I, too, fall victim

1 07 2007

Wednesday, I had a doctor’s appointment that took me to the north side of Youngstown. It was a quick, get in/get out check-up, and since I had this day free I left home with my camera and afterward proceeded downtown to walk around and snap more pictures (there’s always a new perspective I haven’t captured yet somewhere).

After circling around Phelps and Hazel streets, passing by city hall and police headquarters and looking at the faded Segram’s sign on the old State Theater, I passed through the back alley south of W. Federal to look through the fence at a hole in the ground that will eventually become the Youngstown Technology Center. I walked down the rest of the alley, past the loading docks of the old specialty stores on Federal toward Home Savings, but as I kept looking over my shoulder, and as I, in my normally paranoid way, try to remember whether or not I locked my car, I found I was having some of the same sentiments of people who are vehemently anti-Youngstown.

I don’t know why I felt that way. I’ve been downtown dozens of times and never felt unsafe. It was like a point of pride for me that I could tell friends who hyperbolicly think Youngstown is nothing but a giant gang territory I freely walked downtown’s streets without worrying. Maybe I had a heightened paranoid feeling, maybe I was overly pessimistic; whatever the reason, I fell victim to the naysayers who flood the vindy.com forums and formerly bashed the city on Dems17.

Personally, I can hardly believe myself. I’ve been in the neighborhoods of the east and south sides of the city, parts that routinely make the news for violent crime and places most of my friends would never dare to go within five miles of. And while I may have been barely with the borders of this area, I have walked in the infamous South Central Los Angeles, home of the L.A. Riots and a place where most decent people, and certainly no tourists, would think of going near either. Unless for a USC game, I suppose.

This fear, I guess, is a result of the anti-Youngstown attitude that is basically ingrained in any kid from the suburbs as a result of local news, what we see/hear about “ghetto/urban culture” or whatever you want to call it and apply that to at least the fifth power to the city and what they’re told by their parents. And I believe the latter has the most impact. I think Bill Cosby is far removed from the best comedian of all time (each is own), but his recent schtick of criticizing parents is gold. He may be referring to inner-city parents in particular, but it can apply to everyone. If you’ve ever read the vindy.com forums, you know about some of the amazingly long tirades some go on about suburbanites needing to turn their backs against Youngstown and not support anything associated with it. If you read the Defend Youngstown blog from last week, a Vindicator letter to the editor, a Boardman resident terms Youngstown “a failing city” and a place suburbs like Boardman, Austintown, Canfield, Struthers and Campbell should isolate themselves from. These people will repeat what they type to their kids, and they’ll develop the same attitudes and it becomes a generational thing that the suburbanites just spit on Youngstown.

My family never practiced this, but I have friends who are genuinely believe Youngstown is a horrible place. A few weeks ago, I even text messaged a friend, saying I’m on my way to Youngstown to get something to eat, and the response was :

“Dude u might get shot”

At least some of this was in jest, but at least some of this was also out of many people’s perceptions of the city.

We all talk about changing people’s views on the city by just taking them down there for a meal or a beer or an event downtown, but that’s an individual basis. Maybe a more vigilent approach is needed. It could be on a regional scale, but Youngstown could learn from Cleveland and the efforts of then-mayor George Voinovich’s efforts to re-build the city’s image in the early 1980s. Voinovich, elected when the city’s finances claimed default, took a defensive stance on any anti-Cleveland comments, and the Plain Delaer worked aggressively to proclaim Cleveland as “The Plum” (as opposed to NYC’s  Big Apple). It may sound a bit ridiculous now, but the relentlessness to prove the city wasn’t all that bad paid off in the form of positive national media coverage.

Given, Youngstown would not have to advertise itself on a national scale, but a tenacity such as Cleveland’s on the local level may make suburbanites think twice about the center of our region. At present, the local news does a decent enough job reporting on positive stories on the area, but like anything else in life, it can always be done better.

As I said before, I don’t normally think so pessimistically as I did, but it’s probably something people who don’t normally go downtown worry about when they are there. The situation could change, but it takes the help of a lot of people. Beyond the city, trustees/mayors of the suburbs need to grasp the concept that neighboring communities are better when they work together, and not by a “fend for yourself” mentality. And the vocal minority may never be silenced, but other people outside the city- ones willing to have an open mind- deserve more positive coverage around the city, not just the crime scene reports, and maybe they can also be convinced Youngstown isn’t that bad of a city.

And yes, I am one of these suburbanites. I am not in the least uncomfortable in admitting this, and I even think it goes to show there is a vocal group of people outside the city who promote it and not denounce it.


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…


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.

Politics as Usual

11 06 2007

Getting back to things that are at least in relation to Youngstown, the Plain Dealer reported four days ago that Rep. Tim Ryan has after all become like every other politician and has discreetly started a Political Action Committee. It’s called Penguin PAC and it’s a modern-day political machine, with its last FEC report stating it has $18.10 in its account. These funds, which the PD said went to various Democratic congressional candidates around Ohio, including Charlie Wilson (Strickland’s successor) and Zack Space (now representing Bob Ney’s old district, so you knew he’d win anyway).

You can find that entry here.

Also in my free time, I recalled his acceptance of this challenge to live on food stamps, then breaking the rules when he ate a pork chop, and subsequently pledging he’ll “put in a couple hours at a food bank” to make up for it. I also swung by the Washington Post’s website to check out his voting record for the current (110th) congress…

I found he’s a real decisive dude.

There’s a string of “not voting” marks on some rather hot-button bills.

While I don’t know where he exactly was on June 6th and 7th, our representative was marked “not voting” for Round 2 of the battle over funding for stem cell research, taking a route of neuturality when the rest of the Dem’s overwhelmingly voted in favor of it (Ryan joined 5 other Dems in “not voting”). Like other things, this is a touchy issue, but this is something I’ve come to strongly support recently, and with the latest report that Alzheimer’s rates are expected to quadruple by 2050, I feel it’s more pressing that ever advancements are made.

Ryan also hasn’t cared much lately about internet privacy, not voting in the “Securely Protect Yourself Against Cyber Trespass Act”, which outlaws spyware programs transmitting personal information. He also didn’t vote on a law that showcased bipartisan unity, the Green Energy Education Act (harmless law, lets colleges advance “green” energy and technolgies in their curriculum).

He voted against the Republican bill for Iraq funding based on “government benchmarks of progress”, but didn’t vote on a bill to give 6 billion in aid to Afghanistan, which many Democrats are fond of saying is “the right place to invade”. I don’t know. I mean he wasn’t there to authorize that invasion, but when everyone’s pretty much in agreement on it, wouldn’t you want to support the government you wanted to install? No matter, really, since it passed.

Further, he voted for the re-authorization to fund activities in the Department of Defense on May 17, with 25 Democrats voting nea. This one gets me. Here is a guy who gets on C-SPAN and denounces the administration and how they say they won’t plan a draft. He won’t fund Iraq unless there’s a timetable for troop withdrawl. That’s plently well and good-I am very much interested in getting the hell out of the region altogether, including Israel- but when you turn around and authorize department funding anyway, more than likely in the name of “supporting troops”, you’re pussyfooting. Ryan, who put himself on a pedestal denouncing the war, should really stick by it and live by it, like a devout Christian always going by the Ten Commandments. If it were me, I’d stand behind my judgement of the war so much that I’d vote against authorizing the department’s activities, like 25 Democrats and 2 Republicans actually did. It would be the ultimate testament to his disapproval of the war, because if you chop off the hand that feeds, what’s the dog supposed to do? This is activities beyond Iraq, but without the billions in aid, will the Pentagon finally use that spitball artillery Zell Miller so passionately warned us about in protecting America? If anything, Democrats could’ve sparked a serious evaluation of our defense practices with this bill but alas, like their chosen speaker of the house, they do not possess balls to do so.

And by the way, I wouldn’t call voting against the re-authorization of funds an act of “supporting the troops”. That is quite contradictory. Many of them want to be in Iraq, whether it’s because they believe in what their mission or because the armed forces made life much easier than it is back home (this, from Radar Magazine in summer 2005. An excellent expose on the day-to-day life of a platoon in Iraq), it is a fact most military personnel want to see the Iraq operation carried out to the end, whenever that is.

Also, if you’re in any way offended by that quip about Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats, send me an e-mail indicating you’ve been offended and I’ll issue a Jerry Falwell-esque “non-apology” in reply.

To be fair, he’s voted yes on “safe” issues, like the resolution calling on China to use its “unique influence and economic leverage” to stop Sudanese genocide, but only pricks and/or officials with great business connections in China and/or Sudan wouldn’t vote yes.  He also voted for the “Honest Leadership and Open Government Act” which says will enforce stricter rules and regulations on lobbying laws. It passed 396-22-13-1 (yea-nay-not voting-present, respectively), and personally, I appreiate the 36 people who know this bill is bullshit.

But what may be the most important issue surrounding Tim Ryan is this: when is this appropriations committee appointment going to pay off for us???? When will the pointless government funding come the way of the Steel Valley??? This was made how long ago?? Anybody? We’re gonna get some multi million-dollar government contract sometime, right?

So amid all this political talk, Youngstown is indirectly involved. In a large way. Because although this is only what 1 man out of a legislative body of 535 has been doing in the last month, it is the man we (for the most part anyway), as a valley, chose to lead us in the District.

And we’re coming back swinging!

At a standstill

10 06 2007

As you can see, the New YTOWN blog, like we did at the end of last year, went on an unanounced hiatus again, having not posted since April.

There’s a good reason.

Since our article favoring the Steelhounds move to the ECHL, there aren’t many updates on downtown news, although yesterday’s Vindicator did report on an ECHL move, but with very little insight into what the ‘Hounds might actually do.

ThunderWatch will be removed. My bad, guys.

As to the rest of the city, everything ebbs and flows, and development downtown has reached a low point. Downtownyoungstown.com has virtually no activity. Friday Night Fights and a handful of concerts will play the Chevy Centre, and the Brier Hill Festival and YSU summer festival of the arts will come in the near future, but these are regular occurances.

I’m gonna try to come back regularly now, feeling I’m way overdue with getting back to writing. I’ll at least try to be Youngstown-related.

Two seasons in for the Steelhounds

11 04 2007

Last night the Youngstown Steelhounds, despite their weekend rebound, were knocked out of the CHL playoffs with a 6-1 loss to the Colorado Eagles. It may be the first round, but to me that isn’t too bad. It’s great they made the playoffs in only their second season, and its also very good news they have the CHL MVP in Jeff Christian.

So as the ‘Hounds enter the off-season, many changes will come about. Players will switch teams, coaches may leave and hopefully general manager Joe Gregory will stay put, and they won’t face a merry-go-round of GM changes. But the biggest, most dramatic change of all could possibly be a change of scenery: it is an ongoing struggle, but owner Herb Washington is trying to move the team to the ECHL .

This is a move I whole-heartedly endorse. Never minding the fact the CHL is owned by ‘that company in Arizona’, the Steelhounds are geographically much better suited for the ECHL.

Think about it a moment. Youngstown is the only CHL franchise east of the Mississippi River, and half the league is in Texas alone. And with Global’s plans to build arenas in states like Arizona, New Mexico and Washington, the Steelhounds will continue to take west coast roadtrips and play home games in relative isolation from the rest of the league. So why don’t we admit the Steelhounds have no true rivals in this league, or at least no opponents we can get excited about. I mean, unless we all start sending really bad vibes to the Gulf Coast of Texas, I doubt there will be anything at stake emotionally the next time the Steelhounds play the Corpus Christi Rayz. Or the teams in Laredo, Odessa or Oklahoma City for that matter. Every team in the league is just too far away for anyone here to truly get excited about, and thus teams just play hockey without everyone in the arena’s emotions running high, which partially takes the fun out of sports I believe.

The ECHL, on the other hand, has a chance to be the opposite for the ‘Hounds. True, this league features teams as far away as Fairbanks, Alaska, but there are also six teams between Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia (locations being Cincinnati, Toledo, Dayton, Johnstown, Reading and Wheeling). These cities aren’t Cleveland or Pittsburgh, but they’re close enough to make me interested when they come into Youngstown. Further, the team can at least advertise Cincinnati, Dayton or Toledo as our “in-state rivals”. Emotions might not change that much, but at least the ‘Hounds wouldn’t be isolated from every other team. That and Youngstown could be playing in hockey’s “premiere AA league”. It’s a matter of opinion of course, but the CHL doesn’t boast it.

Problem is, this transition isn’t a reality. Washington is being held up in the courts by the CHL, and for the time being can’t switch. According to a reliable source, the CHL wants something in return for Youngstown’s departure, namely an ECHL team. There is a Texas ECHL team based in Beaumont, and the CHL is also considered “AA”, but they may not be willing to move, nor might any other team for that matter. It’s an on-going process, and not much media attention has been given to the case, something that’ll likely stay unless a great development comes soon. But with the start of another hockey season about six months away, plenty of time has been left for updates and dealings, so like every other development in Youngstown, we’ll have to wait and see…

Famous Mortimer

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

Downtown Continues to be Revamped!

7 04 2007

Over the last 5 years, downtown has been in a transformation mode into an entertainment destination in the Mahoning Valley. People now actually have the choice of going to Boardman or downtown for their entertainment on the weekends. If they want to go to the movies, they have to go elsewhere; but if they want to go see professional arena football, downtown is the way to go.

Five years ago, downtown was a GHOST TOWN. Today, there is more and more people downtown every night for different events at the Chevrolet Centre, to have a drink at one of the many bars, or to see a show at the beautiful DeYor Perfoming Arts Center. There are new buildings being put up, such as the 7th District Court of Appeals, the Mahoning County Children’s Services Building, or the future Youngstown Technology Center.

This is great progress, but a lot of work still needs to be done. There are still quite a few dilapidated buildings down there and there still is a lack of residential units; which are coming next year in the Reality and Wick Buildings.

What I’d like to see downtown is better signage, such as this sign to the right, which is prevalent in

Downtown Pittsburgh. The red represents YSU, the blue downtown, and the green Smokey Hollow; which is one neighborhood with a plan to get things done in the next 5-10 years. I think it would look nice in downtown and gives the visitors a direction of where they are at and where they need to go.

What I’d also like to see is an exploration into the idea of a riverwalk. Now it would be hard considering 2 railroads run parallel on each side of the Mahoning River, but I’m sure it’s possible. I think the creation of speciality shops and restaurants along the river, right next to the Chevy Centre would create a bright atmosphere, and make people think they were in a major city.

These are all ideas we need to consider, and I’d love to hear from you on your own thoughts.