Thursday, July 28, 2005

Janet Creighton is not Tom Noe

A couple of blogs are piling on Canton Mayor Janet Creighton due to an inquiry in Stark County over property valuations. Yes, we are talking about property valuations. Hoo boy. Can we stand the excitement. Needless to say, for this to be a topic, someone thinks they catch the whiff of scandal.

Briefly, the current County Auditor, a Democrat, is wondering why a bunch of properties were appraised down in 2000, then appraised up again in 2003 – all while his Republican predecessor was still in office. His predecessor, Janet Weir Creighton, now the mayor of Canton, was active in Bush’s campaigns in ‘00 and ’04.

Still awake? Lets bring in Jeff Seeman (writing not on his blog, but on Grow Ohio) to spice things up. As I said, a number of properties were appraised down in 2000 – mostly in three jurisdictions. After noting that the three jurisdictions involved were among the wealthiest four in the county, he goes off as follows:

These same wealthy people had their property taxes INCREASED in 2003 back to the proper levels. One would think that perhaps this was simply correcting a wrong, and maybe it was....unless you happen to remember what Creighton was telling supporters during the 2004 Presidential campaign.

At a Bush rally in 2004, Creighton was the head cheerleader. The main focus of her speech was obviously the war...the other one was how Bush would lower their taxes.
My campaign had a person on the inside taking notes on all the speeches (mainly in the hopes my opponent would take the microphone, which he did not). Creighton blamed property tax increases on the "obstructionist Democrats", and promised that Bush would continue to lower them.

Add it all up yet?

* Taxes were the issue in 2000, Creighton gave breaks to the rich and pushed Bush's tax-break agenda.
* One year before his re-election, she had them raised again, outraging the rich, then promised them that the Republicans could lower them again.

In the end, she appears to have manipulated the system to help her party the most important county of the most important state of the most important election ever.

General Washington summarizes with even higher invective on Ohio Watch:

If anyone in local politics qualifies as a partisan Republican hack in this area - it's Janet Creighton. As far as missing documents - I wouldn't necessarily put it past these people to destroy evidence of wrongdoing. But regardless of that possibility, they've just provided another perfect example of how the Culture of Corruption doesn't only infect the statehouse, it's infecting at least one community in Ohio as well - one that cannot afford it anymore than the rest of the state. Canton would do well to see her gone from office.

So there we go. Janet Creighton tried, convicted and sentenced, and we haven't even brought in the special prosecutor yet. Well, I dissent.

I have three problems with all this. First, it’s premature. The posts above were based on the first newspaper story about the current auditor looking for someone to investigate who doesn’t have an appearance of conflict. Yes, it’s the blogosphere and all, but declaring someone a participant in the Culture of Corruption® based on a story that an investigation is imminent is a little rich.

In fact, already the story is getting muddier. The centerpiece of yesterday's story in the Canton Repository (no long available on the website, but check out the blog posts) was a former high-level appraiser claiming to have received orders to lower appraisals. Today another top-level appraisal denies any such order. In a day we have gone from "sounds like something ain't right" to "sounds like someone's talking shit."

Second, the logic of the plot escapes me. If you are going to don the tinfoil hat, at least spin a good yarn. This one makes no sense. Consider, Creighton is campaigning for Bush in the waning days of the Clinton administration. She wants wealthy people to believe they would be better off under a Republican administration, so she . . . lowers taxes? Then in 2003, again for the benefit of Bushco, she . . . raises them? Let me here you all say . . . Wha?

Finally, there is Janet Creighton herself. Unlike Jeff, I won’t claim to “know her personally,” but I do know her by reputation. I worked in the prosecutor’s office for five years and her reputation for both integrity and competence was beyond reproach in my – very Democratic – office. She was known as a party loyalist, but neither a rigid partisan nor a movement conservative. She was well-known for her ability to work with officials of all political stripes. She was, in the mold of most R politicos in Stark, a pro-business moderate.

I must say that it’s been some years since I had day-to-day contact with the Stark political scene. It could be that in the intervening time Janet Creighton has jumped the ethical tracks, though I think it unlikely. This post isn’t about I’m right and they’re wrong, this post is about not going off half-cocked. I am a firm advocate of Democrats being the adults in the room, not because it come naturally to us, but because someone has to be while the Republicans are playing G.I.Joe.

And in a similar vein, let me say that I don’t exactly weep for Janet Creighton. She has maintained her support of a party that has coursened the political dialogue in this country to the point that a half-baked story like this gets flogged. Her party dragged a sitting president through impeachment over a tawdry sexual dalliance. Her party responds to any public criticism with opposition research, personal attack and echo chamber smear. Her party . . . my God, do I really need to catalogue all of their sins?

Janet Creighton is not the sort of Republican that I have grown to loathe from the moment I wake to my last conscious thought as I retire. But that sort of Republican sent out the chickens that are now roosting in her back yard. Hard to lose sleep over that, even if it is ill-founded.