The troubled Western Reserve Port Authority can do without any more controversy, which is what the appointment of John Moliterno, Girard City councilman, as interim economic development director will trigger. Indeed, authority Chairman Ron Klingle has been warned that the entity could lose $500,000 a year from Mahoning County if the ill-advised appointment is made.
It should come as no surprise to Klingle and the other members of the board that we strongly advocate a national search for the economic-development directorship and that we see no benefit in bringing in someone who has not worked in the development office to fill the vacancy for four months or longer.
Moliterno was chairman of the port authority and president of the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber in the 1990s.
There already is an experienced economic development specialist on the payroll. Sarah Lown, who had worked for the city of Youngstown and Mahoning County governments, was hired in November 2011 to assist former director Rose DeLeon. DeLeon was chosen in a national search and served from November 2009 until January, when she went on disability leave.
Rather than waste time and energy on attempting to get Moliterno on the payroll, Klingle and the rest of the board should move quickly to advertise nationally for a new economic development director.
The characterization of the port authority as dysfunctional stems from the fact that three of the eight members resigned in the midst of deep-rooted dissension on the board.
Incidentally, it was Mahoning County Commissioner David Ditzler who used the word “dysfunctionality” to describe the operation of the port authority.
Things had deteriorated to such an extent that Ditzler and his colleagues, Anthony Traficanti and Carol Rimedio-Righetti, and Trumbull County’s commissioners, led by the late Paul Heltzel, began exploring options for replacing the authority.
One of the avenues being explored is whether the authority can be reorganized so it would answer directly to the Mahoning and Trumbull commissioners.
Each county commission appoints four members to the authority.
We previously have voiced our opposition to the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport’s governing body having to answer to the commissioners in the two counties. But we do believe that a re-evaluation of the current membership of the port authority is in order.
If the authority proceeds with the hiring of Moliterno as the interim economic development director, Valley residents will be justified in wondering whether there are systemic problems that can be addressed only by replacing the current members with a new slate.
The situation is serious enough that Congressman Tim Ryan of Howland, D-13th, should bring together the commissioners from the two counties and port authority members for a full airing of the issues and to work toward agreement on how to make the operation functional.
IMPORTANCE OF AUTHORITY
The role of the port authority, which is a creature of state statute, is too important to get distracted by petty politics and rushes to judgment.
As Lown noted in March 2012, the authority has certain powers that other government bodies don’t have, such as providing bond- financing for companies.
It can also help townships by buying property on their behalf and working across county lines to ensure that a business can get the best possible deal, Lown said.
The port authority also can do things the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber can’t do because it’s a government-funded entity.
“For our region, we can integrate the economies of Trumbull and Mahoning counties and make use of the infrastructure to work with everybody — the Chamber and everyone else,” Lown said.
That is why a national search for a new economic development executive director is so important and should begin without delay.