Mayoral candidates offer economic platform ideas
There are no fresh ideas in the campaign, a mayoral candidate says.
By DAVID SKOLNICK
VINDICATOR POLITICS WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- Mayoral candidate Maggy Lorenzi says she is realistic about her long-shot campaign for the seat.
However, that doesn't mean Lorenzi, an independent candidate, is going to keep quiet.
"I have no illusions of grandeur, but the community will be much better informed by the time the November election happens," said Lorenzi, known as an outspoken critic of Youngstown government practices.
Lorenzi said parts of the economic plan unveiled Thursday by Jay Williams, another independent candidate, are borrowed from other current and previous political campaigns.
Williams, who resigned in April as the city's Community Development Agency director to run for mayor, said he would establish a cabinet-level position of grant administrator to help the city obtain financial assistance for businesses, and he would organize summits with the local business community.
Several other candidates, as well as those who lost in the May Democratic primary for the mayoral seat, have called for business summits.
Lorenzi points out that John Swierz, a failed Democratic mayoral candidate, proposed hiring a grant administrator, and she has also talked about that idea during the general election campaign.
"There's nothing fresh out there," she said.
Williams said hiring a grant administrator is "an idea that's been kicked around forever. I'm not going to debate [Lorenzi] on who came up with the idea first."
The economic platform of state Sen. Robert F. Hagan, the Democratic mayoral nominee, includes one-stop permitting and being more aggressive with incentives to attract business to the city. Those items are also planks of Williams' platform.
Hagan said he and Williams are in agreement on a number of economic development ideas.
"I have a plan, he has a plan, everyone running should have a plan," Hagan said.
Lorenzi also said she's been concerned for quite some time about the city handling its own income tax collection, saying an outside agency could potentially do a better job. City council will consider at its Wednesday meeting a proposal to hire the Regional Income Tax Agency to collect city income tax instead of having city employees do it.
Lorenzi said the state should seek proposals from collection agencies before deciding to select RITA, which handles income tax collection for about 115 communities in Ohio.
Among the proposals in Williams' economic development platform is the creation of Joint Economic Development Districts with communities that surround the city. This has been done in other counties including Trumbull and Summit, but not in Mahoning. Williams is the only mayoral candidate proposing this economic development tool.
The district would allow Youngstown to offer economic development incentives that townships don't have, in order to encourage companies to develop on properties in those townships, Williams said. He's been in contact with Liberty and Austintown officials about the idea.
The creation of these joint districts, combined with aggressive cost management, is part of Williams' plan to potentially reduce the city's 2.75 percent income tax rate, the highest of any municipality in Ohio. Williams said the potential income tax reduction would be based on the success of the joint agreements, and he hopes it would result in an incremental reduction in the income tax during his first four-year term as mayor.
The communities involved in joint economic development districts would reap the benefits, including property tax payments, of having industry in their towns.