Youngstown council, city execs clash over demolition
By DAVID SKOLNICK
For the second straight day, city council members clashed with members of Mayor Jay Williams’ administration.
Council members criticized administrators, particularly Buildings Commissioner Sean McKinney, for failing to show up at Tuesday’s council buildings and grounds committee meeting with a list of vacant commercial properties that could be demolished.
McKinney said it was a misunderstanding, and he’ll compile a list for council of all commercial properties that are being considered for demolition in time for the next buildings and grounds meeting sometime next month.
About 200 commercial buildings need to be demolished in Youngstown, city officials say.
After the meeting, McKinney told The Vindicator that a complete list of those properties doesn’t exist, but it wouldn’t be a problem to create one.
Rather than a complete list, McKinney distributed a document Tuesday with 22 commercial properties being considered for demolition.
He said the list was compiled by Sarah Lown, the city’s development incentive director, and two interns.
Councilman DeMaine Kitchen, D-2nd, the committee’s chairman, said council is becoming increasingly “frustrated” by the administration’s “ignoring” what council members find to be important.
Kitchen and other council members — Jamael Tito Brown, D-3rd, and Janet Tarpley, D-6th — said Tuesday they have asked the mayor’s administration to demolish certain structures and are ignored.
“We’re wasting our time by just talking about [council’s requests] and not doing anything about” them, Brown said. “The frustration is so strong.”
Williams said he understands “some of the frustration,” but council’s priorities are not being “ignored.”
“Until we see otherwise, that’s the feeling” of council members, Kitchen told the mayor.
“We give the administration the freedom to do what they think is best, yet our requests are ignored,” Kitchen said. “We may stop authorizing the administration for work it wants done.”
This is the second public flare-up in as many days between members of council and the mayor’s administration.
Council members got into a pointed discussion Monday with Finance Director David Bozanich over his recommendation that the city purchase the dilapidated former Paramount Theatre and seek state funding to demolish it.
Council is refusing to buy the downtown structure and have the city assume the financial liability of the building that needs hundreds of thousands of dollars to have asbestos removed and to be torn down.
During that discussion, Bozanich said if council had approved his recommendation last year to lay off about 60 city workers, there would be $2 million for commercial demolition projects.