Friday, July 27, 2012


At one time yours truly thought that Massillon Mayor Kathy Catazaro-Perry might be the "golden girl" of Democratic Party politics is Stark County.

But no more.

Now the question is whether or not she can get through four years having had a presentable administration.  And then vanish into clouds of political oblivion. 

For a full seven months she has been bogged down in desperately seeking a way to get revenues to see Massillon through its immediate future.  But she is getting very little in terms of cooperation out of Massillon's city council which is interesting in and of itself.

Elected to council (Massillon's Third Ward) in 2003, she served eight years on council until she defeated longtime mayor Francis H. Cicchinelli, Jr. in the Democratic Party primary in 2011 and then went on to handily defeat the Republican candidate in November of last year.

Her defeat of Cicchinelli is likely to be the "high water mark" of her political success.  So far she has demonstrated little that she possesses leadership qualities that she can use to help pull Massillon out of its financial quandaries.

She appears to be reduced to sloganeering about Massillon being the "City of Champions" which is like she is taking a page out of the playbook of fellow Democrat and mayor of Canton:  William J. Healy, II (e.g. Canton - "the Utica Capital")

One would think that in her eight years on council Catazaro-Perry would have developed some solid relationships that could be useful to her now as the city's chief executive.

But it is obvious that she didn't.

And with the introduction of five new council members (four of whom are Republicans), she has no very few allies on council at all, even among the holdovers from her days on Massillon's legislative body.  It was interesting to see her most reliable friend on council - Tony Townsend - jump ship on her second proposal to reduce the city income tax credit for those Massillonians who work in other municipal taxing jurisdictions.  A key proposal for her, if Massillon is to be solvent at year's end because it would bring immediate money to the city.

Apparently, the only tried and true political friends that Mayor Catazaro-Perry has in Tigerland is Clerk of Courts Johnnie A. Maier, Jr and his core group of political loyalists.

She has been so wedded to the Maier faction of the Massillon Democratic Party some (including the SCPR) wonders who is really calling the shots in the city administration.

Johnnie's brother George is safety service director and there are a number of other Maier faction hanger-oners who are by her side propping her up. 

Now her administration finds itself in a "leading to nowhere" argument with her political adversaries as to whether or not its layoff of 27 city employees is going to produce expenditure savings to help Massillon make ends meet.

As the SCPR sees it, political standoff is the best the mayor can hope for going forward in her having bought into the power politics model subscribed to by the Maier political faction.  While she puts a smiling face on a "might makes right" attitude, she is likely to find that going forward it will make it impossible to bring Massillon together so as to make this former industrial hub any semblance of its former greatness.

As has been pointed out by a number of observers, her predecessor did not leave her with a whole lot to work with (except for Baker, Hughes) in that there are the financial/economic dinosaurs of  The Legends, the hotel project, the Massillon Parks and Recreation financing fiasco among a number of poorly thought out financial and economic moves which are likely to undermine her Massillon resuscitation moves over the next three and one half years.

However, the mayor demonstrated very little in terms of leadership during her council years to have ameliorated the conditions that remain with Massillon into the foreseeable future.

Yes, Mayor Kathy Catazaro-Perry is looking down the road as she moves her administration forward.  But she appears to be hamstrung by the realities of the past and she is constantly reminded of that past by the annoying presence of that rear view mirror.

And with political friends like she has helping her, who needs any political enemies (which she has plenty of)?

For the sake of a brighter future for Massillon,she needs to pick up her leadership qualities which seemingly abound on paper, but which appear to be virtually non-existent in the "on-the-job" world.

Returning to the original question:  Can Kathy Catazaro-Perry succeed as mayor of Massillon?

It is only 7 months into her administration, but for the answer to be "yes," she is going to make some major leadership adjustments.

The further question is:  Is she up to it?

1 comment:

Sean said...

I will reserve my judgment specific to the administrations overall performance for a more appropriate timing, but I would suggest that regardless of problems confronting the City there is little or no excuse for at the very least the administration and council to have virtually no visible or viable means of communicating with or gaining much-needed insight (and likely help) from its citizens; many of whom are all too eager to contribute; though they may just need a sign that there are such opportunities.

The city's web site and web-presence (facebook, twitter) is horrifyingly out-of-date, irrelevant, and with concern to meeting the voters where they are, non-existent. This may seem frivolous; except this is one (but not only) place where much could be done and gained, without a great deal of cost involved. And in fact, many citizens might even contribute time/resources to such efforts if the City were to simply wise-up and just asked.

They of course might also be surprised to find that their citizen could do a great deal more than complain, if the had meaningful and easy to access (and use/understand) information about the city and especially its finances and revenues online. I was able to access such information within several days of writing for a public records request, but also knew exactly which documents I wanted and knew to write to the Clerk of Council and not the Mayor's Office, which unfortunately it seems hasn't gotten much further than uploading her campaign biography in place of the Mayor's welcome letter.

Too bad there hasn’t been anyone who has offered such support in various forms of communications, open posts in the Independent, or otherwise.

But this one seemingly minor, but potentially significant issue, does make me wonder, might it not help the administration to think about other ways it could use input, help even? Could it put out a call for ideas, proposals, and innovations to address even such smaller, but not un-important problems?

Or given the scope and scale of the challenges and the relative greenness of the Mayor and Council, might it not help if we actually saw them put aside any pretense and invite opinion-leaders and issue experts to engage in a presentations and dialogues about city finances, OR even to take the idea much further that they publicly enroll in at least a semester or two's worth of city planning and administration courses to try and at least expose themselves to a broader, and hopefully more comprehensive understanding of what none of them have formally experienced, let alone studied? Heck, why not even offer such a course(s) to be taught live and via the web for free to all Massillonians who wish to participate? Such a sequence could truly do wonders to at least engage the citizenry and politicians to consider issues much more deeply and broadly, if not also creating opportunities to constructively consider problems and solutions; outside the sometimes constraining forums of city hall hearings. This could also provide ample opportunities for projects, and other experiential works to be applied with a local focus and with technical expert support/facilitation. Such a course could be ran with but a handful of dedicated, non-partisan, urban planning activists, practitioners, idea-leaders, and/or professors, and but a small core of dedicated community coordinators (or block captains)and perhaps a small grant/donations to cover any associated costs. And that is just the a truly off-the-top of my head idea, that could evolve into a full sort of citizen and leadership Academy and Corps, but I will stop at that as it is just an idea, and just one of hundreds and thousands that are likely going unheard, unnoticed by City Hall; and that is not for lack of effort from this former Massillonian, who yes long-ago left to study and then practice Strategic Planning & Urban Development.