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A new mayor
July 7, 2011 - Joe Gorman
Wednesday's announcement that Mayor Jay Williams is stepping down for a post in the Obama administration is not a big surprise.
For months it has been rumored that Williams would step down to work in the federal government, and so it was not like anyone was caught off guard by the announcement. He will be succeeded by President of Council Charles Sammarone, who will finish out his term.
How did the mayor do? In some areas, great. He tackled the city's vacant housing problem with a vigor unmatched by any of his precedesors until the city ran out of money. He was the man in charge and helped to broker the V&M expansion here. On his watch the city has won numerouos awards for a place to start a business and for creating a business friendly atmosphere. The crime rate has went down and the city's murder rate is on the verge of setting a record for an all time low.
In other areas, it depends on who you ask. The city's police officers are not happy with his honor because of his policies changing the promotional process and also because positions have gone unfilled because of budget concerns. He was also a staunch advocate for residency laws, which are unpopular with a lot of city employees, especially in the safety service forces. Some of the city's neighborhoods still look like something out of a Dickens novel or the slums of Calcutta, and although a lot of new businesses are locating in the city or are looking at the city, their employees are for the most part staying away from buying a house in the city.
On a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being outstanding, I give him a 7 and a half.
What I admire most about Williams is how he manipulated the process in 2005 to become mayor, skipping out on a crowded Democratic primary by declaring himself an independent, then marshalling the minority vote to defeat Bob Hagan in a general election that some observers say was an upset but looking back on now was not really much of a surprise. He built a name for himself by his work as the moderator of the city's 2010 planning process, which gave him exposure in every area of the city across all ethnic lines and helped him to win the election.
One thing is for certain: Williams was mayor at a pivotal time and his election and popularity have begun a slow process of turning the city around. He addressed hard issues of downsizing that others would not and was candid in admitting that the city's vanuted past a manufacturer and steel maker was over and that Youngstown needed to accept that reality and begin to act that way. No one else had done that before, at least on that scale, and that, in itself, makes his term and his legacy something to hang your hat on.
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