Someone had to lead first


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A few new restaurants will be giving it a go in downtown Youngstown in upcoming weeks, and the foodies are excited.

Erie Terminal will be home to the new version of Ross Fowler’s Kitchen Post restaurant in Struthers. The new DoubleTree hotel will add old Italian charm with Alex Zordich’s YOSTERIA restaurant. Another eatery is joining that site.

While the Valley’s civic and cultural soul that is downtown Youngstown has had its ups and downs with eateries in the past several years, the area is still more of a dining destination than it was in 2008.

Before then, downtown had its haunts, such as Draught House, Cafe Cimento and the hidden YMCA favorite, Jorgine’s Deli.

But a new era emerged from that, and that helped seed the level we’re about to hit now. The credit for that/this new era, I attest, goes to ... Rosetta Stone.

Wha’? ... Who? ... Huh?

Rosetta is deep into the ashes and annals of downtown businesses. What Greg Sop and George Lenahan plowed in 2008 was imperfect and short-lived. Many parts of The Federal, the current space occupant, still share the same footprint as Rosetta.

But of what you see now in downtown eatery ambition and interest, Rosetta was first to capture the income and interest of the suburban diners.

This column today has nothing to do with food – at least anymore.

I use that industry, history and proximity as a reminder while we sort through the present state of HB 70 – the umbrella name for the Gov. Kasich-appointed Academic Distress Commission, the current management of Youngstown schools, CEO Krish Mohip and the rest of the “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” gang.

The present state is that lead members of the commission, boss Brian Benyo and next-boss Jennifer Roller, resigned a couple weeks ago within hours of each other. A third resignation followed. Mohip was hunting for a job in Colorado. Then North Dakota. Now Minnesota. There will be other places on his 2018 Job Tour.

It’s unsettling, to a degree.

Today, we have a front-page story that ponders the future of all of this.

Last week, Editorial Page Editor Bertram de Souza wrote a well-read piece about Mohip speaking the truth.

And a couple weeks back, The Vindicator offered a poll of what to do now that this destabilization emerged. Nearly half of the 1,600 responses said what I, too, hope happens: Stay the course with this vehicle even as the faces change. It deserves a 2.0 version.

Mohip, Benyo and Roller are to this project what Sop and Lenahan were to the downtown restaurant industry.

Someone had to go first.

This schools project is a dicey process laden with personal and political land mines everywhere.

The city youth population is itself a challenged group above the typical challenges of youth. But they are not without their brilliance and opportunity if harnessed and nurtured.

However, surpassing that challenge are the community and organizational factors working against this process. That adult leadership and process failed the children. Going back to that pure collapse is a no-go.

The HB 70-Mohip ship has been imperfect. At some point in life, Mohip and Benyo will second-guess some of their actions. In this reset window, those who opposed them should second-guess their actions, too.

Imperfections in such an overhaul are to be expected. But those do not mean the actions weren’t better in an overall measure.

History celebrates Lewis and Clark for getting to the Pacific Ocean. Anyone know today how many missteps along the way?

So in reading today’s story by reporter Amanda Tonoli about where HB 70 goes amid all of this, I hope HB 70 does not go away anytime soon.

This is the first pass at an overhaul of a school system. It does not have to be the last.

When Rosetta Stone called it quits, it marked the beginning of the downtown dining industry, not its end.

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

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