Commentary: ‘I’ll Have to Look Into It’

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – As many of us do this time of year, cleaning out or clearing out phone and text messages seems to be part of the new year’s regimen. Included in this annual ritual is compiling various monthly statements as we get ready for our tax returns. Then there is going through various files and desk drawers, keeping necessary items and getting rid of a ton of unnecessary items. In the end, more up-to-date files, clean desk drawers and room in our e-files helps set the tone for our new year.

During my year-end “review” (nice way of saying cleaning up), I went over some of my articles in this journal and came up with some moments that made me smile. The smiles came from the topics that, I think, showed some of the best welcoming spirit among many in our Valley. For instance, a commentary on the reopening of the legendary Golden Dawn restaurant on Youngstown’s North Side was certainly a bright spot for the many patrons of the establishment who waited five years for the lights to be on again.

Then there was the July Y-Live concert with Luke Bryan that showed just how organized the Covelli Centre and Youngstown Foundation Amphitheatre staff were in working with a host of regional companies and vendors to bring a truly first-class experience to the Valley.

A commentary to thank Jim Tressel (and his wife and both families) for their tireless energy in promoting YSU and the Valley was a very easy write as the list of his accomplishments is a long one.

Comments on the Mahoning River rebirth highlighted the vision and work of the Eastgate Council of Governments working with cities like Lowellville, Struthers, Warren and Youngstown to put our river history back on the map for positive growth and endless future possibilities.

And even the most recent entry about recycling live Christmas trees was a reminder to all of us that recycling, in general, is a necessity for our planet’s health.

Going back over the year, I was proud to be a very small part in lifting up some of the best energy from many (in my opinion) who benefit us in northeastern Ohio.

Unfortunately, I also came across a piece shared a few months back titled “A Tale of Two Cities.” The piece opened with a quote from a local businessperson who said we have to write our own commentary on the region instead of letting our identity be written by out-of-town newspapers and other publications. Granted, these folks do their due diligence and are certainly allowed to have their opinion, but those of us who live in the valley should be the first ones to write about the Valley and its future.

As the “Tale of Two Cities” continued, there was the sober reminder that simple things like returning phone calls, texts or email does not always seem to be on the public service agenda. For sure, the pandemic and economic and staffing issues during the past two years have had seismic ramifications. However, simple human courtesies that most of us grew up with seem to be set aside too often.

Belmont Avenue in Youngstown.

Case in point, the picture included in this commentary was taken last January as I was coming down Belmont Avenue in Youngstown following a visit to Saint Elizabeth Medical Center. Yes, it was January when winter surrounds us and the sun sets early. I couldn’t help but notice that the bottom of the street had no streetlights. Four light poles on each side from Wood Street stretching to West Federal Street were out. My first thought was to contact someone the next day to see if there was some malfunction or accident that caused the situation. And I did that. Several weeks later I was coming down Belmont again and the same lights were out. The next day began a litany of regular calls to city officials, the county and the electric company that has stretched throughout this past year. It has now been one full year of “lights out” and no response as to why. Sadly, most responses have been: “That’s not ours” or “I’ll have to look into it.”

Unfortunately, I do not have an updated picture to share because the picture has been the same for 12 months. To be clear, the light shining on lower Belmont is from my car headlights as I took the picture last January.

We have heard from some leaders that Youngstown is open for business! Please come! We welcome you! Those are nice words. However, a large portion of a major entry point, which houses our heating plant, county sheriff’s office, main fire station and a much-used plasma center, is not lit at night. Maybe there is a legitimate reason, but no one seems to have looked into it for one entire year. And no one’s responsible!

While in the seminary in Cincinnati back in the 1970s, I had a professor of Pastoral/Practical Theology who told us at the end of the year, “If you remember nothing else, please remember as pastors to lead by service, not by power.” That might be a practical statement for anyone in a leadership position. And by the way, that professor taught at the seminary half of each week and spent the other half working at the Toledo Metropolitan Housing Authority.

May I end by thanking all those in civil and community service who do all that they can to respond in a timely manner and find answers to their constituents’ questions. Much appreciated.

Copyright 2023 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.