Youngstown council off to a good start

After it was harshly criticized last year — justifiably so — for several legislative missteps, Youngstown City Council began its new year Wednesday with the passage of two important measures. Residents, who have expressed little confidence in members of council, undoubtedly hope this is an indication of a new attitude.

We certainly do.

With the passage of an ordinance authorizing the board of control to turn over building inspection services in the city to Mahoning County, another major step was taken to shrink the size of city government. The board of control, consisting of Mayor Charles Sammarone, Finance Director David Bozanich and Law Director Anthony Farris, acted late last week.

Thus, the city’s building inspection department will be disbanded — a move we strongly advocated. The department had been reduced to one employee, Brenda Williams, the chief building official, who was making $72,563.66. For it to operate at an optimal level, three more employees would have been needed. The mayor had pegged the cost of providing building inspection services efficiently and effectively at $400,000. There wasn’t enough money being generated through building permits to cover the additional cost.

This the second phase of the transfer of inspection services. Early last year, the mayor and county commissioners signed an agreement for the county to perform housing inspections in the city. That service began in March.

We had harshly criticized council when it hesitated late last year, pointing out the city of Youngstown can ill afford business as usual.

The mayor has warned that the city faces major budget shortfalls in the next several years, even with the opening of V&M Star’s new pipe-making mills.

Sammarone, who became the city’s chief executive in August 2011 when then Mayor Jay Williams left city government to join the administration of President Barack Obama, has said that consolidation of services with the county is an economic imperative.

He is committed to making consolidation of the city and county health departments a reality, and of moving forward with combining Youngstown’s and Mahoning County’s 911 telephone emergency services.

The term of office the mayor is serving expires in December. He will not seek a full four-year term, but will run for the office of council president. He was serving as president of council when Williams resigned, which elevated him to the top spot. The Youngstown Home Rule Charter lays out the mayoral succession procedure.

The second piece of legislation passed by council Wednesday involves the installation of traffic cameras in school zones throughout the city.

Government intrusion

We have consistently opposed unnecessary government intrusion into the daily lives of citizens, and have been singularly opposed to speed-trap cameras. It is our belief that they are a thinly disguised money grab by government.

Therefore, we would urge caution on the part of City Hall with regard to the expanded use of cameras. We acknowledge that the persistently high crime rate in the city, the result of the drug wars, has put children in harm’s way. We are also aware that drug pushers see school children as easy prey.

However, we would hope that city moves cautiously and does not follow the lead of some cities in this country and even more so in Europe in setting up security cameras on just about every street corner.

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