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Mayor Williams: Heal the heart, we all live better

By Todd Franko (Contact)


Published March 15, 2008

I listened hard Friday morning to hear if the background music to Mayor Jay Williams' speech was Don Henley's"Heart of the Matter." In title and message, it could have been:

These times are so uncertain
There's a yearning undefined
And people filled with rage ...

And the trust and self-assurance that lead to happiness
They're the very things we kill, I guess
Pride and competition cannot fill these empty arms
And the work they put between us,
You know it doesn't keep us warm.


The mayor spoke to a chamber crowd of 200 or so folks at the "Good Morning, Youngstown" breakfast at Our Lady or Mt Carmel hall.

If you were wondering what post-Youngstown 2010 theme would come out of city hall, wonder no more. Mayor Williams made a pitch for his controversial JEDD plan Friday. To illustrate his vision, he used the heart and the human body. It was an anatomical analogy that would have had you thinking you walked in on a New England Journal of Medicine conference.

The plan -- creating a Joint Economic Development District -- targets Boardman and Austintown. In short, it puts  those townships' access to Youngstown's water supply at a steeper cost — namely the creation of an income tax for areas of the township. There's a lot of detail, but the present plan, if approved, would create millions in tax revenue for the three neighbors — much of it going to Youngstown. It also would negate the income tax as bad mark against Youngstown, thereby neutralizing by one measure the competition for valley business opportunities with its two most prosperous neighbors.

It won’t be pretty. But Williams said he is unapologteic about this tool and its ability to fix Youngstown.

He said that many afflictions in the body can be traced back to an unhealthy heart, and to keep the heart healthy means to keep the entire body healthy. (He said it in more words than this.)

And he said in the valley, Youngstown -- despite its problems, its perceptions, its issues -- is unquestionably the heart of the valley.

Youngstown has to be strong for the valley to be strong, and needs a healthy transfusion that his JEDD plan would offer, he said.

Akron, he points to, has successfully employed a JEDD with its neighboring townships. It started amid controversy, which Williams expects to happen here.

He offered the current JEDD numbers as a starting point and not the final answer. But after 30 years of doing nothing, it’s time for something.

We’ll step up our reporting on this over the next several months as the plan becomes topic No. 1 for Youngstown, Boardman and Austintown.

It’s a landscape-changing policy that will shape the valley’s next 30 years much like the collapse of steel has shaped the last 30 years.

Let's go back to Henley for a closer:

All the people in your life who've come and gone,

They let you down, you know they hurt your pride,

Better put it all behind you; cause life goes on,

You keep carrin' that anger, it'll eat you up inside.

I've been tryin' to get down to the Heart of the Matter

Because the flesh will get weak

And the ashes will scatter

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