Panel discusses changes to charter
By David Skolnick
Those attending a city charter-review committee meeting want the city’s seven ward boundaries redrawn and talked of eliminating term limits and possibly having nonpartisan elections for mayor and council.
The committee invited officials with businesses based in the city to a meeting Friday at the main branch of the Public Library of Youngstown & Mahoning County to discuss possible changes to the charter.
Only seven people showed up, and James J. Pirko, a commercial, industrial and economic- development real-estate agent for Howard Hanna, was the lone person in the committee’s target group.
Also, Tony Paglia, the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber’s vice president of government affairs, was at the meeting.
Six of the 11 charter- review committee members attended.
Though the group was small, the conversation was lively.
Pirko and William Binning, chairman emeritus of Youngstown State University’s political-science department, spoke in favor of removing term limits that restrict someone from serving more than two four-year elected terms to council and mayor.
Paglia wants to keep terms at four years. Four years is fine for mayor, but city council members should be required to run every two years, Pirko said.
The committee plans to have proposed recommendations ready for public input in May.
After a public hearing that month to get feedback on the proposals, the commission would bring the finished product to city council by June 1.
Council must agree to place recommendations on the November general election ballot for a public vote.
That could be an issue as members of council have expressed concerns about two key issues being considered by the commission.
They are: redistricting the city’s seven ward- boundaries to make population in each more equitable and reducing terms from four years to two.
Councilwoman Annie Gillam, D-1st, who attended Friday’s meeting, said she opposes redistricting.
The charter reads: “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.”
The section states: “Following each federal census, council may redistrict the city so as to maintain a reasonable equality of population among the seven wards.”
Scott Schulick, the committee’s vice chairman, and Phil Kidd, a member, say the committee plans to recommend the word “may” be changed to “must” or “shall.”
“There’s a consensus this is an issue the charter-review committee needs to address,” Schulick said.
Nearly all of those attending Friday’s meeting agreed.
The lines haven’t been redrawn in more than 30 years, leaving the seven wards with populations ranging from 7,237 to 12,130.
After the meeting, Schulick said despite the talk, he doesn’t necessarily agree council members aren’t flexible on redistricting.
“If we have a strong public response at the May meeting” in favor of redistricting, “it would be hard [for council] to say no to something that has strong support from the public and a committee of people appointed by council and the mayor,” he said.