Knives come out in Y’town council

On the side

Lack of competition: Precinct committee races in Mahoning County are no longer hotly contested as they once were.

Of the 273 precincts in the county, Democrats have about 35 contested race with about 35 that don’t have a candidate.

Republicans have only four contested races in the county. Also, of the 77 precincts in Youngstown, there are only 15 Republicans running — all unopposed. Of the 273 precincts in the county, there are no Republicans in about 130 of them.

McKinley Club dinner: How do you know it’s election season? Gov. John Kasich is the keynote speaker for the Mahoning Valley McKinley Club dinner at 6 p.m. March 17 at the McKinley Memorial Auditorium in Niles. The annual event honors President William McKinley, who was born in Niles.

The $25 tickets have to be purchased or reserved in advance. Mail a check made out to the “McKinley Club” to the Mahoning County Republican Party, P.O. Box 9012, Youngstown 44513 or make reservations by calling Jill Downie at 330-629-7006 or by email at

Youngstown City Council’s delay in redistricting the seven wards has turned into a political war resulting in a split among its members and could become a battle of wills between some members and the mayor.

Mayor John A. McNally had the law department advertise to find a firm to develop a redistricting plan, but says he’s “not inclined to award a contract for that.”

That’s because the city has already paid $3,854 to Youngstown State University’s Center for Urban and Regional Studies for the work. YSU’s center has provided council members with a dozen maps to balance the population in the wards, and the Mahoning County Board of Elections has offered to help council several times with redistricting. The last time the city redistricted was about 30 years ago, and the seven wards are inequitable in terms of population ranging from 7,227 to 12,130, according to 2010 U.S. census figures.

A majority of council decided Aug 3, 2013, to seek a second opinion. Council passed legislation Oct. 17 to seek proposals from other agencies to provide a redistricting plan. The legislation doesn’t compel anyone in the city to hire a firm for the work, and McNally has made it clear he won’t and council should resume working with YSU on a map.

In response to McNally’s comments, Councilwoman Annie Gillam, D-1st, a vocal opponent of the YSU maps, said, “If he starts fighting, we can do that.”

Gillam said she doesn’t like the YSU proposals because they take away her representation on the city’s East Side, including her residence. Because of shrinking population on that side of the city, council would have to gerrymander her house to keep it in the 1st Ward.

Other council members deferred to Gillam’s request for a second opinion even though some found the YSU maps to be acceptable.

Gillam had previously said her concerns weren’t political and her husband, Artis, a former eight-year council member, wouldn’t be running for office when she is term-limited next year.

But Artis told me two days ago that he is “giving serious consideration” to seeking his former seat in 2015.

When asked about his house being redistricted to the 2nd Ward, he said, “It ain’t gonna happen. Take my word for it. There’s other ways of doing it to keep our street in the 1st Ward.”

Councilman Paul Drennen, D-5th, who supports the YSU maps, said: “All was fine until Ms. Gillam wasn’t happy to not be in the 1st Ward. It’s tough to agree with someone who is trying to fix the process so they can benefit from it or their family can benefit from it.”

Drennen and Councilman Mike Ray, D-4th, took major hits for previous comments to The Vindicator critical of the redistricting process.

The five other members of council voted Wednesday to remove Drennen as chairman of council’s park and playgrounds committee and take him off the community development agency committee. Drennen was left on only two of council’s 12 committees while Gillam and Councilmen T.J. Rodgers, D-2nd, and John R. Swierz, D-7th, sit on seven each.

“It’s retaliatory,” Drennen said.

Council also stripped Ray of his job as president pro temp, which he held since August 2011, and took away his chairmanship of the housing community and economic development committee.

“I hope we find a way to work better together,” Ray said.

Street repaving

Gillam said complaints from Ray and Drennen about redistricting and splitting money for street repaving and sidewalk projects by ward — she says it should be even by ward despite the population inequities — make council look like “we’re falling apart.”

Councilwoman Janet Tarpley, D-6th, said Ray hasn’t “been working with me,” and was particularly upset about Drennen and Ray supporting a proposal to not count prisoners in a ward redistricting plan.

“We weren’t on the same page,” she said. “We just have to have trust among council that each will do our best and be fair with each other, and not go behind our back. That’s not happening.”

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