Forum an important event

It’s easy to take for granted some of the important work people do behind the scenes to make a difference in our community.

Take, for instance, the efforts of the Upper Ohio Valley Business and Professional Women’s Club. Among the other work members of the organization have been doing during the past several months is organizing the candidates’ forum that will be held Thursday at Eastern Gateway Community College.

Putting together an event like the forum, which will begin shortly after 6:30 p.m. in the large lecture hall at the school, is a tough task. Deciding what area races will be included and then contacting each of the candidates and representatives who are willing to talk about various ballot issues can be a challenge.

Fortunately, the BPW is able to call on Phyllis Riccadonna.

The longtime member and former club president has had a long interest in local politics and has been willing, once again, to step up and organize the event.

As event chair, she’s been able to assemble what shapes up as an important evening for anyone who lives in Jefferson County and is planning to vote in the Nov. 7 election. Those who attend will be able to hear about several important races and ballot issues, and how votes for — or against — will affect them, their neighbors and the community.

Steubenville residents, for instance, will have the chance to hear the four candidates who are seeking the mayor’s post answer questions about what direction they see the city heading. And, while it’s not a true debate format, the forum will offer the chance for the candidates to respond to answers given by one another.

That’s especially important this year.

It’s not possible to know what the vote totals will look like when the counting is done, but we do know that come the morning of Nov. 8, someone other than Domenick Mucci will have been elected mayor. And that’s something that hasn’t happened in 25 years.

The four candidates — Jerry Barilla, a Republican; Frankie DiCarlantonio, a Democrat; Royal Mayo, who’s running as a nonpartisan candidate; and Michael Walenciej, who’s running a write-in campaign — entered the race last winter, shortly after Mucci announced he would not seek re-election during a January meeting with the Herald-Star editorial board.

Yes, the post is largely a ceremonial position. But remember, the mayor has the authority to make more than 70 appointments to various boards and other panels that play an important role in how the city functions.

Attendees also will have the chance to hear the candidates for seats on Steubenville City Council from the 2nd Ward – incumbent Republican Michael Johnson and Democrat challenger Craig Petrella — and 6th Ward — Democrat incumbent Bob Villamagna and Republican challenger Sam Ivkovich.

Representatives will be on hand to discuss several ballot issues, including Steubenville’s 5-mill renewal levy; the Indian Creek Local School District’s 6.49-mill levy that includes money to build a new high school; Buckeye Local School District’s 4.9-mill emergency levy; the Jefferson County Children Services 1-mill renewal; the Jefferson County 911 1.5-mill renewal; and Ohio’s Issue 2, the state’s prescription drug plan.

Joining me on the panel that will be asking questions of the candidates will be Brooke Chaplain of WTRF-TV and Rich Pierce of WTOV-TV. The toughest job of the evening just might belong to Mary Lou Jones, a longtime BPW member and representative of WCDK-FM, who will serve as the timekeeper and will have the task of letting the candidates know when to wrap it up.

The evening will begin at 6 p.m. with a reception, where you’ll be able to meet and talk with the candidates and the representatives from the several ballot issues.

BPW President Sara Lane and members of her club deserve credit for continuing to support this forum, which offers voters the chance to learn more about the people and issues they will vote on when they go to the polls.

It’s the duty of those who live in our democracy to be informed voters, and Thursday’s forum plays a vital role in that education process.

We hope you’ll join us.

(Gallabrese, a resident of Steubenville, is executive editor of the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times.)