My dilemma

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dilemmaIt’s been 10 weeks since the election and you haven’t heard much from Warren Expressed in that time. It certainly isn’t because I ran out of opinions. Rather, I felt we all needed a little break form the intensity of the campaign. I know I did.

This post is about my priorities for the future, so now would be a good time to stop reading if that doesn’t interest you. I wouldn’t blame you if it doesn’t, but a lot of people have been asking and I feel I owe everyone an answer to the oft asked question, “what’s next?”

The short answer is that I plan to continue doing the same things I was doing before the campaign began. In addition to helping with the Garden District, I have several new community projects that I will pursue. I will focus on economic development, because Warren’s continued negative growth is an existential threat to the community that must be reversed, and the city is doing nothing about it.

These ideas are not secret by any means; they are too early stage at this point to write about them, but I will do that soon.

I will also continue to write and publish commentary on Warren Expressed, which is the source of my dilemma and the focus of this post. The relevant facts are these:

  • If I’m going to continue to write, I have to write about something of interest to me and you. That means writing about Warren, its government and institutions, and what it is (or isn’t) doing to prepare for the future.
  • There is no point to writing about these things unless I’m going to be totally candid about what I see and what I think. This means it’s pretty likely that I’ll be voicing disapproval or disagreement with the Mayor from time to time. It’s inevitable.
  • This is going to upset some people in Warren who feel that any criticism from me at this point is just sour grapes over losing the election. I’ve already received blow back over some pretty mild things I wrote recently.
  • I don’t want to upset people — even those people who didn’t vote for me — because many of them know that we need to change the way things are done in this town if we are to survive, I was just unable to convince them that I was the guy to lead us to a brighter future. I still want to advocate for a different path, but it pains me that I will be alienating some of the very people I hope to influence.

Because of this I considered backing off from public criticism, but the real dilemma is this: If I don’t speak out publicly who will? Let’s look at the options:

  • In most communities there is a strong voice advocating alternative ideas coming from whichever political party is out of power. Let’s be honest here; Warren is a single party city. There are only approximately 1200 registered Republicans out of 26,000 registered voters. They had no primary election and fielded exactly one candidate for any of the 14 elected city offices that were decided last November. They are not an effective voice in Warren.
  • In many one-party cities there is stiff competition within the ranks of the party in power which can lead to an effective competition of ideas. This is, unfortunately not the case in Warren. There were only a handful of competitors for the Democratic party nomination. There were no public debates. If any candidate published a platform, a position paper, or a single idea for the betterment of Warren’s future, I did not see it. Most sadly of all, only about 3000 registered Democrats bothered to vote in the primary, which in effect, put all but three of their nominees in office, since they would have no competition in the November. Inside the local Democratic party there is no debate and no competition; there is only a line. If you want an elected office you get in line, keep your mouth shut, and wait your turn. This is doing the city no good at all.
  • In many cities the local business community acts as a counter-balance to the party in power, persuading or cajoling them into progress through a variety of means. Sometimes they ban together through their Chamber of Commerce to advocate for progress, or they publicly support the competition in elections. This is not the case in Warren. Our Chamber of Commerce is located in Youngstown, and not very visible in Warren. Few businesspeople in Warren are politicly active. Customers don’t grow on trees and picking sides in an election is a good way to alienate a big percentage of them, so most businesspeople stay on the sidelines. Given Warren’s slide into village-status, this is like opting for slow strangulation over a bullet to the head, but I am retired and don’t have to fight the daily battle of running a business. The point is, the local business community is not a counter balance to one party rule.
  • Finally, we have the media. Unfortunately, Warren is a very weak media market. We are, at best, a secondary target audience for the Youngstown television stations which do very little political or economic reporting in any event. We are secondary market for the Vindicator, and there is no meaningful radio activity here. This leaves us with the Warren Tribune. I could go on at length about the Tribune, and I may at some later time; but for now I will just say that they are not an effective counter-balance to the local political power structure. They have all but abandoned their editorial page to commentary supplied by their corporate staff in West Virginia, who seem only interested in making sure that America puts coal at the forefront of its 21st Century energy policy. Commentary on local affairs has been nearly abandoned and they show great reluctance to challenge local elected officials on anything. If you want to follow the police blotter, the Trib isn’t a bad source. But if you want to know what our government is doing to stop crime, or to grow economic activity, you will need to look elsewhere. If you want someone to fact check statements made by the Mayor and his Director of Public Safety and Service you will grow old waiting for the Tribune to perform that basic journalistic role. It just isn’t what they do. If the Mayor says it, they print it. End of story.
  • So, those are the institutions that provide checks and balances to whoever is in power within a given community. In Warren, we either don’t have them or they are not performing those roles. Going without an alternative voice is what put us in the situation we are in now: a community losing jobs and ten people per week, with a city treasury that is essentially bankrupt, run by a Mayor with no plan to fix things.

It is simply not possible for me to watch this and say nothing, so I will continue to try to keep these issues in the public’s conscienceless, even if it costs me friends and supporters. I have no choice.

I guess it wasn’t really that big a dilemma after all.

Posted Thursday, January 14th, 2016 under Economic development, Vision.

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