Victory! (If you agree)

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14448834_556989947835992_5265689143143072476_nWe are declaring victory. Warren Homecoming was a big success, as Raymond Smith outlines in the article below from this morning’s Tribune (reprinted with their permission). It wasn’t a perfect victory; some events did better than others, and some events would have done better in different time slots, but we learned a lot and will make adjustments next year.

We hope to announce the 2017 dates very soon, but the organizing committee will meet next week to compare notes and make adjustments as needed. We’d love to have your input. If you have suggestions for improving the event please email us at: warrenhomecoming@gmail.com. We will read and consider every message we receive.

Warren Homecoming 2016 deemed a success

September 28, 2016
By RAYMOND L. SMITH Tribune Chronicle  

WARREN – For organizers of Warren Homecoming, the four-day weekend was more than a series of nice events. It brought home the fact that big and positive things can happen in the city.

“I’m extremely happy with the results of this weekend,” Warren Homecoming 2016 organizer Dennis Blank said. “Most of the things that happened I would absolutely do again. We had so much positive response.”

Blank said there is not an official tally of the number of people who attended the four days, but the weekend’s largest event, Taste of Warren, had more than 1,000 attendees on Saturday.

Some events had no more than a half dozen people, while others attracted several hundred people.

“We will never have a very good handle of the number of people who came out this weekend,” Blank said. “But this is definitely something worth doing again.”

There definitely will be a Warren Homecoming next year, he said.

Blank said what surprised him the most was the emotional impact the homecoming weekend had on many people that attended.

“It made people feel good about Warren,” Blank said. “There is good stuff here that is worth sharing and celebrating.”

While the Warren Homecoming 2016 was created by Blank and supported by various businessmen and community activists, it was a series of more than 30 individual events that were purposely held on the same weekend to create a synergy that made the weekend an overall success.

“This was truly a community led event,” Blank said. “There were street parties occurring that we did not know about until the day of the event.”

“In planning this, we were careful not to tell organizers that their ideas were bad, or where or when they could have an event,” he said. “We encouraged local participation.”

Paul Clouser, a local businessman and an early supporter of the weekend, held an invitation-only reception Friday evening for people that left Warren and came back for the weekend’s events mixed with local movers and shakers that stayed in the area and found success. The party was co-sponsored by the Youngstown Warren Regional Chamber.

Clouser said he personally spoke to at least three individuals that expressed interest in either wanting to invest in local businesses, donate to a local charity and, perhaps, open a new business.

“We have to wait until things begin to shake out, but to get that kind of interest is a positive sign,” Clouser said.

Of the public events, Clouser said Saturday’s Taste of Warren, in conjunction with the Art Hop, clearly had the most interest among the participants.

“The majority of restaurants ran out of food,” Clouser said.

Both Blank and Clouser said the event was successful partly because it was organized and run by residents and community organizations, not city government.

“I think there is a large group of city residents that always have wanted to do what is best for Warren and was previously not given an opportunity to do it,” Clouser said. “This was a think big scenario. Warren is a great community. Sometimes you have to think big and go bold. In this instance it worked.”

Tony Schofer, manager of the Speakeasy Lounge in the basement of the Best Western Hotel, 139 North Park Ave., said they had more than 300 people come in and socialize from 2 p.m. Saturday to 1 a.m. Sunday morning.

Speakeasy, which is owned by Pam Schofer, Tony’s wife, opened its doors about four weeks ago.

“This easily was our biggest crowd,” Tony Schofer said. “It was twice the number of people we were expecting.”

Tony Schofer said Warren Homecoming not only brought expatriates back to the area, but also gave area residents who don’t normally come to Warren a reason to visit downtown and see the positive changes taking place.

“Homecoming really improved the image of downtown warren,” Schofer said. “Downtown Warren is a wonderful and a safe place. Warren Homecoming was a good introduction to what we have to offer.”

Jennifer Campbell, owner of J. Saul Campbell Marketing in Liberty, sponsored a business legacy award Friday afternoon at which Sam Covelli of Covelli Enterprises, Frank Manios of Franklin Pharmacy, John Payiavlas of AVI Food Systems Inc., Diane Sauer of Diane Sauer Chevrolet and Dr. John Vlad of Vlad Pediatrics were given keys to the city for their continued operations in the city and support of various city projects.

“We were excited to be a part of such a tremendously important weekend,” Campbell said. “I hope this becomes a tradition and is done every year.”

Warren resident Bob Moody and his wife, Kathy, attended nearly a dozen of the events that happened over the four days of Warren Homecoming.

“This was wonderful,” Moody said. “There were some things that I learned about the city, and I have lived in the area all of my life.”

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Know where to go

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warren-homecoming-flyer-poster-final-02Tomorrow kicks off the first ever Warren Homecoming. We have at least 31 events scheduled. It’s hard to know the actual number, because people are still adding things and they are not always good about letting us know, so we can get them on the schedule.

Speaking of the schedule, several people mentioned to me that they didn’t see it in the Tribune supplement yesterday. I think the center spread with the Muccio map got all the attention, but you’ll find the detailed schedule on page 12. It looks a little like the police blotter, but it’s all there.

If you don’t have the supplement you can find one in many local restaurants — Mocha House, Buena Vista, Sunrise, Lime Tree, Saratoga, Speakeasy, and more. We will also have supplies at the Rendezvous in the Alley and the Rooftop Reunion tomorrow afternoon until they run out.

The full, and most detailed, schedule is online at the Warren Homecoming web site, or you can download a printable PDF version here: warren-homecoming-schedule

I hope to see you this weekend.

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Any Given Child

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14316821_587057671480168_3012534818148569872_nWarren City Schools has won a prestigious “Any Given Child” grant from the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, to encourage and promote the arts in our schools. There is ample evidence that exposure to the arts helps children in their academic pursuits. And we only have to look inside our own city to see the positive impact the arts has had. Whatever progress we’ve made the past few years have been either directly driven by, or substantially helped by, the arts.

I’m looking forward to learning more about this program tomorrow at their first local press conference, which is open to the public. You can also learn a lot about how Any Given Child has benefited other communities on their web site.

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Auto Parkit at the crossroads

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alanchristopher925According to this report by WFMJ’s Lindsay McCoy, Auto Parkit C.E.O. Chris Alan is disappointed with the help he has received from the State of Ohio and is considering moving his new venture from the desired former Packard facility on Dana Street to somewhere else in the area – possibly Mahoning County. You can read more about his original plan here.

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Bond rating downgrade

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bondIt was just yesterday that I promised to be all Homecoming all the time for the next two weeks, but some things are too important to hold off reporting on. Such is the case with Moody’s June downgrade of Warren’s bond rating from A1 to Baa1. The Tribune has a good story on the front page today. I heard about the downgrade through the grapevine a few days ago. I mention this because it happened more than two months ago, and the Mayor and the Auditor chose not to make it public. No City Councilperson was informed. Most of them learned about it by reading the Tribune article.

In the article Mayor Franklin seems sanguine about it:

Moody’s lower bond rating was issued in June, but city Auditor Vince Flask and Mayor Doug Franklin on Wednesday said they did not announce the credit rating change because the city is not anticipating doing any long-term borrowing over the next two years.

“This would not affect any short-term borrowing, such as purchasing of vehicles,” Franklin said.

I’m sure keeping it secret had nothing to do with their efforts to pass an income tax increase in November.

The rating downgrade was a direct result of the current administration having spent all of the city’s financial reserves, and allowing the budget to run at a deficit for most of the last ten years. This is pay-back for their lack of planning and discipline, the defining characteristic of Warren’s city government.

[Correction: An earlier version of this post referred to the need for new bonds to finance upgrades to the waste water treatment plant. That money can be borrowed from special State of Ohio funds and is not affected by bond ratings.]

 

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