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Y’town a toothless tiger



Published: Sun, March 27, 2011 @ 12:00 a.m.

By Bertram de Souza (Contact)


Girard Mayor James Melfi had a smile in his voice — yes, in his voice — as he explained the reason for his telephone call to this writer: Youngstown officials tried to pull a fast one on Girard and got caught.

The mayor does tend to smile — it’s more like a you-know-what grin — when he gets the better of his neighbor to the south. It’s been that way ever since the brutal negotiations a couple of years ago over land sought by V&M Star for a new, state-of-the art steel pipe making facility. More than 100 acres in Girard is dedicated to the $650 million project, but Youngstown city government officials are calling the shots because of V&M. The company, which has a steel mill in the Brier Hill area, approached Youngstown with the new project and chose it to be the lead community. As a result, 121 acres of Girard along Route 422 has been annexed to Youngstown.

That has not gone over well with Melfi and other officials, seeing as how the project was dependent on their cooperation. Nonetheless, the mayor has been willing to be a silent partner — so long as the terms and conditions of the agreement between the two cities over such things as the sharing of taxes and other fees are honored.

Thus, when Melfi found out that Youngstown had collected fees from permits secured by V&M Star, but had not given Girard its share of the money, he was like a possum doing whatever possums do.

Empty assurances

What made his gotcha moment even sweeter was the fact that Youngstown officials had assured him and others that they would not be charging V&M — the company’s parent, Vallourec, is based in Paris — for any permits required during construction.

After getting confirmation that Youngstown had received $225,380.34 in late 2010 — it refunded V&M 65 percent of the money several weeks ago — Melfi asked for Girard’s share via three registered letters sent by a lawyer hired by the city.

He got no response, which is why he let slip to The Vindicator that he was willing to go the mat with Youngstown on this issue. His message: Don’t treat us like some country bumpkins.

When Youngstown officials, including Mayor Jay Williams, were contacted by The Vindicator about the nonpayment, they acknowledged that the money was owed Girard — and agreed to pay.

But even after being caught trying to be too clever by half, Mayor Williams couldn’t refrain from taking a shot at Melfi.

“Man up, pick up the phone and tell me you’ve got an issue,” he said.

To which Melfi replied: Do your job.

Here’s the problem confronting Williams and all the other city officials with visions of grandeur: They are operating the fastest shrinking community in the Mahoning Valley and no longer intimidate or scare any of their neighbors.

There was a time when Youngstown mattered, but now, with a population of 66,000, with a huge inventory of abandoned and dilapidated houses, with crumbling neighborhoods, with an unacceptably high crime rate and with the reality that most residents do not pay income tax because they are on Social Security or welfare, the city has become the weak link in the Valley.

Williams et al should learn the two words that will go a long way toward building bridges with Youngstown’s neighbors: Thank you.

Rather than trying to get the better of the suburbs — the folks in Austintown and Boardman still chuckle at Finance Director David Bozanich’s idiotic attempt to use water as a negotiating threat — city government should focus on what’s real.

Pay cuts

Given that Youngstown lost 18 percent of its population in the last decade, the first thing all city officials should do, starting with the mayor, is take an 18 percent pay cut. That goes for the three municipal judges, too.

Then, they should begin the process of downsizing government: Get rid of one of the municipal court judges; get rid of two city council seats; get rid of the position of mayor and create the position of city executive; privatize the police and fire departments (blame this one on Republican Gov. John Kasich), and finally, order all city employees who live outside Youngstown to return, or else face unbearable work conditions.

Or, city government could adopt the song, “Turn Out The Lights,” as Youngstown’s anthem.


Comments

11970mach1(1005 comments)posted 3 years, 7 months ago

This was a very good article, until this part:

"privatize the police and fire departments (blame this one on Republican Gov. John Kasich), and finally, order all city employees who live outside Youngstown to return, or else face unbearable work conditions."

The first half of the above I do not think has been done in Ohio and is not realistic in Y-Town, and the second part is illegal. Adding those parts diminishes an otherwise insightful column.

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2jerryvalley(24 comments)posted 3 years, 7 months ago

He's right and there is no denying it. Youngstown is dying a slow, painful death.

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3block50(128 comments)posted 3 years, 7 months ago

Stop and think! A private police force? Will brown shirts be standard uniform issue? What kind of thug will answer your emergency calls? What in God's name has happenned at the Vindicator? Is a non-thinking, knee jerk train of thought mandatory from the top down? Stupid! Just stupid!

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4Stan(9923 comments)posted 3 years, 7 months ago

I am now confused . I thought we had achieved UTOPIA in 2010 ? After reaching the epicenter in 2010 we are now heading for the outer limits ! People are now doing what makes them feel good with little or no restraint . Is life in Youngstown now better or badder ?

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5Progress(58 comments)posted 3 years, 7 months ago

Bertram. thank you for pointing out the fact that Melfi once again used the media to his advantage for free in his re election campaign.

Moreover, the fact that you actually believe anything that comes from Melfis mouth proves again that the Vindy is a shill for this guy.

Youngstown may not be perfect, but Melfi is no saint either.

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6Askmeificare(700 comments)posted 3 years, 7 months ago

@ fd6636:

Your comment number 7 is correct.

But why be afraid or upset or anxious?

Folks have voted IN FAVOR of all that is going on by electing whom they elected on the federal and state levels.

Unions have actually helped the lower wage non union jobs and now it is only a matter of time before those non union lower wage jobs are on the judge's proverbial block.

Just relax and support your NEW WORLD ORDER politicians as so many taxpayers have done.

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7Silence_Dogood(1358 comments)posted 3 years, 7 months ago

"Given that Youngstown lost 18 percent of its population in the last decade, the first thing all city officials should do, starting with the mayor, is take an 18 percent pay cut. "

The Vindy readership has fallen by about 50% in the last twenty years, so it should be expected that Bertram's pay should be 50% less then it was twenty years ago.So can someone explain to me why I am paying twice as much for my paper compared to twenty years ago.

BERT COULD YOU PLEASE EXPLAIN THAT FOR ME.

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8ValleyNative(174 comments)posted 3 years, 7 months ago

As a 24-year-old, why does anyone even care about Youngstown? Moving south, baby!

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9ytown1(392 comments)posted 3 years, 7 months ago

Then you can change you vindy name to FormeValleyNative.

Kind of long though? What do you think?

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10ytown1(392 comments)posted 3 years, 7 months ago

FormerValleyNative, one item of information though, most if not all of the southern states are a right to work state and if you have learned anything here on Vindy.com form the union faithful is that those places are only for losers. Not much a Union can do to help you there? Good Luck, you will soon see that the union factor does not effect your ability to make a decent living as long as the economy is healthy.

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11Oftt10(8 comments)posted 3 years, 7 months ago

I would hate to think that DeSousa actually thinks that this is good editorial journalism. I will give him the benefit of the doubt and perhaps give him a little to much credit then he deserves in saying that he types this garbage to sell newspapers. Stir the pot, make a beef where there isn't one. We all know that Bert has always insisted the all public employees are "pigs at the trough" becaue they earn an honest living. The funny thing is that the begining of this story starts on endulging Pizza Boy Melfi's grandstanding then of course turns to the feedings of the pigs. Now I don't expect a response from Bert. Does he even read these responses? I would imagine he would because he obviously writes this junk to get a rise and cause a stir, it stands to reason that he would want to read the responses. Anyways, some questions for Bert:

How much should an individual get paid to run into a burning building and rescue a human being that they don't even know? How much?

How much should someone get paid to approach a crowd of strangers massing in the street on the south side or better yet in a home, and confront them? How much? Give this one a shot Bert. Name a price and I will write you a check. You have to go by yourself, and what the heck you can take a sidearm. How much Bert? Keep in mind you only have to do this once. Not for a CAREER!

How about the managers that keep things like public sewers, waterlines, roads, and bridges open? How much should they make?

Why not go on some calls with the PD. Or FD? Maybe spend some time out in a snow plow truck. Get your hands in the dough. Step up to the trough son.

Point is that if you want to have public employees take cuts. Then you have to realize that the services that are provided go with that. Do you want to pay a cop 25k per year? Great show me someone that will do that for 25k per year.

In closing I would just like to say that if anyone has not checked out the Google Vindy archive link you should. It is SHOCKING to see the in depth journalism that it contained even 30 years ago compared to the pointless garbage as displayed above. You cant even wrap fish in the Vindy anymore cause the ink runs to much. Sad.

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12ytown1(392 comments)posted 3 years, 7 months ago

Jessie, Oftt10 & fd are never going to see it for what it is. This state among others is drowning in future union commitments that the only thing that can fix it would be a boat load of money being added very chance they can.

fd, I have got some news for you, fire fighters and police officers, choose this profession not necessarily due to the income, these are type A individuals that need that adrenaline rush every once in a while to feel good about themselves, again this is a chosen profession, nobody holds a gun to their head to do those jobs, if you do not feel appreciated, like some here in the private sector do, they change jobs or even change professions if you do not feel appreciated for their dedication. This is still a job, and I do not understand why they always feel like they need a parade or something for just doing their job? Get over yourselves.

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13Oftt10(8 comments)posted 3 years, 7 months ago

ytown, You are absolutely correct. No one is putting a gun to their head to make them do it. Where is the motivation if they are not paid competitieve wages? I doubt "adrenaline rush" as you call it would be enough. We don't HAVE to have police officers, We don't HAVE to have firefighters. We don't HAVE to have street, sewer and water workers. And you are right again. As the wages go down employees will find other jobs. Then who plows the streets? Cleans the sewers? Fixes waterlines? Oh you can hire contractors to do this but you think wages are high wait until you see those bills! You don't HAVE to have these services. They are provided to you for a fee. And that fee is taxes.

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14mrblue(1003 comments)posted 3 years, 7 months ago

Youngstown is shrinking for a number of reasons----high crime, poor leadership, high unemployment, high taxes, corrupt political leaders,minimum wage jobs, ---and the list goes on.

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15candystriper(575 comments)posted 3 years, 7 months ago

Is the census number wrong in order to hide a higher number of unemployed?

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16walter_sobchak(1928 comments)posted 3 years, 7 months ago

Jessiedavid,
Once again on target! There is no adversarial relationship in the public sector jobs as the management gets everything that the union workers get. Not to mention, many of these public employees have civil-service protection.

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17YtownSports(231 comments)posted 3 years, 7 months ago

Basic point - Youngstown with a population of less than 70,000 cannot operate as it did when its population was twice that.
Government adminstration needs to be downsized overall. Perhaps a consolidation of city wards to make City Council smaller is in order, too.
I'd be concerned about privitizing police and fire services because the city would have less control over costs.
Perhaps there should be incentives for people to live and work inside the city limits. Make a police presence a priority to combat the impression that the city is unsafe. Make a priority of keeping streets and sidewalks clean and in a reasonable state of repair.
The only way to get Youngstown off life support and on the way back to health is to change the treatment. The city needs new leadership with new ideas and the dedication and persistence to make them happen.

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18Askmeificare(700 comments)posted 3 years, 7 months ago

@ fd6636:

"Ask me: Are you crazy???"

I don't know, but I have taken about 5 days to think about your question and so many voices coming from my teeth tell me I am crazy. Still - I don't know. I guess I am crazy, but isn't being crazy a matter of subjugation?

Also,

"Some of you far right radicals are too far gone to understand what could happen if all rights and democracys are removed, and I think in light of whats happening, that if the vote would take place tommorrow, things would be different!!! "

Well fd6636, my friend, voting folks fell for, now President, Obamas message about change and, now Governor, Kasich played the Obama script word for word and action to action, so yes, I have to believe that, " ...in light of whats happening, that if the vote would take place tommorrow... " things would indeed be the same. The voting public wants things to be a mess because that is all they understand and find comfort in. Anything that is not "dread" and voters feel confused about life around them and question reality.

Unfortunately, voters fall for the same old story, over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, ...

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