Tod Hall and City Hall have one new thing in common: By this time next year, each will have a brand new name on its doors. Not only did Mayor Chuck Sammarone announce that he would not be considering another term, but YSU President Cynthia Anderson has also announced her resignation, which will be effective July 1. This leaves the two highest positions in Youngstown wide open. We can rest assured that Youngstown will face dynamic changes throughout 2013.
A few names have been touted as front-runners for the mayoral race, including former Mahoning County Commissioner John McNally IV and City Council President Jamael “Tito” Brown, who both have filed petitions for the Democratic primary in May. An independent candidate could always file for the mayoral race later. For the president of the university, however, we will likely hear more information as the semester progresses. One thing remains outstandingly clear: The next president and the next mayor must work together and form the partnerships we need for both institutions to survive.
It seems like every few months, another new initiative is announced in Youngstown. The V&M Star complex, an investment of more than $1 billion, and the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute, an investment topping $70 million, quickly jump to mind as exceptional examples. These initiatives are charging the revitalization effort forward, an effort for which Youngstown has been waiting 30 years.
Those with the power to chose who will fill these two positions — the search committee and the citizens of Youngstown — need to ask the following question of possible candidates: How often do you think is necessary for the leaders of the city and YSU to meet on a regular basis? If the answer is anything less than once a week, then perhaps other candidates should be considered. That may sound relatively frequent to you, but not to me. An hour meeting every Wednesday morning could ensure that the communication and cooperation that is needed actually happens. The next mayor and president must strive to identify other strategies to attract investments like V&M and NAMII to Youngstown; a once-a-week brainstorming session could only benefit the university and the city.
These meetings could start off by identifying strategies to improve the areas between downtown and the university. Improving the climate for businesses would encourage students who travel to the university every day to stick around and visit downtown after class. With only two blocks between Williamson Hall and the heart of downtown, there is surely more that the city and university could be doing to improve this area, including more lighting at night and better travel routes. These are the types of issues that could be tackled by the two highest offices in the city on a weekly basis.
Frank Akpadock, a senior research associate at the Center for Urban and Regional Studies, just released a new book titled “City in Transition: Strategies for Economic Regeneration of Inner-City Communities–The Case of Youngstown, Ohio.” In a YSU News Center piece, Akpadock explains that former Mayor Pat Ungaro realized the value that the university afforded the city and strived toward collaboration then YSU President Leslie H. Cochran.
We need to see a return to this philosophy; only strong partnerships will foster the revitalization effort that Youngstown is facing. Youngstown’s greatest asset is YSU, and I do not believe that one can survive without the other. Imagine Jambar and Vindicator articles years from now that detail the history of the powerful and bold collaboration that began with two new individuals leading the charge for Youngstown, its students and its citizens. I want to read that article. Our next president and mayor must work closely to avoid a stagnation of the revitalization effort.