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Youngstown mayoral candidates address priorities at debate

Published: Fri, March 22, 2013 @ 12:01 a.m.




In their first debate, the three Democratic candidates for mayor were not only cordial to one another, but one spoke in defense of an opponent.

The candidates — council President Jamael Tito Brown, John McNally IV, a former Mahoning County commissioner and city law director, and Matthew Smith, a minister — responded to questions from a three-member media panel for about 90 minutes Thursday at a debate sponsored by the 7th Ward Citizens Coalition.

Bertram de Souza, an editorial writer and columnist for The Vindicator, asked McNally if he would quit the race if charges of political corruption, dismissed in July 2011, were refiled. McNally, who has said he is innocent of the charges related to his opposition to the county’s purchase of Oakhill Renaissance Center, said he wouldn’t.

The charges were dropped at the request of special prosecutors who said their inability to obtain tape recordings held by the FBI supposedly related to the case made it impossible to proceed.

Brown said he wanted the government to say McNally is no longer under investigation so that issue can be put to rest and the candidates can talk about the key issues in the race leading up to the May 7 primary.

The three candidates agree that job creation and retention in the city is a top priority. The debate was at Mill Creek MetroParks’ D.D. and Velma Davis Education & Visitor Center at Fellows Riverside Gardens.

With a shrinking economy, Brown said as mayor he would work with surrounding communities on joint economic development districts and zones to develop job sites that would allow the sharing of income tax.

A key responsibility of a mayor is to create an environment that makes the city business-friendly, McNally said.

Smith, who struggled throughout the debate, said his main goal is to create jobs.

He repeatedly said “OK” while attempting to respond to questions. Several times, his responses had little to nothing to do with the questions posed to him.

At one point, Smith said he had to “pass” on answering a question “because I’m really nervous.”

The candidates discussed making city government more efficient, regionalization, the importance of the mayor being independent and not beholden to special-interest groups or campaign donors, the city’s education system, reducing crime and fracking.

The candidates were asked about lowering the city’s 2.75 percent income tax, the third highest in the state.

McNally said every mayor would like to say yes, but he doesn’t see that as “realistic.”

He added that the tax hasn’t “hampered downtown development,” and if elected, he would establish a mayor’s committee to look at the income tax issue.

Collaboration with other communities would benefit the bottom line of not only the city but other areas, said Brown, who stopped short of giving a commitment on reducing the income tax.

Smith said, “It’s good to have taxes.”

The next mayor, Brown said, “will shape the vision and direction the city is going on. We need to be a city that continues to move forward. We can’t go back. We cannot afford to go back. Here’s what you get from Tito Brown as mayor: you get someone who’s going to do the right thing. I may not always get it right, but I’m always going to do the right thing.”

This mayoral race “is very crucial for the future for the city of Youngstown for the next six, eight years,” said McNally, adding he is “the most qualified person” for the job.

Smith said, “I believe in people. I believe in change.”


1PhilKidd(189 comments)posted 3 years, 4 months ago

After having been as involved extensively in Youngstown affairs for nearly 10 years...

...after having read the 251-page efficiency study in its entirety and grasp the magnitude of our situation (below)...

...and having sat through last night's Mayoral debate...

...I'm convinced that Youngstown must move to a City Manager form of government.

Despite anyone's best intentions, we need a hired, qualified professional (devoid of political & racial interests) to manage this city moving forward.

Report: http://tinyurl.com/aw7mk2a

Suggest removal:

2polhack(129 comments)posted 3 years, 4 months ago

I agree a city manager would be less subject to the type party manipulation that ensures do nothing jobs forking the party faithful, but the professional manager title does not confer immunity from corruption. We need more citizens keeping their eyes on the actions, motives and necessity of office holders to make any meaningful change. By the Vindy's summary of last nights debate, it appears we have an attorney, still under a cloud of suspicion, a well-meaning, but not very savvy citizen, and a current office holder skilled only in proclaiming glittering generalities running for office. Any of these may provide a groundswell of support for Mr. Kidd's proposal during their first term as their finest service.

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3TERRAPINST(321 comments)posted 3 years, 4 months ago

Mr Kidd: Can't take it anymore. Other than designing a tee-shirt, tirelessly self-promoting yourself (which I might add is exactly the political networking you decry) and obviously grabbing the love of vindy staff what educational and professional accomplishments do you possess upon which you base your expertise. The Organizing Collaborative certainly isn't awash in successful entrepreneurial and funding attainment. Truly, Masters in Urban Affairs, Public Administration, the Law? These are pretty complicated matters, I mean like your t-shirts they're sorta cool, but to expound on the complexities of governmental organizations???? Does silk-screening really prepare you for that? Maybe Im wrong-Thomas Jefferson was a farmer. By the way you wouldn't suggest that your a non-political candidate for the City Manager position would you. Your colleagues call you Mr. Mayor, right? Yeah you're non-political.

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4TERRAPINST(321 comments)posted 3 years, 4 months ago

Just so you don't think I'm mean spirited, reviewed your resume of previous post and neighborhood organizer is a very well-intentioned position moving into souvenir shop owner maybe not a good resume builder but who knows. Barack Obama was a community organizer, he also graduated from Columbia and Harvard, was a constitutional law professor and state and fed Senator so.........
Flick, still an idiot.

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5DwightK(1537 comments)posted 3 years, 4 months ago

Terrapinst, what have you done to make the city a better place?

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6TERRAPINST(321 comments)posted 3 years, 4 months ago

Dwight: One time I bought a Defend Youngstown t-shirt and that made everything better. I don't continually pontificate on how the city can be fixed unlike the poster above with whom I question how he knows. You're not a Phil minion are you?

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7wow_show(9 comments)posted 3 years, 4 months ago

Terrapinst, thank you for saying what has been on everyone's mind.

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8TERRAPINST(321 comments)posted 3 years, 4 months ago

Flick: So you hate Hannis and Dems for Change crew. Hmmmm. Sound like a possible Southcounty Dem whack possibly. You're not a criminal defense attorney from Bdmn. are you? Naaah-grammar isn't good enough.

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9oef0102(5 comments)posted 3 years, 4 months ago

Does Youngstown still suffer from its blighted past of electing crooks? Why aren't local residents taking a closer look at a viable candidate like Jimmy Hughes? This is by far the most well-qualified individual the city has to offer at this time. His record doesn't teem of scandal like that Mr. McNally's. an educated vote equals an independent vote for Mr. Hughes.

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