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Youngstown council flaunts constitution on redistricting

Published: Tue, February 25, 2014 @ 12:00 a.m.

Good for Youngstown Mayor John A. McNally for refusing to go along with the blatant politicization of the redistricting of the city’s seven wards.

Population balance is a constitutional requirement, which means Youngstown’s population of about 65,000 must be divided by seven. That will necessitate a redrawing of the boundaries. And, as in all redistricting schemes, there are winners and losers. Case in point: Ohio Democrats lost seats in the state General Assembly and in Congress after Republicans took control of all statewide administrative offices and the Legislature and used that power to redraw congressional and state Senate and House district lines.

But Youngstown Councilwoman Annie Gillam, D-1st, is refusing to accept that reality. Along with some of her colleagues, she has delayed the redistricting of the seven wards because the dozen maps that have been presented to lawmakers all arrive at the same conclusion: Gillam’s house and much of the East Side cannot be part of a new 1st Ward. That’s because the loss of population has been greatest in that part of the city.

The last redistricting of the city’s wards occurred about three decades ago, and because of the failure of past councils to meet the constitutional mandate of equal distribution of population, there is now a huge discrepancy in ward populations.

According to the 2010 census figures, ward populations range from 7,227 (on the East Side) to 12,130 (on the West Side).

Gillam has refused to accept the redistricting maps prepared by Youngstown State University’s Center for Urban and Regional Studies and wants new ones developed by some other entity.

The city paid $3,854 for the YSU plans, and Mayor McNally, who was sworn in Jan. 1 and is having to deal with a budget shortfall, is adamant that there should be no further expenditure on another redistricting effort.

We believe the mayor is well within his rights as head of the Board of Control (the finance and law directors are the other members) to refuse to enter into an agreement with another entity.

Councilwoman Gillam and the lawmakers who have deferred to her request for a second opinion are not acting in the best interest of the city of Youngstown.

It is clear that the only redistricting map Gillam will accept is one that largely maintains the status quo. That’s not possible given Youngstown’s steep population decline.

The mayor has suggested that council resume working with YSU on a map. We believe most of the taxpayers who pay the unjustifiably high salaries members of council earn for part-time work would agree with McNally.

It is the height of arrogance for one member of council to put her political self-interest ahead of the best interest of the city.

“The current situation is unconstitutional,” McNally, the city’s former law director, said of the population discrepancies in the wards.

Taxpayer lawsuit

Given that this is the second major issue in which council has ignored the reality of the shrinking city, a taxpayer lawsuit to force the redistricting is a very real possibility. Indeed, it may be the only way to force lawmakers to abide by the constitution, which they have sworn to uphold.

Council’s refusal last year to place all 17 recommended charter amendments on the ballot — so voters could have a say about the future of the city — made it clear that most lawmakers are concerned only about themselves. Some of the amendments could have directly affected members of council, including one that would have reduced their salaries.

If those elected to represent the people don’t do what’s expected of them, then the people have a right to act. A taxpayer lawsuit on the redistricting of the wards would certainly send a strong message to council: Stop treating government as your fiefdom.

Mayor McNally is doing exactly what the people expect of him when he tells Councilwoman Gillam and her colleagues that not another dime will be spent on a redistricting plan.


1mishmash(331 comments)posted 2 years, 3 months ago

how come WARREN CITY COUNCIL is taking the lead in moving forward & utilitzing YSU Center for Urban and Regional Studies to change their ward lines based on diminishing population.

YOUNGSTOWN CITY COUNCIL is ridiculous in their dealings with anything.... so unprofessional.

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

Good for McNally indeed. Remember when the braintrust led by Gillam showed up in t-shirts supporting their deadbeat mayoral candidate at the dem party meeting to present McNally as their party's chosen candidate? What an embarrassing mess Ms Gillam made for everyone foolish enough to follow her to a hasty protest news conference threatening to punish the party for publicly disciplining her and the other alleged party members for their failure to support the party's nominee. Anyone following her in this lame attempt to spend taxpayer money for a new redistricting plan which she finds appropriate because it retains her council seat, will likely be even more embarrassed.

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3republicanRick(1700 comments)posted 2 years, 3 months ago

Fantastic editorial by the Vindicator.

Straight talking, to the point, and critical of the one lady who is holding up progress for the citizens of Youngstown.

Annie Gillam should be ashamed of her selfish actions. Martin Luther King would be turning over in his grave if he knew of Gillam's behavior.

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4kurtw(1708 comments)posted 2 years, 3 months ago

It's ridiculous. Another study is only going to reach the same conclusion- it's like having Blood Work done and not liking the results, so you look around for another Lab that's going to tell you what you want to hear. Keep trying- it's not going to happen- Facts are Facts.

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