Perhaps it’s a little appropriate – if not ironic – that Youngstown’s first major political debate of the 2013 primary election season is taking place a stone’s throw from a rose garden. Think of all the botanical symbolism that’ll be running rampant as Democratic mayoral candidates square off against each other within the grounds of Fellows Riverside Gardens at Mill Creek Park. Seeds will be sown of both hope and doubt. Fertilizer, which is always in ample supply in politics, will be spread far and wide. And regardless of the trials and tribulations produced by the stiff wind and weathering of a campaign – or is that “whethering” – one candidate will emerge as a strong and healthy bud that blossoms into full bloom on election night on May 7th.
A nonprofit neighborhood organization in Youngstown known as the 7th Ward Citizens Coalition is hosting a three-way scuffle between the candidates who filed to run for Youngstown Mayor in the Democratic Party’s primary race. Jamael Tito Brown, John McNally, and Matthew Smith all quickly accepted the 7WCC’s invitation to engage in, one hopes, some erudite verbal sparring over why each man believes he is best suited to take over the office overlooking the corner of Phelps and Boardman downtown. The debate is slated to start at 7:00 p.m. tonight (Thursday, March 21st) at the DD & Velma Davis Visitor and Education Center at Fellows Riverside in Mill Creek.
By the way, the 7WCC was prepared to host other mayoral primary debates, but unfortunately no other party in town could even scare up one candidate to debate him- or herself in the mirror. The 7WCC board of directors made the decision late last year to focus squarely on the mayor’s race, and as it turns out, only Dems filed petitions. And just a trio of ‘em at that. Of course, with the presumed entrance of some independent candidates on May 6th, things could be interesting for the November general election. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Let’s get back to the garden.
Messers. Brown, McNally and Smith will be facing a local journalistic firing squad composed of Andrea Wood from the Business Journal, Bertram de Souza from The Vindicator, and Gerry Ricciutti from WYTV/WKBN/Fox (my wife asked this evening if Gerry gets paid three times more than the average bear for reporting for three stations. I picture Mr. Ricciutti simultaneously laughing and crying over that one).
One does not think that the Wood/de Souza/Ricciutti pitching rotation will be lobbing up any softballs. Or even any curve balls for that matter. But if I was one of these candidates, I would be prepared for a steady diet of high hard ones and hope that I don’t [insert Dan Patrick breathy sound effect] whiff. The recent custom for the 7WCC has been to let the public submit questions on note cards, but now that the local media pros have been invited back into the game, it’ll be interesting to see what develops.
If nothing else, this imminent mayoral debate has already produced some questionable metaphorical images to gardening and baseball. It must be spring. One thing is clear, though. Someone new will be occupying the big chair currently warmed by one Charles P. Sammarone come January. It would behoove the interested public to come to these proceedings and examine what Brown, McNally and Smith have to say about that.
It is easy to be cynical, or in the words of Paul Simon’s “Mrs. Robinson”:
Going to the candidates debate
Laugh about it, shout about it
When you’ve got to choose
Ev’ry way you look at it, you lose
But on the whole, the real loss is in not being informed at all. The room downstairs at the Davis Center holds about 250. Let’s hope every seat is filled and that all visitors to the Visitor and Education Center are suitably educated.