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YOUNGSTOWN Dem Party will pick 7th Ward councilman



Published: Mon, April 29, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



The candidates are known to those in the ward's community and political circles.

By ROGER G. SMITH

CITY HALL REPORTER

YOUNGSTOWN -- This election for city council is different from most.

Usually, hundreds of voters decide who will be their ward council member.

But this time the decision will be made by no more than 10 Democratic Party members in Tuesday's vote to fill the vacant 7th Ward seat amid a crowded field.

The 19 precinct committee members in the 7th Ward will meet at 7 p.m. at Bobby D's Restaurant. They will decide who among the eight candidates takes over the seat from John R. Swierz. Citywide Democratic precinct committee members recently picked Swierz to fill the vacant city council president's seat.

The successful candidate needs to sway a majority of the committee members under party rules. The winner fills the seat until the end of next year.

The eight candidates who have expressed interest: Wallace Dunne, Mark Memmer, John Nittoli, Michael O'Hara, Joseph F. Rafidi, Ronald Skowron, Kenneth Stanislaw and John Vivo.

Here's the question

All are all known to those in the ward's community and political circles. The question becomes what separates each from the others:

UDunne, president of the 7th Ward Citizens' Coalition, talked about trimming away politics and staying focused on serving residents.

Council's agenda doesn't always seem to be the peoples' agenda, he said.

"We need to keep those agendas city of Youngstown agendas," he said.

Dunne also talked about assuring that the ward isn't marginalized. The ward pays among the most taxes and owns the most percentage of homes in the city, he said, and that needs to be recognized.

UMemmer talked about his nearly 20 years in business management. That background gives him the training and understanding of how to treat customers -- the ward residents, he said.

"Sometimes people holding political office forget that," he said.

Lack of follow-through or accountability in government drives him crazy because he is used to practicing both in business, Memmer said.

Residents will expect the new council member to maintain the responsiveness Swierz provided, he said.

Community service

UNittoli talked about his knowledge of the ward and his background of community service over the years.

He cited his years of work in many capacities, from a block watch president to his time before Swierz as an interim city council member.

"I'm in the neighborhood. I'm all over. They know me," he said. "Neighborhood, neighborhood, neighborhood."

Nittoli said he will keep pushing residents to get in compliance with housing codes, yet keep an eye on other major issues in the city such as development.

UMichael O'Hara talked about his community service experience as a teacher, law enforcement background as a civil deputy and as one of the co-founders of the 7th Ward coalition.

The ward and city need a new, less-political council member, he said. Such a person can be more objective than one who has been involved before, he said. There needs to be openness in council that isn't there now, he said.

Open to residents

URafidi talked about turning his law office on South Avenue into a place where ward residents could come to do business. The office would be open to residents all day, six days a week, he said.

People with questions could get them answered at the office, he said. He also could save people a trip downtown by having city forms available.

Rafidi said he doesn't know of another council member anywhere who has an office open to the public all week.

"It would be sort of an adjunct city hall," Rafidi said. "Constituent service is the thing to look at."

He, too, said neighborhood issues will be his focus. Rafidi said he is tired of seeing money spent on downtown that could be better spent in residential areas.

USkowron couldn't be reached this morning to comment. He has served on the school board.

He resigned from the board in January 2000, however, in exchange for dismissal of felony theft and tampering charges related to reimbursement for a bulletproof vest. He was a former city police officer.

UStanislaw talked about having a deeper background in the ward than most of the candidates.

"I've always been there," he said. "I've been involved in the community a long time."

Stanislaw was born and raised in the ward. He said he has been active consistently in community organizations for at least 15 years. He has been a co-founder of the 7th Ward coalition, involved with block watches and helped close down a nuisance bar, he said.

All the other candidates are good people, but some have only become active in recent years, he said.

Next year

UVivo said he is willing to run for the seat when it comes up next year, whereas some of the other candidates aren't, he said.

That should be a factor when the precinct people make their pick, he said.

Vivo said he's also one of only a few candidates who has spent his life in the ward. Some of the other candidates have lived in the area for only a few years, he said.

"I know the ins and outs of the area," Vivo said.

rgsmith@vindy.com




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