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Williams missed an opportunity



Published: Mon, August 15, 2011 @ 10:56 a.m.

By Bertram de Souza (Contact)


As Jay Williams was departing Youngstown and giving up the office of mayor for bigger and better things in Washington, D.C., a 17-year-old black youth was lying in the morgue another victim of the citys cycle of violence.

When Williams took office in 2006 as Youngstowns first elected black chief executive, the black community was crumbling under the weight of crime, unemployment, deteriorating neighborhoods, broken families and failing inner city schools. There were many residents who believed or were desperate to believe that unlike his predecessors, all white men, he would be able to take on the problems confronting the black community without being labeled a racist.

Strong background

After all, not only had Williams served as director of the Community Development Agency in the administration of George M. McKelvey, but he had come to city government from the banking industry.

He was educated, well-spoken, knowledgeable and had played a major role in the development of Youngstown 2010, the road map to the citys future.

To be sure, there was some progress made during his tenure in stopping the downward spiral of the black population, but as the July 29 killing of Braylen Collins of West Glenhaven Avenue illustrated, deep-rooted problems remain. Braylen was shot in the chest; police found him lying on the living room floor of a Summer Street home. There had been an exchange of gun fire in the area of West Evergreen Avenue and Summer Street.

What is telling about the killing of this young man is that his father, Jermaine Collins, also died violently 17 years ago. He was found shot six times outside a home in the 500 block of Griffith Street on the citys North Side.

Braylen was born a month after his father was killed.

It is this cycle of violence that former Mayor Williams failed to end. Perhaps he should have spent more time at the Mahoning County High School, which was created by the Juvenile Court and sponsored by the county Educational Service Center for students who have been expelled or have dropped out of their regular schools. Had he done so, he would have met Braylen Collins and heard about the young mans dreams and aspirations.

Or, Williams would have met a young woman who was living such a hellacious life at home that she asked Judge Theresa Dellick to allow her to spend the night at the juvenile detention center. Her mother was a crack addict who entertained men also on drugs. The young woman did not feel safe in the house.

Williams also should have spent time at the North Side swimming pool, where he would have seen teenage mothers chatting with young men while their babies lay in their strollers in the searing heat.

The future

He could have asked these young mothers what they believe lies ahead for them. Indeed, he could have spoken to the young men whose chances of graduating from high school, let alone college, are slim, and whose prospects of finding a job are virtually nil. The unemployment rate of young black men in the city of Youngstown is at least 17 percent.

Or, Williams, as mayor, could have talked to suburbanites who work in the city or visit downtown for entertainment. He would have gotten some insight into a reality this writer calls The Havana Syndrome.

Suburbanites who work or play in Youngstown never venture off the prescribed route for getting to and from their city destinations. They dont see the gang territories, the war zones, the crack houses and pot-holed streets.

The suburbanites can be likened to the Canadians and Europeans who have made Cuba a popular vacation destination. They fly into the Jos Marti International Airport in Havana, are whisked through immigration and customs, get in a taxi or bus and are taken directly to top-rated resorts.

There, without a care in the world, they are wined and dined 24 hours a day, with staff catering to their every need. The tourists dont see the poverty, the despair, the lack of lifes necessities, such as medicine.

Similarly, Youngstowns underbelly is never seen by the outsiders, who strongly supported Jay Williams tenure as mayor.

Williams missed a chance to make a difference in the black community.


Comments

1redvert(2059 comments)posted 3 years ago

How can you put Williams down, he was successful. He got to be one of obowser's Czars! What he did or did not do in Ytown does not matter!!!

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2DwightK(1251 comments)posted 3 years ago

Very good column.

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3DOLE2(594 comments)posted 3 years ago

Bert,you are laying a bit too much blame on Mr.Williams.A great article and a great commentary on Youngstown 2011.

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4northsideperson(365 comments)posted 3 years ago

This article was published on the website on Monday. The article originally posted as the Sunday column was about YSU's faculty union negotiations. Why the silent change?

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5author50(1121 comments)posted 3 years ago

Williams was over qualified to be United States Car Czar - he has a valid drivers' license.

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6VINDYAK(1799 comments)posted 3 years ago

Williams failures in the Valley were compounded by the people of Youngstown. People elected him to lead and waited for something wonderful to happen. That "something wonderful" never happened because the people refused to change, refused to help and refused to believe they needed to become involved in cleaning up their streets, their homes and their children.

Williams failed because he did not have the guts to tell people to clean up their act, clean up their streets, their homes and their children.

He could have, but he did not, apply a modified version of a famous speech from one very popular President. "Ask Not What Youngstown Can Do For You, Ask What You Can Do For Youngstown".

If residents of Youngstown truely want to change, they must start it themselves in their homes, in their streets and with their chldren. You do not need to accept the way you live, you can change it if you really want. You don't need a mayor to do it for you. You don't need a President to do it for you, or a Governor. It all starts with you.

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7jmagaratz(166 comments)posted 3 years ago

Attaboy Bertram....if there is anything bad to say about our politics you will find it. If you believe that one Mayor can really change an ingrained culture that has been years in the making, I gotta believe that you smoke wacky weed!

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8Thomas1(14 comments)posted 3 years ago

This opinion is a p.o.s. Yep - 1 dynamic mayor is going to swoop into the inner city and get everyone to sing songs around a camp fire. This kid died because of the cycle of violence, lack of regard for human life, and the laziness which permeates in that area. The truth is, in all probability, this kid's fate was probably sealed long before Williams became mayor and nothing anyone outside of his family could have done would have prevented it.

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9Ianacek(901 comments)posted 3 years ago

The people of Youngstown DID act . They elected a Mayor who was able to restore Youngstown's credibility in the Valley. Youngstown had to "find its place in the Regional economy" by leading in building that economy . I think that has been achieved . Because of that , the neighborhood rebuilding is now underway . People of Jay Williams generation & younger don't have the harsh emotional memories of the City's past . Where their parents & grandparents see failure & frustration , they see opportunity & engagement . Many of them see Youngstown's old houses & multicultural neighborhoods as desirable , not the opposite .

When Williams said the City was no longer defined by its past , he would have included racism in that past . He proved that being black was not in itself a barrier to success . That is a message that everyone in the Valley needed to hear - not just black people . The Havana Syndrome ? I'm sure it exists for some , but they are a dwindling number . As the City repopulates & more businesses open on the City's thoroughfares , this Syndrome will disappear .

He may not have worn his ethnicity on his sleeve , but he happily acknowledged it , from what I see . He was the Keynote Speaker last February at the Black History Month Festival in Warren .

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10Stan(9923 comments)posted 3 years ago

Jay Williams did not miss his opportunity . He is now in the big leagues . If he gains name recognition it could very well launch him into the White House .

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11makarios(1 comment)posted 3 years ago

Could have, would have, should have!!!! We all have
a shared responsibility to make our community better.

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12LoveTheCity(14 comments)posted 3 years ago

Yes, Jay deserves some blame. I deserve some blame. Everyone has to take their share blame including Youngstown's neighboring community. The valley is only as good as it WEAKEST LINK, Good Bye !!!

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