Thursday, February 19, 2015

BOOK REVIEW: Steeltown USA: Work and Memory in Youngstown

I read this book in ~ 2005, and found my notes as I was getting rid of some old notebooks.  Here are the memorable lines I recorded while reading Steeltown USA: Work and Memory in Youngstown by Sherry Lee Linkon and John Russo.

"The recovery of a positive memory of itself is the first important step toward reconstructing a sense of place, belonging, and ownership."

"Where there is work, there is social organization."

In 1963, a Saturday Evening Post cover story dubbed Youngstown 'Crime Town, USA'.

Urban Policy expert said about Youngstown:
"I have never been in an urban community before where jails and prisons were treated as a growth industry."
"While work gave people a sense of pride and brought them together, it could not bridge the gap between workers and managers, nor could it fully erase differences of race and ethnicity."

Youngstown would become a place known for loss and resistance.

1977-1987, unemployment would reach over 20% and remain in double digits.

Youngstown Area Chamber of Commerce headline one week after Youngstown Sheet and Tube shutdown, "Not Our Valley!  No Place for Doom and Gloom."

"We've been in a 20 year pity party.  As long as week looking backward, we'll never keep going forward."  - Rufus Hudson
The book does not acknowledge that most of the job growth in the last twenty years has been in the service and retail sectors.  These sectors traditionally provided short job ladders, contingent and part-time employment, and low pay and miserable benefits.

Mark's Thoughts:

Overall, I really enjoyed the book because it put into words many the things I did not see growing up in Youngstown (my era was 1985-2001).  I knew it wasn't always doom and gloom, but it fascinated me how long people held on to views that it would just get better with time.  There is definitely not an entrepreneur attitude among residents, and that led to so many years of just the status quo. 
In 2015, some of the things the book points out as problems are still ongoing in the city.  The City Government is as Tax Hungry as ever, even though the majority of the population in city lives under the poverty line.  Instead of finding ways to decrease the size and scope of Government, the city boo hoos about how their 2.75% Business Profit Tax, and the 2.75% Personal Income Tax the city imposes will be down in 2015.  See Vindy Article HERE. Never forget, taxes are just a form of theft.  The City will never be prosperous again as long as the city government feels it deserves a large slice of the economic pie.