The moment Youngstown Mayor John A. McNally announced that he was launching a meet-and-greet with residents of the city, two images flashed by: James “Whitey” Bulger and Vito “Don” Corleone.
This is not to suggest that the mayor, who has been in office since Jan. 1, leads an organized-crime enterprise or is looking to make you an offer you can’t refuse.
It’s only that Whitey Bulger, the world-famous murderous head of the Irish Mafia in Boston, and Don Corleone, the central character in the world- famous “Godfather” movie, spent part of their days granting audiences to their supplicants, and doing favors.
In return, they earned gratitude and loyalty from those they listened to and helped.
Consider this scene from “The Godfather” when Don Corleone meets with Bonasera, the undertaker, during the wedding of his daughter Connie:
The Don: We have known each other many years, but this is the first time you’ve come to me for counsel or for help. I can’t remember the last time you invited me to your house for a cup of coffee, even though my wife is godmother to your only child. But let’s be frank here. You never wanted my friendship. And you feared to be in my debt.
Bonasera: I didn’t want to get into trouble.
Corleone: I understand. You found paradise in America. You had a good trade, you made a good living. The police protected you, and there were courts of law. So you didn’t need a friend like me. Now you come and say, “Don Corleone, give me justice.” But you don’t ask with respect. You don’t offer friendship. You don’t even think to call me “Godfather.” You come into my house on the day my daughter is to be married and you ask me to do murder — for money.
Bonasera: I ask for justice
OK, enough of the preoccupation with the Mafia — Italian or Irish. (If only there were a way to shut off the theme song from “The Godfather.”)
‘FIVE MINUTES WITH THE MAYOR’
Youngstown’s mayor, who formerly served as county commissioner and city law director, wants to connect with the people because, as he said recently, he needs their help in making the community the “jewel of Northeast Ohio.”
The first session of “Five Minutes with the Mayor” will take place Tuesday starting at 5 p.m. Residents will get to chat with McNally in his office on the first floor of Youngstown City Hall.
“Citizens can rant, rave or praise or have a quick cup of coffee with the mayor,” he said last week in announcing the initiative. “If you have an issue that will take 30 minutes, this event isn’t for you.”
So, what’s it about?
“It gives more people access to city hall and the mayor to talk about your concerns,” McNally said. “You can talk about a problem with a nearby property or if you’re upset with a department head or want to praise a city employee. It’s first-come, first-served. Whether it takes an hour or five hours, I’ll be there.”
The mayor is to be commended for his willingness to let the stakeholders in the city have their say. But, he must know that when residents complain about crime, deteriorating neighborhoods, the lack of jobs, the failing public school system or potholes as big as craters, it isn’t the first time they have complained.
This newspaper’s reporters and editors get calls daily from residents who are unhappy with the way things are.
Of particular concern these days are the roads. You’re lucky if the only thing that happens to your car is a bent tire rim. There have been reports (unconfirmed, of course) of cars being swallowed up by the craters and ending up in China. (See the cartoon on this page).
It would be helpful if the mayor made note of the complaints — and the compliments — from residents and then publicized them. That not only would give residents the opportunity to see what their neighbors are concerned about, but he could also keep track of how quickly city workers respond in addressing the problems.
More importantly, such a record would give McNally the chance to see how his orders are being carried out by his department heads.
Indeed, if long-standing problems in Youngstown are solved quickly, the mayor will find that residents will certainly want to kiss his claddagh. (If you don’t know what that is, find someone who’s Irish, and he or she will tell you.)