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Mahoning Co. commissioners must contain sales-tax damage

Published: Sun, January 26, 2014 @ 12:00 a.m.

With friends like the employ- ees of the Mahoning County Board of Elections, commissioners Anthony T. Traficanti, Carol Rimedio-Righetti and David Ditzler don’t need enemies — in their quest to win voter approval for renewal of a 0.50-percent sales tax for a continuous period.

The commissioners emerged relatively unscathed from public hearings on their plans to place the tax renewal and a 0.25-percent increase on the May 6 primary election ballot. But, last week’s inexplicable decision by the four-member board of elections to approve — and then disapprove — a 3-percent pay raise for the employees could well be a game changer in the public’s mind.

Indeed, it already has affected the commissioners’ view of things. On Thursday, Traficanti, Rimedio-Righetti and Ditzler decided not to place the increase on the May ballot. They can now focus on the challenge of convincing private-sector taxpayers in the county, who are well aware that most of county government’s operating budget is dedicated to wages and benefits, that what Mark Munroe, Tracey Winbush, David Betras and Robert Wasko of the elections board did in initially approving the raise was irresponsible and does not reflect their view of employee compensation.

It doesn’t matter that the board members were acting on erroneous information with regard to the 3-percent raises. The fact remains that Republicans Munroe (the chairman) and Winbush, and Democrats Betras (the vice chairman) and Wasko did not instinctively tell Director Joyce Kale-Pesta that a pay increase was a non-starter. Munroe is chairman of the county Republican Party; Betras is chairman of the county Democratic Party.

What part of “anemic economic recovery” do those four individuals — or any public employee for that matter — not understand? Are they so removed from reality that they are unable to comprehend how difficult it is not only to find work in this area, but to hold on to a job?

The idea that public employees need to be rewarded for their work, as Betras suggested in justifying the pay increase, would be laughable, were it not so foolish.

As we have noted in this space many times, public-sector employment since the Great Recession of 2008 has been a boon for those lucky enough to have this largess.


Members of the board of elections do not deserve accolades for disapproving the 3-percent raise just hours after they had approved it.

Their backtracking was forced by Vindicator Politics Writer David Skolnick, who began asking questions of the commissioners after Tuesday’s meeting of the elections board.

It soon became clear they weren’t going to stand for any county department or agency boosting wages in the midst of the campaign to sell the 0.25-percent and 0.50-percent sales-tax issues to the residents of Mahoning County.

The message from Traficanti et al to Munroe et al was loud and clear: Cease and desist.

It’s a message that every department head should take to heart — as we have advised in the last couple of months.

If a case is to be made for renewing the sales tax on the books for an indefinite period (it now has a five-year shelf life before it must be presented to the voters for renewal), the commissioners should be given the opportunity to do so without unnecessary distractions.

Granting pay raises to public employees in the midst of an anticipated general fund shortfall is not only a distraction, it’s arrogant. It says to private-sector taxpayers struggling to make ends meet that their economic well-being is less important than that of public employees.

In light of last week’s flare-up, Traficanti, Rimedio-Righetti and Ditzler should consider appointing a committee of business and community leaders to drive the campaign.


1polhack(129 comments)posted 2 years, 6 months ago

Bravo, Vindy, give 'em the guns. Please keep an eye on them to ensure they don't appoint Cafaro, Lupo and other similar 'business people' to any commission they may appoint to possibly consider maybe doing something at some future date. Maybe.

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2republicanRick(1736 comments)posted 2 years, 6 months ago

Another point is why are Mahoning Cty election bosses the highest paid of any neighboring county? And why do we have TWO directors making so much?

Kale-Pesta should be forced out and the assistant elevated to the top (assuming he is qualified). And then they should NOT hire another manager. THAT is how you save the taxpayers money.

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3NoBS(2832 comments)posted 2 years, 6 months ago

Editorial writer: Yes, everyone is "well aware that most of county government’s operating budget is dedicated to wages and benefits." The Vindy remarks on that fact at every opportunity. You cannot mention taxes or public money without reminding everyone of it.

My question to you is, why is it so shocking? What is so surprising about the bulk of the government/school/whatever budget being spent on wages and benefits? What else do you think they do with the money? Governments provide services to the citizens. The services they provide require PEOPLE. There are no raw materials to buy and warehouse, no manufacturing processes, no sales force, no distribution centers, and, more importantly, NO PROFITS. In order to get people to do the work, they must be paid. So that's where the bulk of the budget goes, because that's the bulk of what the county/state/local municipality/school/other "trough-sloppers" (your derogatory and insulting term) provides - PEOPLE to perform the services the public needs and/or wants..

Is that so hard to understand?

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4author50(1121 comments)posted 2 years, 6 months ago

Here is a novel (pun intended) idea:

Dust of the Peat-Marwick Report from 1998-1999 and implement. One such item is the consolidation of the County Fiefdoms... excuse me courts, that the Vindi and others have been screaming about from the mountain top for years.

Anyway back to fun... here is a partial list of the men/women that the Commissioners will appoint to their 'blue ribbon' panel.

Clarence Smith (Chair)
Claire Maluso (Co-Chair)
Connie Knecht
Bill Wymer
Dan Rivers
Bill Kelly
Casey Malone
Andy Hamady
Socrates Kolisitos
Mark Naples
Marty Solomon
Pat Kerrigan
Marydee Costanzo
Kathy Miller
Robyn Galitto
Dave Sugar
Greg Strollo

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5NoBS(2832 comments)posted 2 years, 6 months ago

author50, that's an old list. Several of those people are not only no longer candidate material, but they were ousted in disgrace.

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