Don’t expect Youngstown lawmakers to do right

Warning: Holding your breath in the hope that Youngstown City Council acts on proposed charter amendments could be detrimental to your health.

There’s nothing to suggest that the so-called representatives of the people have had a change of heart and are now willing to let Youngstown residents decide how the city should be governed.

Indeed, members of council seem more determined than ever to turn the spotlight away from their failure to act in the best interest of the people. Their refusal last year to place all 17 recommended charter amendments on the November general election ballot was nothing short of insolent.

It is worth remembering that the recommendations came from a special charter review committee whose members were appointed by Mayor Charles Sammarone and city council.

Four chosen

It is also revealing that lawmakers chose only four charter amendments to place on the ballot last November, all of which weren’t worth a bucket of spit in the overall scheme of things.

The 13 recommended amendments they chose to deep-six included one that would formally designate council members to be part-time public servants required to work at least 32 hours a week. Their pay would be based on the average “full-time” salary — 40 hours a week — of the residents of Youngstown.

Members of the charter review committee (remember they were appointed by the mayor and council) concluded that lawmakers should be paid $20,721 a year based on the average full-time salary in the city of $25,902. Currently, a councilman earns $27,817.24 and receives full benefits; the council president makes $28,117.24 and gets benefits. The council president’s salary would be reduced to $21,966.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out why the legislators would not want the voters of Youngstown to have a say on how much they should earn for the work they do — if work is the appropriate word.

But while their nonfeasance seems to have put the 13 proposed charter amendments on ice, there may be an opening.

Councilman Paul Drennen, D-5th, has proposed placing a charter amendment on this November’s ballot to eliminate the city park commission.

Drennen, chairman of council’s park and recreation committee, and his colleagues will meet Wednesday to further discuss the issue.

Council has until Sept. 6 to submit language for charter amendments for the general election to the Mahoning County Board of Elections.

Given that the elimination of the park commission is one of the amendments recommended by the charter review committee, it would be appropriate for the panelists, who gave of their time, to attend Wednesday’s meeting and urge that all 13 amendments be placed on the November ballot.

Members of council must not continue their charade of governance without public challenges by individuals dedicated to the betterment of the city.

But what if council refuses to budge because its self-interest — to keep slopping at the public trough — takes precedence over what’s best for the community?

Constitutional avenue

The charter review committee should use the provisions of the Ohio Constitution to get the amendments on the ballot.

Article 18, Section 9, of the Constitution states that submission of a charter amendment to the voters may be made upon petitions signed by 10 percent of the electors of the municipality.

If the petitioners submit sufficient petitions to the city council clerk, council is then required to pass the ordinance submitting the proposed charter amendment to the board of elections.

In other words, the residents of the city of Youngstown don’t have to wait for members of council to do the right thing.

The time has come to force the issue of the charter amendments. Each one addresses a specific shortcoming of city government. The fact is that Youngstown is shrinking, the income tax base is stagnant, and in five years there could be a $25 million hole in the budget.

The cost of government must be reduced, while the operation of the city must be made more efficient.

Council’s refusal to give the voters a voice is the height of arrogance and disrespect. Lawmakers must be taught a lesson in democracy.

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