YOUNGSTOWN - Area residents listened to and questioned local officials and political candidates on the economy, job creation and blight Thursday evening at the Rally for Valley Jobs at Stambaugh Auditorium in Youngstown.
The Ohio Organizing Collaborative and Mahoning Valley Organizing Collaborative sponsored the gathering to get local residents actively involved in current economic issues.
They stressed four key points that include hiring local workers in the community; ensuring every Ohioan has a well-paying job and access to health care; protecting area neighborhoods from blighted houses and underfunded schools; and ensuring Ohio workers are being paid a fair wage for their labor.
"I came here to speak for those who least have the opportunity to speak for themselves," said the Rev. Dee Emmert of Hope Lutheran Parish in Warren during opening remarks.
"We're not up here to entertain - this is a rally," MVOC activist Wayne Huggins said. "(This movement) is something you have to be passionate about to move it forward."
Other speakers, including Pastor Paul Heine of Martin Luther Lutheran Church and Jim Pipino of the Northeastern Ohio Coalition on Rescue and Restore, spoke on issues such as vacant properties, human trafficking, retirement security and electoral organization.
The Rev. Dee Emmert, left, of Hope Lutheran Parish in Warren, and MVOC activist Wayne Huggins, event co-chairs, address the crowd Thursday evening at the MVOC Rally for Valley Jobs at Stambaugh Auditorium in Youngstown. By R. Michael Semple
The MVOC has issued two requests to meet with public officials to help move forward their platform that involves environmental concerns with regard to oil and natural gas drilling, local hiring, fair wages and tax abatement policies.
"I'm hoping to see change," MVOC activist Carolyn Taltoan, 52, of Youngstown said.
Taltoan said she is excited about the collaborative's goals and wants to see "more people together as a family to do their part" in the fight against blight.
Some officials in attendance included Warren Councilwoman Chery Saffold, D-6th Ward; state Sen. Capri Cafaro, D-Hubbard; Poland Trustee Mark Naples; state Rep. Ron Gerberry, D-Austintown; Warren Councilman John Brown, D-3rd Ward; and Trumbull County Planning Commission Director Bill Miller, among others.
Some of the rally's attendees included local residents concerned about local employment opportunities. Alexis Wokocha, 52, of Youngstown, was hoping to learn of local employment opportunities, but left the rally disappointed.
"They do an awful lot of talking but not a lot of acting," she said. "There are no jobs in the city for African-Americans. We need to do something about jobs."
Other residents, such as Ben Frazer Sr., 83, of Youngstown, attended the rally for other reasons.
"I enjoyed what I heard here tonight," Frazer said. "I'm not in the job market myself. I support the young people that need jobs."