The parade of two mayors

On our Vindicator Facebook page this morning, one of the top attractions from our weekend coverage is the Lakeview High School marching band crushing it at the Youngstown Holiday Parade and Christmas Tree Lighting event.

The band was epic, as was the event and the night – September-like weather on a December Friday night in downtown Youngstown with 4,000 people lining the five super-sized blocks of the city core.

The messages on the post reflect well on the band, but also on the night’s bigger performer – downtown Youngstown.

We’re in a vital era for Youngstown.

Lakeview High School – just 20 miles north, but also a world away from the complex urban puzzle that is “The Yo” – committed to a winter night here, and its fan base doted as much on the city as it did the students.

The band members were a spectacle. Equal a spectacle was having two mayors at the event – outgoing Mayor John McNally and his political foe and soon-to-be Mayor Tito Brown.

As I said, it’s a complex urban puzzle amid a vital era, and those two gentlemen are center stage.

The citizens voted out McNally despite an epic city surge it has not seen in years.

The Friday parade started at the expanding Eastern Gateway Community College and finished at the expanding Youngstown Business Incubator campus.

It marched along brand- new streets downtown that connected to brand- new streets shooting off in various angles into the city. The most impressive of that street-work heads north up Wick Avenue with lights, sidewalks, bike lanes and other amenities that wrap around Youngstown State University, which also is engulfed in a glowing era.

Just off the parade route was the future $9 million downtown park and outdoor amphitheater set to open in 2019. It just earned $3 million in funding from the Youngstown Foundation, with a few million more coming in soon from elsewhere.

Also just off the parade path Friday night, I guess you could say, was Police Chief Robin Lees and Downtown Events Manager Mike McGiffin. Amid a deadly national tumult of police racial challenges, Lees’ team kept relative city peace the past four years. And downtown is more happening and more organized and more collaborative with McGiffin.

A perfect city? Heck no. But where is a perfect city?

Momentum – good or bad – can move populations in many directions – good or bad. We’ve had epic momentum the past four years, which now pauses, waits and sees for a new mayor.

McNally’s out because of the Oakhill Renaissance Place corruption case. Maybe. Probably.

But remember in 2013, McNally barely beat Brown. This time, Brown had a more-rallied voter base around him.

But still, Oakhill. I’m bothered a ton by Oakhill. There was an unhealthy amount of collusion.

But I like McNally a ton, and I like even more where the city is at.

Some of the city success is not of his doing, but much of it is his or his staff’s. Even the harshest McNally critics I know admit that Youngstown has been on a right path for four years. But McNally still should not stay mayor, they say.

The first President Bush in his documentary “41” reflected on his not acting harshly against China after the Tiananmen Square massacre – even though U.S. and world leaders pushed for it, and pushed hard.

China was wrong, he said. But Bush had lived in China for years in the 1970s, and he knew its leaders as individuals. He opted against harsh action that others had demanded and went the softer sanctions route.

Acting militarily against China likely would have cost him his presidency, he mused. Some say that not acting against China cost him his presidency. He asserts in “41” that the world today is better for that difficult choice he made.

We’re not blessed to know future ramifications based on our decisions of now. If Oakhill cost McNally, it’ll take a few years to see if that act also costs the city this ride we are on.

What I admire most about McNally, in addition to the four mayoral years, is his temperament with his critics, the toughest of whom I also call friends. At The Vindicator, we get public scolding for everything from police reports to wrong fish fry announcements. That never happened with McNally – even when he was in the newsroom within days of Oakhill scorn. He was always calm opposition.

He said laughingly Friday night that his work- week was actually pretty busy in this lame-duck phase. Two weeks ago, he bemused that the phone had not been ringing much.

It’s soon to be Brown’s phone. I like Brown, too.

But like Oakhill to McNally, it’s impossible to measure Brown’s good and exclude the dysfunction and malfeasance of city schools, MYCAP and the Mahoning Valley Sanitary District during his time on those boards in the past 10 years. In those messiest periods, he was helping steer those ships.

There is a lot riding on this changing of the guard – and it’s a lot more complicated than who is where in the parade order.

Todd Franko is editor of The Vindicator. He likes emails about stories and our newspaper. Email him at He blogs, too, on Tweet him, too, at @tfranko.

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