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GOP still has the time to preserve the Valley



Published: Sun, January 20, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



The Mahoning Valley is being asked to pay too high a price to keep the cities of Youngstown and Warren in one congressional district.

That, in a nutshell, is the message influential Republicans in the Mahoning Valley should be delivering to the GOP leadership in the Ohio General Assembly. And they've got less than two days to do it.

On Tuesday, the General Assembly is scheduled to vote on a bill that defines the boundaries of Ohio's 18 congressional districts -- one less than what the state has had for the past 10 years. The reduction is the result of Ohio's relatively small population gains during the 1990s. And some counties in northeastern Ohio - including Mahoning and Trumbull - actually lost population.

By virtue of their control of the General Assembly, Republicans have the responsibility of redrawing the congressional borders, an exercise that takes place every 10 years following the national population census.

While many parts of the state will be impacted by the new boundaries, the Mahoning Valley has borne the brunt of the redistricting.

Impact: The current 17th District, made up of all of Mahoning County, a large portion of Trumbull County and most of Columbiana County, and represented by Congressman James A. Traficant Jr., D-Poland, since 1985, will cease to exist under the GOP plan.

Instead, the southern half of Mahoning County, including Boardman, Poland and Canfield, and Columbiana County will become part of a district now represented by Ted Strickland, D-Lucasville.

Indeed, the district, which will carry the designation 6th, starts at Mahoning County and goes all the way south along the Ohio River to Scioto County, a 250-mile jaunt. There two words that aptly define the gerrymandered district -- Big Ugly.

The northern half of Mahoning -- Youngstown, Austintown, Struthers, Campbell and Coitsville -- and Trumbull County, including Warren but minus some of the communities in the north, will be added to a district now represented by Thomas Sawyer, D-Akron. Sawyer is former mayor of that city.

Most of Portage County will also be in the district.

Time is short: The obvious political destruction of the Mahoning Valley must become a clarion call over the next 24 hours.

Gov. Bob Taft, House Speaker Larry Householder and Senate President Richard Finan, all Republicans, should be urged to at least consider moving Boardman, Poland and Canfield into what is referred to as the Sawyer district.

For months we have editorialized about the need for the Republican decision-makers in Columbus to take into consideration the commonality of interest that exists between Mahoning and Trumbull counties.

Seeing as how the Strickland district already goes as far south as the Ohio border and then goes west, we believe that the loss of population through the reassignment of Mahoning County can be made up by continuing westward

Yes, this is the 11th hour, but in politics, the 11th hour can represent a lifetime of work.

There are Republicans in the Valley who have been actively involved in the campaign to keep Mahoning and Trumbull counties together. But not every prominent GOP voice has been heard.

Likewise, there are Valley business leaders who have been on the front lines of the redistricting battle, but not ever influential individual has stepped forward.

We believe that at this late date, the golden rule -- he who has the gold rules -- can move political mountains.

Major contributors: There are Mahoning Valley residents who are recognized not only in Ohio but on the national level as being major contributors to the Republican Party. They are the ones who would get an attentive ear from the governor, the speaker of the House and the president of the Senate.

The splitting of the Mahoning Valley should not occur without a last-ditch effort to keep the region intact.




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