Friday, March 8, 2013



 Nordman Challenges Canton City Council

Nordman Tells Commissioners:  No Excuses!

  Press Conference of Area Media and Nordman

The SCPR loves civic activists.  Stark County does not have enough of them.

Add another Stark Countian - Bruce Nordman -  to the list of those who toil long and hard doing their homework and then confronting public officials who, in Nordman's activism - seemingly are not making satisfactory headway on their promises to voters on filling all the Stark County jail beds growing out of the passage of a countywide 0.5% sales tax in 2011.

All too many everyday citizens like to complain among one another about the ineffectiveness of public/elected officials but nary lift one finger to go to the houses of government seeking to hold these officials accountable.

Officials undoubtedly do not like citizen confrontation, but civic activism works to produce results and more Stark Countians should get involved in making their elected officials accountable.

Nordman who lives in and participates in the Vassar Park Neighborhood Association (VPNA - located in the 9th Ward represented by Democrat Frank Morris) has demonstrated this week that he is willing to ask tough questions of officialdom in Canton (Monday) and of the Stark County commissioners (Wednesday).

But he was not appearing as an official spokesperson for the VPNA.

To underscore the latter point, the SCPR presents an e-mail sent by VPNA vice president Jean Hershberger, to wit:

Dear Frank & Mr. Olson,

First, thank you, Frank, for your kind words of support for our organization!  We also appreciate you and your work for our entire ward!


Mr. Bruce Nordman is a resident within the VPNA boundaries and was formerly part of our board.  Whatever he shared at the commissioners meeting was done so as a private citizen who just happens to live within the VPNA boundaries.  

His opinion should not, in any way, be construed as being the 'voice' of our assocation.  

This is an issue that I know many neighbors have strong opinions about; however, VPNA as a body does not have an official 'position' at this point.

If Mr. Nordman presented himself as being the 'voice' of our group, then he was out of line because he does not have the authority to speak for VPNA.

Respectfully yours,
Jean Hershberger

Apparently, there is a division of opinion on the part of  members of the Vassar Park Neighborhood Association (VPNA) as to whether or not they welcome Nordman's invoking the name Vassar Park which just happens to be the area of Canton he lives in.

Ms. Hershberger's disclaimer notwithstanding, the SCPR has to believe that Bruce Nordman has the ear of many folks who live in Vassar Park and, indeed, throughout Stark County.

If "one of the unjailed - charged with a crime persons" proves to be a problem in the neighborhood, one wonders how Ms. Hershberger as an official of the VPNA will account to the membership for the "official" distancing from Nordman.

After all, one of the prime missions (see mission statement below) of the organization is the safety of residents.

How is what Nordman did inconsistent with the organization's mission statement?

The Report does not think that the Stark County commissioners will react this way, but, in general, public officials like to see discord in the ranks of the citizenry. 

Such presents an opportunity to officialdom to avoid accountability.

Nordman was at Canton City Council on Monday night with his pitch (allowed only three minutes by council rules) that Canton city council members should step front and center and join him on putting pressure on Stark County commissioners (who control the purse strings for the Stark County sheriff) and the sheriff himself (the recently  Stark County Democratic Party appointed George T. Maier) to get the jail open to capacity.

As Nordman sees it, every little bit helps.  And, the SCRP agrees with him.

He says that Canton's share of the 100 remaining unused beds at the Stark County jail will take a few more criminals off his neighborhoods' streets and make thereby make the area safer.

Countywide, 100 beds slept in by accused criminals over the course of a year(s) will spare a untold number of Stark County families the misfortune of having their lives impacted upon by those who choose to engage in anti-social activities.

In November, 2011 Stark Countians, by a surprising margin, approved a 0.5% sales tax increase that commissioners promised to earmark as being for Stark's criminal justice system.

As part of the campaign for passage of the tax, proponents (which included all three Stark County commissioners) promised county residents that the proceeds from the tax would as a matter of first and uttermost top priority be focused on getting the Stark County criminal justice system back up to full speed.

One of the casualties of the county losing earlier in 2011 all sales tax revenues due to the expiration of a 0.25 levy, was the Stark County sheriff's office and its jail division.

The jail has a capacity for 501 inmates, but due to sheriff department layoffs (41), the-then sheriff Timothy Swanson had to shut down an entire wing of the jail meaning that scores of those charged with crimes were arrested and then released out in the general public while their cases wound through the various Stark County based court jurisdictions.

Well, it has been going on 16 months since the levy passed and the jail population only stands at 400 or so inmates which represents 80% of the jail's capacity.

The SCPR spoke with Police Chief Larry Dordea of Hartville yesterday.

The question:  Had you been elected sheriff last November, would all the beds at the Stark County jail be filled by now?

Answer:   Yes.

Dordea says he believes that the beds are not filled because doing so has not been a priority with the now-former sheriff Tim Swanson.

He says that since the levy passed and money was made available by the commissioners to rehire laid off deputies, the very top leadership of the Stark County sheriff's department has been missing in action in that:
  • Swanson was not at the office for a good part of the time and therefore Stark County did not have a fulltime sheriff until George Maier became sheriff,
  • McDonald (chief deputy - jail division) was dealing with his illness, and 
  • Rick Perez (chief deputy - operations) had a situation that he was unable to fill in the void.
An ironic thing about Nordman's appearance is that Stark County Board of Commissioners on Wednesday is that President Tom Bernabei is apt to solicit those of us who attend commissioners' meetings (usually few in number, indeed! [mostly press, and local officials with official input for the commissioners agenda]) to stand up and participate in the public speaks portion of the meeting agenda.

So the irony comes in with Nordman and his Wednesday appearance.

The commissioners got public speaks in spades and in dynamic, "I challenge your excuse making " that went on for the better part of 34 minutes.

And it was not just Nordman speaking.  The commissioners engaged him in a give and take and they gave as good as they got.  Interestingly enough, civility prevailed.

But it was unmistakable (be sure to see the video) that the Vassar Park resident did ruffle some commissioner feathers.

In the main, the commissioners claimed:
  • they had no authority over the sheriff (i.e. he is an independent elected official)
  • the sheriff is having a difficult time finding qualified deputies as many of the original 41 laid off have gotten other jobs
All which Nordman said was just plain old excuse making and that he and his followers were not into accepting excuses and that they are demanding results.

To the SCPR this is exchange embodied the heart and soul of our democracy.

Immediately below is the entire exchange between the commissioners and Citizen Nordman.

It is a "must see" for anyone who cares about government accountability and the ability of an ordinary citizen to get answers and to press for action.

Stark Countians who care about accountability of government, owe it to themselves to drink in every minute of the Nordman/commissioners exchange.

Nordman promises to return with his friends, neighbors and other compatriots to next week's commissioners' meeting.  The commissioners promise to have either Sheriff Maier or a person who can answer Nordman's questions present.

Commissioners will meet next Wednesday (March 13th) at 1:30 p.m. in the commissioners meeting room located on the second floor of the Stark County Office Building.

The SCPR and other local media stayed around after the meeting to do a Q&A with Nordman.

Readers of the SCPR will find this video to be captivating.

The Report applauds Nordman for holding the commissioners' and sheriff's "feet to the fire" of promises made in order to get the 0.5% sales tax levy passed.

It is obvious that he has taken to heart the mission of the VPNA, having been a past board member.

It is worth reciting the mission of the VPNA, to wit:
Vassar Park Neighborhood Association is committed to improving the quality of life in our neighborhood through communication and collaboration with our neighbors and community leaders.

We are dedicated to promoting the safety of our residents, preserving the rich history of our neighborhood and working together for a better future.  (LINK to the VPNA Facebook page)
The Report asked Morris for a reaction to Nordman's initiative.  His response:
Vassar Park is indeed in Ward 9 and a valuable asset to our Ward. The current president is Bruce Brewer whom I speak with on a regular basis on various issues.
As you very well are aware we have been told many times  that the bed spaces at the jail are [a]ffecting  Canton's crime rate.
I personally feel that the decrease in staffing levels and reduction in bed space has resulted in a increase of crime across the board.
I admire and respect the entire Vassar Park Neighbor Assoc.. VPNA does not settle for excuses, they demand results, and they speak their minds.
Just imagine what a better place Canton, Ohio would be if everyone held elected officials accountable just like VPNA does!!! 
I was elected by them to represent them & honest have become friends with many of them.
If VPNA wants to shake the tree, then I will support them.

Frank Morris
Ward 9
A SCPR "Tip of the Hat" to Citizen Nordman for making Stark County democracy work!

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