There undoubtedly are supporters of Youngstown Mayor John A. McNally who are wondering why he agreed to participate in Monday’s Vindicator Editorial Board mayoral forum that will also feature his opponent, Jamael Tito Brown.
Indeed, this writer had fully expected McNally to decline the invitation, and thus was pleasantly surprised when the mayor accepted without hesitation.
Brown’s participation was anticipated, given that he’s the challenger in the May 2 Democratic primary. For a challenger, any exposure to the voters is good exposure.
McNally, who is seeking a second four-year term, is well aware that The Vindicator’s editorials and this writer’s columns have paid a great deal of attention to his pleading guilty to four misdemeanor charges stemming from his role in the Oakhill Renaissance Place criminal enterprise.
While the mayor was fined, placed on probation and required to perform community service, he was not ordered by the judge to relinquish his elected office.
He is, therefore, campaigning for re-election with both his record as mayor and his criminal record out there for all to see.
To his credit, McNally has not backed away when confronted by Brown, a former member of city council, about his involvement in the Oakhill Renaissance scandal during his tenure as a Mahoning County commissioner.
The mayor is also well aware that four years ago he defeated Brown for the Democratic nomination by a mere 142 votes. And that was before his criminal conviction.
But the differences between the incumbent and his challenger go beyond the Oakhill Renaissance issue, and Monday’s hour-long mayoral forum will certainly highlight their parting of the ways.
This is the first time in the history of the newspaper that an Editorial Board session will be aired live.
The event will be streamed on Vindy.com, the paper’s website, and its Facebook page.
The Editorial Board is made up the owners of The Vindicator, this writer as the editorial page editor and editorial writer Rick Logan. The board makes decisions on endorsements in political races.
In keeping with tradition, the newspaper’s politics writer, David Skolnick, participates in the interviews with politicians, but he does not take part in the endorsement of candidates.
On Monday, this writer, along with Logan and Skolnick, will pose questions to the mayoral contenders, but the format will not be as rigid as a formal debate.
McNally and Brown will have ample opportunities to demonstrate their abilities to think on their feet. They will also be encouraged to engage one another in a free-wheeling discussion of the important issues confronting the city.
We will be delving into the controversy surrounding Water Department employees who pleaded guilty to falsifying their credentials in order to secure a license classification that resulted in an increase in their wages.
Youngstown government’s budget crisis will also be broached, especially in light of the warning from Finance Director David Bozanich that layoffs next year are possible.
Then there is the ongoing controversy over the use of water and wastewater funds for economic development, especially for downtown projects.
Some residents have argued that if Water Department is running a surplus, the money should be used to upgrade the water delivery system or to reduce the rates that residents pay for water and sewer services.
Crime continues to be a cause for concern in Youngstown, especially in the neighborhoods that are battlegrounds for drug gangs. Residents on some streets are virtual prisoners in their homes because sitting on the front porches during warm summer nights could be dangerous.
The streaming of Monday’s event on Vindy.com and the newspaper’s Facebook page is designed to provide viewers with an up-close look at how Mayor McNally and former councilman Brown perform under pressure.
But there’s an added bonus to having the live broadcast: Viewers will be able to weigh in by submitting questions and comments using the “Chat” box link on Vindy.com.
We’ll select the best ones to include in the broadcast.
Finally, people tuning in will note that Chemical Bank is sponsoring the Editorial Board’s venture into cyberspace. That, also, is a first for the newspaper.
In the words of Bob Dylan, recipient of the 2016 Nobel Prize for Literature, “The Times They are A-Changin.”