Imitation may be the highest form of flattery, but for government, it is good public policy. At a time of shrinking budgets, increasing operating costs, and citizens who believe they are overtaxed, officeholders should be constantly on the lookout for opportunities to do more with less.
We have long advocated intergovernment cooperation, especially with regard to the purchase of high-ticket items like equipment and supplies and taxpayer-funded health insurance for public employees. But Warren Mayor Michael O'Brien has gone even further -- much to our pleasure.
As revealed on the front page of Sunday's Vindicator, the first-term mayor and former Trumbull County commissioner intends to develop a blueprint for his city's future called "Warren 2010," but he's doing it on the cheap. In this case, "on the cheap" is a good thing.
O'Brien will meet with Hunter Morrison, director of Youngstown State University's Center for Urban and Regional Studies, to explore the approach to be taken, but the exploration won't have to be pricey or time-consuming. That's because the mayor will ask Morrison to use "Youngstown 2010" as the template.
The director of YSU's urban and regional studies center has been one of the chief architects of Youngstown's plan, which was launched in December 2002 and is now an actual document.
Last Thursday, 1,300 area residents, including O'Brien and a couple of community leaders from Warren, showed up at Stambaugh Auditorium to witness the unveiling of "Youngstown 2010 -- Sharing a vision for a better tomorrow." What the audience saw was the answer to this overriding question: Can a city of 80,000, with an anemic manufacturing tax base, deteriorating neighborhoods and unsightly entryways survive and even become viable?
The answer from Morrison, Mayor George M. McKelvey, YSU President David Sweet and others who discussed various aspects of "Youngstown 2010" was an unequivocal yes.
Sitting in the audience, the mayor of Warren arrived at this conclusion: "... it was apparent that Youngstown and Warren have relatively the same issues."
And from that conclusion came his idea to ask Morrison to take what has been done for Youngstown and tailor it to Warren's needs.
We applaud the mayor for such outside-the-box thinking. There is no need for Warren to replow ground already plowed by Youngstown. To be sure, residents of Warren will have some ideas and proposals that aren't contained in "Youngstown 2010," but that is to be expected.
Indeed, the Warren Redevelopment and Planning Corp. and Trumbull 100 have invested a great deal of time and money to keep the central business district alive and have established a close working relationship with city and county governments.
The active participation of the private sector in Warren's revitalization means the city is already ahead in the planning game. That spares O'Brien the challenge of having to build private-public sector coalitions, which are crucial to the future of any community.
It is noteworthy that Anthony Iannuci, director of Warren Redevelopment, and William Horton of Trumbull 100, a group of Warren business and civic leaders, were at Stambaugh Auditorium on Thursday. They obviously share the mayor's belief that imitating Youngstown makes good sense. We agree.