Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Musings about the State of the City - Youngstown

Please note that this map is one associated with foreclosed homes. Youngstown which has more foreclosures than anywhere else in the state is not even on the map. Why?

Lately I've been feeling blue. As you know, I have been very involved in Youngstown activities ranging from greening Youngstown to support for the arts in the Youngstown. If anything I generally suffer from being overly optimistic. The reason for my overall malaise these days is that I've begun to notice a very large and what appears to be an almost insurmountable disconnect between those who are in positions of power in city government and citizens working in the community.

Yesterday, it came to my attention that Sean Safford, Assistant Professor of Organizations and Markets at the University of Chicago's Graduate School of Business has written a book to be released in January 2009. It is titled, "Why the Garden Club Couldn't Save Youngstown: The Transformation of the Rust Belt". Many of us who are interested in urban development are familiar with the article of the same name that was written several years ago.

The author compares the recent history of Allentown, PA with that of Youngstown, OH. Allentown had a noticeable rebound over the course of the past twenty years. Their economy has reinvented itself. Youngstown although similar to Allentown in its industrial history, has as the author stated, "fallen into a race to the bottom". It was while reading a review of the book, that I decided it is time to talk about my current state of mind.

Safford, argues in the book, that the structure of social networks among the cities' economic, political and civic leaders account for the divergent trajectories of post-industrial regions like Allentown and Youngstown The book offers a probing historical explanation for the decline, fall and unlikely rejuvenation of the Rust Belt. It emphasizes the power of social networks to shape action, determine access to and control over information and resources, define the contexts in which problems are viewed, and enable collective action in the face of externally generated crisis.

The author presents the view that the rejuvenation of the rust belt is unlikely. I do not share Safford’s view about rejuvenation of the rust belt. However, I agree with his theory about social networks. Youngstown needs better communication between its leaders and the citizenry, we need to move beyond the social network as defined by organized crime, where I'll do a favor for you, if you do a favor for me, tit for tat and where it is all about who you know in a position of power. It is time to move toward open source communication to borrow a tech term. Power is in participation, it is through open communication that communities can grow, knowledge can be acquired, and markets developed.

As you may know, Youngstown has not received its fair share of demolition money from the State of Ohio. Youngstown also was not included in the feasibility study for a light rail system connecting major cities in Ohio. So far, it does not appear that Youngstown will be in the forefront of development of wind power, solar power, alternative energy or anything else. The companies that engage in these things appear to like other places in Ohio better. So once again our politicians have failed us by not actively seeking this new development.

Simultaneously,our population is steadily diminishing, our school system is in horrible shape and Forbes is including us on their list of fastest dying cities along with the Austintown community. People who would like to bring about change run into brick walls every which way they turn. Now, we are in a recession. The foundations that have been giving their funds to help us undoubtedly had their money tied up in the markets and undoubtedly have diminished revenues to share with the community.

I fear the reason that Youngstown has received so little state and federal support is because of preconceived notions some may have about our area. I've been told that the mafia no longer has a strong hold in Youngstown. I have no idea whether or not this is factually true, however I do know one thing, when individuals, cities, states, and nations have lived with a particular type of culture for a very long time, whether that be totalitarianism, slavery, or organized crime, the vestiges of that culture may be destroyed, but the people continue to carry the cultural mindset. I fear that many of our citizens and our politicians in Youngstown have lived in a culture of corruption for so long that they fail to see the ethical problems inherent in cronyism, and favor exchanging. They fail to see that democratic government should be transparent so the people who are represented know whether or not their interests as citizens are being served. It is time that we here in Youngstown start talking about ethics, not as they pertain to organized crime, but as they pertain to good government.

Our current politicians do not seem to understand their role in the development of legislation or the need for legislation that will bring about cohesiveness and consistency between the city and its 2010 plan. What’s more, so much time has passed since the 2010 plan was designed that I now believe it is time to revisit the plan in order to update it and make needed changes. For example environmental issues have become more important in recent years and need even more consideration in the 2010 plan. We need zoning that recognizes the need for walkability to stores, cafes, etc. We need mixed use zoning and if we can’t have that, we at least need to have the ability to make spot zoning changes that would serve the public good.

Currently, the emphasis in the city has been on demolition. It is of course important that the properties be taken down; it would however be a good thing to rehabilitate those properties that are salvageable. Furthermore, we could be turning our demolition efforts into the creation of a new industry, deconstruction. We could be deconstructing properties, salvaging those parts that are valuable and reselling them on the market to offset the expense of the deconstruction. We could become experts in this field. We could be in the lead on this, but we aren't, we are passing up an opportunity. It is this kind of thinking outside the box that should be encouraged by city government. Unfortunately it is not.

Our mayor has received numerous awards and is regularly asked to give speeches about the shrinking cities theory. We have been visited by people from all over the world. I fear that they have taken the idea and run. Even Cleveland is moving ahead on their shrinking city plan, meanwhile, here in Youngstown, things are moving too slow and we are going to be left in the dust.

We all know, that funds are a problem, we also know that when the 2010 plan was first introduced it was stressed that citizens must participate and work to bring the plan to fruition. To the city I say, get the hell out of our way, help us streamline procedures for acquisition of land, development of urban farming, and citizen lead progress such as park cleanups and festivals. Citizens know what we need to do to get things moving.

In addition to obtaining more funds for demolition and neighborhood stabilization, we need to make certain allocation of current funds is appropriate, and take advantage of learned volunteers, whether they be urban planners, lawyers, teachers, etc. We need to bring people together to talk honestly about the problems we face, put aside the cronyism, the favors, the political games and personal feelings. We need to brainstorm and problem solve. We need a Youngstown Think Tank, and it needs to be made up of the best minds Youngstown has to offer, it needs to cross racial barriers, class barriers, religious barriers, age barriers, and it needs to be problem centered. As Toni Van Pelt on Lincoln Avenue indicates, public policy should be based on objective evidence. A Youngstown think tank needs to serve as the voice of reason as well as serve as advisor to the major and city council. City Council must understand that it is time to move beyond their petty turf wars, and toward a larger vision of the city as a whole.

Several years ago, it appeared that there was an influx of new blood to Youngstown. Young people who understand transparency in government, who understand that people will come back or move to Youngstown when Youngstown has something to offer them. They have brought their positive attitude and it has been infectious. The old guard rather than being mired down in their petty cronyism and feelings of personal grandeur need to get out of the way. Our city employees need a shot of morale, our school system needs to get real and bring to the attention of the powers that be that when you take the best students out of a public school system, and leave the lower achieving students and behavioral problems behind, that this is not the teacher's fault nor the administration's, but rather the result of what I now call the development of sub-prime educational markets. We need some magnet schools in the city and we need to make them competitive, and some of the best in Ohio so that students that currently go to the better schools will want to come to ours. This is how we will draw the middle class with families back to the city. We also need to work hard to make certain that Youngstown is included in the development of green collar jobs.

If not, I fear that the young folks won't be staying, as they will burn out, and also want a better quality of life. Our schools will continue to deteriorate, our politicians move on to more prestigious positions, or retire, and the rest of us will live in a city that isn't even on the map of Ohio. It is time to start asking our politicians the hard questions. We have been riding on a cloud of hope and optimism now for a while, it is time to see some results.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Street Music to Move the Masses

The Playing for Change Community is a group of artists and inspired people brought together to connect the world through music. People play music all over the globe and the impact it has on all of our souls is something we share.

The idea for Playing for Change came to Mark Johnson one day as he was going to work in New York City. He came upon a performance of two monks painted all in white from head to toe. He saw about 200 people of varying races,genders and cultures sourrouding the monks. It occurred to him at that moment that music is the key to a better world. He took up this calling and has been making films ever since to inspire everyone on the planet to come together as one.

The Playing for Change journey of discovery celebrates the freedom and the lives of street musicians everywhere. I saw the video this morning via an ODE e-mail. I found it very moving and had to share it with you all. Please support Playing for Change and their goal of creating a musical revolution in the world, one that will help to inspire and improve communities everywhere.

Friday, December 12, 2008

David Giffels - All the Way Home

David Giffels, author of the book All the Way Home Building a Family in A falling Down House,came to Youngstown in November to speak at Cedars as part of the YSU Youngstown Reader's Series. His book was also the November selection of the Oakland Book Club of which I am a member. I was hooked on this book from page one. This is probably the case because I have spent most of my adult life renovating different living spaces. However, I admit that I have never taken on anything as daunting as the task that David Giffels took on. I applaud those who have the will and determination to restore the beauty of old houses, and my hope is that more and more people will see the beauty in some of Youngstown's falling down houses and feel moved to take on the project of restoring them as David Giffels did in Akron.

For pictures detailing Giffels journey in home renovation check this video out.
All the Way HomeBuilding a Family in A falling Down House.

Watch CBS Videos Online

Sunday, December 7, 2008

The Changing Image of Youngstown

Janko over at Shout Youngstown posted this video today. I believe this information should be spread far and wide so I have posted the video here as well. Pass it on.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Pete Drivere & the Pretty Demons and Matt Palka and the Caravan - Cedars - Youngstown

Cedars downtown will once again be the happening spot on Thanksgiving Eve when Pete Drivere and the Pretty Demons, along with Matt Palka and the Caravan will be performing. Show time 11:00 PM Cover Charge $5.00.

This will be a night of shots for sure! I'll be there, I suggest you come on down and party with us!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Open Studio and Art Sale at Mahoning Commons

Tony Armeni
Jason VanhooseLynn Cardwell
Tracy Segreti

November 22 and 23 from noon until 5:00 and then again on November 29 the artists at the Mahoning Commons will be holding an open house and auction. The artists are located in the old Ward Baking Company on lower Mahoning Avenue across from the U-Haul Building. There are more than twenty artists participating. Art work will include paintings, pottery, sculpture, drawings, photography and jewelery and an amazing array of handmade crafts. In addition Jerry Treharn owner of the building will have special tours of his fine Victorian furniture shop. Five floors of studios will be open and art work will also be exhibited in the hallways. This is a family oriented event and children are welcome. Free parking available surrounding the building.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Cedars Lounge -International Pop Overthrow

This past weekend Cedars hosted the International Pop Overthrow .Unfortunately,I didn't make it to all of the shows,but I did make it Saturday night to hear the band Blue Ash and I had a fine time! Kudos to Cedars for bringing this festival to Youngstown. I'll look forward to next year's show.

David Bash, Founder and CEO states in the festival program, "It's about the camaraderie bands feel for one another when they realize that everyone on the bill is really good!"

He also explained that its about fans discovering artists that they might not otherwise be exposed to. Most importantly he says, "International Pop Overthrow is about people who have a passion, whether that passion is to play some of the best melodic pop music you've ever heard,or to help create a forum where this music can be heard."

Bash speaks the truth, as the bands Saturday night incited the fans to a state of passion that was palpable. For more on the show check out a more complete review written by my good friend Kid Charlemagne at Power Pop

Check out Blue Ash:

Monday, November 10, 2008

Bloggers Take the World on Virtual Tours of Real-life Neighborhoods

Using cutting-edge technology to revitalize Rust Belt cities
Cynthia Closkey
The problems of post-industrial cities seem so complex, intertwined, and
entrenched, it’s hard to imagine how to start restoring these places to their
former glory.

But a group of bloggers says that getting started can be as simple as taking a walk.

The Neighborhood Walk is a chance for individuals throughout the Rust Belt of the U.S. and Canada to recognize the place they live, work, or call home — and to introduce it to the world. The project is the inspiration of a social network called Rust Belt Bloggers.

On November 11, 2008 (11/11/2008), bloggers, podcasters, bloggers, photobloggers and others throughout the Rust Belt region will each take a walk around their neighborhood, make media about it — a blog post, photo gallery, video, or whatever you prefer — and post it on the web.
More info here:
Visit Rust Belt Bloggers

I took a stroll through my neighborhood the other day. The neighborhood is located around Wick Park on Youngstown's north side. One of the reasons I love my neighborhood is because it is so richly diverse in its architecture and landscape. It is also rich in religious tradition. The Unitarians, the Methodists, the Jewish Temple,and a Pentacostal church all co-exist along Elm Street. The population is diverse as well, although it was a bit brisk outside while I was walking, so there weren't many people out and about. Nevertheless, it was a great day in the neighborhood. Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Art Youngstown November 28th 2008

Join Art Youngstown on November 28, 2008 at the newly renovated Davis Building Downtown for a evening of music, stories, and art by the brothers Robert and Jack Kidney. If you have not yet heard the legendary Numbers 15, 60 75 Band, it is high time you did.$5.00 at the door. Doors open at 6:00 PM. For more information contact Judy Szabo at (330) 746-8846 or Robert Dubec at (330) 398-4565.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Youngstown Signs Gas Aggregation Deal

Good News! The city of Youngstown has signed a one year aggregation deal with IGS Energy to provide a fixed rate of $8.99 per 1,000 cubic feet for city residents who are Dominion East Ohio Gas Customers. The program according to Vindy.com is voluntary. Also, anyone in Youngstown who wants to enroll who is currently served by another provider can join. If you want to sign up for the gas program call IGS at(800) 280-4474. I don't know about you but I have been paying between $10.69 and $14.15 per MCF. I'm calling IGS today. Congrats to the Mayor and the legal department for negotiating this contract!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Time Magazine

Lots of familiar local faces in this video produced by Craig Duff. The footage was shot on or about October 10,2008 in Youngstown. In my own defense I must say that I had just returned home from the hospital the day before and was recovering from surgery. My favorite part of the video is the walk on part by Dino the Cat. Enjoy!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Video the Vote

As you may know the upcoming election is going to be the most documented election in history. Two years ago Ian Inaba of Guerrilla News Network, John Ennis and James Rucker developed the idea to video the vote. For information on uploading your own video and to view a map of the United States that indicates problem sites visit You Tube Video the Vote.

I had the pleasure of meeting John Ennis and Sam Zamko of Guerrilla News, along with several local activists for dinner,at the Golden Dawn, in Youngstown last night to discuss how Video the Vote will be handled in Youngstown. It was a fascinating discussion of politics, the election and of course Youngstown. It was a very pleasant surprise this morning when I found that Sam had published a post to Guerrilla News Network article titled, Young-stown at Heart.(scroll down the page to locate the article)

If you have trouble at the polls on Tuesday, please feel free to contact me via e-mail and I will do everything in my power to get a video crew out to the polling location. My e-mail is: debraweaver2000@hotmail.com.

Video the Vote operates through a simple three step process.
1. Volunteers sign up online, providing contact information and video proficiency.
2. On election day, voters call in to national hotlines to report problems at the polls, Video the Vote dispatches our volunteers to get the story. The organization will also be obtaining footage from roving videographers who are documenting the election process in their communities.
3. Volunteers then upload their footage to the website where it is available for immediate viewing by the media and the public.

This is important because not only will there be more people voting in this election than ever before, but there undoubtedly will be bumps along the way, long lines, broken machines, confusion over the registration process, and even voter intimidation and fraud. Video can help document where problems occur in a very concrete way.

If you have questions regarding this and other election laws in Ohio you can find information here.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Have you voted yet? What are you waiting for?

Yesterday, the Rock the Vote tour came to Youngstown State University, and then gave an awesome performance at the Chevy Centre. Norah Jones, Perry Ferral, Sheryl Crowe, Ben Harper, and the Beastie Boys all performed. Their message was "Get out the Vote". Of course the subtext was vote for Obama.
So please if you have not yet voted, don't forget that you can vote early at the Board of Elections. The Mahoning County the Board of Elections is located at 2801 Market Street, Youngstown, OH 44507. The Board of Elections has extended hours between now and the November 4th. Their hours are Monday through Friday from 8:00 AM until 6:00 PM, Saturday from 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM and on Sunday from 1:00 PM to 5:00 PM. There truly is no excuse!

Sheryl Crowe performed her new song "Out of our Heads". The video from the song was projected behind her. Check out the images, they brought tears to my eyes. It truly is time for a change!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

A Fall Music and Arts Event

Experience Youngstown’s emerging new arts district on the north side, near YSU and the Butler Museum.
Enjoy free refreshments for an afternoon celebration of music and art featuring Youngstown entertainers, including Jeff Sanders, vocalist Elsa Higby, poet Phil Brady, vocals and cabaret by Rodd Counce, and tours of The Homes on Baldwin, affordable, quality built new single-family homes for sale in the Historic Wick Park neighborhood.

The event is sponsored by Common Wealth, Inc., a nonprofit organization actively revitalizing the Wick Park neighborhood.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Night of the Living Dead


The Oakland Center for the Arts, 220 W. Boardman St., announces its second show of the 2008-2009 Season: Night of the Living Dead, adapted by Morton Grisly. Performances are October 24, 25, 30, 31, and November 1 at 8 pm and October 26 at 2 pm. Two special midnight performances have been announced for October 31 and November 1.

Night of the Living Dead is based on George Romero’s classic cult film of the same name and will make its local stage debut at the Oakland. This Halloween horror favorite is sure to thrill audiences as zombies come to life before their eyes. Audience members will get a chance to meet the cast at an opening night post-performance reception.

The show stars Chazz Sutton, Daniel Black, Laura Phillips, Anna Frabutt, John Garzanich, Ric Panning, Lisa Skerkavich, and Glenn Stevens and features Selena Phillips, Andrew Labedz, Karen Sarrach, Geri Tichnor, Evan Wolfe, Donald G. Connors, Stephanie Sarrach, Maressa Carter, Ryan McKinney, Joseph D. Harris, Janelle Yohman, Jason Turner, Shane Sheerer, Bill Strahin, and Bryan Briones as The Zombies.

Christopher Fidram directs. Fight choreography for the show is handled by Chazz Sutton. Live gunshots will be featured in the show. Sound recording is by Ampreon Recorder with pre-taped news segments provided by WFMJ with graphic design by Martin Hudak.

Star Gallery artists include James Pernotto, Michelle Orostin, and William Youngman.

Audience members in costume will receive a $5 discount for shows on October 31 and November 1. Ticket prices are $15 for adults, $10 for students, and $12 for seniors. The Oakland accepts cash or checks only. Reservations can be made by calling 330.746.0404 and leaving a message.

For more information, visit myspace.com/oaklandcenter.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Homer votes for Obama

Don't believe it can happen - come watch the documentary,Stealing America Vote by Vote" at 7:00 PM tomorrow night at the Unitarian Church 1105 Elm Street, Youngstown, OH. The film is directed by Dorothy Fadiman. Many of the people interviewed in the film are from Youngstown Ohio. It is a must see before election day. The film will be followed at 9:45 PM by folksinger, humorist, and soundsmaker Brian Ohme.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The Stage - Oakland Center for the Arts

A couple of weeks ago, Brooke Slanina kicked off the fall season of "The Stage" at the Oakland Center for the Arts located in beautiful downtown Youngstown. It was fabulous as always! I had the best of intentions to post about the event at the time, but due to events beyond my control, I didn't get around to it. Alas, it is just as well because now that I have waited, new material has emerged in the form of some awesome video produced by my gifted young friend Crystal Beiersdorfer.

In addition I have included here for your listening enjoyment the first performance at the Stage by Dave. Check him out! Also, put the next Stage on your calendar now! Don't miss it! Brooke will be wearing her RDJ design which is, I'm told, glamorously revealing on October 16, 2008 at 8:00. $5.00 to play or stay. I'll be looking for you.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Friday, September 26, 2008

The Homes on Baldwin


Are you a member of the creative class? That group of people that social scientist Dr. Richard Florida, believes are a key driving force for economic development of post-industrial cities such as Youngstown.

Granted many of members of the creative class love the notion of rehabilitating an old building or living in a central downtown, but there are just as many who would like to expend their energy researching and designing new products or technology and simply would like to live in a new home that requires few repairs or trouble and that has lower utility bills than the older homes in the area.

Commonwealth Inc. has just those kind of homes available. The homes on Baldwin are affordable, three bedroom, energy efficient, and have two floors,an attached two car garage, air conditioning, range, fridge, dishwasher, disposal, microwave, ceramic tile, carpeting and 1 1/2 baths. Monthly payments are under $500.00 and there are down payment grants available as well as a 15 year tax abatement.

The homes are within walking distance of the beautiful 34 acre Wick Park as well as within walking distance of Youngstown State University, St. Elizabeth Hospital, and downtown Youngstown. The Wick Park neighborhood is of strategic importance in the citywide plan Youngstown 2010 and is one of six neighborhoods targeted for improvements this year.

So if you're looking for a new home in a upcoming and hip area at a good price, come to 113 and 106 Baldwin Street, Youngstown on Sunday September 28Th from 1:00 - 3:00 for an open house. Tour the house and enter a drawing to win a gas card or new bike. If you have questions about the property call (330) 726-8888.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Vacant Properties Organizing Strategy

Last night was a north side community meeting about the problem of vacant houses in the city of Youngstown. The meeting was organized by the Mahoning Valley Organizing Collaborative. The Collaborative or MVOC is a broad based community organizing initiative that was established in March of 2008. The primary purpose of the group is to unite groups throughout the community to work together to increase quality of life in urban neighborhoods in the cities of Youngstown and Warren, Ohio.

The MVOC philosophy is that change happens from the bottom up and that residents hold the solutions to the problems that face their communities. The MVOC is also connected to state and national organizing initiatives to begin changing state and federal policies regarding urban development.

The meeting last night was the culmination of three months of listening. The organizers from all four sides of Youngstown have been out in the community asking residents about the issues that effect their lives. It quickly became apparent to them, that one problem that heavily impacts residents is the proliferation of vacant properties.

Because of Youngstown's shrinking population there is an oversupply of housing stock. The estimated number of vacant structures is currently 6,500 and 20,000 vacant properties.

The current approach to addressing vacant properties is reactive, intermittent, and very expensive. The lack of effective policies regarding vacant properties has decreased residents' quality of life, and discourages development and reinvestment in the area.

The MVOC has been working to develop a plan that makes sense. They propose:

1. Neighborhood groups performing vacant property surveys to determine the true extent of the problem in each neighborhood. This information will be used to create a database and information system.

2. Neighborhood SUCCESS grants can then be strategically utilized to transform NVPC best practice recommendations into reality in the neighborhoods.

3. Neighborhood groups can develop action plans to hold lenders and slumlords accountable for their large holdings of vacant properties.

4. Collaboration with Lien Forward Ohio's Community Outreach Specialists to increase awareness of their services to neighborhood residents.

The MVOC provided attendees with a substantial outline of how to proceed to address the problems. There were between 75 and 100 in attendance at last night's meeting. Several residents provided personal testimony regarding their personal problems with vacant properties. I, for one, don't think this portion of the program was necessary as anyone living in this city has personal experience with vacant properties. We have all been impacted even if we merely walk or drive by these structures and lots. I do agree with the MVOC that there is a need for a survey to determine where the current vacant structures are located. Youngstown will be receiving approximately 1 million in federal dollars for demolition. It is imperative that the dollars be put to good use and that the demo projects be prioritized in terms of the which demo jobs can have the largest impact on the community at large. This type of stragegy needs to be developed by using a two pronged approach, community participation and input, balanced with the development of new policies and legislation based upon the most up to date urban development and legal research.

For example, to my knowledge there are currently no policies or programs in place for reporting newly abandoned properties or contacting mortgage holders to notify them of abandonment. If for example, there were a phone number that residents could use to report a newly vacant house, this would provide an early notification to the city who could then provide early notification to the mortgage holder. The mortgage holder would be advised that they are responsible for securing the the building, boarding it up, and maintaining the grass etc. Mechanisms for accountability must also be developed. If such as system were implemented,residents who plan to abandon property could be encouraged to call the hot line to report when they are leaving a property abandoned. The reporting person should be able to do this without fear of ramifications from the city and could be encouraged via public service ads etc.

This would also reduce the problem that exists from late notification. Currently, by the time an abandoned building has been secured, it has already had it's windows broken, copper stolen, and untold damage from vandals. This in turn makes it more difficult to sell the property at a later date via auction.

In addition, a policy could be implemented whereby if a resident plans to abandon a structure, and the property does not have a clouded title with the possible exception of real estate taxes, the property could be quit claimed to a landbank established specifically for this purpose. This in turn would allow the landbank to sell the building at a low price, with strict guidelines that purchasers must make needed repairs and maintain the structure. If policies such as this or similar to this were implemented it would reduce the numbers of homes that will ultimately be demolished. My understanding is that the cost of a demolition on average is $30,000. $30,000 could pay for a substantial rehab on many structures. Currently lien forward has a program to get vacant lots into the hands of residents, but I'm not aware of a program that provides that type of service for structures.

In addition to the development of policies to handle the problems of vacant structures, it is time to revamp our zoning laws. The 2010 plan allocates areas in the city to be used for numerous purposes, for example agriculture, however, our current zoning is not in compliance with that plan. If a citizen does wish to engage in agriculture, they must fight to get the zoning changed. This is not an easy task at the moment due to laws on the books regarding spot zoning changes. Furthermore, there are areas in the city that are in serious need of commercial enterprise. Due to the current zoning laws, the development of retail stores and restaurants is prohibited. Granted, one might not wish to have a large grocery store on a predominantly residential street, however, for the purposes of creating a sustainable community, where walking is possible, we must be able to have retail enterprises on more of our major streets throughout the city. It is clear that our residential neighborhoods are changing and do not resemble the neighborhoods of 30 years ago. There is a great deal of green space,as well as property in need of development. This development could include the neighborhood coffee shop, green grocers, etc. In other words it is time to address the need for more mixed use neighborhoods.

I would suggest that a commission composed of representatives from the zoning department, the zoning board, city planning, housing, legal experts regarding property and zoning, and community members be established in order to develop new policy regarding the changing landscape of our city.

The meeting last night was a good start to the journey we must take in order to shift the community paradigm toward one of collaborative problem solving, as well as to begin to see the possibilities that exist for us in our changing landscape. I commend the organizers for their quick assessment of the problems in Warren and Youngstown as well as their quick response in addressing the issues.

Below is Annie Gillam speaking to the group about vacant properties and demolition:

The young man below also addressed the meeting last night about the importance of voting.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Dora and the Mayor at the Grey to Green Festival

Wow! It rained cats and dogs on Saturday, but that didn't deter environmentalists and others interested in all things "green" from attending the Grey to Green Festival in Wick Park on Youngstown's north side. Due to the rain, the festival was set up under tents. There,vendors and exhibitors provided information on everything from recycling to solar power.

Holly Burnett and her crew were there with Enviroscape,a three dimensional model of a community that is designed to show how various pollutants end up in our water. There was also a really cool mineral mine where you could mine for your own gems and receive information the one you dug up. I have to admit I mined for quite a few gems and finally had to force myself to move on to other exhibits and vendors. They all were great, and the colorful wares of the vendors certainly added a bright spot to the very grey day.

For me, the greatest thing about the festival are the relationships that were forged during the planning stage. The festival must become an annual one, if for no other reason than I'd miss everybody too much if we didn't organize another event. This forging of relationships carried over to the festival itself as vendors and exhibitors had an opportunity to share experiences, and get to know one another. Generally, I think everyone had a good time in spite of the rain. I know that Dora did!

The greatest achievement of the festival was that it increased awareness of global climate issues and Youngstown's Mayor Jay Williams was on hand to sign the U.S. Mayor's Climate Protection Agreement.

In addition to it's goal of increasing awareness of global climate issues, the Grey to Green Festival also served as a means of increasing awareness of Youngstown's 2010Plan,its grey to green component, and the Wick Park Revitalization project. I believe the festival achieved its goals. Many people who had never been to Wick Park or the surrounding neighborhood came out to the festival. Phil Kidd, of Defend Youngstown, said he gave several tours of the area to interested folks. It is this type of outreach that is needed to change the incorrect perceptions that many have of Youngstown.

I would also like to thank the many volunteers who came out in the rain to help make the festival a reality. I would also like to thank the area journalists and my blogger friends who helped get the word out about the festival.
Valley 24 and another Valley24.com article here.
YSU - The Jambar
Earth Watch Ohio
The Vindicator

Monday, September 8, 2008

The Day We've All Been Waiting for is Almost Here: Grey to Green Festival September 13, 2008

The Grey to Green Festival is this Saturday, September 13, 2008 from 11:00 AM until 6:00 PM. Wick Park will be transformed into a "Green World" for the first ever "Grey to Green" Festival on Youngstown's North Side. Many environmentally oriented businesses, community organizations, and local, regional, and state agencies will participate in the inaugural event which strives to increase awareness of environmental issues, highlighting the grey-to-green concept in the Youngstown 2010 Plan as well as the Wick Park Revitalization effort that is currently underway.

The Grey to Green Festival organizing coalition's shared belief and vision is that a collaboration of citizens, agencies, organizations, and government can mobilize communities to address important issues and solve problems in new ways by moving from problem-driven solutions to vision-driven solutions in a post-industrial era of transition where many areas such as Youngstown Struggle to cope with such change.

The Grey to Green Festival organizing committee includes the office of the U.S.Congressman Tim Ryan, the Raymond John Wean Foundation, the Green Team,Youngstown Litter Control and Recycling, Defend Youngstown, CityScape, ReCreate, Treez Please, Grow Youngstown, First Book Mahoning Valley, the Oakland Center for the Arts, Art Youngstown, the Wick Park Revitalization Committee, the City of Youngstown, Youngstown State University,Defend Youngstown,YESS, and the Mahoning Valley Organizing Collaborative, and many great citizens of the area.

Our wonderful sponsors include: The Raymond John Wean Foundation, Youngstown State University, The City of Youngstown, Treez Please, Grow Youngstown, Home Depot, Common Wealth Inc., The Energy Detectives, Superior Chemicals,McCauley Funeral Home, Time Bank of the Mahoning Valley, Sherman Creative, Lien Forward Ohio, Susie and Ray Beiersdorfer, Richard Moore, Sister Barbara O'Donnell,and Frank Bishop and Attorney Debra Weaver.

Special thanks to the Youngstown Business Incubator, Kontinuous Jam, the Unitarian Church and all of our wonderful performers and volunteers.

Thanks to our wonderful sponsors and volunteers we have a day full of fun activities and entertainment, food and "green" merchandise vendors. The central theme of the festival will emphasize sustainable practices- minimal energy and resource consumption with maximum recycling and waste reduction.

Schedule of Events

Main Stage
11:00 Welcome
11:30 –Market Street Muppet Show
12:30 The Youngstown Connection
1:15 Jim Scott (song writer and performer of environmental songs)
2:30 – 4:30 Chaibababa with Machete (alternative world music)
5:00 Brady’s Leap (Celtic Rock)

Children's Activities
Dora the Explorer and activities
11:30 1:00 2:00 4:30
Trash and Treasure k- 4th grade 12:00 -12:30
Trash and Treasure 5th – 12th graders
12:35 – 1:00
Bird Craft and Walk
12:00 1:30 2:30 5:00

Yoga/ Tai Chi
Jack Wolp Tai chi - 12:00
Deb Wilson - Yoga - 1:00
Marie Lew Tai Chi Step One - 3:00

Other Events and Happenings
Drop and Shop 11:00 -3:00
Leaf Bag Distribution- throughout the day
Farmers Market 9:00 AM – 3:00 PM
Art Youngstown 11:00 – 6:00 PM
The Nasa Aero Bus
The EPA traveling Exhibit
Patty Evans drumming throughout the day in various locations
Belly Dance Class/ Demonstration
Bring your empty/clean spray bottles to the Shaklee Vending area and receive a free sample of their cleaning products.

Please note that one of the major goals of the festival is to generate as little waste as possible. We ask that you avoid the use of plastic bags, and that if possible bring your own reusable bag or purchase a beautiful new one from one of our vendors. We also ask that you leave the park clean. Recycling bins will be available throughout the park.

We will be providing programs to visitors with the list of activities, vendors, and events. We encourage you to recycle them if you chose not to keep them. Please note that inside the programs will be a small form to be completed with your name and address so that we can establish a contact list and so that you may win one of our wonderful gifts. Please complete the form and drop them into the box at the Pavilion or in the food area.

The Farmers Market will sell food across Elm Street in the area of the Unitarian Church from 9:00 AM until 3:00 PM. Please note that all utensils being used at the church are compostable as are napkins and cups., There will be a composter available specifically for this purpose. Also, please feel free to bring a picnic lunch, lawn chairs, and blankets.

Please note that the Drop and Shop will operate from 11:00 AM until 3:00 PM
Drop & Shop for Freeat the Grey to Green Festival
Get rid of UNWANTED but USABLE household items!
Take stuff you need for FREE!
Saturday, September 13, 2008
Wick Park, 260 Park Ave. Youngstown, OH 44504

Bring unwanted but usable/working household items! Take items you need! It’s a
fast, easy, free way to get rid of stuff or get stuff you need. Plus, you’ll help your environment by saving landfill space and natural resources.
Questions? Call YSU re:CREATE at (330) 941-2238.
Sponsors YSU re:CREATE, Green Team, Grey to Green Festival Committee
Drop It & Shop for FREE!
Example of Items to Bring:
Any usable/working, non hazardous household items
Baby Items
Beds, Bedding, & Bed Frames w/o stains, odors, or rips
Canned Goods
Carpet w/o stains, odors, or rips
Clothing, Shoes, & Accessories
Construction Supplies
First Aid Items
Furniture w/o stains, odors, or rips
Kids Toys, Clothes, & Shoes
Knick Knacks
Kitchen items
Paper & Plastic Products
Remodeling Supplies
Tableware: Plates/Dishes & Silverware & Glasses
Toiletries-unused/new – any size
Computers Electronics
Gas Cans
Hazardous Items
Hospital, water, or sofa beds
Hot water tanks
Scrap Metal
For info on donation/safe
disposal call re:CREATE
(330) 941-2238
Printed on Recycled Content Paper
Don’t Trash It !

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

U.S.Politics and the First Amendment

I made a conscious decision some months ago not to blog about national politics and my own opinions regarding the upcoming presidential race. I believe that positive change comes from the grassroots level and percolates up. I believe that it is important to create unity rather than divisiveness on a local level and that in order to do that we need a common cause, a common dream, a common goal. I believe that we need a green revolution, and that this revolution starts here, in Youngstown Ohio. That said, I'm breaking my silence about the national political scene.

This change of heart came yesterday upon hearing that Minnesota police launched a series of preemptive raids to intimidate protesters and quash dissent at the Republican National Convention and also arrested one of my favorite journalists, Amy Goodman from Democracy NOW.

Here she is later on Free Speech TV talking about the arrest.

Here are some examples of police activity and arrests being made throughout the city of Minneapolis. Do you know where your children are? Imagine for a moment that they are here and please do not succumb to the common parental state of denial that says, "oh no, my child would never do that," because as a parent and as a lawyer I can assure you they could and would and often do, and in the case of citizen participation in government I believe that they should.

Lest you think that this is just happening at the RNC, keep in mind that a detention center was built specifically to hold protesters at the DNC in Denver as well.

What all of this tells me is that the First Amendment is yet again being attacked. We've seen it in the past.

I have been attending demonstrations for a long time and the police have been squashing the people's right to assemble for many of those years. One snippet of memory comes to mind from the Bush Anti-inaugural Demonstration in Washington DC. I was there when police in full riot gear as usual, came at the protesters from behind the line and also came at them from the front of the line. There were very large buildings on both sides of the street, this essentially trapped everyone and created panic which lead to violence and much brandishing of weapons and billy clubs. As an aside, should this ever happen to you start a chant, "sit down, sit down". When everyone is sitting on the ground, it is easier to stay calm.

My point is this. It is time for the attack on the people's civil liberties to cease. In case anyone has forgotten, the First Amendment states,

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

If we are to keep this fundamental right, we must use it, and keep using it. We must not take our democracy for granted, its continued existence depends on citizen participation and actions. As Naomi Wolfe explains in her book, The End of America: Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot, "The descent into repressive regime is slow and quiet. It usually does not come as an overnight announcement of martial law or suspension of elections. Instead it happens over the course of years, so quietly, that most may never notice until it's a fait accompli. Only then will people ask, 'how did this happen?'.

We must not take our democracy for granted. We must stand up and protest the violation and erosion of our civil liberties. Jan Pentz, a Youngstown history teacher told me recently that, "The difference between the United States and Europe is that in Europe the government is afraid of the people and in the United States the people are afraid of the government." I recognize the truth in her words. Our democracy is duplicitous. We say we are a government for the people by the people, but this often does not appear to be the case. Our founding fathers are tossing and turning in their graves. We are Americans, we are better than this. We must find our courage and overcome our fears.

I will end this post with a poem that has had many incarnations. The version here is from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington DC:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out-
because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out-
because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out-
because I was not a Jew
Then they came for me-
and there was no one left to speak for me.

AND THEN from the punk rock band NOFX the song "Re-gaining Unconsciousness".

First they put away the dealers,
keep our kids safe and off the street.
Then they put away the prostitutes,
keep married men cloistered at home.
Then they shooed away the bums,
Then they beat and bashed the queers,
turned away asylum-seekers,
fed us suspicions and fears.
We didn't raise our voice,
we didn't make a fuss.
It's funny there was no one left to notice
when they came for us.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Youngstown - A Cultural Crossroads

This weekend there was not only the VEX Fest downtown along with a Rib Burn-off at the Chevy Centre, there was also a pow-wow held a Willow Ranch in Coitsville Township which is just east of Youngstown.

The Brier Hill Festival was also held this weekend in Youngstown's Little Italy. There was live music, dancing, and great Italian Food for all. Where else can one find an Italian Festival and a Native Amerian pow-wow all in one weekend. Whew! I'm exhausted!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Mock Revolution Presents

Greg Mocker at Mock Revolution has created an excellent film that features Staughton Lynd, lawyer and civil rights activist,explaining how he became involved in the plight of the Lucasville Five. It also tells the story about how the Lucasville riot became a play. The play was recently performed live at the Fringe Festival in New York city.

Mocker is currently working on documentaries in New York. This, his latest, is listed on Current.com which is Al Gore's website and station. It is said, "This is the site where people in the know find out things."

Please go to the site and click on the piece. Let's get its ranking up, the media and cable are paying attention. This is an important issue. The more coverage of the story, the greater understanding of not only the plight of the Lucasville 5, but also the plight of many others who have been unjustly caught up in the criminal justice system.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Summer Festivals

The Grey to Green Festival planning committee is still hard at work organizing the First Annual Grey to Green Festival. As the month goes on I will certainly keep you apprised of the wonderful activities and entertainment that you will find at Wick Park on September 13, 2008. Please take note that on the day of the Grey to Green Festival RE-CREATE will be having a drop and shop. So start gathering your items to drop off and plan to spend some time shopping.

However, between now and the Grey to Green Festival there are several other festivals happening in the neighborhood. The first is VEX FEST on Sunday, August 17, 2008 in wonderful downtown Youngstown. I don't know about you but one of my pet peeves about all day festivals is that I often can't spend the entire day there waiting for my favorite bands to play and I often don't know in advance what time or where they will be going on stage. For those of you with time constraints like myself I have located the set list for the day and you will find it below so that you can schedule time to spend at least a few hours checking out your favorite bands.
This might be subject to change but as of today it is accurate. The VEXFEST lineup is below:
11:10-11:40 The Whaling Skies
11:55-12:25 The Slant
12:40-1:10 The Young Stonians
1:25-1:55 Scotfree & the Guilty Plea
2:10-2:40 Haven
2:55-3:25 Aura
3:40-4:10 D-Jones
4:25-4:55 H-Beam]
5:10-5:40 Da Kreek
5:55-6:25 APG
6:40-7:10 Off the Rocker
7:25-7:55 Fuzztub
8:10-8:40 Rosella
8:55-9:25 First in Space
9:40-10:10 Groove Conductor
10:25-10:55 Gingerspittz
11:10-11:40 Frequent Season
11:55-12:25 Bedspins
12:40-1:10 Something to Shelter

WEST/ Chinebox Tattoo's Stage11:25- 11:55 Pro Bono
12-00- 12:30 Acoustic Juggernaut
1:10 - 1:40 Jordan DePaul & The Reputations
2:20 - 3:00 Mystic WIP Hustler
3:40 - 4:10 KKC
4:45 - 5:25 Away from Eden
6:05 - 6:35 Grey Dealer
7:15 - 7:45 Captain Braskey
8:25 - 8:55 5 Elements
9:35 - 10:20 Jones for Revival
11:15 -12:00 VIA SAHARA
12:55 -1:40 Cyrus

EAST 93.3 The Wolf's Stage
12:35 - 1:05 Wake the Lion
1:45 - 2:15 Posture Coach
3:05 - 3:35 Rebreather
4:20 - 4:50 DaBoondox
5:30 - 6:00 Tilt 360
6:40 - 7:10 Grand Fury
7:50 - 8:20 Kenny Ali
9:00 - 9:30 The Kellys
10:25 - 11:10 THE ZOU
12:05 - 12:50 A Sleep

... And then on August 24, 2008 it is Rukus the Festival This festival promises to be great fun. Check out the You Tube Promo below. Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Tree Lovers Urged to Spread the Love in a Forest and Film It

If you've been wondering why all the videos lately, it is because there are only twenty four hours in a day, and the Grey to Green Festival is taking a considerable amount of my time until September 13, 2008. I hope to see you all at Wick Park on that date to check the festival out, but in the meantime enjoy this video of forest loving from Greenpeace. Click the greenpeace link for details on this campaign. Please note this video is not for children, unless you want to do a heck of a lot of explaining.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Lucus Conley - The Colbert Report

Luke was on the Colbert Report last night promoting his book Obsessive Branding Disorder. The show is really quite funny, check it out!

Monday, August 4, 2008

The Girl Effect

Although this video speaks to the problems of women in developing countries, many of the issues it addresses are similar to those faced by young women in Youngstown. The United States Census indicates that Youngstown ranked 94th out of 100 cities, for numbers of women holding bachelor's degrees. In a study compiled by Biz Journals the best metro areas for women are San Francisco,Los Angeles,and New York City. This would be expected, however, Youngstown, Ohio ranked dead last even behind Toledo. This is not acceptable. The birth rate for teens between the ages of 15 and 17 has also increased. Please go here to make recommendations to Ohio's Anti-poverty Task Force.

This is just a brief reminder to support the young women of the world.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Policy Link Core Cities Initiative

Many of you may have seen this report on other blogs, but I couldn't resist embedding the interactive map. The Policy Link report defines smaller industrial core cities as those that are:

OLD - Cities that had a population of more than 5000 by 1880, implying an industrial base or concentration of industry and commerce;
SMALL - cities with 15000 to 150,000 residents according to the 2000 U.S. Census Bureau and;
POOR - Cities with a median household income of less than $35,000 according to the 2000 U.S. Census.

The point here is smaller industrial cities can be strong again. Youngstown's 2010 Plan is used as an example of good land use and fiscal policy. Check out the map and click on the Ohio study.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Sights and Sounds of Saturday in Youngstown...Sunday is a day of rest for a reason

Saturday, July 26th was jam-packed with things to do. Art Youngstown along with Royal Oaks sponsored the first annual Youngstown Rocks the Arts Festival. The festival was on the grounds next to the Chevy Center in downtown. There were artists and vendors of all kinds, food and beer and two stages with eight hours of free entertainment. I got there just in time to watch the Tara Dance presented by Julie Thomas. The Tara Dance is a meditation that combines sound and movement with the Buddhist principles of wisdom, compassion, and skillful means. The dance involved simple, graceful, tai-chi like movements done in conjunction with Tara Mantras.

...and then there were the 5 Elements. The band does a fusion of rock, reggae, and hip hop music.

...and then it rained and it poured, and the wind blew and finally the sun came back out, and everyone had a grand time. The main stage in addition to the 5 Elements featured November Loop, Realtime Digimon, Starlight Darlings, First in Space, Luke and the Black Hand and Geo C. Brooke Slanina mastered the art of running back and forth between two stages and serving as MC at both. I noticed she started the day off in some really cute slingback shoes, and ended the day in flip flops.

...and then at 7:00 at the DeYor Center, after eight years in the works, "Fine-Tune" had its premier. Chris Rutushin a local filmmaker brings this touching and very funny story about a young married couple to the big screen. "Fine Tune" is about a guy who marries into an Italian Family in the 1970's. The young couple find that they must move back to Youngstown from Columbus, Ohio to take care of "her" family. The film was shot locally, and many of the scenes were filmed at a house near Lanterman's Mill on Canfield Road. There were also great shots of the Royal Oaks, and downtown Youngstown. Great movie! I can't wait for the soundtrack!

...and then there was the party at Cedars.

Matt Palka (also performing on the soundtrack of the film "Fine Tune") played at Cedars after the premier. He was followed by Pete Drivere and the Pretty Demons, and The Zou and Koebel. Great fun was had by all.

...and then, on Sunday I rested.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Youngstown Area Community Theater Awards (YACTA)

Nominations for the Youngstown Area Community Theater Awards (YACTA) were made yesterday at the Rosetta Stone Restaurant in downtown Youngstown.

The Youngstown Playhouse received 29 nominations and Akron's Weathervane Community Playhouse received 25. Top Hat Productions received 21 and the New Castle Playhouse and the Oakland Theater tied for 14. The rest of the nominations were spread across a wide range of theater groups that included the Victorian Players,The Salem Community Theater, Carnation City Players, Boardman Community Theater and Move Over Broadway Productions. Sixty-five productions were eligible for this years Marquee Awards. Congratulations to all of the nominees. The Marquee Awards will be presented August 16 in a ceremony at the Saxon Club on Meridian Road in Youngstown.

The Youngstown Warren area is home to many venues for theatrical performance. Love of theater is embedded in the culture of the area. One of the most well known theater groups was the Kenley Players. To this day one of my favorite nights out is to attend the Carousel Dinner Theater

In Youngstown we are very lucky to be home to numerous venues such as The Youngstown Playhouse, the Oakland Center for the Arts, in downtown Youngstown, The Victorian Players off the spring commons on the West Side of Youngstown, and of course for those who love musicals, Easy Street Productions. For those of you who enjoy a trip down memory lane from time to time check out this video of Elizabeth Hartman who is known for her performance in A Patch of Blue. Take note of her mention of Youngstown throughout the video.

For those of you who are more forward looking, and a like life a little on the fringe,check this out! The local play "Lucusville" will be under the spotlight on the New York City Stage in August. "Lucusville" is an adaptation of the book "Lucusville: The Untold Story of a Prison Uprising" by Niles author Staughton Lynd. The play has been selected to be part of the 12th annual New York International Fringe Festival.

Ray Beiersdorfer is the producer of "Lucusville" and YSU student, Brandon Martin, is the director. Both are very excited about the opportunity to take the show to New York, but their greatest hope is that the attention could lead Govenor Ted Strickland to reopen an investigation into the Lucasville 5.
Break a leg y'all! and have a great time in the Big Apple.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Grey to Green Festival :Youngstown, Ohio

As people all over the world become deeply concerned about the future of the Earth’s environment, millions are turning their energies toward education and citizen activism. No less so in Youngstown Ohio. Youngstown is launching its first Grey to Green festival on Saturday September 13, 2008 in Wick Park on Youngstown’s North Side.

The goal of the Grey to Green festival is to increase awareness of environmental issues in general, the grey to green concept in the Youngstown 2010 Plan, and the Wick Park Revitalization effort that is currently underway.

On September 13, Wick Park will be transformed into a “green world” that will include environmentally oriented businesses, community organizations, and local and regional agencies. Throughout the park, there will be workshops, displays, demonstrations, entertainment, food, and “green” merchandise vendors. The Festival itself will be put together with an emphasis on sustainable practices – minimal energy and resource consumption, maximum recycling and waste reduction.

The grey to green concept figures prominently in Youngstown’s 2010 Plan. For a while, Youngstown, with its population at just over 80,000 hoped to return to its boomtown roots when it was home to 165,000 citizens and a powerful steel industry. But with the new 2010 Plan, the city is one of the first to embrace shrinkage and the development of green space. Youngstown serves as a model for other rust-belt cities that must recreate and reinvent themselves after years of decline.

The city in a radical move began bulldozing abandoned buildings, tearing up blighted streets and converting entire blocks into open green spaces several years ago. With help from community groups dedicated to reforestation and urban gardening, the abandoned neighborhoods are being returned to a more-natural state, ultimately permitting the city to cut services to less-populated areas and instead concentrate on development where people want to move. Anthony Kobak, Youngstown’s Chief City Planner, says that the goals of the 2010 plan are “to create a safe, clean, enjoyable, sustainable, attractive city.”

In keeping with these goals, CityScape and Defend Youngstown, along with a steering committee consisting of elected officials, city staff, and representatives from various local organizations began an initiative to improve the large and strategically located Wick Park. They brought in the Urban Design Center of Northeast Ohio to provide advice and support to the design process. In a city that is known for its high level of community involvement, the Wick Park design process provides a unique opportunity for the community to re-imagine a public space that supports the city’s goal of becoming a smaller, greener city.

The Grey to Green Festival organizing coalition came together with the shared belief and a shared vision that the collaboration of citizens, agencies, organizations and government can mobilize communities to address important issues and solve problems in new ways by moving from problem-driven solutions to vision-driven solutions.

The organizing coalition includes the Green Team, Youngstown Litter control, Defend Youngstown, CityScape, ReCreate,Treez Please, Grow Youngstown, First Book Mahoning Valley, The Oakland Center for the Arts, Green Energy TV, Art Youngstown, The Wick Park Revitalization Committee, The City of Youngstown’s Planning Department, Youngstown State University’s Environmental Studies Society, faculty and staff from YSU, as well as concerned citizens, block watches and youth groups.

To participate as either a sponsor of the event or as an exhibitor or vendor please contact Debra Weaver (330) 744-1748 or e-mail her at debraweaver2000@hotmail.com.

Mark your calendars now because this event is not one to be missed! Also, please help us spread the word about the event.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Waste Allocation Load Lifters Earth-class

I confess, I'm not very up to date on popular culture. I rarely turn on my television and even less frequently go to a movie theater. My car would sport a "Kill your TV" bumper sticker if I could get my hands on one. However, I recently heard about a movie called WALL-E. It is a PIXAR film and it is a must see for urban planners, garderners, and for anyone who cares about cities.

The movie is about what happens when we take control of our lives and plant gardens. WALL-E is actually a trash compactor. Humans no longer live on earth due to all of the trash,debris,and pollution and WALL-E has been left behind to clean up the mess. One day WALL-E (Waste Allocation Load Lifters Earth-class)stumbles upon a small plant and puts it into an old boot. Shortly thereafter a spaceship lands on earth, and Eve, a probe steps off. WALL-E shows her the plant and she takes it back to her ship. Next thing you know people begin to return to earth and they start planting gardens.

Granted I take issue with the Garden of Eden metaphors, but overall the movie is about how growing food transforms people and the communities they live in. If you have not seen it yet, I highly recommend it.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Rusty Waters Apparel

Congratulations to Rusty Waters Apparel ! Today in the New York Times, there is an awesome article about T-shirts and city pride.

In the article, Catrin Einhorn writes about both GLUE, the Great Lakes Urban Exchange and Youngstown's Rusty Waters Apparel. GLUE is a new group dedicated to bringing post-boomers together to work for the health of post-industrial cities in the Great Lakes Region and Rusty Waters Apparel is a clothing company from Youngstown, Ohio.

Rusty Waters Apparel was started a few years ago by Dominic Gatti, Adam Chizmar and Kate Butler. The purpose of their T-shirt company is to promote life in rust belt cities and to bring attention to the cultural strengths of the rust belt region.

The New York Times article describes in some depth the Rusty Waters Apparel design that depicts the upside down Home Savings and Loan building located in downtown Youngstown. The article also quotes designer Kate Butler's explanation of the symbolism of the shirt, "The fact that it's upside down signifies the struggle that Youngstown has gone through, but the birds are flying right side up, symbolizing hope."

Einhorn points out that the T-shirt makers know that their merchandise will not cure the deep-seated problems of their cities, however they do see the marketing of the designs as a way to fight against powerful stereotypes. The T-shirt makers also see the designs as part of a public relations campaign for their cities, often one more authentic that official public relations campaigns.

I think I'm going to order another one for myself now before demand exceeds supply!

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Where is SynchroniCity?

Where is SynchroniCity? It is a city anywhere, it is Anytown USA, and it is Youngstown and Warren, Ohio, cities well known for independent music. It is also home to RuKus Radio, a radio station that brings you some of the best independent music available today, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Music is uploaded by independent musicians everywhere, but nothing beats hearing our Youngstown bands on the radio.

The gang at RuKus Radio have a passion for freedom of expression and they take great joy in celebrating independent music through the discovery and promotion of artists at all levels of success and from all corners of the world free-of-charge. RuKus Radio is an awesome alternative to average radio programing. They utilize the constant flow of advancing technology to deliver an all-encompassing hybrid of media via Internet radio, live recordings, broadcasts, and streaming video. RuKus Radio has been streaming live since January 1, 2008. Take a visit to SynchroniCity, you'll never want to leave. While you are there introduce yourself to Moe and Sarah at the RuKus forum.