At annual event, mayor reviews past, looks ahead

The mayor reviewed 2006's accomplishments as well as continuing challenges.
YOUNGSTOWN -- A formal event that drew 625 people downtown for charity almost didn't happen.
Scott R. Schulick of Butler Wick Trust Co., master of ceremonies for the Mayor's Community Celebration, said Mayor Jay Williams had to be persuaded to stage the second annual event.
Williams said that he's aware of the many challenges the city continues to face and that he didn't want the celebration to be perceived as political.
"This is not about the mayor, it's about the community," Williams said at the event Saturday evening at Stambaugh Auditorium's ballroom.
Last year's celebration, an inaugural ball, drew 800 people and raised 5,000 to benefit children and families in the community.
Schulick said that it was the response last year from attendees that prompted organizers to urge a second event.
"So many people said they could not remember the last time they had gotten dressed up and went out in the city," he said.
Reviewing first year
In his state of the city address delivered as part of the celebration, Williams reviewed his first year in office as a "Tale of Two Cities," referring to the Charles Dickens classic.
The city continued to struggle with crime and violence but also basked in national accolades and praise for its 2010 plan, the mayor said.
The 2010 plan has received attention in recent weeks with awards and in national publications.
Too many people lost their lives to violence in 2006, Williams said, but it was also a year of accomplishments.
The city worked to tear down nearly 400 dilapidated structures, almost triple the number of demolitions completed in the previous year, he said.
Sixteen members, as well as new vehicles and equipment, were added to the police and safety forces.
The city, city schools and Mahoning County Juvenile Court worked together to create a community youth director post so "young people can have constructive things to do throughout the year," Williams said.
The city also closed the fiscal year in the black. He credited city council, employees, the judicial branch, other government officials and the residents for those successes.
Hopes for 2007
This year, Williams hopes to build on those accomplishments. He said he would ask council to allocate money to continue to strengthen the safety forces and to bolster economic development.
The mayor repeated a familiar refrain from previous speeches, talking of the need for a regional approach to problems.
A study is under way to determine the financial benefits the city may reap from joint economic development districts, or JEDDs, with other communities.
To the residents of the suburbs, "Change is inevitable, resistance is futile and most importantly, we come in peace," Williams said.
The city's support of regionalization shouldn't be viewed as a threat to autonomy or an attempt to push urban problems into other areas, he said.
"The greater the number of people involved, the lighter the lifting for all of us," Williams said.

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