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With many issues to fix in city, find a balance and flourish

Published: Sun, August 19, 2012 @ 12:00 a.m.

By Todd Franko (Contact)

It did not take long, nor did I expect it to, before a person would trample on a $70 million mission for downtown — and for American manufacturing.

It was the first person, in fact, to get to our vindy.com message board Friday morning:

“Well, unless you can use some of that $30 million [the feds’ portion; $40 million from public and private groups] to bring down the urban blight, i.e., the dilapidated residential and commercial properties in Youngstown, there can be no future for Youngstown.”

It’s consistent with what a professor friend once said: Too many in Youngstown — after 30-plus years of a crushed economy — have a fixation on the depressed and the dilapidated, and that fixation can strangle our ability to rise.

Or at least the ability of some, I suppose.

I sometimes read too much of the same from our mayor of the moment, especially with the topic of turning over the Covelli Centre to someone else, and that scares me some.

We do have many issues to fix in the city.

I remember walking with a colleague downtown in my first year here. And in the sidewalks were cracks and weeds, and they were pointed out as what’s a travesty about the city.

I’ve lived in some pretty good cities and visited many others, and I said that I’ve seen the same cracks and weeds there, too. But those cities also had many great pursuits about them.

So as we invest in fixing the urban blight of dilapidated homes and roads and neighborhoods, or in some offices, ponder selling or leasing Covelli, the gem of downtown, we must continue to invest in the positive and future of the city.

It’s a conscience compass, no doubt.

It would be a travesty to neglect the poor and the dilapidated and the crumbling — and invest only in the glitter and the ivory towers.

Likewise, it’s true for the opposite: to spend all funds on the problems, and not invest.

To do so creates a potential of nothing worth anything when the problems are fixed. That’s called Gary, Ind., and Newark, N.J.

So we need a delicate balance of fixing and flourishing.

And with Thursday’s announcement, we flourish ... with ... with .... additive manufacturing.

I’ll admit, the term is as foreign to me as la canne, club swinging and some of those other “sports” they played in the Olympics.

But I do know that in 1998 or so, another term foreign to most people was thrust upon our city: a business incubator.

In our A1 story today, Jim Cossler, the boss of the Youngstown Business Incubator that will house this venture, revisits some of the bemusement people had back then when YBI got started.

Prior to him and YBI was the Youngstown Central Area Community Improvement Corp. — leaders who looked at the west end of downtown and its sea of dilapidated storefronts and depression and blight and said they could do something with this.

I’m proud, too, that YCACIC’s first folks included my bosses — the owners of your local newspaper.

The George V. Voinovich Government Center, YBI, the Mahoning County Children Services Board Building, the Seventh District Court of Appeals, the Oakland Center for the Arts, the Taft Technology Center and more.

All from a handful of leaders who stayed true to a belief: If you work on the worst of our community while keeping a vision toward what the best can be, the two will merge someday.

This week, that someday was Thursday.

Todd Franko is editor of The Vindicator. He likes emails about stories and our newspaper. E-mail him at tfranko@vindy.com. He blogs, too, on vindy.com.


1UticaShale(854 comments)posted 2 years, 1 month ago

Compared to the multi billions invested locally and the state-of-the-art energy companies rushing in without an incubator, why would Boeing and Lockheed need incubation? Do any high tech companies need 70 million from the taxpayers to make a decision to locate here or is the Utica not setting the market?

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2Southside_Res(172 comments)posted 2 years, 1 month ago

When I came across this op-ed piece, I first told myself that I needed to stop injecting such accurate analyses. There are apparently more than a few key Youngstown players prickled by the decades of unabated degeneration, debilitating blight and pervasive privation. As fate would have it, I was the author that Franko cites at the beginning as one who tramples. It isn’t every day that I’m accused of trampling on “a $70 million mission for downtown.” Those words come easy when one knows that there is little opportunity for rebuttal. So, you see, I don’t take Franko’s opinion piece as being entirely honest and forthright. It’s also littered with several fallacies.

First and foremost, one must remember that Franko is part of the editorial staff that represents management for the Vindicator. They have papers to print and money to make. The Vindicator must make its paper as palatable as possible because profit is important. It is also understandable that with as much editorial experience as Franko possesses, he’s learned the fine art of ripping sound bites to bolster any argument. And, that’s just what he did here. He pulled a solitary sentence of mine and even added some of his own fodder parenthetically.

Second, if Franko would have asked, he would have learned that this minor thesis of mine is but a small portion of a larger picture, a larger picture of corporate and governmental failure. It isn’t a “fixation on the depressed and dilapidated” as he cites his professor friend. I personally wonder if such a person exists, or if he does, if such a comment were even made. I would be flabbergasted that a sitting professor might make such a superficial analysis of Youngstown’s woes. The unfortunate reality is that there interconnection between a number of indices of depression, debilitation, and dilapidation (whatever name you want to call it by) and progress. And this is where Franko’s piece falls on its face in large part.

In addition, he doesn’t seem to understand the nature of municipalities and their reason for existence. Some of it is clear in his discussion of the Covelli Centre. It should be borne out that the nemesis of the Covelli Centre began with business leaders who wanted a means to attract business to the area by building some sort of convention/entertainment center. The only problem? They didn’t have the capital to build it. So, what did they do? They went to city taxpayers for venture capital. This center has a consistently spotty record of producing profits, and city taxpayers shouldn’t have to foot the bill for any of the center’s losses. And, right there, there is probably one of the principle reasons the mayor wants to unload it.


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3Southside_Res(172 comments)posted 2 years, 1 month ago

The city is sitting virtually on a land mine ready to explode at any moment. That moment almost came earlier this year when the state ruled the city needed to pay taxes on profit-making revenue captured by the Covelli Centre. Sadly, the city has been negligent because all of those taxes should have been offset. If the city had followed generally accepted accounting principles and standards established by the Governmental Accounting Standards Board, then there would have been no emergency necessitating Representative Hagan’s intervention in the General Assembly. Yet, if you listen to nascent, almost immature city leaders, you would have heard an argument that the General Assembly was already anticipating this issue in a number of municipalities across the state. There is no evidence to support this.

I quite disagree with Frank about the Covelli Centre, particularly when one considers the tax liability for city residents, the continual doubt of the center as a “going concern,” and the city’s inability to manage the facility in an efficient manner using sound fiscal policy. I’ll say this again, the Covelli Centre is a ticking time bomb. I’ve told the mayor’s office this and council members. In this respect, Franko should march right on over to the line of city politicians and leaders and insert his head in the sand right along with the rest of them and his other colleagues.

There are three significant issues that Franko doesn’t raise in his piece. The first is that when the city and its leaders focus on rejuvenating downtown and manufacturing sites, i.e., water, sewer, road, and other infrastructure, one must consider that, financially, the city is in such dire straits that funds from other projects citywide are drawn upon to bolster these “high priority” tickets. The second to consider is that high rate of income taxes. Half the city has been thrust into poverty, and yet city leaders want to tax such residents at the highest municipal income tax rate in the state? Am I the only one who sees severe ethical and practical considerations here?! I mean, honestly?! Last of all, Franko sorely loses the point that with new industry should come new liaisons and commitments to our community. In the last two decades, I have not seen any large corporation invest time and money in the City of Youngstown. Just where is the collaborative effort by corporations to help rid the city of decades of debilitation and distress?


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4Southside_Res(172 comments)posted 2 years, 1 month ago

(continued from above)

If asked, I would have mentioned that $70 million would be embraced with open arms. However, I am a growing consensus in Youngstown who is tired of the depressed and dilapidated from “30-plus years of a crushed economy.” City residents want, and deserve, corporate commitments so that our city can “flourish.” Without such corporate commitment, then Franko’s arguments amount to nothing more than right wing Republican ideology in which it is okay for manufacturing to come to our city, ravage our resources, enslave city residents in low wages, exact the highest profit possible, and then leave. Any guesses on who gets to clean up the mess when they’re gone?

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5Southside_Res(172 comments)posted 2 years, 1 month ago

@YoungstownBornRaised: Oh, I'm sure Franko thought he was being cute too. If he knew a little more about what he was talking about, perhaps it wouldn't sound like he had such a slow week? And, if you're truly born and raised in Youngstown, don't you get a little weary from the city robbing your neighborhood projects so that they can build roads, sewer and water lines, and other things for these pet manufacturing plants? I mean, honestly, how long can the city just keep going on, ripping off city residents? Ummm, we pay taxes too. What are we getting in return? Nothing. No municipal services whatsoever.

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6Southside_Res(172 comments)posted 2 years, 1 month ago

First, all those jobs you clamor for, they go principally to people who don't live in Youngstown. And, for those people, they're to afraid to spend their money in Youngstown, so those are dollars that fly away. Second, those jobs you think you might get, well, you won't because you will either be unqualified for the position, won't want the work because of its menial nature, or it will pay so low that you won't even think about applying. Finally, get a copy of the city's financial statements before you go spewing off about where you think city funds are spent. Your road that you want paved, the street you want cleaned, the street sewer you want cleaned out because its backed up, the city is robbing Peter (in this case, YOU) to pay Paul. And, they're all for those "dream" jobs. So, go ahead, pay into Franko's manifest Republican ideology he lays out here. Come back to me when you really have a clue.

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