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Redrawn lines get mixed reactions



Published: Sun, April 28, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



Those living in Columbiana County and rural portions of Mahoning County say they are pleased with the congressional district. Others aren't so happy.

By DAVID SKOLNICK

VINDICATOR POLITICS WRITER

BOARDMAN -- Boardman residents Bill Johnson and Charles Farrell believe their township will benefit from being a part of the new 6th Congressional District simply because it is the largest community in the district.

The new district snakes more than 300 miles down the eastern border of the state.

"Whoever is the representative from the 6th will need to pay a great deal of attention to [Boardman] if they want to remain in that seat," Johnson said.

But fellow Boardman residents George Grim and Jim Bolchalk see it differently.

"I live in Boardman and think the redistricting is an insult to all in the new district," Grim said.

"The needs of Boardman are vastly different from the needs of those in East Liverpool, Steubenville ... and the farmlands down in the southern reaches of the new district."

Bolchalk said he sees no connection in either the political or physical makeup of suburban Mahoning County "and the rural regions south of here that make up the rest of the district."

The Boardman residents were among those who responded to questions about the 6th District as participants of The Vindicator's e-mail news contacts group.

From rural areas

While residents in the more-populated Mahoning County suburbs are mixed on the impact of a new congressional district, many of those responding from Columbiana County and Mahoning's more rural townships are pleased with the change.

"I like the idea of being in the 6th District," said Rebecca Jones of New Springfield. "We're a rural area and have more in common with the areas we will be associated with now. Maybe they will start addressing the issues we face instead of focusing on major metropolitan areas."

"The new district will bring Salem closer to the demographic makeup of our old district before we were put into the current district with Mahoning and Trumbull," said Thomas Young of Salem.

"The new district will be more rural and less urban than the present, but will contain more commercial suburbs than our old former district."

The state Legislature adopted new congressional district lines earlier this year that divide the current 17th Congressional District, which represents most of the Mahoning Valley, and puts its remains into three separate districts. Columbiana County and Mahoning County, except its northeastern portion, were placed in the 12-county 6th District.

The decision appears to be political, said Paul Manchester of Canfield.

"I think it is a little gerrymandering and not too good for our community," he said.

Running for office

U.S. Rep. Ted Strickland, a Democrat who lives in Lucasville, as far away from the Valley in the new district as a person can get, is running for re-election. He has two Democratic challengers, and two Republicans are running in their party's May 7 primary.

Strickland said if he is re-elected, he plans to move to the central portion of the district near Marietta, but that would still put him more than 150 miles from the Valley.

"Because of the size and the distance, our community will have a hard time with representation," said Ginny Wolf of Lake Milton.

"We are a unique community and need a congressman familiar with our uniqueness. I will be very surprised if someone living 300 miles away will have many opportunities to visit Lake Milton."

Stuart M. Mulne of Boardman agrees.

"The whole thing is just nonsense," he said. "If it takes more than a few minutes for a representative to get between offices, he or she is going to be spending a lot of unproductive time on the road. I don't think anything much bigger than a county should be used in areas like the former 17th where the population is there to justify a district."

But Rick J. Morocco of North Lima says, "It really doesn't matter these days. With all the forms of communication we have at our disposal, I think the distance is really irrelevant."

Undecided on votes

About half of the news contacts say they have not decided whom they will vote for in the May 7 primary. But on the Democratic side, Strickland has the strongest support, and Republicans Lyle Williams and Michael Halleck are running neck-and-neck.

For some, the opportunity to get away from U.S. Rep. James A. Traficant Jr., the Valley's longtime and controversial congressman, is a blessing.

"I am not disappointed in being part of the new district," said Benjamin S. Blowers of Salem. "Columbiana County never got anything from our 17th District congressman, and now we are the most populated county in the district."

Johnson, of Boardman, said residents in his township should "see much improvement compared to the buffoonery of 'the son of a truck driver' Traficant."

Farrell, of Boardman, said he is sorry that the 17th District is being torn apart, but it could bring about positive change.

"This could turn out to help the entire Valley by forcing us to listen to some new voices," he said. "We have been politically stagnant here for some time. Fresh viewpoints may be just what we need."

skolnick@vindy.com




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