The group will send 50 members to the office of one city department head.
By JULIE A. WAGNER
VINDICATOR RELIGION EDITOR
YOUNGSTOWN -- A woman named Maria made a plea to 800 people Sunday.
"I am a woman with dreams. I am a mother who lives in fear. Help us, help us to be free," she said in Spanish during a public meeting of the Alliance for Congregational Transformation Influencing Our Neighborhoods, or ACTION.
Maria, a city resident who gave only her first name, spoke through a translator during the civil rights portion of the meeting and told about her plight as an immigrant.
Maria said she works and pays taxes, but has been waiting nine years for her immigration papers. Meanwhile, she said, she has the constant fear of being deported and separated from her family and her American-born grandchildren. She has no health insurance, no driver's license and no Social Security number, she said.
When she finished, the Rev. Joseph Fata, pastor of St. Luke Church in Boardman, said "ACTION stands in solidarity with all who are in any way marginalized and oppressed."
Challenge to lawmakers
Father Fata then challenged U.S. Rep. Ted Strickland of Lisbon, D-6th, and Pat Lowry, an aide to U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan of Niles, D-17th, to stand before the audience and say whether they would support the Safe, Orderly, Legal Visa Enhancement Act, which was introduced by 45 other representatives. The S.O.L.V.E. act would help immigrants such as Maria, Father Fata said.
Neither Strickland nor Lowry were aware of the act, but each told the audience he would arrange meetings with ACTION members within 60 days.
ACTION issued several other challenges as it met at St. Christine Church on South Schenley Avenue to discuss progress on its agenda. ACTION includes members of more than 20 churches, synagogues and organizations.
Parks department issue
In another matter, a group of 50 people plans to visit the office of City Parks Director Joseph McRae, who failed to show up for a meeting about the city's playgrounds. They agreed to be at city hall at 9:30 a.m. Oct. 28.
Ren & eacute; Rodriguez, 17, a member of St. Patrick Church on Oak Hill Avenue, said the youth committee had discussed with McRae the possibility of cleaning up a park, and the park director said they could pick one. The committee chose the playground next to the Cleveland School on Glenwood Avenue in the Fosterville area. He said the park had broken glass, cracked equipment and vandalized tennis and basketball courts. They were to meet with McRae on Thursday, but he did not attend or call, ACTION members said.
Rodriguez said the committee wants the park to be fixed by May 1. Members are also demanding that by June 1 McRae have a supervisor at the park in the afternoon and early evening and a security guard present from 6 p.m. until dark.
McRae could not be reached to comment.
On another city matter, the Rev. Michael Harrison, pastor of Union Baptist Church, thanked Mayor George McKelvey and city officials for demolishing a few of the abandoned houses that ACTION has visited during Holy Ground marches. He said, however, that they were not moving fast enough.
"If we can build a convention center, if we can change the landscape of downtown," the Rev. Harrison said, "it just makes sense we ought to be able to find the money to tear down abandoned drug houses in the city of Youngstown."
"Tear them down, tear them down, tear them down," he shouted to the crowd, adding that it should be done not in the next few years, but in the next several months.
The mayor was not present, but before the meeting gave The Vindicator a copy of a letter sent to ACTION addressing several issues and listing the city's positive outcomes for 2004. McKelvey wrote that the administration and council, in response to the input of ACTION and Youngstown 2010 meetings, are developing a more creative and effective demolition plan.
"The objective of the program is to demolish the 700 structures on the demolition list within two years or less," he wrote.
ACTION leaders announced at the meeting that they received his letter.