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Grass Cutting Discussion Gets Heated in Youngstown - WKBN

Tempers flared at a finance committee meeting in Youngstown Wednesday night.

The topic of funding a program that would cut grass on vacant lots this summer quickly escalated and turned into an argument about race relations in the city.

Words were exchanged between 4th Ward Councilman Mike Ray and 6th Ward Councilwoman Janet Tarpley.

“That is an issue and it may not be real to you, but it is real to some of us,” Tarpley said. “Even if it is not an issue about race intentionally, but if it can be perceived, and perception is the truth, as an issue of race, then that is what it is.”

But Ray said he did not know where Tarpley’s comments were coming from.

Tarpley said the issue comes down to predominately African-American neighborhoods getting their grass cut a lot less than areas with higher percentages of white people living in them.

“When you are not at the table, you become part of the menu. And that is what I feel and that is what I think and that is what happened in this case,” Tarpley said.

First Ward Councilwoman Annie Gillam had similar concerns.

“Who is doing it and who is giving the shaft to certain people all along. And I don’t want to be shafted again. I want to know how this program is going to work in the beginning,” Gillam said.

The grass cutting proposal will be run by the Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corp.

“I think there are perceptions and that group started off in one neighborhood and some people think they focus on that one neighborhood,” Ray said.

“We are all here in the city of Youngstown and for us to move forward, we can’t leave anybody behind,” Tarpley said.

The topic will be brought up again in a special meeting at 5 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall.

No grass cutting can be done in the city until a contract with YNDC is approved. City council expects that to happen next week.

To see the full story from WKBN, click here.