Redistricting battle rages

On the side

Silent candidate: Bill Reese, the Republican candidate for Mahoning County auditor, has been silent in his race even though his opponent, incumbent Michael Sciortino, a Democrat, was indicted last week by a Cuyahoga County grand jury on 16 felonies and 6 misdemeanors related to political corruption.

Reese is hosting a $100-a-head brunch on June 7 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Avion Banquet Center, 2177 W. Western Reserve Road in Canfield.

An email about the event, sent by the county Republican Party, reads: “Our current Mahoning county auditor has been indicted for the second time and has vowed to stay in the race. In any other place it would be a slam dunk that a new auditor would be elected; but this is Mahoning County, and Bill will need our help.”

Reese, a former Canfield township trustee, didn’t file a campaign finance report last month for financial activity through April 16. That means Reese didn’t raise or spend at least $1,000 on this campaign. Sciortino’s pre-primary report shows he raised no money and spent $1,538 between Jan. 1 and April 16. He had $8,568 in his campaign fund, from previous contributions, as of April 16.

It appeared as though a Youngstown City Council vote to hire a company to redistrict the city’s seven wards came out of nowhere.

But obviously that vote — which came just as council’s Wednesday meeting ended — was pre-planned by at least Councilwomen Annie Gillam, D-1st, and Janet Tarpley, D-6th.

Councilmen Nate Pin-kard, D-3rd, and John R. Swierz, D-7th, voted in favor of the proposal to hire Triad Research Group of Westlake for $7,500 to $10,000 to create maps to redistrict the city’s seven wards.

Both said they were told just moments before the start of the meeting that there would be a vote to hire Triad.

The reality of council’s 5-1 vote is it’s dead on arrival.

Mayor John A. McNally agreed to have the administration solicit proposals for a second agency to redistrict the seven wards, but wouldn’t have the city hire a firm. The mayor said nothing changed after council’s surprise vote.

McNally said the dozen redistricting maps from Youngstown State University’s Center for Urban and Regional Studies, given to council about nine months ago, are good and the legislative body needs to choose one.

That was going to happen in August 2013, but got derailed when Gillam objected to the maps. Each takes her East Side home out of her ward and puts it in the 2nd Ward.

Gillam’s husband, Artis, a former eight-year council member, has said he’s giving serious consideration to running in 2015, but not against Councilman T.J. Rodgers, D-2nd.

Redistricting is supposed to happen in time for the 2015 council races.

Tarpley said she isn’t interested in the maps from YSU’s center — which was paid $3,854 for the work — because “the process was tainted.”

Specifically, Tarpley said the YSU center provided “numerous scenarios with five” council members. “We asked for seven wards, not five wards.”

“We’ve done maps with four wards, five wards and seven,” said Thomas Finnerty, the center’s associate director. “We did those at the request of some council members. It doesn’t taint the process. The maps we did were in full compliance with the rules of one-person, one vote. To do so means the wards have to look dramatically different.”

That’s because the wards, which haven’t been redistricted in over 30 years even though the city charter requires it after every decennial caucus, have significant population inequities.

Meanwhile, a group of citizens plans to put a charter amendment on the November ballot to tie population to the number of council members.

If the population is between 40,000 and 79,999 — the 2010 census had 66,982 residents in Youngstown with the number continuing to drop — there would be five wards.

Population of at least 80,000 would keep the seven wards, but the city will likely never reach that number ever again. A city population of less than 40,000 would reduce the number of wards to three.

Councilman Paul Drennen, D-5th, the lone no vote on hiring Triad, said he supports the citizens’ proposal.

If approved, council would have 30 days after the 2014 election results are certified to draw new wards. If its members fail to do so, the mayor would have 14 days after that to draw a map that couldn’t be replaced until after the next council election.

After that, the same rules would apply after every census.

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