Three-read rule on books for a reason

Warren Councilman James Valesky, D-at large, set an example that his colleagues, not just in Warren but throughout Trumbull County, should follow.

It is disturbing how often municipal lawmakers pass ordinances as emergencies when no emergency exists. In doing so, they eliminate the three readings that give themselves, their constituents and other stakeholders opportunities for research and public debate.

We mentioned recently how Niles council had to rescind an ordinance banning oil and natural gas related exploration in the city after passing the prohibition as an emergency. No emergency existed. If the legislation went through three readings, Niles lawmakers would have heard through public comments all of the problems with the ordinance before it passed.

In Warren this week, City Council was about to pass as an emergency a plan to buy The Gibson Building downtown for $2.5 million. Mayor Doug Franklin said that failing to approve this as an emergency means city workers would be stuck longer in the dilapidated 418 S. Main St. offices.

Workers have been stuck in that monstrosity of a building for decades. Waiting a bit longer to hear public comment and conduct some more research isn’t going to make a lot of difference, especially since we’re talking about committing taxpayers to more than $3.5 million of interest and principal and potentially more in repairs over the next 20 years.

Valesky’s stand means council can now review important information, such as appraisals (the Trumbull County auditor values the property at just over $1.7 million), inspection reports, repair estimates and alternatives. Still unexplained is why it’s better to buy The Gibson Building for $2.5 million to house a few city offices as opposed to purchasing a remodeled former Delphi building for an estimated $4.25 million to house virtually every city office.

In the end, buying The Gibson Building may prove to be the best choice. But it’s scary to think that seven Warren City Council members voted to treat the purchase as an emergency. Fortunately, with two council members absent, Valesky’s single vote was enough to avoid haste.