The Austin Village two-step

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DSCN0918The demolition of Austin Village Plaza seems to become a bigger mess every day as the photos here, taken today, will attest. It may look like this for a while. We ran into 7th Ward Councilman Eddie Colbert yesterday who informed us that the Warren City building inspector, Chris Taneyhill ordered the demolition crew to stop working on the site. We speculate that it is due to the fact that the crew continued to demolish the building but had made virtually no progress removing the rubble, which now stands in a dozen, or more, piles 10-12 foot tall, behind the building, out of site from West Market Street traffic.

You might think that is a good thing, except that those piles are less than 100 feet from the back of the Hidden Village Town Homes. Dozens of those units back up to these piles of brick, wood, dirt and Lord-knows-what-else. But the backs of the units have large sliding glass doors that were no doubt once one of the nicer features of the units. On a beautiful Fall day today, every single one had drapes or blinds puller tightly across the entire opening. It’s hard to imagine facing that view every morning when you get up to have your coffee.

DSCN0914The rubble is there because the demo crews are working primarily (if not totally) for whatever money they get from selling the scrap metal. They have to pay to take the other debris to appropriate landfills, depending on the composition of the load. What this crew appears to have been doing is pulling out and selling the metal while leaving the rubble behind to avoid the landfill charges.

There is no law that says this is the way it has to be done. The property owners, Paran Management, and its CEO, Joe Shafran, could hire a more sophisticated demolition crew and pay them a reasonable fee to do the job right. They have chosen a way that is less costly for them. But as we all know, there are no free lunches, so the people of Warren, and especially the residents of the ironically named Hidden Village Town Homes, pay for Joe’s lunch by being forced to live with this eyesore for months.

IMG_9428It is also dangerous. See the photo of the two holes? Each is 3-5 feet wide and 10 feet deep. There are no signs or barriers warning of the danger. Any kid could fall through, and the holes are only the most obvious of the deathtraps lurking inside the AVP property. Here’s who to contact if you think this is wrong:

Joseph Shafran, CEO
Paran Management Company
2720 Van Aken Blvd. #200
Cleveland, Ohio 44120
216-921-5663
jshafran@paranmgt.com
 
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Make a difference

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If you don’t have anything already scheduled for “Make a Difference Day,” please consider helping with the renovation of a Warren city home that is being funded by the Trumbull 100. You can just show up between 9:00 a.m and 4:00 p.m. to clear the outside of overgrown vegetation with volunteer Bob Hoy, or to work inside with Trumbull 100 volunteer Shari Harrell, who will be cleaning and painting.

“One of my goals as president of Trumbull 100 is the repopulation of Warren, to stop the decline of the central city and to get people to move back into the neighborhoods,” Diane Sauer said as she stood in the living room of the home, located at 1165 High St. N.E. (IMPORTANT: The house is on the part of High Street that is disconnected from the downtown High Street. You can get to the house by turning west off of Laird Avenue and driving down two blocks.)

Check it out: 1165 High St NE – Google Maps) It’s a nice looking house and a nice neighborhood with sidewalks and porches where you can say hello and get to know your neighbors.

Diane’s husband, Kurt, who is an engineer says the house is in need of a furnace, roof repairs, a hot water tank, some plumbing, kitchen cabinets, bathroom fixtures and a small amount of electrical upgrades to the kitchen and bathroom. Diane is hoping to get additional donations of materials. If anyone has questions or wants to donate time or materials please call her at 330-373-1600.

Once the work is completed the house will be sold at a very affordable price to an owner occupant.

(This post borrowed heavily from the Tribune. We’d rather just link to their articles occasionally, but since they no longer allow non-subscribers to read articles online we crib a little now and then. We always credit them and tell ourselves this is a good thing for them. Buy the Tribune. It’s good for the community.)

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We love you, but…

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Magazine CutoutsWe’ve spent the past few years attending meeting after meeting here, often wondering if there was any political issue that could possibly bring out any passion from local residents. Who would have guessed that passion would finally be released yesterday at a hearing of the planning commission to consider a zoning variance request. Sometimes Warren will surprise you.

The issue is this: The Warren Family Mission (WFM) bought the old Christ Our King Church on Tod Avenue SW at auction last year, with the intention of making it a shelter primarily for for woman and children. Many of the church’s neighbors in the 6th Ward were against the idea from the beginning and have only become more opposed as  WFM expanded the scope of its plans to include serving homeless people and people with disabilities — including alcoholics and drug users.

More than 75 people packed Council Chambers as Mayor Franklin, Enzo Cantalamessa and the three private citizens who make up the planning commission heard arguments for and against WFM’s plans and variance request #14-05. (The Tribune has a good write up by Raymond Smith this morning for more details.) The crowd was mostly older and mostly African-American, reflecting the 6th Ward neighborhood’s demographics.

The “opposed” spoke first and a dozen speakers expressed their feelings, which can be summarized as follows:

“The mission is a good thing, we support the mission, but we do not want it in our neighborhood. Our neighborhood already has too many problems with disrespectful kids, loud music, drugs, and crime. That building is too close to Jefferson Elementary School and the people who will patronize it represent a risk to the kids. Having this in our neighborhood will lower our already depressed property values. Put it someplace else.

The anti-group was led by 6th Ward Councilwoman Cheryl Saffold who gave a fiery speech in opposition, reminding the commission that she had been fighting the WFM plans for more than a year and had presented a petition with more than 500 signatures in opposition.

It was a strong and emotional presentation from the opposition forces, but it was just the beginning. WFM supporters were no less emotional nor less numerous in number, and it was now their turn. They too had more than a dozen speakers in support including several former clients helped by the mission. One man talked of having put a gun to his head in desperation for his condition in life before the mission saved him. Several single mothers talked about how the WFM was the only thing that saved them and their children from homelessness.

The final two speakers summarized the WFM position. Pastor Chris Gilger said he quit a government job with benefits in 1998 to start the mission, despite have 6 kids and no benefits in his new venture. He then used $43,000 of his own money to to keep the mission going the first two years. He reminded the crowd that with every facility the mission has opened, crime has gone down in the surrounding neighborhood. He reminded the opposition that they like the good the mission does and that they should understand that,

“We aren’t going to bring crime and criminals and trouble to your neighborhood; we are bringing help for the troubled and the troubles that are already there.”

Gilger claimed that according to public records, 180 registered sex offenders currently live in the 6th Ward, and “We didn’t put them there, but maybe we can show them a different path in life.”

The final speaker was Attorney Gil Rucker, who made the legal case in support, siting the Federal Fair Housing Act and a couple of Supreme Court decisions that, to the layman, sounded very persuasive on the side of WFM. Rucker reminded the crowd that it was not many years ago that arguments similar to those presented by the WFM’s opposition were used to keep blacks and other minorities from living in certain places. “We’re all for them — just not in our neighborhood. They will bring down property values and bring crime to our neighborhoods.” We remember hearing those same arguments back in the ’60′s and even later. If this goes to the courts we would not want to have to defend those kind of arguments. If the variance is denied and WFM sues the city it could result in an expensive round of court costs. Money Warren does not have. The city is already in court fighting an attempt to operate a group home for recovering addicts on the NE side in a neighborhood that is not zoned for such use.

That seems to be the issue most concerning the planning commission, which voted 4-1 to table the request pending a legal opinion from the Warren Law Department.

The Mayor, who must at least appear to be neutral as he sits as a judge in this matter, became visibly emotional during his summary when talking about his own son who suffers from certain disabilities. We wish for him the courage to do the right thing. Both Councilwoman Saffold and Councilwoman-at-large Helen Rucker spoke in opposition of the WFM plan. The opposition are the kind of people who never miss a vote — or an opportunity to remind politicians that they vote.

No politician spoke for the Warren Family Mission. The homeless and the hungry are less likely to vote, we guess.

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Follow-ups

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FOLLOW-UP1We emailed Mayor Franklin and Saftey Service Director Cantalamessa last Thursday afternoon asking for a comment on the situation at Austin Village Plaza, but did not receive a response. We never do, but so many people have asked us what their position is on the demolition, we tried again.

Slow progress continues at the site. It remains difficult to be optimistic that the work will be completed by November 30 — the city deadline — but at least they are there working some part of most days.

There is more to this story than just the demolition of the buildings. The owners have an interesting use in mind for the property once it has been cleared. Joe Shafran, the C.E.O. of Paran Management confirmed to us that he hopes to build a windmill farm on the property, which would generate electricity that could be sold to local businesses. Like most energy projects, this idea in predicated on the ability to qualify for certain tax credits or incentives. We know he has been working to gain political support for the project from Congressman Tim Ryan, Mayor Franklin and 7th Ward Councilman Eddie Colbert.

We’d love to add our support to the wind farm idea, and if Shafran would only quit diddling around and finish the demo we’d get in the parade.

*   *   *

We were disappointed that the Tribune elected not to publish our letter regarding their recent and inflated “crime wave” story on Sunday. We know how hard the newspaper business is, and no paper gets it right every time. Warren would be much worse off without the Tribune’s contribution to local information. Howver, we thought the story deserved a more critical look at the statistics than it received, so we are posting it again below.

Dear Editor,

Your October 5, 2014 front page story “Crime Wave Has Residents on Alert” was misleading and a disservice to your readers.

The article’s headline gives the impression that violent crime has recently spiked in Warren. To make the case the Tribune identified 14 violent crimes that took place in the city in September as evidence. Calling this a “crime wave” suggests a recent and dramatic increase, which the facts do not support.

According to FBI Uniform Crime Statistics, Warren reported 279 violent crimes in 2012 (the last year for which data is available), or just over 23 per month. So unless there were two or three times as many incidents in September beyond those you reported, no such increase took place.

Moreover, violent crime in Warren has been dropping steadily since 2006 when 696 were reported (17 per thousand); a decrease of nearly 60% over six years.

The 2012 violent crime rate per 1000 population was 6.8; that is fifty percent, or more, lower than the violent crime rates in Youngstown, Canton, Akron, Cleveland, Toledo or Cincinnati.

Fear of crime stops few people from going to Cleveland to a ball game or to dinner in Youngstown. But we hear many local suburban people say that fear of crime keeps them from coming into Warren.

We can all agree that one crime is too many, and that crime must be taken seriously. It is a  problem in Warren — as it is in nearly every American city. However, stories like this one unnecessarily frighten residents and seriously diminish the image of Warren as a place to live and work.

Dennis Blank
Publisher, Warren Expressed
 

 

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Notes from inside the bubble

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inside_the_bubble_by_cath_ong-d6eaymvPolitics in Warren is very much an insider’s game. There aren’t very many seats at the table, and like any game, it has its own rules and vocabulary. The vocabulary, in particular, makes it very hard for outsiders to even follow what their elected officials are up to as the very particular and arcane words and phrases, that no one else uses ever, are very hard to translate into common English. Whatever their purpose, they do a good job of disguising reality.

Last night at City Council meeting, this clear-as-mud little item came up for a vote; “in title only” it read:

“An ordinance for the purpose of: appropriating from the unappropriated, unencumbered balance of the General Funds; and appropriating from the unappropriated, unencumbered balance of certain city funds; and appropriating from the unappropriated, anticipated revenue of various city funds and declaring an emergency.”

While we were not there last night we were told there was no meaningful discussion and the bill passed 10-0. So this language must mean something to somebody — the alternative being that our council people voted for something they didn’t understand either.

Also, are there any English teachers out there? Can you have a colon plus two semi-colons in one sentence?

There was not much on the City Council agenda last evening, but they also passed a proclamation honoring Chris Stevenson, the new city grant writer, for his previous service to Packard Music Hall. Local political pundit Josh Nativio commented on this on Facebook in his usual caring and sensitive way, which drew rebukes from Enzo Cantalamessa and Jim Fogarty. We think Josh got it right. See why here. Sometimes we think Josh should be writing this column as he is definitely more entertaining. If you want to see what he had to say about last night’s council meeting visit his Facebook page.

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