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Mayor McNally strikes a blow for solid credentials in hiring

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

An often heard complaint from graduates of Youngstown State University is that trying to get a job in the public sector — especially government — is an exercise in futility.

And with jobs in the private sector also hard to come by, the brain drain that has afflicted the Mahoning Valley for at least two decades continues.

Long-time observers of local government will be familiar with the following long-standing rule to securing a place at the public trough: It’s not what you know but who you know.

As a result, taxpayers are deprived of being served by the best and the brightest in the community.

This incestuous relationship between those who do the hiring and those who are hired is a reason why we were strongly opposed to Youngstown City Council appointing a coordinator of downtown events and special projects.

As we argued in a recent editorial, the city charter gives council the power to hire only the council clerks.

We also pointed out that the charter gives the executive branch the authority to hire and fire, and that council’s attempt to usurp this power in the hiring of the coordinator of downtown events would not be the last if it were allowed to stand.

Fortunately, Mayor John A. McNally stood firm on his position that the appointment was his to make. He did so by creating a five-member committee to review the 54 applications and submit recommendations to him.

As a result of that process, McNally had the luxury of selecting from a list of applicants with strong qualifications and of consulting with members of the screening committee.

The mayor’s selection of Michael McGiffin of Struthers speaks to the importance of having an apolitical procedure for filling important positions in government.

McGiffin, who has a master of education degree in counseling and a bachelor’s degree in advertising and public relations from Youngstown State University, has served as operations manager of YSU’s Kilcawley Center for the past three years.

He starts his new assignment on Nov. 17 and will be paid $41,124 a year.

McGiffin will serve as liaison for all downtown events and will also be responsible for adding more events to the schedule, McNally said.

The new coordinator for downtown events also will be involved in citywide special projects, and will be expected to work closely with the city-owned Covelli Centre.

“My biggest passion is trying to get the various [arts and entertainment] entities that are already so strong and have them work closely together,” McGiffin said.

First-hand knowledge

As for the Covelli Centre, he has first-hand knowledge of the entity’s operation having overseen five YSU-sponsored events there and also a few outdoor gatherings. He did that in his role as an adviser to Penguin Productions, YSU’s event and production entity.

Why is it that connection important? Because one of the goals of city government as it charts the future of downtown Youngstown is to bring more YSU students downtown and to expand the relationship between the university and the city.

One of the barriers to closer ties is the fact that YSU is a commuter college, which means many students leave campus when they’re done with their classes each day and don’t return.

Some do live in the dormitories and off-campus housing around YSU, but they’re a minority. McGiffin will have to come up with events and other attractions aimed at the commuting students as well so they’ll consider returning to the downtown area.

The mayor’s appointment of a qualified, experienced individual to handle an important quality-of-life endeavor for the city suggests that we were right in opposing the power grab by some members of city council.