Tuesday, May 2, 2017


UPDATED:  05/03/2017

On $10 license plate fee rescission, 1993 Stark Commissioners Donald Watkins and Gayle Jackson voted in favor of rescission whereas Commissioner Mary Cirelli voter against rescission.


New material on 1992 effort to undo Stark County commissioners (Tom Rice, Patti Miller and Mary Cirelli) "imposed" sales tax of 1991.

A key player in this Stark County political drama was Plain Township's Richard J. Wingerter who is currently a member of the Stark County Educational Service Center.

Very interesting material!

UPDATED:  11:17 AM

I voted today, have you?

The only issue on my ballot was the "early" (the current levy not due to expire until April, 2020) renewal of the Stark County criminal justice sales tax issue.

With reluctance, I voted "yes."

With reluctance?


I was one of those who thought in November 2011 that then commissioners (Bernabei, Creighton and Ferguson) should have done a 1% sales tax rather than 0.5%.

Although I think the commissioners since 2011 have been effective in their oversight in spending taxpayer money wisely and-overall-efficiently, there are a number of projects that the county ought to be into financially which it cannot be because the 1/2 cent sales tax does not provide enough revenue.

Number one on my list is economic development promotion way beyond the monies budgeted to the Stark Development Board in the county's annual budget.

I think Stark will continue to lag behind other more revenue enhanced counties because of the self-imposed limitation on the part of the commissioners to go with a "treading water" level of revenue support.

But in their defense, there is a unique Stark County history of voters being very sparing in approving new/additional tax revenues.

Former commissioner and Democrat Todd Bosley (now a Nimishillen Township trustee, whom I deem to have been the prime promoter of "imposing" a 1/2 cent sales tax in December, 2008) and then-colleagues Tom Harmon (a Democrat) and Jane Vignos (a Republican) without a say on the part of Stark Countians at the ballot box imposed the tax.

Consequently, a "from the grassroots" band of citizens headed up by local attorney and civic activist Craig T. Conley mounted an effort on the November, 2009 ballot to undo the high-handed action by Bosley, Harmon and Vignos.

The results?

The Conley led effort should be inspiring to everyday citizens that if they will get involved they can have a huge impact on the process of and substance of government; especially a the local level.

One has to wonder whether or not the Conley group drew inspiration from another late 1980s early 1990s grassroots effort to defeat a commissioner imposed sales tax in 1991 (repealed November, 1992; see graphic below) and as a follow on forcing the commissioners to rescind a "without a vote of the people" increased $10 annual license plate fee.  As mentioned in the "updated" lead to this blog,  Plain Township resident and ardent Republican Richard J. Wingerter (a colleague of my wife's on the Stark County Educational Service Center) was a key player.  He did bow out because a run (to return later) in the Republican against one of the "imposing" commissioners and fellow Republican Tom Rice.

The drama is vividly portrayed in October 25, 1993 Akron Beacon Journal article by reporter David Knox.

Be sure to read the linked account.  You will find it to be a intriguing look into Stark County politics and the effort to tax us without citizens having a vote on the matter.

Note in the article a reference to then Stark County auditor Janet Creighton (currently a Stark County commissioner) and her part in the political goings on of 25 years ago or so.

As a sidenote, both Miller and Rice lost in November, 1992 which means that the license plate fee hike would have been by my calculations the work of the 1993 board of county commissioners consisting of the newly elected Jackson and Watkins and holdover Mary Cirelli.  Not sure if it was a unanimous vote or on the vote of two of the three members.

The Conley initiated repudiation of Bosley et al was some seven months after news broke out (April 1, 2009) that funds were missing from the Stark County treasury.  Former chief deputy treasurer Vince Frustaci was subsequently convicted of stealing of a couple million plus of Stark County taxpayer funds and was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison.

Moreover, there was a great deal of political fallout on several county officials for-in the public perception-not having structured the county fiscal facilities (i.e. to say the Stark County treasury), practices and policies to have prevented the theft of public funds.

Which is to say that elected in November, 2010 commissioners Thomas Bernabei (then a Democrat; now a political independent) and Republican Janet Creighton had a huge task before them in restoring public trust in county officialdom.

In less than a year, Bernabei and Creighton as validated by the 2011 levy results showed that they had successfully undone much of the damage done in the 2009

I think the results showed and I have made the point to Bernabei and Creighton that they could have and should have gone for at least a 3/4 cent increase if not a 1 cent increase.

Be that as it may, they understandably went conservative and consequently the commissioners (e.g. county department of governments including the Stark County Engineer's office which needs funds to keep our streets and and highways in good shape) have been hamstrung ever since.

Stark County has an able financial administrator in Chris Nichols (who doubles as a Canton Township trustee) who has implemented practices and policies to create a sustainable budget.

And, indeed, the county's budget is sustainable.

But that is all it is.

With Bernabei gone from the county by virtue of having taken on the task of bring sound fiscal practice and policy to the city of Canton (Stark's county seat) as mayor of Canton (November, 2015); the skill level and judgment of the Board of Stark County Commissioners has dropped off.

Republican commissioners Bill Smith (newly elected in November, 2016) and holdovers Creighton and Richard Regula are far to conservative to lead Stark in a responsibly progressive manner.

It is likely that today's measure will pass handily.

Both the Stark County Republican Party and the Stark County Democratic Party as well as the politically independent community need to be generating a new generation of leaders who possess a balance of being responsible and visionary as we get well into the 21st century.

What follows is a number of graphics (going back 25 years) which show the difficulty that former boards of commissioners have had in convincing the voting public that they were deserving in public confidence that, if approved, they would be effective stewards of public funds.
Rather than develop leadership which is trustworthy, Stark County has developed a culture of "keep them on a short leash.

And such is one approach.

In my judgment, whether one a private or public sector entrepreneur/leader, she/he has to have the resources to get the job done in way that is win/win for everybody.

In preparing this blog, I in doing my research came upon another incident in which Stark County's then-commissioners (1991), namely; Democrat Patti Miller, Republican Tom Rice and Democrat Mary Cirelli imposed

(Note:  Graphics are grounded in election data provided online by the Stark County Board of Elections.  Any highlighting and "in red" text material has been added by the SCPR).

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