Monday, February 14, 2011


So far into its term, the "new" (with addition of Bernabei and Creighton) Stark County Board of Commissioners (Board) is proving to be both short(near) sighted and farsighted.  What Stark County needs is a Board which is in focus.

A sterling example of what the SCPR is talking about is the farsighted move that the Board took in setting a series of meetings out in the far reaches of Stark County in order to take the pulse of Stark Countians.

However, they have been shortsighted in not understanding that going out takes some "organized" reaching out.

The Report brought this need up when the commissioners first announced that they were going out to meet the citizens.  The Report's questions:  Will they (Stark Countians) come to the meetings?  Who is going to organize an effort to "bring them [everyday citizens] in?"

To The Report the response were three quizzical, blank-esque stares and a fumbling verbal turning to Chief Administrator Mike Hanke with a feeble "you'll take care of it" entreaty.

Well, it didn't get taken care of!

According to Kelli Young's report (Stark County officials out to rebuild public trust, The Repository, February 10, 2011) of the meeting at Plain Township Hall, a grand total of ten (10) people showed up including:
  • Stark County Sheriff Tim Swanson
  • Family Court Judge David Stucki
  • Plain Township Trustee Scott Haws
  • Three county employees
  • David Crowder - a Stark County businessman
  • Tom Marcelli - a member of the Vote No Increased Taxes Committee (repealing the 0.50 commissioner [Bosley, Harmon & Vignos] imposed sales tax, November, 2009)
  • Steve Fronimo - a Plain Township citizen
  • An unidentified person in Young's report
Hopefully, by March 3rd, the Board will have its act together.

On the 3rd of March at 6:30 at Jackson Township Hall the Board will again meet the public.

But who will show up?

Yours truly has been attending township meetings since 1982 and, except when a "hot button" issue is on the table; virtually no one shows up.

The Report believes, that for the most part, that is exactly how public officials like it. 

When someone "new" shows up, oft-times the officials query among themselves:  "What is this person's beef?"  or "Is this a person who wants to run for one of our jobs?" and similar questions.

In the nearly 30 years that yours truly has been attending these and other public meetings very rarely has The Report heard public officials say:  "You know what, we have to lean on citizens to attend this meeting."

Bill Stetler, the superintendent at Northwest schools, is one of the most accomplished at turning out a crowd.  And, of course, he is not an elected official, rather an appointed official.

While it is certainly a bonus when officials like Swanson, Haws, and  Stucki show up, the purpose of the meeting is for the Board to hear from everyday citizens.  The role of the likes of Swanson, Haws and Stucki and other county officials, city officials, township officials, village officials and board of education officials should be to take action to "bring them [everyday citizens] in."

Hanke should be contacting these folks (the public officials) and getting a commitment from each of them to reach out to their constituents, their neighbors, their friends - and, yes - their relatives to attend at least one of these meetings.  Why doesn't he organize a phone bank of volunteers to join a "bring them in" initiative? 

For the commissioners to be meeting with ten citizens (most of whom are "members of the choir") is a gigantic wasted opportunity.

The Repository Editorial Board has been remiss on this count, too!  You'd think pushing the public to attend these meetings would be an appropriate occasion for The Rep poobahs to be the "800 pound gorilla (that former executive editor David Kaminski likened The Rep to) that buys ink by the barrel" and to use the resource of being Stark's only countywide newspaper to pepper the citizenry with "a need to attend" message.

They ballyhoo a self-serving 20/20 program, but don't seize the day to get citizens in one-on-ones with county officials?  Hmm?

Gauger et al need to get in proper focus, also!

If the commissioners' initiative doesn't do substantially better than 10 persons per meeting, then any input they get is of questionable value. 

To make a determination of whether or not to put a new sales tax initiative on the November, 2011 ballot, to have credibility, they will have to point to more that a few citizens as the basis of their decision.

Get in focus, commissioners, get in focus!!!

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