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State legislators should ignore Youngstown lawmakers’ vote



Published: Tue, October 9, 2012 @ 12:00 a.m.

A 4-3 vote by Youngstown City Council in support of the archaic, financially unsustainable municipal court does not deserve serious consideration by the Ohio General Assembly. The judgment of the city’s lawmakers on issues of great importance to the community is cockeyed, to put it kindly.

As we noted in an editorial in August when council decided to place on the Nov. 6 ballot only four of the 17 charter amendments recommended by a citizens committee, “Members of council have clearly demonstrated that they can’t be trusted to act in the best interest of the residents of Youngstown.”

With regard to the municipal court, the General Assembly should listen to the chief justice of the Ohio Supreme Court, Maureen O’Connor, who has studied the city judiciary.

In a letter to Gov. John Kasich, the chief justice advised against filling the vacancy on the court created with the retirement of Judge Robert A. Douglas Jr. The governor has the statutory authority to appoint state judges.

O’Connor is on record as supporting a reorganization of the courts in Mahoning County below the common pleas level. The creation of a countywide metropolitan court system to replace the municipal courts in Youngstown, Campbell and Struthers, the four county courts and the mayor’s courts has been talked about for three decades.

But with the chief justice weighing in, the goal is within reach.

There is another reason why the Youngstown Municipal Court does not need three judges: Its caseload is so low that it would be hard-pressed to justify two judges.

At least two independent studies have shown that there isn’t enough work for the huge staffs maintained by the court and the clerk of courts’ office.

The General Assembly should also listen to Mayor Charles Sammarone, who is pushing to cut the cost of government at all levels and sees the court as a major drain on the public treasury.

Lastly, the state legislators should talk to officials in the governor’s office who have made it clear that Kasich does not intend to fill the vacancy, but wants the General Assembly to pass legislation eliminating the judgeship.

Politics

And then there’s the politics of the issue. While the chief justice and the governor are Republicans, and the state Senate and House are controlled by the GOP, a leading Democrat in Mahoning County has been in the forefront of the reorganization of the courts below the common pleas level.

David Betras, chairman of the county Democratic Party and a well-known lawyer in the Valley, is adamant about bringing the criminal justice system into the 21st century.

Much to the chagrin of members of his party, Betras has made it clear that neither the administration of justice, nor the interest of taxpayers is served by maintaining the status quo.

It is ironic that the chairman of the Republican Party, Mark Munroe, had come out in favor of Gov. Kasich filling the vacancy on the Youngstown court.

In reviewing this issue, the leaders of the General Assembly should ask themselves the following question: Does city council have any credibility on this or any other major topic?

The answer is clearly no. The four lawmakers who voted in favor of a resolution urging the maintenance of the three-judge court system are not to be taken seriously.


Comments

1NoBS(2003 comments)posted 2 years, 2 months ago

Monroe's actions aren't "ironic." They're just another example of partisan politics. His Democrat counterpart is in favor of something, so Monroe is driven to be against it, whether it's a good thing or not. The priority, for both sides, is opposing "them." Then the politicians themselves - their wants, their needs, and their re-election - come second, and the citizens come in a miserable third place.

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2One_Who_Stayed(237 comments)posted 2 years, 2 months ago

"Members of council have clearly demonstrated that they can’t be trusted to act in the best interest of the residents of Youngstown."

That one line says it all as far as I'm concerned. Paul Drennen has been the only one to show any concern for the wishes of his constituency at all. The rest of them are simply gorging at the public trough.

The other 6 need to be shown the door as soon as the next election. In fact, I think it would be a great idea to present recall petitions for them at the same time the petitions for the other 13 Charter Amendments are presented.

If we leave them there - we get what we deserve - Bad Government at Great Cost.

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3Woody(452 comments)posted 2 years, 2 months ago

NoBS,

It's not because the Democrat is against it. Monroe wants to fill it because it will be filled by a Republican. Then he can hang his hat on having another (even though it is non-partisan) Republican in office.

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4kurtw(938 comments)posted 2 years, 2 months ago

I may be wrong, but it was my impression that Gov. Kasich is constitutionally obligated to fill the vacant judgeship. It comes down to following the law, doesn't it, and Republicans have shown themselves far better at this than Democrats (who place political expediency as the highest virtue, next to God and Motherhood).

Why pass the Buck? What's wrong with us here in Youngstown? We, surely, must recognize the problem- the City is half- barely- it's former size and we still have the same sized government establishment as in the old days- including the courts. What's up here? Maybe we are as reluctant to tear down the old Governing Structures as we were to tear down the old Steel Mills which had no further use.

The difference was there was good scrap value in the old mills (most of it went to China, ironically, to build new factories displacing our own) and there isn't any scrap value in old judges and bureucrats no longer needed. That's the problem- they just hang in there- drawing a salary, like a leach drawing blood. What to do with them?

I don't know. We can't send them to China, so just give them a good "buy-out" and send them to a place like Ft. Myers, Florida to enjoy their Golden Years.

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5kurtw(938 comments)posted 2 years, 2 months ago

Another point: your editorial is very good in that it crystallizes the issue for us and initiates discussion to a solution. I really like that about newspapers. I remember so many instances- in the past 30 or so years that I have been reading your paper- that, it's almost like lightning: you come home in the dark and you pick up the paper and,suddenly, there is light. You begin to see and work your way to a solution of something that would otherwise mushroom into doubt and uncertainty.

I may disagree with many of the things I read in the paper, but that's alright: better to know than to not know.

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