Now this is really sad

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Harding-HRI was sitting at the counter of the Lime Tree talking local politics with a buddy the other day, when he tells me he was recently looking at the ranking of all 610 public school districts in Ohio (The performance index measures student performance on the Ohio Achievement Assessments and Ohio Graduate Tests at the third- through 10th-grade levels.)

He asks me, “Guess where Warren ranked?”

I look down, depressed by the question, and reluctant to give my honest guess, but  I do: “485”

“605” he replies.

“605 out of 610?! You can’t be serious!”

“…as a heart attack. Look it up. Cleveland.com has the full rankings.”

I’m sure the revolving door of superintendents over the past few years hasn’t helped, but the new guy, Steve Chiaro, sure has his work cut out for him.

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Goo-goo

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DSCN1090“Oh, I loveWarren. When I am hungry someone feeds me. When I am wet they change me. When I can’t sleep they rock me in their arms, swaddled in soft blankets and sweet lullabyes. It’s hard to imagine a more pleasant town, really.”

“Well, of course, no place is perfect. I’m getting mighty damn sick of this weather. Enough of the snow and cold already.  I could sure go for a week in Cancun about now — or even Florida.”

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Smart money

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We haven’t done it in a while, but we are reprinting an article from today’s Tribune without their permission, because we think it is important that everyone knows about this. Note in particular, how efficiently TNP uses government money to tear down houses — $2000 per house below the state average. We think everyone should subscribe to the Trib and we hope they don’t sue us.

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Demolitions continue in Trumbull

Moving Ohio Forward period over

March 2, 2015
By RENEE FOX – Tribune Chronicle (rfox@tribotday.comTribune Chronicle

629137_1Trumbull County tore down more than 350 housing units before the Moving Ohio Forward grant program expired in December, but that doesn’t mean the razing will stop – the Trumbull County Land Bank has a $3.2 million federal grant to continue demolitions and implement greening programs.

Through the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Hardest Hit Program, the demolitions will go on, but unlike the state’s program, this time the funds can also be used on public greening projects, Matt Martin, director of Trumbull Neighborhood Partnership, or TNP, said.

“We are still knee deep in the list of necessary demolitions,” Martin said on Sunday. “Replacing those properties with garden and park spaces is a huge tool for revitalizing space in the community.”

[A derelict house on Homewood Avenue S.E. is demolished – above. Tribune photo.]

Trumbull County spent $5,914 per demolition, which is about $2,000 less than the state average, and only eight of Ohio’s 88 counties tore down more housing units, according to a report released recently from Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine’s office on the Moving Ohio Forward program. Cuyahoga County demolished the most housing units, 3,449.

Most of those units razed locally were in Warren, Martin said.

“This grant money was a huge step toward our civic revitalization plan,” Martin said. “We reclaimed land, restored the properties for productive use and eliminated the worst of the worst (properties).”

The state used $75 million from a 2012 court settlement with the nation’s largest mortgage servicers over foreclosure abuses, fraud and unacceptable mortgage practices to “help alleviate issues caused by foreclosure,” in Ohio, according to a news release. TNP, which manages the county’s land bank, was responsible for disseminating the funds from DeWine’s office.

Local municipalities and the land bank contributed matching funds to raze the properties. Warren gave $500,000 of the $828,774 supplied locally, while other local contributions came mostly from the land bank and communities with properties razed under the program. Trumbull County’s award from the state was $1.3 million.

Mahoning County received $1.5 million from the state and pitched in another $1 million that was used to tear down 308 units at an average cost of $8,299.

In Ohio, in addition to the $75 million contributed by the state, counties contributed $44 million. The $119 million total was used to tear down 14,608 units at an average cost of $8,148.

“Those funds helped demolish vacant properties that scarred neighborhoods already hit hard by the economic downturn and that too often were magnets for drug use, vagrancy and other crimes,” DeWine said.

Because the local demolitions were facilitated in a timely manner, Martin said, the county received more funds in the second and third rounds of grant awards, money that would have went to other counties, but they did not act fast enough to receive the funds.

Martin credited the volume of homes razed and relationships with local construction companies for the lower than average price per housing unit.

Many of the once blighted properties were purchased by neighbors under the land bank’s side lot program, turned into pocket parks or gardens, Martin said.

TNP is funding a program to improve recently razed lots with Hardest Hit dollars. Through the Lots to Love program, up to $6,000 and technical assistance is available for public projects on eligible lots for groups with an idea and the time to attend a program workshop. Worskshops will be held at 6 p.m. March 9, 12, 17, 19 and 24 and focus on different areas of Warren.

For information and applications available for Trumbull County Land Bank programs, visit the website of Trumbull Neighborhood Partnership at tnpwarren.org or call 330-599-9275.

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We missed the boat

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We had to leave town last week to take care of some family business and missed a number of important and/or fun activities, which we will try to recap in today’s post.

The most important of the missed events was a special meeting of the Residents Advisory Committee. The RAC was set up about four years ago by city Council to advise Council on the implementation of the Warren Strategic Plan (sometimes known as the Poggemeyer Report). We could write pages and pages about the efforts the RAC made to get either Council or the Mayor to adopt even one of its suggestions, but it was not meant to be. So after years of frustrations the RAC voted last week to disband itself. We believe it will reform next month with a new name, detached from local government, with a renewed sense of mission to move Warren forward. New information will be published here as it becomes available.

We missed a great party and the Dada Art Show at the Artisan Cafe last Saturday night. This was a big event hosted by several artists. It was a miserable night but we heard great things about the event.

And we missed the opening night of Black History in Warren at the recently reopened Kinsman House.

What a week to be gone.

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Whole lotta lots to love

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ZepCut630This is pretty exciting and very cool. Here is your chance to realize your micro-vision for Warren on a newly vacant lot and have up to $6000 in funding. It is a new Trumbull Neighborhood Partnership program called Lots to Love. The text of a press release to go out Monday is below. Warren Expressed readers are getting a special sneak preview. We will report on projects that come along as artists step forward. I think this program deserves its own theme song. Imagine what kind of creativity might be unleashed in Warren with this sort of support?

Ironically, we just heard a story on the radio about a man who got sick of finding garbage dumped on a vacant in his neighborhood. He tried a number of things to stop it and finally put a big stone Buddha on the spot where trash collected. Not only did the trash dumping stop but crime in the neighborhood dropped too. Here is a newspaper article on the events. It could work it Warren, too. Creativity solves most problems.

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WARREN –Trumbull Neighborhood Partnership (TNP) is excited to unveil a new program, Lots to Love. The Lots to Love program, the first of TNP’s new slate of “Warren Enriched” programming,  will allow up to $6,000 worth of labor and materials to install a greening project on a newly vacant lot. Eligible lots will be those that have recently had a demolition completed by the Trumbull County Land Bank.

The concept is simple: If you have an idea for a project on a vacant lot, like a pocket park, and are willing to commit to maintaining the project after it is installed, TNP will provide for the installation of the project. To be considered you must have at least 2 people who agree to maintain the project and you will be required to gather neighborhood signatures showing that people are in support of your idea. Churches, Businesses, Neighborhood Associations, and other community groups are encouraged to apply. Don’t worry if your idea is not fully thought out yet, TNP is happy to help you develop your idea further.

Kent State University and Parsons The New School for Design are also partnering with TNP to bring some talented students to Warren to help generate vibrant ideas for vacant lots in the Garden District. Residents of the central city and others interested in the project are encouraged to attend an interactive discussion and design charrette with the New School and Kent State Students, Saturday, February 21st from 1-4pm at the YWCA Warren, 375 North Park Ave.

Interested applicants must attend an application workshop, hosted by TNP in February and March, or meet individually with TNP staff. The program is now open and applications are currently being accepted. Final dates and locations for the workshops will be announced soon. These events will provide important details about how to complete the application and which lots are eligible for the program. The Spring 2015 application window will close Tuesday, March 31st. All applications must be submitted by 5:00pm on the March 31st.

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