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Youngstown mayoral candidates target crime as top priority

YOUNGSTOWN — Candidates running for mayor agree that crime is the No. 1 issue in the city, but they differ on how to combat it.

Mayor Jamael Tito Brown, the Democratic incumbent seeking a second four-year term, said the city needs to “build a better sense of trust” between residents and the police department, which he said is a focus for him.

The city is working toward getting body cameras for police officers “as an added measure of protection for our officers and residents,” and is putting more officers on the street with a focus on community policing. The city also wants to install security cameras along the main corridors and in neighborhoods and work with FirstEnergy to improve lighting in the neighborhoods.

“When we are actively patrolling our streets and the dark corners of the city are lit, crime will go down,” he said. “Cameras and brighter streets have already caused criminals to be identified and caught. Our plan is to drive crime out of the shadows and out of our city.”

But two of his opponents — Republican Tracey Winbush and Richard Vincent Hill, an independent candidate — said Brown has failed to reduce crime.

“Crime is a byproduct of apathy, complacency, poverty and because of it, it breeds it,” said Winbush, a talk show host and marketing and political consultant.

She wants to realign all safety services and first responders.

Weak leadership by Brown has led to poor preventive measures to combat crime, she said.

“He lacks leadership,” Winbush said. “Leadership means you have to make the hard decisions even though they’re not the most popular.”

Hill, a division supervisor at the city clerk of courts and president of Prism Insurance LLC, said Brown “has a poor track record” as mayor as the city is No. 1 in the nation in poverty, second in child poverty and has one of the highest crime rates.

“The numbers don’t lie,” Hill said.

As a long-term solution to crime, Hill suggests a risk-based policing model called Risk Terrain Modeling. It is a diagnostic method that puts the focus on factors that influence crime problems, he said. Police target risky areas to make referrals to community agencies and social workers when they find people in need of support, and allow stakeholders to prioritize efforts.

Also running against Brown are six write-in candidates: Amber Leigh White, Lynette Wesley, Claudette R. Moore, Cecil B. Monroe, Calvin Hill and Tayana C. Smith.

Smith filed as an independent candidate, but quickly withdrew only to later file as a write-in.

Munroe ran as a write-in for mayor in 2013 and got three votes. He ran as an independent in 2017 and got 61 votes, 0.54 of 1 percent of the vote that year.

Hill ran as a write-in four years ago and got two votes.

White’s husband, John, filed as an independent, but wasn’t certified by the Mahoning County Board of Elections because it ruled he wasn’t eligible to be a candidate under the city charter as he had not been an elector for five years and also because he voted in the Democratic primary in May after filing as an independent.

The mayoral job pays $104,935 annually.

$82.7 MILLION FEDERAL FUNDS

The city was awarded $82.7 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act funds; half of that came last May, and the rest will arrive in May 2022.

“The greatest impacts will be in the neighborhoods and the corridors,” Brown said.

Among his proposals for the money are improved lighting, demolishing the 500 worst vacant properties in the city, building new homes, reducing food deserts, and focusing on removing lead paint in houses and replacing lead-based pipes.

“The plan will focus on having an impact on future generations,” he said. “We must not allow this moment to pass by squandering the money on provincial ideas or shortsighted and temporary fixes.”

Once the blighted buildings are demolished, Brown said, the city can implement its housing strategy “to provide affordable and quality housing to current and potential residents.”

Hill would use the money for water infrastructure and to offer high-speed broadband services, particularly in underserved areas. The broadband improvements should be part of a regional effort, he said.

Like many Republicans, Winbush didn’t support ARP, but said with the federal government giving it to the city, “I don’t care how we got it.”

She said: “The money needs to be treated properly. I’d put money into first responders, broadband and water infrastructure.”

Winbush also wants a revolving loan program to help people improve their homes.

INCOME TAX

Winbush and Hill both said the city should look to reduce its 2.75 percent income tax, which is among the highest in the state.

Hill wants to overhaul how the city budget process is done in order to make better use of the money.

“My sustainable budget initiative will focus on what expenditures are necessary in an upcoming period irrespective of what happened in the previous period,” he said. “By questioning and understanding the required costs in each category, unnecessary expenditures will be identified even with no variance to the previous year’s budget.”

An income tax reduction is part of that conversation, Hill said, because “we need to get more people into the city paying income tax to expand our tax base.”

Winbush said: “We need to lower the income tax. That will bring more businesses into the city.”

Brown said that’s a hopeful thought, but “it’s unrealistic at this point. That’s when you look at leadership. It’s a goal, but it won’t happen until you get business to move and expand in the city.”

dskolnick@vindy.com

Youngstown mayor candidates/profiles

Jamael Tito Brown

Age: 49

Political party: Democrat

Occupation: Youngstown mayor

Past elected experience: Serving first term as mayor, has served as city council president, 3rd Ward council and school board member.

Goals: Increase safety, invest in workforce development and improve the quality of life.

Tracey Winbush

Age: 56

Political party: Republican

Occupation: Host of talk show and a marketing and political consultant

Past elected experience: A former Youngstown school board member.

Goals: Focus on safety, create jobs, work to ease the city income tax percentage and improve infrastructure.

Richard Vincent Hill

Age: 45

Political party: Independent

Occupation: Youngstown clerk of courts division supervisor and president of an insurance firm

Past elected experience: None.

Goals: Crime prevention, improve public services and fiscal responsibility.

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