Monday, November 14, 2011


Before the elections of November, 2010 and the victories of Democrat Tom Bernabei (replacing Democrat Todd Bosley, who did not run again) and Republican Janet Creighton (who ousted the appointed Democrat Steve Meeks), Stark Countians likely had very little in the way of expectations of the county commissioners.

However, with the passage of the 0.5 sales tax (by an remarkable margin, given initial predictions of "gloom and doom"), Stark County may be perking up a bit.  "Perking up a bit?"  Okay, let's say such is the case.  A more profound point is whether or not county officials can sustain the obvious gain (as evidenced by the tax victory) over time?

The debate rages on as to whether the tax passed as result of "scare them to death campaign foreboding criminals running the streets of Stark County" or because Commissioners Creighton and Bernabei instituted commissioner ways of being which caught the eye of Stark Countians as being "a turning of the page" wherein commissioners are truly responsive and attentive to everyday Stark Countians.

Looking at the pattern at where the issue clearly passed (in order of margin of victory):
  • Meyers Lake
  • North Canton
  • Louisville
  • Plain Township
  • Canton City
  • Massillon
  • Nimishillen Township
  • Jackson Township
  • Perry Township
  • Canton Township
  • Canal Fulton
  • Alliance
  • Navarre
  • Washington Township
  • Minerva, and
  • Pike Township
as opposed to those areas in which it clearly failed (in order least amount to greatest amount of loss):
  • Bethlehem Township
  • Osnaburg Township
  • Lexington Township
  • Lake Township
  • Hartville
  • Sandy Township
  • East Canton
  • Marlboro Township
  • Lawrence Township
  • Sugar Creek Township
  • Brewster
  • Beach City
  • Wilmot
the SCPR's analysis is that the power (the "reality fear" factor)  of the Yes for Safety Issue 29 campaign was embraced by the "influencers" of Stark County elections in the most populous (except for Lake) urban/suburban areas and that is why the issue passed with a rather comfortable margin.

The fact of the matter is (now matter what the reason for Issue 29's passage) that it is a "new" day in Stark County and with the tax being passed, the sole question that ought to be on the mind of Stark Countians is:  what now?

After the Wednesday regular weekly commissioner meeting (November 9th), the SCPR recorded an impromptu press conference with the commissioners.  SCPR readers can and should see the commissioners' responses to questions posed in order to gain a inkling of whether or not the commissioners have plan to sustain the county's gain.

In the first segment, commissioners speak of the first order of business being digging into the budgeting process for fiscal year 2012 immediately.

An important point made by Commissioner Creighton is that the will - as commissioners started last year - require department heads of government to present themselves at work sessions of the commissioners to have a back and forth on their budget numbers.

As pointed out by Commissioner Bernabei, collections on the newly approved amount will not begin until the second half of 2012.  This means that restoration to 2011 levels will not take place until fiscal year 2013.

Other topics included in this first video include the question of whether or not the commissioners will continue to go out into the larger Stark County community to meet with citizens.

Here is the first video.

A large part of the press conference discussion (part II) had to do with whether or not the sales tax passage indicates that Stark Countians are ready to "trust" county government (asked by Kelli Young of The Repository).

Other items included asking Commissioner Pete Ferguson about his plans for continuing efforts at consolidating county/municipal/township functions (health departments,  building departments, information technology departments) into consolidated county/political subdivision operations.

Also, there is the matter of "unfunded mandates" which cost local governments dearly and which the Ohio General Assembly could resolve if pressed by local government officials and citizens across the state of Ohio.

We see such a phenomenon in the General Assembly's passage of a bill to set up two primary elections next spring:  one for state offices in Marcy and another for federal offices in May/June at a cost of $15 million.

The passage of this bill should make it abundantly clear to Ohioans that members of the Ohio House and Senate are keenly aware of "who pays the bill."

The likes of the county commissioners, the judges and the elected department heads of Stark County government need to continue to put the heat on the Stark County delegation to the Ohio General Assembly to - over time - relieve local governments of unfunded mandates.

The SCPR sees this as a key issue in whether or not local government can be solvent and will be keeping the issue foremost in the minds of county officials.

Expectations - what are they for county officials given the passage of the 0.5% sales tax levy?

For the SCPR they are that the commissioners will not "backslide" from the terrific start that Commissioners Bernabei and Creighton brought to the county table with their election as commissioners.

But beyond that, there is no money but to muddle along.

In a year or so of more stewardship in which Stark Countians can assess whether or not the commissioners and county elected officials have kept the faith in responsible and connected governance and, on the hope that the public verdict will be affirmative, then the county commissioners need to take a look at creating an economic development fund (including the repair of infrastructure [e.g. the ditching problem] with an additional 0.5% sales tax earmarked for such an effort.

While their may not be "great" expectations given the financial realities that county officials face, there are expectations that they will continue to build trust by being consummately efficient in providing county services.

Here is the second part of the press conference video.

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