Lawmakers back status quo

On the side

River talk: The Mahoning Valley Democrat Club will meet at 7 p.m. Monday at Lowellville village hall. John Kwolek, compliance engineer for the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, will be the guest speaker and will discuss the Mahoning River.

Golf outing: The Mahoning County Democratic Party is holding a foursome team scramble golf outing June 11 at the Kensington Golf Club in Canfield. Registration is at 8 a.m. with a 9 a.m. shotgun start. To RSVP call Robyn Gallitto at 330-726-9114, Jim Iudiciani at 330-351-6295, or Jim Johnston at 330-207-0789.

Bipartisan approach: Attorney General Mike DeWine — a Republican who’s served as a state legislator, lieutenant governor and member of the U.S. House and Senate — isn’t a fan of the existing congressional redistricting process in Ohio that gives control of the process to the political party in power.

DeWine favors a “truly bipartisan” policy that makes more House districts competitive. The problem isn’t just in Ohio, he said. Of the 435 House districts, “not even 100 are competitive,” DeWine said, adding the “biggest concern for incumbents is the primary.”

Several members of Youngstown City Council are making no effort to hide their opposition to a number of charter amendments proposed by the charter-review committee.

There were so many questions, comments and criticism by council members that only five of the 17 proposed amendments were discussed during the first hour of a Tuesday meeting on these issues.

“We’re never going to get through this meeting if we’re going to counterpoint every issue,” said Councilman Mike Ray, D-4th.

While council did get through the meeting — and it moved a lot faster after Ray’s comment — there is little doubt a majority of its members don’t support several of the charter-review committee recommendations.

Most of those recommendations directly affect city council members.

Here’s the rub: it’s council’s decision as to what proposed charter amendments will be on the November ballot and which ones won’t.

While he doesn’t agree with all of the proposals, Councilman Paul Drennen, D-5th, said he has no objection to putting all 17 on the ballot.

But no one else on council has said that, and there is no doubt Youngstown voters will not see all 17 when they go to vote in the general election.

Among those most likely to not make the ballot are: reducing the annual pay for council members, making it more difficult for them to receive city-provided medical benefits, eliminating president of council as an elected position, creating a vice mayor to replace the chief of staff/secretary to the mayor job, and going to nonpartisan elections.

What is telling is council’s opposition to not making the council president a citywide elected position and instead have the seven elected members appoint someone among themselves to the post, and not creating a vice mayor position.

Mayoral succcession

Much of council’s discussion on those two issues was about who would succeed the mayor should that position become vacant, and the importance of having a council president break a tie vote.

Who would replace the mayor in case of a vacancy — it’s now the council president, but would be the vice mayor if that amendment gets on the ballot and is approved by voters — is fresh on people’s minds.

That’s because Jay Williams resigned in August 2011 as mayor and was succeeded by then-council President Charles Sammarone.

Before that, it was about 90 years since an elected mayor didn’t serve his full term so this isn’t something that happens often.

As for breaking tie votes, an extremely rare occurrence, there’s nothing in the city charter or the rules of council that give the council president the authority to cast a vote.

One charter recommendation that will probably get council’s approval, with a lot of hesitation from some, is redistricting the seven wards so they all have about the same population.

New ward boundaries, unchanged for more than 30 years, wouldn’t go into effect until council’s 2023 election.

Concerns about keeping existing lines are ridiculous. The current boundaries violate one-person, one-vote laws.

Also, I seriously doubt that anyone on council now is going to be there in 11 years, particularly because of term limits.

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