What I learned at the Italian American Festival


11216796_979701132081295_2185882240745470751_nThere are no new ideas, so I am not embarrassed to borrow from the mayor of Youngstown, and declare that if elected, I will host a monthly “5 Minutes with the Mayor” session, at which any citizen of Warren can meet with the Mayor and give him a five-minute piece of her or his mind.

While I had an example to follow, the inspiration really came from the Italian American Festival. I spent nearly 40 hours at the Festival, and our volunteers spent at least another 120 person-hours. There were a few hours in which we sat around staring lovingly at food tents, but most of the time we were deeply engaged in conversations with residents.

Some people wanted to complain about a specific issue troubling them. Others wanted to offer suggestions on how to move the city forward. Another group asked questions about how the candidate would solve a particular city problem. (Street paving is a popular topic.)

Every person we met was polite and thoughtful. Not everyone made their point within five minutes, but they weren’t asked to, either.

The point is that people are frustrated. They feel that no one is listening to them; that no one cares. Many of them are right, and when people feel ignored they disengage, and opt not to be part of the solution. I will give people an opportunity to be heard, and will offer them ways to engage in finding solutions.

The Italian American Festival was a great time. I never really appreciated bocce until we sponsored a team and really watched. And then there was the morra tournament (above). Wow. All I’d ever seen before was the friendly backyard picnic version of the game. These boys played a whole different game. The mortadella sandwich from Leo’s was memorable.

Those things are so Warren, but the memories that will live with me longest will be the people. We registered several young people to vote for the first time, and I can’t begin to tell you what a thrill that was. We especially need to engage young people in creating our future, or we will have no future.

And the conversations with my fellow Warren citizens were very uplifting. It is easy to sometimes think that only a handful of people really care about the city. After all, voter turnout is at an all time low, and one sees the same few hundred people volunteering or attending most events.

The festival revealed those few hundred to be just the tip of the iceberg — that many more Warren residents are aware of our problems and eager for solutions. They know what you and I know.

We can do better.


By: Dennis Blank for Mayor


Posted Wednesday, August 12th, 2015 under Election, Life in Warren.

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