Back from the dead (again) (and again and…)

27 08 2007

Well, at least I gave everyone prior notice that I’d be taking a leave this time around. August and September are like the doldrums for me, and don’t have much time for blogging.

But after a week away from home (and a month away from the site), I was pleased to see the Vindicator profiling Lou Frangos, the man who has quietly built up his portfolio of downtown real estate. It’s refreshing to see someone with substantial capital see opportunity in downtown for once, but to say it could be great again? Given his plans, I’m not sure how.

For starters, the Wick and Realty Buildings, as you know, will become housing, with the Erie Terminal becoming YSU student housing. There will always be YSU students, but for the young urban professionals developers hoping will move in, they couldn’t have picked a worse time. The housing market is collapsing, and while retirees may possibly get a space in a high-rise Miami condominium at a cheap price, Youngstown may not fare as well.

The Paramount Theater I agree is unsalvageable, but keeping the facade and putting a parking lot in the space creates a bizarre picture in my mind; one of a load of cars shielded by a wall. It’s like saving the facade of the State Theater: I can agree with you the outside is beautiful and cannot be replicated with today’s architectural standards, but when the rest of the building is knocked down, what purpose does it really serve?

And then the Stambaugh Building offers some interesting possibilities, but could also be disappointing. On the one hand, Party on the Plaza is a popular entertainment option, but doesn’t offer much space. Demolition of Stambaugh would allow for increased space, but would also create the need for a new location for Buffalo Wild Wings, a downtown mainstay that I’d hate to see leave Fed.

I am hard to please, if you don’t already know. I am always thinking how things can be done better, and right now I can’t help brainstorming what different ways the Frangos’ properties could be used.





Anniversary

23 07 2007

Hard to believe, but it was one year ago today that I established New YTOWN. Looking through the archives, we covered a lot of ground, from different ideas to freshen up downtown to my perceived mismanagement of Global Entertainment, and from the emergence of Youngstown as America’s 9th most dangerous city to the emergence of new businesses and organizations in the area, and not to mention a mass emergence of Youngstown blogs recently.

I’ve also amassed over 6,000 hits, a respectable number though I’m sure if I wrote regularly (no unannounced weeks to months off) it’d be higher. Oh, well. It’s great people read this site at all is what I think.

So as I begin the second year on this blog, expect another one of those hiatuses soon. The latter part of August and into September is a busy time for me, but I’ll get a blurb in when I can. Aside from that, expect some of my strongest writing yet on whatever hits the area next.

That’s all I have to say for about this milestone. Back to blogging.





A thought on education

1 07 2007

 I’ve been hard at work this week, and we have a double feature today! Scroll down for a second new story.

As you know, the Youngstown City Schools, in addition to being in the middle of a massive financial crisis, have also had dangerously low test scores for years.

People who don’t know about education (i.e. politicians) will point out that they’ll hold accountable schools, teachers, administrators, faculty et cetera when it comes to funding. The state department of education insists teachers must be “highly qualified”. Whenever a district fails, many will point their fingers at teachers first, saying they don’t do their job well enough, and that they need to be re-assessed or replaced, because a state report says the kids aren’t as smart as those in other communities.

A letter to the editor in today’s Vindicator paints a different picture. The full letter is here, but I’ll give you the gist: a life-long south side resident named Richard Giles points to his three sons and how the people of the Youngstown City Schools have served them well. His eldest son was a valedictorian at Wilson in 2003, recently completed his BA in chemistry from the College of Wooster, and will now work toward a Ph.D. in organic chemistry on a fellowship at USC; his second son (also a Wilson grad) received scholarships to YSU and is majoring in biotechnology; his third son will graduate from Chaney in 2009, and has received recognition from different events like State Science Day. By all accounts, they’ve all received a fine education comparable to one you might find in districts Ohio has previously declared “excellent”, like Boardman, Poland or Canfield.

But what about every other student in Youngstown?

This issue is a bit more personal for me. My mom taught in Youngstown up until a couple years ago, and while I may not have seen her in a classroom, outside of school I can say she did her job. She made lesson plans at home, she graded papers at home, she put a lot of things for her classes together at home. In short, she knew what she was doing, and after a while it annoyed and angered me when she talked about parents coming in, demanding to know why their kid was failing, and if anything could be done to bring their grade up.

It probably doesn’t cross their minds that their kids just don’t care; they’ve probably never thought for a second to hold their kids accountable. Just put blame on the educators.

And Mr. Giles points to this in his letter. “the parents and students also share that responsibilty,” he wrote, “it truly does ‘take a village to raise a child.'”

And with that statement, some personal effort, no matter where you live, can result in a good education. I had a buddy who shrugged off the emphasis of high school kids needing to find “a good college”, saying realistically, when you reallly think about it, that ANY college is a good college and give you exactly what you need for your career. It depends on the individual, and whether or not they want to apply themselves. And it’s the same at any level. Kids in Youngstown can have test scores comparable to any other district in Ohio if they put in effort, and people who don’t know about education should know that. I don’t claim to be any expert in the field, but I firmly believe what I say because that’s what I did (and still do) in school, and it served me fairly well.





A Paramount Opportunity

26 06 2007

So after a year of skepticism, foot-tapping and generally leaving the issue on the back burner, the Paramount Theater project is dead. Different sources warned of the “conning” ways of Grand Venues, the developer who promised to restore the movie palace to its former glory, and while they didn’t quite, by definition, con the city, they certainly had little credibility. After all, a company should have SOME capital in its bank account, rather than rely entirely on locals to invest the money, shouldn’t they?

If you haven’t seen downtownyoungstown.com’s photos of the place, do so. Between the debris, mold and every other piece of matter cluttering the auditorium, it’s enough to convince even the most optimistic people that the Paramount is a dinosaur and there’s no point in saving it. I knew the interiors were bad beforehand, but I also believed it could’ve been cleaned up. Now, I’m not so sure.

Anyway, our friend Phil Kidd of Defend Youngstown, who is much more “in the know” than I’ll ever be, has announced that the property has “alternate plans” instead of restoration that he “cannot discuss”  but thinks “if the plan goes forward, most people will be very pleased”.

Let me begin by saying that if this plan calls for a new government building or municipal courthouse, I will not be very pleased. I’m all for moving the government agencies into downtown (in fact, I’m sure bombing Oak Hill would do the county good in the longrun), but it should be spread out. West Federal shouldn’t from the former shopping center into the government center, so why not spread things out? East downtown, over by the Chevrolet Centre? Plentiful opportunities there.

But I digress. That probably isn’t what Kidd had in mind if everyone will be pleased, but then again you never know. As for speculation on what the plans are, I’d hope it’d involve putting the structure out of its misery, and possibly building on the original plan of a dual level movie theater/stage and bar area building. I’ve longed for the return of both a working movie theater and concert club in downtown, and this plan was intended to be the one-two punch. As I write this, I’m actually more excited than ever about the possibilities, because this could be the opportunity for a new building that ISN’T government-supported. So instead of the visually bland, brick-monsters of structures that are the Voinovich Center and CS, we could see a building whose exteriors will surely entice people to check it out.

If this were to be the case, I’d like to follow the lead of the technology center, but more detailed. The Technology Center plans show it blending in with the rest of the early 20th century downtown architecture. With whatever might go here, I’d hope architects would take a “neo-deco” approach, as I’d like to term it, applying some real geometry to it instead of just building a giant box. It’s completely bland for starters, and it demonstrates laziness and lack of creativity.

However, these plans could entail something entirely different, something far removed from an entertainment facility. Since Mr. Kidd is keeping a tight lip on the details, we’ll have to wait an see…

Photos

I went on a photo shoot for the first time since late March last week, and with this new album comes a new host for my photography. Yahoo Photos is being dissolved in September, so everything is being transferred to Flickr. When everything’s back up, take a look! I covered an expansive area, from downtown to Smoky Hollow and into the east and south sides of the city.





Score one for the pro-yo’ers

7 04 2007

It may be an online-only feature, and it may only mention two blogs, but vindy.com’s  headline this morningis about Phil Kidd’s “Defend Youngstown” project and the larger movement who “uses the internet to promote Youngstown” (example, this blog you’re reading right now).

The story centers around Kidd, and I’d say he deserves it, because he’s been steadily making a name for the city (and by extension, himself) by selling “Defend Youngstown” t-shirts, about 7000 of which have been sold and have been worn by the likes of Jay Williams, Ted Strickland, Tim Ryan and Kelly Pavlik. He talks about the positive he sees in the city, and his ambitions to spread the pro-Youngstown movement everywhere he goes and to one day be a city prosecutor. Janko of I Will Shout Youngstown is also interviewed.

True, this story is basically a profile of Phil Kidd and what he does to promote the city, but the Youngstown Blogosphere has finally gained recognition from the local “mainstream media”.  Hopefully, we’ll all benefit from this press coverage. More people will check out Phil’s Defend Youngstown sites, which by extension also link to most of the Youngstown blogs, so hopefully more people will start finding out there’s a lot to love about this city, and our community can grow even larger.

One more note, ThunderWatch has been updated. And GO ‘HOUNDS!!!

-Famous Mortimer





“The Walruss” is Gone

14 02 2007

I guess, in the back of our minds, it was really a question of “when will this happen”. Although we can’t pinpoint an exact date (a notice of hiatus was given in late December, editor Lenny Crist confirmed it on his blog), The Walruss, the Mahoning Valley’s attempt at an alternative newspaper in the style of New York’s Village Voice or Cleveland’s Free Times, has ceased to exist.  And when their web site hadn’t been updated since mid-December, no one is really all that surprised.

I was glad to discover The Walruss, glad there was a new media outlet that wasn’t mainstream and full of wire reports like The Vindicator, yet not covering trivial, non-newsworthy stories like comunity papers (can we shout The Review from the top of our lungs?). A lot of “alternative weeklies” as they’re called (a bi-weekly in this paper’s case) cover their areas’ arts scene, news that may fly under the radar and political/community commentary, and while these things may occur on a smaller scale in Youngstown, they nonetheless happen. And The Walruss reported on it.

Despite this, I also couldn’t help but be skeptical in the back of my mind as to how long this enterprise would last. Launching a print publication today is among the quaintest of ideas, and one could argue it’d be far more economical, as well as longer-lasting, to use the money spent making print copies towards buying web space and promoting it as an internet zine.

If you’re still not convinced print is a hugely outdated medium, consider this: last week, New York Times chairman Arthur Sulzberger said he isn’t sure if the Times will still be printing in five years, and “he doesn’t care either.” So when one of the world’s most recongizable and respected newspapers suggests they may go online-only in the future, that’s big news.

The paper’s editor, Lenny Crist, said he “has bills to pay” and so has begun looking for work in the teleservices industry to finish paying for his degree at YSU, and isn’t too affected by the death of the paper.

I don’t blame him for this, but I also can’t help but wonder how different it’d be had it been launched strictly as an internet production. The Youngstown bloggers, myself included, want to focus on this valley and have opinions about the events that happen here, but we don’t have the money or the means to mass-distribute it, so here we are. I don’t know how much capital publisher Joseph Rafidi or Crist for that matter had, but I have a feeling they were limited in resources at least to an extent. So like I said, an internet enterprise is more economical, given buying memory space is a lot less expensive than a printing press, and that along with a handful of computers would cover most of their needs.

There’s also the issue of advertising revenue, which may have been problematic for The Walruss, I don’t know for sure. And while an internet move would turn away local clients, it opens a much larger world of dot-com enterprises that would surely continue its publication for years to come.

But that’s what could’ve been.

So maybe one day The Walruss will be ressurected, and maybe they will take the internet-only route. Outlets like this blog who have no money use it, and with the Times hinting towards moving their operations there, it really is what Leonardo DiCaprio kept repeating as Howard Hughes at the end of The Aviator: “The way of the future”

But as of right now, I won’t hold my breath. Mr. Crist has to do what he has to do first, in my opinion.





Global continues to come up short.. It’s time to look elsewhere!

6 02 2007

 SIGN THE PETITION TO REMOVE GLOBAL FROM THE CHEVROLET CENTRE!

For the “ump”teenth time in a row it seems, since the Chevrolet Centre opened back in October 2005, the predictions for a $356,000 profit for the months October-December came up $212,000 SHORT! During this same period in 2005, the Chevy Centre made a $545,000 profit!

I find it appalling that Global would continue to be this far off on financial predictions. Either their accountants are coming right out college, or they have no idea how to run an operation. I personally think its both!

The Convocation Center from the beginning has been plagued by problems with operations; managers Jeff Kossow and Matt Hufnagel each resigned, and the financial predictions have been million dollars off.

It’s time for Mayor Jay Williams and Co. to clean up shop over there and start from the beginning. Global Entertainment has done a attrocious job running THE CITIES ARENA! I beleive the city should contact Comcast’s Global Spectrum Arena Management Co. They have a proven record of being successful in the arenas they are in, and also run a similar arena once run by Global: The Budweiser Events Center in Loveland, CO.

Another arena once managed by Global; the Dodge Arena; has since fired the company after problems have come through the vines down there. It’s only a matter of time before we do it too! Spectrum is high quality, run some of the largest arenas in the USA, and run the beautiful Value City Arena in Columbus!