The redistricting plan is expected to be announced early next year.
By DENISE DICK
VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF
WARREN -- Being part of a congressional district separate from Mahoning County would benefit Trumbull County, area officials contend.
Trumbull commissioners and leaders from several municipalities plan to send a letter to Gov. Bob Taft, listing the advantages of splitting the two counties into separate congressional districts.
A redistricting plan is expected to be announced in February; Ohio will lose a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives because of a population decrease.
Mahoning and Columbiana counties and most of Trumbull County make up the 17th Congressional District.
Possible change: There's been speculation that Mahoning and Trumbull could be split into two separate districts, with Mahoning and Columbiana grouped with Jefferson and Belmont counties and Trumbull going with Lake, Ashtabula and a sliver of Cuyahoga.
The Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber of Commerce asked commissioners to sign a letter to the governor urging keeping the district intact. The chamber thinks keeping the counties together maximizes economic development efforts.
Trumbull officials: Commissioners met Thursday with the mayors of Niles, Girard, Cortland, Hubbard and Lordstown and the administrator of McDonald to get their views. They don't support the chamber's plan.
"They've got three federal courthouses, and we don't have any," said Commissioner Joseph Angelo, referring to Mahoning County. "Trumbull County has 225,000 residents and Mahoning has 235,000. Our downtown needs help just like downtown Youngstown needs help."
A split would enable Warren to have largest-city status in the district rather than Youngstown, giving the city a better shot at federal funding, Warren Mayor Hank Angelo said.
Greg Sherlock, vice president of media communications for the chamber, was shocked that Trumbull officials want to go to another district.
Earlier discussion: The chamber met with commissioners from the three counties in early October and talked about regionalization. Chamber officials left that meeting thinking they had a consensus about the importance of keeping the district together, Sherlock said.
"With regionalization, you're setting priorities for one cause, not for three," he said. "Right now we've got a pretty good process where we can work as a region."
Chamber officials met with business and union leaders and members of the state delegation who agreed keeping the district intact is crucial for economic development, Sherlock said. He questioned why commissioners didn't bring up their concerns at previous meetings.
Mayor James Melfi of Girard, which shares a border with Youngstown, said his city benefits when Youngstown prospers because many Girard residents work in Youngstown. But Youngstown would retain largest-city status in its congressional district under the rumored plan, he said.
"If the chamber wants the district to stay the way it is, they should come and tell us why, because what have they done for us?" said Niles Mayor Ralph A. Infante Jr.
Hank Angelo agreed. The city received $2.5 million this year in funding from the state for the Riverwalk and other projects, but that came through local representatives.
"As far as any involvement from the chamber, I'd be hard-pressed to put my finger on anything," he said.
More representation: Lordstown Mayor Arno Hill said that having two representatives in Washington, D.C., representing the Mahoning Valley instead of one would benefit the whole area.