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NEWTON FALLS In recall, voters oust 2 officials



Published: Wed, August 7, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



Voters say they were disgruntled with the behavior of city council.

By STEPHEN SIFF

VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF

NEWTON FALLS -- Voters in Newton Falls ejected two longtime city councilmen in the city's second recall election in a decade.

"I'm not going to go to bed and cry, I'll tell you that," said Thomas McKee, who has represented the city's 4th Ward off and on for about 17 years. "I might just celebrate."

Lester Irwin, the 2nd Ward councilman and former city mayor who also was recalled, declined to speak Tuesday night.

"The public will notice the difference," said Kevin Rufener, a 33-year-old lifelong city resident who was elected to replace McKee.

Rufener said residents had become fed up with city council not only for its handling of Streetscape, the controversial $3 million downtown redevelopment project, but also on a number of other issues.

"City council has been ignoring public opinion, refusing to respond to questions and not allowing us to know anything to do with the decision-making that goes on in this town and affects us," he said.

Streetscape, however, was on the minds of many voters who turned out at polls Tuesday. Irwin and McKee have been proponents of the project, which was approved by city council Monday.

What voters said

"We should have been voting on Streetscape, not on the recall of two councilmen," said Kristi Gibson, who lives in the 2nd Ward. "These guys haven't done any treason or anything."

Others were more critical of council.

"I feel people have their own agendas, and they don't necessarily reflect the constituents," said Jennifer Zelle of the 2nd Ward.

On election night, the Trumbull County Board of Elections reported that of 562 registered voters in the 2nd ward, 85 came out to vote to recall Irwin, and 57 voted to allow him to keep his job.

The election results will become effective as soon as the board of elections meets to formally certify the results, likely in the next week, said Norma Williams, executive director of the board.

Because no one filed to be on the ballot to replace Irwin, it will be up to city council to appoint someone to fill his term through 2003, she said.

In the 4th Ward, which has 692 registered voters, 172 people voted to remove McKee from office, and 72 people voted to keep him.

Candidates

Two candidates were on the ballot to replace McKee, whose term also extended to 2003: Rufener, who received 110 votes, and Phillip M. Beer, who received 87.

"We are basically on the same side," Beer said before election results were announced. "Council was not listening to the voting public."

An even more blunt assessment of city council came from Richard Braun II, a student and engineering technician from the 2nd Ward.

"They made mistakes, and it is our job to call them on it," he said.




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