Thursday, December 28, 2006

4 questions for the kidd

He's a successful entrepreneur, a talk radio megastar, and a hardcore pittsburgh steelers fan. (2 outta 3 redeeming qualities ain't bad). Now Phil Kidd, creator of the "Defend Youngstown" movement, has agreed to answer a few questions about the city he is passionate about.

This little "question and answer feature" may become a semi-regular feature on this blog, depending on the response. Please leave a comment what you think of his answers, or who else you would like to see interviewed.

SY: A recent Business Journal article mentions that your heart belongs to Youngstown. Was there a singular event to make you begin to feel this way, or was there a gradual transition that you can further elaborate about?

PK: When I first came to Youngstown as an undergraduate at Youngstown State nearly 10 years ago, I was instantly attracted to the presence of campus and to the upper north side. As time passed, I began to experience and appreciate the Valley as a whole - its depth and layout, its history, and its tremendous sense of community. When I left for the military, I never lost touch with the people I knew from Youngstown or the progress the city was making. Youngstown had left an impression on me like few other places have or could.

I became extremely intrigued by the Youngstown 2010 project and upon leaving the service, I had to make a decision as to where I was going to continue my life. Seeing that the city seemed to be formulating a legitimate plan for its future, I made the decision to return. The decision turned out to be a life changer.

I attended almost every Youngstown 2010 meeting until the plan was officially finalized in 2005. During this time, I met a number of great "Youngstown-Americans", however, one in particular really impressed me. His name was Jay Williams. Some of your readers may recognize the name. When Jay decided to run for Mayor of Youngstown, I realized the imperativeness of the election. We fought incredibly hard to get him elected and, to the great benefit of the city, Jay was overwhelmingly elected Mayor late last year. This solidified my commitment to Youngstown.

I suppose my love to the city has much to do with being a native of Pittsburgh. I view Youngstown as smaller version of the Steel City in the sense that it matches the same values and "realness" attributes that shaped me as an individual. Youngstown is a take-it-or-leave-it kind of town with down-to-earth people who understand the full spectrum of life because they are exposed to some of the best and the worst aspects of life almost daily. In my opinion, that is the real beauty of it all. Despite its problems, the good people it attracts or selects are people who choose to fight the good fight in life. To top it off, Youngstown is also a city that is open to all kinds of possibilities with amenities that many other cities can only dream of. These amenities could only have been provided by being a successful city twice our size a half century ago.

By good fortune, we have preserved these assets well and are rebuilding a new Youngstown around them. It’s a beautiful situation and we are certainly on our way, however, the city has many battles ahead and we need people committed to the fight. I’m a fighter and a believer.

That is why I love Youngstown.

SY: Where do you see downtown Youngstown in ten years?

PK: First off, let me say that I think 10 years is pretty realistic time period to begin to evaluate our progress. I think a lot of people say, “Well, I hear about positive things going on in the city but I don’t really see much change.” It’s a difficult comment to address because much of the “important” things that are happening in the city are more groundwork, city planning-oriented stuff. What we are talking about is building an infrastructure or a model, if you will, in which future administrations can continue to build upon. Obviously, in Youngstown, that requires a great deal of effort because we’ve conducted business pretty poorly for the last 3 decades. So, that, in and of itself, is enough work for any Mayor.

However, when you have severe, pressing social and economic issues that must also be addressed at the same time, you have a complicated situation. But to that end – and this is as big an aspect as any– is our change in mentality or approach in our elected leadership within the city (Jay Williams) and beyond (Tim Ryan). In many respects, this is uncharted territory for Youngstown. We are building as we go. It’s like laying railroad track with the train on the track, moving forward, waiting for the next piece to be laid.

A plan like Youngstown 2010 (which is really in an infancy stage) is a bold new approach to city planning. It’s a very comprehensive and very goal-oriented plan (and now gaining national attention/respect) yet one that is not going to have immediate results. We are essentially shrinking Youngstown, restructuring large parts of it and building on existing strengths. The idea is that Youngstown will become a leaner, greener city, capable of more control over the complex urban issues it faces. Again, this means very good things in time but nothing you’ll see overnight because the changes are gradual but permanent. These changes, in turn, hope to spur the interest of business and industry (among others) across the nation who may consider conducting business in Youngstown if they view the city as seriously committed to reestablishing its community and economy through action.

The target right now, however, is the downtown, and in 5 years you’re going to see some dramatic changes that will make it a true destination in the Valley. In the past 3 years, we have seen the reopening of Federal St, establishment of the Chevy Centre, and an influx of new businesses and restaurants. Within the next 3yrs, we’ll see the opening of 3 major residential towers (Realty, Wick, and Erie Terminal) which will mean you’ll have a mix of professionals and students living in the downtown. In addition, we will see a $250 million community built in Smoky Hollow. That essentially solidifies the downtown as a viable, residential area which is an incredibly important destination.

This will be followed by more retail to accommodate these residents as well as the growing number of people who visit entertainment venues downtown. YSU’s commitment to the Youngstown 2010 plan will also be well underway with the establishment of the business college and the extension of Hazel St (which will serves as the “Federal St to the North”). Establishing true “connectivity” between YSU and the downtown provides limitless options for both parties.

These are major developments which will serve as the foundation of the revitalization effort within the city. Success of these projects will dictate further development of which I’m sure will include a heavy neighborhood focus and the “greening” of much more of the city. The next 10 years in Youngstown will be something this nation will take note of.

Q: If I gave you a check for $10,000 to be spent on the city of Youngstown, what would you spend it on and why?

PK: With $10,000, I’d sink every penny into surface lighting for our current structures downtown. Our downtown architecture is one of our greatest assets yet a number of beautiful buildings remain dark and seemingly hidden. It’s not a quick fix problem and, as I understand it, is one in which our downtown revitalization committee is attempting to remedy (finding funding to lay electric wiring underground to support the utility). However, I would contribute my $10,000 toward that effort.

Q: If you had one last meal left on this earth, and it had to be in Youngstown, what would it be?

Wow. You save the toughest question for last. I could probably think of 30 or 40 places worthy of a last meal in the city, however, my last meal would be a breakfast at the Golden Dawn. I’ve spent most of my time in Youngstown in or around the North Side, particularly the neighborhoods close to the Dawn.

I started there and I’d end it there.

I’d order my usual double order of 2 eggs, ham, and toast with a cup of coffee, write a note stating to “fight the good fight”, hand it to youngest kid in the room and walk out the door into oblivion.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

youngstown in USA TODAY's cover story

You know, a cool thing about being a blog is the ability to be quick and nimble, and to get the news to the public in a much quicker fashion than other media outlets.

The cover story in today's USA TODAY is about creative shrinkage in cities. Youngstown has a role in the article.

Youngstown, Ohio, is an exception. It has fully embraced its shrinkage. The population, now about 83,000, is less than half what it was when the steel industry collapsed in the 1970s.

"You look at the facts and come up with solutions," chief planner Anthony Kobak says. "The first step the city has come to terms with is being a small city."

Youngstown approved a 2010 plan. The goal: "A safe, clean, enjoyable, sustainable, attractive city," Kobak says.

The city long was better known for gritty steel mills than green space. Now that the mills are gone, there is plenty of space. With the help of a grant, Youngstown preserved 260 acres. It's targeting neighborhoods and redesigning them with the help of residents who stayed.

The city may let homeowners buy abandoned lots next door to create gardens. It's considering relaxing zoning rules to allow small horse farms or apple orchards. It's offering incentives for people to move out of abandoned areas.

"If you had three or four square blocks that at one time had 40 homes per block and now have maybe five homes total, we could relocate those people across the street and convert the vacant area into a large city park," Kobak says.Residents would live be living across from a park rather than being surrounded by decrepit homes and lots overgrown with weeds.

click here for the entire USA TODAY article.

click here to see how other bloggers have covered this topic.

click here for the webpage for the Youngstown 2010 program

+2 kudos to Anthony Kobak for making it big-time

Thursday, December 21, 2006

The Gateway District

Story 1: Several weeks ago, the Market Street/Midlothian intersection was brought up as a potential site for improvement during a community design session in Boardman township. The following graphic identifies the amount of open space that occurs at this vital gateway between both the city and the township. The intersection proper is currently home to two vacant lots, a partially vacant bank that is 'For Lease' and Sami's Quick Stop. The northwest corner will soon be anchored by a new library to serve the area.

Story 2: Market Street is an important corrider that runs through both the City and the Township and both have identified this stretch as vital to their communities' future success.

Story 3: Mayor Williams has expressed interest in using Joint Economic Development Districts (JEDD) "as a way to promote regional, economic cooperation." He has recently appeared on the David Betras Show more than once discussing and debating this economic strategy and its ability to be used effectively in our city. JEDD's are a North East Ohio invention (by current mayor of Akron, Don Plusquellic) that allow a city to receive a portion of the taxes from the development on township property, without the threat of annexation. The result is a mutually agreeable development.

Conclusion: Now, like some Guy Ritchie movie, wouldn't it be great if all three of these story lines came crashing together to create one harmonious and enlightening ending? I see this intersection as having great potential for some sort of development. Do you agree? Maybe there is a different way to create a welcoming gateway into the city that is anchored by a brand new library.


Wednesday, December 20, 2006

how pimp is this?

so over the weekend, did some random You Tube searches for our town.

Check out this fantastic video with the killer music . . .

And here is a collection of some nice downtown shots at night . . .

And here are some shots of the downtown catherdral after it was struck by lightning in 1954:

thanks to those who took the time to arrange these and upload them!

- - -

But it got me thinking, would the You Tube format be a good way to advertise our neighborhoods as part of the Youngstown 2010 neighborhood plan? We have the pictures of homes, maps, and now national recognition from the APA for the plan. All we need to do is assemble it, add some great background music, and post it online.

Speaking of which, maybe all the Youngstown 2010 broadcasts should be on You Tube in addition to the 45/49
and 2010 sites . . .

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

croatian home, eat your heart out

tam nedaleko ot Rima
est gorod Palestrina.
zvezda pereferii, vsa v maslinah, stala nasha malina.
Ya vzmolilsa "Che cazzo! Io porca Madonna!"

These lyrics are crazy.

They were sung by Hutz in Cleveland last night. In case you missed the show, here are some clips of Gogol Bordello, the greatest band of the 21st century.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

the waters of the mahoning

São as águas de mahoning
fechando o verão
É a promessa de vida
no teu coração

Friday, December 15, 2006

youngstown in nytimes magazine: an update

more and more blog writings just keep on popping up!

is a particularly interesting comment from one of the readers of Pittsblog:

Robert Bruegmann in his book "Sprawl" briefly discusses the growing suburban development around Youngstown, and notes that anti-sprawl zealots (like me, I suppose) point to these communities as evidence of all that is wrong with current development trends. Why are developers throwing up all these subdivisions when you the population of Youngstown proper keeps plummeting? The answer to Bruegmann is that the presence of these communities is the only thing that keeps the remaining middle and upper-middle class families from fleeing the metro area; and eventually, it is these people who are most likely to revitalize the city itself. It's definitely a different take on the relationships of suburbs to cities than many Pittsburgh residents maintain.

Photo courtesy of the Mahoning Valley Historical Society from Metropolis Magazine.

here is a review of blogs out there that reference the nytimes story:

"CEOs for Cities" - Chicago, IL
- - link - -

"Blogging Ohio" - various cities in Ohio
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"BLDG BLOG" - Los Angeles, California
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"Antirust" - Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
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"Space, Place, and Identity: Brand Avenue"
- - link - -

"Resilience Science" - Montréal, Quebec
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"Pittsblog: Learning from Youngstown" - Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
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"Blueprint for New Orleans" - Lafayette, Louisiana
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"Reurbanize Buffalo" - Buffalo, New York
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"Downsizing Pittsburgh" - Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
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I'll add more to this post as they come up . . .

Sunday, December 10, 2006

youngstown in today's nytimes sunday magazine

Hi readers,

As it is many people's custom to read this blog with their cup of coffee and pancakes religiously every sunday morning, maybe this weekend you'll want to do something a little different, and purchase a copy of sunday's new york times.

You see, every December the New York Times Magazine looks back over the year through the "mountain range" of intellectual concepts and ideas, and presents some of them to the world.

This year's version has this article about "Creative Shrinkage" and its subject is Youngstown and the 2010 plan.

some clips from the story:

"Few communities of 80,000 boast a symphony orchestra, two respected art museums, a university, a generously laid-out downtown and an urban park larger than Central Park. "

"[Jay] Williams’s strategy calls for razing derelict buildings, eventually cutting off the sewage and electric services to fully abandoned tracts of the city and transforming vacant lots into pocket parks."

"The city has also placed a moratorium on the (often haphazard) construction of new dwellings financed by low-income-housing tax credits and encouraged the rehabilitation of existing homes."

"Instead of trying to recapture its industrial past, Youngstown hopes to capitalize on its high vacancy rates and underused public spaces; it could become a culturally rich bedroom community serving Cleveland and Pittsburgh"

"Youngstown’s experiment has not gone unnoticed. Williams’s office has already fielded calls from officials in a few of the many American metropolitan areas."

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As indicated in the blog entry before this one, there are many afforable houses to purchase in the city of superior craftsmanship and design. If you are looking to downsize from your house in the suburbs, or looking to invest in a quality housing stock, maybe a house in Youngstown is a great concept.

Our city is moving in the right direction, and we would like to have good people who enjoy good living to be our neighbors.

Care to join us?

Friday, December 08, 2006

inside the printz mansion

Had a jam-packed Saturday. Started with breakfast at the Golden Dawn, to the Chevy Center for the art show, out to Selah in Struthers for lunch in the bank vault, finished an interview with Miss Delvaux, watched the Penguins at the stadium, and hopped throughout downtown at night.

But nestled between the Walruss chat and the YSU football victory, was a tour of some Northside Homes. The neighbors around the 5th Avenue area are trying to construct some historical markers for this famed northside neighborhood of Youngstown, and this event - a tour of 6 homes with dinner at the Youngstown Club - was a fundraiser to try and improve the visual appearance of the neighborhood.

All of the photos of this blog entry are of one house - the Burt Printz Mansion located at 1819 Fifth Avenue, immediately north of Crandall Park. The house is now a bed a breakfast, and to my knowledge, the only operating place for lodging in the city limits.

The inside is a sight to behold . . . filled with ornate fireplaces and lighting, dark wood and white carpet, and modern conveniences throughout.

Below are pictures from the master suite upstairs. The bathrooms are huge throughout the five suites and rooms. This bathroom even has a fireplace (not pictured since I'm sitting on it to take the photo).

Also available to rent in the mansion are certain areas of the house and individual rooms. Pictured below is the billards room, followed by the media room - complete with a television the size of Lanterman's Mill.

Rooms at the Printz Mansion start at $100 a night. According to the information they distributed at the door, reservations can be made by calling 330-744-7746. I wonder if the companies downtown put up their guests here? Is there even a corporate rate at bed and breakfasts?

The amazing thing about these houses on the north side is the craftsmanship of the structure. These homes were built a century ago and will probably be around for a hundred more, as long as there are good people living inside of them. When you walk inside of them, they feel different. The wooden frames, the diverse brickwork, and the multiple fireplaces all make these houses feel completely different than a homes constructed less than 60 years ago.

In other Youngstown 2010 news, the North Heights neighborhood was recently added to the city's planning website. Contained all over the North Side are these incredible and historic homes, many at reasonable prices. Maybe the North Side will be the area where I purchase my first house.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Why West Federal Street Shouldn’t Look Like East Federal Street

While the new Federal Plaza has certainly been well received, the removal of the West Federal Street median (Vindy article here) for the purpose of additional parking seems unwarranted. While there has been a marked increase in downtown activity as of late, I have yet to notice a shortage of parking. Do we really need the extra spots on the street? Is there a way to satisfy any additional parking needs with a deck that serves the west end of town? The things that have me concerned about the total removal are:

1) The disruption that will be caused to new businesses on West Federal.

At this tender moment in Youngstown’s re-emergence, when every single event held in downtown contributes to its renaissance, the severe disruption to traffic and to the walkability of Federal Street during the long construction process threatens to drive people away. It offers them a reason to avoid downtown.

2) Variety is the spice of life.

To make West Federal look like East Federal (as depicted above in this doctored photo) is to take away a big part of its character. “But West Federal didn’t originally have a median,” you say? True, the boulevard is not a part of our own historic architectural language, but it is there now, and, compared to its cousin “Federal Plaza (circa 1970’s)” it is a sensitive addition. Besides, having different features and design styles throughout a city is a way of marketing to diverse groups and thereby creating a lively street. Which brings me to…

3) The median offers a way to manage the space.

The best explanation for this can be found in “How to Turn a Place Around” by Project for Public Spaces, Inc. The following pictures and text were borrowed from that book:

A main street is not a highway. One should not fear crossing the street so much that the activity needs to occur in groups.

Crossing the street should be an easy comfortable activity. Even if you have to wait.

4) The median has trees

And I mean mature, well-established ones, not just little saplings. I will spare everyone the tree lecture, but be aware of the difference between full grown trees and new plantings from a visual and physical characteristic standpoint. A sapling won't shade your car when you are parked next to it on a 90 degree day.

While there are many more nit-picky arguments for why the median should or shouldn’t stay, these four have a tremendous impact on the urban design of the street and, in turn, its success or failure. Their implications should be considered very carefully before moving forward.

P.S. - Other improvements associated with this project (new curbs, lighting, and paving) are certainly welcome.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Unique Youngstown...

…It doesn’t quite have the same ring as ‘Unique New York,’ but that doesn’t make us any less interesting. I recall reading a piece in Scene magazine several months ago that pointed out the over-usage of 'New York' and 'Manhattan' as adjectives when describing events in other cities. Example: “Come to the hottest New York style night club in town!!” But what do they have that we don't?

The fact is we have a lot to offer. We are a very diverse city with a lot of character, tons of history, and a bright future. So, in order to foster some dialogue, I would like to pose this question to you:

What do you find unique about Youngstown?

It can be anything at all. The beauty of this question is that it is so broad. I suspect that you already have an answer in mind. Maybe it’s a memory that you have of the city or maybe it’s a piece of little known trivia. Hopefully it's positive. I’ll start things rolling with two very different tales…

I was walking around downtown when I asked myself the question. The answer was revealed to me instantly as I looked to the heavens...

Divine intervention? Maybe. Very unique (and intriguing) column capital? Definitely. Truth be told, this column capital (located at S. Phelps and W. Boardman) is probably not really unique. It may very well be a catalogue piece that turns up in other cities across the country. When I first saw it, though, I remember thinking how cool it was. The same excitement comes over me every time I look up and discover a new detail in the city. The tops of buildings are often a great place to find bits of art and whimsy. Therefore, my answer is that Youngstown is unique because of its buildings and building details.

Of course what makes us unique is not only physical. When asked the same question, a friend answered with an exciting tale of the incredible social clubs throughout the city. What he finds exciting about Youngstown is the strong ethnic diversity and social clubs that we have managed to hold on to. The example he gave was of the Palm Café on Steel Street. Although I have never been there myself, what he described to me sounded wonderful – A weekly spit roast that draws in hoards of people to get a hearty helping of roasted pig or lamb.

I can think of loads of other places around town that have maintained their ethnic roots (think pierogi from St. Stanislaus) while inviting others to join them in celebration (think Gathering of the Irish Clans) and dozens of social clubs that have become institutions (think Avalon Gardens). So...Youngstown is unique because of its diverse associations.

If you think Youngstown is unique, please leave a post today and let us all in on your favorite little piece of it...even if you think it is only important to you. Also, if you have the chance, ask your co-workers/friends/family/bar-tender what their answer would be.

I guarantee you will learn something new and exciting.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The Youngstown Homestead Act of 2007 : part II

An interesting series of articles appeared the recent November 2006 issue of Governing magazine. The main story, “Smart Decline”, describes the issues the city of Youngstown must consider as its population has dramatically declined in the past forty years, producing a glut of housing. Much of this housing is beautiful sturdy homes built in the earlier parts of the 20th century as Youngstown expanded beyond its central core.

The main article begins with a roadtrip through the city guided by chief city planner, Anthony Kobak. Two other question-and-answer pieces, one with Youngstown Mayor Jay Williams and the other with Hunter Morrison, Director of the Center for Urban and Regional Studies at YSU, are also available.

An interesting policy question develops from this situation . . . How can a city create effective polices to stimulate home ownership and the local housing market?

- - -

Some cities partner with their educational institutions to provide incentives for their employees to become local homeowners. Yale University established the Yale Homebuyer Program in 1994, where employees of the university are offered $25,000 to purchase a home in certain neighborhoods. Their website chronicles the 700th home purchased as a result of this program – representing 5 percent of all homes purchased in the city.

Other cities such as Baltimore offer a laundry list of programs, such as $3,000 toward closing costs, matching grants, and loan assistance. Visiting DC recently, it was interesting to see the Live Baltimore housing program advertising on the metro.

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But do any cities have an education-based housing incentive program? I have not looked around if one exists, but the program might work like this:

Let’s bundle “incentives” into one category. The carrots can include closing costs, property tax abatements, grants for remodeling historic infrastructure, or straight-up cash. The following total amount of incentives would be given to any new homeowner in certain neighborhoods within the city of Youngstown if they can prove they have a diploma from an accredited university:

Bachelor’s degree: $5,000 in incentives
Master’s degree or Law Degree (JD): $15,000 in incentives
PhD or MD: $40,000 in incentives

Of course other stipulations would be added to the program to prevent abuse. Limits on how often one can purchase a house, how much is actually offered, and if the amount is provided at once, or spaced out over time, are details to be considered by the finance department.

And some may argue this is just a form of welfare for those who in the future may be higher-wage earners. That is a legitimate concern, but I wonder if a new medical doctor at St. Elizabeth’s, fresh from medical school with massive amounts of debt, would utilize this program to purchase their first house in the neighborhoods close to the hospital.

Businesses already seem to enjoy this type of investment. For expanding business expecting to grow, the city provides grants and loans to assist. Why shouldn’t the same thing happen for individuals, who in the long run, may provide tens of thousands of dollars to the city coffers in the future?

A quote from Jay Williams within the Governing article got my attention. He said “The city spends upwards of $40,000 or $50,000 for income-eligible citizens to rehabilitate their homes. We've just done that based on a first-come-first-served basis.”

So the structure for this kind of program may exist already. Maybe the incentives can be extended beyond just income-eligible citizens, and go towards degree-holding citizens as well.

A recent post on this blog praised the city of Kalamazoo for its program to reward all city school graduates with a free college education. Housing purchases in Kalamazoo are up, but more importantly, the city sent a signal to the country that it was serious about education – and that concept was picked up by the nytimes in a story this week.

Of course, we want our policies to be effective, not just headline-grabbing, but wouldn’t it be nice for the city of Youngstown be nationally known as a place that rewards its citizens for attaining education? Would it not just improve the housing market, but send a message to the region and possibly the nation that we value higher education?

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So would this idea work? Any thoughts?

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The Youngstown Homestead Act of 2007 : part I

Earlier this year, Ted Halstead, the founding president of the New America Foundation wrote an article in the Harvard Business Review titled “A Homestead Act for the Twenty-First Century” in which he chronicles various programs that the American middle class has used to attain asset ownership.

The Homestead Act of 1862, for example, awarded 160 acres of land in the American West to every family who lived on the land for five years. Another example, the GI Bill, provided mortgage reduction policies for those who served in the U.S. Military.

Halstead calls for new policies to target the ownership of financial assets, as he claims the gap between the poor and the rich in the country is widening.

He proposes one such policy, that of giving to every newborn in America $6,000 at birth as a down payment on a productive life. With compounded interest, that amount could grow to $20,000 by the time the child reaches 18 years of age, which can then be used towards college tuition, a down payment for a home, seed money for a legitimate business, or retirement savings. In a single year for all children born in America, he estimates the cost to be $24 billion dollars, a much lower amount than what is spent on farm subsidies, foreign wars, or other ballooning government-funded programs.

But what really caught my eye is his article was this statement:

This program “could also offer inner-city kids a new social contract: If they play by the rules and graduate from high school, then a pot of money will allow them to invest in their own futures. Paired with financial-literacy education in schools, such a policy can turn a culture of poverty and dependency into one of hope and opportunity.

- - -

Let’s investigate this idea for our own city:

This gap between the rich and the poor, for both individuals and political jurisdictions, is indeed growing in the Mahoning Valley. In the latest figures from the U.S. Census’ 2005 American Community Survey, the percentage of individuals living below the poverty line in the city of Youngstown has grown to 24.3%.

This same statistical source states there are approximately 4,700 children living in the city of Youngstown less than 5 years of age. So I’m going to estimate there are about 900 children born every year that will be moving into the city limits of Youngstown. A $1,000 investment towards each child for a project like this would cost then annually about $900,000. A $2,000 investment per newborn, would cost about $1.8 million, and so forth.

Under this concept, each child in the city of Youngstown would have a corresponding account attached to their name, which they could watch increase in value as they get older. Other additional components that can be incorporated into this program include:

- The money would only be given to the student if they successfully graduate from a high school within the city limits of Youngstown by the age of nineteen. If the student does not graduate in time, the money reverts back into the system to be distributed to future newborns.

- Only one-fifth of the money in each student’s account will go directly into their pocket, for whatever purpose they choose. The rest of the money can only be used to pay for the student's tuition in universities, community colleges, and technical schools in the Mahoning Valley.

- Financial institutions, such as banks and credit unions with their headquarters in the city of Youngstown and the Mahoning Valley will be given the first opportunity to be a partner with this program.

- Students will learn about the existence of these accounts at an early age, and will be educated on the value of investing and compounding interest at various points during their schooling. If desired, students can open additional accounts with the financial institutions that administer their account, which they can have complete control over.

Of course, the details on all this are subject to change (maybe this blog for wandering thoughts will stir some additional calculations), but the central message is clear:

We need to reward students who successfully complete school, we need to support local financial institutions, we need to push students to continue their education beyond high school, and we need some programs to make Youngstown a city where families with children feel welcome to thrive.

Monday, November 13, 2006

following the stars – attracting people, in addition to industry

A bit of interesting research I read in the last few weeks comes from a working paper that can be found on the website of the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER). This paper was written by Lynne Zucker and Michael Darby at UCLA in April 2006 and is titled "Movement of Star Scientists and Engineers and High-Tech Firm Entry."

Zucker and Darby's earlier research in the late 1990s coined the term "star scientists" to describe very prolific researchers in the field of biotechnology, specifically genetic sequencing. These star researchers were extremely influential to the establishment of the biotechnology industry in America and the success of specific firms, demonstrating how important expert human capital is to economic growth.

Their latest study in 2006 extends the star scientist concept beyond that of just biotechnology. In many scientific fields, even as their research and knowledge within the field spreads over time, the physical presence of these star researchers is key to where high-tech firms develop. They find these "stars" tend to cluster over time, instead of diffusing geographically.

This research compliments the trend in the tech-based economic development world, with regions and states creating incentive programs to attract the best and the brightest researchers across the world to their campuses. The Georgia Research Alliance in the state of Georgia is often used by other states as a model for their programs. Florida State University announced their effort to recruit 200 tenured and tenured-track researchers to their campus in the next 5 years. And sometimes attracting a single faculty member can bring their entire laboratory with them, with multiple graduate students, laboratory technicians, and millions of dollars.

- - -

Is all this leading to a race? A race for the best minds in the research world who are expected to bring increased funding, start-up firms, and an enhanced reputation to campus and the region?

Just like the “smokestack chasing” that many regions in the country use to attract industry through tax incentives, the next wave of incentives offered by regions may lead to “faculty chasing” throughout the country . . .

So while the debate over the best way to attract both industry and individuals is bound to continue, it brings to mind some questions that the leaders of our area may want to consider:

Should Youngstown begin to shift its recruiting efforts away from attracting companies, and more effort be placed in attracting star individuals?

Should Youngstown take steps to protect itself from outside competition, and make sure its existing researchers are as happy as can be, to minimize the possibility of their departure?

Does Youngstown and the region give as much attention to human capital development as they do to site preparation and industrial development?

Should Youngstown and other educational institutions in Northeast Ohio initiate their own multi-million dollar recruitment programs to bring the best and the brightest to the region?

Friday, November 10, 2006

someone new at the table

Dear valued readers,

The “Shout Youngstown” blog is excited to announce a new member to our writing staff.

In celebration of this event, our website will have a full week of new content, which will be updated every day starting on Monday, November 13th. The title for each of next week’s stories will be:

o following the stars – attracting people, in addition to industry
o the Youngstown Homestead Act of 2007 : part I
o the Youngstown Homestead Act of 2007 : part II
o unique youngstown
o why west federal should not look like east federal
o the third function of a university
o a thousand points of light

Our goal is to make “Shout Youngstown” an engaging forum for economic development and urban design in the city of Youngstown, the Mahoning Valley, and Northeast Ohio. We hope the ideas and concepts found within the stories and comments can begin a dialogue for specific plans to enhance our region.

All stories found on the website are indexed by month and subject. Some of the more interesting concepts are highlighted in the “a sample of recent ideas” section.

We look forward to your comments and suggestions.

The Shout Youngstown blog team,

Janko & Ben Trovato

Friday, October 27, 2006

the $35,000,000 question


That's how much outside investment the Youngstown Business Incubator has attracted during the last fiscal year ending on June 30th, 2006.

And among the 11 other business incubators in the state of Ohio, the YBI ranked first in this category.

It was also #1 in total annual payroll ($9,579,076) and #1 total sales revenue ($25,040,000).

- - -


innovation happens here.

Monday, October 23, 2006

defend youngstown: an update

The "defend youngstown" phenomenon is growing and growing in popularity. I counted three cars during the weekend that had the defend decals on their car windows. Others fans were spotted wearing the t-shirts at the YSU football game on Saturday.

And at the Peace Race Sunday morning, Youngstown Mayor Jay Williams wore his shirt when he ran the 10K race.

More good press can be found in the October issue of The Metro Monthly. Their story highlights this quote from the man behind the vision:

"This is our town. We are going to stand up for it. It's going to be a long battle. But this is it. This is Youngstown. This is your home . . . and do your little part, do whatever you can do to defend Youngstown."

fight the good fight . . .

Friday, October 20, 2006

le graffiti français

was walking down Hazel street the other day and took this picture in the alley between Cedar's and the back entrance to the Paramount:

writing it out more clearly, it says...

à chaque étage un amie qui m'attend
est-ce qu'on voleur?
est-ce que moi?

Well, what does it mean?

so the grammar of this writing isn't quite right. The one weird thing about french lyrics and poetry is that they are almost always gramatically correct. But is it cool to see this painted on the wall nonetheless. In a nutshell, it says:

at every floor is a friend who waits for me.
is it a thief?
is it me?

hmmmmm . . .

Who is the mystery author? And why is this in downtown youngstown?

Thursday, October 19, 2006

time to defend youngstown

yes, it is time.

time to defend youngstown.

- - -

And leading that charge is Phil Kidd, creator and distributor of the "Defend Youngstown" line of clothing and merchandise. Phil has sold to date over 2,000 t-shirts in various colors to people throughout the world.

Phil's story has been told numerous times in the local media (including here and here), but the story in abbreviated form goes like this:

a kidd comes to youngstown
the kidd grows love for youngstown
and now this kidd is speading the word

And this message is spreading futher out than just Northeast Ohio. Soon, each Youngstown-American who is currently deployed overseas will be receiving one of these t-shirts as a symbol of appreciation for their service.

Here is a great photo of Ohio Governor Ted Strickland wearing Phil's shirt at a rally in our downtown. Behind the Governor is Youngstown's Representative to the U.S. Congress, Tim Ryan.

Click on the "defend youngstown" image along the right-hand side of this blog to gain direct access to Phil's website at any time in the future. And new t-shirt designs will be available very soon. Check the web page often.

Special thanks to local photographer Katie Libecco for the photo of Ted Strickland. This blog posting would have been incomplete without her help.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

update on NEO stickers

Kudos to Rusty, a reader of this blog who went to The Sticker Cafe and designed a NEO oval sticker.

He worked with their design team on the concept, and a few moments later...

* bamf ! *

Northeast Ohio stickers for the back of your car or office, available for $5 (including shipping)

click here to check them out!

also coming soon in dtown ytown . . .

- - - stage fright - - -
oakland center for the arts
220 w. boardman st.
yo, oh

pre-registration 7-8pm
performances 8-11pm

Just in time for Halloween (the actual day, unlike all the other fakers who are celebrating before 10/31/06)

-- Costume Contest (so please wear a good one if you want a prize)
-- Trick-or-Treat style concessions
-- Special Effects make-up "lesion session" in the gallery from 7-7:45
-- Performances by:
* The ZOU
* Funny Farm stand-up headliners Murad and Ryan
* Local film by Steven Andrew
* B-Movie celebutantes DSK Productions
* Tap Dancer Extraordinnairre B. Martin
* YOU?

come and hang out in youngstown!

$3 at the door -- ticket for free glass of straub [at cedars] for every donation ($2 or more) to the oakland...

tell everyone you ever met, ever. even if you only met them once and don't think they remember you...i bet they do, and they'd be mad if you didn't tell them.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

lies, damned lies, and statistics

Is YSU really 12th in the nation in Civic Education?

Today's Business Journal contains a story on this topic (sorry, no links to the story. they became a pay site as of last week) as well as this story in the Youngstown State eUpdate. The articles are titled "YSU 12th in Civic Education" and "YSU Ranks High in National Civic Education Study" respectively.

Both articles begin: Youngstown State University ranks 12th in the nation, above schools such as Yale, Georgetown and Duke, in a new study that measures how much colleges and universities are adding to their graduates’ understanding of America’s history and government. “This study provides independent confirmation of the fact that students are getting real value for their tuition dollars,” said Paul Sracic, political science professor and coordinator of general education at YSU.

Well, kinda...

Except if you really look at the numbers in the report, I think a different, less optimistic conclusion can be reached. But then, like all statistics, it depends on how you look at them.

Let's start with the methodology of this experiment: An organization, the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, surveyed 14,000 randomly selected freshman and seniors at 50 universities across the nation. Each student was given a quiz with 60 questions about American history, government and the market economy. So about 140 freshman and 140 seniors were asked the quiz at each university, and their scores were averaged to assist with creating comparisons between universities.

So true enough, the difference between the average freshman score and the average senior score at Youngstown State was an increase in 4.9 percentage points. For Yale the scores decreased over time by 1.5%, for Georgetown the scores decreased by 1.2%, and at Duke the scores decreased by 2.3%. You can access the entire chart with the means scoring here.

And so, Youngstown State, when compared to the other 49 universities in the study, ranked 12th. Point taken.


But let's look at this chart in a different way: The average score for a senior at YSU taking the test was 42.5%. At Yale, the average score was a much higher 68.3%, Georgetown's average score was 67.9%, and Duke's average score was 58.3%.

In fact, compared to the other 49 universities in the study, only 4 score worse than YSU.

So perhaps the more accurate title of the story should have been;
"YSU students score in bottom 10% for Civic Education"

What is a little disconcerting is how much I have heard this study used by various faculty and adminstration members at Youngstown State in the past few weeks. While it may be true that students are getting a real deal for their tuition dollars, and it may be true that YSU students learn a great deal more in civic education while attending school here, it is definitely not true that on average, YSU students score higher on these tests and are better than other universities.

The headlines in these articles may lead you to believe otherwise.

And as usual, lies, damned lies, and statistics are in the mind of the beholder.

That being said, there are things that YSU does kick butt at. Their undergraduate mathematics program in one of the best in the country and they win many awards throughout the nation during mathematical modeling competitions and scientific conferences. Many of the graduates of that program have been awarded their PhDs and teach at the highest levels of mathematical scholarship and are engaged in cutting-edge math research. And the university does a fine job of promoting their excellence.

The same can be said for many other departmental programs, too numerous to fully mention here. So perhaps while the average entering student may score lower on their test scores, people who appreciate a good education can surely find one at Youngstown.

I would like to publically affirm the quality education I gained at Youngstown State. I would not trade my time there for any other, as many of the faculty I encountered at YSU are simply fantastic teachers and researchers. I am sure I could have also had a good undergraduate experience at Yale, Georgetown, or Duke as well, but meeting others in my field across the country in graduate school and research laboratories, I can say with all honesty that the education and preparation from Youngstown served me and my other classmates extremely well.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

voices and choices : a review

"a small group of thoughtful people can change the world."

"Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has."

Well, I made it over to the big Voices & Choices event in Akron on Saturday.

If you haven't heard of Voices & Choices yet, it's an initiative to create a grassroots, citizen-based, agenda-setting platform to improve the economy and the quality of life in Northeast Ohio, er, along the North Shore.

You can see all the components of the planning process here on this timeline. Last weekend was their second couple-hundred-person Regional Town Meeting, a little more than one year into the entire experiment. Below is a rundown of the event, with opinionated feedback (otherwise this wouldn't be a good blog) about what went down.

First off, I didn't feel like driving to Akron at 7:30am. Luckily, there were shuttles all throughout NEO waiting to take the participants to the destination. Did that seem lazy? Well, in that case, I decided to save gas and carpool to Akron.

Upon arrival, we were able to get some breakfast and meet the others at our table. There were 8 of us sitting around in a circle plus one facilitator, all of different ages, races, and locations within Northeast Ohio.

As the main event started, Dr. Luis Proenza, President of the Univeristy of Akron, made some good remarks about the interconnectedness of Northeast Ohio and the need for innovation and lifelong learners in our region. Dr. Proenza is a big player on the national innovation scene. He is on the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, the Council on Competitiveness, the Council of Foreign Relations, and a member of the executive board of the State Science and Technology Institiue.

Next up was Dr. Carolyn Lukensmeyer - Founder of AmericaSpeaks, President of AmericaSpeaks, and native Northeast Ohioian. She explained the entire program and assisted in asking the questions to discover the demographics of the group in the arena.

Questions were shown on every available screen in the place. They appeared even on the scoreboard.

A sad part was, even though the Mahoning Valley respresents 14% of Northeast Ohio, only 5% of the participants were from the Mahoning Valley. Maybe it was too far to travel with YSU football starting at 3:30pm.

The next few hours were then dedicated to prioritizing goals, establishing criteria, and choosing solutions for the project. Individually we all had our opinions, but aggregately we had a common voice.

In order for that voice to become more clear, it was necessary to choose among our tablemates what solutions we liked the best. So we did what any great decision makers do . . . we put tiddly-winks on our favorite ideas:

And as we were coming to the end, we exchanged emails at our table, agreeing to meet once every three months in a NEO downtown for dinner on a rotating basis . . . and then we stretched . . .

The final opinions were used to create a document that summarized the efforts throughout the day, and were handed to use as we left. You can read the report here.

highlights of the day

- the entertainers and artists were great. It was a cool to incorporate the arts into the day's events. Like the painters who made original pieces as we sat below. Here's a sample of some spoken word:

- line overheard at our table: "wow. this was a lot more fun than I thought this was gonna be."

suggestions for improvement

- Two months ago, I completed an online version of choosing what I felt were the best solutions for Northeast Ohio. There was also a place to leave you own suggestions, which I did. Then the week before the meeting, I received a personalized report (which was nice) that contained my choices to help me when I was at the meeting in Akron. It would have been nice to have the personalized report include the additional suggestions that I left online.

- Mention the fact that the technology used to assist in the real-time responses was developed by a company in Northeast Ohio. Just for the record, Turning Technologies, headquartered in the Youngstown Business Incubator, produced all of the keypads and software that was used to make the immediate powerpoint presentation.

- The spoken word entertainment during lunch was a nice touch. But it's difficult to have verbal communication with the audience when they have all just been served lunch. I felt bad for the people on stage because as more and more food was served, less and less people participated.

- During the day, I overheard some individuals speaking about the availability of full child care services as a problem. They believed certain functions would be taken care of by the sitters (such as changing diapers) that wasn't performed. So then at the last minute, they could not attend because of childcare needs.

what will be the next step?

Friday, September 08, 2006

mp3 walking tour of downtown

My brother told me about these mp3 walking tours that Rick Steves puts on his travel website for Paris. The concept works like this: you go to his webpage and download the free audio files which you can then upload to your mp3 player or iPod. The topics (on Steves' site) include the Louvre Museum, the Orsay Museum, Versailles, and a walk around the historic parts of Paris. You can access the site here.

Then, as you listen to the audio tour at your leisure, you learn historical and architectural facts as you walk around the area.

Something Youngstown needs at some point in the near future is a highly visible touist information point to get information about local attractions and maps in the downtown to guide visitors.

But until this happens, maybe we can create our own walking tour with the assitance of local historians, architects, and community websites that can be downloaded by the public for free.

Imagine, a person goes to a local website like and downloads (1) a collection of audio files which describes places with significant historical or architectural revelance downtown and (2) a map of downtown Youngstown with all the attractions labeled and numbered, which corresponds to separate audio files.

Imagine walking through Youngstown learning about the Man on the Monument pictured below, and how it is not the original statue put up after the Civil War.

Imagine learning about the Warner Theatre and the history of the Warner Brothers in Youngstown as you walk throught the DeYor Performing Arts Center.

Imagine tourists walking down Wick Avenue, learning about the hidden architectural gems in the all of the churchs built over 100 years ago.

hmmm...can this idea become a reality?

Thursday, September 07, 2006

new 2010 show tonight

The next show about the future of the Youngstown 2010 comprehensive planning plan will be held tonight, Thursday September 7th at 8pm. You can listen to the live streaming show here, simulcast by WYSU.

And new to the Youngstown 2010 website is a section about the neighborhoods of Youngstown. It states "Youngstown is a city with a rich history and an exciting future" and the site can be found here.

The first neighborhood featured is Boulevard Park, full of beautiful homes on the South Side of the city. Details on the neighborhood can be found here, a variety of homes for sale (with pictures) can be found here, and a map on the neighborhood can be found here.

Please listen to the show tonight, and if you want to see the show live and participate in the audience you need to be at the Chestnut Room at YSU by 6:15pm for the taping.

Monday, August 28, 2006

drinking in nürnberg

The city of Nürnberg was a big suprise to me. Besides being the place where those crazy Nazis held their enormous rallies, today's Nuremberg [the name in English] is a combination of historical medieval walls and buildings mixed with modern design, home to the most outstanding collection of art in Germany, the birthplace of the pocketwatch, and home to the best pierogie I have ever eaten on this side of the Warsaw Pact states.

And it was a great place to have a drink.

You'll see what I mean when you see the design of their drinking fountains they have all over the place.

Just push the button at the base, and water flows out. A great combination of form and function. Here is my foot in action:

The fountains were also a source of amusement and debauchery when walking around town at 3:30 in the morning. They provided some must-needed ammunition to attack friends from England, Australia, and Scotland . . .

And Nürnberg was the city with the largest number of wig shops I have ever seen.

man, this place has everything.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

saxon club, eat your heart out

went to a wedding of a good friend and ex-roomate last weekend. The reception was held at a chateau built in France during the early 1600s.

not too shabby.

here are some photos of the estate:

So even though the reception had a 6-course sit down meal and continued until 5am, just for the record, there was no cookie table. [click here and here for more information on cookie tables]