YOUNGSTOWN West Side group expands
Crime prevention will be a major goal of the new coalition.
By PETER H. MILLIKEN
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- The West Side Citizens' League is reorganizing and transforming itself into the Fourth and Fifth Ward Citizens' Coalition.
League members voted Tuesday evening to make the change. The new organization will cover a broader area and concern itself more with crime prevention and neighborhood quality of life issues, said Geri DeLuca of South Osborne Avenue, the coalition's president.
DeLuca was elected to replace Tim Komara, who had been league president for 14 years and resigned because of family responsibilities.
"Lately, it's been quite obvious that the crime that we used to think was only on the East Side and South Side has invaded the West Side, and that's why we decided to form a coalition. If you think it's not coming toward you, you're not paying attention to what's happening," said Donna Wilson of North Brockway Avenue, coalition secretary.
"We have to make this happen. We can't be another lower South Side or East Side," DeLuca said of the coalition's formation.
Among several dozen people present Tuesday were City Council President John R. Swierz and Councilmen Mike Rapovy, D-5th, and Ron Sefcik, D-4th. The fourth ward is on the West Side. The 5th ward includes parts of the West and South sides.
Republican and Democratic precinct committee people in both wards were invited to the meeting, and the new organization hopes to use the bylaws of the 7th Ward Coalition as a model for its bylaws, DeLuca said.
The group's next meeting will be at 7 p.m. Feb. 11 at Mill Creek Deli, 1260 S. Schenley Ave. At that meeting, bylaws are expected to be adopted for the new coalition, DeLuca said.
Rapovy said he'd work with Swierz and Sefcik to try to schedule a town hall meeting sometime in March or April, at which time members of the new coalition will be able to discuss their concerns with city department heads.
DeLuca said crime is up on the West Side, and rental properties with undesirable tenants are the biggest problem.
"I was raised here, and I want to see some positive changes. And I want to see the West Side be what it used to be when I was a child," said Shelly Rauschenbach of South Portland Avenue, a mother of school-age children, who signed up to join the new coalition Tuesday.
Rauschenbach said crime is up on the West Side, characterizing the problems as "drug-related, gangs of kids, burglaries, break-ins, harassment of the neighbors."
"I think it will be a good idea if we can get more of the crime watch members and presidents here and get all of their people involved towards one goal of making our city and the West Side of Youngstown safe and better," she added.
City Police Sgt. Scott White, canine unit supervisor, urged audience members to call the police drug task force and provide as much information as possible if they suspect drug-related activity.