Congressional redistricting demands regional approach
Mahoning County commissioners should not rush to judgment about the redrawn boundaries for Ohio's congressional districts, the effect of which has been to split Mahoning County into two districts. While commissioners Edward Reese and David Ludt are understandably upset with the way the Republican leadership in the Ohio House and Senate have treated this region, we would urge them to take a deep breath before acting on their threat to withdraw from the Western Reserve Port Authority.
The authority, a partnership between Mahoning and Trumbull counties, governs the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport and promotes economic development projects in both counties. Each county contributes $300,000 a year to cover the airport's operating costs. Now, however, Reese and Ludt are wondering whether its new partner should be Columbiana County, which has been joined with the southern half of Mahoning County and 10 other counties mostly along the Ohio River to form the 6th congressional district.
Reese and Ludt may have some justification in arguing that the Columbiana County Port Authority could be a good fit, seeing as how its river development initiatives are part of the state's intermodal transportation plan.
But given the fact that the ink is not yet dry on the congressional redistricting map, we believe that a discussion about the future of the Mahoning Valley is in order.
Regionalization: We urge the Youngstown-Warren Regional Chamber of Commerce to convene a meeting of all elected officials in Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties so the issue of regionalization can be publicly discussed. The officeholders should be encouraged to share their thoughts about the unraveling of the current 17th congressional district, which comprises all of Mahoning County, a large part of Trumbull County and most of Columbiana County, and whether having three congressional districts taking its place means the demise of the Mahoning Valley as a region.
We do not believe that the Valley's commonality of interest has been destroyed by the new congressional lines, but it will be necessary for governments in the tri-county area to develop new strategies for dealing with the three members of Congress. Communities in northern Trumbull County will be part of a district now represented by Republican Congressman Steven LaTourette, the southern half of Mahoning County, starting with Boardman, and Columbiana County will be in Democrat Ted Strickland's district, while the rest of Trumbull, including Warren, and the northern half of Mahoning, including Youngstown, will be in Democrat Tom Sawyer's district.
Despite such a divide, the Valley as a region still has strength -- because of its cohesive population.