Lawsuit links racism to Youngstown sewer backups - WFMJ.com News weather sports for Youngstown-Warren Ohio

Lawsuit links racism to Youngstown sewer backups

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YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio -

A Youngstown woman has filed a federal lawsuit blaming mold, mildew, and other damage to her property on what she says is the city's racially motivated policies regarding sewer service.

Venicee Howell, says in the civil rights lawsuit filed against the city and Mayor John McNally, that her neighbors living in the Sharonline area have also been damaged by the city's alleged policies.

Howell's attorney, Percy Squire says in the suit that black residents living in Youngstown's First and Second Wards have historically, on the basis of race, been denied equal city services yet required to pay equal fees and taxes.

City services such as the storm sewers in and around Howell's Bott Street for years did not exist, resulting in a continuous backup of stormwater onto Howell's land, according to the lawsuit.

Howell claims that the sewage backups caused extensive damage to the foundation of her home, causing soil subsidence, mold and mildew accumulation, and a declining property value.

The suit says the city has taken no action to alleviate the problem or compensate Howell.

Attorney Squire writes in the complaint that the Sharonline was established to accommodate black steelworkers recently who arrived as part of an effort in the early 1920's effort to recruit a “less troublesome” workforce who were not be permitted to join labor unions.

The suit asks for at least $75,000 in damages, as well as a permanent injunction barring the city from continuing the alleged policies.

The city has yet to file a response to the lawsuit.

It would be up to a judge to decide of the suit will be declared a class action, enabling others who feel they have also been the victim of the alleged policies to become plaintiffs.

A copy of the complaint may be read here.

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