Five of the seven candidates for mayor of Youngstown are apparently unaware of the fact that the job they are seeking -- chief executive of a municipal corporation -- is a management position.
Only two candidates had the intestinal fortitude to walk into The Vindicator last week for the traditional pre-endorsement interview with the paper's editors. We'll discuss a bit later what the election of any of the absent candidates would portend for Youngstown.
The candidates we interviewed, Robert E. Bush Jr., a former Youngstown law director who is now the city police chief, and Sylvester D. Patton Jr., Democratic state representative from the 64th district, discussed at length their plans for making Youngstown a better city.
They agree that the city must be able to attract economic development. Patton, with his background in Columbus and a reputation for being able to work with both Democrats and Republicans, probably has the edge there.
Both agree that the Convocation Center has the potential for helping downtown, but that tens of millions of dollars could have been better spent on more substantial redevelopment projects.
And both believe that the city has not been as aggressive as it should have been in saving and rebuilding city neighborhoods.
Where Bush comes out stronger is in his well-articulated promise that he will see to it that the city does a better job of providing services to its residents with the resources available.
Every year, he says, the city waits too long to organize grass-cutting duties. On a larger scale, he believes that by organizing two teams that will be responsible for housing demolition -- one north of the river, one south -- results will improve. "The delivery of routine city services should not be an extraordinary event," he summarizes.
Patton has been an effective voice for the city in Columbus -- especially given that he is part of the ever-shrinking Democratic minority -- but Bush, as a lawyer, the city's former law director and as the police chief, has stronger management credentials.
We believe the city would be well-served by electing Bob Bush mayor. We believe that Patton will continue serving the city's interests in Columbus during his remaining term as a legislator.
Among the missing
To return to an issue raised in the lead of this editorial, we believe none of the other five candidates is capable of functioning as a strong mayor, which is what the city's charter requires.
Their refusal to submit to an interview -- and their myopia in doing so -- is telling.
They ignore the fact that this is a union newspaper and that the members of three separate unions come to work every day. Employees in the inserting operation are represented by the Teamsters, press operators are represented by the GCIU and platemakers are represented by the CWA/ITU are not on strike. Only members of the Guild, which represents some employees in the newsroom, circulation and classified advertising departments, are on strike.
Despite that, the knee-jerk reaction of the five absent candidates was that they couldn't cross a picket line to be interviewed.
The race's fringe candidate, William E. Flickinger, released a statement calling for all candidates in the race to boycott the paper's endorsement process. Four of his running mates fell into lockstep. At one point, Michael Rapovy made an appointment to come in, but called a few days later to say he had reconsidered, in light of union support he was receiving. John R. Swierz returned a call to say he wouldn't be seeking the endorsement. Robert F. Hagan and James Fortune Sr. didn't respond to the questionnaires they were sent and didn't return follow-up phone calls.
Why should taxpayers care about these candidates snubbing of the newspaper? Because, as we said at the top, the mayor is supposed to manage the city's operation, and providing government services is a labor intensive proposition.
Salaries and fringe benefits cost money -- taxpayers' money.
Virtually every political subdivision in Ohio -- cities, villages, counties, townships, school districts -- is grappling with how to meet rising expenses at a time when income is dropping.
A good mayor has to be tough
Every mayor, commissioner and school superintendent in the state will have to look for ways of cutting expenses and will have to be a tough negotiator when representing his constituents' interests against those of the public employee unions.
Would Hagan, Fortune, Rapovy, Swierz or Flickinger be able to say "no" tomorrow to the unions that they do not dare to offend today? We don't think so.
The city of Youngstown is going to have to adapt to the financial realities of the day. Employees are going to have to accept more responsibility for holding down the cost of health care. Wages and benefits of city employees, which decades ago were well below the average of private industry, have continued to grow. Instead of demanding economy, city officials have sought tax increases.
The city has gone to that well once too often, and Bush is among the candidates who recognize that unless the tax rate is cut, Youngstown is likely to lose more private sector jobs. That's just another reason Bob Bush is the best choice for mayor.