Wednesday, December 16, 2015



Councilman Ed Lewis, IV
Votes "No"
Income Tax Increase Levy

Councilman Lewis Explains Vote

Safety Director Joel Smith
Decrepit Condition 
Massillon PD Vehicles

This roll call vote at a special meeting of the Massillon City Council was a surprise to The Stark County Political Report.


But it shouldn't have been.

For all along in the current levy consideration Lewis has been adamant and insistent that elected officials set the example for Massillonians to follow and has voted against exclusion of the proposed 10% reduction.

Councilman-elect (at-large) and Republican Ed Lewis, IV likely returning chair of Massillon council's finance committee voting "no" on whether or not to put a .2 increase in the city income tax on the ballot for the March, 2016 primary election is a highly significant event that is likely not to sit well with the committee put together by Mayor Catazaro-Perry (chaired by John Muhlbach and Thomas Ferrero [husband of Massillon auditor Jayne Ferrero) to promote passage of the issue.

Here is what Lewis told he SCPR as being the reason for his "no" vote.

The two Massillon officials who played prominently in torpedoing Lewis' desire to have Massillon elected officials take a "set the example" 10% "we're in this with you folks" pay cut as part of the Restoration Plan:
  • the need for which (i.e. a restoration plan) coming out of the fiscal emergency generated by Mayor Catazaro-Perry in October, 2013, and, 
  • the consequent formation of a Massillon Financial Planning and Supervision Commission headed by State of Ohio budgeting official Sharon Hanarhan,
are Massillon treasurer Maude Slagle and Massillon auditor Jayne Ferrero.

The Report hears the woefully underpaid law director Perry Stergios objected also.

Making the Lewis "no" vote all the more politically intriguing is that one Republican insider tells the SCPR that Lewis has told local Republicans that he definitely is committed as of right now to be the Republican candidate for mayor in 2019.

There were two reasons why Lewis decided to run for council-at-large rather than for re-election as Ward 6 councilman.

First, The Report thinks he understood that he was likely to lose a re-match in Ward 6 with Democrat Linda Litman.

Second, being a councilperson-at-large provides him with a more global (i.e. citywide) perspective on governing Massillon which obviously is the viewpoint of any mayor of the city.

Lewis himself, when queried on by The Report, equivocates on whether or not he is pointing to take on the incumbent mayor or if she decides not to run an alternative Democrat come 2019.

To yours truly, last night's vote might be an indicator that Lewis thinks he has insight into the psyche of Massillon voters in that they are not yet ready to vote for an increase of the city income tax notwithstanding the fact that the city is in dire condition in terms of:
  • man/woman power staffing Massillon's departments of government, and
  • having serviceable equipment for workers (first and foremost Massillon's police officers) with which to provide critical services to Massillonians, and
  • losing experience personnel because there are to be no pay increase for the foreseeable future

While nobody in their right mind would want to be mayor without the resources to properly manage the city, the flip-side of that is that no candidate for mayor wants to be on the wrong side of a tax issue.

And on matter of taxes Lewis has always said "whatever the pleasure of Massillon voters is, I am for."

The Report is thinking that it is going to take one heck of a sales job by Catazaro-Perry, Muhlbach and Ferrero and hopefully all of Massillon's councilpersons to get Massillonians on board with increased revenues for Massillon government.

Whether fair or not, being on the losing side of a tax issue could come back to haunt a fledgling mayor candidate.

It could be that Lewis has watched current and re-elected in November mayor Kathy Catazaro-Perry play politics with being for or against previous tax issues and to what degree in either direction and thereby has learned to be cautious in being all out for a tax issue.

The irony of all the politiking of the current Massillon mayor/prospective candidate for the office being for or against a levy and the degree of support or opposition is that that factor alone could play large in a close election on the proposed increase.

Mayor Catazaro-Perry at best has been lukewarm if not outright hostile to any of the prior tax increase issues put before Massillon voters.

The Report thinks that Massillonians heard Catazaro-Perry's ambivalence if not hostility loud and clear and that she bears major responsibility for the crisis nature of getting passage of the issue in 2016.

Lewis' less than enthusiastic support of the issue could be a decisive factor in March.

Lewis needs to rethink his level of enthusiasm for the levy.

Catazaro-Perry's past modeling of being against or for a tax issue is not a desirable standard for him to buy into.

And council as a whole needs to follow Councilwoman Sarita Cunningham-Hedderly's lead and put the kibosh to a proposed sanitary sewer fee increase.

While that department is an enterprise fund (i.e. self-supporting and accordingly receives no general fund monies), if Massillonians have to pay more in such fees, it stands to reason that a number of Massillon voters will vote "no" on on the .2 proposed income tax increase.

Retiring councilwoman Nancy Halter tells The Report that she from outside council will fight any such increase.

On Monday night a number of department heads and Safety Director Joel Smith set out excruciating detail the barebones staff (e.g. Streets Department:  11 employees down from a Cicchinelli administration level of 17) and decrepit equipment they have to work with.

 An infusion of new revenue beginning January 1, 2017 cannot come quick enough with 2016 passage of the proposed income tax increase.

Other than a small park levy, Massillon has not increased its income tax since 1977.

It appears that in reading the tea leaves Lewis might be thinking that Massillonians have to experience some cuts in basic city services before they are of a frame of mind to provide the city with additional revenues.

Of course, if the levy goes down in March, there will be new life for the Massillon Financial Planning and Supervision Commission round of meetings and it is clearly foreseeable that politics will once again rear its ugly head.

In the new council which gets sworn in on December 28th, the SCPR figures that it rounds out on test issues to be three votes reliably, more or less, in the case of Democrat Andrea Scassa Ward 3, but reliably certain in the case of Democrats Dave Irwin, Ward 2 and Linda Litman, Ward 6.

While controversies with Massillon council are calmed down for now, with Catazaro-Perry having picked up at most two votes on disputed council issues in the November election; look for things to fire up again between now and 2019 especially if the March 2016 tax issue goes down once again.

Then and only then will we know whether or not Ed Lewis before the fact of the actual election had more insight than the rest of Massillon's political and government leadership.

However, this issue is not about the political well being of prospective candidates for mayor or Mayor Catazaro-Perry having it her way (she favors a real property tax) or Ed Lewis having his way (the 10% reduction thing); it is about the overall health of Massillon government and its ability to serve the taxpaying public.

The SCPR his impressed with Ed Lewis.

His prospects for one day becoming mayor of Massillon are bright.

Part of being prepared to be mayor is having the ability to put aside personal piques and doing what is best for the city.

Massillon is likely Stark County's most efficiently run city.

After nearly 40 years of no increase, it is past time for Massillonians to own up to the fiscal realities of their city and do the responsible thing in providing a modest increase in revenues for city officials to work with.

To repeat, Councilman Ed Lewis, IV needs to be much bolder in his support of the March initiative.

Such is the responsible thing for a prospective mayor to do!

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