April 16, 2014

Elyria
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Democrats vote to oppose county government reform

 

Mark R. Stewart / CHRONICLE FILE PHOTO

Mark R. Stewart / CHRONICLE FILE PHOTO

ELYRIA — The Lorain County Democratic Party’s Executive Committee on Wednesday voted to oppose a proposed reform of county government whose backers are trying to get the issue on the November 2014 ballot.

The vote among Democrats present was unanimous, but one member of the committee, Elyria Democratic Party Chairman Mark Stewart, was notably absent. Stewart, who did not return calls seeking comment Wednesday, has been a strong proponent of reforming county government.

Lorain County Democratic Party Chairman Anthony Giardini said he had called the meeting so Stewart could explain his reasoning and had asked another prominent supporter of the plan, businessman Jeff Riddell, to attend and answer questions about how the plan was conceived. Giardini said he received a message that Riddell was out of town.

Giardini said after the meeting that as a member of the Executive Committee, Stewart will be obligated to support the party’s opposition to the reform effort and he intends to remind him of that.

When asked about the status of Stewart’s leadership position given his previous backing for the reform effort, Tom Callahan, vice chairman of the Elyria Democratic Party, said it likely will be reviewed by Elyria Democrats.

“At some point in the future there will be a discussion,” Callahan said.

Elyria City Councilman Jack Baird, R-at large, said that even with the political firestorm surrounding Stewart cashing in $18,080 worth of unused sick time after working four hours for the county in April, he hopes the former county auditor continues to support reform.

“I hope he does because I think he’s a strong voice of reason,” Baird, who didn’t attend Wednesday’s Democratic meeting, said.

Although supporters of the plan have called it a bipartisan effort to make county government more representative, Giardini and others argued it has enjoyed only limited support among Democrats, most notably Stewart and Avon Mayor Jim Smith.

Democrats contend the plan has largely been backed by Republicans who are using it as a vehicle to try to seize control of county government.

Although Lorain County voters tend to elect Democrats — only three Republicans now hold county-wide office — that would change, Giardini said, if the county shifts from having three at-large county commissioners to a seven-member county council.

Giardini and others said that the way the districts are drawn would see three come solidly under Republican control and a fourth would lean Republican. The remaining three districts would be strongly Democratic, he said.

Lorain Democratic Party Chairman Paul Adams, who is also the director of the county Board of Elections, said after the meeting that his review of recent county commissioner elections shows that the following districts would become Republican strongholds:

  • A district comprised of Avon Lake, Sheffield, Sheffield Lake and part of Lorain;
  • A district comprised of Avon and the northern part of North Ridgeville;
  • A district comprised of the rest of North Ridgeville, a portion of Elyria that tends to vote Republican as well as Carlisle, Eaton and Columbia townships.
  • The district that contains Grafton, LaGrange, Wellington, Kipton, Rochester, South Amherst, Oberlin and 11 townships would lean Republican, especially if the race for that district were held in a nonpresidential election year when students at famously liberal Oberlin College tend not to vote in great numbers, Adams said.

Baird said that the districts were created by the Center for Community Solutions, an organization affiliated with Cleveland State University, and weren’t designed to favor one party or the other.

“It was never part of any makeup of the council to be partisan in any way,” Baird said. “It was totally nonpartisan.”

He said the idea is to bring representation to parts of the county, like the southern townships and eastern suburbs that feel they have been underrepresented in county government. He said Democrats want to maintain their virtual lock on control of county government.

“If you’ve got all the power, why would you want to do anything different?” Baird said.

The plan also would see the county coroner, recorder, clerk of courts, engineer and treasurer change from being elected officials to positions appointed by the council. The county executive also would be appointed by the council, while the county prosecutor, sheriff and auditor would remain separate elected positions.

“The plan’s bad for county government because it places too much power in too few hands,” Giardini said.

Democrats said they also dislike the secrecy that cloaked that drafting of the proposed changes, which they argued saw too few voices discussing how to alter county government for everyone. It would have been better, they said, for the county to have created a charter commission to make recommendations for changing county government in public meetings.

Baird said the small nature of Citizens for Equal Representation had more to do with the logistics of getting a group of people to meet regularly than an effort to exclude the public.

In other business, Democrats agreed to back a replacement levy with an increase for Lorain County Community College and a temporary 0.5 percent sales tax hike with a rollback of some property taxes being sought by county commissioners. Both of those issues will be on the ballot in November.

Contact Brad Dicken at 329-714 or bdicken@chroniclet.com.

  • stillsleepyeyes

    In other business they have agreed to back the taxes increases to fill there pockets up some more………………….

  • CharlesMartel732

    This story headline: “Democrats vote to oppose county government reform.” Another headline in today’s paper: “Lorain County poverty rate up, medium income down.”

    What a coincidence.

  • oldruss

    Sounds like the Politburo of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. The General Secretary would never tolerate dissention among Politburo members either.

  • Bill

    Being the scum that Anthony Giardini is of course he is going to oppose this. Go away Giardini and stay in Lorain.

  • INavon

    DId Giardini say that with a straigt face?…..”too much power in the hands of too few people” ???? That is what is happening in Lorain county already. He seems to be concerned only with his own interests rather than those of the residents. Lorain County is on the coat tails of Cuyahoga in regards to being screwed up.

  • GreatRedeemer

    County government is working just fine. Ask Mark Stewart. JK

  • Joe Sandor

    Anything that makes things flow easier or that lessens their power, Dems are against.

  • TheOriginalFactChecker

    Republicans at every level Do Not Care about Americans. Want proof? Yesterday in Congress, they voted to cut SNAP (food stamps). Census data shows that some 1.5 million households with a veteran were receiving SNAP benefits.

    • bpbatista

      I’m tired of this slander. Democrats have been bleeding America dry for the last five years. Since Obama took office poverty is up, incomes are down, income inequality is up and minority unemployment is at record levels. The Democrats have nearly bankrupted the country with trillion dollar deficits. Thanks to the intentionally destructive policies of the Democrat party there are record number of people on food stamps and federal disability. If it were not for the Federal Reserve printing money we would be in another Great Depression. Every Democrat policy is designed and intended to impoverish average Americans while lining rich Democrat pockets.

      The Democrat party is also racist. It is Democrats who want to keep poor black kids trapped in failing public schools. It is Democrats who sacrifice blacks to the union bosses by opposing school reforms. It is Democrats who are attacking small business and destroying minority job opportunities by raising the minimum wage and pushing to import millions of new foreign workers in the midst of a depression. Democrats are purposely destroying the best health care system in the world and poor blacks and other minorities will suffer the most.

      Democrat honchos like Giardini don’t care about Americans — they only care about their own power and wealth. They are the 1% and the rest of us can go to hell for all they care.

    • Denise Caruloff

      ahhhhh there he is…have been waiting for you. lol

  • Mike Rush

    While the Democrat liberals that run this county have driven it straight into the ground, adding more politicians is NOT the solution.. The county’s already dying a slow death, this proposal simply speeds that up…