Tuesday, January 27, 2009

ground zero

The story on 60 Minutes last night from Wilmington, Ohio and its 10,000 vanishing jobs was heartbreaking.

For us, the generation born in Youngstown after 1977's Black Monday, Wilmington's strife can help us comprehend the personal and societal pain the total collapse of the steel producing economy and its multiplier effects had on the Mahoning Valley.

As the story said:
"the trauma of Katrina without the physical damage."

Well, here's your physical damage, albeit 30 years after our economic storm:

Last week, the Mahoning Valley Organizing Collaborative (MVOC) completed its survey of every property in the city of Youngstown, a detailed analysis including vacant empty parcels in green, and vacant parcels with still-standing properties in hues from yellow to red.

While you can see the vacancy statistics and policy strategies of the MVOC here, the map clearly shows the effects of large-scale abandonment of several sections of town.

The upper east side sits mostly empty, never being developed after the Coitsville Township annexation, ever though the streets were laid out.

But the smaller lots of residential emptiness should be more closely examined than undeveloped farmland and empty industrial space along the rivers. The upper south side, much of the east side, Arlington Heights, and even Brier Hill is retreating back to nature as individuals have given up and moved outside of the city, or have passed away.

Not the best picture for the people of Wilmington, but this same level of vacancy may be in your future.

- - -

This is reality for many places across the Great Lakes.

However, there are still reasons for which Youngstown is fortunate. Even though this is a map of a city with a current population at half of its peak . . .

- Youngstown is still the largest municipality of a metropolitian area which today is still in the top 100 in terms of population.
- Youngstown is the center point of a mega-region with a hour's commute to the economic hubs of Pittsburgh, Akron, and Cleveland.
- Youngstown has a university of 14,000 students, growing in student population, campus size, and research programs.
- Youngstown is a cultural hub of renowned art and music (a recent example here).
- Youngstown has an architecturally-significant downtown most would agree has improved greatly over the past five years instead of declining.
- Youngstown has an internationally recognized plan for managing and improving the quality of life of its citizens.
- Youngstown still contains committed people who everyday make this city a proud place to call home.

Youngstown, like many places today, is a mix.

of haves and have-nots.
of mansions and shacks.
of strong neighborhoods and struggling ones.

it is what it is.

- - -

We in Youngstown want Wilmington to endure.
We want Cleveland to get back on its feet.
We want Pittsburgh's neighborhoods to thrive.

But Youngstown needs the investment partners from private, state and federal sources to match our planning and enthusiasm. So as Birmingham, and Clermont-Ferrand, and Glasgow are all now making visible transformations with their countries' investments, Youngstown can too.

invest in us to restructure Youngstown's economy, governor.

help us rebuild after the storm, mr. president.


Tyler said...

I love the mix of cold fact and hot passion here. And I'm glad to see the MVOC maps, just posted today, are already getting use! Thanks for the great post.

Youngstown said...

Balanced, candid/truthful, optimistic. Good post.

Phil Kidd