Wednesday, February 21, 2018

NOW THAT HE HAS SERVED HIS TIME, VINCE FRUSTACI RETURNS TO STARK COUNTY


FORMER STARK CO CHIEF DEPUTY TREASURER 
VINCE FRUSTACI 
CLOSE TO OFFICIAL RELEASE

MARCH 12, 2018


From what The Stark County Political Report can discern from available documents, Vince Frustaci is back in Stark County.

And he has been in Stark, it seems, at least since February 6th.  A letter which purports to have been written from a Canton address (posted below, but with the actual address redacted) is dated February 6, 2018 which is confusing given the graphic below showing his release date as being "03/12/2018."

Undoubtedly, there is a explanation.  Perhaps it has to do with the first 60 days being what he describes as being a probation period in a letter he wrote to his sentencing judge as reproduced (in redacted form) below.


Readers will recall that on June 25, 2010 Frustaci as the former chief deputy treasurer of Stark County pled guilty in the United States District Court, Northern District of Ohio for having stolen approximately $2.4 million, more or less, from the Stark County treasury.

For Stark Countians, it may seem as if the time as passed quickly.  But obviously not for Vince Frustraci.

Here are a few links Stark County Political Report blogs covering the period from the theft was revealed to the Stark County public.
And here is the court's judgement entry sending him to prison and setting the terms of his his obligations after his release from prison.



It seems as if Frustaci is quite anxious to get out of the house and off to Florida for a spell at the end of next month.  And who can blame him.

Here is a redacted (taking out references to a family situation) copy of his letter to Judge John Adams who originally sentenced him.


It certainly had to be a major disappointment for him to be denied by Judge Adams.

According to the judgement entry above, Frustaci is to be on "Supervised Release" for three years.



As indicated in the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) document above, there is a category called Home Confinement which (given the letter Frustaci wrote the judge) is likely the category that he is assigned to.

(Source:  Wikipedia LINK)

As the SCPR understands Vince Frustaci's situation, for his three years under "supervised release" he will have to live pretty much a flawless life or he could find himself confined in a BOP facility for as many as 18 additional months.


Tuesday, February 20, 2018

A "WHITE ELEPHANT" OR A "STROKE OF GENIUS?" CITY OF MASSILLON

COULD MASSILLON'S ACQUISITION 
OF 
AFFINITY MEDICAL CENTER 
TURN IN TO A FINANCIAL/POLITICAL DISASTER FOR THE CITY?

(THE QUESTION THAT ONLY THE SCPR ADDRESSES)


Here it is nearly three weeks after a settlement was announced in the lawsuit/counter lawsuit involving the city of Massillon and others as plaintiffs and Affinity Medical Center (AMC, Affinity) and others as defendants and counter complainants and they are still hashing out the details.

Affinity has an interesting history:


One Massillonian in conversation with the SCPR blames part of Affinity's fall into hard financial times:
If one believes the ownership, Affinity Medical center has been losing gobs of money for some time.

Hence, the decision to close the facility and the hubbub that developed last month which resulted in litigation which has resulted in a settlement whereby the city of Massillon will become the owner of the facilities/equipment until it can find a buyer.

As The Stark County Political Report sees it, Massillon had/has no alternative but to take whatever deal the Affinity Medical Center owners are willing dish out.

For there was absolutely no way that Massillon et al was going to be able to force AMC to stay open for an additional 120 days let alone time beyond the 120.

In essence, when the nitty-gritty details are ironed out, Massillon will have to take the "whatever" of the settlement and turn it into a positive for Massillon and it citizens.

The key person insofar as The Report is concerned in whether the to be transferred to Massillon government AMC facilities/equipment (valued at about $25 million) is a success or failure (white elephant) is Director of Public Safety-Service Joel Smith who was hired in 2015.

It occurs to the SCPR that ever since Smith was hired, the fortunes of Massillon have taken a positive direction.

In statements to local media Smith is already signaling that a medical facility in Massillon is not going to be a 156 bed, 800 plus employee operation that AMC was when it shut down on February 11th.

Massillon government is not about to get into the medical provider business.  Smith's task is to find somebody, anybody to pay as much of the $25 million valuation as he as a city official can wring out of a would be purchaser."

People can think property is worth $25 million, but the "proof of the pudding" is what what "willing buyer" and a "willing seller" can agree upon.

The SCPR thinks that if Massillon gets 20% or more of the Stark County Auditor's office fair market valuation of the "to be conveyed to Massillon properties;" getting title to the AMC facilities/equipment likely indeed to turn out to be a "stroke of genius."

Persons in a position to know tell the SCPR that there is interest on the part of would be buyers.

Interest is one thing; action in the form of laying cash on the line  is quite another.

Notwithstanding one nursing union official's statement that Massillon needs a hospital that puts patient care above profits, you can bet your bottom dollar that no prudent business/business person is going to be willing to sustain losses like Affinity said it did in recent years which promoted the decision to close the facility on short notice (30 days).

What The Report thinks Massillon wants is to get somebody/anybody (medical or not) to buy the facilities for say $2/3/4/5 million or, in a best case scenario, better so that the city can clear away the expenses/debt obligations it begins to incur when the transfer takes place and perhaps add some profit.

Prospective buyers of course know that the city obtained the property free of capital purchase cost in  settlement of litigation between Massillon and Affinity.

Moreover, by the time a new medical facility can be recommissioned, even if not opposed by area competing health care facilities (e.g. Aultman/Mercy Medical [who believes that will happen?]) will have to build up a patient base from scratch.

Does any business minded/savvy person really think that once Massillonians who once used Affinity will automatically return on a mere change of ownership factor?

From a political standpoint, Massillon absolutely must not lose money at the end of the day when every financial factor (i.e. selling price minus expenses incurred during closure) is netted out.

The Report is told that the city will have to pay out an approximate $200,000 annually in inherited lease obligation(s) that will only partially offset by lease payments due to Massillon government from tenants of some of the facilities.

Additionally, nobody knows what ongoing utility and maintenance costs will be for "facilities in waiting" for a speculated purchaser.

We do know that Massillon already and will continue during the interregnum to expend more on policing an "empty" facility to ensure that the property is not subject to vandalism.

Also, one must not lose sight of the fact that Massillon is sustaining an annual tax revenue loss (mostly income taxes) to the tune of $600,000.

Perhaps some will not want to factor in the annual $600,000 tax revenue loss in on accounting for the "true" cost of the AMC closure and take over of facilities/equipment by Massillon government, but the SCPR thinks that an "honest" accounting of what Massillon nets out in the end of ridding itself of Affinity needs to factor in lost tax revenue as a consequence of it being closed.

Massillon's tax base will have to increase by a sufficient number of jobs equal to the tax loss or the city will continue to be hurt financially no matter what happens with the hospital complex.

It appears that owning the facilities/equipment/obligation(s), including the tax revenue lost from job loss,  could set Massillon back upwards of $1 million in the immediate if not longer term going forward.

The longer the city holds title, the more it seems that it has to get a escalating purchase price, no?

If some enterprise replaces Affinity, then, of course, those tax revenue losses will be lessened going forward.  However, it is not likely that Massillon will, anytime soon, be replacing the lost tax revenues.  Accordingly, accumulating losses could magnify considerably.

If expenses as mused upon above accumulate while a buyer is sought, then the transaction  could indeed turn into the proverbial "white elephant" that likely will have dire political consequences for the mayor (who was "all-in" on the settlement) and council (which voted 9 - 0 for an ordinance approving a settlement).

While city officials are saying there is interest from prospective buyers, that is not good enough.

The longer the space is between city acquisition and eventual sale given away a second time, the more likely it is that what seems to be a "no brainer" (i.e. how could one 'look a gift horse in the mouth') that the acquisition is a certain winner for Massillon finances could in fact turn into "take this off our hands somebody! for we (Massillon government officials) are losing money and we just want to be rid of it."

Just look at the history of Akron's Rubber Bowl which it was just announced will be turn down at city expense of some $400,000 (LINK).


Should the AMC properties to prove to be a "white element" one the most prominent political victims could be Mayor Kathy Catazaro-Perry.

Some Massillonians tell the SCPR that it is hard to believe that the mayor was "surprised" at the closing of AMC in that her doctor husband worked out of Affinity and had to see firsthand and hear rumors that things were not going well at Affinity.

Could be a case of  a denial of the the obvious that many human beings are afflicted with?

To the SCPR, it makes no difference whether or not the mayor should have seen the closure of AMC coming because there was nothing she nor her administration could do to turn things around.

But accepting what might turn out to be a "white elephant" is a different matter.

Sometimes it is more prudent to turn down what appears to be a "gift horse."

Time will tell.

And the "telling" could be as soon as next year's election.

Catazaro-Perry is saying she is likely to seek a third term.

Among the names of persons who might challenger her is Republican councilman-at-large Ed Lewis who, interestingly enough, is council's finance chairman.

He tells the SCPR that he has not made up his mind of whether or not to challenge the mayor in November, 2019.

Reading "between the lines" of The Report's conversation with Lews, it appears likely he will not run because of his current employment picture in which he perceives that giving up that situation will require a sacrifice on his part.

Perhaps a more ominous threat is that Massillon Municipal Court judge Eddie Elum (twice disciplined by the Ohio Supreme Court in recent years for ethics violations) will run against her in the May, 2019 Democratic Party primary.

The SCPR only recently learned that Catazaro-Perry is not nearly so enamored with Elum as she has said in previous years in Q&A sessions in Massillon City Council that she was.

In fact The Report is told that she has distanced herself from the entire Johnnie A. Maier, Jr, R. Shane Jackson and George T. Maier Massillon centered political cabal.

Hmm?

Why?

One theory is that she has grown tired of Elum's constant badgering and threatening council on the extent to which Massillon government finances court operations.

The Report is told that Massillon unfairly finances court operations in view that most of the use of the court's functions come from Jackson, Perry and surrounding township who, it is said, pay nothing towards court operations.

Lewis told the SCPR that there has been a 55% increase in what Massillon council allocates to court operations.

The SCPR thinks that the answer could in part be the foregoing, but maybe more of a factor than anyone realizes, it more largely might be that she realizes that she has gotten some bad advice from what The Report has dubbed as being the Maier Massillon Political Machine (MMPM) and that she in Director Joel Smith is getting good advice and better yet:  effective on-the-job action.

To repeat, if Massillon makes the AMC properties into a "genius move," it will be Smith's doing.

Back to whether or not Catazaro-Perry will have a mayoralty opponent next year.

A most intriguing possibility is Judge Eddie Elum running against Catazaro-Perry in next year's Democratic Party primary election.

Elum is nearing or possibly might be over age 70 at the time of the primary. The SCPR has a date of birth that might be definitive of he matter but is unable to confirm it.

If he is 70, then it makes a lot of sense he would run for mayor.


But, if not, it does not.  At least on the surface of things.

For if he can run for another term as Massillon Municipal Court judge, he is virtually assured to be unchallenged and as judge earns $40,000 plus more than the mayor of Massillon.

That is, unless, as a number of Stark Countians seem to think (but not the SCPR), Elum is Saint Edward (which is what Elum seems to think of himself [LINK] and the money difference makes absolutely no difference to him.

And, for that matter, he likely can retire as a judge and earn a substantial part of his $114,000 (more or less) judge's salary as a pension to be supplemented by the approximate $68,000 (more or less) that the mayor of Massillon is paid.

When Frank Cicchinelli Jr. was pondering whether or not to run in 2011, Elum's name popped up then as a possibility.

Cicchinelli did run but Elum was not the candidate who took him out in the Democratic primary.

Guess who was?

You've got it!

None other than Kathy Catazaro-Perry who, at the time, was the fair hair political maiden of the MMPM.


How times and circumstances and change, no?

A reason that the SCPR thinks that Elum might actually run against Catazaro-Perry is that The Report has learned that Elum is asking around to persons he considers significant politically-attuned,  Massillon political figures whether or not he can count on their support should he decide to run.

Not only Democrats, but registered Republicans as well.

You can bet that Elum is watching the AMC thing with keen interest.  If he decides to run and if evidence is in that Massillon has a "white elephant" on its hands, one would think it becomes a larger than life issue in the ensuing campaign.

As Massillon government takes ownership of the AMC facilities/equipment what the city can or cannot do with it definitely will become political.

Success will mean a slam-dunk for Catazaro-Perry in getting re-elected to a third term in 2019.

On the other hand, if the acquisition turns into a "white elephant;" not only will Catzaro-Perry be an easy political mark but also will every member of the current council.

The filing deadline will be in early February, 2019 which is nearly a year away..

But by then, we should know whether the AMC thing is a boom or a bust

Friday, February 16, 2018

SCPR "COUNTDOWN TO THE PRIMARY" SERIES (VOL 4) WILL HAGAN'S FIXATION WITH GUNS PLAY IN THE REPUBLICAN PRIMARY?

UPDATE:  SUNDAY, 5:33 PM (KASICH STATEMENT ON "COMMON SENSE" GUN CONTROL

LINK:  HAGAN CHASTISED (BY PLAIN DEALER EDITORIAL BOARD) FOR ERRONEOUS TWEET THOUGHT TO BE ABOUT HER REPUBLICAN PRIMARY OPPONENT ANTHONY GONZALEZ



To many of us, violence (which all to often comes with those fixated on guns and gun rights) and Christians principles of conduct seem to be contradictory ways that human beings should relate to one another.


But some including state Representative Christina Hagan seem to think there is no contradiction at all.

Going back to 1966 and mass killings of 10 or more, 443 Americans have been slaughtered by those who found it way too easy to get guns.


In light of yet another mass killing by one (Nikolas Cruz/Parkland, FL) who needed to be impeded (by virtue of his publicly known troubled behavior) in his ability to obtain an assault rifle.


The Florida Legislature like Ohio's (Christina Hagan is presently a Republican member of the Ohio House [50th District which is wholly within Stark County] has done nothing to filter out those like Cruz.

After 17 have been killed and others injured this is Hagan's reaction on Facebook:


The Stark County Political Report  for one holds those politicians accountable who stand in the way of meaningful and effective controls, which is to say "responsible gun ownership" for being part of the problem of the likes of Cruz surfacing.

The SCPR thinks that Christina Hagan a politicians who is "bananas for guns" indiscriminately available and does nothing to legislate "responsible gun ownership."

She ought to take to heart this comment on her Facebook page.


And go to this LINK and read the following graphed article:


Perhaps, even her opponent in the May 8, 2018 primary election Anthony Gonzalez will be remiss if he becomes the Republican 16th District candidate.

Republicans considering whom to vote for in May, should seek to ascertain which, if either, would support common sense/reasonable laws curbing the likes of Cruz.

Gonzalez does not make his personal religious faith part of his campaign persona.

While Hagan undoubtedly would tout herself as being against violence in the context of the mass killings that America has experienced in our history; by her inaction in curbing the likes of Cruz from getting their hands on guns enables and empowers personal violence over the peacemaking that the Bible espouses.

Here is an excerpt from her campaign website (LINK to her full statement):

Christina boldly walks in her faith knowing that she has been saved from her sins, experiencing a new type of humility and also an explosion of confidence because her ability and direction are no longer capped at what she can’t do but are made perfect in what God can do. Christina believes when we fix our hearts and attention on Jesus, the founder, the author of our faith, things begin to change.

Here is a recitation of one of the cornerstone Beatitudes of Jesus' teachings:

Blessed are the peacemakers: for they will be called children of God. (5:9)

"Things began to change?" (Hagan as a manifestation of being "born again")

How about curbing personal violence one human being to another by restricting who gets guns in the light of their mental health and propensity to embrace death and destruction?

Here is some interesting polling data on how Americans view the ownership of guns issue.


Will the Parkland FL massive killings change 16 District congressional candidates' willingness to move away from pretty much "anything goes" in unrestricted gun ownership towards "responsible gun ownership?"

A key to figuring that out is to look at politicians like Hagan and Gonzalez and specific statements their willingness/unwillingness to act legislatively to implement "responsible gun ownership" provisions in the 2019-2012 session of Congress as we edge forward to the 2018 Ohio May 2018 primary election.

Each should take to heart the position of Republican governor John Kasich:


“I think Congress is totally dysfunctional. I’ve never seen anything like this,” Kasich told CNN's Dana Bash on "State of the Union," also citing failures on immigration and cutting the federal deficit. “They just can’t seem to get anything done.”

Kasich bemoaned Republican lawmakers’ unwillingness to consider beefing up gun regulations, stressing that there are “reasonable” steps that could be taken to prevent further shootings.

“Common-sense gun laws make sense,” Kasich said.

And this from a Kasich aide:


In Hagan's case, is she willing to move from being a violence enabler to empowering "[b]lessed be the peacemakers" as an indication she takes her faith seriously as having a practical facit to it?

Thursday, February 15, 2018

SCPR SERIES "COUNTDOWN TO PRIMARY" (VOL 3) GONZALEZ DOUBLES UP HAGAN IN FUNDRAISING



The campaign finance reports are out at the Federal Election Commission (FEC) for federal offices up for election in May/November 2018.

So far in the "total" campaign fundraising results Cleveland area Republican Anthony Gonzalez is out fundraising Stark County's Christina Hagan nearly 3 to 1.

The differential is somewhat narrowed for the fourth quarter (year end) reporting period.

From 3 to 1 to 2 to 1:


FOCUS ON THE HAGAN REPORT

INDIVIDUAL CONTRIBUTIONS
(Note:  Corporate & PAC analysis will appear in a later blog in this series)

For being the "anti-establishment-proTrump-candidate," Hagan is finding out that reasonable minded Republicans still have some clout.

Looking at Hagan's 4th quarter "individual contributors" there is very little name recognition and NO Stark County elected officials on her list.

However, in Hagan's report there are a few notables.

First, a cluster of Sarchione Ford employees:

Burton Ryan Canton $1,056 Sarchione Ford Sales Manager
Clarke Eric Leetonia $2,111 Sarchione Ford Sales
Fraser Carvella Salem $2,111 Sarchione Ford Sales
Herchek Mark Atwater $1,056 Sarchione Ford Sales
King Dustin Canton $1,000 Sarchione Ford Finance
Meyers Aaron Canfield $1,000 Sarchione Ford Sales
Springer Joe Sebring $1,056 Sarchione Ford Sales
Yoder Royce Uniontown $250 Sarchione Ford Sales

Some others:

Bishop Paul Canton $1,000 H-P Products, Inc. Chairman & CEO
Coon Stephen Louisville $1,350 Coon Restoration & Sealants President
Coon Chad Canton $2,700 Great Lakes Restoration Partner
Coon Jennifer Louisville $1,350 Northmark, Inc. Properties Manager
Eslich Richard Louisville $1,000 Eslich Wrecking Company President
Mungo David Alliance $1,700 Alliance Community Hospital Physician
Mungo David Alliance $1,213 Alliance Community Hospital Physician
Mungo Michelle Alliance $2,700 Homemaker Homemaker
Novelli Timothy North Canton $1,000 Self Chiropracter
Traux Todd Canton $2,700 Almost Heaven Homemade Ice Cream Owner
Traux Todd Canton $107 Almost Heaven Homemade Ice Cream Owner

But as readers will readily note, the Hagan "notables" list is sparse when compared to the Gonzalez list of Stark County notables.

Here is a spreadsheet on the "entire" list of "individual" donors to the Hagan campaign:



FOCUS ON THE GONZALEZ REPORT

INDIVIDUAL CONTRIBUTIONS
(Note:  Corporate & PAC analysis will appear in a later blog in this series)

(Notable contributors [focus on Stark County/Timkens and Aultman Hospital officials] in yellow highlighting)



Surprisingly enough the "per contributor" campaign donation finds Gonzalez at a $1,293 per not that far ahead of Hagan's $1,237 per.

But Gonzalez had about 50 more "individual" contributors than Hagan.

The real separation takes place in the corporate/PAC contributions in which Gonzalez does markedly better than Hagan.

The next "Countdown to Primary" series volume on Hagan/Gonzalez will go into detail on those differences.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

SCPR "COUNTDOWN PRIMARY ELECTION" SERIES (VOL 2) "REDISTRICTING"

UPDATED:  4:02 PM

FORMER 16TH DISTRICT CONGRESSMAN (WHEN IT INCLUDED ALL OF STARK) VOTED "NO" ON SJR 5


On July 20, 2017 Ohio Republican Party chairperson Jane Timken (of the Stark County-based Timken Steel family) appeared at the Cleveland City Club and when asked about the prospect of Ohio getting to "fair [competitive] congressional/Ohio House seats" answered that she favored no change in current Ohio reapportionment law because she said:  "Elections have consequences."

And they do.

What she did not say was that in the battle between the Republican and Democratic political parties seemingly from the founding of Ohio (1803) for political dominance of political party interests each party has had its turn (repetitively) to shape U.S./Ohio House districts so that the party controlling reapportionment of legislative seats (at the federal level every 10 years based or population gain/loss/stagnation) had an "unfair" advantage (through "gerrymandering") over the other for the 10 year period of time.

What's get lost is in the Jane Timken preference is sacrifice of a fundamental quality of our democratic republic which is fairness which translates at the voter level into "one person, one vote."

There has been talk about lots of talk about correcting the unfairness in Ohio for at least the two past decades, but nothing correcting the unfairness has happened.

That is until now and through the efforts of an organization named FAIR DISTRICTS OHIO.

The Ohio League of Women Voters and Common Cause Ohio (the primary initiators of the fair districting movement in Ohio, formed on May 15, 2015) under the name Fair Districts = Fair Elections have collected over 200,000 of 305,000 needed to get a proposal on the ballot (November, 2018) BUT FOR the recent action of the Ohio General Assembly to place an initiative on the May 8, 2018 ballot under Joint Senate Resolution 5.

Catherine Turcell, spokesperson for the coalition tells the SCPR that the coalition plans on staying in tact through the 2020 census and 2021 mapmaking.

A good proposal for voters?

Here is what the editors of the Akron Beacon Journal (in part) say: (LINK to the full editorial)


A “huge deal.” That is how one leader of the Fair Districts=Fair Elections coalition described the compromise on legislation to repair the way the state redraws U.S. House districts. The words hit the mark. If Ohio voters approve in May, the state will have a process to deliver more competitive districts, candidates, thus, tugged to the center, improving the prospects for real governing once in office. (emphasis added)

Beyond the praise that the Ohio Legislature is getting for "stepping-up-to-plate," for Stark Countians is the fact that the core representatives for districts completely within the county; all voted for place the reform on the May 8th primary election ballot.


... [T]he ballot measure would require the state legislature to adopt a 10-year congressional redistricting plan with 60 percent of members in each chamber voting in favor and 50 percent of Republicans and 50 percent of Democrats (or whichever two parties have the most members in the legislature) voting in favor.

Should the state legislature fail to meet these vote requirements, then the Ohio Redistricting Commission, established via Issue 1 in 2015, would get a shot at adopting a 10-year congressional redistricting plan, with support from at least two members of the minority party.

Should the commission fail to adopt a plan, the legislature would get a second crack at adopting a 10-year plan, but with a lesser requirement of one-third of the members from the two major parties supporting the proposal.

Failure at this stage would result in the legislature adopting a plan through a simple majority vote, with no bipartisan vote requirement but stricter criteria, and the plan lasting two general election cycles (four years), rather than 10 years.

The measure would take effect on January 1, 2021, and apply to congressional redistricting following the 2020 U.S. Census. the core components of the proposal (source:  Ballotpedia LINK, resolution was passed on February 6, 2018)

It is surprising that former 16th District congressman John Boccieri voted against SJR 5.  One would have thought that he and Schuring would have been on opposite sides of the issue but not with Schuring voting in favor and Boccieri against.



By the way, Boccieri is looking to move on from the Ohio House in that he is running for the Ohio Senate (where he once served) in the 33rd District which is now represented by Democratic gubernatorial candidate Joe Schiavoni.

It is interesting to note that Boccieri felt compelled to put out a press release explaining his "no" vote.



The voters of Ohio in November of 2015 voted to reform redistricting for the Ohio House.

So this focus on taking action on the federal side of our elections is another step forward in making the "will of a 'majority' of the people" in a more balanced mix of Democrats, Republicans and independents in a more cohesive geographical setting is encouraging.

Kirk Schuring in particular is to be commended in his Republican leadership role in making this bipartisan approved proposed reform a reality.

Schuring worked with state Rep. Thomas West (a thoroughgoing Democrat) in sponsoring a bill to help Massillon cope with the sudden closing of Affinity Medical Center.

And now this; both voting for redistricting reform.

Even Christina Hagan voted for the measure.

What is this world coming to, anyway?

Now it is up to Ohio's/Stark County's voters to put a stamp of approval on the Legislature's work.

Be sure to vote YES on Issue One come May 8, 2018!

APPENDIX

Full text of  proposed (subject to May 8, 2018 voter approval) Redistricting Reform

Substitute Senate Joint Resolution 5

Monday, February 12, 2018

13TH IN A SERIES: LACK OF LOCAL GOV'T/LOCAL MEDIA DUE DILIGENCE ON HALL OF FAME VILLAGE PROJECT?

UPDATED:  11:30 AM




Of course all Stark Countians hope that the upwards of $1 billion Pro Football Hall of Fame Village Project (HOF-VP) announced in 2014 will come to fruition.

But to be realistic, it most certainly ought to be dawning on the dreamers who are holding fast to the hope that the project is a Canton/Stark County pathway to financial/economic development NIRVANA that the dream is nothing more than a hope and a prayer and just like the Alaska "Bridge to Nowhere" advanced by its proponents in 2006 and killed off in 2015.

The Stark County Political Report (SCPR) has been projecting the final cost of of his "dream" or, perhaps, "nightmare" to be at least $1 billion (without any insider knowledge) is now be admitted by HOF-VP president/CEO C. David Baker.

And, initially, it looked like a proverbial "no-brainer" in that it truly appeared to be if you were spellbound by the highly charismatic Baker to be "pie-in-the-sky" heralded by 75 trombones (remember "The Music Man") leading the BIG parade!

Especially in light of developer Stu Lichter saying this:

Financing, through a mix of traditional, philanthropic and public funding sources, to this point has not been an issue

As Lichter and Baker have presented the project to groups and investors, the reception has been positive. 

Lichter likened it to having the opportunity to choose which kind of financing to complete the project. 

“The issue isn’t, ‘Can we get the capital?’” Lichter said. “It’s, ’Can we get the capital at a cost that makes sense?”  (large font emphasis added)



Reading Porter's puff piece and lobbed "soft ball" questions does have enough material that cried out for a journalistic "due diligence" examination of the responding puffery handed out in spades by Pro Football Hall of Fame (HOF-VP) president and CEO C. David Baker and "master" developer Stuart Lichter  of Industrial Realty Group, LLC.

But it appears to The Stark County Political Report (SCPR) that Porter (at heart nothing more than a sports reporter enthusiast and reportedly a relative of the publisher of The Repository; namely, one James Porter) has never, ever done a critical analysis of some of the statements made by Baker/Lichter and the basis of which, even here within Stark County, there was at the time of Porter's writing easily obtainable information that suggested that all was not like "falling off a wet log" on the matter of financing as indicated by words right out of Stu Licher's very own mouth as cited above.

One Todd Porter's associates reported on a recent "special" called meeting by the Stark County Port Authority on Thursday past obviously called because of the public outcry of those local companies owed millions of dollars by the HOF-VP associated entities.


In that Friday article there is this:  (Note:  The SCPR could not attend because of being in Hawaii)

The Stark County Port Authority met Thursday to discuss financing for Johnson Controls Hall of Fame Village and said a loan proposal in the works not only would pay off the liens local contractors have filed since building Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium, but also would provide millions of dollars toward future construction.

AND
Village developers are finalizing a one-year bridge loan agreement that would cover the outstanding costs from the stadium ...

The SCPR thinks the either the reporter failed to dig deeper into the unanswered questions or did and the executive leadership that runs The Repository would not print the deeper reporting.

The Report's impression is that the reporter generally is thorough in reporting done and it is the latter rather than the former.

The SCPR thinks that such was bound to happen given The Repository's gladly and enthusiastically taking on the mantra-esque phrase for The Rep.  "THE OFFICIAL NEWSPAPER OF THE PRO FOOTBALL HALL OF FAME."

Despite protestations that it could separate business from the editorial/reporting content in The Rep; the SCPR is not buying.   Anything published by The Rep on the HOF-VP, this writer thinks, deserves special scrutiny.

For instance, in Porter's piece Lichter tells Porter as they speak Maple Street Commerce LLC (MSC) is proceeding in completing North Canton's Hoover complex rehab.

Easy enough to check out how MSC is doing in North Canton, no?

On January 22nd, North Canton government sent MSC a letter of "non-compliance," to wit:


And this:  (LINK to underlying article)


North Canton officialdom is not optimistic that MSC will comply as demanded and expects that the matter will end up in court.

The HOF-VP and Repository bigs must think that the general Stark County public simply cannot count.

Let's see.

Now the cost of the high school football stadium gone professional has gone since 2015 from $24 million to $80 million to $100 million to $150 million and now to $150 million PLUS which one source tells the SCPR the source thinks is about $170 million.

Remember when New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson put $11 million towards the rehab of the stadium what a hullabaloo The Rep made of it?

Remember when Johnson Controls stepped in and made a multiyear pledge what a headliner that was?  (November, 2016)

$100,000,000 over 18 years which averages out to about $556,000 annually.

Because of "private-sector" secrecy of the HOF-VP, nobody knows how much Johnson Controls has put in to the project.

Let's say that it is about $750,000.

How does that square with the amount owed local contractors?

Not very well!


As the SCPR has reported in the 12th blog in this series (way before The Repository) The M. Klein Company is busy at work trying to stave off financial collapse of the HOF-VP

The SCPR hears that there is possibly another $6 million out there in debt to companies doing work on the HOF-VP that has not yet been made public.

And of course there is the city of Canton's $5 million that apparently went into what is likely a $170 million football stadium which, of course, cannot carry its own weight in terms of recovering its capital cost over many, many, many lifetimes of future generations of Stark Countians to say nothing of ongoing maintenance and operations costs and perhaps 5/10/15 years down the road the need to put in a "new" state of the art "hi-tech" glorified score/game stats board just to keep up with what the professional football's expectations.

Undoubtedly, most of the money paid so far on the construction of the stadium is in the form of short-term loans which appear to being kept out of public view even though the project is getting public money.

So now, we are supposed to believe that a  $100 million plus "bridge loan" from a company that seems to have some kind of connection from master developer Stu Lichter (i.e, Lichter's company IRG shares the same building with the mortgage company arranging for a "temporary" [i.e. bridge]loan) is going to solve the long term financial woes of the HOF-VP?

Better reasoning is not that there will be money to spare after contractors (and the city of Canton [some $350,000] are paid but that all those "unknown" lenders, whomever they may be, are in line to soak up most if not all that "bridge" loan of $100 million plus, no?

So, so, so sad!

The thought that The Repository leadership might not be inclined (in light of being the "official newspaper of the Pro Football Hall of Fame") to encourage the vetting HOF-VP connected interviewees ought to be quite disturbing to Stark Countians.

Perhaps even more troubling is that there may be a core of Stark County political subdivision officials who make decisions on spending taxpayer funds (or foregoing tax revenues, e.g. the use of the Stark County Port Authority to legally avoid imposition of Stark County's Justice System Sales Tax; [JSST]) who may not have exercised "due diligence" in determining the viability/accountability of the HOF-VP and concomitantly whether or not it was/is worth the risk of putting taxpayer money in jeopardy.

The Report has asked a county official for a dollar figure for the loss that the JSST will sustain as a consequence of the Port Authority maneuver.

Answer?  The county has no way in terms of having the necessary purchase information of items subject to the tax to determine the loss.

Wouldn't you think that the county commissioners/Port Authority officials would have required an accounting of how much "taxable" material is being purchased and the equivalency in lost income to the Justice System Sales Tax to Stark's justice system of which the Stark County sheriff's operations is a large part of?

In light of documented financing difficulties (i.e. the Welty letter, the Hilscher-Clarke communication copies of which have been published in prior SCPR blogs) that the HOF-VP project is currently experiencing, it is hard to believe that Canton government and Stark County government (nearly two years ago now) sufficiently vetted the viability of the project.

It appears that Canton and Stark County is so desperate for meaningful economic development that they may have communicated a vulnerability to a project that was from the beginning (notwithstanding Lichter's assurances to the contrary) of questionable project viability and made worse by HOF-VP officials being non-transparent and therefore not accountable for taxpayer money the project has received and is slated to receive going forward.

If such was the case, then Baker and Lichter seem to have taken full advantage of the desperateness, no?

Now there is talk that there is discussion of Lichter being removed as "master" developer.

The $7 million or so of documented debt unpaid by the HOF-VP may well be a major factor in impeding the passage of a Canton ballot measure for a 1/2 percent increase in the city income tax.

Of the monies owed by the HOF-VP is some $350,000 of unreimbursed to the city of Canton monies paid in 2017 for safety services rendered to HOF events.

Depending when they are installed, the amount due Canton could jump to upwards of $500,000 when "fancy" HOF-VP insisted upon street lighting (examples at Market Ave, North and 12th Street) are installed in the vicinity of the HOF complex.

Mayor Thomas M. Bernabei has said numerous times that none of the additional revenues will be going to the HOF-VP directly but only to do work on the corridor from the HOF to downtown Canton.

It highly predictable that as the proponents of passage of the 1/2 percent increase "hit the streets" in campaign mode, they will be challenged on why Cantonians should pass a sorely needed income tax increase while the city is owed some $350,000 in unreimbursed HOF city safety services provided?

The SCPR has talked with Canton law director Joe Martuccio about the debt and he says that he will not say what might or what might not be in the offing on collecting the $350,000 because he has not had "privileged" attorney/client discussions with his clients Canton City Council and the mayor.

Wouldn't it be ashamed that the levy fails because of such a factor?

Mayor Bernabei has been getting a number of citizens express concerns about more Canton taxpayer money going into the HOF-VP to say nothing of the $350,000 it is now owed and of course the time and effort being expended by the likes of Sam Sliman (annexation director) and others which takes away from their ability to work non-HOF-VP aspects of Canton government.

The real concern that local public officials ought to be asking themselves about is whether or not Stark County political subdivision entities are going to be "left holding the bag" should the project come up short at whatever stage HOF-VP officials "throw in the towel" and "call a halt" to what seems to be a case of C. David Baker convincing "starry-eyed" locals that there is a "tooth-fairy" and all has to do is put a tooth under a pillow and it turns into gold.

Of all the Port Authority officials, only one (according to newspaper reports of the meeting) asked a meaningful question, to wit:

During Thursday’s meeting, board member Susie Steiner asked how costs were able to skyrocket with someone monitoring the project.

Answer:  The monitors (local government officials and the "official" newspaper) have been stargazing and/or hypnotized by the highly charismatic C. David Baker.

For the "duh" observation of the Port Authority Thursday past meeting, check out chairman Roger Mann:

“Just look at the stadium,” 

Yes, Roger we have been.

First $24 million, then $80 million, then $100 million, then $150 million and now $170 million?

Hopefully, the Port Authority will meet after after the SCPR returns to the county by mid-March.

Maybe, just maybe, there will be just a tad difference in what gets published about the meeting?

Here is a list of SCPR blogs done in this series together with two blogs on Strengthening Stark.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

SCPR "COUNTDOWN TO PRIMARY" SERIES, VOL 1



Today The Stark County Political Report starts a series of blogs featuring candidates in "contested" races appearing on the May 8, 2018 Democratic and Republican political parties ballot candidates.

The objective of this series is through:

  • Q&A e-mail exchanges,
  • SCPR "on camera" interview,
  • Links to other that SCPR sources, 
to provide information on candidates that vie with another for their respective political party nomination to partisan voters so that they are equipped to make an informed choice.

It is common knowledge that in a general election that way too many voters vote Republican or Democratic in alignment with their political party preference in sort of an uninformed, knee-jerk fashion which produces all too many political party loyalists in elected public office.

The one redeeming quality of partisan primary elections that are competitive within a political party is that unless a voter is willing to vote for/against a candidate on some "unthought" criterion, the voter actually has to find an an "on the issues" identity with a candidate to make a distinction of as to whom among candidates carrying the same party label the voter votes for.


We start off  today with the 50th Ohio House District on the Democratic Party side.


Here is a brief biography of candidate Vizzuso.


And here is a e-mail Q&A between the SCPR and candidate Vizzuso of February 1, 2018.

(SCPR) What prompted you to file as a Democratic candidate for state representative for the 50th?

(Vizzuso) I believe now more than ever we need new leadership representing our districts with new ideas and energy to combat our issues. I believe in Democratic values and want to look across the district and share the platform of the Democratic Party to advance our district to prosperity. I believe that the team we have assembled has a deep understanding that democracy works best when everyone is involved and we want to involve all the folks in District 50 and also those that have not been heard for quite some time.

Undoubtedly, you are aware that Debbie Cain (the Dems candidate in 2014) and Cassie Gabelt have taken out petitions to run for the 50th seat.

Your own idea?

This is a decision I made on my own. I have always wanted to give back to the community that helped raise and shape me into the man I am today. I think that for quite some time I have wanted to run and while serving at United Way it became more evident to me that now was the time to step up.

Party officials asked you to run?

No.

What is in your background which you think qualifies you to be a member of the Ohio House?

In 2012 I made a promise to myself to dedicate my life to the service of others and to help leave the world a better place than I found it. From that point on I have explored every avenue to develop as a public servant and as a leader.

In college, I studied Political Science at Ohio University to better understand the function of government and how the system works for the people in a democracy. I also studied law, justice, and culture to see how they intersect and influence how we navigate our system of justice.

After graduation, I decided to take a year and commit to the direct service of others. Through the Pittsburgh Urban Leadership Service Experience, I have had the opportunity to work alongside leaders in Pittsburgh to combat issues facing our education system. I’ve acquired a breadth of knowledge about poverty, affordable housing, public transportation, education, mental health, and healthcare by working with students, families, educators and other service employees.

As a young kid growing up in Alliance, OH, there were many people who inspired me to work hard and achieve the goals that I set for myself. I think I have an opportunity to be that person the youth in our district can look to just as so many people were there for me. I believe that our district needs someone who the people can count on. The people of District 50 can count on me.

How do you plan to differentiate yourself from Cain/Gabelt (assuming they actually file; Gabelt assures me she will)?

I believe that as a Democratic candidate, embracing the diversity and cultural differences in our district is something that candidates in the 50th District have not done for a long time. I see my campaign as an opportunity to bring people together from different neighborhoods and towns and sit down and hear what our shared concerns are. I will be the youngest candidate running in this primary and believe that this is a characteristic that I must embrace. I see myself as an underdog. I will put all of my energy into talking to voters and my policies will always, put the people of District 50 first.

What is your primary issue that should be become the Democratic nominee in a general election which the SCPR thinks will have Reggie Stoltzfus as the Republican candidate?

My primary issue is job creation in Ohio’s 50th District. I think that Ohio has an opportunity to be at the forefront of the clean and renewable energy movement. I believe that if we invest in fixing our infrastructure both for ourselves and to pave the way for these industries we will be successful. This means investing in job training that will give hard-working people in the district the skills they need for industry employment. These industries will provide a living wage for families and we will see prosperity in Northeast Ohio once again.

In addition to your primary issue, what other issues are priorities for you in the event you become the Democratic nominee?

I believe in a quality education that can propel our students into achieving their goals. Our schools are the foundation of our neighborhoods and it’s important we establish equity across Ohio when it comes to receiving an education.

As District 50’s representative, I will work to improve our infrastructure to create jobs and bring small and large businesses to Ohio.  

Ensuring that our seniors have a secure retirement after working hard for our state for decades is important to us. I believe in securing pensions that people have worked for all of their life.

Finally, I believe in ensuring that our rights are protected whether we are a person of color, a member of the lgbt community, a veteran reintegrating into society, a person who has gone through the criminal justice system, or a person with disabilities. Nobody should be discriminated against in the workplace, school, anywhere they shop or spend time with friends and family. I stand with the great people of District 50 against hate and division. It will not be tolerated. We achieve more listening to each other and working together towards the common goals of job creation, strong schools, safe seniors, and an infrastructure that makes travel safe and efficient. I look forward to the opportunity to listen to and work with the people of District 50 to address all of these issues while respecting each other’s viewpoints and differences.

Here is a copy of candidate Vizzuso's petitions filed with the Stark County Board of Elections: