Father Ed Commentary: Don’t Be Afraid to Listen

By Edward Noga
YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – The other day I was thinking about what it might have been like to have lived around the time when our Valley communities were started. Large, small or in-between, our Valley’s towns and cities and townships all had a beginning.

Can you imagine when the early founders selected their sites, if the government had handed them hefty checks and said, “Here, get started with this.”

To say the least, they would have dropped their jaws. We know from history that the early settlers struggled just to exist. They relied on one another and often had little to fall back on. That’s one reason we call them pioneers.

Recently, as part of the COVID-induced American Recovery Plan, communities have been given monies to help with the many issues that have come our way. 

Local governments have suffered and have had to be creative to avoid catastrophe. Well, the checks are starting to arrive, along with the spending parameters. Officeholders are wisely taking time to listen to what their stakeholders have to say. Be they school teachers, business leaders, religious congregations, community volunteers, medical personnel, entertainers or others, community leaders are wisely and patiently taking the time to listen to those who would benefit most.

Knowing the complexity of spending the millions of dollars flowing into their communities – and that not everyone is going to be happy – leaders are trying to expand the discernment process. There is no doubt that these funds can go a long way in determining the future of the places we call home.

Let’s be honest. We all have our pet projects that we feel need attention. It’s difficult to go beyond that attitude. In this situation, however, let’s hope and pray and work that the bigger picture prevails.

Happily, I have heard lots of folks talking about these issues and look forward to the hearings that will be on the calendar the next few months.

“Game changer” is a phrase many are using. Living in Youngstown, I look forward to attending these hearings. Wherever we live, we will all be affected by the ARP funds.

Active discussion will work much better than criticism or naysaying. There are so many possibilities. For instance, much as neighborhood issues are important, there is no doubt that the welcome mats to our city are at the ends of our major corridors. Even if someone is contemplating moving into one of its neighborhoods, he will find his way from one of the major thoroughfares.

A local contractor told me that in the asphalt and cement arena, there are different qualities of product, as in most things we purchase.Might it be better to replace sidewalks and resurface streets with a product that will last longer and give us more service life? I am not in the business sector that deals with these items and there may be some who would dispute the upgrade quality. It might be worth researching or discussing, though. 

Some have talked about reducing some of the city debt on projects. I also heard that reading the fine print might mean spending less on some projects would be beneficial and on some not so beneficial. Aren’t we lucky that we will have gatherings where those in the banking industry can speak to these issues? 

Many have already spoken about the “mine” versus “our” attitude, which can be a factor in some creative consolidations. I am glad that I have already heard about the above issues and many more from folks who have the expertise.

Most people come through the doors of our city to take advantage of our assets, such as Youngstown State University and Mill Creek Park. I list those examples because they encompass business, the arts, education and libraries, services, health care, the soothing presence of nature, public transportation, entertainment and so on.

With that in mind, quality of life issues from the presence of our safety forces to litter control are the reasons people of all ages visit, stay or look to relocate in one of our neighborhoods.

Tens of millions of dollars will go a long way if we keep in mind that how we spend the monies given must be guided by principles of what will benefit the most people for the next generation.

When the pioneers arrived on the banks of the Mahoning River, they settled and began a legacy that has brought all of us here. In the last few decades, we have learned the hard lesson of keeping people here. Welcoming newcomers doesn’t come easily in our part of the country. But we have some game changing opportunities that will benefit our efforts.

Upcoming discussions of how to best use the once-in-a-lifetime funds can help to steer us in the right direction. This is not the time for myopia or selfishness. 

Talk. Listen. Speak up. Be creative. Hear what others say. 

Ears that listen and an open mind benefit all of us.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.