Barring a political implosion of monumental proportions, David Ditzler, an 18-year trustee in Austintown Township, will take the oath of office in January as Mahoning County commissioner, replacing John A. McNally IV, who chose not to seek another term. McNally is eyeing the job of Youngstown mayor.
Ditzler, who has private sector employment credentials as global manager of sales for American Nickeloid, will be able to hit the ground running, based on his experience in local government and his political smarts — he has served as chairman of the county Democratic Party.
Other than becoming familiar with the day-to-day operation of the commissioners’ office, Ditzler should be able to begin work on the priorities he first identified during the March primary election. At the top of the list is the need to fund the sheriff’s department so the jail is fully staffed and the misdemeanant facility across the street from the county lock-up on Fifth Avenue can be reopened.
During the primary, he said that having 200 beds in the jail empty because there aren’t enough deputies to staff the facility is bad public policy. While acknowledging that county government, like all local governments, is facing financial challenges because of deep cuts in state funding, the 54-year-old trustee said the county should explore ways of generating income. He talks about “low hanging fruit,” such as requiring prisoners to pay for their stay, and increasing court costs and fines. He also broached the idea of the county operating multiple schools for individuals convicted of drunk driving. Collections for the pay-to-stay program could be handled by a private company.
When it was pointed out that the idea of charging prisoners is not new, but that it had been shelved because most prisoners in the county jail claim to be indigent, Ditzler cited Lucas County. It generates about $1 million a year.
There are three others vying for the commissioner seat in the Nov 6 general election: Howard Markert, a Green Party candidate; David Rossi, the Republican Party nominee; and, Edward L. Goldner Jr., an independent.
Rossi and Goldner chose not to appear before The Vindicator’s editorial board and, therefore, cannot be considered for our endorsement.
Markert, who moved to Youngstown from Berkeley, Calif., to start a business as a landlord specializing in green renovated vintage apartment homes, has some interesting, but unrealistic ideas on what he would like county government to do. For instance, he proposes the establishment of a County Bank owned and operated by county government. The assets would come from the county’s operating capital, pension benefits and other sources.
The $20 million initial capitalization would be used for micro mortgages, home improvement loans and micro business loans. But what if the borrowers go under? He doesn’t say.
Ditzler, by contrast, has a more realistic view of what the county commissioners can do, such as getting a handle on the budget, facilitating the consolidation of the court system below the common pleas level, and pursuing regionalization and consolidation of services, including the emergency 911 telephone system.
Ditzler has the experience and knowledge to help Mahoning County move forward. The Vindicator endorses his candidacy.