Warren, Youngstown join alliance

To promote city issues

Mayors of the state’s top 30 communities are hoping their collective ideas and combined voices in the Ohio legislature will help make positive changes in their communities.

The Ohio Mayor’s Alliance, which includes Youngstown Mayor John McNally and Warren Mayor Doug Franklin, will work together in 2017 and beyond to articulate their common concerns about job development issues, taxes, cleaning up brownfields for economic development, and the return of some of the local government funds.

The alliance consists of 20 Democrats and 10 Republicans.

The mayors from Ohio’s “big C” communities — Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati — as well as Toledo, Akron, Dayton, Canton, Springfield, Alliance and other communities are all part of this alliance.

Warren is the smallest of the cities involved.

“Regardless of parties, many of the issues facing all these city mayors are the same,” said McNally, who has attended the four organizational meetings the group has had since April.

Franklin agreed, saying most mayors are concerned with finding ways to maintain and improve their infrastructure, clean up brownfields for economic development and the implementation of Ohio House Bill 5, which affects how municipalities collect  income taxes.

“The restoration of some of the local government fund dollars would help city coffers,” Franklin said.

Franklin did not attend any the meetings in 2016 because of the city’s tight budget and he did not want to spend city dollars on outside travel.

McNally said the group will use its collective voices to lobby state legislators and work to make them understand issues facing the state’s urban centers.

“We want to stress to legislative leaders in Columbus to pay more attention to the issues facing the cities,” McNally said. “This will be the first time that mayors will be directly involved in talking to the legislators.”

For example, McNally said, the vast majority of mayors — both Democratic and Republicans — have expressed concerns about how Jobs Ohio has been distributing its dollars.

Franklin said the mayors also would like to see the restoration of the Clean Ohio fund.

“Some of those dollars can be leveraged to help clean up brownfield sites, such as RG Steel, which would help in economic development in Trumbull County,” Franklin said. “That would help the JEDD (Joint Economic Development District) we are forming with Howland and Warren Township in marketing the property for economic development.”

The mayors are pushing the idea that over the past five years, state funding to Ohio cities has been slashed by hundreds of millions of dollars. As a result, cities have had  less to spend on police officers and firefighters, paving streets, picking up garbage or saving for a rainy day.

“Many communities have had to raise income taxes to make up for some of the money they lost through state cuts,” Franklin said.

McNally said the new alliance has an eye on the 2018 elections when candidates will be running for a variety of offices, including the governor’s seat.

“Regardless of who wins, Ohio will have a new governor and we want the candidates seeking the position to be aware of the issues facing cities and to be accountable,” McNally said. “We are expecting to get some movement on issues, such as the return of some of the local government funds taken away by the Kasich administration.”

McNally said the alliance will work together to fight any new efforts to cut funding and cities’ home rule powers.