Youngstown voters agree to eliminate term limits
By David Skolnick
City voters approved charter amendments to eliminate term limits for council members and for council president while rejecting – for the eighth time – a proposal to ban fracking.
The charter amendment to remove term limits for council members passed by only 276 votes, 1.72 percent, according to unofficial but final numbers from the Mahoning County Board of Elections.
The amendment to get rid of term limits for council president did better, being approved by 560 votes, or 3.46 percent.
“It’s a hot topic so I’m not surprised by the close vote,” said Councilman Mike Ray, D-4th, who wouldn’t have been able to run for another term next year without the charter amendment’s approval. “Some people don’t feel term limits achieve their intended purpose so we let them decide in this election. The power is ultimately in the voters’ hands.”
Councilwoman Anita Davis, D-6th, who backed the proposal to remove term limits, said the close race was because of a “late push by people who put up signs against the issue. We didn’t organize anything to push in favor of it.”
She added: “I’m glad that it passed. I’m happy with the results. I wish it would have been a larger percentage, but people were clear to me that they supported it.”
Council members said they put the proposals to remove term limits on the ballot as a balance of power because voters in 2012 approved a charter amendment to eliminate term limits for the mayor. The mayoral proposal came at the recommendation of a charter-review commission that didn’t suggest a similar amendment for council members.
This change will take effect with next year’s election. They previously were able to serve a maximum of two consecutive elected four-year terms and then had to sit out an intervening term before seeking election.
Meanwhile, an anti-fracking charter amendment failed yet again. It lost by about 14 percentage points.
“We’ll be back again in some form,” vowed Susie Beiersdorfer, a member of the Committee for the Community Bills of Rights, which backed the issue. “We’re not finished fighting the corporate state. We’re not finished exposing the corruption in campaigns with huge money pouring into this every time. We’ll continue to fight for our community.”
The “Youngstown Drinking Water Protection Bill of Rights” would have banned fracking in the city and forbade Youngstown government to use water and wastewater funds for private economic development projects.
Similar anti-fracking charter-amendment proposals have failed seven previous times: twice in both 2013 and 2014, and once each in 2015 and 2016 as well as May of this year.
“Taxpayers have already spent a substantial sum on election administration costs related to this job-killing charter amendment and shouldn’t have to spend any more,” said Nick Santucci, Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber’s director of government and public affairs, and a member of the Mahoning Valley Jobs and Growth Coalition, which opposed the issue. “It’s time for the backers of these types of efforts to accept the will of the people and stop putting it on the ballot.”
In Canfield, a city measure that will lengthen terms for council members from two years to four years passed by a narrow 35-vote margin. That’s a 0.9 percent margin and not within the threshold for an automatic recount, which is 0.5 percent. Provisional ballots have yet to be counted, however.
Another city issue allowing council members to serve up to four consecutive terms, rather than three, passed with a strong majority: 62 percent to 38 percent.
Canfield Mayor Richard Duffett said he expected the term-length issue to pass, but didn’t expect it to be so close, given the positive reception he’d heard in the run up to the election. “Most of the folks I talked to felt that two years was a rather short time. ... Four years seemed reasonable,” he said.
Contributor: Reporter Justin Dennis