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Now isn't the time to split 17th congressional district



Published: Sun, November 4, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



Tunnel vision must not be permitted to destroy the political uniqueness and the power that is the Mahoning Valley region. To believe, as Warren Mayor Henry Angelo and Trumbull County Commissioner Joseph Angelo do, that a divided Valley will bring untold economic benefits to their communities is to ignore reality.

That reality was articulated by The Vindicator a decade ago when Ohio was facing the loss of two congressional districts.

What we said in an editorial July 28, 1991, is worth repeating today, as Ohio's legislative leaders develop a congressional redistricting plan that deals with the loss of one district:

"The economic survival of the Valley has served as a rallying point for the area's diverse public and private organizations. It is gratifying to note that the same is true of the Valley's political interests, which explains the formation of an organized effort to keep the 17th Congressional District intact.

"The non-partisan Committee to Save Our Seventeenth Congressional District is made up of representatives of business, labor and civic groups. Each has a vital interest in seeking to preserve the 17th District as a political entity."

Are things so different today that it is no longer important to retain Mahoning and Trumbull counties as one district and one standard metropolitan statistical area, which provides the basis for bringing federal dollars to the region? Absolutely not. Indeed, now, more than ever, the Mahoning Valley must speak with one voice in Washington.

Airport development: The Angelo brothers would do well to look at the rewards Trumbull County has earned as a result of Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties being in the 17th District. A prime example is the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport located in Vienna Township.

As a result of the efforts of U.S. Rep. James A. Traficant Jr., D-Poland, the federal government has funneled $50 million for major capital improvement projects, including the extension of the main runway, has enlarged the Air Force Reserve base and has joined with the state of Ohio in financing the construction of the King Graves Road interchange.

Those improvements have spurred the development by the Youngstown-Warren Regional Chamber of Commerce of an industrial park adjacent to the airport that now boasts $100 million in private investment.

If Henry and Joseph Angelo and other Trumbull County officials believe that their county would fare as well, or even better, if it were incorporated into a congressional district that does not include Mahoning County, they are fooling themselves.

GOP goal: Indeed, there is no guarantee that all of Trumbull County would be placed in one district. The goal of the Republican leadership in the Ohio House and Senate is to get rid of a Democratic congressman without jeopardizing a Republican seat. To accomplish that, the GOP leadership will keep the number of Democrats being moved into any one Republican district to a minimum.

It is unfortunate that some Trumbull County elected officials have chosen to ignore the chamber of commerce in deciding to send a letter to Gov. Bob Taft touting their vision of congressional redistricting. The chamber must not let that letter be the last word from the Mahoning Valley.

Mahoning and Trumbull counties are best served by remaining in one congressional district.




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