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Rift forms between mayor and council

Published: Fri, July 2, 2010 @ 12:00 a.m.

By David Skolnick (Contact)

On the side

It’s parade time: Ohio Treasurer Kevin Boyce, a Democrat seeking election in November, will walk in the Fourth of July Parade in Austintown on Sunday. The parade begins at 2 p.m.

As regular readers of my column know, this is my favorite local political event of the year.

Hopefully, politicians know their chances of winning heavily relies on their choice of parade candy. You’re going to get a lot more votes with Sweet Tarts, Now and Laters, Starbursts and Tootsie Rolls than you do with butterscotch and blue mints.

Right on target: The political action committee of Sarah Palin, everyone’s favorite ex-Alaska governor/failed Republican vice presidential candidate, has given $3,500 to the campaign of Bill Johnson of Poland, the Republican nominee for the 6th Congressional District seat.

Johnson’s campaign e-mailed his supporters touting the contribution and asked others to donate. Palin is targeting — using gun sights on a map — 20 House seat currently held by Democrats who voted for health care reform and represent districts won in 2008 by U.S. Sen. John McCain and her.

In public, it’s been all smiles between the current Youngstown City Council, seated in January 2008, and the Mayor Jay Williams’ administration.

But lately, including twice earlier this week, council members have replaced the smiles with sharp criticism of the administration.

It’s not unusual for friction to exist between members of the legislative and executive branches of government.

Years ago, with different mayors and different council members, disagreements and loud arguments in Youngstown were common.

Williams has shown great diplomacy with city council members since he took office in January 2006. His proposals are almost always embraced and approved by council.

Council let the administration handle delicate negotiations that led to V&M Star’s decision to build a $650 million expansion here.

“We give the administration the freedom to do what they think is best,” said Councilman DeMaine Kitchen, D-2nd.

There have only been a handful of times that complaints were aired in public.

That is until recently.

Members of council — particularly Kitchen, and Jamael Tito Brown, D-3rd — complained this week about being ignored by the administration on some key issues.

“The frustration is so strong,” Brown said.

Williams tried to smooth things by saying he understands the frustration, but council isn’t being ignored by the administration.

Kitchen quickly disagreed with the mayor.

Council members complained that their requests for demolitions are being ignored.

That issue came a day after members of council criticized Finance Director David Bozanich for recommending that the city buy the dilapidated former Paramount Theatre downtown and for failing to tell them about a side-deal with that property’s owner.

Bozanich fired back saying if council had approved his recommendation last year to lay off 60 city workers, there would be $2 million for commercial demolition projects.

It was uncharacteristic for Bozanich, who rarely loses his cool with council at public meetings.

The situation has escalated to the point that Kitchen said: “We may stop authorizing the administration for work it wants done.”

What’s causing the dissent?

Some in the administration say council members, who will seek re-election next year, are trying to show their constituents that they’re in control.

It could also be posturing to replace Williams, who can’t run for re-election in three years because of the city’s term-limits law.

Council members say the complaints come after being repeatedly ignored by the administration. They say council won’t be considered a rubber stamp for what the administration wants.

It will be interesting to see if these flare-ups are isolated or a sign of more friction between council and the administration.

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