Youngstown council still finds flaws in many charter proposals

By David Skolnick


City council’s legislation committee supports proposed charter amendments to create a conflict-of-interest policy, to be in written compliance with daylight saving time and to redistrict the seven wards.

But the committee members disagree with language in the proposed amendment by the charter-review committee on redistricting to give council only 90 days after a decennial federal census to redraw ward lines.

The council committee met Thursday to discuss the 17 proposed changes from the charter-review committee, consisting of 11 members appointed by council and the mayor.

The final decision on what gets on the ballot rests with city council.

Council must submit ballot language by Aug. 8 to the Mahoning County Board of Elections for amendments to appear on the Nov. 6 ballot.

For the most part, council members don’t agree with several amendments, and, except for Councilman Paul Drennen, D-5th, none support putting all 17 proposals before voters this fall.

One amendment supported by council’s legislation committee would have the charter be in compliance with the starting and ending dates of daylight saving time, which were changed by the federal government in 2007. The city currently follows the federal change even though the charter has the old dates.

The committee also supports a conflict-of-interest policy for all city employees. Members of council already have such a policy, which forbids profiting from any contract with the city.

Though the committee supports mandatory redistricting, it disagrees with the charter-review recommendation for the process to be done in 90 days after a census.

Committee members on Thursday suggested six months to a year as a time-frame for redistricting, starting with the 2020 census.

As for the 14 other proposals, most council members continue to range from strongly opposed to lukewarm.

Those include eliminating council president as an elected position, creating an elected job of vice mayor, having nonpartisan elections, cutting the pay of council members, and having a charter-review committee meet annually rather than every four years [though that provision isn’t enforced with the last committee convened eight years ago].

But council committee members agreed to let the full seven-member council decide the fate of all 17 proposals.

Council tentatively is set to meet at 5 p.m. Monday to review the amendments with a special meeting tentatively scheduled July 30 to vote on amendments to go on the fall ballot.

When told about the council committee’s recommendations, Jerome Williams, chairman of the charter-review committee, was almost speechless.

“I don’t know what to say,” he said. “I don’t agree with all of [the amendments], but people told the committee what they wanted. It’s time to let the public decide.”

Councilman Nate Pinkard, D-3rd and the legislation committee’s vice chairman, said a lot of the proposals can be legislated rather than changing the charter.

A proposal on what time council meetings must start could be done as a council policy change, said Councilman Mike Ray, D-4th and legislation committee chairman.

Also, committee members said a recommendation, which came from Mayor Charles Sammarone, requiring council’s permission for any expense, except salaries, of more than $10,000 — the current amount is $25,000 — should be a mayor’s decision and not part of the charter.

With an efficiency study of city operations under way, proposals to change or eliminate certain departments should wait, committee members said.

The committee also doesn’t support a proposal to restrict city employees to work no more than 48 hours in a seven-day week unless council approves it, even in cases of emergency.

“It’s too restrictive,” Ray said.

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