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YOUNGSTOWN COUNCIL Decision relieves Dem chief



Published: Wed, April 10, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



City precinct committee members will meet at 7 p.m. April 17 at the Saxon Club in Austintown.

By ROGER G. SMITH

CITY HALL REPORTER

YOUNGSTOWN -- City council's decision to let Democrats fill the vacant council president seat gets the party chairman out of a pickle.

David Ditzler, Mahoning County Democratic Party chairman, said he wasn't sure what would have happened if council members didn't back off plans to take such authority.

Council members were ready to pass ordinances giving them authority to appoint a president or another member to any midterm vacancies.

Monday night, however, council reversed course and defeated the items, leaving state law to prevail. State law leaves such decisions to political parties.

James E. Fortune Sr., D-6th, council's president pro tem, said backing away was in everyone's best interests.

Potential dilemma: Ditzler faced a problem if council had changed the laws. The new laws wouldn't take effect until next month. Meanwhile, under state law, the party would need to make a pick sometime next week.

The question would be whether the party's pick or council's choice later would be the president.

Ditzler said he was glad to avoid the quandary and surprised that council changed course so quickly. He thought they would deliberate more.

Court action on Monday seeking to block the council's vote hastened the matter. Democrats of the 17th District, a political organization, sought a restraining order in common pleas court. A hearing on the order was continued until next week, but the group made clear it would pursue the issue in court, regardless.

Reaction: Mark Belinky, president of the group, said he was pleased with how everything turned out. He is a bit concerned, however, about comments that council might revisit the issue later.

Changing the city charter -- with a vote by the people -- is needed, not a change in law, he said.

Belinky also was concerned about criticisms that his challenge was out of line. Citizens have the right to raise objections to government actions, he added.

Ditzler said he told council members he thought bypassing state law carried an "air of impropriety."

"It just didn't look good, didn't feel good," he said.

The city's 120 party precinct members are more capable of making the choice because they're a wider representation of the community, Ditzler said.

Deadline: Anyone interested in filling the council president seat must send the party a letter of interest and a r & eacute;sum & eacute; by Monday.

So far, only Councilman John R. Swierz, D-7th, has expressed an interest, Ditzler said.

Letters and r & eacute;sum & eacute;s must be received so ballots can be made up for the meeting of city precinct committee members at 7 p.m. next Wednesday at the Saxon Club in Austintown.

Letters can be sent to the party at P.O. Box 812, Youngstown 44501.

The appointment lasts until November 2003, when there will be an election to fill out the term, which expires at the end of 2004, Ditzler said.

rgsmith@vindy.com




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