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Youngstown OK’d for Obama cities project — finally

Published: Fri, December 23, 2011 @ 12:10 a.m.



By Ashley Luthern



After five months in limbo, city officials confirmed Thursday that Youngstown will receive federal assistance from the U.S. Depart-ment of Housing and Urban Development.

Youngstown is the seventh city chosen for President Barack Obama’s Strong Cities, Strong Communities initiative (SC2), which is designed to give cities additional resources and spur economic growth. Youngstown joins Detroit, Cleveland, New Orleans, Chester, Pa., Fresno, Calif., and Memphis, Tenn.

The other six cities received notification of their acceptance in July, but uncertainty in Youngstown’s city government as then-Mayor Jay Williams prepared to become the so-called auto czar in the Obama administration delayed the process.

“We held our assessment of Youngstown in abeyance during the mayoral election and transition,” wrote M. Kristin Johnsen, leader of the program’s Northeast Ohio division, in a letter this week.

Mayor Charles Sammarone said he tasked his administrative assistant DeMaine Kitchen with approaching Derek Douglas, White House director of urban affairs, and other federal officials about the initiative.

“We showed people we were working with that we were sincere. It was not based on [Williams] or anyone else,” Sammarone said.

The mayor and Kitchen met with a federal team in October.

“They were able to rethink their position and un-pause Youngstown,” Kitchen said.

The initiative will help with an operational efficiency study of city government at all levels.

“It looks at how efficiently government is run and how to be competitive economically and maintain fiscal sustainability. It will be a top-to-bottom study of city hall,” Kitchen said.

Sammarone, who has stressed accountability during his tenure, said previous internal-performance auditors were not a good indicators “for where we need to go.”

“It’s long overdue for experts to come in and make suggestions about Youngstown’s government,” Sammarone said.

The Strong Cities program also will station an individual in its fellowship program in Youngstown for two to three years. The fellow will assist in planning and new economic development.

“We are excited about moving forward with SC2 in Youngstown by taking the next step,” Johnsen wrote.


1Ianacek(909 comments)posted 2 years, 9 months ago

This has been sorely needed . For those of us used to dealing with councils elsewhere , our encountewrs with Youngstown are like stepping back in time 40 years .

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2Photoman(1004 comments)posted 2 years, 9 months ago

Only 40 years?

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3southsidedave(4780 comments)posted 2 years, 9 months ago


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4Jerry(498 comments)posted 2 years, 9 months ago

Can someone explain to me why my money, which pays for food and education for my children, is being taken from me and given to the people who live inYoungstown (or Detroit, or Cleveland, or New Orleans, or Chester, Pa., or Fresno, Calif., or Memphis, Tenn.)

If the people who live in these communities want to improve their city; then the people who live in these communities ought to spend their own time & money doing so.

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5jtamarkin(37 comments)posted 2 years, 9 months ago

Hmm...our tax dollars at work as usual..."experts" representing American greed, selfishness, corruption and sloppy politics (our wonderful Federal government) telling Detroit, Youngstown, and other cities what they already know. "Our study indicates...we need another study. We need to better understand why we're all so sleazy and self-centered." Um, duh...and by the way...I wanna be a czar too! If Jay can be a car czar, and Elvis was almost the star tsar of drug czars...maybe war tsar of bar czars? Or a czar on par with Hedley Lamarr? (Another "deep" thought...us using the word "czar"...is it our anti-commie history? Is it our longing for the brutal beautiful days of Nicholas and Alexandra? "Czar" and empire...there's a natural fit.)

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6johnyoung(241 comments)posted 2 years, 9 months ago

Me thinks good 'ol DeMaine and Chuck are either misunderstanding or misrepresenting the objectives of the SC2 program. The program is not a performance management tool. It is a strategic planning tool. A brigade of efficiency experts will not swoop down on city hall and evaluate government efficiency. Rather, assistance will be offered in developing strategies to help the Youngstown to first define and then achieve its missions through the development of a comprehensive plan. In the planning profession, this process is called a SWOC (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and challenges) analysis. This is similar to the process that "Youngstown 2010 " attempted but failed miserably at.

I have very little faith that these efforts will be productive in Youngstown, since the Mayor and his chief bottle washer don't seem to have a clue as to what the process is all about. Unfortunately, it will likely turn out to be another waste of federal dollars.

Ashley, please do the community a favor and conduct a little more research regarding the SC2 program objectives, and then report back and correct your story.

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