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MAHONING COUNTY Drawing the line at a split district



Published: Sat, January 19, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



Commissioner Ed Reese said a lawsuit could be filed against the state of Ohio.

By BOB JACKSON

VINDICATOR COURTHOUSE REPORTER

YOUNGSTOWN -- If legislators follow through with a plan to split Mahoning County among two congressional districts, Commissioner Ed Reese said it won't go unchallenged.

"If that happens, there could very well be a potential lawsuit against the state of Ohio," Reese said. "I think we have to challenge this, if possible."

The proposed redistricting plan would put northeastern Mahoning County, including Youngstown, in a district with all of southern Trumbull County, including Niles and Warren.

But most of Mahoning County's territory, and about half its population, would be in a district that stretches some 250 miles southward along the Ohio River, Reese said.

"Quite frankly, the part of our county that would be in that district is a growing area," Reese said. "It seems to have nothing in common with the other areas that we would be involved with."

Columbiana County is part of that district and has been in the same congressional district as Mahoning for the past decade. But Reese said counties south of Columbiana are too far removed to be lumped into the same district.

The redistricting plan seems headed for approval by the state next week. Reese said he'll start contacting commissioners from other counties on Monday to see whether they'll join in if legal action is taken.

"The term 'meandering' comes to mind when thinking about the way this plan was drawn up," Reese said. "It just disconnects us from where we should be."

Legal standing: Prosecutor Paul Gains said he's not sure whether county commissioners have legal standing to file such a lawsuit. If one is filed, it might have to be by a taxpayer, he said. "It's going to take a lot of research" before anything can be done, Gains said.

Joseph Caruso, special projects coordinator, said Mahoning County has worked hard the past several years to forge an "integrated labor market" with neighboring Trumbull and Columbiana counties.

It would make more sense to keep those three counties together because they are culturally and economically similar, he said. Tearing apart that regionalization would cause the county to suffer, he said.

bjackson@vindy.com




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