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Are city ward lines sacred?



Published: Fri, April 6, 2012 @ 12:00 a.m.

By David Skolnick (Contact)


On the side

A star is born?: “Game Change,” the HBO movie about Sarah Palin during the failed 2008 Republican presidential campaign, uses real footage in addition to actors. Among the footage is a pan shot of the Ohio delegation at that year’s Republican National Convention. And who is very easy to spot in the delegation? Mahoning County Republican Party Chairman Mark Munroe.

“I am now a movie star,” he joked.

A fan?: The president may be a fan of local author Sam Moffie. Blogger News Network — http://www.bloggernews.net/127940 — had a picture of President Barack Obama holding Moffie’s latest book, “To Kill the Duke.”

Moffie said the picture could have been altered, but it’s possible it’s legitimate. No word from the White House on what Obama is reading. Moffie’s book has been optioned by a producer and could become a movie. The fiction story is about Joseph Stalin having an elite Russian spy team attempt to assassinate John Wayne.

Some R&R: I’m on vacation so there won’t be a column next Friday.

The Youngstown charter-review committee will recommend language change to the charter requiring redistricting the seven wards after each federal census to make population in each more equitable.

The proposal would simply change the word “may” with “must” or “shall” in the charter section on redistricting.

That section currently reads: “Following each federal census, council may redistrict the city so as to maintain a reasonable equality of population among the seven wards.”

It seems simple and logical.

After all, the charter states: “All wards shall be composed of contiguous and compact territory, as nearly equal in population as possible and bounded by natural boundaries or street lines.”

One word

But the proposed change of one word is expected to meet with resistance from some city council members who don’t want to change the current boundary lines.

Those lines haven’t been touched in 30 years even though the city’s population dropped 42 percent from 115,427 in 1980 to 66,982 in 2010.

Why does opposition by some city council members matter? Because council must approve all of the committee’s proposals before they can be placed in front of voters in November.

There are some interesting dynamics at work.

First, the seven council members and council President Jamael Tito Brown appointed one person each to the 11-member committee with Mayor Charles Sammarone appointing the three others.

Second, council members during the past 30 years should have redistricted without needing a charter amendment.

Third, if redistricting does make it to the ballot and is approved by voters, it wouldn’t go into effect until 2021, a year after the 2020 census. Unless term limits are removed, the current council members won’t be serving then.

If the redistricting amendment gets on the ballot and is approved, keep an eye on the Neighborhood Leadership Council, a group of block-watch leaders. They may put pressure on city council to redistrict next year.

An independent organization would likely do the redistricting.

A redistricting plan would give each ward about the same number of residents. Currently, the range is 7,227 in the 6th Ward to 12,130 in the 4th Ward.

Some council members in the least-populated wards want to keep the lines. Those in the more-populated wards are happy with their area, but are mixed on redistricting.

Councilman Mike Ray, D-4th, with the most-populated ward, said redistricting “is a matter of fairness. It should be equitable.”

Councilman John R. Swierz, D-7th, with the second most-populated ward, said he understands the disparity, but each ward has about the same number of streets and that should be taken into consideration.

The committee is also looking at eliminating council president and having one of the seven council positions be at-large and run citywide. That at-large position would be council president with full voting rights, unlike the current president.

Aware of the hesitation by some council members to redistricting, the charter-review committee is planning a big public meeting next month asking people to vote on the importance of proposed charter amendments.

If redistricting receives a public mandate, would council members be brazen enough to keep it off the ballot?


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