Officials discuss change

Let's not confuse the voters concerning the sales tax, the board president says.
YOUNGSTOWN -- Mahoning County Commissioner John McNally has proposed a ballot issue that would establish a county charter commission to study whether the county commissioner form of government should continue, but his colleagues, Anthony Traficanti and David Ludt, said they don't favor the idea at this time.
Such a commission would study whether the three commissioners should be replaced with a county executive and an elected county council, whether the elected coroner should be replaced with an appointed medical examiner, and whether the elected recorder and treasurer should be replaced with appointed administrative functionaries.
McNally said Monday that a county executive and council system, like that of Summit County, could offer advantages similar to that of Youngstown's mayor and city council system, where the mayor has strong and effective executive powers.
Under the current county commissioner form of government, "We're trying to be policymakers and then implement that policy as well," McNally said. "And I think, sometimes that works, but oftentimes, it doesn't."
A charter form of county government might bring about more centralized control over semi-independent county functions, such as the health department, board of mental retardation and developmental disabilities, and children services board, he said.
A part-time county council might encourage more people to become involved in county government, McNally said.
"I do not want to confuse the taxpayers that a charter government is going to replace the county sales tax,'' said Traficanti, who was re-elected as chairman of the commissioners. One of the county's two half-percent sales taxes will be on the ballot for renewal in May, he added.
"Putting centralized power into a county executive [who could be controlled by an outside power broker] ... creates a kingdom, and I am afraid of that," Traficanti said, adding that a charter form of government might slow the governmental process by requiring multiple readings before the county council can pass legislation. "We must proceed with caution on this," he said.
The county's priorities this year are to renew the sales tax, fund the county jail and begin moving county offices into Oakhill Renaissance Place, the former Forum Health Southside Medical Center, Ludt said, adding that he doesn't favor changing the county's form of government now.
After hearing from his colleagues, McNally said he wasn't making any motion now to put the charter issue on the ballot. He realizes such a ballot issue would have to be endorsed by two of the three commissioners, that the earliest ballot time for it would be November, and that the county must maintain both of its half-percent sales taxes.
"I don't want to confuse the voters of Mahoning County," he said. "We need a sales tax no matter what form of government you have," he added. McNally, who said establishing a charter form of government would take three to four years, was elected vice president of the commissioners.
Other action
In other business, the commissioners introduced Phil T. Moore, the new executive director of the county's convention and visitors bureau, who began work in his office on the third floor of the county administration building, and hired two companies to make improvements to Judge Maureen A. Sweeney's new courtroom over the next three months.
They awarded an 85,000 contract to Aberdeen Corp. of Boardman to make the jury box, witness stand and bench handicap accessible and a 31,023 contract to B & amp;J Electric of Poland for electrical, lighting and security system upgrades.
Judge Sweeney's common pleas courtroom is the former courtroom of the 7th District Court of Appeals, which moved to a new downtown building last year.

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