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A day after learning Cardinal Mooney High School will not be leaving Youngstown, Mayor Chuck Sammarone and Police Chief Rod Foley said they believe their last-minute pitches to Youngstown Bishop George Murry may have made the difference.
The bishop decided Tuesday to keep Mooney from moving to the suburbs, essentially overruling members of the school’s own Board of Directors, which had voted for the move. Murry and Mooney president Fr. Gerald DeLucia had met with Sammarone and Foley to discuss concerns they had with crime and the general appearance of the South Side neighborhoods near the school on Erie Street.
“We’re certainly going to look at the concerns about the perceptions of Youngstown and the main arteries. We want to address that. We want the kids and the parents to feel safe driving in and out. And that was always the biggest concern,” Foley said.
Foley said perceptions about the city, especially for those living in the suburbs, are tough to overcome.
“I think that we have to do a better job of selling ourselves, and letting people know that generally the criminals are cannibalizing each other. They’re not targeting law-abiding citizens,” Foley said.
The chief said while the neighborhood closest to the school is relatively safe, he plans to target gang activity in other parts of the South Side that may be leaving students and parents thinking the entire area has problems.
Sammarone said he’s making code enforcement and demolition of blighted houses a priority, not just in the Mooney neighborhoods, but throughout the city.
“And we consider Cardinal Mooney like any other business. Even though it’s a school, they got people working, they pay income tax. And it’s a high priority for demo and code enforcement,” Sammarone said.
He said while the city already has taken down a number of blighted houses near the school, he plans to add more staff to respond to abandoned properties even faster and not just on the South Side.
“It’s a citywide issue and I knew that being with council all those years that we should have been doing more for the neighborhoods,” Sammarone said.
While both the chief and the mayor said they are addressing the bishop’s concerns, results will take time.
“This happened over a number of years, so it’s gonna take time, but we’re gonna hit every area,” Sammarone said.
Those living in the neighborhood surrounding Cardinal Mooney said they are relieved the school will not be relocating. Those living in homes along LaClede Avenue face the back side of the high school complex, and said Mooney’s presence in the area has been a stabilizing influence that has kept the neighborhood relatively quiet.
“I think that knocks crime down a whole lot because of the higher sentence if they do happen in a neighborhood or school zone,” said resident Linna Turner. “So, I’m glad that they’re staying.”