Improve the schools

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DSCN1048“I’m very excited about being a part of what you might call the “downtown crowd.” It’s about 150, mostly young, people living in the downtown area and actively engaged in creating a new lifestyle. We’re all in with new things. It’s exciting.”

“I want us to improve the Warren schools. I was born and raised here. I went to public schools most of my life and always thought I’d send my kids to public school. But my son enters kindergarten next year and there is no way I’d send him to the Warren City Schools of today.”

“The schools want to put it all on the parents, but it is not all the parent’s fault. Warren’s grades on the State report card are in the gutter. I had a lot of good teachers in Warren and I know there are still some there today, but too many are not really engaged in educating and set expectations way too low.”

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The incredible shrinking city

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2602_3608397.tAs much as is possible, we try to keep things upbeat and positive here on Warren Expressed, but there is one overriding fact that has to be kept front and center as we think about the future: Every day, Warren grows smaller, older and poorer.

We have said this often, siting historical data from the past 40 years as our evidence. Now, however, the Urban Institute and the New York Times, give us an online tool to make projections into the near future. The tool has limitations; e.g., not all cities are in the database. Warren is only available as a component of Youngstown’s data, which covers a large part of Northeastern Ohio. You can play with the model by clicking here, where you can change specific assumptions. But by using the “average” assumptions for growth, birthrate, etc., we can see that Warren is likely to shrink by another 10% in population by the year 2030.

A drop of that magnitude means another 1000+ vacant houses — vacant because there is no one to live in them. An enormous amount of hard work and luck has been required to find the funds to tear down fewer than 500 house these past few years. It is hard to imagine where the funds for another 1000 demolitions will be found. And vacant homes are just one of the many problems created with a population drop of that magnitude.

The model, unfortunately, probably understates the seriousness of the problem in the cities of Warren and Youngstown since the area classified as “Youngstown” includes nearly 800,000 people today, and therefore includes more stable communities like Boardman, Canfield, Cortland and others less likely to suffer decline and more likely to hold onto younger and more affluent people. In 2030 the whole area is projected to have more children and elderly people than people of working age. So, our median income will fall and our median age will rise.

The only way to create a brighter future for Warren is to create growth. More people and more jobs are needed. Unfortunately, the Warren City government has no economic development plan, and no person devoted to this critical task. A senior manager in Warren city government once told us that “planning is pointless because the situation changes so rapidly.” If only that were true. The situation is actually very stable. It has been falling on a straight line for decades.

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Imagine your role

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DSCN1042“I like the history of Warren — the way it emerged out of the Gilded Age. It may not be that place today, but we each keep a part of the best of it in our hearts.”

“Volunteers keep this city alive.”

“Just think how you want Warren to be and find a role you can play in making it that. Take on the task you expect others to do because there is no one else to do it.”

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The feeling of being a part of a community

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DSCN1036“I really, really like the walkability of Warren. I enjoy not having to depend on a car to get everywhere, because when you walk, you meet people along the way, and that adds to the feeling of being a part of a community.”

“There are three big things I would like to see improved in Warren — the schools, job opportunities and the attitude of elected officials. But changing the last one would have a domino effect on the others, so I hope for a change of attitude by the politicians. They are the leaders but they aren’t serving our needs. This leads to many citizens having the attitude “it doesn’t matter what I say, because they’re going to do whatever they want to do anyway.” This is dangerous because then nobody takes responsibility.”

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Stop yer whining!

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DSCN1033“We should be marketing Warren as a great retirement community. We have a low cost of living, very good medical facilities and practitioners, restaurants, a lake, camping, and hunting are nearby; it’s a short drive to the museums and cultural attractions of Cleveland and Pittsburgh. Warren is just a great place to relax and enjoy life.”

“We need to let the world know what we have here and stop the whining!”

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