YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Court records show that John Vivo, endorsed Wednesday by the Mahoning County Democratic Party as a candidate for councilman of Youngstown’s 7th Ward, owes nearly $15,000 in back taxes on three properties in the city.
Several county government offices have targeted one of those properties for demolition.
A federal grant recently gave money to the Mahoning County Land Bank, Mahoning County Prosecutor’s Office and Mahoning County Treasurer’s Office to jointly decide on vacant properties to tear down, and one of Vivo’s was on the list.
When asked about the debt Thursday, Vivo said he knows he is behind on the taxes and will pay what he owes on the three south side properties, including his flower shop on Southern Boulevard, an abandoned house next door and his residence on East Boston. He said he has been behind on the taxes for nearly a decade.
Vivo said he still thinks he can represent his ward on council if he wins.
“If anybody does not want to vote for me just because of this, I am sorry you feel that way. But there is many people in the 7th Ward, all the seven wards of Youngstown, who owe more than I do, or less than I do. I am at least willing to stand up and say ‘yes, I do owe it.’,” Vivo said.
Mahoning County Democratic Party Chairman Dave Betras released a statement about the issue via email on Thursday.
“I’m deeply disappointed that Mr. Vivo did not disclose the fact that he owed back taxes before seeking the Party’s endorsement. I’ve addressed this type of situation in the past and I will continue to ask candidates to be completely open about any problems of this nature that they may have when they seek the MCDP endorsement,” Betras wrote. “Mr. Vivo has stated that he will use most of his salary as councilman to pay his taxes if he is elected. The people of the Seventh Ward will ultimately determine if he is worthy of their votes and I’m certain his opponents will determine if the delinquencies should be a major issue in the campaign.”
Vivo said a lot of his money problems have been because of his struggling floral business, which also has led to utilities being shut off at his house in the past. In the meantime, a program created to get long-overdue delinquent vacant properties off the county’s books is now listing the house on Southern Boulevard on its demolition list this year.
Once the house is torn down, it will be turned over to Mahoning County’s land bank system to be sold.
Mahoning County Treasurer Dan Yemma said when that happens, not only will tax dollars be paying for the work. the program erases all of the owner’s liens on that property.
“The theory on this I guess is to cut your losses and try to make it an attractive property, a productive property, a tax-paying property,” Yemma said.