Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Negotiated Agreement With Plain Township by Councilman Repace Raises Questions

Prepared Comments Made to
March 26, 2007

I would like to know where in our North Canton City Charter Council Member Jim Repace believes he is authorized to serve as the city’s negotiator in meetings with other local governments or agencies?

This question has perplexed and unnerved me ever since Mr. Repace revealed last summer at a council meeting that he and Council Member Pat DeOrio had been meeting for months in closed door meetings with Jackson Township trustees.

At least one council member was similarly perplexed at a council meeting last summer when Mr. Repace reported that he had been holding discussions with Jackson Township trustees. According to the minutes of the July 10, 2006, meeting, Council Member Lane naturally thought that other members of North Canton City government would be included in the discussions when he stated “…the Administration would have to get involved and so would the Law Director…”

Council Member Jim Repace replied “No… I’m gonna do the negotiating” and then quickly added “with Pat’s help”

Mr. Repace followed this proclamation by stating “[the] Administration is not going to do any negotiating.”

Clearly Council member Lane thought something was a little amiss as he continued his line of commentary on Mr. Repace’s bravado by stating “...I would think, what I am trying to say is, that side of the fence has to be represented as well, I would think.”

Obviously, one member of this council was questioning the role Mr. Repace was defining for himself. It is unfortunate that other members of council did not speak to this issue as well.

Apparently Mr. Repace is confused as to what his role is as a council member because Mr. Repace at this same council meeting stated that his closed door meetings with Jackson Township was “…something that former Mayor Tom Rice had started working on and I just kind of inherited this thing.”

Councilmember Repace, it may come as a surprise to you but you are not the mayor and you are outside your authority in negotiating any agreements for the City of North Canton. Your position as the President of the Hoover labor union does not give you negotiating privileges for the city. That is not your role as a councilman.

Quite frankly, I am more than surprised that remaining members of this council, City Administrator Earl Wise and Mayor David Held have all sat idly by while Mr. Repace overstepped his authority as a member of council and pursued closed-door negotiations with Jackson Township last year.

Does anyone in this room believe for one second that former Mayor Tom Rice, or any previous mayor or city administrator would have allowed a member of council to proclaim themselves as the city’s negotiator? Would any previous mayor or city administrator allow a council member to be the exclusive representative in negotiations with other local governments or county agencies? Not for a minute!

A few on this council have proffered charges against a council member before. This occurred just a few years ago. Why did council show so much concern years ago with that councilmember? Why is there no concern today for a council member who by self-proclamation takes a role that is clearly outside his authority? How can this kind of conduct be overlooked?

Now, after last summer’s failed attempt by Mr. Repace to have city council approve an agreement with Jackson Township that was highly unfavorable to North Canton, Mr. Repace is pushing a similar agreement with Plain Township.

The Repository reported in a June 30, 2006, article titled, “Officials spar over hiring family;” stated “The younger Repace has a job as a general laborer with Plain Township. He started in April.”

Mr. Repace, I am glad your son was successful in securing employment with Plain Township but it does raise questions given the close relationship you have with certain Plain Township officials.

And now, by all appearances citizens would now have to ask if Mr. Repace is now expected to return a favor to Plain Township by pushing a legislative agreement through council that is highly desired by Plain Township and detrimental to North Canton.

The presence of Plain Township Trustee Louis Giavasis at numerous North Canton City Council meetings over the last few months shows how eager Plain Township is to see the agreement passed by North Canton City Council.

Mr. Giavasis has been available in the audience at council meetings to assist Council Member Repace every time this legislation has been discussed. Apparently, Mr. Giavasis is now an adjunct member of North Canton City Council when legislation beneficial to Plain Township is on the agenda.

In a North Canton City Council meeting on January 16, 2007, Mr. Giavasis stated “…the reason why Plain Township is cooperating with North Canton right now is solely because of Jim Repace.”

The public’s business should be conducted in an arms-length manner. The fact that both Mr. Repace and Mr. Giavasis are Democrats and the fact that they are friends should not be the basis for any agreement passed by North Canton City Council.

Lastly, I would like to say that I was dismayed by the appearance of numerous Democrats at a North Canton City Council meeting on January 16, 2007. The list of Democrats included two Jackson Township Trustees, one Plain Township Trustee, the Stark County Treasurer, the Stark County Auditor, and others. These individuals were elected to serve the public not their party cronies. A city council meeting should not be turned into a political rally.

The purpose of a council meeting is to discuss the public’s business. Party politics does not belong in a city council meeting. It is not a place where partisan politics should be staged for the benefit of Democrats or Republicans.

The appearance of the Jackson Township trustees at the January North Canton City Council meeting turned political rally for Council Member Repace makes one wonder if their presence was payback for Council Member Repace’s effort to push a legislative agreement through council last summer that was highly favorable to Jackson Township but equally detrimental to North Canton.

City council scuttled the proposed agreement with Jackson Township last summer.
I urge this council to scuttle the proposed agreement with Plain Township that is before you now. The agreement has been pursued by a council member acting outside his authority. Furthermore, I believe the agreement furthers friendships and not the future of the City of North Canton.

Thank you,
Chuck Osborne
City of North Canton

Monday, March 12, 2007

Taxpayer Funds Destined For CIC Should Be Used For City Services as Intended

Prepared Comments Made to
March 12, 2007

Last week North Canton Police Chief Michael Grimes made a presentation to this body urging that funding be made available to allow him to hire an additional patrol officer. Chief Grimes clearly and professionally defined the city’s need to restore department staffing levels in the police department. Council’s response was that the funds just are not available.

For weeks, the residents of Lipton Avenue have appeared before city council pleading that the city make good on promises made since 1997 to fix storm water drainage problems on their street. Council’s response was that the funds just are not available.

Funds are available. There is $1.3 million that is available that has not been disbursed to the North Canton Community Improvement Corporation and I am surprised that there has been no public discussion on using this source of funds, as they are desperately needed.

In 2005, former Mayor Tom Rice asked that council transfer $2.0 million dollars from the general fund to provide seed money to the North Canton Community Improvement Corporation (CIC). Then Finance Chairman and President of City Council, Jon Snyder made the following statements at a March 7, 2005, Council of the Whole meeting:

“…I have reservations about the amount, and reservations about doing it….The city is not in a position to do this….I am against using the liquidity of the city….”

At the same Council of the Whole meeting Director of Finance, Julie Herr, remarked:

“…The figure that is floating around, $2.0 million, of course I have concerns over that. That is almost twenty percent of our carryover….Are there potential uses for this seed money or is it going to sit there for six months?”

“… Are we going to see results this year?...Is there any plan that might start seeing results of this seed money this year, next year, two years from now?...If two or three years down the road, the results of that CIC are slower than what we expected, there might be some more difficult decisions to make down the road, because that $2.0 million is not going to be there.”

Then Finance Chairman Jon Snyder subsequently submitted a proposal to fund the CIC for $1.5 million dollars. This funding was to be released in increments of $100,000 per year for fifteen years. The legislation received its third and final reading by council on May 9, 2005, as Ordinance 67-05.

The statements made two years ago by both Mr. Snyder and Mrs. Herr in response to the request to use taxpayer funds to fund the CIC was prophetic. This should be clearly evident to everyone at this time.

The city was not in a position to fund the CIC two years ago as then Finance Chairman Jon Snyder stated. Mr. Snyder, you were correct in that assessment. And without a doubt, the city is not in a position to fund the CIC today.

From her comments of two years ago, Finance Director Julie Herr was clearly looking for some kind of return on the money that she was being asked to remove from the general fund.

Finance Director Herr advised this council two years ago that if the CIC failed to provide results in a timely fashion, then the city would be facing more difficult decisions down the road. Mrs. Herr, you also were correct in your assessment regarding the impact of removing taxpayer funds from the general fund to fund the CIC. Each of you gave your best advice and it was ignored.

The legislation funding the CIC was forced on to the ballot as a result of a referendum and the citizens of North Canton approved the funding of the CIC, known as Issue 31, at the polls in the November 2005 elections.

Contributions from special interests groups totaling more than $13,000 supporting Issue 31 likely influenced its passage. The reality was that the public was mislead on what Issue 31 would or could do for North Canton with rosy pie in the sky predictions. That was truly unfortunate.

On or around December 31, 2005, $1.5 million dollars was removed from the general fund and placed in an escrow account. At this same time, the first $100,000 installment was made to the CIC. In June 2006, a second $100,000 installment was made to the CIC. At present, the CIC has $200,000 in its account and the escrow account under the city’s control has $1.3 million remaining of the original $1.5 million.

The remaining $1.3 million dollars needs to be restored to the general fund. As this council knows and as the public has learned, funding must be put where it will generate the most good for the citizens of North Canton. It does not make any sense whatsoever to continue to bleed the city of $100,000 a year when those funds are desperately needed elsewhere.

Economic development has to begin with a city that provides the necessary amenities that citizens naturally expect. The city must have visible police presence. Without strong safety forces you will not only fail to attract new business, you will likely lose the businesses that you have.

Without strong safety forces, all you will attract to your city is the wrong element as Chief Grimes described in his presentation.

Without a strong visible presence of law enforcement, you will see a decline in the quality of life in our neighborhoods. It does not happen overnight. It begins slowly.

This council’s failure to maintain the needed staffing in the police department is counterproductive to economic development prospects for the city.

I urge you to move quickly to rescind the legislation funding the CIC and recoup the remaining $1.3 million. These funds are desperately needed to maintain both the level of safety forces patrolling our city streets and to make the needed infrastructure improvements for the residents on Lipton Avenue.

What better way to promote economic development in the City of North Canton than providing good police protection for residents, visitors, and businesses and protecting the investment homeowners have in their homes with needed storm water improvements?

Thank you
Chuck Osborne
City of North Canton