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YOUNGSTOWN CITY COUNCIL Swierz's support of arena board costs him clout



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



The councilman lost his seat on three of the most significant committees, including a chairmanship.

By ROGER G. SMITH

CITY HALL REPORTER

YOUNGSTOWN -- Councilman John R. Swierz has a new, unwanted title: pariah.

Swierz, D-7th, has paid the price for his long support of the civic center board's bid for independence, which a five-member council majority opposed and recently defeated.

That majority pushed Swierz, second in council seniority, from several top committee assignments. Such a display of power politics hasn't been seen on council since Herman "Pete" Starks ruled in the 1970s.

"I know that I was in a bad light with them," Swierz said of the majority. "This is payback."

Swierz lost his vice chairman seats on the finance and community development committees, which both oversee significant city spending. He also lost his chairmanship and seat on the safety committee, which handles fire and police, housing, demolition and zoning issues.

Losing the safety committee cuts deep for Swierz, a retired firefighter.

He got dumped as vice chairman of the parks committee, too. The majority left him as an economic development committee member and as chairman of the education committee. He was put on the public health committee to fill a vacancy.

There were two big winners: Richard Atkinson, R-3rd, and Artis Gillam Sr., D-1st. Atkinson took Swierz's vice chairman seat on the finance committee. Gillam gained Swierz's community development committee seat and became safety chairman.

Sefcik: Swierz and Ron Sefcik, D-4th, each supported the civic center board. Sefcik, however, emerged almost unscathed.

He was demoted from finance vice chairman to a plain member. He kept his spot on three other committees, however, including two chairmanships.

Nonetheless, Sefcik left Wednesday's council meeting with Swierz when they realized what the majority was doing.

Ambitions: Swierz has made no secret about running for mayor in four years. He suspects that played a role in how the rest of council handled the changes. Nonetheless, Swierz said the moves won't change any of his political plans.

"It's obvious I was the target," he said.

Swierz questions if losing his committees could jeopardize items he has advanced, such as First Night Youngstown and the city's comprehensive plan.

Atkinson, who headed the council group that made the changes, talked about how council needed to move in a more positive direction, to better work with city administration and about showing harmony among elected officials.

"City council is going in a new direction," Atkinson said. "We just needed some changes and we made those changes. Sometimes you have to move on, and we moved on."

Curiosities: Committee shuffling is mostly interesting only to people who pay attention to such things. For those who are, there were a few curiosities when the moves were made at council's meeting Wednesday night:

U Council committees traditionally are set for four years, but the current crew just finished its second year. Swierz wonders if the change signals using committees as a tool every time a council member steps out of line.

UTraditionally, the four most senior council members make up the group that doles out committee assignments. In this case, senior member James E. Fortune Sr., D-6th, deferred to the four most junior members: Gillam, Atkinson, Rufus Hudson, D-2nd, and Michael Rapovy, D-5th.

rgsmith@vindy.com




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