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Williams leaves city stable



Published: Fri, August 5, 2011 @ 12:00 a.m.

By David Skolnick (Contact)


On the side

Filing deadline: Wednesday is the filing deadline for those running in the Nov. 8 election for nonpartisan offices such as township trustee and fiscal officer, school board members and some city and village mayors and councils.

Democrats to meet: Mahoning County Democratic Party precinct committee members in Youngstown’s 2nd and 3rd Wards and all of Struthers will meet at 7 p.m. Wednesday at party headquarters to fill vacancies.

Youngstown 2nd Ward members will select someone to serve the unexpired term of Councilman DeMaine Kitchen and replace him on the Nov. 8 general election ballot. Kitchen is resigning Monday to be administrative assistant/secretary to Youngstown Mayor Charles Sammarone.

Those in the 3rd Ward will be doing the same because of Jamael Tito Brown’s resignation last Monday. He left to be council president.

Both terms expire Dec. 31.

Struthers committee members will replace former Councilman at-large Dan Yemma, now county treasurer, on the November ballot. The members appointed Carol Crytzer to the unexpired term, and are expected to select her as Yemma’s replacement on the ballot.

When Jay Williams resigned as Youngstown mayor, what did he leave behind for Charles Sammarone, his replacement?

The city’s population is decreasing at an alarming rate, despite a focus on economic development the city’s unemployment rate is high, the quality of life in many neighborhoods is declining, property values continue to drop as does the amount of income tax collected by Youngstown.

In Williams’ defense, these are not new. He inherited many of these problems that have existed since the late 1970s.

Despite the struggles, the city’s image improved during Williams’ 51/2 years as mayor. It took some hits, primarily because of high-profile murders.

But several national and international publications and companies recognizing Youngstown as a good place to do business with Williams as the mayor.

The biggest success story was V&M Star, which is building a $650 million expansion project.

V&M Star could have located the facility anywhere in the world, but chose Youngstown.

Also, Williams and his administration worked hard to bring other businesses to the city during a terrible economic climate.

There are those who say housing demolition during Williams’ time as mayor was an uncoordinated mess — “shotgun demolition” as Councilman Paul Drennen, D-5th, calls it.

Demolition

But 2,400 vacant structures, mostly dilapidated residential houses, were demolished during Williams’ tenure as mayor. That’s probably more demolition done in any other 51/2-year period in the city’s history.

The city-owned Covelli Centre will never make enough money to cover its debt payments.

Williams inherited several terrible contracts and was instrumental in finding ways to get out of many of those bad deals. That reduced the city’s annual cost to run the facility by about $1 million a year.

Also, the center has helped bring people and businesses downtown.

Williams resigned Monday to be the executive director of the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Recovery for Auto Communities and Workers in the President Barack Obama administration.

Williams worked to make Youngstown a better place to live and work.

Did he succeed? He made modest improvements in a very economic challenging time.

After delivering a farewell address the day he resigned, Williams told me: “I’m my own harshest critic.”

Apparently he doesn’t read the comments made by readers on Vindy.com.

On a personal note, I’ve had more conversations with Williams than I’ve had with any other politician in my 23-plus years in the newspaper business.

Williams was always accessible to and honest with me. He always treated me with respect and was very easy to talk to. While he rarely showed it in public, he is one of the funniest people I’ve met.

I wish him and his family all the best.


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