By William K. Alcorn
Youngstown City Council unanimously approved legislation reconfiguring the seven wards in the city, but failed to take emergency action on a charter amendment proposing to reduce the number of wards to five.
Council met in special session Wednesday.
Under the seven-ward plan, the population in each ward would be relatively equal. The new map has each ward’s population ranging from 8,949 to 9,534. The population in the wards under the old map ranged from 7,227 to 12,130.
The new map will be in place for the 2015 council races and take effect after that year’s election.
Proponents of the five-ward charter amendment are Councilmen Paul Drennen, D-5th, and Mike Ray, D-4th.
“You can’t ask other departments to cut back if council doesn’t,” said Drennen, a member of the committee that submitted about 1,700 signatures Monday to get the measure on the November ballot.
Drennen said that if the five-ward issue gets on the ballot, he is confident voters would approve it.
Annie Gillam, D-1st, one of three members of council who voted against moving on the proposed five-ward amendment at Wednesday’s meeting, said the petition for the charter amendment has to be on public view in council chambers for 10 days and then go to the Mahoning County Board of Elections for signature validation before council acts on the proposal.
There is enough time to follow the process and call a special meeting to vote on the matter before the Sept. 5 deadline for filing a charter amendment, Gillam said.
Council President Charles Sammarone said even though he does not support the five-ward charter amendment, he does agree the issue should be brought to the voters.
The vote to suspend council’s rules and act on the charter amendment proposal would have required six affirmative votes. The vote was 3-3: with Gillam, Nathanial Pinkard, D-3rd, and Janet Tarpley, D-6th, against; and Ray, Drennen and John R. Swierz, D-7th, in favor. Councilman T.J. Rodgers, D-2nd, was absent.
Another controversial proposed ordinance that would create the position of coordinator of downtown events and citywide projects was not approved as an emergency by council and was instead moved on to a second reading.
The ordinance proposal that the $41,124-a-year job be under the jurisdiction of the mayor’s office rather than council generated considerable debate during the finance committee meeting before the full council meeting.
Gillam argued that city ordinance places the events coordinator under the auspices of council, while Law Director Martin Hume said it is his opinion that the mayor has the authority through the city charter to fill the position.
Tarpley, chairwoman of the finance committee, said she disagreed with Hume and said she wants an outside opinion from the state attorney general before the issue is approved.
In other action, council approved a tentative agreement between the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 2312 and the city that calls for pay increases of 1 percent the first year, 1.5 percent the second year and 1 percent the third year.
Annual salaries range from $26,187 for an entry-level park laborer to $54,578 for a housing finance specialist, according to Vindicator files.
Local 2312’s membership, which includes about 90 clerks, secretaries, aides and inspectors, previously ratified the contract.