New Castle News

Closer Look

January 17, 2013

Our Opinion: Closure of local YDC suggests lack of local influence

NEW CASTLE — We can’t say the announced closing of the local Youth Development Center came as a surprise.

For some time now, employees of the facility had been raising concerns that the state was preparing to shutter the facility designed to assist in the rehabilitation of juveniles found responsible for serious crimes.

And in recent years, the population of the YDC in Shenango Township had been scaled back. It’s the sort of move that often precedes a complete closure.

As a result, more than 200 local jobs will be lost. Some employees may be able to find work at other YDCs in the state, but they will have to move out of the area for that to happen.

To coincide with the YDC closure, the Corbett administration announced a plan to direct state dollars to prevention and intervention programs for juveniles. The announcement came with a lot of bureaucratic jargon, but basically, the administration is funding prevention programs in the hope fewer crimes will be committed and fewer juveniles will be sent to youth development centers.

Of course, it’s worth asking if these prevention efforts will actually work. What happens if YDC space is needed and the local site is closed?

Meanwhile, local lawmakers expressed frustration with the administration’s closure decision, complaining about a lack of communication and poor planning. Obviously, it’s part of the job of local representatives to go to bat for state employees in their community.

If closing the YDC is a sound fiscal decision, those who expect government to run in a cost-effective fashion can’t complain. Should there be a better way to deal with juvenile offenders (or potential juvenile offenders), so be it.

But when it comes to government, there is always the suspicion that other factors some into play with such decisions. Why are some YDC facilities preserved while others close? Does this occur for practical reasons, or do other communities have the necessary political clout to protect their jobs and facilities?

We can’t say for certain, but through their own comments in yesterday’s edition of the New Castle News, local lawmakers do not appear to have any real influence in the matter. They are left to grumble about being kept in the dark.

Whether or not the closure of the YDC is a defensible move, one thing is certain: The political influence to impact the decision doesn’t exist here.

And at the end of the day, maybe that’s the main lesson coming out of this. Without sufficient clout, government-related jobs are hard to hold in a community.

What’s the solution? Either demand more from local politicians, or foster the private sector for jobs that will last.

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