Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Traveller's notebook

While I'm in Florida, failing to avoid the internet and therefore avoiding the sun and warm air, I came across this article as part of Reuters Route to Recovery series. This blog series has highlighted the recession and economic successes and failures of several towns, Youngstown being one. Today's piece seems to be a capstone and worth a read.

America’s Route to Recovery: Part One – Castles Built on Sand.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Spreading the Word

While yours truly will be sitting on the beach in Florida on New Year's Eve, I would like to do my part to promote First Night Youngstown. Hundreds of volunteers devote time each year to putting on one of the best New Year's Eve events in the state. This year's event will feature bands, comedians, fireworks displays, and other cultural events. For those who won't be soaking up the sun, this not to be missed!

The schedule, courtesy of the Oakland's Brooke Slanina:

"You will notice that FNY has much to offer this year, as always. The Masonic Temple will be a rockin' hot spot with local bands and aWild West Show. SMARTS Center returns from 5-8 pm with Sumi Painting, free cookies and punch, a drum circle, and even balloon animals for the kids! Be sure to visit while you wait for a horse-drawn carriage ride from 6:30-8:30 pm.

The Covelli Centre will again offer Open Community Skating with $3 skate rental (or bring your own) from 5:30-8:30, followed by a fireworks display for the kids at 9 pm. Carriage rides will resume at 9:30 in front of 20 Federal Place, which will be a family affair as Jimmy DeCapua, Jr. of Jones for Revival opens for his dad's band, the Classic Cruisers!

And while a total of 20 venues will be open this year, only one (First Presbyterian Church) will feature First Night Youngstown's ONLY 10-year veteran, local magician and comedian Eric Thompson!

Not to be missed is Mayor Jay Williams' swearing in ceremony in the Atrium of the Commerce Building. The internationally renowned Youngstown Connection will perform from 10-10:30 and Mayor Jay takes his oath at 10:30. Revelers are invited to celebrate with Ohio's hardest working band, The Colin Dussault Blues Project of Akron, at the Youngstown Club Lounge.

Capture your memories of New Year's Eve at Studio 217, which will be staffed with professional photographers doing studio portraits for only the cost of printing. WRTA will also provide shuttle service all night long!

Please help us spread the word about the 10-year anniversary celebration of First Night Youngstown as we ring in 2010 with the biggest party to hit Downtown Youngstown all year long. With 20 participating venues, 19 restaurants, 2 fireworks displays, and an hour-long lead-in to the Countdown and Ball Drop with The Zou and Jason Alan Magic, there is certainly something for everyone!"

(click on image for larger map of event locations)

Resurgence through immigration

It could just as easily be about Brier Hill or Smoky Hollow. Instead, it's about Buffalo's 'Lower West Side':

Just west of downtown, the Lower West Side was historically a blue-collar Italian neighborhood, but in recent decades, Puerto Ricans and other Hispanics settled into the community. In recent years, the area has become home to resettled refugees from Myanmar, Somalia and other countries beset by conflict.

Buffalo is a Rust Belt town that in many ways looks like Youngstown. It too is about as far to New York City as to Chicago. A steel and shipping hub, it's economy was ravaged by the export of jobs overseas. Sound familiar?

And both cities have seen transformations in their economies. Now far removed from its industrial past, Buffalo, like other Rust Belt cities, has been emphasizing health care and higher education as growth industries.

The New York Time's City Room blog, normally painting on the canvas of New York City life and culture, has hit the road to bring stories from some of New York's other large cities. The story of Buffalo offers some thoughts on how recent immigration by Latinos and Asians has reshaped Buffalo, a city built by immigrants.

Just read the article and replace each mention of 'Buffalo' with 'Youngstown' and you will see a common tale.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Social media blizzard

As I endure the Snowpocalypse, AKA the Capital Crippler, AKA Blizzard 2009, here in Washington, D.C., you can also endure a Youngstown Pride social media blizzard by following us on Facebook and Twitter (@ytownpride). The Facebook and Twitter feeds will have some content that the blog doesn't have, including more of my random news and notes that don't warrant a full blog post.

(The highway exit to Camp Lowry)

Friday, December 18, 2009

Not a silver bullet

Recent local news articles have touted the Department of Labor's Trade Adjustment Assistance Act as a means for unemployed workers to learn a new trade in the face of plant closures, diminished product demand and the transfer of jobs overseas.

A lesson learned from faraway Caldwell County, N.C. shows us that retraining and retooling isn't the only thing needed to correct unemployment. Caldwell County is to furniture what Youngstown was to steel. Furniture manufacturing was the main source of employment and revenue for County residents. When the Broyhill furniture factory and largest employer in town shifted operations to China several years ago, hundreds of former furniture makers went back to school.

NPR recently focused on two unemployed workers in Caldwell who used TAA and tried to make the leap from building couches and ottomans into the building and programming servers. The story of these two is representative of the struggles of many workers who go through job retraining programs. In the case of Bill Curtis and Margo Rice, once Google opened a server farm 200 yards from the closed furniture factory, they realized that three years of computer training wasn't enough to compete.

A three-part series from 'All Things Considered' first focused on how laid-off workers tried to retrain to enter a 21st century workforce. Part two focuses on the results of that effort and what they have done since. Tonight's segment will take a look at the Chinese labors who took over the furniture jobs.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Going green in Youngstown

For so much of it's history, Youngstown was caked in black soot. In 1915, socialist leader Frank Bohn stated that, "Everybody breathing dirt, eating dirt-they call it "pay dirt," for Youngstown clean would be Youngstown out of work." In an exciting announcement, there is a new partnership to take Youngstown from the black coal and brown fields to a green community. Today in Copenhagen, while world leaders meet to craft plans to combat global warming, Youngstown and Global Green USA, a U.S. environmental nonprofit announced a partnership to advance sustainable, ‘green’ city goals.

Present for the announcement included U.S. Congressman Tim Ryan (OH-17) and Global Green USA CEO and President Matt Petersen. Along with Mayor Jay Williams, who was in Youngstown, they announced that this partnership will initiate a global design competition to create green jobs and sustainable development in Youngstown. By building on the successful Youngstown 2010 planning process and implementing a citywide and neighborhood-specific ‘greening’ plan, Youngstown can become a model ‘green’ city for the rest of the Midwest.

The project will complement the over $7.6 million in federal money that has been secured in for green energy related projects in the Mahoning Valley, including the Warren Technology and Business Center for Energy Sustainability, the YSU Center for Advanced Automotive Fuels Research, Development and Commercialization, and the YSU Center for Efficiency in Sustainable Energy.

The goals of Global Green’s Youngstown project are:

  • To create a Climate Action and Sustainable City Plan, beginning with the implementation of key aspects of the U.S. Mayors’ Climate Protection Agreement and strategies that build on the Youngstown 2010 plan, all which can be implemented in the near- to mid-term to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and meet sustainability goals;
  • To create a Neighborhood-Specific Plan for one neighborhood on Youngstown’s south side that currently suffers from devastating levels of blight, with many blocks left virtually empty;
  • To generate provocative and creative ideas through a design competition that will bring national attention and resources to the project, along with actionable contributions (i.e., planning, design and policy) for the neighborhood specific planning and design;
  • To establish measurable indicators of progress, documenting model policies and best practices that will be shared with regional and national decision makers;
  • To leverage existing investments and secure firm commitments from local and regional funders, as well as a congressional appropriation, to fund capital costs associated with citywide and neighborhood-specific plan implementation; and
  • To create a regional framework of ideas and next steps that will identify how the ‘greening’ of Youngstown can influence the ‘greening’ of the Rust Belt, and more immediately, be a key factor in the greening of the Pittsburgh-Cleveland Tech Belt corridor.

Former Youngstown resident and Applied Systems and Technology Transfer (AST2) president Jack Scott has already invested $25,000 into the project; a figure which has been matched locally by the Raymond John Wean Foundation.

Dave Skolnick has an article on Vindy.com.

The Morning Read

There are several great articles out there worth reading this morning:

  • The Washington Post has a long feature about the struggles many are facing in the Mahoning Valley. We talk so much about the progressive change occurring in Youngstown but there are real people with real struggles to survive in this economy. This article does a great job capturing this pain experienced by our friends and neighbors. See the slide show here.
  • Some sprucing up is occuring at 20 Federal Place. The Business Journal has the details.
  • A couple of articles on the proposed V&M Star expansion in Brier Hill in both the Business Journal and the Vindicator, with mentions here, here and here.
  • Last and certainly worth being least, Jim Traficant is circulating petitions to run for Congress. Help us if he does this, as the national media attention will be anything but positive. I was able to watch the first 10 minutes of the press conference that he held this morning. Possible casino deals, a shout-out to Kelly Pavlik and some random comments about bears defecating in the woods were the early highlights. The Vindicator has a summary here and you can find the press conference video here (later today) courtesy of WFMJ.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Forget the cake, I'm here for the cookies

It was actually a line item in the contract with my wedding hall vendor - a table for cookies had to be provided. I can't imagine a wedding in Youngstown without one. Friends from around the country are in awe by this tradition, but it's expected, if not demanded, in Youngstown.

My wedding closed out with close to 250 dozen cookies. Do the math. The saddest part was that I have no idea where the leftovers went. I'm guessing the wait staff enjoyed homemade treats for days, if not weeks.

(The photo is the only evidence of my cookie table that I can find. Being a firefighter, the groom's cake was a hit as well.)

The New York Times has all the news on cookie tables that's fit to print, except to say it gets it wrong on the origin of the cookie table. Pittsburgh has nothing on Youngstown and I said so three years ago. Those out-of-towners who have no idea what I am talking about need to read the article below.

* The Wedding? I’m Here for the Cookies (New York Times. December 15, 2009)

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Five long years

This week represents my fifth year and 357th post in the blogosphere, with my first post from December 13, 2004 entitled 'Here in Northeast Ohio, back in 1803' and starting off with some of the history of this great city. Thanks to all of you who continually come back to read. Back from my long winter, I hope to continue to provide some great information, history, insight and commentary. When all else fails, you can always go read Vindy.com.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

A lion of the North Side

When you talk of great Youngstown patriarchs, John Manning's name is at the top of the list. Northsider's knew the Manning's and Lowry's as probably the largest Catholic families ever to run the halls of St. Ed's, Ursuline and Rayen. Many people I met, when looking at me, would ask, "Are you a Manning?" When I replied 'No, a Lowry,' the comment back usually ended with, 'same thing'. Mr. Manning passed away Friday evening after a brief illness. It was an honor to have known him and an even greater honor to consider several of his grandchildren among my closest friends.


John P. Manning Sr.

YOUNGSTOWN – John P. Manning Sr. returned to the Lord on Dec. 11. 2009.

He was born on Sept. 3, 1920, in Youngstown. His parents, Michael Manning and Mary Gilmore, were Irish immigrants from County Galway and County Mayo respectively.

From 1926 to 1935, he attended St. Edward’s School in Youngstown where he completed his grade school education. He spent his high school years at The Rayen School, graduating in 1939.

While at Rayen, Mr. Manning was in a number of activities. He played football, earning two letters. He was the basketball manager from 1938 to 1939. He competed in track and was on the intramural basketball team. While in high school, he worked at McKelvey’s department store on the delivery truck.

After graduation, John worked in shipping at the Youngstown Sheet and Tube, Cold Strip Plant, until the end of 1941. In January of 1942, he enlisted in the U.S. Army and served until his discharge in February of 1946. He served stateside, assigned to anti-aircraft and light tank detail. Early in 1944, he was sent to the Pacific Theater, where he served in the Amphibian Tractor Battalion in the Philippines and Japan.

While stationed in Osaka, he played football as center for the I Corp Headquarters in Osaka Stadium against the 33rd Division. It was the first American football game ever in Japan. While in Japan he served as water commissioner for the government in Japan and taught math to American soldiers.

After the military, John came home to Youngstown where he attended Youngstown State while working at the Youngstown Sheet and Tube Company. He enrolled at Ohio University in September of 1946 and graduated in 1949 with a B.S.C. Degree. While at OU, he made the Inter-fraternity All-Star Team as a center. In 1950, he attended graduate school at Youngstown State, in Business Administration, and majored in five subjects: Accounting, Math, Economics, Business and Finance.

Mr. Manning started his employment at the Koppers Company in February 1950. He was their office manager for 31 years. He handled all traffic, accounts payable, accounts receivable, inventories, and all union negotiations. John retired in May of 1981. He also worked many years for the diocese of Youngstown as an accountant.

John Manning was very active in our community. The following is a list of the many organizations and fundraising drives he has served on: Hospice of Youngstown, St. Edward School fund for Ursuline & Mooney, Ursuline High Boosters, Ursuline High School Nick Johnson Committee, Mill Creek Child Care Center, Youngstown Traffic Club, Chesterton Club, SCORE of Youngstown State, Stambaugh Pillars, Sierra Club of Youngstown, Manning Investment Company, Doris Burdman Home, Mill Creek Child Development Center, Missionaries of the Sacred Heart, Oblate Sisters of the Sacred Heart, Ursuline Sisters Solo Deo Club, St Edward Mission Club, St Edward PTA, Northside Citizens Coalition, Oblate Sisters Cinquata Club, District XI on Aging, Goodwill Industries, Mahoning Transitional Homes, Newman Club Member, Chairman of Inter -fraternity Greek Week Affair, Jewish Community Center, Youngstown St. Patrick’s Parade Committee, Mahoning Valley Gaelic Society Charter Member. He worked on many area fundraising drives, to name a few, Youngstown Public Libraries, United Way, Youngstown Cancer Drive, Diabetes Drive for Northside Hospital, Gilliagans Campaign for Governor, White House on Education for Ohio, and Ursuline Capital Campaign.

He was also an avid Notre Dame and YSU fan.

He was made an honorary alumni of Ursuline High School in 1998.

John Manning married Kathleen Reagan on Sept. 16, 1950. She passed away July 23, 1991 after 41 years of marriage.

He is survived by five sons; Michael (Linda) of Liberty, Fr. Patrick of Walsh University in Canton, Thomas (Alice) of Youngstown, Edgar (Shirley) of Boardman and Liam (Nicole) of Raleigh, N.C.; four daughters, Kathleen (James) Zidian of Boardman, Marian (Mark) Acerra of Girard, Margaret Bishop of Mathews, N.C., and Martina (Dominic) Marzano of Struthers.

He also leaves his beloved grandchildren of whom he was so proud, Meredyth Ray, Jessica McKenna, Dylan and Zachary Acerra, Patrick, Thomas and Meaghan Manning, Katie Taylor, Gregory Thompson, Elliot and Liam Bishop, Kellie, Colleen, Erin, Mikayala and Sean Manning; three great-grandchildren, Madison, Oliva and Will; and one sister, Claire Nissen

In 1998, he took the entire Manning clan to visit their ancestral home in Ireland.

He was preceded in death by his parents; his wife of 41 years, Kathleen Anne Reagan; as well as a daughter, Colleen Anne; and a grandson, Sean; a sister, Helen; and two brothers Edward and William.

Calling hours will be Monday at St. Edward The Confessor Catholic Church from 2 to 5 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. and from 3 to 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday.

The Most Rev. George V. Murry, S.J., D.D., Ph. D., will preside at the Funeral liturgy at St Edward Church at 6 p.m. on Tuesday evening.

The family requests that in lieu of flowers memorial contributions take the form of donations to the Hospice of The Valley, The Ursuline Sisters of Youngstown, or Ursuline High School.

McVean, Hughes & McClurkin Funeral Home is handling the arrangements.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Steel Town 1944

The visuals are stunning. Stacks spewing clouds of smoke into the sky, nearly obscuring the Home Savings & Loan building while men and women, all wearing hats, jump on and off busses at street level. Rivers of molten ore running down chutes to create the ships, tanks or guns that in peacetime would be office buildings. In Youngstown we make steel. We make steel and talk steel.

A World War II -era film created by the Office of War Information, 'Steel Town 1944' offers an incredible glimpse into Youngstown's past. My hope with this blog was to continue to spread Youngstown's rich past while highlighting some of the remarkable things going on to rebuild. For those who lived in the steel boom years of Youngstown's past, in the words of Doc Graham, "The memories will be so thick they'll have to brush them away from their faces."

Some interesting points to watch out for:
  • 6:36 - Hooking up the hoist to a bucket of molten iron
  • 7:30 - The 1944 Wilson-South football game at South High.
  • 7:59 - South High School principal's office, classroom and cafeteria
  • 10:05 - A Youngstown Symphony Orchestra made up entirely of steelworkers and their wives, rehearsing a piece written by Gerald Marovich, a Youngstown-native in the Navy
Not to give the ending away, but this closing quote is a classic:

"When the war is over, we're going to have other problems. We know about that in Youngstown. We've had it here before. There are times when there is no smoke in the sky and mills were quiet. The streets full of men, angry, questioning, wondering. We're beginning to understand that these things don't just happen in one place. They happen everywhere."

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

'An Idora Revival'

It's not the neighborhood in which Ruby Yates raised her children or sent them down the block to the amusement park, but there's a lot of promise afoot for Idora, a small Youngstown neighborhood that some would call the west end of Fosterville. A great Vindicator article highlights the renewal occurring in the this area. It is worth checking out here: http://www.vindy.com/news/2009/dec/02/an-idora-revival/

Some great lines:
  • “Our goal is to transform vulnerable, undervalued and transitional neighborhoods to healthy neighborhoods of choice,” - Presley Gillespie, director of YNDC
  • “Now neighbors on opposite ends of the street know each other and are talking. It seems to feel as if the neighborhood is getting its future back.” - Ian Beniston, policy director at MVOC
Just some of the great, exciting things happening in Youngstown.

link: http://idoraneighborhoodassociation.weebly.com/ (Idora Neighborhood Association)

Monday, November 30, 2009

Back for a little while

My initial objection to being a casual writer to this blog was that my readership, assuming I had one, would get frustrated at long gaps between posts. I felt that I brought some closure to my initial (4-year) attempt at this blog by at least telling people that I wasn't coming back any more.

Next thing I know, the city decides to sell Fire Station 7. I later learned that it was a planned move and in the budget documents for a year. Regardless, no one was annoyed, frustrated or outraged at the move. No discussion occurred and it all went unsaid. I took the opportunity to write a rather disheveled entry about sentimental thoughts and poor development choices. I felt that the entire event going unmentioned outside of The Vindicator wasn't appropriate.

It got my juices flowing again. Sort of. Maybe I will post once a week; maybe my posts will be months apart. Maybe the Youngstown Pride will win the 2010 WBL World Championship. There are a lot of uncertainties ahead, but I may try and blog about them.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Selling Youngstown history to the highest bidder

Call is nostalgia, call it love, call it what you will. Youngstown's Fire Station 7 has always been 'my' firehouse. It's not difficult to see the beautify and history in this firehouse that this year celebrated its 105th anniversary.

It started in the fall of 1989 when YFD Fire Inspector Hubert Clardy, recently retired, and the crew of Engine 7 brought to St. Edward School the finest fire engine ever to pump a working fire in Youngstown. A fire prevention lesson to a 3rd grade class, some stop-drop-and-rolling, and a chance to sit up in the seat of that magnificent pumper and I was hooked for life.

It was that encounter with that crew, engine and and the connection to that fire station that made me realize that I wanted to be a firefighter. Most young kids grow out of that phase in their life where red lights and sirens cause them to run to the window. I still leap over the furniture. Ask my wife.

My love of the fire service began with Station 7. Yesterday, the city put a price on it. In a move that raised no apparent public debate or outcry, Youngstown sold Fire Station 7 to US Campus Suites LLC to the tune of $1 million. Youngstown gets to lease the firehouse for about three more years at $10 a year until US Campus Suites is ready to build The Flats at Wick student housing complex. In 2012 (or so), like so much of Youngstown history, Fire Station 7 is a memory.

At a time when Youngstown finally is so close to determining its future, with a motivated generation of self-made public planners, and positive development abounds, it takes a giant step backward by selling its history.

Numerous news articles and blog posts have cried out for the need to save the Wick Park Historic District. Homes and houses alike have been burned by arsonists, salvagers and thieves along Park Ave, Pennsylvania, Woodbine, Broadway, North Heights, and Fairgreen. The neighborhood would probably burn with greater ferocity if not for Engine 7, just around the corner.

An unfortunate consequence of these arsonists are the vacant plots of land that dot every street. Why not use this land for student housing? It's within a half block of the existing Cafaro and Lyden housing, cheaply available, and ready to build. Instead, the city sold out in an effort to cut its deficit. The cost was a neighborhood institution, now sitting on death row.

The city will argue that downtown Fire Station 1 is adequate to serve the North Side. They are correct in that Fire Station 1 can handle the additional firefighters and trucks. There is space within the firehouse for three firefighters per shift and an extra truck.

Where they are wrong is the additional time it will take that fire engine to get to fires on the Lower East Side, the far North Side, and the highway responses of the Madison Avenue Expressway. The distance between the two station is 1.1 miles. For someone trapped in a fire, that's minutes. Response times to those neighborhoods will suffer; Fire loss may go up.

Youngstown's efforts were not interested in the protection of a neighborhood. They were out to cut deficits at the expense of the history of the neighborhood they say they are trying to save. Front page stories tell of Pennsylvania Ave homes burning as the city sells the nearest firehouse. Where is the outrage?