Some members said the group shouldn't berate the congressman for his words.
By DAVID SKOLNICK
VINDICATOR POLITICS WRITER
POLAND -- One of the last remaining local political organizations to publicly support indicted U.S. Rep. James A. Traficant Jr. will send the congressman a letter expressing disapproval of his statements on the House floor about the recent terrorist attacks.
In a 17-10 vote, the Democrats of the 17th District agreed to send the letter after debating the issue Tuesday among its members.
"I was rather offended by the congressman's statements," said Mark Belinky, the group's president. "It was inappropriate, ill-timed, ill-conceived and it sends the wrong message."
What he said: During a speech on the House floor the day after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Traficant, of Poland, D-17th, said: "It may be unpopular to say, but I believe America's policy in the Mideast is so one-sided that we endanger now American citizens. We must be fair in our policies."
However, Andy Hamady, the group's treasurer, said Traficant was essentially echoing his own comments.
"But I wouldn't say them that way in public the day after the attacks," he said. "It lacks common sense to say something that hurtful the day after the attacks. It's just dumb."
Some members said that because Traficant has close ties to their group, they should not publicly criticize the congressman. Dennis Johnson, Columbiana County Democratic chairman and a Traficant staffer, is a club member and was one of the 10 who voted against the proposal.
"For us as a club to scrutinize these comments -- we should stay out of it," said member Sam Zappi.
However, the comments struck a nerve with some members.
"This was abhorrent," said Sherman Miles, the group's first vice president. "For him to make those comments on that day was unpatriotic."
Other views: Traficant's comments have met with condemnation from local and national Jewish officials. The local Muslim and Arab communities support his statements.
Despite the concern about his statements, the Democrats of the 17th District say they are not abandoning Traficant, who has bigger worries than this issue. Traficant faces a 10-count federal indictment on charges including bribery, racketeering and tax evasion.
"Criticism of the congressman doesn't mean we're throwing him overboard," Belinky said.
The organization also rejected a resolution by voice vote to support the Citizens' League of Greater Youngstown in its criticism of the monthly Cafaro round-table luncheons.
The group raised $620 from its members to give to the families of New York City firefighters who lost their lives in the World Trade Center attacks.