Stark County Comm'r: Bosley (D) Assails Regula (R) Over Decrepit 911 System
Township trustee and businessman Todd Bosley (D-Louisville) is running for Stark County Commissioner against first-term incumbent Richard Regula (R-Bethlehem Township), the son of veteran 16th Congressional District incumbent Rep. Ralph Regula (R-Navarre). It's what prompted Bosley to run that makes this an amazing story.
A little over a year ago, distraught parents of a child who nearly died when help arrived late following their 911 call approached Bosley as their township trustee to do something about the sorry state of the Stark County 911 emergency system. Bosley's inquiry led him to Regula, who conceded in their discussion that the system needs updating, but claimed that the funds for the upgrade were simply not available. Bosley, however, determined that there was a balance of a half million dollars lying unspent in the county's 911 account. That's when he decided to run for the county commissioner position himself.
Regula, scion of a powerful political family and recipient of campaign cash from PACs (reportedly including PACs connected to Tom Noe and Jack Abramoff) has a big advantage over Bosley in campaign resources. According to Bosley's campaign manager Kevin Fisher, however, the two candidates are running neck and neck. Bosley is running an intensive grassroots campaign, and the biggest thing he has going for him is the compelling nature of the 911 system issue.
As Fisher puts it, the unreliability of the 911 system is an issue that "impacts anyone who lives in, has family in, or even drives through Stark County." And, to help the campaign hammer this issue home to voters, Bosley can rely on a powerful news report broadcast by Cleveland's WEWS Channel 5 in February 2005. Read the transcript of the report here, or better yet watch the video on Bosley's campaign web site here.
The report describes three appalling Stark County 911 disasters: a man who died in December 2003 after his first 911 call was disconnected; a 13-year-old girl who died in July 2003 after 911 operators misdirected the call several times; and a 2-year-old girl who nearly died in December 2004 after the 911 operator transferred the call to a distant firehouse instead of one nearby.
Outside the city of Canton, which has its own state-of-the-art 911 emergency system for non-cell phone calls originating there, all Stark County 911 calls go to the basement of the Stark County Sheriff's Department, where the equipment has not been updated since it was installed in 1987 and "the only thing operators have to figure out where you are is a map tacked on the wall, and binders with addresses." According to Fisher, Regula has done nothing to improve the 911 system since becoming county commissioner, although he did install his father's campaign manager as head of the county EMT unit.
This sequence near the end of the Channel 5 report is absolutely devastating to Regula:
"You've got misdirected calls, outdated equipment, and 911 essentially has become its own emergency," said Bosley.The word on the street is that Ralph Regula is running his last campaign for the Congressional post that he has held since 1972, and the main reason he is running again this time is to keep the seat warm for his son Richard. Richard would be well positioned to run for Congress in 2008 without giving up his county commissioner post if he fends off Bosley in this race.
Stark County Commissioner Rich Regula agrees the system need to be upgraded, but defends it as a system that works.
"It takes time," said Regula.
Reporter Angie Lau: "It's one thing to say, it takes some time, but people's lives are at stake."
Regula: "Absolutely, they are at stake ... but you have to understand, it was a revenue shortfall ... but 99.9 percent of the calls are being handled properly."
But Nimishillen Fire Chief Rich Peterson disagrees. Peterson is also the president of the Fire Chiefs Association of Stark County, which has asked to reconvene the 911 Commission to fix the problem. "Sometimes it gets sent to the wrong center ... sometimes the call is dropped on the way to the dispatch center, there's no way you can pick the call back up," said Peterson.
Donate money to the Bosley campaign here, or sign up to volunteer here.