Monday, November 25, 2013

Why is the North Canton Law Director Allowed to Intimidate Citizens and Dominate All Dialog at City Council Meetings?


Prepared Comments Made to
November 25, 2013 

            As most everyone in this room is aware, North Canton City Council is made up of seven elected representatives. Members of City Council are elected from each of the City’s four wards and three at-Large council members are elected by the voters citywide. 

            Anyone in attendance at a North Canton City Council meeting of yesteryear would be totally at a loss to explain the transformation of a North Canton City Council meeting of today.  

            As a member of North Canton City Council in the early part of the last decade (2001-2003), I would like to contrast the transformation I have witnessed in how City Council meetings have changed in this short time.  

In the good old days, as I would call them, citizens were allowed to speak at the start and conclusion of all four Monday night council meetings. Citizens were welcomed and their input on any issue they desired was heard without time limits or intimidation. 

            Today, that is not the case as citizens are time-limited and can only speak on alternating Monday night council meetings and only at the outset of a Council meeting. Council members show little interest in what residents have to say and disparage citizens after they have spoken. 

            Many times I have seen citizens attend a City Council meeting hoping to address their Council representatives in an open forum only to discover that their interest in the process of government occurred on the wrong Monday night meeting of Council. This happened to a resident last week when she was denied a chance to speak openly at last week’s public Council meeting on an issue under discussion by Council. 

            And of course, residents of the City who pick the correct Monday night meeting to address North Canton City Council will run headlong into North Canton’s new Law Director, Tim Fox, when their five minutes are up.  

Are we paying Mr. Fox the salary he is paid to be a timekeeper and to intimidate citizens of North Canton? 

            Why is Law Director Fox dominating nearly all the dialog on issues before City Council? 

This is not how North Canton City Council meetings were conducted in the good old days! 

            Mr. Snyder, you are the President of City Council. It is your responsibility to conduct City Council meetings. I am at a loss to explain how or why you have chosen to allow the City’s Law Director to take control of council meetings.  

The same question applies to the rest of the members of City Council. 

Mr. Fox is NOT an elected representative of the voters of North Canton.  

            Law Directors in the good old days only spoke at City Council meetings when their legal expertise was requested. Law Director Fox should not be making policy and dominating discussions that come before Council. Many of you have seen how past Law Directors conducted themselves: Roy Batista, Tom Treadon, Randy McFarren, Paul Pusateri, and Hans Nilges.  

North Canton Law Director Fox is out of control and his interferences during the meeting and domination of dialog on issues needs to come to an end. 

Switching topics, I would like to address two pieces of legislation that are to be voted on tonight.
            In regards to the proposed tax abatement for Insight Realty, LLC:

Mr. Snyder, at the end of last week’s meetings you announced that North Canton needed “revenue enhancement” and that you plan to recommend a Park Levy be placed on the ballot for North Canton taxpayers to consider next year. 

In light of the fact that citizens have heard all year long of the City’s financial plight and now your intention to place a Park Levy on the ballot in 2014, how can you justify a tax abatement for 15 years for Insight Realty, LLC? And to boot, Councilmember Mark Cerreta says that the intended recipients of the real property tax exemption already has a substantial presence in North Canton.  

Knowing the City’s financial plight and now knowing your intentions to ask taxpayers to support a new tax levy for City Parks while at the same time moving ahead with a tax exemption to Insight Reality is insulting to the citizens of North Canton. 

Ordinance No. 70-13 should be voted down.  

Lastly, I would like to address aspects of Ordinance No. 80-13 that propose to retitle the position of Chief Operator – Water Treatment Plant to Superintendent – Drinking Water Plant with a sizable increase in salary for the new position. 

For several years now, one half of the salaries of the City Administrator and the City Engineer have been paid out of the Water Fund. I seriously doubt that Mr. Grimes and Mr. Benekos spend half of their time on water issues. 

Paying general fund expenses out of enterprise water funds I believe is illegal. But assuming that the two highest paid City officials, the City Administrator and City Engineer, do indeed spend one-half of their time on water related issues, as their pay would indicate, why do the City’s taxpayers need to fund yet another high-paid position to deal with water issues, titled Superintendent – Water Treatment Plant? 

Ordinance No. 80-13 needs to be reworked and I would urge that it be tabled. Keep the present title of Chief Operator – Water Treatment Plant. There is no reason to create another high level position in water that will be filled with yet another patronage appointment by the Mayor. 

Thank you,
Chuck Osborne, Resident
City of North Canton