Ray, Drennen on right track as Youngstown councilmen

It is not A STRETCH to describe the city of Youngstown’s future as shaky. The 18 percent decline in population from a decade ago — there are now 66,000 residents — with the resultant loss of income tax revenue, the anticipated reduction in state funding and possible cuts in federal money for community development programs point to tough times ahead.

Now, more than ever, Youngstown needs strong leadership in government, which means the executive and legislative branches working together. There have been some rough patches between Mayor Jay Williams and members of city council, but they understand that Youngstown’s future hangs in a balance.

The one thing city government must have is stability, which is why we are endorsing two incumbent members of council in the May 3 Democratic primary.

Councilmen Mike Ray, D-4th, and Paul Drennen, D-5th, are the only two lawmakers in contested races, but that should not be viewed as anything more than just politics. Ray, who has been in council for only four months, and Drennen, who is completing his first four-year term, have proved to be dedicated, hard-working legislators.

If elected, Ray would serve a full four-year term, while Drennen would be serving his second term. Their opponents in the primary — three in the 4th and five in the 5th — have not presented persuasive arguments for replacing the incumbents. Indeed, four candidates chose not to attend The Vindicator’s editorial board interviews that are a requirement for endorsement consideration. Therefore, George Doward and Howie Edwards in the 4th Ward race and former state Rep. Sylvester Patton and William Dallas in the 5th are ineligible.

Of those who did meet with members of the editorial board, none made a compelling case for his candidacy, nor detailed how the officeholders had failed to adequately represent their constituents.

4th Ward

One of Ray’s top priorities is community policing, which we have advocated for many years. His grandfather, Sam Montmore, was a police officer.

“It’s a vital part of keeping our neighborhoods and thus our city safe,” the councilman says of having officers on the streets.

His challenger, Milan Zordich, a retired city firefighter, seems sincere about serving and points out that the 4th Ward has been declining for the past 10 years. But he acknowledges that he does not know Ray, whom he describes as an “articulate, bright young man.”

We are concerned that Zordich is advocating policies, such as the fire department burning down vacant structures, that are unrealistic, but may resonate with residents.

Tearing down buildings is a lot more complicated, given federal environmental laws pertaining to asbestos and lead.

The retired firefighter also says members of council do not get paid enough because being a lawmaker is a tedious job.

We’re sure that the taxpayers of the city don’t share that view, seeing as how the legislators earn $27,817 for part-time work.

For his part, Ray has made demolition of vacant property a top priority and since he has been in office $100,000 has been spent through the neighborhood stabilization program.

We believe Ray is off to a promising start and deserves a full term.

5th Ward

In the 5th Ward race, Drennen, who has been active in various neighborhood revitalization efforts, especially the upgrading of the Idora Park area, and has played a major role in bringing a grocery store to the Fosterville area, has a firm grasp of the issues, especially with regard public safety.

Of the three challengers who met with newspaper’s editorial board, former Councilman Michael Rapovy was the least persuasive in discussing his candidacy. His criticism of Drennen’s commitment to the residents of the ward was without foundation.

The remaining two challengers, Anthony Catale, a member of the Youngstown school board, and Kevin Salata talk about the problems confronting the ward, but neither put forth a plan that is markedly different from what Drennen is doing.

While Salata’s candidacy left us cold, Catale’s presence in the race is puzzling. Why would a member of the city school board walk away at one of the most exciting periods of the district’s history? With all the initiatives that have been adopted, the future looks bright. Catale has served the system well in his first term; he’d have be a stronger future candidate for any other office if he had sought re-election.

In the contests for the Democratic nomination in the 4th and 5th wards, The Vindicator endorses councilmen Ray and Drennen.

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