Monday, April 27, 2009

City Wide Clean-up and Perennial Plant Exchange

Youngstown Litter Control and Recycling in conjunction with the Keep America Beautiful Program is sponsoring a city-wide litter cleanup of Youngstown's public lands, roads and neighborhoods on May 16, 2009 from 8:00 AM - 12 noon. Gather a team from your family, work place, church, social clubs or neighbors. Register your team by calling (330) 744-7526 or go here. Choose an area to cleanup, or ask for one to be assigned to you. Youngstown Litter Control will provide trash bags and gloves for your team. They will then pick up and dispose of or recycle the trash your team collects.

Treez Please will have a team cleaning up the Common Ground and adjacent properties on the corner of Kensington and Broadway Avenue on Youngstown's northside. Please feel free to join our team. Later, at 1:00 following the clean-up Treez Please will be hosting a Perennial Plant Exchange. Treez Please will also have several trees to give away. Bring your extra perennials and trade for something that you don't already have. If you are interested in gardening or just want your yard to look better with minimal effort,come to the plant exchange. Invite friends and family to participate as well. You may also bring trees,seeds, shrubs, and bushes, indoor and outdoor plants, and yard art and garden pottery. Bring along your no-longer-needed gardening items to help beautify the world one yard at a time!

Anyone in the surrounding area may participate in the exchange. Seating will be limited so don't forget to bring along a lawn chair if you are planning to stay a while. Treez Please will be providing cool drinks as well.

We will look forward to seeing you there!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Shots Fired!

First of all, let me start this article with a caveat. I love Youngstown, and I do not believe that generally speaking it is a dangerous place to live or work. Let me repeat...I do not share the typical suburban perception of crime in Youngstown. However, we do have a problem with people shooting guns in the city. The other morning about 1:30 AM I awoke to the sound of automatic gun fire very near my bedroom window. I looked out the window and saw a Ford van traveling down my street without headlights or tail lights. I immediately called the YPD. Some time later several cruisers responded to a location on the street behind my house. Several officers then began searching for something with their flashlights. I imagine they were searching for bullets.

This is not the first time that I have heard gunfire in my neighborhood. In fact, it was but a night later that I once again heard automatic gunfire. This must stop! This is not the Welcome Wagon that we want to greet new residents.

A young couple I know that recently moved here from Brooklyn with their infant told me that they too had recently had a similar experience with gunfire. They told me that although they love the city and want to reside here; the one thing that will make them move will be the sounds of gunfire ringing out in the night. I can't say as I blame them. What parent wants their child to grow up in fear? What's more, this is not unfounded fear. There were recently two incidents involving semiautomatic rifles within days. A house on the 100 block of Cleveland Street on Youngstown's South Side was hammered by more than 40 bullets Tuesday, the majority of them from an AK-47 assault rifle. In Warren, there was a drive-by shooting in the 2000 block of Wick Street Southeast in Warren. This incident left one child injured and two dead according to the Vindicator. My guess is that this is but the tip of the iceberg as warm weather is approaching and combined with the poor economy this could lead to more crime.

There are a few solutions to the problem available. One of them is something called ShotSpotter Gunshot Location System. The system detects real time gunfire. A picture of a city street is displayed on a police dispatcher's computer screen and red dots pinpoint the location where there was open fire seconds before. No one in the neighborhood has to call 911 to report the gunfire. The technology zeroes in on the precise location, sends the information to dispatcher and sounds an alert. More about the system can be read here.

The Vindicator reported about the system several months ago and indicated that the system "could" be in place by summer. The operative word in the article is "could". As residents who love this city I think it is time to let city government know that "could" is not good enough. We need the Vindicator to report that the city "shall" put this system in place. Please contact your city council representative and let him or her know that they must address the problem of gunfire in the city. For contact information please look here.

In addition to,or in lieu of, ShotSpotter, I believe we should push for implementation of Citi-Stat, technological crime fighting tool. I have written about this program before and I still believe it offers the best solution to our problems. To read more about this program go here.

Recently, I have noticed many references in the press to Jane Jacobs' The Death and Life of Great American Cities. This is because her work is as timely today as it was when printed in 1961. To quote,"...the public peace - the sidewalk and street peace- of cities is not kept primarily by the police. It is kept primarily by an intricate, almost unconscious, network of voluntary controls and standards amongst the people themselves, and enforced by the people themselves. In some city areas - older public housing projects and streets with very high population turnover are often conspicuous examples - the keeping of public sidewalk law and order is left almost entirely to the police and special guards. Such places are jungles. No amount of police can enforce civilization where the normal, casual enforcement of it has broken down".

We must take this to heart. We,as residents of Youngstown, must be vigilant and keep watch in our neighborhoods for illegal activity, and report it when we see it. With the recent increase in foreclosures and abandandoned properties this is especially important as abandoned properites often serve as havens for those with criminal intent. Report suspicious activity and encourage the city to have these buildings boarded up. In addition, there are many block watches in the city. Please join the one in your neighborhood. For a list of neighborhood organizations please look here. Together we can fight crime.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

When I Knew and How it Saved Me

April 6, 2009: Local performers will tell the stories of local GLBT individuals, friend, and allies on the theme “When I Knew…and How It Saved Me” at the Oakland Center for the Arts. The show, scheduled for 8:00 Friday April 17 and Saturday April 18 with a 7:00 reception each night, is the work of Robert Dennick Joki, a director and performer who is well known in the local theater community.

Joki collected these stories by approaching friends and GLBT organizations and by spreading the word through the online community. These inspirational testimonies will be part of a performance that also features music and spoken word. Stories that are not performed on stage will be showcased in the Oakland Star Gallery.

Along with Joki, performers include Maxine Factor, Nicole Zayas, Ric Panning, Joyce Jones, Molly Makselan, Kage Jonas, Beth Farrow, Kelly Bancroft, Natalia Hagan, Kerri Rickard, Rick Morrow, Carlos Rivera, and Nikita Jones.

All proceeds from “When I Knew…and How it Saved Me” benefit Pride Youngstown, specifically Youngstown’s first gay pride celebration, scheduled for Saturday June 6th.

It is not too late to submit a story for “When I Knew…and How It Saved Me.” Please send, as a Microsoft Word attachment or as a rich text file, your submission to Include in your cover email a brief biography with your name, contact information, age, gender or gender identity, and anything else you would like us to know. Anonymous submissions will not be accepted, but names may be withheld from the performance at the author’s request. Submission deadline is Friday April 10.

To make reservations, call 330-746-0404. The Oakland Center for the Arts is the only community theater in downtown Youngstown and is located at 220 West Boardman Street.

For more information, contact Robert Dennick Joki at or 330-503-2671.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Food Safety Modernization Act of 2009 -And How It Will Effect Your Family

The Food Safety Modernization Act of 2009 appears on its face to be a good bill in that it will supposedly protect the food supply. Is serves as a response to the recent outbreaks in salmonella in peanut butter and the likes. This type of problem certainly needs to be addressed, however this bill is not the appropriate way to do so.

This bill is essentially a one size fits all bill and that size is large food producers. This bill should not apply to small farmers and organic producers but the language of the bill doesn't exclude them. It would appear that the bill does not face debate in the Congress and that without some outcry it will likely pass. This bill could potentially put an end to farmers markets and organic food production. The bill is being sponsored by some giant agricultural industries including Monsanto.

We must always be cognizant of the unintended consequences of even the most benign appearing legislation. Under HR 875 all participants in farmers' markets will be forced to register, otherwise the market will be shut down as an illegal operation. Failure to comply with the Food Safety Modernization Act of 2009 would result in a fine of up to $1,000,000 per violation. Specifically, the law would apply to any food establishment including farmers' markets. The term food establishment is defined in the bill as follows:

(A) IN GENERAL: The term 'food establishment' means a slaughterhouse (except those regulated under the Federal Meat Inspection Act or the Poultry Products Inspection Act), factory, warehouse, or facility owned or operated by a person located in any State that processes food or a facility that holds, stores, or transports food or food ingredients.

The extra requirements and inspections required of small family farms under the Food Safety Modernization Act of 2009 would be a burden. Interestingly enough this bill was introduced by Rosa DeLauro whose husband Stanley Greenburg works for Monsanto.

This act could potentially criminalize seed banking. It establishes prison terms and confiscatory fines for farmers, requires 24 hour GPS tracking of animals, easements onto farm property to allow for warrantless government entry, and it could strip away property rights. This Act is a corporate ag-business dream come true.

The full text of the Act can be read here.

I have posted a couple videos from several different sources about the farm bill. I have also included a video about how food production has changed over time. I have included material from the left and the right in order to show that generally speaking this bill is a nightmare.

I'm angry about this Act that is disguised as a consumer protection. I'm getting deje vu as I recall how upset I was by the Patriot Act before it was passed. At that time people often told me that I was wrong, and that the Patriot Act wouldn't limit citizen's civil liberties,but rather only those of terrorists. Well, we all know how that turned out. Once again in HR 875 we are about to lose our rights to food production. It is time to stand up for our local family farms. Please contact your congress person now! You can contact Congressman Tim Ryan here. You can also sign a petition in opposition to this bill at Leave My Food Alone