Mayoral candidates discuss many issues, including Bozanich
By William K. Alcorn
Four candidates faced off in 21 WFMJ-TV’s Youngs-town Mayoral Forum on Tuesday night to debate and discuss how, if elected, they would handle several major issues facing the city.
Questions asked the candidates – Democrat Jamael Tito Brown and independents Janet Tarpley, Sean McKinney and Cecil Monroe – included the city’s declining income tax base, high poverty and crime rates, its opioid crisis, and the city’s role in reversing the loss of school-age students to districts outside the city.
But the first thorny question raised by forum hosts Leslie Barrett and Derek Steyer, WFMJ-TV news co-anchors, was whether Mayor John A. McNally should fire or place on administrative leave Finance Director David Bozanich, who is alleged to be the unnamed city official in a federal indictment who helped downtown property developer Dominic Marchionda in exchange for a $25,000 bribe in 2009.
Monroe, a substitute school teacher and preacher, said he would encourage Bozanich “to do the right thing and resign,” and if Bozanich did not resign, Monroe said he would “take the next step.”
However, other candidates were not as quick to move Bozanich out of his job.
“Everyone is innocent until proven guilty, and Bozanich has not been indicted. I’d let the legal process go on and then take action” based on its results, said McKinney, a former city buildings and grounds commissioner.
“Bozanich sits in a special position, ” said Tarpley, a former councilwoman, adding, “If he got indicted, I would ask him to resign.”
Brown also said he would let the legal process go forward, and if Bozanich were indicted, he would have a new financial director and ask for a complete city audit by the state when he took office.
To demonstrate integrity and transparency, all of the candidates said they would sign ethics statements and put in writing their goals so the public could hold them accountable to campaign promises.
McKinney urged people to “fact-check everyone running for mayor and every elected office” and know who they’re voting for.
Noting that the Youngstown City School District has about 10,000 school-age children but only about 5,000 of them attend Youngstown schools, the candidates were asked how they would reverse that trend.
McKinney said the job of mayor is to work from the inside out and take care of the quality of life, such as safety, to bring Youngstown children back to city schools. Monroe said the mayor has to take a leadership role in the schools, contending that everyone has to recommit to changing the system.
“We have to increase the diversity of the teachers. You can’t come in as a CEO and silence the board of education because that is silencing the people,” he said.
Brown, who was educated in Youngstown schools and has degrees from Youngstown State University, said the primary job of the mayor is day-to-day operation of the city, and educators should take care of that component.
To address the dwindling income-tax revenues, Brown said, “We need to talk about living-wage jobs, and we need to work with state and government officials to stop the brain-drain.”