Youngstown is ever what it was, albeit in miniature, Steel is still manufactured, just not inside the city limits, theatres are still bustling, just not as frequently, and you don't have to look hard to see Jim Traficant's lieutenants still wielding influence, though we're one down there, too. (More on this in a moment.)
Youngstown 2010, the Youngstown Business Incubator, and Kelly Pavlik have recently brought us a new reputation from the steel-bust-/Mafia-corrupt-/Trafficant-crooked-image it has been so convenient for the media to latch on to. The newest incarnation of the City Council has seen more changes that square with positive change.
Philly the Kidd
Phil Kidd, who once stood in the middle of Market Street with a sign saying "Defend Youngstown," and has since spread that message by word of mouth, T-shirt, Web site, and through partnership with Team Pavlik, has, to the city's collective sigh of relief, taken over as Director of Events, Special Projects, and Community Outreach.
What goes on in City Hall? David Skolnick, Vindicator politics writer, is no longer our only window inside. Mayor Williams maintains a blog and reports his thoughts periodically. Phil Kidd has started an official blog for his new job that details basically all of his action items. Now THAT's open government! Blogs are not a panacea for poor governance, of course, but they are representative of a mindset that demonstrates openness and responsibility to the public that put them there and pays their salaries. It's about dialogue.
UPDATE 2/25: Fifth Ward Councilman Paul Drennan has added a blog.
The March 4 Primaries are another opportunity for us to continue to foster this youth movement, nourish this vision of hope, and change the equation of power so the balance is in favor of the people, not the politician.
Down to the Wire
Ohio, with Texas, is shaping up to be a deciding force in the Democratic presidential race. It is fitting that the next president should visit Youngstown on Presidents Day. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are both paying more than lip service and putting boots on the ground here.
For his part, there has not been a candidate as thrilling as Obama in my lifetime. He is exciting and inspiring young American voters across the country to engage and to hope for a future that has looked increasingly bleak over the past several years. Engagement, awareness, dialogue between the government and the people, particularly youth, are essential ingredients in a vital democracy. Ohio and Youngstown have a chance to play an important role in ensuring its health at the local and national levels on March 4.
When we vote for candidates that place power in the hands of the people and not in those of their pals or the military, when we engage youth and ward off apathy, encouraging social education, more eyes are open, our officials are held accountable, and economic growth is shared not hoarded.