Sunday, August 7, 2011


On the heels of a smashing defeat at the polls in November 2009 of a December 2008 "imposed" 1/2 cent sales tax levy split between a countywide 9-1-1 rehab and the county general fund, Stark County commissioners started talking about forming a group of Stark County citizens (April, 2010 - Commissioners Bosley, Ferguson and Meeks) "to review county government operations and make recommendations to the Stark County Commissioners (sic) and other elected officials."

Among those asked to and agreeing to serve was the leader of the repeal movement:  local attorney and civic activist Craig T. Conley (who, if not the formal leader of the "Vote No Increased Taxes Committee was clearly the de facto leader).

At the time, the Stark County Political Report mused that putting Conley on the committee was an attempt to co-opt his opposition.

Well, if it was:  it did not work.

On Friday, Conley sent Commissioners Bernabei, Creighton and Ferguson a letter.

In the hand-delivered letter, he tells them that he opposes their proposed 1/2 cent sales tax increase for the following reasons:
  • "[W]ay too generous and actuarially unsustainable retirement and health care benefits,"
  • "no mention [in area media reports] of wage or benefit decreases,"
  • [the use of] "the usual scare tactic that, without the sales tax, criminals will be free to rape, pillage, plunder and murder."
Conley's opposition has to be terrible news for commissioners.

While he is just one person; he is a person of enormous influence in certain sectors of the Stark County population.  The only good news coming out of the Conley missive was a no-mention of the revival of the Vote No Increased Taxes Committee to join him in a formal way in opposing the sales tax increase.

It could be that he did not take this extra step  (reconstituting "Vote No") because (in the words of the communication) of his happiness that the "Board [including new commissioners Bernabei and Creighton and carryover Ferguson] implement[ed] a new era of openness and dialogue in County government and for steadfastly refusing to impose any sales tax."

The SCPR believes that had Conley done so (rebirthed "Vote No"), then the defeat of the sales tax issue would be guaranteed.

Nonetheless, many Stark Countians are telling the SCPR that the 1/2 cent sales tax has no chance whatsoever to pass.

What would it take to turnaround the thinking of the likes of Conley and get the attention of Stark Countians, generally that the county is serious about getting the expenditure side of its budget in proper Conely-esque proportions?

In conversations with Conley, The Report recalls his mentioning that it would be better for Stark County employees to agree to a 20% decrease in their wages than to risk losing their jobs altogether.  Moreover, he has repeatedly talked about getting benefits trimmed to match those of the private sector.  His focus has been on the benefits that unions get.

In fact, in his letter to the commissioners he attached a copy of an editorial from the Wall Street Journal (A City Unended by Unions - CLICK HERE TO READ) as "succinctly set[ting] forth the true cause of political subdivision budgetary problems.

The SCPR believes that the current board of commissioners (as Conley says) have opened a "new era of openness and dialogue in County government."

However, they are still saddled with county officials who have not bought into their new standard and Conley's standards.

County officials have pledged an all-out-effort to convince Stark Countians to vote yes on the 1/2 cent proposed increase.

But to what avail?

What may work is for county officials to get to work between now and November in implementing Conley's prescription for what ails Stark County government!

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