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Accountability watchword of Sammarone’s 1st year



Published: Sun, July 29, 2012 @ 12:01 a.m.
  Charles Sammarone's First Year As Mayor

Youngstown's 48th mayor Charles P. Sammarone talks about his first year in office.

Youngstown's 48th mayor Charles P. Sammarone talks about his first year in office.

By DAVID SKOLNICK | skolnick@vindy.com

YOUNGSTOWN

It would be challenging to find a greater contrast between Jay Williams, Youngstown’s first black mayor, and Charles Sammarone, a longtime old-school politician who succeeded him a year ago.

When first elected mayor in 2005, Williams had five years of government experience as Youngstown’s Community Development Agency director. But he made the most of that time as CDA director, garnering attention as a chief architect of Youngstown 2010, an ambitious though largely unrealized vision of making changes to the city as its population shrinks.

The plan placed Williams in the spotlight and helped him win the mayoral race.

During his 51⁄2 years as mayor, Williams, an articulate and charismatic speaker, delivered speeches all over the country on the 2010 plan, garnering attention from national and international media. He also attracted the interest of the President Barack Obama administration, which wooed Williams away from Youngstown to a federal

position in Washington, D.C.

In comparison, Sammarone spent 28 years in city government as a councilman, council

president and water commissioner before succeeding Williams as mayor on Aug. 1, 2011.

Sammarone was known for demanding accountability from city workers, a focus on constituent service, often using sports terms to describe government and sometimes shooting from the hip.

During his time as mayor — it will be one year Wednesday — Sammarone has lived up to that reputation.

“When I became mayor, I thought the biggest issue was the lack of accountability” of city workers, Sammarone said. “It turns out I was right. I base a lot of my thought process on athletics because I participated and coached. You either produce, or you sit on the bench and get cut.”

That has meant letters of reprimand for some department heads, and what Sammarone calls management training with him teaching some supervisors “on a daily basis” how to run their offices.

“I’m trying to change attitudes,” he said. “That’s a long and hard process. It’s one of the hardest things you have to do. Not everyone

in city government, but some government workers have a tendency to do enough just to get by rather than make the best decision. We have to be proactive, and not just be reactive to complaints.”

The mayor’s effort to increase accountability — he’s planning to require city employees use time clocks, each city-owned car will have GPS tracking systems, and he wants to create a one-stop complaint department for those not happy with city services — is

receiving praise from community activists.

“I like his approach to city workers as far as accountability,” said Christine Silvestri, vice president of the Boulevard Park Block Watch on the South Side. Police Chief Rod Foley, who the mayor hired in his first month in

office, and “Sammarone are willing to listen and give us answers. He’s had a hands-on approach and he knows what’s going on.”

Also, Sammarone has focused on code enforcement, something he says has been largely ignored for several years.

The city will have a website in place shortly that allows residents to follow the progress ­— or lack thereof — of houses in violation of code-enforcement laws or on the demolition list,

Sammarone said.

But Sammarone won’t see the website.

Why? Because he doesn’t use computers, including the one sitting on his desk in the mayor’s office.

“I haven’t turned it on since I got here,” Sammarone said. “I’m an old-school guy. If I want to talk to someone and have real communication with them, I talk to them face-to-face.”

Following in Williams’ footsteps on demolishing vacant structures, Sammarone made sure the city set aside $1 million for housing demolitions that will be spent in addition to

$1 million the city will receive through a special state attorney-general program. Sammarone said he also wants to find another

$1 million in 2013 for demolition work.

“I like what he says about demolition, code enforcement and the organization of city government,” said Chris Travers, a member of the Youngstown Neighborhood Leadership Council and former president of the 7th Ward Citizens

Coalition.

“I and a few other people spoke with him on a couple of issues, and he took immediate action on our concerns. Even though he isn’t the warm and fuzzy and charismatic Mayor Jay [Williams], he gets things done, and we’re heading in the right direction.”

Sammarone also wants to save money by consolidating departments and services with Mahoning County. The city’s building inspections are being handled by the county as the two

entities move to make that effort permanent. Next is a consolidation of the building departments, followed possibly by health departments and emergency 911 dispatch centers, he said.

Sammarone hasn’t been hesitant to make changes.

He gutted the law department/prosecutor’s office. When Iris Torres Guglucello retired as law director 30 days after Sammarone became mayor, he promoted Anthony Farris to replace her and replaced all of the deputy and assistant law directors.

After firing Jay Macejko as prosecutor in April, fallout from a racist text message Macejko was accused of sending [which he denies], Sammarone also got rid of two assistant city prosecutors.

It was “not a difficult or hard decision to make” to get rid of Macejko, Sammarone said. “I told him to make sure you cross all your t’s and dot all your i’s, and don’t get me involved. He got me involved in an issue” and “I had to make a decision.”

Past Youngstown Mayors George M. McKelvey and Patrick Ungaro, who worked with Sammarone, gave the mayor high marks for the work he’s done the past year.

“He’s taking on a lot of issues and getting things done,” said Ungaro, Liberty Township administrator. “He’s active. He’s probably [not pleasing] a lot of workers, but he’s working hard for the people. He’s a

bottom-line guy, and he’s not going to take any [excuses] from anybody. He knows city government inside and out better than anyone.”

McKelvey, who appointed Sammarone as his water commissioner during his final four-year term, which ended in 2005, said, “I like his approach very much. A lot of people who I interact with in the community express to me they have the same feelings about him. He’s a no-nonsense mayor. He believes in holding people accountable. He’s service-oriented. I like his approach. As a citizen, I feel I’m better protected with him as mayor and I feel he makes my hometown a

better place to live.

Thomas Humphries, president and chief executive officer of the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber, said he appreciates the work Sammarone is doing.

“I trust him implicitly to get things done,” Humphries said. “I like working with people who are direct and get to the point and tell you his expectations. He’s a man of his word. Chuck’s done an exceptional job.”

The Rev. Kenneth Simon, pastor at the New Bethel Baptist Church, said “Sammarone makes the departments accountable. Being a seasoned veteran, he is able to push his weight around. ... I have no complaints with Chuck’s leadership. I think he’s done well, but there’s always room for improvement in some areas,” such as “bringing in jobs and economic development.”

When Sammarone succeeded Williams, he said he was “99 percent sure” he wouldn’t seek re-election in 2013.

“People tell me I ought to stay,” he recently said. “It’s tough. My answer today is ‘I don’t think so.’ But I have a lot of time to make a decision. I like the challenge.”


Comments

1southsidedave(4784 comments)posted 2 years, 2 months ago

Sammarone certainly has a huge task in making Youngstown a better place...

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2Nom_De_Plume(54 comments)posted 2 years, 2 months ago

Accountability? Please! He throws that word around for everyone but himself. He can't keep this act up much longer before people see him for what he really is - a bully and a blowhard. I'm surprised his act has lasted this long. After all, being mayor must interfere with his time at Tippe or the Y!

Everything his is taking credit for was started under Jay Williams. Demolition and code enforcement were projects of the previous administration, not this one. This guy spent "28 years in city government" and did NOTHING to address these issues while on council. Now, all of a sudden, he wants accountability. What a joke! This was simply his shot to fattened up his pension and he has to go through the motions long enough to accomplish that with as little grief as possible.

The funny thing is, he preaches accountability but does nothing to members of his staff who don't pay their city taxes and have to be sued. He does nothing to curb overtime abuses or address issues about misusing funds. The way you stay in Chuck's good graces is to be a "yes man," a lap dog, or someone that can do something for him. Nothing more, nothing less.

In the end, people will recognize he's the biggest loud mouth do nothing mayor this city ever had. Thank god he's not seeking a full term.

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3kensgirl(620 comments)posted 2 years, 2 months ago

This guy's only been in office a short time. It's going to take one hell of a long time to undo the "lack of accountability" that has been so pervasive in city govt. It's been going on for generations. I know Chuck Sammarone and he DOES shoot straight from the hip. You're on the chopping block if you don't do your job period. Learn from it. And as for computers Youngstown had a police chief some years ago who was offerered FREE computers for all police cruisers and turned it down! Thank God he is out and now Y.P.D. officers have access now in their cars. This guy didn't even have a high school diploma. He obtained his G.E.D. I never heard of a police chief in charge of a dept. who didn't have some sort of higher education and would refuse modern technology when it's through grant money. So let's not cast stones on Sammarone. He's the best Y-town has had in a long time - a VERY long time!!

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4chuck_carney(499 comments)posted 2 years, 2 months ago

O'bama coined the language "saved or created' with respect to jobs. Dooneys saved all the jobs at BW3 and even created 1 more.

Mayor Chuck is doing a great job changing the culture of city workers. Funny how nobody complains when Obama spends so much time playing golf and basketball. He needs these activities to regenerate his batteries as the argument goes (so that he can spend the bulk of his remaing time campaining).

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5rmzrez(122 comments)posted 2 years, 2 months ago

What a bunch of doom and gloomier

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6IslandMike(757 comments)posted 2 years, 2 months ago

Doesn't matter what he does, people are going to cry like little girls. It's the same ones who do the crying that themselves have NEVER done a thing for their community. LOSERS.

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7rmzrez(122 comments)posted 2 years, 2 months ago

Your RIGHT Mike ,this is just a bunch of cry babies that have never done anything but &iss on their own sand pile

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8rmzrez(122 comments)posted 2 years, 2 months ago

OK ???? say what

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9JoeFromHubbard(1069 comments)posted 2 years, 2 months ago

Anyone in higher public office becomes a target and the posts here prove it.

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10BigJim2234(57 comments)posted 2 years, 2 months ago

At least Chuck is being proactive with their windfall of $ that v&m is bringing in. Consolidate services. The last 2 mayors just sat around and smiled as all the tax breaks given under Ungaro started to pay dividends. Now all those projects like cca. North star steel and all of salt springs road are making the city $. Chuck has the right idea in leasing the covelli center as well. Just like the city got from under the financial burdens of the Vienna airport and lake Milton years ago. Why should the city pay for the covelli when everyone used it? Demolition has been taking place for 25 years, if that's Williams claim to fame that's weak. Chuck is doing a great job. Keep up the good job.

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11JoeFromHubbard(1069 comments)posted 2 years, 2 months ago

Having read all of the posts thus far, it is apparently felt that no one is qualified to be mayor.

I want one of those who have posted here to name an individual whom they think would do a competent job as mayor of Youngstown_ _ _

Just as I thought, no names offered.

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12uptowngirl(113 comments)posted 2 years, 2 months ago

At least Mayor Samarrone is in Youngstown working at the position of Mayor and not out of state giving speeches, fund raising, community organizing and looking for a cushy job as a flunky for other elected officials. You can see how much Jay cared about the community--failed attempts at his 2010 plan and he is gone from the city and the state. Thank you, Mr. Mayor.

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13pjohn(25 comments)posted 2 years, 2 months ago

What makes me a little mad is that he doesn't use the computer. It's just a little weird. I mean just think about how much more would/could be done if he just sent a couple emails a day instead of having face to face correspondence every time? That's just my two cents...

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14lumper(281 comments)posted 2 years, 2 months ago

as an outsider, to me, it appears he is getting things done-and much more so than the last guy.

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15Bman(151 comments)posted 2 years, 2 months ago

Sammarone seems to be very fair and it seems that putting people who have the proper qualification into positions to help the City are a priority for Sammarone. For instance, Rod Foley is a great pick for police Chief, but he may not have been a political favorite among the diverse population. Foley has YPD on the right track, and that is due to the Mayor's judgement.

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