YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WYTV) – A concerted effort to embarrass landlords into maintaining their Youngstown properties has been going on for several years. Now the Youngstown Housing Task Force plans to protest at the homes of four Mahoning County landlords.
Since these landlords haven’t been charged with a crime, we’re not naming them.
Alden Chevlen is a lawyer representing one of the four landlords people will be protesting Saturday.
“They’re just church groups,” he said. “They’re volunteers who are out trying to use some scare tactics and intimidation to get landlords to clean up their acts.”
“It is on us, as citizens of this city, to speak up about the individual who owns this property here, who leaves this like this,” said Jack Daugherty, with the Youngstown Housing Task Force.
He was talking about a dilapidated house on Ferndale Avenue, owned by one of the four landlords.
The group wants the landlords to sign an agreement, agreeing to maintain their properties and pay their delinquent taxes.
On Saturday morning, the group plans to protest at the landlords’ homes in Youngstown, Boardman, Campbell and Poland.
“We don’t plan on disrespecting anybody’s homes, we don’t plan on disrespecting anybody. But we do plan to approach them, and reason with us and work with the task force,” said Jonathan Thomas, with the Youngstown Housing Task Force.
“They can’t accomplish anything other than embarrass the landlord and interfere with the landlord’s reputation and ability to make a living because they have no policing authority,” Chevlen said.
He and his landlord client have not taken any legal action for now, but they’re concerned about what Chevlen called “untrue statements” being made.
“When it gets to the point where people refuse to rent his apartments, then we’ve got an issue because they are interfering with his ability to make a living,” he said.
“I don’t think it’s ethical for somebody to have to live in a neighborhood with a property like this, though,” Daugherty said. “That, I do have a problem with.”
“They’re going out there, they’re creating a ruckus, they’re getting people incited and I was going to say it’s kind of like an Old Western,” Chevlen said. “They’re almost like vigilantes, you know? The next thing, they’ll be burning landlords at the stake or something.”
The Youngstown Housing Task Force has notified every police department where it will be protesting about its plans.
Boardman Police Chief Todd Werth sent a statement, which read, in part:
Protests are not violations of the law. It is the illegal acts which sometimes arise from such activities that are the concern of the police…It is the role of the police department to protect the rights of the public and of the disputants by enforcing the law and maintaining order.”