Tag Archives: Youngstown

Does Youngstown’s Revival Leave the Working Class Behind?

Who is benefiting from the strides being made to redevelop the city of Youngstown?

That is the question posed by Center for Working Class Studies at Youngstown State University, in a critical article titled “A Renaissance for Whom?”


The authors point out that despite the success of high-tech start-ups in the city’s downtown, the average city resident has seen her fortunes decline during the current recession. And the situation wasn’t pretty before that.

“Much has been written recently about Youngstown’s Renaissance,” write YSU professors James Rhodes and John Russo on the CWCS’s blog. “Fox News, BBC, The Economist, Entrepreneur, and Inc. have all touted the local area as recovering economically.

“While all the publicity and positive representations have been great for the city’s self-image and provided much-needed momentum for economic development, both local leaders and most journalists have ignored the city’s real problems:  high unemployment, poverty, continued high crime rates, and the deterioration of the Youngstown’s neighborhoods.”

Rhodes and Russo point out that Youngstown’s Metropolitan Statistical Area has lost a net total of 9,000 jobs since the recession began. In March, the local unemployment rate hovered at 14 percent, among the highest in the state.

“The Mahoning Valley, like the nation at large, is in the midst of major social and economic upheaval,” they write. “Long-term unemployment contributes to drug abuse, crime, domestic violence, health problems, the break-up of families, and racial antagonisms.  Community support institutions are besieged by requests for help even as their economic support – whether from donations or state funds – is declining.”

Rhodes and Russo are absolutely right and their point is important to keep in mind. People are suffering in Youngstown. I’m not sure that diminishes the city’s success in certain initiatives–downtown revitalization and technology-based economic development–although it’s obviously troubling.

I think everyone hopes that someday these developing areas of strength will reach the point where they have a recognizable effect on unemployment, poverty and the associated ills. Perhaps Russo and Rhodes’ point is that the benefits won’t be as widely distributed as was the case with a manufacturing based economy. That may be true. There’s a certain paradox in progress, I guess.



Filed under Economic Development, Headline, Labor, U.S. Auto Industry

Youngstown and HUD’s Shrinking Cities Lapse

Why can’t Youngstown redevelop its downtrodden neighborhoods the same way Philadelphia has?

Willy Staley asks Youngstown Community Organizer Phil Kidd this question in the latest issue of Next American City.

Phil Kidd, Youngstown advocate. Photo by Sean Posey. http://www.lightstalkers.org/sean-posey

Phil Kidd, Youngstown advocate. Photo by Sean Posey. http://www.lightstalkers.org/sean-posey

“The most straightforward, and obvious problem for cities in decline is the way that the Department of Housing and Urban Development doles out its funds,” Staley writes. “The grants are not competitive; cities must apply, but the size of the grant is determined by a formula.”

The formula is weighted by population, so as Youngstown bleeds population, its HUD money shrinks as well. Meanwhile, the destruction caused by vacancy and abandonment cries out for attention.

“CDBG is our lifeline,” says Kidd, “and we’re experiencing population decline and trying to plan accordingly for that but it requires a lot of planning and land use strategies, demolition…all these things that are not proportional to population.”

Worse, in cash-strapped cities like Youngstown, Community Development Block Grant dollars are often tapped to fill holes in the general fund budget.

The most recent community development money infusion, the Neighborhood Stabilization Program (a program of the economic stimulus package), capped the allowable portion spent on demolitions at 10 percent. This presents another obstacle in a city where vacant houses are driving neighborhood abandonment. Kidd says while local community development officials have been struggling to stabilize one neighborhood, another has been hemorrhaging population at a rate of 435 percent.

As a solution, Youngstown’s Congressman Tim Ryan has been championing the Community Regeneration, Sustainability and Innovation Act, which would make federal grants available to communities with innovative solutions for the problem of widespread vacancy and abandonment.

Read the articles for yourself:

Part one

Part two



Filed under Headline, Politics, Real Estate, The Big Urban Photography Project, The Housing Crisis, Urban Planning

Obama to Speak in Youngstown

President Barack Obama will speak in Youngstown today, seeking to highlight successes from his $787 billion stimulus bill, according to the Plain Dealer.

The president will make a private appearance at the VM Star steel plant, which is set to undergo a $650 million expansion. The stimulus bill helped pay for improvements that will pave the way for 350 new jobs.

The big joke in Youngstown is that the city is a popular place for presidential candidates to visit once every four years, so it’s meaningful that the president is visiting. The $650 expansion is such a coup for Youngstown that it deserves national attention. It will be the first steel making facility constructed in Youngstown since the ’70s.

Obama also spoke in Buffalo last week.



Filed under Economic Development, Politics

Blog Spotlight: Shrinking Cities

Check out Shrinking Cities from Virginia Tech’s Dept. of Urban Affairs and Planning.

The blog comes from the Shrinking Cities – Sustainability studio in Virginia Tech’s School of Urban Affairs and Planning, Alexandria Campus.

It  “aim(s) to explore the opportunities and challenges of shrinking cities in the context of contemporary urban planning. We will evaluate strategies and commentary on shrinking cities, including urban agriculture, storm water infrastructure, pocket parks, vacant property reclamation, land banks and community energy generation.”

Lots of good stuff here on Baltimore, Cleveland, Youngstown and more.


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Filed under architecture, Economic Development, Education, Good Ideas, regionalism, Rust Belt Blogs, Urban Planning

Most Fun Cities: Chicago, Detroit, Youngstown?

I know. I know. We said these things were stupid. I’m not going to retract that statement.

However, for the sake of discussion, Portfolio has cataloged the “Top 100 Fun Cities” and there’s a few interesting items.

In their list, Chicago scores second, Minneapolis 10th, Detroit 14th, Syracuse and Rochester 15th and 16th, Cleveland comes in at 23 (just before Portland?!), Milwaukee is 25, Youngstown’s 28 and Buffalo’s 29.

So, as we’ve discussed, these things are all relative and Portfolio doesn’t provide a ton of information about their rating system. Ratings are based on the categories of shopping, food and drink, gambling, popular entertainment, culture, low-impact sports and high-impact sports.


I have to say, if there is a kernel of truth in all this it’s that Cleveland just might be the funnest city in the country tonight–that is if you have Cavs tickets like me!

Also, while were on the subject, Forbes ranked Pittsburgh the country’s most livable city last week. Go figure!



Filed under Headline, The Media

Youngstown’s ‘Pop-Up Park’

You have to give the folks in Youngstown credit for knowing how to have a good time.

Last weekend a group of young, city activists established a temporary ‘pop-up park’ in a parking spot on the city’s main thoroughfare and had a barbecue.


About 30 people turned out for the impromptu event, with desserts and dishes to share, according to the blog I Will Shout Youngstown.

Check out this spread:


According to my exclusive sources on this topic, all you need to pull this off in your city is a rug, some furniture, a grill, a few empty parking spaces and some friends.

For the full story see shoutyoungstown.com.


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Filed under Brain Drain, Featured, Good Ideas

The Community Regeneration, Sustainability and Innovation Act

Have you ever noticed, Obama likes to give his legislation long, convoluted names?

At the same time, this is an important one.

It might be more appropriately called Aid to Industrial Cities. (But obviously that might be politically sensitive. How does the old double-standard go again: farm aid = good, city aid = bad?) This piece of long-overdue legislation would establish competitive grants for revitalizing older industrial cities through the department of Housing and Urban Development. The Community Regeneration, Sustainability and Innovation Act would mostly help eliminate vacant housing, the profusion of which has been an intractable problem in neighborhoods and a drain on strained city budgets across the Industrial Midwest.

In a new blog, Youngstown’s Mahoning Valley Organizing Collaborative has more information. The group is trying to lobby the national government to take a more active role in helping Rust Belt cities through the painful process of economic restructuring.

It’s good to see the national government finally starting to recognize that while Rust Belt cities’ problems may be regional in nature, they are truly national in scope.


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Filed under Editorial, Good Ideas, regionalism, Rust Belt Blogs, The Housing Crisis, Urban Planning, Urban Poverty