Wednesday, October 9, 2013



Fresh off her election in November, 2011 (in December) as mayor of Massillon Kathy Catzaro-Perry was asking the Ohio Auditor of State David Yost (SOA) to find Massillon to be in either a "fiscal watch" or a "fiscal emergency" state.

That effort was obviously an effort to "pin the tail" on Massillon's former main Donkey (i.e. Democrat) Francis H. Cicchinelli, Jr insofar as the fiscal difficulties are concerned.

He had served 24 years as Tigerland's chief executive.  Years which included some of Massillon proudest and most productive.

But with the coming of the Republicans and their domination of state of Ohio government with the 2010 election (i.e. Kasich as governor; the Ohio House and Senate in Republican "supermajority" control), there was a new day on the horizon in terms of state participation in the funding of local government.

And did Ohio's local governments get slammed and big.  Stark County including Massillon got hit very hard.

Some 50% in cuts in the state Local Government Fund payouts to townships, villages and cities.

Elimination of the Ohio Estate Tax which provided annual "for the most part - unbudgeted at the local level" funding for special projects for which there was no money in the regular budget.

And there were various other fiscal measures which clogged the money pipeline from Columbus into Ohio's 88 counties and slowed the return of taxpayer money, sent by locals to the Statehouse in the first place, to a seemingly "mere" trickle.

The consequences have been felt all over Ohio and Stark County has been no exception.

As readers of the Stark County Political Report know, there is nothing that some Stark County-based politicians/government officials do that comes as much of a surprise.

One of those officials is Massillon mayor Kathy Catazaro-Perry.

Beneath her ready smile and a apparent pleasing disposition is a rock-hard politico, who in concert with her Massillon "Kitchen Cabinet" (Clerk of Courts Johnnie A. Maier, Jr,, his chief deputy Shane Jackson and Massillon Municipal Court judge Eddie Elum), seemingly will "do whatever it takes" to make her look good politically.

Such is what the SCPR believes motivated her first try to tarnish the fiscal integrity of Massillon.  She might have been frustrated by the state auditor's rejection of her initiative.

But she wasn't done.

After a year and one-half wrangling with Massillon City Council (which came under Republican 5 to 4 control in the very same election that Catazaro-Perry became "mayor-elect"), as the late president Ronald Reagan would say "there 'she' goes again."

On May 13th, she was sending Ohio auditor Dave Yost yet another letter requesting a audit with the apparent hope that he would find Massillon to be financially distressed.

Well, on October 8th, she got her wish fulfilled.

However, the SCPR thinks the conclusion of the state auditor's office points more (in an implied fashion) to the Catazaro-Perry administration and its lack of mature/responsible leadership in figuring out with council a politically palatable way to get Massillonians to agree to ante up more revenue for Massillon's day-to-day operations.

The SCPR sees Catazaro-Perry's use of Ohio's state auditing of local governments mechanism as trying to use the process as a political club to bludgeon council into "doing it her way" in terms of how Massillon is to go about its cash flow problems.

Of the six bases that the SOA could have found a financial emergency to exist, only "the cash flow" criterion could be used to justify the mayor realizing her "apparent" fondest wish for Massillon.

The SCPR interprets this finding in light of the politics being played by the mayor vis-a-vis council to cast blame on the administration and council for Massillon being found to be in an emergency.

Undoubtedly, the Catazaro-Perry political forces will try to somehow twist the SOA report so as to blame Cicchinelli.

A fair reading its content does not lend itself to any such interpretation.  Other than the cite to the existence of long term debt, there is no indication whatsoever that the long term debt plays into the current cash flow problem.

One councilman tells the SCPR that over the past ten years or so, the long term debt has been scaled down 20% or so.

Other than the reference/citation to the long term debt, the SOA Report is limited to the time period January 1, 2012 through May 31, 2013.

How long has Catazaro-Perry been in office?

Because council has learned that it cannot trust the mayor, the two of them have been at loggerheads as how to go about solving the cash flow problem.

As the SCPR reads the October 8, 2013 SOA Massillon Report, as of May 31, 2013 (18 days after Catazaro-Perry asked for the state audit), Massillon was "only" $654,088 into "fiscal emergency" status.

Had Catazaro-Perry and council gotten their acts together, the SOA likely would have found "no" fiscal emergency for Massillon.

In doing so, let me remind readers, only one of six criteria were met in Massillon's case and even in that "cash flow" criterion - only marginally so.

That Catazaro-Perry and council could not agree on her scheme of:
  • a reduced income tax credit for Masillonians working outside Massillon but paying income taxes elsewhere,
  • residents paying for street lighting, and
  • a 800% increase in the city storm water assessment
And council going its own way with a ballot initiative (May, 2013 to increase the city income tax by .3% to 2.1% and thereby raising $2.1 million with a goal of eliminating the cash flow deficit within three years, reeks of politics - pure and simple.

While council is not blameless, the mayor and her Kitchen Cabinent "my way or the highway" approach to governance is the major reason for yesterday's SOA finding.

Catzaro-Perry sat on her thumbs as various council members worked hard to get the May, 2013 levy effort passed.  The Report is told that the chairman of the campaign went to various administrative-friendly components of Massillon city government with entreaties to help with the levy but was rejected.

The SCPR conjectures that the mayor is hoping that she can use the mechanism of the emergency fiscal process to force her will on council.

She should not count on that happening.

For a mayor of a city to wish for and to push for the stigma of officially being in financial distress (which what the SCPR thinks where Catazaro-Perry has been on this matter) in order to force remedies the mayor's way, is a bizarre turn of events.

While she pushes Massillon as being the "City of Champions" as part of her public-relations-stuntsmanship model of governance; Massillon suffers.

There is no doubt that Massillonians down through its proud history has shown itself to be a "City of Champions."

But with real accomplishments; not through the Madison Avenue tactics that Catazaro-Perry seems to espouse.

While Catazaro-Perry may within the confines of her personal and political purpose psyche be happy with the SOA finding, it is a development that will haunt Massillon for years to come.

What a legacy to leave behind, no?

No comments: