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Chamber: Counties' funding is equitable



Published: Mon, November 19, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



A Trumbull commissioner said seed money brought funds for work at the air station and the regional airport.

By DAVID SKOLNICK

VINDICATOR POLITICS WRITER

YOUNGSTOWN -- Examination of federal discretionary dollars obtained by counties in the 17th Congressional District during the past decade shows any perception that Trumbull County ends up with less is incorrect, said a Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber official.

The report lists $123.4 million in federal discretionary money for Trumbull County, $70.7 million for Mahoning County, $98.4 million for Columbiana County, and $32 million for combined Mahoning-Trumbull projects.

"There is a significant investment in all three counties," said Barbara Ewing, the chamber's vice president of public policy. "The federal dollars are spread out equitably."

The chamber prepared the report in response to comments made by Trumbull County officials that they want to separate from Mahoning County in a congressional district primarily because they believe they would have a better chance of obtaining federal dollars for their county if Trumbull was the largest county in a district.

What's disputed: After being told about the chamber report, Trumbull County Commissioner Joseph J. Angelo Jr., a vocal supporter of splitting from Mahoning, said statistics lie.

He said most of the nearly $90 million the county has received for improvements to the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport and the Youngstown Air Reserve Station, both in Vienna, was because the county contributed seed money to get the money.

"There's a feeling in Trumbull County that we're being a shunned nephew or niece in this district," he said.

Warren Mayor Hank Angelo, the commissioner's brother, said there is no question that the county has received federal money over the years, but hardly any of it went to his city.

"We couldn't do worse for Warren with another option," the mayor said.

Reality is federal facilities such as the airport, the federal courthouse in Youngstown or the Elkton prison attract federal dollars, Ewing said.

"Federal money floats to federal facilities," she said. "We may not like that, but that's the fact. That's how the system works. If Trumbull pulls out, you're not going to get another federal courthouse 20 miles away from Youngstown."

Various views: The Angelo brothers say two congressmen from the Mahoning Valley would prove to be beneficial to the area. They also said they have no interest in getting into a fight or a debate with Mahoning County or chamber officials about their position.

Ewing pointed that the two most-favored redistricting proposals by Ohio Republicans call for Trumbull County to be split with portions in two congressional districts.

"In that case, you'll see Trumbull County projects marginalized," she said. "There will be no voting bloc to compel a congressman to address any of their projects."

Also, Ewing said, Trumbull officials have failed to show any proof that another congressman will do better at obtaining federal funds for their county.

"The Valley does better speaking collectively with one voice," she said. "We can point to our successes with one voice. We believe that is the correct approach and we believe it's incumbent upon those in Trumbull County to show us why it isn't the case and why it would be better served by another congressman. By speaking with one voice, we're not competing with each other. To split, we would effectively compete with each other and we'll get less money for this region than more."

Traficant's stance: U.S. Rep. James A. Traficant Jr. of Poland, D-17th, whose district includes Mahoning County, all but 300 voters in Columbiana County and Trumbull County minus its western portion, wants the district to remain as is, said Charles Straub, his spokesman. Also, Traficant does not play favorites when it comes to obtaining federal funds, Straub said.

"He responds to the needs of the entire district and looks for federal funding for every project based on its merits," Straub said. "The congressman doesn't have a breakdown of what goes into what county. It's not a game played in this office."

Warren's mayor refused to say if he is satisfied with the job Traficant is doing.

His brother was more vocal.

"I think Jim's done a good job, but he could do a better job," Joseph Angelo said. "There's always room for improvement. Jim's fought for both counties and brought money back. He's seen as a renegade and a rebel in D.C. You have to work with other people to get things done. Jim's taken another approach. He has his pluses and his minuses. I'm not bashing him."

Ewing said there are conflicting reports as to the effectiveness of Traficant in obtaining federal funds for the Mahoning Valley.

"There is no definitive good way of telling if we are getting a good deal of discretionary money coming back to the Valley or not," she said.

skolnick@vindy.com




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