Friday, September 12, 2014



One thing that Canton City Council has done very well with - better than any other Stark County political subdivision - is to foster and help develop citizen participation in local government processes.

The primary citizen-democracy enhancing mechanism is a forum at the very top of the council meeting agenda named "Public Speaks."

A key person in making "public speaks" citizens feel that they are heard is council president Allen Schulman.

As far as the SCPR is concerned, Schulman, "far and away" is Stark County's most skillful moderator of "public speaks" forums.

Here is a sampling of a typical Canton City Council "public speaks" session: (September 8, 2014)

Laura Simon talked about O# [Ordinance number] 108/2012, where the City changed the Income Tax Credit from 2% to 1.7%. She thought that this was unfair because it was a .3% tax increase for those who work in another municipality.

She has lived in the City for 30 years and has a family business in East Canton. She didn’t realize that the income tax had changed because her accountant paid the correct amount. She didn’t realize that there was a change until her daughter, who went to school at Kent State and worked there, received a letter that she owed money on her taxes.

Debra Berbelis stated that she resided in Ward 8 and that she is extremely upset about the proposed park going in at St. Mark’s. She thinks a park is unnecessary. She stated that this area is made up of middle aged citizens, with no traffic, noise, little or no crime issues. She feels a park would change this in a negative way, and feels that St. Marks needs to find another solution to the problem.

Tom Berbelis stated that he is also upset about the proposed park going in. He says he supported Member Mack and Park Director,
Derek Gordon, but that he would no longer support them. He is upset with the way they’re going about getting a park put in, and feels they both should have contacted the constituents in that neighborhood. He says they went to the church instead of the constituents. Mr. Berbelis feels that there is a conflict of interest because Derek Gordon attends St. Marks and should not have approached his own church. He also stated that when he and his wife confront Member Mack, he asked them “who told you”, and admonished them not to talk about it. He says they were told to “Quit rallying the troops”. He says they are strongly opposed to the park and are circulating a petition against it.

Charles Cox stated that he moved into the neighborhood a few years ago and enjoyed the peace and quiet of it. He said there is very little traffic and enjoys that. He is getting neighbors opinions on the proposed park and are finding that they are very concerned.

Here is a video of the exchange between Simon and Schulman, with Schulman's remarks coming in the "miscellaneous business" section of the agenda which occurs at the very end of the meeting.

But, perhaps, Canton's leading civic activist Leon Cote (pictured in the lead-graphic of this blog) did not speak.

And he speaks infrequently during the "public speaks" forum time.

But "man-o-man" is he active as an engaged Canton citizen.

The SCPR thinks he ranks right up there if not exceeding Ward 9 (Frank Morris' ward) citizen activist Bruce Nordman of Group 175 fame in that there are no "unspeakable" topics that he/they will not touch upon in addressing city council members in and out of council chambers.

The SCPR applauds the likes of Cote and Nordman.

Today's blog focuses on Cote.

Why is that?

Because he had the temerity (at the risk, the SCPR thinks, of being called a racist) to suggest that the City of Canton is wasting taxpayer money in endeavoring to beef up the number of minority members of Canton's police and fire departments.

Here is what Cote had to say to the SCPR in an e-mail sent on August 31st:

> From: Onroadagain1225 <onroadagain1225@ . . .>
> To:
> Sent: Sunday, August 31, 2014 7:46 PM
> Subject: A New Class For Minorities To Pass The Canton Police And/Or Firefighters Exam
> Dear Martin, 

I posted the following on the Ward 9 Web Page about a week ago.  

The Ward 9 web page is the most read page by ALL elected officials in Canton.  

To date there has not been one comment or answers to any of the questions requested below.  

Wouldn't you think that the elected members of Council at least would want answers to these questions.  

Maybe you can ascertain the answers to the questions below.  

Good luck.  

Hopefully they will not stonewall you as they are apparently doing to me.  

Sincerely, Leon M. Cote 

> Last year a Class was held to help prepare minority candidates to pass the test for the Canton Police and Fire Departments. 

The classes were held over a period of a number of months. I believe 32 candidates started out in these classes. 

It was initially stated that the cost was $100,000.00. 

After a public outcry it was then stated that the cost was ONLY $30,000.00 - $40,000.00. 
So somewhere between $30,000.00 and $100,000.00 lies the truth. 

I believe only 3 or 4 passed.... 

The rest either dropped out or failed either the agility or drug test. I understand a new class has started and I would ask a member of the Canton City Government to please answer the following questions:

 1. Has the class started and if so when? 

2. Who authorized this class? 

3. How many students are in this class? 

4. What is the cost of this class? 

5. Where is the money coming from? 

6. Have the students been drug tested before the start of classes? 

7. Have they been given an agility test before classes started? 

It would seem to me that the drug and agility test should be given before not after the classes. 

8. Has there been an effort to recruit at area colleges? 

The college students probably wouldn't need the classes to pass the test for the Police or Fire Departments. I am sure that there are many other Canton tax payers that would like the answers to the above questions. 

I wonder if these classes are being held to honestly help the minority candidates pass the Police and or Firefighters exams or just an exercise to get votes in the next election? 

While I believe the City of Canton needs more police and firefighters I wonder why we are not striving for the best possible candidates to serve the city regardless of Race, Color or Creed?

It is particularly interesting to the SCPR that African-American Ward 2 councilman Thomas West was not quick to respond to Cote.

West, in the experience of The Report, tirelessly promotes minority hiring within government and particularly Canton's government.

Not long ago West was promoting that the City of Canton adopt/adapt to city hirings throughout city departments of government what he referred to as being "the Rooney Rule" to wit:
The Rooney Rule requires National Football League teams to interview minority candidates for head coaching and senior football operation jobs. It is sometimes cited as an example of affirmative action, though there is no quota or preference given to minorities in the hiring of candidates. ...  It was established in 2003. ... [Source: Wikipedia]
The SCPR does not recall West acknowledging what appears to The Report's as being a de facto implementation of "the Rooney Rule" within the Mayor William J. Healy, II administration.

Perry and Williams (since the picture was published on the Canton government website, has been promoted to deputy mayor) are universally lauded as first-rate administrators.

Moreover, at last count, there are a significant number of very able African-Americans that serve the mayor and Cantonians at the sub-cabinet level.

The SCPR's take on Councilman West is that he is mostly mouth and very little in terms of hands-on action to conceive, develop and implement effective programs to put African-Americans in a position to compete at "every" level of the Canton city government hiring process.

The SCPR contacted Canton Civil Service director Samuel Sliman (held in high regard among local political/government observers) for answers to Cote's questions.

And here is what he had to say:

Dear Mr. Olson,

This letter is in response to Mr. Leon Cote's questions about the Canton Safety Prep Program.

The program was authorized by a collaboration of me, Samuel J. Sliman, director of Civil Service, the Administration, Fire Chief Stephen Rich and Police Chief Bruce Lawver. The funding for the Safety Prep Program is from the general fund.

The program for 2014 just ended, and we had to compile the figures from the Police and Fire Departments. 

The recruiting for the program started in March of 2014 and was done through job fairs/career days, churches, Jobs for Ohio, and yes, colleges. All candidates had a criminal background check before being accepted to the program, but they were not drug tested.

The Safety Prep Program is a 16 week/100 hour commitment. 

Through the course of the classes for both 2013 and 2014, there were some candidates who stopped attending the course for various reasons. 

Some realized that this was not the career path they were interested in pursuing.

The Safety Prep Program included several areas of training. One part of the program included physical agility training. The Fire Department familiarized the candidates with the fire tower at Stark State, and the Police Department had the candidates practice the Ohio Peace Officer Basic Training physical fitness requirements needed to complete the academy training.

The Safety Prep Program accepts anyone who is interested in participating with the only requirement of being at least 20 years old and less than 30 years of age.

Classes for the program in 2013 were held from June through September. 

We had 41 candidates start classes after a criminal background check and orientation was held. The following are the ethnic statistics for these candidates; 7 black females, 24 black males, 6 white females, 2 white males, 1 Hispanic female and 1 Hispanic male. 

The total number of candidates that completed the 16 week/100 hour program was 29.  

Twenty six of the candidates signed up to take either the Fire Exam or Police Exam; 21 showed up to the written exam; 13 of them did not pass the written portion; 8 of them did pass the written portion; however, one did not show up for the physical portion and 3 of them did not pass the physical portion

We had 4 candidates that passed and were placed on the eligibility list. One of them scored high enough on the eligibility list to get hired in the first round

The total cost of the program for 2013 was $33, 771.78.

Classes for the program in 2014 were held from April through August. 

We had 66 applicants that were interested in the program. 

We had 47 candidates start the classes after a criminal background check and orientation was held. 

The following are the ethnic statistics for these candidates; 7 black females, 1 biracial female, 13 black males, 10 white females, 14 white males, and 2 Hispanic males. 

The total number of candidates that completed the 16 week/100 hour program was 23. 

The cost of the program so far this year is $33,862.86.

The program was not designed as a civil service study guide to taking our police or fire tests.

This program was designed to promote diversity and to give individuals the opportunity to see first-hand what it would be like to become a police or firefighter, and to help them determine whether this is a career path they would want to pursue.

The written portion of the Fire Exam is October 15, 2014, and the Police Exam is November 4, 2014.

[SCPR Note:  Certain texts of the Sliman letter were enlarged for emphasis purposes as was the inclusion of color text and in the separation of paragraphs/sentences from the exact form of the Sliman communication]

The SCPR thinks that the Sliman letter validates Citizen Cote's implicit point.

Even $33,771.78 for one hire is unacceptable.

And we do not even know whether or not that hire will be an African-American!

Add on that another $33,862.86 and the ineffective use of taxpayer money from the city's general fund (a city that says it is in a "hand to mouth" financial mode) and the inefficiency is doubled for it does not appear that the 2014 is on track (remember 23 achieved first round completion in the 2013 process) to be any more productive than what happened last year.

Canton has had a few examples of rogue police officers in recent times.

As Cote says:

While I believe the City of Canton needs more police and firefighters I wonder why we are not striving for the best possible candidates to serve the city regardless of Race, Color or Creed?

The SCPR agrees with Cote and thanks him for having the courage to take on those who want more minority hiring in the City of Canton but are more "mouth than action."

And, finally, will the rest of council continue to allow the leaking of the precious few general fund dollars for a hugely ineffective "program designed to promote diversity?"

The SCPR supports affirmative action programs that "are effective."

Canton's program is not effective and therefore should be scrapped!

Does council have the guts to do so?

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