An important conversation


How can the political leaders of Warren and Trumbull County work together to make government more efficient and more responsive to citizens?

This will be the topic under consideration in a public meeting being held this Wednesday evening (Nov. 19) at 6:00 p.m. in City Council Chambers. All local elected officials have been invited and we know that at least two TC Commissioners and Mayor Franklin will be there, as well as, a number of City Council members. The meeting will be moderated by City Council President Jim Graham.

This meeting was the brainchild of Resident Advisory Committee Chairman Roy Yancey who invited the public officials and representatives of each of Warren’s neighborhood associations. Everyone is welcome and will be offered an opportunity to ask questions of the public officials.

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No plan? No problem


Plan_First_hz_164024_7Last night in Council we saw one of the manifestations of having no plan for the city. It was announced with great fanfare that the city has hired three new police persons (one female). At the same time there was hand-wringing over whether or not another three could (or should) be hired using a Federal grant called COPS, because it would require matching funds. We assume the matching portion would be less than paying the full amount for the three that were hired, but no one asked that question.

At the same meeting, City Treasurer John Homlitas announced that tax collections to date are running $600,000 behind the projections used for the 2014 city budget. All of this takes place without the benefit of having a 2015 city budget yet, although it appears to be November as this is written.

Almost no one in city government understands the city budget and most of them will freely admit it. A senior elected official told us this morning that in his opinion, only one person in the entire city really understands it and he is retired. Last week, Eddie Colbert (7th Ward) and Chairman of the budget committee, spent an hour taking us through it and we can say without hesitation that we don’t understand it either. But we understand the meaning of being $600,000 behind in revenue collections on a $23 million dollar budget and it seems like an odd time to be hiring people. This is the kind of thing that happens when you don’t have a plan.

There was a good article in the Tribune this morning about the situation, as well as the editorial reprinted below which urges the Mayor and Council to act on the strategic plan. Buy the Tribune for daily coverage of local issues that goes far beyond what we can provide.

No more debating, just do it

November 13, 2014
Tribune Chronicle

It’s been five years since the city of Warren funded the $185,000 Poggemeyer Design Group’s Revitalization Strategy, and while there seems to be little disagreement that implementation of the plan would move the city in the right direction, there has been little traction in accomplishing it.

For years we have expressed frustration with delays in the plan’s adoption, and now the Resident Advisory Committee appointed in 2012 by city council to help move the ideas forward, is growing equally weary.

It was 2009 when the Poggemeyer Design Group offered the report entitled “Recreating Warren: 2009 Revitalization Strategy” as an answer to many of the city’s problems. City officials had promised to implement the report’s findings when the report was commissioned and released.

In 2012, the Resident Advisory Committee, or RAC, introduced 10 recommendations based on the plan, including these: initiate a professional marketing program; improve the Packard Apartments; form an education and medical district; rehabilitate the Robins Theater; save the Saker Mansion; expand the bike trail; find a condo developer for the Riverside peninsula; establish a farmers market; develop downtown apartments and develop the former Mahoningside power plant property.

Certainly, the goals are lofty. But to make a lasting impact, they should be nothing less than lofty.

The group this month expressed its frustration at the lack of support from council. RAC’s chairman said the group has been “depressingly unsuccessful in getting any of these recommendations adopted by elected officials,” adding the members are “batting zero” on adoption of their recommendations, except for those funded by state or federal money.

We feel their pain.

Many years have gone by and still no one has taken the bull by the horns.

Clearly there is a huge disconnect between the plan’s intent and the people that should be implementing it.

The plan indicates the ultimate responsibility for implementation of the recommendations lies with city council, and council attempted to accomplish this with its well-intentioned appointment of RAC. (And the committee should be commended for the effort and care it has put into the project.)

It’s now apparent, however, that council members cannot even agree on the role of the group, with some implying the RAC is getting out of control.

Councilwoman Helen Rucker, D-at large, may have made the best suggestion when she said council’s strategic planning committee needs to meet with the RAC and work out a plan for what can be accomplished most inexpensively.

The mayor has been adamant there will be no addition of a city planner position to accomplish the goals. Of course we agree.

There are people already in place to develop these projects, and the mayor is among them. It’s his vision and leadership that are needed to help push this plans to the next level.

We’ve said it before: stop debating how to do it and just do it.



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Blight + art?


DSCN0675We are working with a small group of folks on a grant application that could bring Warren a significant chunk of money for public art. We are trying to build on the work already done wherein art has been used to remediate blight. Examples would be the Dave Growl Alley and Garden District murals, gardens, the info-porch (right), stone walls and bird houses. We’re trying to come up with a theme, a tagline or some device to shortcut the concept. So far we’ve come up with this:

Blight + Art = Hope

What do you think of this idea, which can also be expressed as B + A = H? You can’t leave comments here but go to the WE Facebook page and let us know what you think. Maybe you have a better idea; if so we’d love to know about it.

*  *  *

So I was driving to Pittsburgh yesterday and came to a toll booth on 376. The “E-Z Pass Only” gate was backed up for some reason so I chose a gate that accepted both E-Z Pass and cash and rolled through at very low speed — but the gate didn’t rise. Of course some fool pulled up tight behind me  so I couldn’t back up to the booth or go forward. Finally, what I can only describe as a prototypical female Steelers fan of a certain age, walked up to the car and told me that even if I had E-Z Pass I have to stop and sign a paper if I drive through that lane. She added very officiously that she’d “let me go just this once.” Never mind that there was no warning sign or that I’ve probably used E-Z Pass at 100+ toll booths in a dozen states and never seen this particular feature before. Oh well, it’s just Pittsburgh Jake.


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Why we are smaller, older and poorer


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe often make the statement in meetings that “Warren is getting smaller, older and poorer every day.” There is ample data to back up this claim and it can make fascinating reading. Take for example, “Notes from the Underground,” a blog post from Jason Sedegy, a son of Akron with a particular interest in the causes behind the decline of midwestern, post-industrial cities like his and ours.

This essay details the fundamentals behind the loss of population and the reasons for the glut of often vacant houses. We’ve written often about these same factors but Jason digs deeper and provides new insights, especially on the effect smaller households have had on total population. (Something people of a certain age can relate to as a big chance from our youth.) The data can be a little depressing at times, and it is a long piece, but if you you are interested in having a richer understanding of the roots of Warren’s problems today we recommend it. As for the depressing part, well, we have hope, “a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen.”

“Thank you” to Ellen for recommending the post to us.

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City does the right thing


Magazine CutoutsWe wrote recently of the efforts being made by 6th Ward Councilwoman Cheryl Saffold, and a significant number of her constituents, to stop the Warren Family Mission (WFM) from moving into the building formerly used as Christ Our King Church at 1000 Tod Avenue SW. Today, Raymond Smith of the Tribune reported that the city has told WFM that they do not require a zoning variance to operate as they had intended.

Pastor Chris Gilger is quoted saying, ”We are happy with the law department’s interpretation of the law.” Gilger went on to say that they have already invested more than $265000 in the facility which will open in January and will serve West Side residents with a food pantry and clothing. The Tribune also reports:

“Sometime next year, a residential alcohol and drug program designed to treat needs of women and children also is expected to open at the new Tod Avenue location. There are 15 bedrooms on the top floor where women and children may be housed during treatment.

“We will be placing a gated fence all around this location, cameras and will have uniformed security,” Gilger said. “Similar to Hannah’s House, our current women’s site in Vienna, we will have staff on site 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”"

It was these latter services that seemed to be the most distressing to the neighbors.

We felt that the WFM supporters had the more persuasive case — arguing that WFM is bringing hard-to-find services to the people who need them the most. We are glad that after months of deliberation and several hearings, the city did the right thing and is allowing this important local resource do more of what they do — help people who need it. Click here to support the Warren Family Mission.

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