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Marsico bows out; timing is perfect



Published: Sun, January 15, 2012 @ 12:00 a.m.

By Todd Franko (Contact)


The timing this week of Richard Marsico’s decision to not seek re-election as Mahoning County engineer was as ironic as it was appropriate.

It was appropriate in that our last year was spent highlighting questionable county pay raises and other spending.

In the cross hairs of my columns here and various expressions of outrage via public meetings and public letters were Marsico and county Prosecutor Paul Gains.

The final nail was the Democratic Party handing its endorsement over to a newcomer and not Marsico.

The irony in all of this?

It was one year ago that the first stories of Marsico’s raises were printed here. The reporting went:

“In the office of Engineer Rich Marsico, 25 managers received raises:

“Nineteen of the raises were between 2 percent and 5 percent.

“Four of the best raises were to his top managers. They all received 11 percent and 12 percent raises.”

When Marsico and Marilyn Kenner interviewed with me a year ago, I don’t believe any of the three of us believed it would result in his losing Democratic Party support.

The other irony in Marsico’s timing is what Kenner said in an unrelated story last week.

It was a story about the equipment that protects us on the roads we drive on in wintry weather. The county just bought three new vehicles, and in last week’s story, Kenner offered:

“We’d like to replace [trucks] every five years, but, obviously, we just don’t have the funds to do that.”

It was very similar to a comment Marsico made last summer on the topic of road paving. It was about the county finally repaving the Baghdad-ish North Lima Road (which, admittedly, was not as bad as the Lyons Boulevard atrocity on the Struthers/Poland line area that the county finally repaired after years of complaints).

Marsico said, “Ideally, we would repave roads every 10 to 15 years. But with costs now, it’s more like 20 to 25 years.”

Let me interpret both:

We would have more plows on roads that were more freshly paved if we did not hand out clothing allowances to clerical workers and 12 percent pay raises.

We do many stories each year that result in civic action. More times than not, they are charitable efforts: We profile a group or a family in need; you all step up to help.

Not often does this happen, where we point out a problem in the power structure, and change happens. In a previous place, I remember a government search group anointing a person as a top police chief candidate.

We researched his troubled background, reported it, and within days, he was off the list. He should not have been the top candidate.

For such change to occur, however, someone has to step up, and last week that someone was the Democratic leadership.

They said no to Marsico and Gains.

Don’t expect Gains to go the Marsico route. He’ll cowboy it all the way to the end.

(Now, I cannot shake the image I have of him walking the courthouse halls, in slow motion, to the soundtrack of Kid Rock’s “I’m a Cowboy — Baby.”)

And maybe he’ll keep his office. While Marsico won only 32 percent of the party’s support, Gains won 43 percent to challenger Jay Macejko’s 57 percent.

Marsico’s job appears headed to newcomer Patrick Ginnetti.

And that’s where the inspiring turn of events turns to hopefulness that any newcomer does the right thing.

Managing government operations has become difficult and complicated.

You have to set priorities while balancing work-force needs versus taxpayer needs.

Change came to Mahoning County when it became clear that in balancing clothing allowances versus older plows, and 12 percent manager raises versus fewer paved roads, Marsico and Kenner forgot to keep taxpayers a priority.

Todd Franko is editor of The Vindicator. He likes emails about stories and our newspaper. Email him at tfranko@vindy.com. He blogs, too, on vindy.com.


Comments

1johnyoung(241 comments)posted 2 years, 9 months ago

Mr. Franko's view of public service and the manner in which he suggests voters should select candidates is absolutely ludicrous. Evidently, he has never heard of the concept of "public value", nor how it is created and how it is measured. One one side of the equation, we have Mr. Marsico, who has served as county engineer for 15 years, and had a total of around 30 years of public service. He has a set of measurable outcomes: his record of accomplishments (miles of road paved, number of bridges and culverts repaired, number of roads widened...etc, as compared to the dollars spent). On the other side, we have Mr. Ginnetti. Although he meets the minimum qualifications to hold the office, he has no record of public sector accomplishments. Therefore, the campaign should be about Mr. Ginnetti's explanation of what particular talents he possesses and concepts he will implement that will enable him to better Marsico's record, or increase the level of 'public value' supplied to the taxpayers. To suggest that Ginnetti is the better candidate simply because Marsico failed to pave one road and gave out pay raises to his staff is totally illogical and an insult to the voters of Mahoning County. As Mr. Ginnetti will soon discover, there are many elements that enter into the public sector decision making process, and public infrastructure projects do no simply occur spontaneously. It takes a lot of hard work and a dedicated and knowledgeable staff.

Instead of hailing Marsico's exit from the campaign, Mr. Franko, in his role as an advocate for the people, should be urging the democratic party to refrain from endorsing any candidates in contested primary races and then pressuring the non-endorsed candidates to withdraw from the race, so that an open debate can occur requiring each candidate to demonstrate how he or she can bring increased 'public value' to the particular office. I'm not proclaiming either one of these individuals to be the better choice. What I am saying is that the voters should have an opportunity to learn and compare the differences between the two. Only then will the right choices me made.

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2johnyoung(241 comments)posted 2 years, 9 months ago

Drone:

The point of my comment, which you evidently missed, is that the voters, not the Vindicator, and not the 254 precinct committee persons should have the opportunity to make a value judgment and select the best of the choices offered. What does the average Mahoning County voter know about Mr. Ginnetti? Absolutely nothing! Yet he has in effect already been 'elected' as their county engineer.

If you believe you have what it takes to be an effective county engineer, you are free to go out and secure the required state licenses, and put your message out there! As I said in my original post, public improvement projects don't just happen. They require knowledge, skill, experience, and proper department staffing. What I am saying is that we, the voters, have been denied the opportunity to determine which one of these individuals best possess these qualities. Now U unnerstan?

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3TheLostPatrol(756 comments)posted 2 years, 9 months ago

And for his allegiance; from stepping down so that the hand-picked candidate can be given the position without opposition from within the Party, Mr. Marsico will be handed a "token" position by either the Federal, State, or Local Political Democrats; either to a Board of some sorts, or a Commission in Early 2013. Because in the public/political sector, that's how the take care of each other.

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4johnyoung(241 comments)posted 2 years, 9 months ago

@ Drone:

Do you post just because you get a kick out of reading your own writing? My point all along was about the game, not the players (ie:"I'm not proclaiming either one of these individuals to be the better choice. What I am saying is that the voters should have an opportunity to learn and compare the differences between the two".) Remember that from my original post?

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5stonehead(25 comments)posted 2 years, 9 months ago

you all missed the point dick did NOT run the engineers office. kenner did she said it in the vindy / in union meetings " I RUN THIS F&^%$#@ OFFICE . and she did a good job of screwing it up

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6paulparks(235 comments)posted 2 years, 9 months ago

RobX,

You don't understand the real world. The average professional would kill for an assistant prosecutor position or a position in the engineer's office.

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7toddfranko(100 comments)posted 2 years, 9 months ago

RobX:

Simply crazy. Read the 12-month history of our/my coverage.
I have said over and over that the salaries are low in many areas of the county. I even think $50/$60K for lawyers is low. And I wouldn't do a CSB worker's job for the money they get. And the entire county workforce is letting the deputies work for peanuts.
My point all year is not that you have to work for peanuts. It's that peanuts is what's coming in in the form of tax dollars. It's not the 90s anymore. Yet some officeholders choose to pay out like there's prime rib coming in and Clinton's in office -- all the while enjoying benefits that on average, exceed the current private market place.
Public workers in the 80s bemoaned that they needed to be treated like private workers, and the performance would be better, etc.
So starting in the late 80s and through the 90s, that happened.
Now? It's no longer OK to be treated like the private sector.
That's been the point for 12 months of our writing that's tried to zero in on the last 4 years of local government spending.
And we will continue it. Where there's a levy asking the private sector for additional funds, there will be pay and benefits histories.

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8jupiter(116 comments)posted 2 years, 9 months ago

Todd-ENOUGH! Really. The Vindicator has, in a vain attempt to appear relevant, escalated its war upon that evil and vile creature known as the "public employee."
The only problem with this tactic is that rather than hold the POLITICIANS accountable, the Vindy wages its war against the common employee.
Fortunately the tide is turning. Rather than a hatred for public employees, the sentiment is vastly becoming one of realization of who the real enemy is...and it begins with the policy makers (the politicians) and continues on through the sycophants like Todd and Bertram. Blaming rank and file employees is at the very least lazy journalism and disingenuous. More ominously it smacks of pushing an agenda which, in case you didn't realize it, was soundly rejected this past November.
Publish what you would like, Todd. But remember: those "evil and vile" public employees are free to avoid spending their "overinflated" wages and benefits at any of your advertisers.
Further, your fascination with the benefits of others is ironic to say the least. Want to reign in healthcare costs? I bet if you tried to tie your shoes you'd find a very good place to start....

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9BridgeGuy37(23 comments)posted 2 years, 9 months ago

Mr. Franko:
Thank you for your informed pieces over the last year. I have been reading and commenting along the way. It is a sad state of affairs when someone believes that their suffrage is being infringed upon because of an endorsement. Mr. Marsico was not required to exit the race, he chose to do so on his own free will. The only reason that Mr. Ginnetti becomes the apparent winner is because no Republican possessing the qualifications for County Engineer dare run in this area as it becomes a waste of money and time. Unfortunately, "johnyoung" and most of the voting population in the county fail to realize this. It is not the MCDP's fault that the only electable candidates in Mahoning County have the surtitle of "D." It is solely a lack of competition and/or the ability to compete. Even so, Mr. Ginnetti is a fine man and intelligent engineer who brings private sector qualifications to the table, not the luggage of a career politician. If anyone disagrees, I invite them to personally speak with him and research his qualifications. Then again, research takes energy and perseverance. Election of the best person with public interests first begins here and now. Furthermore, @stonehead is correct, and is something I have been saying for many years, Mrs. Kenner runs the office. Marsico is just an elected face with a large salary. Maybe that’s what “johnyoung” should be complaining about, that his wishes as a constituent not being executed by whom he elected.

Again, many thanks for speaking the cloaked truth about waste in Mahoning County Government, as many others have been afraid to do the same.

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10johnyoung(241 comments)posted 2 years, 9 months ago

BridgeGuy:

I must say that you have quite eloquently muddied and twisted the central argument I presented. The issue is not whether Ginnetti or Marsico is the better candidate, or who is currently running the County Engineer's office. Instead, the issue is that the endorsement process and the shenanigans that follow take away the electorate's ability to choose between the two. I am not implying anything negative about Mr. Ginnetti, his level of experience, or his qualifications, but do you not believe that an opportunity for a side by side comparison within the context of a competitive campaign would help the voter select who he or she believes is the best candidate?

If a candidate wants my vote, it is up to him to present his qualifications and fitness for office, and convince me why I should vote for him. It is not, as you suggest, up to the voter to conduct exhaustive research to uncover the real Pat Ginnetti. Since there will be no campaign and no motivation for Mr. Ginnetti to get his message out, the average voter will cast his or her vote absent any compelling information.

Further, I was not necessarily disagreeing with Mr. Franko's criticism of the pay raises Marsico gave his managers, rather as I stated:
"Mr. Franko, in his role as an advocate for the people, should be urging the democratic party to refrain from endorsing any candidates in contested primary races and then pressuring the non-endorsed candidates to withdraw from the race, so that an open debate can occur requiring each candidate to demonstrate how he or she can bring increased 'public value' to the particular office".

The concept of 'public value' I mention, is all about outcomes, and who is able to produce those outcomes that are in the public's best interests. Competitive campaigns in this regard are at the root of our political system and an integral part of the selection process for filling public offices. The Mahoning County democratic party is severely maligning that process.

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11grand4dad(196 comments)posted 2 years, 9 months ago

Excellent post jupiter.

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