Four candidates are seek- ing the Democratic nomination for Youngstown City Council president in the May 2 primary, but only two of them warrant serious consideration by the voters: Mike Ray, 4th Ward councilman; and, John R. Swierz, former council president and 7th Ward councilman.
Of the other two, one is a political novice who is a college student; the other is a former Youngstown city councilman and mayoral chief of staff with a record of inappropriate behavior while on the public payroll.
Young Tensley, who is pursuing a bachelor of arts degree in religious studies at Youngstown State University, failed to clearly articulate reasons for his candidacy when he participated in The Vindicator’s Editorial Board endorsement interview.
By contrast, DeMaine Kitchen demonstrated a deep understanding of the operation of city government and concisely explained his reasons for seeking the council presidency.
Unfortunately, we are unable to overlook his resignation as former Mayor Charles Sammarone’s chief of staff four days before the release of an investigator’s report that concluded Kitchen sexually harassed a female city employee.
The report also stated that Kitchen admitted to making inappropriate remarks to the employee.
The city ended up paying $50,000 as its share of the settlement of $120,000. Its insurance carrier covered the rest.
To us, such behavior in a position of authority cannot be ignored. We believe that serving in government is a privilege, not a right, and once that privilege has been abused there can be no second chances.
Thus, Kitchen’s record is a disqualifying factor in this election.
That brings us to the two leading candidates, Ray and Swierz.
While both have legislative experience and both have commendable records of service to their constituents, in particular, and the city, in general, we conclude that Ray stands out in the race.
Why? For the simple reason he currently is serving in council and has distinguished himself as a thoughtful, hard-working lawmaker.
By contrast, Swierz left office in 2015 and, thus, has not recently worked with the current members of council.
We believe such a relationship is important seeing as how the council president’s main responsibility is to run council meetings.
But because the president is the only other non-judicial citywide elected official besides the mayor, the position comes with some influence.
Indeed, a mayor can benefit greatly by forging a close working relationship with the leader of the legislative body.
There’s another aspect to the job that while rarely seen is nonetheless significant: The president of council is next in line to be the mayor should the city’s chief executive leave office before his term is up.
Ray’s enthusiasm for public service is evident as he talks about his six-plus years as a lawmaker and his involvement in various community organizations.
“I first joined city council because I wanted to make the city better, and I retain that goal. However, I do not feel my work is done, and I am facing term limits as the 4th Ward councilman,” he wrote on his Vindicator survey form. “I am running for city council president because I believe I can still be of service to the residents of Youngstown.”
We share that belief and are confident that Ray will continue to demonstrate the leadership qualities that have been recognized by the residents of the 4th Ward and of the city as a whole.
While we have supported Swierz in the past, we believe his absence from council is a disadvantage when voters have the chance to elect someone who is now on the front lines of guiding the community through some challenging times.
Therefore, The Vindicator endorses Ray for the Democratic nomination for city council president in the May 2 primary.
No Republican has filed for the office. The deadline for independent candidates is May 1 – a day before the primary.