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Mayoral smack shocking

Published: Fri, December 17, 2010 @ 12:00 a.m.

By David Skolnick (Contact)

On the side

A great loss: About a lifetime ago, Larry Wright was my mentor. As the city editor for The Palladium-Times in Oswego, N.Y., he hired me for my first daily newspaper job. I started as a summer intern there in 1988. Very quickly, Larry showed me what it was like to be a newspaperman.

He worked hard and was always aggressive. If you kept your eyes and ears open, you learned a lot. When my internship ended, I continued to work a near-full-time schedule at the newspaper during my senior year at Oswego State.

I took a job at a newspaper with four times the daily circulation of The Palladium-Times after I graduated, but it was tempting to stay in Oswego and continue to learn from Larry.

We lost touch in the mid-90s, but he found me this past summer. We had a long and great conversation, and then exchanged a few e-mails.

I was shocked and saddened to hear he died Monday. Without him, I wouldn’t be a journalist — which may make some of you curse the day I met Larry.

It’s rare to hear Youngs-town Mayor Jay Williams publicly insult someone.

It’s almost jaw-dropping to hear Williams call someone contracted to work for the city “one insignificant voice in the process as far as I’m concerned.”

Apparently there’s something about Steve Novotny, the city’s outgoing housing deconstruction coordinator, that annoys the mayor and others.

Williams wrote in an Oct. 8 e-mail that either Novotny — who raised legal questions about the lack of documentation for demolition work — apologize to a city employee he criticized “or you can clean out your desk.”

Novotny apologized, but he’s going to be cleaning out his desk at the end of the month as the city gets rid of its award-winning deconstruction program.

While an unpaid intern at the CDA, Novotny applied for a federal grant on behalf of the city to implement a housing deconstruction program. The city got the $39,000 grant last year and gave the money to Novotny to create the program.

Deconstruction systematically takes apart a vacant house by removing portions of the structure, such as entire wooden floors or chunks of brick, rather than using a traditional wrecking ball.

Those materials are diverted from landfills, and can be sold. The problems are it’s twice as expensive to deconstruct a house than demolish it, and no markets for the products have been found.

Federal money

The city spent about $100,000 in federal money to only deconstruct five houses and diverted at least 60 percent of materials from 26 other vacant homes.

Those were far short of the goals Novotny had for the program that received a national honor in September.

Novotny blamed “a lack of efficiency in the bureaucratic process in the local government” for the program’s shortcomings. He also criticized city council members and some city administrators for never showing interest in the program.

Williams said Novotny’s “frustrations” are the result of “his shortcomings and inability to work with others. The real world is a bit more than Mr. Novotny realized.”

Sean McKinney, commissioner of the city’s buildings and grounds department, an agency Novotny has criticized, wrote an Oct. 8 e-mail to him stating: “There is and [has] been [a] growing sense, either real or perceived, that you have assumed a position of moral superiority as it relates to addressing issues that are vital to the well-being of this community.”

Novotny said people should be able to question city officials about the lack of progress made in Youngstown despite 2,500 buildings demolished since 2006 without “facing intimidation and the threat of being fired.” He added that Williams insults are being done to make him a scapegoat for “the transgressions that are occurring within our city government.”

Novotny said he constantly defends his decision to stay in Youngstown to those who left the city.

“I get it now,” Novotny said of those who ask why he stays.


1author50(1121 comments)posted 5 years, 7 months ago

Williams is an elitist who learned from the best - McKelvey.

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2mcluvin(72 comments)posted 5 years, 7 months ago

Hey they tried it and it failed. There is no market for the material. What do you want them to do? Throw more money at it? City officials are doing the right thing. This Novatney guy is dilusional.

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3sparky22(14 comments)posted 5 years, 7 months ago

The reason why it failed is because Youngstown officials like Mayor Williams and city councilmen didn't want to support Novotny from the beginning. He put so much effort into trying to create an opportunity for the city to head in a new direction yet no one gave him the light of day (In the city government at least. As the article says, if you had read it, Novotny's work was recognized nationally). Every single one of the places that were supposed to be deconstructed were placed on the bottom of the demolition list so they would never get done. The mayor and his people in the demolition business had their own agenda, an apparent stealing of city funds by charging for certain demolition processes that were never completed and have NO proper documentation. Novotny would have easily been invited to continue his work had the crooked dealings not been uncovered by him. It goes to show you that if you mess with a buddy of Jay, anything you want to do in the city will get shut down. Novotny blew the whistle on Jay's best buddy and Novotny gets the shaft.

I wonder who it was that was in charge of making sure the documentation was all accounted for? Wonder what cut they got in the deal? I sure hope Youngstown didn't elect them to some kind of public office.

Knowing Youngstown though, he/she probably was...

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4Nunya(1356 comments)posted 5 years, 7 months ago

Selective journalism?,..

Granted where Mayor Williams is no King Midas and he has his share of faults. This is a case where some individual { Steve Novotny }. Devised a novel approach to formulating employment for himself via de-construction. However, the market for the salvaged material proved to have no viable buyers to sustain it's continuance,.. so the expense was slashed.

However, in this writers angle it's postured in headline as " Mayoral Smack Shocking ",.. unreal.

Hence the writers framing as the project being some " Award winning " venture that was cut. Made no mention to whom the " Award " was deemed by. Nor focused upon the fact that the recycle de-construction expense. Outweighed the far cheaper cost of demolition by more than twice as much.

Thus of course the angle was geared to steering the readers focus. Upon the irrelevance of verbal disagreements between the mayor who's job is to be accountable and the programs initiator. Solely in favor of playing to readers declaring a dysfunction division in a rendition of dueling banjo's. By the piece clearly presenting a platform for an individual who's self orchestrated efforts to land and keep employment was just too costly.

See being without bias affords one to distinguish that. However, if postured as a mere gullible sucker. One would buy into the nonsense and follow the writers angle to senselessly malign the mayor.

So now readers can digest this and note who the mis-directional, un-informative and non enlightening posters and sources are. Note Vindy didn't distinguish a staff author on who orchestrated the piece either.

Note to Vindy: You'll NEVER resurrect your readership of subscriptions. By pandering such worthless and one sided sash so pathetically. With any favorable expectancy of it valuing fifty cents a pop in this economy,.. and so much for that dollar and fifty cents on Sunday huh?

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5sparky22(14 comments)posted 5 years, 7 months ago

Nunya, you need to learn how to write in complete sentences. Doing that might give your argument more validity instead of making you come off as an uneducated thesaurus user to seem more intelligent than you actually are. And the award? It was given by ICLEI in Washington D.C. back in September. There was a previous article in the Vindy about it. Look it up.

johnyoung, you are naive in thinking there is no issue in what Novotny had brought to the mayor's attention. The documentation is public record. Go look at it for yourself and you will see the discrepancies which cost the city more money. The only reason I can think of for why it isn't going anywhere is because your boy Williams is trying to hide it himself. He has to protect his friends.

Novotny has been invested in the Youngstown community and will continue to try to make it better. The community needs more people like him or else it will never move forward. To me, it is surprising that Rep. Ryan would be so for Novotny's project, as censoredship showed above, and yet the city officials would be so against it. Ryan saw a need for funding the project and trying to get it moving, why didn't the city? They must want to stay behind the times and put down ingenuity.

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6GPackwood(35 comments)posted 5 years, 7 months ago

The 'credit' for successful programs has an illogical component that hopefully Steve is beginning to understand.

The more you give it to others, the more it remains your own.

It really is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.

Perhaps they don't include the teachings of President Harry Truman in the sociology curriculum at YSU.

Now you get it, Steve?

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7GhostofVolneyRogers(12 comments)posted 5 years, 7 months ago

City Hall does not like bad press, especially from whistle blowing insiders who target friends of Mayor (and whom are among the administration). That being the case, Steve Novotny's approach in dealing with the problem can be debated but the larger issue(s) he raises are legitimate. The demolition procedures (in general) are worthy of serious review as are many other departmental practices. City Hall transparency remains weak and the ability to provide a “check” on certain items is difficult. To highlight one glaring example, the City of Youngstown does not have a Human Resources department. Seriously.

While Jay Williams (the individual) has proven to be a great orator and has done an exceptional job in elevating the city's profile to a national level by articulating a new vision for the community, City Hall, by and large, has been and remains poorly managed. Rarely do members of the administration meet to discuss collective strategy, communication is poor, departmental infighting is prevalent and community outreach is almost non-existent unless in reaction to a particular issue. While the problems of the city cannot be placed on one individual (or even administration), many believe an important problem with the current administration is that Williams is a respectable and well-liked person but he simply is not a hands-on type of Mayor nor did he surround himself with real problem solvers. A number of his administration were re-hires from previous administrations or friends from his church with little or no previous professional experience in the positions they occupy. In a city with enormous challenges and after six years, the results have become self-evident. Youngstown 2010 inspired many citizens, business owners, foundations and community groups to fight for Youngstown (which is the real success story), however, City Hall has not been able to match that momentum largely for the reasons aforementioned.

Jay Williams will serve the City of Youngstown and the Mahoning Valley much better at the state or federal level as an advocate of or representative for the area (such as Auto Czar). He's intelligent, articulate, will build a following and will help to bring exposure to the problems that community's like Youngstown face. However, the city of Youngstown needs an aggressive, innovative, relationship-building, hands-on cadre of leadership willing to work with the people and partners who live here now and are willing to do the extremely difficult work that needs done day in and day out. The challenge is simply too great not have any in place anything but this.

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8Nunya(1356 comments)posted 5 years, 7 months ago

@ sparky22

Listen here Sparky? { oh boy },.. ROTFFLMAO !!!

Let's stop your lilliputian lying and pathetic posturing and get out at the forefront what your issue really is here,.. alright?

That clearly being that you're merely so manically miffed. Not just because I didn't falter to regurgitating the moronic misdirection " He said, She said " script. That mis-angled the more relevant who, what, why, when and where's about this whole thing.

Now to get right to the deciphering of the deflection efforts off your recalcitrant rejection. All a reader has to ask themselves is - " Just what did I state that was inaccurate ",..give THAT a try.

Then one is left to ponder what such a mis=directional moron whom can be distinguished as nothing less than a delusional dimwit like you. Would dare allege that anything I'd stated was even remotely inaccurate?, embellished? or bias?,.. you've said NOTHING !!!


You're angered solely because I objectively laid out my " No Muck & Stuff " principled perspective. In such a no spin clarity so candidly with sense and without bias. To where only a complete idiot wouldn't understand. Or a side-winding shill for keeping the fleecing going would be peeved by,.. No?.

See what matters is that being in this instance. The people need to know that the Mayor has to be held accountable. For which he wasn't even remotely wrong in this instance. For nor by so responsibly stopping the funding for a project that was tried. But by calculable results and facts absolutely wasn't fiscally / financially feasible to continue,.. and you can't refute it.

So in contrast the facts are no matter whoever likes Mayor Williams or Steve Novotny or not. All that matters here is the project was tried, it didn't fiscally work. For which there's no need to attempt to sidetrack anyone's thoughts to present it as anything but that,.. you fermented fruitcake.

Hence with such clarity interjected only a imbecile wouldn't be able to distinguish exactly what really mattered. Which requires one bearing an understanding beyond buying into any of the BS back and forth in their irrelevant verbal exchanges,.. Got that?.

It's also to be noted that it's not lost on myself nor you. That in regards to non bias content, depth, accuracy and factuality. You don't have, bear nor appeal to the qualities of interest in viewers that you'd like,.. that's YOUR problem you stilted Stooge.

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9mcluvin(72 comments)posted 5 years, 7 months ago

Mr. Nunya,
What you've just typed is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever read. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone on this forum is now dumber for having read it.

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10Nunya(1356 comments)posted 5 years, 7 months ago


Your putrid play on plagiarism { Billy Madison } and incessant personal inferiority complex. Are duplicitous denunciations of your imperiled existence ensconced in absolute irrelevance,..

So now in this seasonal giving hows that for repackaging of your Happy meal as a digestible delivery. You sauteed simpleton that doesn't even have enough sense.

Than to serve your stupid self up as a mere side order. Solely for me to punctuate your perplexed psyche as a mere punchline to play with,.. Thanks.

So now never have it be said that I've ever practiced any impartiality. Nor am I less than candid or a man that lies either,.. ROTFFLMAO !!!

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11republicanRick(1743 comments)posted 5 years, 7 months ago

Plain and simple, there is little to no market for these materials. Novotny seems an idealistic dreamer chasing rainbows. Rip the houses down and get rid of the blight. The mayor is right.

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12candystriper(575 comments)posted 5 years, 7 months ago

IMG Energy,LLC plans to build ANOTHER recycling and gasification plant that will generate electricity from waste...household garbage, construction waste,tires,etc..

Eco Industrial Park ... Reno,NV city council sells
off property ... IMG and Waste Management saves it's bond rating.

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13republicanRick(1743 comments)posted 5 years, 7 months ago

Why don't you contact the city, buy all the materials they have, and then go resell them for a profit?
And, reuse should be the law!? Really? Government should not dictate our decisions, the marketplace and personal preference should.

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14SickofJimbo(140 comments)posted 5 years, 7 months ago

Steve Novotny is quite frankly a self indulgent, I can't find a job, wannabe home reconstructer(what ever that is). If he had done an environmental and a marketing study before he applied for his "self proclaimed" award winning grant application he would have not sent the application in and maybe gotten a real job. But then again he probably couldn't find one that paid him more than his minimum wage stint with the city. Instead of leaching off the city he should have started his own deconstruct business to see there is no market for "lead paint laced" moldings. I think it's time Novotny get a real job and stop playing games with his career His little internship is over so he should try to figure what he wants to do when he grows up.

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15republicanRick(1743 comments)posted 5 years, 7 months ago

I think you are wrong about the demolition of old homes, I think they DO dig out the basement and haul away all the trash.
I think your reponse does prove my point though, there just is no market for demolition recycling of old home parts.

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16sparky22(14 comments)posted 5 years, 7 months ago

nunya, I had to read your comments a couple of times. I still have no idea what you were trying to even attempt to say. I might have lost some brain cells in trying to figure it out.

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