This year’s election for mayor of Youngstown is a newspaper cartoonist’s dream. Consider the “characters”: John A. McNally IV, one of the leading candidates, has a criminal indictment on his political record; DeMaine Kitchen, the other frontrunner, is accused of sexual harassment and is a tax scofflaw.
Then there’s John Crea, who sits in the Mahoning County Jail charged with three counts of aggravated menacing, to which he has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. Crea already has been convicted of aggravated menacing and disorderly conduct.
Claudette Moore, the only woman in the Nov. 5 general election contest for mayor, claims that God told her to run and that he is guiding her campaign. Moore has also publicly admitted that between 1989 and 1991 she was a cocaine dealer in Youngstown. And for good measure, she says her father was a hit man for the Mafia.
Rounding out the field are Frank Bellamy and Cecil Monroe, who are on the fringes of the race.
As we said at the outset, this election is a newspaper cartoonist’s dream. The drawings would provide laughs galore.
But, choosing the next mayor for the city of Youngstown is serious business, which is why The Vindicator’s Editorial Board has spent an inordinate amount of time trying to decide if any one of the four candidates who came in for endorsement interviews is worthy of our support.
Monroe and Bellamy did not respond in a timely manner to our invitation to meet with us.
Crea, by virtue of his incarceration and his admitted mental instability, is disqualified from consideration.
Likewise, Moore’s admitted drug dealing, albeit when she was a young woman, cannot be summarily dismissed seeing as how drugs have been the bane of Youngstown’s existence. Drug gangs are responsible for the consistently high homicide rate, other serious crimes and the deterioration of inner city neighborhoods.
In addition, there is nothing in her resume to suggest that she could run a $100 million-plus business that is city government.
Thus, we’re left with the two frontrunners, McNally and Kitchen.
The question that formulated our discussion about the endorsement was this: Is the legal baggage each of them is carrying of such significance that it impacts the evaluation of their candidacies?
We have concluded that to ignore McNally’s criminal indictment and Kitchen’s nonpayment of taxes and sexual harassment allegations would be to lower the standard for public service.
Youngstown’s future is uncertain at best. A consultant brought in by Mayor Charles P. Sammarone to review government’s operation has warned that the city faces a budget shortfall of millions of dollars in five years.
In addition, the shrinking population, expanding inventory of dilapidated houses, deteriorating neighborhoods, persistently high crime rate and a failing public school system make clear that the next mayor must be able to dedicate all of his or her time addressing those and myriad other problems confronting the aging city.
In the May Democratic primary, McNally, former Mahoning County commissioner and former city law director, barely won over council President Jamael Tito Brown.
We endorsed Brown on his record of serving the city and because we had misgivings about McNally’s legal problems.
We asked him if he would resign as mayor if criminal charges pertaining to the Oakhill Renaissance Place scandal or any other government corruption case were filed against him. He responded with an unequivocal “no.”
Therein lies our concern, not only about McNally, but Kitchen, former chief of staff to Mayor Sammarone, as well. We don’t know what’s going to happen to them in the future with regard to their legal troubles, but we do know they would not be able to concentrate on being mayor if they had to defend themselves in criminal or civil court.
There’s no doubt that both the leading candidates know the city well, are familiar with the issues and challenges confronting it and have proposed sound solutions to such seemingly intractable problems as crime and crumbling neighborhoods.
But does that mean their potential legal problems should be ignored? We think not.
After much discussion we have concluded that neither McNally nor Kitchen is worthy of our endorsement.
It is rare for The Vindicator not to make a choice in an election of such importance, but endorsing the lesser of two evils is not an option for us.
The best we can say is that when it comes to this particular race, a voter should get a well balanced coin to flip while in the voting booth.