Eliminating park commission isn’t only issue for city voters

When Youngstown Council’s park and recreation committee meets next month to continue discussing a proposed charter amendment to eliminate the park commission, lawmakers’ hypocrisy will be on full display.

A charter review committee, whose members were appointed last year by the mayor and city council, recommended 17 amendments to the Home Rule Charter, including doing away with the park commission.

But lawmakers selected just four of the most innocuous to place on last November’s general election ballot.

Youngstown voters approved the four charter amendments, but whether they get a chance to decide on the rest is anybody’s guess.

Members of council certainly aren’t eager to let residents determine how much they should be paid for their part-time work, as one of 17 recommended amendments aims to do.

As we said in an editorial prior to the November 2012 election, it is the height of hypocrisy for lawmakers to propose an amendment to the Home Rule Charter that would create a conflict of interest policy when they clearly demonstrated a conflict of interest by refusing to place on the ballot a question pertaining to their pay.

The charter commission recommended that lawmakers’ base pay for part-time work (32 hours) be reduced to $20,721 from $27,817; president of council would be paid $21,966, down from $27,817.

It is not surprising, therefore, that council members aren’t eager to let the voters decide. The legislative body has good reason to dread public scrutiny, but it may not be able to continue its out-of-sight-out-of-mind strategy with regard to the recommended charter amendments if the park and recreation committee goes forward with the proposal to eliminate the park commission.

If one, why not all? That will become the rallying cry.

From the outset, we demanded that council adopt all the recommendations of the charter committee, which now means allowing Youngstown voters to decide on all the remaining 13 charter amendments.

Members of council are being disingenuous at best when they say more time is needed to study what the charter committee proposed. The panel’s meetings were open to the public and received extensive press coverage. Lawmakers, as well as other city government officials, had numerous opportunities to be heard.

A question of objectivity

There was never any indication that council intended to veto the recommendations they did not like. After all, they cannot be objective when it comes to such issues as their pay.

Councilman Paul Drennen, D-5th, chairman of the park and playground committee, should not only push for the park commission amendment to appear on the November ballot, but for the other 12 that have been shelved by council.

The arguments for eliminating the commission are sound, particularly in light of the fact that Mayor Charles Sammarone and park Director Robert Burke support the change.

But, the ultimate decision will rest with the voters of the city, which is how it should be. That is why we remain committed to having residents decide on all the proposed charter amendments that city council would like to deep-six.

Don't Miss a Story

Sign up for our newsletter to receive daily news directly in your inbox.