A Youngstown councilman wants to create at-large seats
youngstown city council
By David Skolnick
Councilman Paul Drennen wants the legislative body to consider charter-amendment proposals to create council-at-large seats and eliminate the position of council president.
Except for John R. Swierz, no one else on city council supports Drennen’s proposal for at-large seats, and none favor getting rid of the president post.
City council met June 24 for an initial discussion on redistricting the city’s seven wards to make the population of each more equitable. The population ranges from 7,227 in the South Side’s 6th Ward to 12,130 in the West Side’s 4th Ward, according to the 2010 census.
Council members say they’re committed to redistricting, but differ on how long it will take to finalize a map. The next meeting on redistricting hasn’t been scheduled.
Drennen, D-5th, is proposing a major change that would make any redistricting effort of the seven wards — to likely take effect with the 2015 council election — useless. He’d have to convince a majority of the seven-member council to vote in favor of putting that in front of voters, which is highly unlikely at this point.
Drennen has three scenarios: four ward and three at-large members, five ward and two at-large members, and reducing the number of council members to five with four representing wards and one at-large.
With the city’s shrinking population — 65,405 in a recent estimate compared to 168,330 in 1950 — it’s hard to justify keeping seven council members, Drennen said.
Swierz, D-7th, supports having a city council with five ward and two at-large members.
“Five wards with more population makes more sense than seven wards with less residents,” he said. “It’s possibly a better way to go.”
But no other council member favors at-large seats.
“To me, that doesn’t make any sense,” said Councilwoman Annie Gillam, D-1st.
Councilwoman Janet Tarpley, D-6th, said voters just approved redistricting the city’s seven wards in the November 2012 election and before it’s done, Drennen wants to change the process.
“The voters have spoken loud and clear and we must carry that out,” she said.
Councilman Mike Ray, D-4th, said, “The existing seven-ward system has served the city well for the most part. We’re focusing on redistricting. That’s our priority. We should get it done soon.”
Councilman T.J. Rodgers, D-2nd, said, “I see no benefit of adding at-large positions.”
Councilman Nate Pinkard, D-3rd, said he’s open to discussions on any issues related to the make-up of council and Drennen’s proposal to look at eliminating the position of council president.
“I’m not against it or for it at this point,” he said. “I favor whatever is in the best interest of the city and the citizens of Youngstown. We need to discuss this. Everything’s on the table including the elimination of council president.”
But the other five members of council have rejected Drennen’s proposal to get rid of council president.
Over the objection of Drennen, the rest of council declined to put a charter-review committee’s proposal to eliminate that job, which pays $28,117.24 annually, on the November 2012 ballot.