Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Harry's Friendly Service

Get ready for the World Premiere of Harry's Friendly Service, only at the Pittsburgh Public Theater May 28 through June 28,2009. The play is written by Rob Zellers,a native of Youngstown Ohio. The play is directed by Ted Pappas.

The year is 1977 and the place is Youngstown, Ohio. The steel workers are on strike, the city is in distress, but Harry's gas station is crackling with card games and bustling with spirited debate.

Heather Helinsky,Resident Dramaturg for Pittsburgh Public Theater says, "The spirit of Youngstown inspires Rob Zellers' new play. It is no accident that the word friend is in the title of this brand new play set in Youngstown, OH. Think about it."

She goes on to state, "During the peak of industrialization, Youngstown was a city where friendship and loyalty were essential. In the mills, making steel was a team effort. Outside of work, the local bars did brisk business. In the summers, Idora Park, an amusement park built in 1899, provided good times with roller coaster rides, minor league baseball games, and an exciting midway. Residents found a good life in this City of Homes. Prior to the 1970's Youngstown had the highest rate of home ownership in the United States. Youngstown held the promise of the American dream until September 19, 1977 when the Lykes Corporation, a southern based conglomerate, pulled out of Youngstown and left the workers stranded. This started a chain reaction that toppled industry in the region."

The play is at the Pittsburgh Public Theater located in the O'Reilly Theater at 621 Penn Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15222. Tickets are $30.50 - $49.50. Tickets are available on-line at Pittsburgh Public Theater. There are also some 30% discounts available. The discounted tickets range from $21.85- $35.15. Tickets for students and those under 25 are $15.50(bring a valid ID). To secure your 30% discount contact Becky at (412) 315-8220 ext. 703 or by e-mail at rrickard@ppt.org. Becky is also available to speak with your group or organization about the play. You can schedule her to speak by contacting her at 412-316-8200 ext. 704.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Blueprint America

I am rather opinionated about the need for public transportation throughout the country in general, but especially in the industrial northeast and Midwest as our urban areas are relatively close to one another. In this age of climate change it is time to move beyond our reliance on the automobile and move toward public transportation in cities and rail service between cities. It is time to revisit the city plan that encourages walking, and biking, taking the bus, the street car or the train. It is my belief that if we make investments such as this, we will reduce our overall carbon footprint and also increase the livability of our cities.

There is currently a remarkable program airing on PBS called Blueprint America. I highly recommend it. If by chance you have missed it you may view it here. Please check it out and then, as always, I urge you to contact your representatives at the local, state and federal level and let them know that you want investment in public transit.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

The Reefer Madness Protest

This post is for those of you who missed the demonstration downtown on Friday.Don't forget next weekend is the last weekend to see Reefer Madness at the Oakland. Don't miss it! For ticket information go here.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Heard through the grapevine...

As many of you know The Oakland Center for the Arts in downtown Youngstown has staged a production entitled, "Reefer Madness". The show is receiving rave reviews and I recommend that if you haven't seen it yet, you must! It is not to be missed. You can read the Tribune's review here, and the Vindicator's review here.
Today, it was brought to my attention that an organization in Y-town, calling themselves the Upstanding Citizens Against Marihuana, is planning a demonstration to protest the performance and the blatant promotion of marihuana in Youngstown. The founder of this organization is one Ramona Martin. My guess is that Ramona would take issue with the Govenor of California as well.

However, Brooke Slanina, President of Oakland Center for the Arts, has decided that she will not run from controversy. Today she announced that in response to Ramona's declarations against the Oakland, she and supporters of the Oakland Center for the Arts will stage a counter protest against Ramona and her ilk.

Any parties interested in defending the Oakland against misinformed citizens are welcome to attend a pre-protest poster making party on Thursday, May 7, from 6:00 pm to 10:00 pm. Supplies will be provided. Then on Friday, May 8, all will meet in front of the Oakland at 11:00am in preparation for Ramona and her upstanding citizens.

Brooke has stated that interested parties may reach her via email: at oaklandopenmic@gmail.com. More information is also available here.

The Corner Store

Yesterday, the Idora Neighborhood Association, Residents of Ward 5 Precinct I, Councilman Paul Drennen and MVOC showed just how powerful citizens can be when they organize. Yesterday at the polls, citizens spoke through the ballot and they voted to discontinue sales of alcohol at Party Pantry on Glenwood Avenue in Youngstown.

It is time for corner stores in urban areas to improve their image and begin to serve as an asset to their neighborhoods rather than a detriment. There is little doubt that neighborhoods need corner stores within walking distance. No one really wants the corner store to disappear, but rather most would like the stores to stay, and provide healthy foods and products. If the stores were to clean up their image and provide healthy products, this would not only improve their neighborhoods, it would ultimately make owning and working in the stores safer, increase sales and make the stores more profitable.

Recently, changes in the WIC federal nutrition program have been made to allow the benefits to be used to purchase a much wider range of healthy foods, including fresh produce. This should help to create a strong incentive for stores in low-income areas to carry healthier items. There are numerous resources for communities who wish to improve access to healthy foods through work with small stores and corner stores.

If the owners of Youngstown's corner stores were to collaborate with residents to improve their neighborhoods, wonderful changes could transpire. For example, Youngstown as we all know is a shrinking city, more and more green space is being created, and it should be cultivated. By producing healthy food and creating a local sustainable food system, the "corner store" could participate as purveyors of local food. The idea of food production in the city is relatively new and will take some time to implement, however, in the meantime, if the "corner stores" were to clean up,and introduce new products I have little doubt that they could improve profits. Cleveland has such a project and you can read about it here.

The Idora Neighborhood Association and Mahoning Valley Organizing Collaborative began their nine month old corner store campaign in August 2008 with a public meeting attended by over 120 residents of the neighborhood. The purpose of the meeting was to cleanup Glenwood Avenue and the five corner convenience stores located along a one mile stretch of the commercial strip. The neighborhood attempted to work with the stores, but only one store came forward, as a result a Dry Precinct Initiative was launched.

In November 2008, the neighborhood voted Ward 5 Precinct I dry with 60 plus percent of the voters backing the dry precinct. However, Party Pantry Inc. was able to place a special option election for the Party Pantry site on the May ballot through 5R voting regulations. The residents vowed to continue their efforts and yesterday their work paid off. The months of extensive outreach, canvassing and public meetings resulted in approx. 80 percent of voters saying no to the sale of alcohol at Party Pantry, Inc.

James London of the Idora Neighborhood Association said, “The neighborhood was tired of this type of activity, which has gone on for twenty years. We are no longer willing to tolerate irresponsible businesses or behavior. The neighborhood has clearly spoken and a new day is dawning in the Idora Neighborhood.” London added “This is not about closing stores. It is about creating good neighbors and a healthy neighborhood.” Residents and members of the Idora Neighborhood Association say this is another successful step in the ongoing campaign. The campaign will continue to cleanup Glenwood Avenue and will target other corner stores in the days and months to come.

As residents of the city, let's begin to approach the owners of the corner stores and let them know they would have our business and support if they were to clean up their stores and offer something other than alcohol. I've been in several of the stores around town and I feel lucky when I'm able to purchase a loaf of bread or a gallon of milk, much less anything nutritious.

You can learn more about cleaning up the local corner store by contacting the
the Mahoning Valley Organizing Collaborative. The MVOC is a broad-based community organizing initiative that was established in March of 2008. The primary focus of the MVOC is to unite groups throughout the community (churches, neighborhood groups, schools, etc.) to work together to increase the quality of life in urban neighborhoods in the Cities of Youngstown and Warren, Ohio. For more information please visit www.mvorganizing.org.