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Louis (April 18-23) will feature a keynote address (April 21) and panel discussion (April 20) by Jay Williams, executive director of the federal Office of Recovery for Auto Communities and Workers, and the former mayor of Youngstown, Ohio. His election in 2005 gained local and regional media attention because it brought Youngstown its first AfricanAmerican mayor as well as its first independent mayor since 1922. He left the position in August 2011 to take a position as the Obama administration's "Auto Czar". (full bio) Under the leadership of Williams, Youngstown garnered significant national and international attention for the city’s efforts to focus on improving the quality of life while facing challenges of industrial and population decline. The city has lost more than 14% of its population each of the past five decades, a 60% decline overall since 1960. Williams remains a strong proponent of the city’s award winning Youngstown 2010 planning initiative, a project in which he played a leading role. That project has led to headlines like “The Incredible Shrinking City”. From MetropolisMag: Last year Youngstown 2010 unveiled a comprehensive plan to reduce nonessential infrastructure, attract new businesses, and rehab deteriorated and abandoned spaces. In fact Youngstown is the first city in the United States to adopt this disarming approach to the problems of population decline. “It’s politically and professionally uncomfortable to face the shrinkage of a city or region, even though it may be staring you in the face,” says Frank Popper, an urban-planning professor at Rutgers and Princeton universities. “I think it’s enormously brave and creative and innovative of Youngstown to be taking on this task.” Youngstown has little choice: once a city of more than 170,000, it counts roughly 80,000 residents today (2010 Cenus recorded 66,982 residents). The town had to recast itself as a smaller place. “You had all of this excess infrastructure and a declining tax base,” says Oliver Jerschow of Urban Strategies, which developed the basis for Youngstown 2010’s plan. “But on the positive side, Youngstown had these legacies that a typical city of eighty thousand would never have.” Prior to being elected, Mayor Williams spent five years as the Director of Community Development for the city. Before entering into public service, Mayor Williams enjoyed a distinguished career in banking, which included stints at the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland and First Place Bank, as a vice president. Mayor Williams was born and reared in Youngstown. He graduated from Youngstown State University with a B.S.B.A., majoring in finance. Venue: Soldiers’ Memorial – 1315 Chestnut Street Event: DETROPIA screening & panel Date/Time: Friday, April 20 / 6:30 p.m. Cost: FREE Press inquiries: Alex Ihnen – Open/Closed and Shuttered Film Fest alex@nextSTL.com 314-941-4929 Venue: The Sanctuary – 4440 Red Bud Boulevard Event: Keynote address Date/Time: Saturday, April 21 / 4:30 p.m. Cost: FREE
Open/Closed is an opportunity for local and regional stakeholders, leaders, artists, and activists to recognize unique experiences and lived knowledge about urban change while developing collaborative community responses. St. Louis faces many challenges, but none are more visceral than the thousands of vacant buildings and lots that have a corrosive effect on our community. With one in five addresses currently vacant, the issue cannot be ignored. This challenge demands accountable governance, democratic thinking and inclusive dialogue. This is the route to action.