City, cops draw flak at community summit
Those attending a community summit on the city’s East Side complained about loud music, junkyards and the lack of vacant-building demolitions.
Many also said they are tired of being ignored by police and city administrators.
About 30 people were at Thursday’s event at the East Side branch of the Public Library of Youngstown & Mahoning County on Early Road.
“We’re ready to form a vigilante group with torches; we’ve had enough,” said Jackie Adair of the East Side. “We’ve picketed downtown. We’ve talked until we’re blue in the face. This is a level of frustration that I won’t deal with much longer.”
Adair said police have failed to respond to issues such as loud noise and junkyards in her neighborhood.
Councilwoman Janet Tarpley, D-6th, said she understood and shared some of Adair’s concerns.
“I’m frustrated too, and I’m disappointed,” Tarpley said. “I’m going to continue to fight. Maybe I need to run for mayor.”
Tarpley took aim at Mayor Jay Williams and his administration saying they ignore council members on hiring a park and recreation director and a city planner.
The administration has asked council — and most members have honored the request — to hold off on filling those positions because of the city’s financial condition.
The city planner position is vacant, but Jason Whitehead, the mayor’s chief of staff, has served as “acting” park director for the past four years with no additional pay.
Councilwoman Annie Gillam, D-1st, also complained about the administration’s ignoring council on hiring a park director, and criticized the police department for not addressing the “small things” such as people illegally parking on lawns.
Abdul Harris of the East Side, who organized the summit, complained that the city doesn’t demolish enough houses on his side of town.
“We have a lot of issues that we feel are going unresolved like crime, unrest in the schools, blight and decay,” Harris said.
Arlette Gatewood, a longtime community activist who lives on the East Side, said he was pleased to see young people at the summit who are interested in making a difference.
“One thing you need to do is register to vote,” he said. “Elected officials respect two things: money and votes and not necessarily in that order. Go to city council meetings and bring up issues.”