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Will Youngstown get its share?

By Tyler S. Clark (Contact)

Published January 5, 2009

Where are we headed as a city? This question comes to mind after reading the news that Youngstown--after being given a relatively paltry $2.7 million for neighborhood stabilization in September--was completely passed over in the final round of disbursements for 2008.

The governor's office placed the blame at the federal level: "The federal government created a formula that places cities like Youngstown ... at a distinct disadvantage." Maybe.

I can't help wondering, though, does Youngstown have the right level of influence at the state level? And if we had more influence, would the governor's office have found a way to get us the funds we deserve? Can the goals of 2010 really be implemented without the state support required?

Speaking of 2010, the blog Youngstown Moxie posted a lengthy and detailed indictment of city progress in the 2010 vision, along with a heartbreaking story of hope put in Youngstown that was squandered by an administration that had an opportunity to put up and, instead, it shut people up:

"I have tried to find out to the best of my ability some reason for the actions of the city in this case. However, I have been unable to conclude anything other than someone in city government owed someone living near the couple a favor. The ultimate outcome of this tale is that several city officials had their jobs threatened. In fact threats were made to cut entire city department budgets over a couple of goats, yes goats. In other words all of us would ultimately be punished by these cuts should the city official in charge of the department not tow the party line."

The ultimate question is: if our leaders are preventing progress at home and unable to secure help from the state, what exactly is being accomplished?


1Tugboat(759 comments)posted 7 years, 5 months ago

Let's face facts. This is a new frontier in economic woes. As a taxpayer, I have little faith that anyone knows what they're doing, and that's the very crisis of confidence that perpetuates the spiral down.

No matter how many times I mention it, one particularly painful headache gets ignored by the local media: state revenue-sharing cutbacks get worse yearly.

Laws that created the state sales and income taxes decades ago made counties, municipalities and townships the state's partner and promised a big chunk of those revenue streams. The theory: State taxes would hamstring the ability to raise taxes locally, so the state turnback would only be fair.

The partnership proved one-sided. The legislature continually tweaked distribution formulas, chipping away at the turnbacks to solve state funding problems. The tweaks have become outright raids: Since 2001, the General Assembly has siphoned off more than $850 million that was to go to counties, municipalities and townships, according to figures from the Ohio Municipal League.

Don't count on any help from the State.

Our only hope is to do like those outside of Y-town: DIY (do it yourself) communities are piloting the shift to a people-centered society. These folks understand that real security during tough times is found in the "social capital" of community. If it takes a few hundred bake sales to get anything done, then so be it.

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2commoncents(53 comments)posted 7 years, 5 months ago

What is "Youngstown's share" and what has it done over recent years to show that it deserves it and can manage it properly?

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3boardmanneedschange(364 comments)posted 7 years, 5 months ago

Commoncents nailed it. Youngstown has done nothing to show that it can improve. I wish this area would be able to turn around, but the cold hard fact is that no one who has tried to lead can do it. Jaybird has tried to do some things positively, and all of them end up being a he said/she said in the Vindicator. Youngstown needs someone with a strong economical background to come in and simply take over. Someone cold as ice who will let useless people and useless jobs go, someone who will end the waste of money that is the local government, someone who can powerfully consolidate all the waste of time that is city government and GET THINGS BACK UNDER CONTROL. No longer should there be super cush jobs for local government cronies whose friends and families got them where they are. In this time of layoffs, if you want to keep your job, you have to work harder than the other guy, and when he loses his cush job, you have to pick up his slack.
We need to be tougher on crime and harsher on punishment. Why not use a variation on community service that actually gets something done instead of handing out short, worthless jail terms. Use the petty criminals for unpaid hard labor tearing down worthless buildings in Youngstown, and also use them to remodel the useful ones. Use those buildings as boys and girls clubs so the youth doesnt turn out to be like the current population of our jails.
Too long has the City of Youngstown and its surroundings been a victim of the useless rhetoric and unregulated nepotism that is our local government system. Perhaps it would make more sense to do what they did in old westerns, and send a telegram to the state and federal government asking them to appoint someone since we are so out of control. Just a thought.........

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4cityguy(109 comments)posted 7 years, 5 months ago

Great post on the Moxie blog--I've noticed that most of the other Ytown blogs haven't been updated in months--this is a bad sign. I've read the "Garden Club" study myself and it's easy to see how it applies to Youngstown--same old constituencies, same old turf wars and yes, I think the crony mindset is totally ingrained here. As far as Columbus goes, clearly Youngstown has no strong representation exactly for the aforementioned reasons, and I would add to that that we can't even present a unified front between the city and the burbs, so really who would take us seriously? I've lived here five years, got excited by the revitalization, but I must say I'm ready to get out.

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5ytownoptimist(86 comments)posted 7 years, 5 months ago

There will always be some level of cronyism in politics but wouldn't it be refreshing if one of our politicians actually had talented, professional cronies? Part of the problem is that city or county employment is one of the best gigs in the area. Now, wouldn't it be wonderful if the Cafaros, Zoldans, Debartolo/Yorks, Pipinos & other Lords of the Universe in the Ytown area came together to establish more business ventures with long term growth in the area? You can't tell me these business people do not have connections now or in the past 25 years. In all honesty, have these family dynasties ever cared about anything but more money in their pockets (or politicians)? Sure, they are philanthropic but would they be if it wasn't a tax write-off (or would anyone else for that matter). It takes a village & it takes leadership. Local political & business leaders can get an audience & the right ears in Columbus for more state assistance. However, those interests need to come together. You would think Capri Cafaro would have some pull in that area?

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6tylersclark(182 comments)posted 7 years, 5 months ago

@OldManGrump, looked at another way, Youngstown's influence has declined along with its population. Its leaders need to be pushed to reestablish the area's visibility and inclusion at higher levels of government, for the benefit of everyone, including those who live in areas outside the Valley that will nevertheless be affected by its trajectory.

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7ytownoptimist(86 comments)posted 7 years, 5 months ago

Just read Deb Weaver's blog www.youngstownmoxie.blogspot.com - she is spot on! We do need to mobilize a grassroots organization to confront the powers that be into more effective leadership and solutions. As long as people like Stan & Old Man Grump just sit & criticize at a computer terminal, nothing will be achieved. Their attitudes are toxic & a perfect example of the malaise that many here exhibit.

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8frustrateddem(5 comments)posted 7 years, 5 months ago

Ytownoptimist, regarding the need for a grassroots organization --- Mahoning Valley for Change is a new name for the Mahoning Valley for Obama volunteer group that worked throughout the primary and general election. I started meetings for the group last January after driving from Austintown to New Hampshire to volunteer for the Obama campaign.
We are trying to breathe some life into the political process in Mahoning County. I just finished reading "Taking on the System" by Markos Moulitsas Zuniga (founder of the liberal blog www.dailykos.com ). His main point is that the era of the gatekeeper is over. In the digital age the average citizen can participate in the political process and wield real influence through grassroots organizing. We're working on that here in Youngstown. See Sunday's Vindicator article at http://www.vindy.com/news/2009/jan/04...
Come join us at 2 p.m. Saturday, January 24th at Holy Trinity Missionary Baptist Church, 505 Parkcliffe Ave. on the south side (one block east of Glenwood). To RSVP go to

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9YoungstownKidd(40 comments)posted 7 years, 5 months ago

MVOC Organizes Officials, Community Leaders
To meet with Ohio Department of Development Officials

Group to discuss resources from the state to tackle foreclosure and vacant property crisis

Youngstown has the highest foreclosure rate and subprime lending rates in the State of Ohio and the resulting abandonment has left the city further challenged in its ongoing battle to address urban blight. Given this serious social and economic problem, Youngstown officials and citizens were rightfully pleased to receive news late last year that the federal government had passed the “Housing and Economic Recovery Act” of July 2008 which provides billions of dollars to cash-strapped local governments and states to acquire, demolish or rehabilitate homes vacated due to foreclosure. The City of Youngstown received a direct allocation from the Housing and Urban Development of 2.7 million; however, City of Youngstown Community Development Director William D’Avignon estimates that the cost to “stabilize” the City of Youngstown is $42.9 million. In addition to direct federal funding, the State of Ohio received $116 million in discretionary funds to additionally distribute to the areas of greatest need. In December, city and community officials submitted a formal request to the Ohio Department of Development asking for an additional $16 million, however, while Mahoning County as a whole received 2.9 million, the City of Youngstown received no specific funding from the State of Ohio’s NSP program.

As a result, the Mahoning Valley Organizing Collaborative has secured a meeting with state officials to discuss the zero dollar allocation, state commitment to allocating other state resources to Youngstown to address the foreclosure and vacant property crisis, and current revitalization efforts that make Youngstown a strategic investment area. These efforts include but are not limited to: the nationally and internationally recognized Youngstown 2010 Citywide Plan, National Vacant Property Campaign Youngstown/Mahoning County Vacant Property Initiative, establishment of a county wide land bank, establishment of professional community organizing (i.e. MVOC), establishment of a multi-faceted, high capacity, city-wide community development corporation (i.e. Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corporation) and Congressman Ryan’s Urban and Suburban Communities Regeneration Act.

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10YoungstownKidd(40 comments)posted 7 years, 5 months ago

Friday's meeting is a key component of the MVOC’s vacant property organizing campaign. Community leaders along with city and elected officials will meet at the Vern Riffe Center in Columbus, Ohio on Friday, January 9 at 2:00pm. Among those confirmed to attend are Mayor Jay Williams, CDA Director Bill D’Avignon; Commissioner John McNally; Pastor Michael Harrison, Union Baptist Church; Patricia Dougan, President Seventh Ward Citizens Coalition; Joel Ratner, President, Raymond John Wean Foundation; Pat Lowry, Press Secretary, Congressman Tim Ryan; Kirk Noden, Executive Director, Mahoning Valley Organizing Collaborative.

From the State: John Magill, Chief Strategic Officer, William Murdock, Director, Urban Development Division, Ian Nickey, Legislative Liaison, Governmental Relations Office, Bill Graves, Director, Community Development Division, Rob Schmidley, Cartographer, Policy Research and Strategic Planning, Marvin Hayes, Governor’s Office, Arnie Clebone, Regional Economic Development Director, Ken Carano, Governor’s Regional Representative, Blaine Brockman, Assistant Director, Ohio Housing Finance Agency.

WHO: The Mahoning Valley Organizing Collaborative (MVOC) is a broad-based community organizing initiative established in March of 2008. The primary focus of the MVOC is to unite groups throughout the community to work together to increase the quality of life in urban neighborhoods in the Cities of Youngstown and Warren, Ohio. The MVOC seeks to begin about the process of neighborhood change through leadership development, research and policy work, and neighborhood actions and campaigns.

Phil Kidd

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11frustrateddem(5 comments)posted 7 years, 5 months ago

To Erplane - we talked about the need to include interested citizens of all parties, Republicans, Democrats, Independents and Greens. The challenge is to find and inspire honest and competent people to get involved. The problems here are so complex that they transcend party or ethnic or racial divisions. There are positive efforts already underway, see the MVOC information above. We will try to promote or join positive initiatives in any way we can.

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12soapboxsinger(1 comment)posted 7 years, 5 months ago

The Mayor is out talking up Youngstown (I've heard him in another State and he's good), we're at home pushing new ideas that ideologically line up with the 2010 plan, but some key city officials aren't with the program. If I'm getting this right, I guess we need to find out who they are and apply some pressure.

One idea about implementing 2010 in terms of a Green Belt and a Tech Belt is to have a package to offer businesses interested in the area. We seem to know how to attract the Big Box stores, the garbage industry and prisons. Perhaps they come so easily because they don't need a talent pool, good commuter connections to other major cities, or require good public schools. But heck, we've got two tech firms right downtown. Why not use them as a models and set about creating a package to solicit companies of their size and scope.

Before reading Tyler Clark's and the Youngstown Moxie II blog, I thought that surely Youngstown had such a package and was out soliciting technology and "green" companies...but after reading I'm not so confident.

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13debraweaver(30 comments)posted 7 years, 5 months ago

After reading all of the comments here, my hope is restored. Yes, there are some naysayers as usual, but there is also optimism. Together as Phil Kidd often says, we'll continue to fight the good fight.

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14ytownoptimist(86 comments)posted 7 years, 5 months ago

I think other industries besides Green Belt and Tech Belt (especially since Turning Technologies just laid off employees) should be targeted. It is worthwhile to contact big companies looking for centralized distribution, production and warehousing as well. Our low real estate costs & job hungry population (don't start that union argument here) are great aspects to locating a division or offices here. However, I do realize we have to start somewhere & just keep on trying.

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15tylersclark(182 comments)posted 7 years, 5 months ago

Thanks for everybody's comments. It's clear we can band together and work for positive change.

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