YOUNGSTOWN Panel to pick from 8 seeking 7th Ward seat

The candidates are known to those in the ward's community and political circles.
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 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, Kenneth Stanislaw, Ronald Skowron 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 with a long list of community activities, was out of state and not available to comment late last week.
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.
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.
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.
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.
USkowron and Vivo added their names to the race late and were not immediately available Monday to comment.

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