Citizens take up Youngstown downsizing effort

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – While Youngstown City Council still works on a plan to redistrict seven wards around the city, a citizen committee is collecting signatures to put a charter amendment on the ballot to reduce the number of wards from seven to five.

On Wednesday, they added more names to those petitions during a “drive and sign” event at the Erie Terminal Place in downtown Youngstown. The people pushing the “Draw the Line” charter amendment said it is all about the numbers and numbers don’t lie.

The proposed amendment calls for seven ward seats if the city’s population is 80,000 or more. But it is not. According to the 2010 U.S. Census, approximately 65,000 people now live in Youngstown.

The city charter established seven wards in 1923. Since then, Youngstown has lost 60 percent of its population.

The committee is trying to collect at least 1,200 signatures by this weekend to let citizens vote to reduce council seats from seven to five to match the population loss.

“Since the city has gotten smaller, why shouldn’t we have less wards? And put them according to the population, evenly,” Youngstown resident Anna Kerrigan said.

The charter amendment effort is being led by Youngstown activist Phil Kidd.

“We think that with five wards, it makes sense because it is still a manageable number for representatives to be able to represent. The current council right now will have to draw the lines, however that looks,” Kidd said.

He was on the city charter review committee in 2012 when voters passed an amendment saying council shall redistrict the wards based on the most recent census figures. It had been 30 years since that was done, but now nearly two more years have passed since voters called on the current council to redraw ward boundaries with no action taking place.

This new charter amendment would set a deadline to get it done.

“There is 120 days after the census information comes back, that if redistricting needs to take place, that is the timetable,” Kidd said.

He said the amendment would take effect 30 days after it is passed and well before the 2015 city council elections. It would create a model where population dictates the number of wards and there is a definite deadline to redistrict.

“So hopefully this will alleviate this issue moving forward. We won’t have to keep revisiting this,” Kidd said.

The petitions are just to put the charter amendment on the November ballot. It would still be up to the voters to decide whether the amendment passes or fails.

Kidd said the committee is about halfway to getting the number of signatures they need. There is another chance for folks to sign the petitions on Thursday from 5 to 8 p.m. at the farmers market at the B&O Station.

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