- Advertisement -
  • Most Commentedmost commented up
  • Most Emailedmost emailed up
  • Popularmost popular up
- Advertisement -

« News Home

Panel mulls redistricting

Published: Thu, March 29, 2012 @ 12:00 a.m.

By Caitlin Fitch

and Ralph Lewis



The city’s charter- review commission is giving strong consideration to a controversial topic — redistricting Youngstown’s wards to address inequit- able populations in those seven sections of the city.

The current ward boundaries, untouched for more than 30 years, are unconstitutional and could spark legal action if left alone much longer, said William Binning, retired chairman of Youngstown State University’s political science department and a former Mahoning County Republican Party chairman.

For the first time in eight years, a commission is looking at recommending to city council changes to Youngstown’s charter.

The 11-member commission has until June 1 to provide those recommendations. It is up to council whether to place any or all of those recommendations on the November ballot for a public vote.

Redistricting the wards to make population in each more equitable is one issue discussed often by the commission. Also being considered is possibly reducing the number of wards — seven — and possibly having some council members run citywide for at-large seats.

The problem with the current ward system is as populations have declined and shifted, the wards do not reflect the “one-man, one-vote” rule used in the 14th Amendment’s equal-protection clause, said Binning and local activist Phil Kidd, a charter-review commission member.

For example, the city’s 6th Ward is losing population while the 4th Ward’s population remains constant.

The 6th Ward takes in a portion of the South Side, while the 4th Ward encompasses most of the West Side.

Residents of the 6th and 4th wards both have one council representative for their population despite the differences in their size.

Youngstown, at its peak in the 1950s, had more than 160,000 inhabitants with seven council members and seven wards. Sixty years later and with almost 100,000 fewer people, the city has the same number of wards and council members.

According to the 2010 census, the population for the 6th Ward was 7,227, 10.8 percent of the city’s population. In the 4th Ward, the figure was 12,130, which is 18.1 percent of the population.

Councilman Mike Ray, D-4th, believes redistricting is a top priority.

“Before anything happens, we have to do redistricting. At this point, it’s a must because we currently don’t have equal representation throughout the wards,” Ray said. “The numbers across the board need to be equal and proportionate in size.”

Binning says there are some definite problems with the current system.

“I think what’s really a problem is that you could file a federal lawsuit against them [council members] because they are out of compliance with the constitutional law,” Binning said. “They have to redraw those boundaries and make them equal in population.”

In 2004, the review commission decided not to change the number of wards or council members in compliance with Section 83 of the charter.

The charter says “all wards shall be composed of contiguous and compact territory, as nearly equal population as possible, and bounded by natural boundaries or street lines.” After each federal census, “council may re-district the city so as to maintain a reasonable equality of population among the seven wards.”

Binning said council members have been reluctant to redistrict.

“It’s a difficult issue for them to handle. If they’re thinking of running again, there going to be running in a different district with different people voting,” Binning said. “And it’s conceivable, in a few instances, that you could end up putting two incumbents in the same district — they wouldn’t like that at all.”

Binning said many Youngstown residents are unsure of which ward they live in and which council member represents them.

Mayor Charles Sammarone said redistricting is the top priority.

“Once we take care of that, we can move forward to other things,” Sammarone said.

The charter review could lead to fewer council members in city government, but the mayor said he recognizes how important council members are to the community.

“In most cases, the council member works as warden for different problems,” the mayor said. “He could be the litter inspector, housing-code inspector, he could even be the watchdog for crime blogs. An effective council member who is out working is an important person for that ward.”

Council President Jamael Tito Brown, a former 3rd-ward councilman, said decreasing the number of councilmen or wards could stretch council members too thin.

“If you take a member of council off of staff, someone has to cover their area, or ward, so if you added another 4,000 people to the area that I serve, its going to be a bigger challenge for me to serve a bigger demographic,” Brown said. “It may be less population but a bigger area can affect the accessibility and the staff.”

He also said the population doesn’t drive the number of council members. For him, the area is his issue.

Councilwoman Annie Gillam, D-1st, thinks the number of council members should stay the same because of the workload.

“There are so many issues we go over at any given time that we need each member to help go through it,” Gillam said.

Her hope is that the population will increase and each council member will be necessary, despite a steady and significant decline in the number of residents in Youngstown during the past 60 years.

“Once we are able to control the crime problem, the population will jump back up, and new jobs will also bring the numbers up,” she said.

Some argue that the money the city spends on each council member’s salary could be used elsewhere.

Kidd, of the Mahoning Valley Organizing Collaborative, an agency that focuses on issues such as vacant properties, health equity and other quality of life issues, still believes the number of council members should be re- examined.

“Youngstown’s government is a strong, mayoral form of government, meaning that the mayor and his administration have more of a direct say on city operations at large versus city council, which makes more or less legislative decisions,” Kidd said.

While council votes on city budgets, the administration has more power as it creates and proposes the budget for council approval, Kidd said.

Kidd thinks a couple of council positions can be eliminated.

“A city councilman makes approximately $27,000 plus benefits, so if you were to eliminate two of those positions, some people say that the money could go to hiring a city planner or two more police officers,” Kidd said.

Clerk of Council Valencia Marrow said each council member costs the city more than $50,000 — $27,817 in salary; $15,312 in health-care benefits; $403 in Medicare; and $6,676 in pension funds.

Brown said although his paycheck reflects a part-time employee, his work effort does not.

“It’s a full-time job — it’s well above a full-time job. A lot of our economics that we get we put back into the community,” Brown said.

Contributor: David Skolnick, staff writer. TheNewsOutlet.org is a collaboration among the Youngstown State University journalism program, Kent State University, University of Akron and professional media outlets including WYSU-FM Radio, The Vindicator, The Beacon Journal and Rubber City Radio (Akron).


1PhilKidd(187 comments)posted 3 years, 8 months ago

(Council President) Brown said although his paycheck reflects a part-time employee, his work effort does not. “It’s a full-time job — it’s well above a full-time job. A lot of our economics that we get we put back into the community,” Brown said.

Here are the facts: City Council is paid nearly DOUBLE what any other part-time City Council of comparable size makes in the State of Ohio. And we pay the President of Council (POC) the most: $28,117.00 in salary (plus $22,391.00 in benefits). Additionally, Council President Brown makes $60,000 at his full-time job with the Mahoning County Treasurer’s Office (a job he got through his involvement with the Mahoning County Democratic Party, specifically through former Party Chair Lisa Antonini…who was later indicted and convicted on corruption charges by the federal government).

But I digress. Let’s get back to the facts:

The President of Council has no voting authority (only in case of time). The POC has no committee assignments. The POC runs aprox 18 City Council meetings each year (which last 10-15 minutes on average because all the work is done in committee).

On a personal level: I attend many if not all committee meeting (that are publicized). I rarely if ever see our POC there. There are over 45 neighborhood groups in the city. I never see the POC at any of them.

This position has become the epitomize of government inefficiency and waste in Youngstown. It needs changed or eliminated so that people are not able to take advantage of the position, our tax dollars and/or to use it to posture for other political positions.

Suggest removal:

2One_Who_Stayed(240 comments)posted 3 years, 8 months ago

So basically, the only people who are against redistricting and restructuring City Council is the City Council members themselves. . . . is that about it?

I've said it before and will say it again - why are these yo-yo's even involved in the conversation about whether they stay or go, much less have a vote in whether or not it will happen? I know of no other job in which an individual is in charge of evaluating and deciding the fate of their own job (whether it be an economic or performance based decision).

This is ridiculous.
If they somehow manage to quash this, I swear to God, I'll be the first one in line to file that equal representation lawsuit!

Suggest removal:

3republicanRick(1542 comments)posted 3 years, 8 months ago

I agree with PKidd, cut the wards from 7 to 5 and put the money savings into capital improvements, such as computerized traffic signals, gunshot monitors that pinpoint gun fire within seconds, etc.

Youngstown city population is down 63% but our number of councilmen has remained the same. Try to cut their numbers for better efficiency.

Suggest removal:

4peggygurney(408 comments)posted 3 years, 8 months ago

Many good points Phil. and I wholeheartedly agree with One_Who_Stayed.

NO way should the members of city Council have a vote on changing the Council or eliminating any council seats. That's preposterous!

Suggest removal:

5PhilKidd(187 comments)posted 3 years, 8 months ago

By the way:
The city's wards haven't been redistricted in over 30 years. There is clear unequal representation at present and a law suit could be filed.

The Charter states that City Council or the Law Department 'may' redistrict after each federal Census. There has been three federal Census' since the last redistricting.

City Council or the Law Department could redistrict RIGHT NOW if they wanted to.
They don't need the Charter Review Committee to make a recommendation to do so.

Suggest removal:

6Yo_Charter_Review(6 comments)posted 3 years, 7 months ago

The question of ward redistricting is a simple one. Currently, we are in violation of not only federal law but common sense. People in certain wards count more than people in other wards! Look at the chart below, which reflects our current situation.
Current Representation per Ward
Ward 1 = 9,123
Ward 2 = 8,374
Ward 3 = 8,764
Ward 4 = 12,130
Ward 5 = 10,054
Ward 6 = 7,227
Ward 7 = 11,304
This reflects data from the 2012 census, where it was revealed that Youngstown's population is now 66,982.
To equitably represent those 66,982 residents among seven wards, each ward would need to contain about 9,570 people, not the varying numbers above. If we redistricted into five wards, each ward would contain 13,397 people.
Equitable Representation per Ward
66,982 / 7 wards = 9,570 residents per ward.
66,982 / 5 wards = 13,397 residents per ward.
For comparison, Youngstown had 170,002 residents at the 1930 census. Divided between seven wards, that was 24,286 residents per ward.
Representation per Ward in 1930
170,002 / 7 wards = 24,286 residents per ward.
Why was our city council so tough in 1930 that they could handle 24,286 residents per ward? What has happened that nowadays our council is arguing that they can't handle shifting to 13,397 among five wards or even just 9,570 residents among seven wards?
Answer: our council is too comfortable and are not working hard enough to represent the residents of Youngstown properly.
Redistrict into five wards. That's 13,397 residents per ward, almost half of what council represented per ward in 1930. It's the least council can do toward equitably representing their citizens and running an efficient government.
Any argument against redistricting comes from GREED and SLOTH.
REDISTRICT the city of Youngstown into FIVE WARDS with 13,397 residents EACH.

Suggest removal:


HomeTerms of UsePrivacy StatementAdvertiseStaff DirectoryHelp
© 2015 Vindy.com. All rights reserved. A service of The Vindicator.
107 Vindicator Square. Youngstown, OH 44503

Phone Main: 330.747.1471 • Interactive Advertising: 330.740.2955 • Classified Advertising: 330.746.6565
Sponsored Links: Vindy Wheels | Vindy Jobs | Vindy Homes