We Stand With Jay

25 09 2006

Friends, once again Youngstown has taken a blow of negativity, this time at the hands of people who want to blame the city for their problems. Thankfully, Jay Williams refuses to put up with it.

If you’re not sure what I’m talking about, Maurice Clarett’s attorney, Michael Hoague, issued a statement defending Clarett’s wearing of a bulletproof vest when he was arrested in August, stating:

“If you travel in his neighborhood in Youngstown, you see a lot of people, for whatever reason, wearing their tank tops with their flak vests. It’s a way of life with the people he grew up with.”

I don’t know where to begin with this comment. It’s idiotic, stereotypical, conceited, shallow…I don’t think I have to go on here.

This is the sort of negativity that keeps setting back Youngstown and the negative image it is trying to molt. What’s more, this sort of negativity is going to remain within the public’s memory.  Not the “mini-controversey”  Jim Terry caused with the HitMen and signing Clarett. That was merely flavor of the week news, now long forgotten by much of the populace. I’m comfortable saying this because, outside of Moohead Radio, who is obsessed with the soap opera that has become Terry and his team, the HitMen receive little coverage, other than Vindicator articles on their new venue (where’s it at, anyway? Seriously).  But while Jim Terry and the Mahoning Valley HitMen are but a memory to a lot of people (I admit I still check in with Moohead from time), Maurice Clarett isn’t. We’ll all remember him, or at least history will. It’ll note that he grew up in Youngstown, Ohio, and that when he went to prison, he blamed the city.

Thankfully, Mayor Jay issued a response, noting that, unlike Hoague, he travels the neighborhoods of Youngstown on a daily basis, and “no one is to blame for [Clarett’s] actions; not Youngstown, not the people in its neighborhoods.”

Hopefully people will be smart enough to not buy into Hoague’s statement; that it’s merely a last-ditch effort. It seems hard to believe someone could agree with this statement (maybe a couple posters on Dems17.org), but I’ve been surprised in the past by what people believe.

And while I think about it, is Hoague so sheltered as to believe people who live in cities actually wear vests all the time? Or does he believe we’re all as gullible as his client?

All the same, I’m confident I speak for the Youngstown blogosphere that we back Jay all the way, and we also re-affirm our support for the Youngstown 2010 plan, because it is the progress we make through this administration and these programs that we’ll be ultimately be able to stop the cheap shots people take at our city.


With a New Logo, What Should Downtown do Next?

23 09 2006

On Thursday, the Vindicator made it widely known that Downtown Youngstown has a logo that it distributes to its businesses. Personally, I think they could’ve been a little more imaginative, like including an outline of the city on top, but nonetheless it is a start.

It also made me think where downtown can go from there, and I realized a solution that could serve as an immsense testament to the committment and unity businesses have to downtown: an official organization and website.

In the past, Vindy articles have reported on generally loose affiliations downtown businesses have with each other. If the businesses downtown come together and form an official association, where they’re all in dialogue together on what can be done to help downtown, it would demonstrate a great degree of professionalism.

Secondly, the organization should definitely form a website, and one that is fairly well publicized to the business community. There are a few websites with business resources, namely the CIC site, but the CIC site, in addition to being relatively unknown outside of people who are involved with downtown, also serves only as an owner of downtown buildings, though it is no secret they are all supporters of everything downtown. This organization I’m talking about, on the other hand, is comprised of business owners, and on their site could offer information on existing businesses, as well as leasing info, events in the city, and comments from owners on why they’re located downtown and what sets it apart from other places to have a business.

But the organization doesn’t have to exist as merely a website. I’d say a good business alliance would be able to hold meetings, with discussions on what can be improved upon in the city and resolutions they’d wish to bring to the attention of city government. They could also work together in planning events for the public to raise awareness of the area.

While I was looking into this, I want to highlight two excellent example cities: Manchester and Boise. Both these cities offer excellent resources on their website in regards to business information and why businesses should locate there. They also organize events to bring people downtown, and bring services to people in the area. These are but small websites, but with Manchester experiencing a great revival of their downtown area with over 140 businesses, and Boise increasingly rivaling other northwest cities like Seattle and Portland for prominence, a similar organization for downtown Youngstown would undoubtedly help our cause in reforming downtown.

See for yourself. Check out Manchester’s site, http://www.downtownmanchester.org/default.cfm, and Boise’s, at http://www.downtownboise.org/. They are very impressive, and Youngstown could definitely draw on what they’ve accomplished.

That’s all for now. Go Penguins! Beat Davis!

Rooftop Parties, Anyone?

17 09 2006

Who’d like to go to a party on a rooftop, and be able to look down and see the city and have Youngstown’s urban landscape as a backdrop?

It’s an intriguing idea, I think. It offers something the suburbs can’t, it’s definitely urban, and seems like an idea Janko would write about on his  Shout Youngstown Blog. I admit I’ve never even been to Europe, but the whole concept seems vaguely European to me nonetheless.

Yes, I’m still hung up on that Business Journal article on Ohio architects converging on our city this weekend. While my previous post really had nothing to do with the subject matter of that story, this one is slightly more on-topic.

(By the way, TV-21 did profile the conference on Saturday night at 11, mentioning many of the architects would like to see downtown buildings be rennovated)

The focal point of this conference is a seminar hosted by William McDonough, mainly dealing with incorporating the environment into architecture. Among other things, he advocates collecting rain water which can be used to flush toilets (?), and using recycled asphalt and drywall in construction. He also talks about, when feasible, planting lawns on roofs, which helps with insulation, thus reducing energy.

I can definitely see this in Youngstown, at least in an abbreviated form. (True, I may be way in over my head, but I’ll go ahead anyway) Take for example, the Wick Building, which is slated for conversion into apartments. What if they were to install guard rails (or some plexiglass shields, akin to NYC’s Top of the Rock), and plant a lawn around the majority of the roof, leaving some patches bare to install a bar and place some tables and chairs. It’d certainly be an attractive selling point to apartment hunters: when it’s nice out, you can come up on the roof, bring a book, take your dinner, grab a drink, meet friends, and just hang out and look out over the city, not to mention a nice view for sunsets.

Or what if a business were to take advantage of this? Let’s just use Imbibe as an example. With a first floor martini bar, and a second floor wine bar/dance floor, say they just decide to go one step further. They plant grass on their roof. Some other things could also be done (If I ran it, I’d look for a way to decorate the wall of the Baker Shoes building next door), but a nice atmosphere could be created. Maybe plant a few shrubs and flowers, and a nice rooftop garden can be created. With this work done, a lot of great opportunities can be in store. The roof can be rented out for private parties, or can be opened up for wine tastings or just when it’s a nice night to be outside. Just imagine meeting your family or friends, and having a good time like you could anywhere else, but the difference here being you’re under the stars, and taking in an atmosphere unlike any other place in the valley.

Of course, I haven’t mentioned inclement weather. Granted, this would have to be a spring-summer-early fall type event. I wish we had the tropical or desert climates of Florida or Arizona, but you can’t always get what you want, can you? But when we have one of those summers when all it does is rain, you have to have a plan for that. When it’s open to the public, it’s simple: the roof isn’t open. When there’s something private booked though, the best that could be done is have a few shade covers readily available, and try to make the best of things.

Yes, something like this could just as easily be done without planting lawns, but I have to give credit where credit’s due, and acknowledge the Business Journal and more specifically, William McDonough, for the concept that got me to formulate this whole idea. I also have to admit that in the environmental sense, which is what Mr. McDonough has in mind when he speaks of these ideas, I may be going about this wrong. All I can say is that this blog is about speculation, and when all you do is brainstorm ideas and put them in the form of an article, then anything goes.

Lastly, I want to say good job YSU, despite losing 37-3. If we can highlight anything positive about this game, it’s that the defense played pretty solidly for a lot of the first half, before Tony Hunt and Derrick Wallace went on their touchdown runs, and that the Penguins only lost by 34 to a top 25 team, and when the Nittany Lions do that against a 1-AA school, you’re doing okay. After all, it wasn’t nearly as bad as when Oklahoma murdered Texas A&M 77-0 in 2004.

However I must comment on the AP story as well. When I read this story, I couldn’t help but wonder why the AP hypes up Penn State, writing like they won a really tough game and how everyone pulled through. Last year, when Pitt beat YSU, the AP story on that game was written in a similar tone. Well not to belittle Youngstown State, but they’re not on the same level as these schools. We’re a power in 1-AA, in the Gateway conference. These are schools in the Big 10 and Big East; schools with a lot more resources and a lot more opportunities to offer. Do the AP writers take that into account before hyping up the big BCS conference school whose just dominated over the smaller 1-AA school?

But what will you do? Go Penguins! Get ready for the Aggies!

How Far We’ve Come

16 09 2006

This weekend, the Ohio chapter of the Ohio Institute of Architects are converging in Youngstown, as highlighted in this article in the Business Journal. And although the article mostly talks about emerging, environmental-friendly architectural techniques, one of its opening quotes, downtown-based architect Ronald Faniro noting that “Youngstown is a re-emerging city”, made me reflect on how different Youngstown is now.

Think back about six years, to 2000. Think about how Federal Plaza was still there, right in the middle of everything. The single fact that that no longer exists; that you can go down the Market St. bridge and make a left turn onto W. Federal is, to me, immense progress.

Now think back to 2000 again, only this time recall the nightlife at the time. BW3 and Cedar’s were there, and so was Anthony’s and Plaza Cafe, but that was about the extent of bars and restaurants in the area. Now there’s Imbibe, Barley’s, Core, Draught House, Old Precinct, and C. Staples to name a few, in addition to the first three afformentioned.

Recall 20 Federal Place still went by its former name, Phar-Mor Centre. Since that time, downtown has managed to cover the scar Mickey Monus gave us with that company name. And since we’re on that subject, remember we were still feretting out the mafia around this time, and that Jim Trafficant was still a member of congress and not selling artwork from prison off the internet.

Remember all the buildings that sat vacant, and while I do take issue with the Voinovich Center and the Childrens Services buildings, they’re certainly much better than the vacant department stores that sat unoccupied at the time.

Reflect for a moment on the little things as well. Remember those ugly bouquetes of lights and the concrete circular benches that surrounded Central Square? Do you know how much of a difference that makes, not having them there anymore? I, for one, think the new lights and benches are a lot more pleasant to pass by.

Lastly, remember not looking at the Chevrolet Centre. Remember when a hockey team, or an arena football dream, or concerts which weren’t performed by the Symphony were either a pipe dream, or for the latter, an extremely rare occurance.

Merely reading that quote made all these things come to mind. This realization is, in short, powerful. Every improvement that downtown has made further confirms that Youngstown is for real; that they are in fact seriously committed in their revitalization efforts. The downtown we see at present is not what a lot of people remember, but at the same time it is not what it will ultimately become. The area’s made amazing strides in a relatively short span of time. Not just in terms of construction and beautification, but also in terms of proving people wrong. There are people, and they extend beyond internet forums like dems17.org, who can’t think positively; that thinking realistically means thinking downtown will fail no matter what. And though they’ll always find some sort of fodder to bring down the area, I can never do without these naysayers, because it is them that make me believe even more that downtown can succeed in becoming a viable place to go to and in defying everybody’s expectations.

The anti-Youngstown crowd may not admit it, but I think everyone can agree downtown has done more in these past four to six years than anyone around here ever thought they could accomplish. It is only the beginning though, and I am very much interested in seeing what else downtown will accomplish in the next six year span.