Thursday, January 21, 2010

Friday Night Lights

Check out Youngstown State take on the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee LIVE on ESPNU (which is nationally televised) tomorrow night at 7:00 p.m.

ESPNU is Channel 303 on Time Warner Cable (Youngstown) and well, Dish and Direct TV aren't cooperating with me so find it yourself. Either way: YSU. National TV. Watch it.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Problems in the burbs

At the risk of alienating readers in the Youngstown burbs, I am often amazed how some (not all) who live in the Mahoning Valley feel that Youngstown's problems aren't their problems. I've seen it consistently in issues ranging from economic development zones to crime and water sharing. The truth of the matter is that crime or economic decay in Youngstown are just as likely to have an effect on Boardman as they are on Fifth Avenue. It may not be a direct, in-your-face effect, but the long term societal and economic factors will still weigh heavily on the suburbs.

Well, I paid the Brookings Institution a lot of money to tell me what I wanted to hear and it turns out that I'm right. In a new study released today, they found that poverty (a problem in Youngstown) is growing at an increased rate in the suburbs compared to their urban center. One lowlight from their report:
  • Led by increasing poverty in auto manufacturing metro areas—like Grand Rapids and Youngstown—Midwestern city and suburban poverty rates climbed 3.0 and 2.2 percentage points, respectively.
Overall, the poverty level in the Youngstown metro area is 33.5 percent, a somewhat shocking number when you consider one in three residents of the Valley lives on $10,830 per year (in single person households; $22,250 for a family of four). Imagine now the rent or mortgage, car payment, food, utilities, and other demands of life in Northeast Ohio (snow shovels!).

From the report, two assumptions can be made. First, as populations shift, poorer people are moving out of the urban areas in the suburbs and second, long term residents of the suburbs are becoming poorer due to changing economies. (It would be false to assume that I first drew these conclusions. The report author made them in a Q&A posted here.)

The 24-page report paints an interesting picture of poverty level of suburbs in America and the changing shift of income levels, particularly looking at the 2007-2008 data at the start of the "Great Recession". If you have ten minutes, it may be worth a read.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Have land, will grow

Vegetables, that is. I stumbled upon a new blog, The Infrastructurist, which asks, 'What should we do with a semi-abandoned city?' The answer is gardening. The article speaks of Detroits loss of 70% of its population and infrastructure that can support three times as many people as currently live there. I've added this blog to my daily list of reads. You should too.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Not dropping dead so easily

'HUD to Mahoning Valley: Drop Dead.' Those were the words the Vindy used to describe Youngstown being rejected for a share of the Neighborhood Stabilization Program funds given by the Federal government to communities across America. Of $2 billion going out the door for housing and community projects (such as acquiring land and property, demolishing and/or rehabilitating abandoned properties, to offer down payments and closing costs to low- to middle-income homebuyers, and creating land banks), Youngstown gets zip, nada, nothing.

The Vindy isn't the only paper taking HUD to task. A scathing editorial appeared a few months ago in the Plain Dealer papers calling the agency and NSP a "a bureaucratic morass from which few emerge".

Congressman Tim Ryan was quick to send a letter to President Obama and HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan, stating that this will be at the top of the agenda for next week's White House meeting between President Obama, Jay Williams, and him.

If I was the President, meeting with Youngstown's leaders next week, I would be quick about getting some answers.

The text of the letter:

January 14, 2010

President Barack Obama

The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20500

Dear Mr. President,

It is with great disappointment that I write this letter. This morning, the Department of Housing and Urban Development announced the second round of Neighborhood Stabilization Program funds, and a proposal for my District, which had been praised by the Brookings Institution as a proposal that “represents an unprecedented level of multi-jurisdictional collaboration,” was not funded. This decision is particularly egregious due to the inadequate level of funding received by my District in the initial program funding round.

The cities of Youngstown, Warren, Niles, Girard, Struthers, Campbell, Lowellville, McDonald, and Newton Falls – the Mahoning River Cities Consortium – proposed an innovative redevelopment effort that would utilize $32 million to stabilize neighborhoods that are facing unprecedented population loss, widespread substandard housing, and vacancy rates substantially above the national average. Add to those neighborhood issues significant losses to local manufacturing and service industries, above-average subprime loan rates, and a foreclosure rate that exceeds 11 percent – and you have a region that should be at the forefront of this type of assistance.

This Administration has lauded the benefits of collaboration and importance of government efficiency, yet both were ignored in the denial of this application. The regional cooperation advocated by this application is a model that should have been awarded full funding and replicated by other communities in the Rust Belt and, indeed, across the nation. The Department of Housing and Urban Development has missed a prime opportunity to recognize the plight of those smaller, older industrial cities that have suffered a major decline and are presented with a weak recovery in this economy at best. Given the quality of the proposal and the need of residents of my District, it is hard for me to believe that of the $2 billion announced today, the Mahoning River Cities proposal was of no merit.

As the Congressman of the 17th Congressional District, in which all nine of these cities are located, I plan to raise this issue when Youngstown Mayor Jay Williams and I meet at the White House next week. In addition, I am seeking an opportunity to meet with HUD Secretary Donovan as soon as possible. I will ask the Secretary that our proposal be reconsidered, or that some other form of assistance be forthcoming. The people of my District are looking to the Federal Government as an ally in this recovery effort, but the denial of this grant opportunity is a setback that we can ill afford.


Tim Ryan
Member of Congress

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Couldn't have said it better...

The New York Times editorial page spreads the word on what I've been saying (with many others) for a long time now:
The article's lead doesn't necessarily reflect the topic of the rest of the op-ed, but it fits with the hearts of so many people I know.

"Anyone who’s spent time in Youngstown, Ohio, is entitled to nagging affection for the gritty old steeltown that has long struggled with lost jobs and serial political corruption."

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

The Morning Read

First, let me wish each of you a Happy New Year. 2009 was the return of Youngstown Pride and I hope for more good things for this blog in 2010.

Now, on to the morning reads:

  • The New York Times has an interesting article on U.A.W. Local 1112, the Lordstown local which chronicles the G.M. plants past as a rebellious local, filing 15,000 grievances a year to one that works with management and sees the enemy as the foreign competition.
  • The Business Journal is reporting that Ohio's small business and entrepreneurial climate ranks 11th nationwide. By reinventing their model for taxing corporations and with transportation infrastructure rivaling any other state, Ohio is well placed for those looking to start a small business. That is good new for Youngstown, which is seeing a lot of success from small businesses such as Turning Technologies and M7 Technologies.
  • The Vindy has a mention of leadership classes being offered by the Regional Chamber of Commerce. The Mahoning Valley Local Government Leadership Academy classes start February 2.