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That Vision Thing
February 18, 2009 - Joe Gorman
I can't find the quote from the Book of Proverbs because I didn't write down the chapter and verse Tuesday, but Mayor Jay Williams preached it with all the fervor of a minister in front of a revved up congergation.
Here it is in a nutshell:
``Where there is no vision, the people perish.'
A minister at the big vacant housing shindig put on by the Mahoning Valley Organizing Collobrative had uttered the verse a few speakers before Williams in what turned out to be a marathon session that was made longer because of politicians, which I'll get to in a minute.
But Williams seized on the remark and had the crowd at Union Baptist Church eating out of the palm of his hand as he used the quote to explain that if the city's leaders do not have a vision, the city would perish.
How true. And to me the most important issue facing Youngstown and Warren are its vacant properties and areas of blight, which are causing residents to leave in droves and keeping others away.
It is more important than regionalization. It is more important than consolidation. It is more important than the big fight this weekend. It is even more important than who the Browns will keep at quarterback.
It was Williams who spearheaded the city's aggressive demolition campaign until the money ran out. And he is fighting for all kinds of federal, state and stimulus money to get more money to knock down more homes.
Some of the city's neighborhoods look like war zones, and as a former resident of Warren, there are neighborhoods in the capital of the historic Western Reserve that look the same, and the vacant housing issue is one of the reasons that forced my flight to the suburbs as well last year.
Williams is the first office holder that I know of that has tackled the problem with aggressiveness and I am convinced that if the money hadn't run out, there would be more houses coming down in my hometown.
But the main gist of the event was lost because of the appearance of Ohio Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher, who opted out of a planned bus tour of blighted properties in Youngstown but was on hand to speak.
The appearance of a big time politician lends a rock star type atmosphere to any type of event, and Tuesday's was no exception. Office holders were coming out of the woodwork -- even some who were once disgraced -- to be seen with an all star like Fisher, who was mum about his senate plans -- at least while I was there.
But big time politicians are always late. You can add at least a half hour to the estimated time of any event if the speaker is above the rank of state senator. They also overshadow the event. And that was the case yesterday.
But the MVOC seem to have the vision of Williams. Here's hoping it can catch on. Because if the people perish, so will the neighborhoods and so will the two most important cities of the Mahoning Valley.
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