Warren fund should be transparent

It was for the betterment of Warren and surrounding areas that two past political rivals and two prominent business owners came together to form the Fund for Warren’s Future.

The partnership formed by Warren Mayor Doug Franklin and local activist and former mayoral candidate Dennis Blank, along with local businessmen Sam Covelli and Anthony Payiavlas, have formed the fund using public money generated from Warren rental fees and private money donated by the two businessmen and other donors. The startup goal for the fund is $200,000.

The concept and goals of this private-public partnership are wonderful, and we doubt anyone would argue that the first planned project — helping the economic development of Youngstown Road — is unneeded because certainly it is! That heavily traveled corridor linking Warren with Niles’ retail strip soon will be receiving $4.1 million in infrastructure improvements funded mostly by state and federal grants.

Hopeful of further economic development of the strip, the Fund for Warren’s Future earlier this month awarded $20,000 to Trumbull Neighborhood Partnership to conduct a survey of buildings on the targeted stretch of U.S. Route 422 and to compile details that would be relevant for potential investors. TNP also will survey residents living near the stretch, seeking information on their needs for services.

Considering part of these funds are coming from public sources, we have questions about the selection process and see the need for transparency in the group’s designation for use of the funds — whether to Trumbull Neighborhood Partnership or any grant seeker. There must be clear public access to the process, applications for the funds and details on things like how much of the designated funds are coming from public versus private sources.

Residents whose public money was used to help finance the Fund for Warren’s Future should have an opportunity to be informed about the plan and the selection process not only for this particular project but for all upcoming projects, including how and why the panel decides that certain projects or recipients are the right ones.

Mayor Doug Franklin assures us that he understands the importance of transparency and will ensure that the public has access to the applications and expenditures for the designated economic development projects. He said it is the group’s intention to make this information available for public inspection, but so far, it is not. We urge prompt action to ensure the public has access to the grant process and decisions.

With transparency, we all will feel more comfortable about supporting what absolutely has the potential to be a wonderful public-private partnership to grow and improve our city.