YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Monday night was the first in-person mayoral debate for the city of Youngstown. It was at Stambaugh Stadium and a small audience was there to listen to what the three candidates had to say. All are running in the Democratic primary.
Some of the main topics included American Rescue Plan money, race relations, crime and policing in the city.
Candidates Julius Oliver, Ryan Kelly and current Mayor Tito Brown were asked how they would spend the $88.6 million the city is getting from the American Rescue Plan.
“Everyone who has a stake in this community, this Valley needs to be a part of that,” Brown said.
Brown said he plans to focus that money on youth employment and social issues like food insecurity and infant mortality.
Kelly focused on his business background as a tool to help him allocate the funds.
“I would ask for a needs assessment from every department, I think that’s extremely important. I’d take a look at our infrastructure needs,” Kelly said.
Oliver referenced city council and said some of that money should be used toward infrastructure in each corridor of the city’s wards.
The topic of race and policing took up a good chunk of the debate as well.
“If you can’t get a job because of systemic racism, that’s a problem for the entire community because your lack of being able to get a job may cause you to start committing crimes and other things,” Oliver said.
“I think it’s actually not just talking about programs, it’s implementing them, stopping that cycle,” Kelly said.
All three were also asked how they would reduce crime in the city. Kelly suggested having police visible in areas of high crime while also addressing the root of why crimes are committed. Oliver disagreed, saying saturation patrols will not have a large effect and that you can’t only police away crime.
“What really matters is you having a sense or an understanding of who you are that you don’t have to commit this crime and that’s gonna take a culture shift throughout the entire city,” Oliver said.
Brown referred to his recent promotion of Police Chief Carl Davis and the hot spot cards being placed in businesses around the city.
“We wanna make sure our community police are out in the community learning and knowing one another, not just when there’s a crime,” Brown said.
In closing statements, the three reflected on what they hope the future of Youngstown holds. Brown reflected on how far he says the city has come, especially during the pandemic. Oliver focused on the changes he would have liked to see in the community in years past but hasn’t. Kelly said he wants changes as well, and to improve the city’s safety.
You’ll have another chance to hear from those candidates. Union Baptist Church is holding a virtual forum Tuesday at 6 p.m. Brown, Oliver and Kelly are all invited. It will likely last an hour. You can watch the forum on the church’s Facebook page.