Thursday, October 13, 2016


Yesterday's Stark County weekly commissioner meeting was nearly over when a Canton citizen and his "significant other" entered the commissioners' meeting room.

Much earlier in the meeting, the time slot for "Public Speaks" had long come and gone with nobody participating.

Nevertheless, commissioner chairman of the board Janet Creighton did not miss a beat in recognize the late coming citizen and inquired of him whether or not he wished to addressed the board.

As can be seen in the forgoing video, he did.

As it turns out, his problem was one that one that could not be solved by the commissioners but rather needs the attention of his Canton city councilperson (Councilman John Mariol, Ward 7) and, perhaps, Canton building department official and Mayor Thomas Bernabei all-around troubleshooter J.R. Rinaldi.

County Administrator Brant Luther took "the bull by the horns" and "on-the-spot" researched information to redirect the citizen to the likes of Mariol and Rinaldi.

An impressive thing about yesterday's commissioner/citizen interaction was that notwithstanding that the citizen had shown up way, way, way past the time for participating in Public Speaks, Commissioner Creighton was quick to recognize that the gentleman-citizen had something on his mind to address commissioners about and almost instantly departed from yesterday's official agenda to recognize him.

Should be standard practice throughout Stark County government, no?

Not to say that a citizen should be recognized mid-way in a meeting but after Public Speaks, but certainly before adjournment.

What Creighton did yesterday in breaking meeting protocol and providing a forum for the citizen with a problem that needs solving was to bring home to the citizen and the rest of us that with the Stark County Board of Commissioners "citizen participation" is a high, high, high priority.

And such is the kind of thing that is a "head-turner" for everyday citizens and is "superb example of" how a seemingly little thing like Creighton's citizen friendly act, if followed across government at all levels of U.S. government, has the potential to go a long way in rebuilding the alienation that exists across much of America between the governed and the governors.

As a contrast to what Commissioner Creighton did yesterday is to muse on what the response would have been had the citizen shown up beyond the official Public Speaks agenda slot in most Stark County political subdivision (villages, townships, cities, boards of education) jurisdiction.

Being the veteran of many such meeting, the SCPR is reasonably certain that such a late entrant would be summarily ignored.  And, should such a citizen gain the attention of the government official running the meeting, "you can bet your bottom dollars" that the official would say something like "sorry, but time has passed, and you will have to come back next meeting."

In some Stark County political subdivisions, one can show up on time for a given meeting allotted Public Speaks slot,  but if prior notice has not been given to the presiding officer (usually a day or two before the meeting), then, forget it; permission to speak will be denied.

While the SCPR thinks that the governor/governed model in North Canton is improving (LINK), there is no way that a late arriving citizen would get the type of reception that Creighton accorded the tardy Cantonian yesterday.

Americans anymore have a rather dim view of the receptivity/friendliness/facilitativeness of public officials to citizen input.

Commissioner Creighton's initiative yesterday is one that should be a model for all Stark County government political subdivisions to adopt.

Over time this kind of thing has the potential to reverse the skeptical if not cynical attitude that many ordinary citizens have toward government.

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