Only one of the three candidates for the Democratic nomination for president of Youngstown City Council attended The Vindicator's editorial board interview, a requirement to be considered for the newspaper's endorsement, but even if the other two had shown, it is hard to imagine not supporting Charles Sammarone.
That's because Sammarone's r & eacute;sum & eacute; as it pertains to city government dwarfs that of Mark Memmer and M. Mike McNair. Sammarone, currently Youngstown water commissioner, served as president of council from 1990 to March 1, 2002, and before that represented the 5th Ward starting in 1984.
By contrast, Memmer, who represents the 7th Ward, has served only 15 months in council; McNair has never been a city legislator.
Sammarone, on the other hand, not only has strong credentials as a lawmaker, but his experience in the executive branch will stand him in good stead as council president.
"With the election of a new mayor, it will be even more important for the president of council to have experience in creating a smooth transition between council and the new mayor," he says.
Given the many challenges confronting the city of Youngstown, including a strained operating budget, shrinking tax base, deteriorating neighborhoods and the drug-related crimes, the new mayor will need all the advice and guidance he can get. Sammarone could be an invaluable ally -- if he is embraced by the new administration.
There is another compelling reason to return him to council: he understands how the body works. Because there are seven members who represent seven distinct wards, it falls to the president to find a happy medium between their individual agendas and the overall interest of the city.
"The policy I followed as council president was that everyone had a right to an opinion; even if we didn't agree with the opinion, we respected the person giving the opinion," Sammarone says. He contends that in the last year or so, there has been a "lack of professionalism and respect for each other during council meetings."
While it is true that the president of council is basically a legislative traffic cop, the individual can play a major role in persuading lawmakers to look at the big picture. Being one of five officeholders to be elected citywide, the president of council can speak with a certain amount of authority when it comes to addressing issues such as downtown redevelopment.
As past president of the Youngstown Central Area Community Improvement Corporation and currently a member of its executive committee, Sammarone has worked closely and effectively with business and government leaders in forging a revitalization plan that not only addresses blight, but strives to bring jobs to the central business district.
His decision not to be cowed by the union that has been on strike at The Vindicator since Nov. 15 clearly shows that he is his own man. The same cannot be said of Memmer and McNair.
The Vindicator endorses Sammarone for the Democratic nomination for council president in the May 3 primary.