Thursday, January 29, 2009

connecting lake erie to the ohio river, cleveland to pittsburgh

a quick update on the plan to connect downtown Youngstown and the Mahoning Valley to Lake Erie, the Ohio River, potentially Cleveland and Pittsburgh (and thus D.C.) by bike lanes can be found here.

from the article:
"Plans for a bike trail that would connect YSU with Mill Creek MetroPark were discussed at a recent public meeting. The plans for the path stretching about 1.5 miles have officially been in the works for about four months"

"The extended plan for the bike trails in the city would connect with the Great Ohio Lake-to-River Trail, which runs from Ashtabula to East Liverpool, and the Stavich Trail, which runs from Lowellville to New Castle, Pa."
But this project needs your support to become a reality. Pipe up to neighbors and friends and family how you feel about the concept, and rally local leaders to make it happen.

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.

Monday, January 26, 2009

a leading proposal

Fresh off the contest to award a bottle of absinthe to the winning designer of a city limits entrance, two proposals are leading the pack.

Here's one from "J.R.":

"I consider it incomplete, because I wanted to leave the idea open to interpretation. As I think is obvious in the image, I propose a series of somewhat abstract sculptures that, when viewed from a distance, spell "Youngstown."

The materials can vary. They could be cast concrete. They could be plate steel. (similar to the fence around Star Supply's parking lot) Maybe the individual pieces are like the penguins, and given to local artists to embellish as they wish.

This all allows the sign to be briefly experienced, instead of just passed.
I'm opening it to our readership to comment on "experiencing vs. passing" in public art.

any comments?

and a big kudos to J.R. for sending in images along with his idea.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

ask butler, not jeeves

Two great articles (here and here) in a recent edition of the Business-Journal feature the life and times of Joseph G. Butler Jr., who started with James Wick the Ohio Steel Company in 1892.

Butler went on to found the acclaimed museum in Youngstown which bears his name.

But besides his passion of collecting art, Butler was also an accomplished author.

According to the article:
"Butler was the author of eight books, among which were his three-volume History of Youngstown and the Mahoning Valley (1921) and his autobiography, Recollections of Men and Events (1925). These and other lesser-known works such as Presidents I Have Seen and Known (1910), and Fifty Years of Iron and Steel (1923) were printed"
Similar to the Volney Rodgers book covered in the blog this week, Butler's History of Youngstown and the Mahoning Valley (now on sale for $299 and $375 on is now available for free to all, thanks to Google's scanning efforts.

Youngstown Renaissance does a fine job of linking to each of the chapters in Bulter's book - all searchable by word.

volume I is 850+ pages.
volume II is big too.

The physical books are also located on the reference shelf on the 2nd floor of the downtown branch of the Youngstown Library as well.

But if you are looking for a searchable thorough history of pre-1920 Youngstown, this is it. A great resource for any researcher or casual observer.

Friday, January 23, 2009

and now, a word from the president . . .

(friday night update: videos below)

44 himself was impressed with the change.

Today, the ol' university in youngstown announced its Western Pennsylvania Advantage, which cuts by $2,500 a year the tuition of students from Allegheny, Beaver, Butler, Crawford, Erie, Lawrence, Mercer and Venango counties in PA. More here.

This initiative is breaking down one more barrier along the Cleveburgh Corridor, demonstrating the diminishing significance of the Ohio-Pennsylvania border, a dotted line on maps less than 2.5 miles from the Youngstown city limits.

Now students from PA can attend YSU at a tuition rate lower than the in-state rate for Pennsylvanians at some of Pennsylvania's public universities.

but besides the cost savings (currently 650 of the school's 14,000 student are from Western PA), this description of the university caught my eye in the FAQ section of the website:
"Youngstown State University is historically and geographically linked to downtown Youngstown, where students will find a growing culture of restaurants and caf├ęs, in the midst of a lively music, art, and live-theater scene. The new Chevrolet Centre...

A half-mile from downtown is a truly amazing nature preserve, Mill Creek Park, offering miles of running and hiking trails, golf, waterfalls, picnic pavilions, an arboretum, and kayak rentals – 4,400 acres of exceptional green space to enjoy.

Twenty minutes’ drive north or south will take students to two major mall and shopping districts, complete with national retail chains, bookstores, coffee shops, movie theaters, and restaurants, as well as minor-league baseball.

Cleveland and Pittsburgh are only an hour from Youngstown in 
either direction for big‐city sports and entertainment."

as the region is economically integrated, why can't more of its policies be integrated?

Thursday, January 22, 2009

in volney we trust

"The park, in brief, is a gorge and its environments: A picturesque stream coursing through its center, having fine cascades and waterfalls, cliffs and bluffs upon each side from sixty to over a hundred feet in height clothed with sylva and flora exceedingly rich in variety and beauty"
- Volney Rodgers, 1904
So stated our dearest Volney, in his 121 page book published in 1904, A Partial Description of Mill Creek Park.

Never heard of this book by Mill Creek Park's founder?

Care to read it?

Amazingly, the entire book has been scanned by Google and is available here, online, for free (and it's even searchable by word). We get access to the electronic version of this gem because the New York Public Library has a copy of this book in its collections, all being digitized by Google.

check out this picture of the area around Pioneer Pavilion (built in 1821 and still standing in the city), but without mature trees everywhere:

The book is packed with amazing tidbits: the discovery of a musk ox skull unique to this part of the country, a water analysis of the Mill Creek and Mahoning River around the turn of the century, a botanist report chronicling all of the plant life in the Park, the statutes of the Park Commissioners, and a Financial Report from 1903 which includes how much people paid the park on May 27th of that year to rent boats and bathing suits ($20.85)

Here's a photo showing the construction of the Lake Cohasset (btw, Cohasset in an Indian language means "place of pines") dam:

According to Volney in the book:

In 1900, the census found 123,161 people in the U.S. died of pneumonia, consumption, or bronchitis. These three diseases were responsible for two-fifths of deaths in american cities back in the day, a much higher rate than in rural areas.

Thus, Volney wanted wondered "how best to bring the beneficial effects of rural life to the residents of cities?" His attempt to answer the question has led to the creation and continued existence of what we enjoy today as Mill Creek Park.

and from one visitor from Minneapolis:
"The existence of a tract comprising such a rare combination of attractive natural features in the immediate vicinity of a city is, so far as my experience goes, unparalleled elsewhere."
- H.W.S. Cleveland, upon visiting Mill Creek Park, 1893

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

some new local blogs

Just like the economy, the creative destruction of the youngstown blogosphere continues to occur.

Some blogs wither.

Some blogs flourish.

Schumpeter would be proud. Here are some local ones catching my eye recently that have been added to In the Yo:

- - -

from the most recent post at Made in Youngstown covering "architecture, history, culture, minutia":
"As a copy editor at a daily newspaper, I had learned to quickly and efficiently process thousands of wire stories dealing with all sorts of human tragedy. But just when I think there are no new ways to be offended, it happens. And it happened in late March [2001] in The Vindicator.

In a front-page article, City Hall reporter Roger G. Smith wrote about a proposal to use downtown commercial properties for simulated riot exercises. According to the article, the board members of the Youngstown Central Area Community Improvement Corp. were seriously considering the proposal."

"In defense of the CIC, I’ll say that the board is rather large and I can only assume that there are individuals who may have been as uncomfortable with the supermax proposal as I was. But these same individuals must understand that the shameful opinions of a few – when not balanced by the contrasting views of more moderate board elements – leads the community to assume that those views are shared by the entire board."

"The CIC is supposed to be an advocacy organization, but just whose interests are they representing? Certainly not the merchants. I find it incomprehensible that the CIC would even entertain a proposal that so seriously undermines the idea that downtown Youngstown is a place worthy of conducting business.

The revitalization of the Central Business District is difficult enough, but when CIC board members publicly express amusement over the destruction of the downtown, it sends a powerfully negative message."
you can read the entire article in full context here:

from Elecpencil's most recent post:
"The Elecpencil did venture out this AM to attend an event celebrating King. I attended this event because it was not going to be a religious service honoring MLK. It was a think tank of area activists talking about how in King’s honor we might serve Youngstown in 2009."

"Like me not everyone in attendance was a Youngstown resident. That doesn’t mean that we care about Youngstown any less than those who live there. For those of us who don’t live in Youngstown it is a struggle getting our communities to understand why they should care about Youngstown."

"I’ve had people in different suburbs say if they have to go somewhere in Youngstown they don’t stop at red lights.

As someone who is frequently in Youngstown I take extra care when driving realizing the biggest danger to me is those suburbanites running red lights. "
From YSU's Center for Working Class Studies' Working-Class Perspectives, a recent blog calculates Youngstown's unemployment in the city limits to be currently above 25%.

(personal note: I am leaning towards believing those on disability and those in the prison population should not be included in the numbers, effectively lopping off 7-8% of their calculation. - feel free to debate this)
"Ever since the early 1980s, residents of the Youngstown area have always been skeptical of government’s official unemployment rate. In 1982, the official unemployment rate hit 24.9% but declined to around 12% in early 1984. The Ohio governor and city officials praised the dramatic decline, but local residents knew that rate failed to account for workers who had given up looking for work, were working part-time, or had been forced into early retirement. In a report commission by the State of Ohio, the YSU Urban Studies program found that “real” unemployment rate was over 18 percent or about 1.5 times higher than the official rate."
And finally, one of my favorite blogs is Gestures: Gardening, Cooking and Blogging in Youngstown.

The author is a incredibly talented chef and baker and chronicles step-by-step many of his creations.

From a particularly interesting recent post on our "clothespin cookies" which you see at every good cookie table at a Youngstown wedding:
"While going through my own cookbook I asked Brian if it was weird that some of my recipes have bits of ingredients stuck to them. I then told him that one day one of our children will get to inherit my cookbook and maybe they will feel the feeling that I get when I pull out Carol's old recipes and smile when I see that they are stained and worn from years of use.

I hope so..."
keep up the good work

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

a call for advice from the region

the following request for information was just placed on the message boards for the Cleveland+Pittsburgh+Youngstown Regional Learning Network.

- - -

attention friends of the Cleveland to Pittsburgh corridor:

Similar to Cleveland and Pittsburgh, Youngstown has many architectural and industrially historical sites, but unlike those cities, we don't do as good of a job of illuminating them at night. A bunch of us are attempting to gather partners and funding streams to beautify the hills and features circling downtown Youngstown, and we need your advice.

We are looking to contact individuals through the Regional Learning Network for best practices for moving forward, especially about funding issues, such as:

* What was the funding stream to pay for capital/infrastructure lighting expenditures?
* How do you maintain lighting operating costs and pay the bills on a continuous basis?
* How do you sell the importance of illuminating such structures to potential partners, and even funders?

Instead of recreating the wheel on this adventure, we'd like to gain insights from successful people in the RLN which will ultimately increase the chances of our project being successful. Please forward this request to anyone who may have the time to explain to us how the process to success worked in their cities.

Thank you for you time.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

i will shop youngstown

This week includes the first birthday party of the year where I need to purchase a gift.

But here's my resolution for 2009: when I have the option of purchasing something, I will do it in Youngstown. exclusively.

in fact, here are some other tips to purchasing, that if in aggregate 10,000 of us perform, will have an impact on both the city's finances and will continue the existence of basic services. (please read to the bottom of this post)

- - -

1. Do not shop at the new Wal-Mart in Liberty township for groceries ever. Make the 0.45 mile drive and shop at the Sparkle Market on Gypsy Lane instead.

2. No gift cards for Chili's, iTunes, Lowe's, GetGo, etc. will be purchased and distributed this year. I will only purchase gift certificates for locally-owned city restaurants like Cafe Cimmento (who advertise in downtown theater programs), Casa Ramirez, Scarsella's Restaurant, Charlie Staples, The Palm, Avalon Gardens, etc. Then when they are redeemed, my guests of my friends will act as multipliers.

3. When I stop for gas, I will drive past the gas stations on the west side of Meridian Road, and purchase petrol on the Youngstown side of Mahoning Ave. Local purchases increase the chance that these basic functions will remain in the city.

4. Dry cleaning, jewelry shopping, shoe repair, haircuts, grocery shopping will all be done in the city now, even if it means the small sacrifice of scheduling an appointment or driving an extra mile. Services will disappear unless we use them consistently.

5. I will never ever ever eat at Olive Garden, especially with the glorious abundance of local italian restaurants with their fresh and homemade pasta.


some may see this Declaration "of Independents" as being against the suburbs. not true.

some services, such as watching a newly-released movie, you can only do in the suburbs. but where gems exist, please continue to patronize your local hardware store, your neighborhood mechanic, the Armando's, the Jimmy's, and the Hot Dog Shoppe's of this world:

But when pulling into the parking lot of a Giant Eagle, a Bob Evans, a FastLube, or even a Pizza Hut, please ask yourself:

could I be doing this in Youngstown?

re-circulating money within the community?
keeping essential city services alive?
providing benefits to your friends and neighbors?

let's do it.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Friday, January 09, 2009

looks like lacrosse training has begun

It's that time of the year again, when the snow covers the grass and only practice makes perfect.


Thursday, January 08, 2009

The Youngstown Nails

Take nailers. Drop the -ers.

An excellent name for a hockey team.

tough. possibly rusty. made of steel. cuts through ice.

more here.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

youngstown MSA posts employment gains over past year, unlike 80% of largest metros

Yesterday, the Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics released its calculations on U.S. employment growth and decline over the past year.

Out of the 100 U.S. metro areas with the largest populations (of which Youngstown is one), the Youngstown MSA of Mahoning, Trumbull, and Mercer counties experienced net private-sector employment growth from Nov 2007 to Nov 2008.

In fact, compared to these 100 metros, Youngstown was ranked 19th. Only 21 of the 100 metros experienced an increase in private-sector employment.

The Detroit MSA led the nation with over 67,000 jobs lost. In fact, the top ten losers were:
91. Minneapolis-St. Paul, down 31,400 jobs
92. New York City, down 33,500 jobs
93. Chicago, down 33,600 jobs
93. Tampa-St. Petersburg, down 33,600 jobs
95. Riverside-San Bernardino, Calif., down 35,800 jobs
96. Phoenix, down 58,500 jobs
97. Miami-Fort Lauderdale, down 59,700 jobs
98. Los Angeles, down 60,700 jobs
99. Atlanta, down 66,100 jobs
100. Detroit, down 67,700 jobs

Alternatively, the top 10 gainers were:
1. Houston, up 42,400 jobs
2. Dallas-Fort Worth, up 35,100 jobs
3. Washington, up 15,600 jobs
4. San Antonio, up 11,700 jobs
5. Seattle, up 9,900 jobs
6. Virginia Beach-Norfolk, up 9,100 jobs
7. Oklahoma City, up 8,100 jobs
8. New Orleans, up 7,200 jobs
9. McAllen-Edinburg, Texas, up 6,700 jobs
10. Austin, up 6,200 jobs

Columbus (#15) and Youngstown (#19) were the only two Ohio MSAs to gain private-sector jobs.

other regional MSAs on the list:
28. Pittsburgh, down 1,000 jobs
39. Akron, Ohio, down 2,500 jobs
62. Cincinnati, down 5,000 jobs
68. Dayton, down 6,700 jobs
70. Toledo, Ohio, down 7,300 jobs
79. Cleveland, down 11,300 jobs

keep in mind, this is a snapshot for one only moment in time, and over the past year. Long term gains are the most important metric.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

jazzing up the entrances to youngstown

I'm throwing out a request to local designers and artists to sketch out some new entryways into the city of Youngstown.

The top design with accompanying budget and plan of action will be awarded a bottle of absinthe produced in eastern europe.

Currently we have signs of two varieties: one type is along interstates (along I-680 specifically) and are flat little signs existing in the islands of green at certain interchanges, and the other are the street department metal type, essentially street signs usually describing some aspect of accomplishment (ursuline high school championships, sister cities arrangements, for example).

So can we go from blah to bamn! at our entrances, revealing Youngstown as a city with pride and dynamism?

Here is one recent case study, the entrance into the city of Hokitika, capital of greenstone carvers on the southern island of New Zealand.

The rusty allure of the cut letters caught my eye here - perhaps a potential building block of a Youngstown sign.

The oxide runoff on the stone looks cool as well.

similarly colored housing covers the lights to illuminate at night.

with native plants as a backdrop.

or, one can go the natural route:

date for submissions closes on feb 15th.

the bottle contains 750mL of the green fairy, with original seal on top.

Monday, January 05, 2009

converging regional unemployment rates

Null Space's recent post identifying how the city of Pittsburgh's unemployment rate is shockingly lower than the Pittsburgh regional unemployment rate got me thinking - can a similar statement be said for Youngstown and the cities of Northeast Ohio?

Well, no.

But imitating Null Space's efforts, one can retrieve the unemployment rate data from the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services for various jurisdictions from 2000 to the present.

Here are a few charts I threw together tonight:

Above is a chart tracking the unemployment rate of the City of Youngstown, compared to the unemployment rate for the Youngstown Metro Statistical Area (mahoning and trumbull counties in ohio, and mercer county in pennsylvania).

While the city's rate had peaked at just shy of 14 percent in mid-2002, it has since trickled down and hovered around 8 percent. Alternatively, the metro's rate has been creeping upward.

So while the metro area's unemployment rate is still below the city proper, these lines are converging.

In Cleveland's case above, a sizable gap still exists between the city and the metro.

In Akron's case however, these city vs. metro lines are blurring, especially in recent years.

Looking from metro to metro, and city to city - in both cases Youngstown has been traditionally higher in unemployment, while Akron has been the lower of the three.

Interestingly however, where Cleveland's rates have traditionally been more aligned to Akron's, today Cleveland is more on par with Youngstown, sometimes surpassing Youngstown in unemployment rates.

But the rises and falls and converging lines can definitely point to one fact - northeast ohio as a larger region rises and falls together.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

on tap

just found out the Rust Belt Brewery now has their beer on tap at the following locations:

Royal Oaks (downtown - oak street)
University Pizzeria (downtown - YSU lincoln ave)
Inner Circle Pizza (downtown - YSU lincoln ave)
Cedars (downtown - hazel street)
Rosetta Stone (downtown - federal street)
Draft House (downtown - federal street)
Boxcar Lounge (downtown - mr peanut bridge)
My Way Lounge (westside - mahoning and steel street)

Friday, January 02, 2009

diverging great lakes cities

Two outstanding regional blogs (which are often amazingly updated multiple times daily) which should be on your daily schedule to read are Null Space and Cleveburgh Diaspora.

From a recent post on Null Space:
"News is that Pittsburgh's [regional] unemployment rate is up to 5.8% in November, up 3/10ths of a point from the month earlier. Detroit's [regional] unemployment rate jumped a full percentage point, from 9 to 10%, between October and November. Cleveland's rate inched up a bit from 7 to 7.3%."

"The city of Detroit already has an unemployment rate over 16%, compared to the city of Pittsburgh which has unemployment measured at 5.5% for November.

That is remarkable if for no other reason than that our urban core has lower unemployment rate than the region, the opposite by far from Detroit's pattern which is probably more typical of other big US cities."
wow, that is amazing.

but also notice how the regions in Chris' graph have diverged over time as well from their near similarities around the turn of the decade. Sure, unemployment rate is just one statistic, but it certainly paints a picture of the relative strength of each of those three regions.

and from yesterday's post at Burgh Diaspora:
"I'm ringing in 2009 with a reinvention of this blog. Burgh Diaspora was born on June 1st, 2006. I set out to explore the economic potential of Pittsburgh's diaspora network.

Along the way, I learned a great deal about the geographic mobility of talent and the anachronistic means of developing a local labor pool. Also, I discovered how many other Rust Belt cities shared the same set of problems. I morphed the blog into Cleveburgh Diaspora, an attempt to build a larger identity geography. My aim was to grow the Tech Belt between Cleveland and Pittsburgh into a coherent economic region.

I'm betting that any kind of successful mega-regional project will depend on Pittsburgh's fate. The biggest drag on the Burgh's most recent renaissance is the lack of people with certain skills.

The goal of R2P: Return to Pittsburgh is addressing this shortcoming."

looking for a place to track all the blogs discussing Youngstown?

while we are in the middle of a complete site rebuild for, this page is now updated as soon as any local writer posts a story.

it might be a good place to bookmark if looking everyday for the latest information.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

ode to joy

happy new year, global friends of youngstown.

2008 . . . 165 posts. whew.

2009 . . . we'll see.

what does the year hold?

one view here.