Thursday, March 28, 2013


At Tuesday night's regular township meeting (uncovered by Stark County's only countywide newspaper), Plain Township trustees (Stark County's largest township) announced that they, beginning Tuesday (which was in and of itself a demonstration project put on by Trustee Lou Giavasis) are making available to the interested public a videocast (on YouTube linked up on the township's website) of the township's regular meeting, zoning commission meetings and board of zoning appeals meetings.

Such is a major step forward, in the opinion of the Stark County Political Report, in making local government more accountable, transparent and accessible to everyday Plain Township citizens.

Councilman Kevin Fisher (Democrat - Ward 5) tells the SCPR that he wants to do a similar thing with Canton City Council meetings.

The SCPR applauds Giavasis' leadership on "letting the sunshine in" on Plain Township government and also recognizes Trustees Al Leno and Scott Haws for supporting the board president's lead.

The Plain Township initiative is a model for other township, village, city, and board of education to follow.  Fisher of Canton undoubtedly will be in touch with Giavasis for assistance in figuring out "the nuts and bolts" in constructing and configuring a meeting videotaping operation.

The Plain effort and the Fisher ambition deserves the support of local media.

It appears to the SCPR that Giavasis questions, as Stark County's only countywide media outlet, The Repository's commitment to promoting beams of sunshine illuminating the processes of local government except, perhaps, when The Rep itself is having difficulty with something like an unhonored public records request.

He told The Report that he and his fellow trustees' motivation is to get Plain residents more involved in their local government.

He said that the board of trustees recognize that people's lives are filled with loads of everyday responsibilities and that videotaping the meetings is a move by the board to make township meetings available to citizens on their timetable.

The SCPR sees that more and more Stark County political subdivisions are enhancing their interaction with their constituents.

North Canton, for instance, held a townhall-esque meeting, also Tuesday night, attended by some 175 citizens at the North Canton Civic Center hosted by Ward 4 councilman and Council President Jon Snyder and Ward 1 Councilman Doug Foltz (Councilwoman Marcia Kiesling and Mayor David Held were also present) in which city police, fire and EMS officials counseled North Cantonians on ways and means to protect themselves from the ravages of crime, fires and emergency medical incidents.

Since Tom Bernabei (November, 2010) and Janet Creighton (January, 2011) took office, Stark County government has become much more accountable, transparent and accessible.

A recent interaction with Canton/Vassar Park citizen Bruce Nordman resulted in the commissioners facilitating with Sheriff George T. Maier an immediate increase of bed utilization at the Stark County jail from 400 beds to 450 on the way to full use which will be 501 beds.

Until Nordman got involved, the sheriff was saying it could take months to have a significant increase in bed utilization because of difficulties in finding qualified candidates to hire as deputy sheriffs.

Nordman has also seized the initiative (he calls his effort:  Group 175) with Canton City Council and the mayor (with whom he meets on April 16th) to dramatically increase the number of police from its soon to be 150 to 175.

When (in 2007) Canton's force was last at 175, the city had to be safer because the 175 made about twice the arrests that they are making now.

One sees very little if any editorial support of the efforts to bring more accountability to local government by The Rep.  Moreover, it appears to The Report that the newspaper affords scant recognition of Stark County citizens who take on local government when it is not being responsive to citizen needs.

Trustee Giavasis felt strongly, and the SCPR agrees, that Plain trustees deserved coverage/recognition of its Tuesday night initiative.

And, of course, in writing this blog (as yours truly has often done before), The Report regularly and actively exhorts local governments and officials to be more be more accountable, transparent and accessible.

Usually the blogs are critical of the lack of thereof in Stark County political subdivision government.

But not always and the Plain Township example is one worthy of laudation.

Though he gave The Rep a "heads-up" on the initiative, he says nobody showed up to cover the event.

Here is summation of what he had to say to The Report about The Rep's failure:
  • He got of phone call from The Rep that they could not cover Tuesday's township meeting because they did not have enough reporters to cover Plain, North Canton and Jackson Township at the same time,
  • However, what particularly disturbed him was that there was no follow up, as of the time yours truly was talking with him on Wednesday, by the folks at The Rep wanting to know whether or not the trustees had passed a resolution providing for the taping of township's meetings for citizens to view at their leisure,
  • "And this is the one that preaches openness and transparency."
Two weeks ago the SCPR attended a Plain Township meeting which had a couple of zoning change request hearings as part of the overall meeting.  Impressive to The Report was that the trustees let affected citizens who showed up as much time as they wanted to make their case.  Moreover, the Stark County sheriff took second place to the citizens in terms of placement on the overall meeting agenda.  It seems to The Report that the Plain trustees have their priorities right.

Not only does Plain Township lead the way for local governments to follow in terms of accountability, transparency and access, but appears to the SCPR to be the most fiscally responsible board of township trustees.

As indicate above it is uncommon for the SCPR to write a blog holding up any public official or government body as an example to be followed. 

However, Plain Township and its commitment to making local government processes accessible Plain citizens and thereby making those processes transparent which, of course, ultimately leads to accountability is a model that should be given the highest accolades and support.

A SCPR "hats off" to the Plain Township trustees!

All of Stark County local governments should pattern themselves after the Plain Township example.

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