Putting an end to racism, creating healthy neighborhoods and carving early career paths were among the suggestions at a discussion on revitalizing Youngstown Tuesday evening.
About 200 people listened to the City Club of the Mahoning Valley talk at the Youngstown Playhouse — a few even spoke up.
“Places like Youngstown have a really tough time of it,” said Alan Mallach, who is considered one of the best urban development minds in the country.
He was on the panel, saying cities like Youngstown need to focus on a decent quality of life in the neighborhoods.
“You need a good program of code enforcement, rental registration to make sure that housing is safe and healthy,” Mallach said.
Also on the panel was Presley Gillespie, who founded the Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corporation and now has a similar position in Pittsburgh. He said Youngstown needs to work with existing companies and train people for jobs that are already here.
“To identify what those jobs are, what are the skills that are needed to excel in those jobs and start with youth at a very young age to prepare them for those jobs.”
The third panelist was Evelyn Burnett, who grew up in Youngstown and now helps low-income communities of color in Cleveland.
“I think if cities don’t get serious about entrenched systematic racism that permeates every one of these systems that we’re talking about,” she said.
Christine Sylvestri is part of the south side’s Boulevard Block Watch. Her issue is all the money spent on renovating buildings downtown while the neighborhoods were ignored.
“The problem is the outlying areas of the neighborhoods that aren’t getting the money or the services that they need,” she said.
South side resident Chris Travers wanted to know why Pittsburgh is doing so well but Youngstown — just 65 miles away — is not.
Mallach said while Pittsburgh is close, it’s a long way away economically. He said do not expect the advancements in Pittsburgh to spill over to Youngstown.
In the end, most at the talk agreed it’ll take strong leadership to make real change in Youngstown.