Monday, March 14, 2011

Appointment by Mayor Held for North Canton’s Chief Zoning Inspector Adds to Leadership Concerns

Prepared Comments Made to
March 14, 2011

In a March 10, 2011, Beacon Journal story, titled “Population declining,” Akron’s Planning Director, John Moore, states, “Deteriorating neighborhoods are a major reason that people leave.”

I wholeheartedly agree with Akron’s Planning Director and would expect that almost everyone in this room would agree as well with that basic premise. I only wish that Mayor David Held had the same understanding of the need to stay on top of the city’s zoning and code violations.

Even during the best of economic times, nuisances in neighborhoods detract from the peace and tranquility of city life. In hard economic times such as we are all living through now, well-kept neighborhoods can turn into blighted ones before anyone realizes what is happening.

Late in January of this year, North Canton’s Superintendent of Permits & Inspection resigned unexpectedly. Without delay, one would have expected an announcement that a key city department head had left the city and that North Canton was aggressively looking for a qualified replacement.

Per the city’s Web site, North Canton’s Superintendent of Permits & Inspection heads up a department that is responsible for plan review, permit issuance, and code inspections for commercial and residential construction and renovation. The department also conducts zoning, housing, and nuisance inspections and issues Zoning Certificates and Occupancy Certificates. The department tests and registers contractors and journeymen, issues water-connection permits, raze-building permits and sewer permits.

This is a great deal of responsibility, even for someone who is qualified to hold the position and a greater challenge in a department that is operating with reduced staffing.

Not until a March 4, 2011, news story in the Repository, titled “Changes in works for North Canton government,” was the public advised that a key city department head had left the city. For four weeks North Canton had no Superintendent heading up the Permits & Inspection department. In the same Repository story, Mayor Held relates that Economic Development Director Eric Bowles will serve as the city’s interim superintendent and might hold that position for six months.

Mr. Bowles has no certifications as an inspector in any building trades, as is required by the job description, so clearly he cannot be the Chief Building Inspector for the city.

Aside from that, one might ask if Mr. Bowles doesn’t already wear too many hats as it is.

Mr. Bowles has advised me that in addition to being North Canton’s Economic Development Director, with no staff support I might add, that he is also the Administrator for the North Canton Community Improvement Corporation (NCCIC), the Housing Officer for the Residential & Commercial Community Reinvestment Area, and the Project Manager for the Ohio Job Ready Sites (JRS) Grant for the North Canton Hoover Campus Redevelopment Project.

Mayor Held, Mr. Bowles cannot devote the hours that are needed to adequately serve in the capacity of Superintendent of Permits & Inspection and diligently enforce the city’s zoning and nuisance inspections. It is unfair of you to expect this of Mr. Bowles.

Furthermore, it is disingenuous of you to tell the residents of North Canton that the city is working to preserve the investment homeowners have in their properties and neighborhoods under this current interim appointment of Eric Bowles as Superintendent of Permits & Inspection.

I have been a long-time observer of North Canton City Government. For you, Mayor Held, I have observed your entire tenure here in North Canton. I question your decision-making and am keenly aware of the impact it has had on the city.

The first lease of the Arrowhead Golf Course comes to mind. The lease was negotiated by you as City Administrator, and ultimately resulted in a loss of $70,000for North Canton when the first operator of the golf course walked away owing the city a great deal of money.

The decision by you to have a local accounting firm re-audit the Performance Audit done by the Auditor of State cost North Canton $15,000. That audit was never completed after a draft was provided to the city. The draft simply duplicated the Performance Audit only months after the Auditor of State completed the work.

The delay by your administration for several years to renegotiate the water agreement with Aqua Ohio cost North Canton millions of dollars in water sold below water production costs. The dumping of street sweepings for years under your watch in violation of state law was another needless expense for North Canton taxpayers.

I am sure I could add to the above list but I believe my point is made.

Mayor Held, where is your leadership on issues before the city? You did not take a position on the proposal to house individuals with mental illness at the Harleigh House on North Main Street. You have not taken a stand on the possible threat hydraulic fracking has on the city’s water sources.

My concerns about failed leadership in your administration on various issues over the years reminds me of a fictional character, named Lieutenant Commander Philip Queeg, the Captain of the U.S.S. Caine in the movie, The Caine Mutiny.

In the fictional story, Captain Queeg is relieved of command by the First Officer of the Caine believing the Captain was unable to command effectively.

Further, I ask why you as Mayor did not relieve your City Administrator when you had told me several years ago that you were unhappy with his leadership of the city.

Just as you have shown repeatedly over the years that you have been unable to lead and effectively manage the City of North Canton, I believe I can say that the appointment of an overburdened Economic Development Director to be the Superintendent of Permits & Inspection Department will only reinforce the perception of your lack of leadership.

Deteriorating neighborhoods will only reinforce that perception by the city and the world at-large.

Please appoint a Superintendent of Permits & Inspection who has the time and expertise to handle the position and who can effectively and diligently work to maintain North Canton neighborhoods from decline.

Thank you,
Chuck Osborne,
Resident, City of North Canton