Whenever politicians insist that a public sector job is absolutely necessary, hold on to your wallet, they’ll be picking your pockets next. That’s what snake oil salesmen — and women — do.
Five members of Youngstown City Council and a smattering of other misguided individuals are determined to maintain a three-judge municipal court, despite the fact that the workload does not justify three.
Numbers don’t lie. The same can’t be said of some politicians.
The latest caseload data from the Ohio Supreme Court clearly supports the contention of forward-thinking residents who believe the status quo cannot be sustained — or justified.
The numbers also confirm the position taken by the chief justice of the Ohio Supreme Court, Maureen O’Connor. Last month, O’Connor, a Republican, advised Republican Gov. John Kasich not to appoint a successor to Youngstown Judge Robert A. Douglas Jr., who retired Aug. 1.
The governor has the authority to appoint judges, while the chief justice has power over all the state courts. O’Connor has taken a particular interest in the court system in Mahoning County and has joined with county Democratic Party Chairman David Betras in calling for the reorganization of the lesser courts — those below the common pleas level.
‘Time is ripe’
In urging Kasich not to fill the vacancy created by Douglas’ retirement, the chief justice said the “time is ripe” for county officials to move forward on the restructuring of the municipal courts in Youngstown, Campbell and Struthers, the four county area courts and the mayors courts.
Betras had urged the governor not to replace Douglas, while the chairman of the Republican Party, Mark Munroe, kept insisting that Kasich had no choice in the matter.
But after the chief justice made her opinion known and it became clear that the governor would follow her advice, Munroe shamelessly tried to take credit for the position embraced by O’Connor.
Now, members of city council, who recently demonstrated blatant disregard for the intelligence of Youngstown voters with regard to proposed charter amendments, want the governor to ignore Ohio’s top judge. It’s not going to happen.
All the lawmakers are Democrats, as is the clerk of courts, Sarah Brown-Clark, who has been on the public payroll for so many years that her pension will be many times greater than the $24,000 a year median income for a family of four in the city. Brown-Clark et al have no political steam. Republicans occupy all the statewide offices and control the Ohio House and Senate.
More significantly, however, the push to get rid of all the lesser courts in Mahoning County and replace them with a metropolitan court is exactly the change in the status quo the governor has advocated.
Youngstown’s so-called leaders need a reality check. They have been blinded by their own self-interests. Private-sector taxpayers are no longer willing to give government the money it demands. More than 80 percent of operating budgets goes for salaries and benefits, which means people in the private sector who are earning less and have no illusions about their pensions must keep feeding the beast that is government.
High court report
The Ohio Supreme Court’s report on caseloads destroys the argument that Youngstown needs three judges.
The city’s population of 66,982, along with the 13,264 cases filed in 2011, stick out like a sore thumb compared with many other municipal courts in Ohio.
For instance, Willoughby, with a population of 86,135, has a municipal court that handled 16,020 cases.
But here’s the kicker: Willoughby has one judge.
Put another way, one judge handled 16,020 cases, while each of the three Youngstown judges had 4,421 cases.
For those who believe that comparing Youngstown with Willoughby is unfair, how about Shaker Heights, with a population of 60,508 and a caseload of 14,321? That city has one judge.
The supreme court’s report makes clear that Youngstown does not need three judges. In fact, even two may be one too many.
Youngstown City Council members have no credibility. Democratic Party Chairman Betras does. Kasich and O’Connor should listen to him.