Wednesday, November 21, 2012


2012 is the fifth annual Stark County Political Report salutation to those Stark County public figures who have made significant contributions to the well being of Stark County in a governmental/political context.


Judge Charles E. Brown, Jr. has had a stellar ten years plus on the bench of the Stark County Court of Common Pleas Court.

He was appointed in 2001 by Governor Robert Taft and went on to win two terms and could have stayed on the bench until the end of 2014 though he reached the mandatory retirement age for Ohio judges at age 70 in July.  However, have the self-awareness to realize that we all "lose a step or two," with advancing age, Brown retired effective October 31st of this year.

Though he has proved to be a distinguished jurist in presiding over many criminal and civil trials during his tenure (including the Bobby Cutts murder trial), the SCPR recognizes him for his work on the Stark County Reentry Initiative.

The Report's assessment of Judge Brown is that he is leading example of being a "tough love" judge.

Recently (November 16th), representatives of the Stark County Criminal Justice Reform Committee wrote of Judge Brown:
As indicated by his nickname, “Send ’Em Down,” Brown earned a reputation as a tough judge.

This approach is often necessary, and prison sentences are a proven crime deterrent. However, he also understood that once offenders did their time, they needed opportunities to reintegrate into society.

Brown presided over the county’s innovative Re-Entry Court, which steered returning citizens toward employment, housing and social service programs to ease their transition and reduce recidivism.
Under Charles Brown's leadership, the Stark County Reentry Initiative was the recipient of the First Annual "Independence Day" Award. 

The SCPR had the opportunity in July, 2011 to spend a morning in a session of Reentry Court.  For those readers who wish to see the program in action, here is video of an actual session.

And here is a video that you will not want to miss:  a one-on-one time between yours truly and Judge Brown.

The SCPR salutes Judge Charles E. Brown, Jr. for rendering over a decade of outstanding service to the grateful citizens of Stark County.


Yours truly (J.D. 1973) has known Lee Sinclair (J.D.  1976) for 36 years.

In fact, we tried a case or two against each other over those many years.

For the last 18 years, Lee Sinclair has been a Stark County Court of Common Pleas judge.  And he has earned a reputation for moving his case docket along lickety-split.  Because of his lightening speed of moving cases along, he has become known as the "Rocket-Docket judge."

In Judge Sinclair's court, there would be no "justice delayed is justice denied".

Recently, Judge Sinclair announced he will be retiring as of the end of this year and will be devoting some of his time to teaching at the University of Mount Union located in Alliance.

As a jurist, he has been a pre-eminent scholar.  Sinclair has been serving as chairman of the Ohio Judicial College Board of Trustees and has written about presiding over a capital punishment case as a part of a major treatise on the handling of capital cases.

The SCPR has written extensively since 2009 about Judge Sinclair's handing of the Ron Devies and Kyle Devies case.

In what yours truly believes was clearly a case of a communication problem, Marlboro Chief of Police Ron Devies and his son Kyle were charged with fourth degree felonies.  (For more details, here is a LINK to a prior blog).

It was no surprise to the SCPR that Judge Sinclair ended up doing what he did in presiding over this case.

After the prosecution ended its case, Sinclair sustained defense counsel's motion to dismiss.

A case that never gone forward in the first place, in the opinion of The Report.

For his speed in administering justice, his legal scholarship and doing justice, Stark Countians certainly have much to be thankful for in having V. Lee Sinclair, Jr. being a judge of the Stark County Common Pleas Court.


The best thing for the city of Canton was the election of a group of four "young" men (Morris says he is not young) to Canton City Council in November, 2011.

The four:  (left to right in the photo above)  Frank Morris, Jr., (9th Ward), Edmond Mack (8th Ward), John Mariol (7th Ward) and Kevin Fisher (5th Ward).

Normally, the SCPR is not keen on officeholders being elected who ran unopposed.  But two of the four (Morris and Fisher) did and Mariol was appointed to replace Patrick Barton who moved on to become a member of Healy administration as IT director.

But in a 9 to 1 Democrats to Republicans voter registration advantage city, candidates running unopposed is more the norm than the exception.  Moreover, Stark County Republican chairman Jeff Matthews has done an incredibly poor job in preparing Republican candidates to compete in those wards in which the GOP could compete.

Cantonians has lucked out with the elevation of these four to council given the non-competitive political environment.

For despite their shared political allegiance, they have put the Healy administration under close scrutiny.

As regular readers of the SCPR know, The Report thinks Mayor William J. Healy, II is one of the slickest politicians we have seen in these parts in many of a year.  It seems that nearly everything he does in his role in Canton government is somehow designed to benefit his political future in some way, shape, or form.

And The Report understands that such is the case for many, many politicians.  But really?  Isn't the best way to benefit politically, not to calculate for one's own interests, but to be working at fever pitch for the well-being of the people and everything will fall into place?

That's how the SCPR sees Messers Morris, Mack, Mariol and Fisher and how the seem to function.

Undoubtedly, all want to be reelected (retained in Mariol's case) next November.  Healy has been suspected of running a candidate to take out an adversary.  Councilman Greg Hawk appears to have been the butt of a Healy political attack.

But despite this risk, Morris, Mack, Mariol and Fisher are going about it the right way:  doing their job as due diligence councilmen.

The Report shudders to think what Healy would be getting through council that is not necessarily good for Cantonians with nary a question being asked without "the four" leading the way.

To be sure they have needed help.  And they have been joined by a handful of veteran councilpersons (Cirelli, Hawk and Griffin), depending on the issue.

To repeat, but for "the four" and their probing eyes and incisive questioning, The Report believes that Canton would be led down the primrose path of repeatedly and dutifully following the lead of a mayor fixed on his individual agenda which frequently does not square up with the best interests of Cantonians.

They have scrutinized:
  • the matter of oil and gas drilling on Canton owned lands,
  • the reduction of the income tax credit that Canton allows for those living in Canton but paying village/municipal income taxes to another locality,
  • the consideration of changing policy the apprehension of stray, wild animals prowling the confines of the city,
  • the installation of traffic cameras at key downtown interchanges as a safety or revenue producing proposal.
And there have been more.

But suffice it to say that "the young turks" have been a breath of fresh air in a council environment which still consists of a number of Healy automatics.

For "the four's" presence on council, Cantonians certainly have to be thankful this November 22, 2012.


The SCRP has been watching Massillon City Council for some time now.

As with Canton, Massillon is pretty much thought of as being a Democratic city.

But not nearly to the degree as Canton.

Massillonians undoubtedly have to be pleased with the fact that four Republicans were elected in November, 2011 and have made Massillon City Council a truly deliberative legislative body.

And the SCPR sees Ward Two Councilwoman Nancy Halter as the leader of the pact in terms of digging in on issues, understanding them, offering solutions and sticking to her legislative goals.

An example?

This is what The Report wrote about Halter on September 4th of this year:
Councilwoman Halter turned what appeared at one time to be "a death by a thousand cuts" legislative effort to make owners of Massillon neighborhood residences more accountable and trackable as Massillon's building code enforcer (William Kraft) sought council's assistance to get legislation with more teeth on the books to aid him in his effort.

The battle in Massillon council has been going on over the requested legislation for about three years.
Currently, Massillon is deciding whether or not it should raise its income tax rate next year.

One of Halter's positions from day one on council has been fiscal responsibility.

She understands that a breech of trust with the citizen voters means that you can ask all you want, but there will be no voting of additional taxes if you have lost the trust of the people.

Her tack on the tax increase issue is to insist that the annual payment on the Massillon government owned The Legends golf course is summed up in a quote by Matt Rink of The Massillon Independent (City Council members see Legends debt as obstacle to passing tax hike, November 19th):
The parks are not being taken care of.  The people did not vote the parks tax in to support a golf course.
Hooray for Nancy Halter!  She is one impressive council member.

And the people of Massillon have to be very thankful in this season of the year for a councilperson who is definitely is a person "of the people, by the people, and for the people."


The Osborne selection was difficult for yours truly.

It is a relatively close call as to whether he is a help in ferreting out bad government practices in The Dogwood City or in a strange sort of way provides cover for non-transparent practices, inefficiencies and ineffectiveness of those with something to hide by virtue of their making Osborne the issue.

The tipping point for the SCPR is the belief that Osborne's heart is in the right place and that "on balance" North Cantonians (whether they like his style or not) benefit from his bird-dogging of North Canton City Council on a multitude of issues.

Recently, Osborne struck gold in coming up with a ballot initiative to require North Canton Council to cease providing health care insurance benefits to part-time elected officials.

The SCPR has written two blogs (LINK #1, LINK #2) on the history of Osborne's health care insurance initiative.

It was a no doubter to The Report from the beginning that the former councilman would succeed with his petition drive.  And he did in spades.

It was also a no doubter that he would win this past November 6th.  And win he did.

Implementation of the new ordinance will not take effect until a new council is in place as of December 1, 2013.

Do you think that council will now have a new found if grudging respect for Osborne?

The Report thinks that a majority of North Canton's council members see Osborne as a counterproductive citizen who makes a good point here and there.

One only has to do is talk with a given councilperson (pick one, except perhaps for the newest one) to get a patronizing and disdainful evaluation of Osborne's engagement all in one conversation.

See/say what they want, but there is little doubt that they feel Osborne's eyes on every move they make.

And The Report believes this a good thing for North Cantoninans.

From what the SCPR has seen of North Canton Council, especially since Daryl Revoldt left for a job with the Kasich administration in Ohio's Department of Development; council needs scrutiny more than ever.

As far as The Report is concerned, the procedures employed by council in hiring a former councilman (Fox) as its law director left a lot to be desired in terms of transparency.

Osborne's big drawback, in the opinion of yours truly, is that he appears consumed with a desire to get back into North Canton officialdom.  He was a councilman-at-large about ten years ago for a two year stint.

Since then he has been unsuccessful to regain status in North Canton government.

He has run for mayor, for a ward council seat and, most lately, applied for Tim Fox's vacancy when he became law director; losing out each time. 

As The Report sees Osborne and his civic activity is in pretty much the role he plays now.   But with measured selectivity as to the issues he takes on and when he does engage, to do so in a less acerbic manner.

Osborne's November 6th victory could be, if he plays his citizen activist cards correctly, the beginning of heightened effectiveness that might in time become a model for other Stark Countians who want make local government more democratic in terms of accessibility, openness, transparency, and responsiveness.

He has the makings of an enhanced credibility that he can use to compel council to focus on the issues and not on Osborne the messenger.

In the election, nearly 80% of voting North Cantonians demonstrated with their votes that they are thankful for and appreciative of Chuck Osborne's civic activist work.

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