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Current Mahoning commissioners should keep seats

Good fiscal management and favorable long-term planning efforts are among accomplishments that can be boasted by incumbent Mahoning County Commissioners David Ditzler and Anthony Traficanti.

The two have helped the county to operate within its means for the past several years, while still accomplishing larger long-term goals for their constituency, including growing infrastructure and focusing on regionalized efforts.

The two incumbents have earned an opportunity to continue their efforts for another term.

Ditzler, 62, a Democrat from Austintown, is facing Republican Steve Kristan, 61, of Canfield. Kristan recently left his 35-year career at AT&T, where he most recently served as director of external affairs.

Traficanti, 54, a Democrat from Poland, has held his commissioner seat since 2005. He also faces a newcomer, Republican Grant Williams, 27, of New Middletown. Williams works in construction.

Both Ditzler and Traficanti have served our community well for many years, and we believe they will continue to be a good stewards of public money.

The sitting commissioners were correct to be proud of their ability to stabilize the county’s finances. In the mid to late 2000s, the county had been facing a $14 million deficit, and sales tax attempts failed twice.

Commissioners began thinking outside the box and they created the idea for a “justice fund,” earmarking tax levy dollars specifically for courts, 911 operations, coroner’s office, jail operations and law enforcement — rather than for broader general fund spending. The decision reassured voters by limiting where the funds could be spent. The plan seems to have worked well.

Ditzler also has been a vocal proponent of researching and experimenting with unique tools, such as TIFs (tax increment financing) and TIDs (tax incremental district), offered to local governmental entities.

We especially were pleased with the county’s involvement in the cooperative effort that helped to take over the former Youngstown Developmental Center. Mahoning commissioners this year approved purchase of the facility for $1, transferring ownership from the state to the Mahoning County Mental Health and Recovery Board. The Western Reserve Port Authority has agreed to manage the site that ultimately will be utilized by eight entities to provide social services to needy clients. The facility is now being called the “Campus of Care.”

In another cooperative effort, Traficanti noted that Mahoning County is part of a regional effort to expand broadband internet access. Ashtabula, Trumbull and Mahoning counties have worked together to secure a grant. They now are seeking proposals for studies on broadband internet expansion.

The county has stashed away casino revenue into what Ditzler described as a “stabilization” fund, which now totals more than $6 million. The funds were used this year to help keep the county afloat during the COVID pandemic.

We applaud the savings, but we urge discussions for use of the large reserve. Rather than simply holding it for a rainy day, we believe it would be more effective to devote the funds to long-term capital expenditures and improvements. And if the cash reserve is not needed, then consideration should be given to reducing constituents’ taxes.

Kristan, Ditzler’s opponent, brought good, conservative ideas to the table. He has taken his candidacy seriously, having met, he said, with dozens of business and community leaders to gain insight in developing the plan that he called “MVP25” for Mahoning County Vision Plan 2025.

The plan involves goals of expanding countywide accessibility to high-speed internet; working to create a better environment to attract new business growth and jobs; and increasing transparency in county government.

It is apparent from our conversation that his goals were well developed.

We believe, however, that members of the current board of commissioners have been proving their ability to plan for the future while achieving success today. With the current level of success, frankly, we see no reason for change.

Still, we are encouraged by Kristan’s professionalism and his desire to serve the public. If he is unsuccessful in this bid for elected office, we hope he will find another way to serve our area in the future.

Williams, Traficanti’s opponent, declined to seek our endorsement.

We endorse both Ditzler and Traficanti. Each has served his constituents well, and each deserves to be returned to his post for another term.

editorial@tribtoday.com

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