Friday, September 20, 2013



UPDATED:  09/20/2013 AT 2:00 PM

Last week I was engaged in a political "gabfest" with a local elected official when the subject of whether or not North Canton councilman (at-large) Mark Cerreta was going to make it onto the November 5th ballot.

My take was "yes, he will:  because his petition deficiency was clearly of  a 'technicality" variety" in its most quintessential form.  I went on to explain that it is hard to see how the listing of an address a second time in any way, shape or form affected the integrity of Stark County's election process.

My interlocutor differed with me, expressing the thought that the deciders of the matter (the Stark County Board of Elections, at the initial level) were bound to take a safe, conservative stance on the question which did not bode well for Councilman Cerreta.

I conceded that the latter position could well have greater appeal to a court than the former.

But that is why we have have "actual" legal hearings in our democratic republic of the United States of America when differences develop.

And this is a good juncture in this blog to give a "shout out" to Councilman Cerreta for having gone through the embarrassment (i.e. the second address thing), the time, the effort and certainly the expense of litigating the matter.

Not everybody needs to stand on the street corner with a protest sign or go on a political march or engage in one of the many available forms of political activism that are the life's blood of our freedom based governmental system.

And as Cerreta's legal counsel pointed out yesterday, hanging out there in North Canton council-at-large race was the prospect - absent his being on the ballot - that there was going to be no political competition as to who is going to serve North Cantonians with the political base of the race being citywide.

There is a write-in candidate, but it takes an exceptional situation for "write-in" to work and this election is not one of them.

Undoubtedly, there are a number of issues that North Cantonians would like to hear the views of "competitive" candidates on in the casting of their ballots.

One that comes to mind that was presented by a North Canton resident at Monday's "Public Speaks" forum of a regular North Canton City Council meeting.

The speaker had done a two year historical analysis of the attendance rates of the city's sitting councilpersons.

And, lo and behold, who came in last?

Council-at-large candidate Marcia Kiesling at 72%.

Prior to Judge Farmer's decision yesterday, unless you want to believe that a write-in candidate really has a chance to win, there was no chance that Kiesling could be held accountable on the issue.

And it may be that North Cantonians do not view attendance rates as being a high priority item in their selection of candidates.  Moreover, it may be that the Councilwoman has reasons for being absent that will satisfy voters even if attendance is "a big ticket item."

North Canton voters have a choice is the important thing!

That's why the SCPR writes "simply impressive" in describing the import of Farmer's decision.

Judge Farmer is the same age as my middle daughter, Heidi (also an attorney, and interestingly enough, they were classmates at Canton Central Catholic in the 9th grade) and while they are not kids; they are just getting their professional careers up and running.

This week in her handling of Cerreta v. Stark Board of Election, a Republican, Judge Farmer,  to say it again, was "simply impressive" in terms of her seeming quick maturation as a judge.  She was selected in December, 2012 by Governor Kasich to replace Lee Sinclair.

Overturning the Stark Board of Elections (BOE) decision barring Cerreta had to be a touchy matter for her.  Especially with longtime Republican stalwarts and deans of Stark County Republicanism William Cline and Curt Braden (a former Stark County Republican chairman) having been participants in the unanimous decision to put Cerreta on the sidelines.

Farmer showed judicial independence from her party affiliation in being able to make a decision that permitted registered "non-partisan" Cerreta to be on November's ballot.

How's that?

First, all three remaining "on-the-ballot" candidates are "avowed" (in the sense of being so registered) Republicans.

Second, two of them, Kiesling (member of the executive committee) and Griffith (a precinct committeeman), are part of the Stark County Republican Party leadership elite.

Third, BOE members Braden and Cline are also on the Stark GOP executive committee.

So there was powerful motivation on the part of Braden and Cline to advantage the three avowed Republicans in "all too happily" finding a seeming "safe - political - harbor" in the language of Ohio statutory law to protect the automatic election prospects of Griffith, Kiesling and McCleaster.

And you can forget Democrats Ferruccio and St. John.

Though they voted with the Republicans, they are irrelevant.

Had they done otherwise, and a tie resulted; undoubtedly, not to show up Braden and Cline, Republican Ohio secretary of state Jon Husted would have sided with them in casting his statutory empowered tie-breaking vote.

We all know that there is "the letter of the law" and "the spirit of the law."  Braden and Cline in apparently trying to protect their fellow declared Republicans found refuge in the strict constructionist "letter of the law."

But Judge Farmer was able to see that it is in the interest of the North Canton voter base to have a "real" choice and was able - in yesterday's decision - to find legal justification to side with "the spirit of the law" in finding that the BOE "abused its discretion" and "clearly disregarded applicable law" in jumping on a legal technicality to keep North Cantonians from having that freedom loving choice.

But a mature and reflective judge is always mindful - in overturning the decision of a governing body - of undermining stability of governmental processes.

And Judge Farmer demonstrated just that in her Cerreta opinion, to wit:

It is no surprise to the SCPR that Braden and Cline were a part of a decision that would have BUT FOR Judge Farmer have denied North Cantonians of some choice in their selection of North Canton's city council at-large candidates.

These are two of the four members (Feruccio and former member Democrat and former Stark County Democratic Party chairman Johnnie A. Maier, Jr. being the other) who also initially denied the Stark County public the right to see videos of their proceedings.

Eventually, "they saw the light" and now allow videotaping of their meetings.  The Stark County Political Report is pleased to have been "the" catalyst to bring the matter to the forefront and to have provided Stark Countians with the possibility of transparency of BOE proceeding.

However, "the anti-democratic" stance of this BOE "violation of law" in the Cerreta matter should be of concern to Stark Countians.

The Stark County Republican Party should remove Braden and Cline from the BOE.

Don't count on such happening.

Braden and Cline and Stark County Republican chairman Jeff Matthews are so politically enmeshed with one another that they are more interested in upholding their interpretation of the interests of the Stark County Republican Party than in protecting the democratic rights of Stark Countians (North Cantonians) to have as much electoral choice as possible consistent with the law of Ohio.

In short, they clearly appear, as demonstrated by the cited examples of their decision making to the SCPR not to be as Stark BOE members small letter "d" democrats.

The Cerreta example is a clear indication of how unreliable partisan political party control of Ohio's election process is a clear and present danger to the health of our democratic republic.

While the SCPR is not enamored by the manner (i.e. a Republican governor picking her as a member of a powerful/influential Stark County-based Republican family) in which Judge Farmer ascended to the Stark County Common Pleas Court; she did in Cerreta what a judge must be able to do (rise above partisan political considerations) to preserve the integrity of our democratic-republican way of life.

The most elegant way to commend Judge Farmer for putting clams on the likes of Braden and Cline is to say it a third time.

"Simply Impressive!

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