Q&A with mayoral candidate Ryan Kelly
Mayoral candidate Ryan Kelly answers questions about the issues and his goals for Youngstown.
Desired office: Mayor of Youngstown
Candidate’s party affiliation: Democrat
Candidate biography: Ryan Kelly was born and raised in Youngstown, graduated from Ursuline High School and YSU, and has spent the past 15 years developing and operating businesses in and around this area, including Kelly’s Pub on Mahoning Avenue (now Hackett’s Pub) and the Belleria restaurant chain. He and his wife, Elizabeth, a special education teacher, reside on the city’s West Side. He currently serves on the boards of directors of the Youngstown City Health and Potential Development Department and previously served on the Board of Directors of the Mahoning Valley Red Cross.
What qualities do you possess that qualify you to be mayor of Youngstown?
When you are the CEO of a company, you have to be a strong leader and a strong manager. If you want to be effective, you can’t be weak in any of these areas. You must have a clear plan, goal and vision that [resonates] with your entire organization. This department is moving towards part-time summer help. Your passion, your vision and your goal must be contagious. You have to make your employees want to change because they believe in what you want them to do. You need to be able to stand at a higher level than anyone else in an organization / city. If you can’t set clear, defined expectations and admit you’re making a mistake, how can you expect one of your employees to do the same? You need to stick with long term plans and never settle for a quick win, if that means straying from your vision. Never lose sight of the big picture. Obstacles and mistakes happen. Learn from them and stay the course.
If you are elected, is there anything special you hope to accomplish? And briefly, what is it and why is it important?
We need to see a significant reduction in crime and a strong focus on the causes of crime. Known areas of high criminal activity will not be tolerated in my administration. This will be achieved by tackling neutral criminal activities such as traffic violations. When you take this approach, only two colors matter: red and green. We will also endeavor to address socio-economic factors that will lead to future criminal activity. We will not allow the next generation to be part of the problem, because we will focus on being the solution. We will partner with schools in the city of Youngstown as well as other government agencies to ensure that we develop the soft skills needed to find employment. We will create paid employment opportunities throughout the year for high school students who will focus on their preparation for long-term careers, as well as programs and pathways to financial literacy / life. fitness with all roads leading to Youngstown homeowners in Youngstown.
What do you think will be the main problem facing this office in the next term? How would you focus your efforts to deal with it?
The need for a change in culture as well as the operating system in the city of Youngstown is overdue. Who you know can no longer prevail over your efforts. The leaders of our city must focus on the results and not on the re-election. We cannot grow by division. We must encourage and promote a culture of innovation and inclusion. Reward new ideas and remove the phrase, “This is how we’ve always done it.” We need 21st century technology in place at city hall as well as in all city departments. We need a real assessment of each department to find out where we can become more efficient. Whether it’s infrastructure, morale or our budget, we are a city covered in band-aids. Hoping, correcting and blaming will never be the answer to our problems.
What are your plans to ensure that all of your constituents have access to the same resources and opportunities, regardless of their race or socio-economic status? How do you think the system is failing?
We have a major digital divide in the city of Youngstown. When only 70% of the city has access to the Internet, this is a major problem. Barriers to participation and lack of access to municipal government are related to age, race and gender in the City of Youngstown. Digging the conduit, making the fiber work and increasing connectivity through broadband is a major step towards becoming a smart city. This is the first step towards identifying and responding to the specific needs of each neighborhood. Youngstown isn’t just downtown; Youngstown is in the neighborhoods. We need to create specific programs with measurable standards to tackle underserved populations and underserved areas. If you want to make sure that all of this happens, it won’t be through plans; it will be through action. I don’t think we can adequately serve the people and regions that need it most because we don’t have the right systems in place to measure and identify these areas.
What are you doing to disrupt the status quo of politics? If you had the power, what change would you make now?
Personally, I will publish a 100-day to three-year plan before the election. This is the means by which I want to be held accountable. If the goals and areas I’m focusing on as well as those specific plans aren’t addressed or improve, running for a second term won’t be an option. We cannot continue to allow this to be the norm. If we are still the poorest city in America, I will not stand for re-election. If we still have a crime score of eight – which means we’re only 8 percent of cities in the United States safe now – I won’t stand for re-election. If our firefighters and police are still forced to hold families’ hands and pray for an ambulance to arrive on time, I will not stand for re-election. If anyone hears me blaming the previous administration, blaming the board, or making an apology, I can resign immediately; he will not come for re-election. If a mistake is made, I will own it, learn from it and try again.
Are you happy with Ohio’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic? If yes, why? If not, what do you think should be done instead? Can we do more at the local level? The federal level?
I don’t think anyone should be happy unless everyone in the city, state or country has equal access to the highest quality and most effective vaccines or PPE. As a member of the Youngstown Board of Health during the pandemic, I got to see real-life heroes in action. Whether it’s the compassion, resilience, and countless acts of selflessness shown by the courageous members of our Youngstown City Health District or watching Dr. Davis not only issue a powerful call to action and to witness, but also to lead physically by action when he has sought and educated. Elderly members of the minority community who distrusted decades of dishonesty about the potential lifesaving benefits that vaccines had to offer, we must continue to provide the health district with all available resources. We need to make sure that education, support and transportation continue regardless of campaigns or politics.
The city receives $ 88.6 million in federal stimulus funds. How should the city set budget priorities? What are your top three uses for funds? How do you plan to ensure that the funds are spent correctly?
The city should contact the heads of each department to request a needs assessment. Speak with the management of each department to better understand the day-to-day operations and interview and observe the employees of each department to understand each perspective in an effort to achieve maximum efficiency within each department in the city.
1. The city to purchase four ambulances and fund the initial implementation / integration of a municipal EMS.
2. The city must close the digital divide in our city by purchasing, digging / installing and operating all the conduits and fibers necessary for optimal broadband connectivity. This will create jobs and a long-term source of income and help provide the data needed to better serve the public in the future.
3. Meet the infrastructure needs, especially the needs met by the corporate fund that for years the board as well as the current / previous administrations have used for all reasons except for its purpose, which is the infrastructure that provides high quality safe drinking water.
I would ensure that all of these funds are spent correctly because I will recruit, hire and empower high quality decision makers to serve in my firm. I would also consider forming an (unpaid) advisory board made up of representatives of neighborhood groups, business owners and private professionals. [who] have experience with funding of this magnitude [and] will be able [to give] of their impartial professional opinions. This is important to ensure that decisions are not driven solely by emotion.
What do you think is the most pressing issue facing the next generation of Youngstown residents who may be voting for the first time?
They want a reason to stay. They want to be able to buy a house in Youngstown and raise their family there. They had a reason to participate, and now they want a reason to stay. They want the essentials: recreation, safety and clean drinking water, and they want to know that the people they vote for care about the same things.
Are you frustrated by the political sniping, exaggeration and even the lies associated with politics that has diminished respect and motivated compromise? If so, what will you do personally to improve the situation?
Absolutely. We no longer take sides with the city. We need a Youngstown. We need a united Youngstown to give us the opportunity to build a foundation of generations before we fight and dream that we could / have one day.
Who is your hero and why?
My younger brother. He taught me more life lessons than he thinks.
He made a selfless commitment to his country by serving in the United States Army. After being honorably released, he immediately continued his service commitment by becoming a police officer. I was and still am inspired by his commitment to service. It’s not just his commitment to service that inspires me; it is his commitment to serve at home. He has received several housing units in recent years and I know he will receive many more in the future. His call to service, his passion to serve and his dedication to doing it at home make him my hero.