • Three-star hotels: average $171, ...
  • Four-star hotels: average $289, ...
  • Five-star hotels: average $436, ...
Source:  Tailwind by Hipmunk

According to Yelp, The McKinley Grand is rated at 2.5-stars.



Currently, The McKinley Grand brings in about $117,000 in property tax revenues to Stark County political subdivisions.

Here is the valuation history going back 10 years.


If one were to ask North Canton Mayor David Held, he might well say that it is a bad thing.

Why is that?

Because, Held, who was an enthusiast for Lichter when he agreed to purchase the shutdown Hoover complex, was hopeful that Licher's arrival on the scene would be a successful repurposing of the complex.

LINK & see excerpt below

California developer Stuart Lichter swept up the vacant Hoover Co. campus at a bargain price Monday - paying $5 million for a property that, when occupied, might have fetched four times that. (emphasis added)

It has probably dawned on HOF officialdom that there is absolutely no way the average National Football League fan could afford to stay at a 5-star hotel.

And besides that, it is likely that Klein et al are having trouble getting financing for a 5-star.  David Baker himself has said there is no way that the private sector would finance a somewhere of the neighborhood (when it is completed) $150 million football stadium.

Even a 3-star hotel might be beyond the means of HOF attendees especially if a family with several children.

A return on investment for a 3-star HOF sited hotel might be hard to come by, no"

Of course, it will take generations to get a return on investment on a $150 million outlay in Canton, Ohio even if there is a large increase of visitors (now said by the Stark County Regional Planning Commission to be about 300,000 a year) coming to Canton.

Canton City Schools are finding out that it is taking forever to get the districts Football Operations Center (includes a locker room in replacement to the one torn down).

For those readers who want a fuller understanding of North Canton's frustration with Lichter, the SCPR blog of July 16, 2018, is a good starting place should go to the SCPR blog of July 16, 2018, in which Mayor Held speaks on video of his frustrations on the delayed development of the Hoover complex.


At the initial Strengthening Stark meeting in January 2018 on the encouragement of Stark County commissioner Janet Creighton "to let it all hang out" (a paraphrase), Held tied into HOF officials and by implication Stuart Lichter in suggesting that $30 million in federal EB-5 money had been diverted from the Hoover complex project to the HOF VP.

Held and council members have to be frustrated with Lichter.

Undoubtedly, there has to be more at this date in 2019 than the $6.7 million alleged by North Canton citizen activist Chuck Osborne alleged in August 2014 that North Canton has poured into the Hoover project.


Note:  From North Canton councilman-at-large Daryl Revolt 
Re North Canton and Meyers, the CIC purchased the cranes but still owns them.  The investment paid for itself within 4 years.  Value of used cranes was about half of purchase price.  DR
Recently, the Shroer Group announced that it was relocating from the former Hoover facilities thereby taking some 300 jobs from North Canton.

Frustrating indeed, no?

If Lichter is, in fact, buying the McKinley Grand, Cantonians ought to be bracing themselves for him to ask for property tax relief and some money from Canton taxpayers in the form of a grant or otherwise.

Back in 2015, Canton City Council did pony up $5 million towards the HOF-VP.

The question has always been on the HOF-VP, the Hoover project and, now, perhaps, a Stuart Lichter hotel owned hotel in the heart of downtown Canton is something will be beneficial or not.

If approached by Lichter, local government officials for local government grants or ways to funnel money into the $12 million rehab; they need to make sure that it is a "no-brainer" in terms of any such public investment paying off down the line.

If the project is a completely "private" investment matter, then Godspeed to Lichter and any other private sector investors who might be forking out $12 million.

Bottom line is that Canton mayor Thomas Bernabei and Canton City Council are likely to be thinking of Lichter as St Stu if the purchase becomes a reality.

Nevertheless, there are plenty of others in Stark County who as a reaction to the dealings they have had with him, view him as Satan Stu.

Which side do you fall on?