Stone develops ‘lesson plan’ after listening tours

By: Gena Johnson | Warren Weekly | Published February 19, 2024

 Warren Mayor Lori Stone said she would create a “lesson plan” for addressing the concerns of residents brought forth during her listening tour events this winter.

Warren Mayor Lori Stone said she would create a “lesson plan” for addressing the concerns of residents brought forth during her listening tour events this winter.

Photo by Donna Dalziel


WARREN — Mayor Lori Stone said she listened to Warren residents and learned from them in recent weeks. Now, she’s thinking about the key takeaways from her five-stop listening tour.

“We learned so much from the listening tour,” Stone said. “It was such a valuable experience. First of all, it sets the tone of the administration that we are here to hear from the residents and start with a baseline of expectation.”

Among those at every listening event were the mayor and some of the members of the Warren City Council.

“I thought it was a great exercise that showed the mayor’s office and City Council can work together in engaging our community and I’m really proud it was a collaborative effort,” Stone said.

The tour discussed a different topic at each meeting. The topics were economic development, public safety, parks and recreation, environmental sustainability and roads and infrastructure. These topics were among the top priorities of residents, Stone learned while campaigning.

“Some of these topics can be very broad,” Stone said. “I do think this time and space was able to provide more detail to the big ideas.”

Stone elaborated about some of the ideas and messages she heard.

“A really powerful message I took away was about equity, social justice and wanting to see greater development and investment in Warren south of I-696,” Stone said.

This correlates to what many Warren residents have expressed publicly in various community venues: Warren is the tale of two cities. The Warren north of I-696 is where there has historically been economic development and where government-funded improvement projects go first. The Warren south of I-696 has a higher concentration of racial and cultural diversity and many have said the area has been historically “ignored” and “neglected” in economic development.

Small business was also mentioned as a viable avenue for economic development.

“I would love to see a Warren that talks about improving small businesses. Many candidates ran on that, many elected officials ran on that,” Warren resident Michael Howard said. “I would love to see a dollar amount attached to that commitment.”

Public safety was also discussed.

“People were very appreciative of the services our first responders offer our citizens. They also want to see programs in the community that offer alternatives to young people, and make sure we are looking at a more holistic approach to public safety,” said Stone.

According to Stone, a holistic approach includes having activities for kids when they are out of school.  She would like to receive input from young people as to what they would like.

Some of the community concerns included keeping the number of officers at full strength. As of the Jan. 22 tour stop, the Warren Police Department was down 18 officers due to a large number of retirements in June 2023. The department was slated to hire seven new officers the following week, according to Warren Police Commissioner William Dwyer.

The parks and recreation meeting appeared to have the highest attendance on the listening tour.

Stone acknowledged the city’s parks have been neglected and given sporadic attention.

“I would like to implement a strategic plan that identifies a few parks a year that will get the investment,” Stone said. “This would include engagement of the surrounding community and identifying what they would like to see there and how the park will be used.”

Each park is a little different in what it offers and how it is used. This is largely due to its location. Skate parks and pickle ball courts are slated to come to some of Warren parks, according to the mayor.

“I know there is a trend in skate culture in the community. It is exciting to see Warren is looking to have our community reflect this interest,” Stone said. “You see in communities where you can’t use the space. Please don’t use this for skateboarding. Please don’t use this or this. It’s nice to welcome this space for use.”

The lack of restrooms and those that are clean, accessible and working was a major concern for residents.

“The (Warren 2024) ’24 calendar shows we have 28 parks in the city of Warren. I circled the 23 that have restrooms. Go to those 23 right now and see if you can (use the facilities),” Warren resident Mary Mataczynski said.  “They are locked. They have been locked months, years. This goes back 10 years.”

Stone recognized the need for working restrooms at the parks.

“That was overwhelmingly a request from the community,” Stone said. “I think it is something we need to look at. Putting pieces in place so those (restrooms) are accessible and clean and ready to use.

“If you are a parent bringing kids to the park for playtime, you have to have access to a bathroom; otherwise, you are turning around and going home. I’ve seen that firsthand. We’re committed to making sure there’s a solution,” Stone said.

Environmental sustainability and roads and infrastructure were the last two stops on the tour.

According to Stone, there were advocates with passionate desires to see Warren lead the charge on environmental sustainability. This would include green spaces, restoring tree canopies, and thoughtful utilization of parks and energy.

“I was impressed with the amount of interest,” Stone said about the roads and infrastructure meeting.  “Infrastructure is often the bones of the city other than roads. When it comes to sewers and other underground infrastructure that you don’t see every day, it is often overlooked and underappreciated.”

Some residents spoke about specifics: a particular street, or a specific project. Others spoke in broader terms about how the administration will handle water run-off, sewer capacity and flooding.

Residents expressed they would like a more interactive forum with the mayor and the administration where questions can be asked and answered.

Stone said that is coming. Specific next steps were not available at this time. Stone and her team are analyzing the information learned on the listening tour to determine the solutions and sequence of implementation.

“The key is to dig into those expectations and look at where they meet our master plan for the city and put it into a lesson plan for lack of a better word,” Stone said. “How are we going to implement these? In what order? What are we going to tackle first? Not just looking for the next three months, but starting to look at the next four years.”