17TH DISTRICT Candidates discuss key issues

Some of the candidates talked about Youngstown State University's being a focal point for Valley progress.
WARREN -- Economic development in the Mahoning Valley, loss of jobs and health care for the elderly were the top issues presented by three 17th Congressional District candidates who spoke at a champagne breakfast Saturday.
State Sen. Tim Ryan of Niles, D-32nd; State Rep. Anthony A. Latell Jr. of Girard, D-67th; and Warren attorney Maridee Costanzo -- all vying for the newly configured 17th District -- addressed members of the Warren City Democrats at Divieste Banquet Center. A major candidate in the race, U.S. Rep. Tom Sawyer, an Akron Democrat, did not attend.
Each candidate made it clear that economic revitalization in the area is a priority, but plans to achieve that goal were as different as the candidates.
Jobs: Costanzo, who professed to be part of a dying middle class, said jobs here must be preserved at all cost. She told the audience that any candidate in the race who has stood by and let one job slip away from the area should not be in the race and does not deserve a single vote.
As part of a revitalization strategy, Costanzo said Youngstown State University should be the heart of metallurgy development -- the study of producing steel products and its alloys. This is a matter not only of local revitalization, but of national defense, she said.
With such study and advancement here, she said, the U.S. military would not have to use equipment manufactured in Third World countries -- something she strongly opposes.
Campuses: According to Ryan, YSU should be a major factor in any revitalization plan, but in conjunction with the University of Akron, Kent State University and the KSU Trumbull Campus. He said each institution has an educational niche that must be explored and taken advantage of without duplication among the schools.
Ryan said another key to revitalization is the creation of business incubators where individuals can go after college and start businesses. This, along with a high-speed railway linking Youngstown and Akron, will give young people the opportunity to live in the Valley again, he said.
Looking for the good: Latell said he would hire at least two congressional staffers to help steer the area in the right direction. One person would be designated to change the image of the area by tracking negative stories and emphasizing the good to be found here. The other individual would be a specialist in economic development designated to stop the "bleeding" of jobs' leaving the area.
"This is a great place to live, and we will do whatever it takes to entice those businesses to come here so that we can get our families back," he said.
All three candidates emphasized concern for the elderly who lose their health-care coverage or are forced to choose between buying prescriptions and other necessities.
The candidates said little about the conviction of U.S. Rep. James A. Traficant Jr. except that the situation is tragic but it is time to move on.

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