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Traficant a remnant of area's bad old days



Published: Sun, April 14, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



Traficant a remnant of area's bad old days

EDITOR:

I have been most interested in the Traficant case that Patricia Meade has so ably covered. Jim was a high school champion quarterback from Cardinal Mooney during my high school years at Ursuline. I am saddened that he has been unable to extricate himself from the particularly uneven politics that has been a part of Youngstown as long as I know.

Traficant is the personification of local politics in Youngstown, not just that he is corrupt, but that he is corrupt in a particularly Youngstownian way.

Our politics has always been characterized by mutual obligations. In return for favors of one kind, one is expected to provide favors of another. Intermixed in this reciprocal system are two potent ingredients: ethnicity and the mob.

In my childhood, I can recall Youngstown being referred to as "Crime Town U.S.A." in a widely read crime rag of the period. We joked that one of the most lucrative jobs, but one likely to be short lived, was being paid to start people's automobiles in the morning. The local mob leaders were well known to all; they hung out at the Purple Cow (in tehHotel Pick-Ohio) and the Gray Wolf Inn (in Brookfield). Everyone knew them by name, Naples, Aiello, etc. They and their cohorts were constantly, it seemed, getting shot at, blown up, or otherwise spectacularly endangered.

When some outrage embarrassed the police into putting one or more of them in jail, The Vindicator would soon print a story (usually with pictures) of the mob anti-hero being let out secretly at night to see his girlfriend. Because the mob could not exist without police connivance and neither could survive without the support of the political order (almost always Democrats, but occasionally boring do-gooder Republicans) we came to expect little in the way of honesty from our local political leaders.

A very special glue that secured the system was the ethnic neighborhoods that created strong bonds of family, church, and nationality loyalty. These neighborhoods, dominated by Italians, Irish, Slovaks, Serbs, Croatians and others, reinforced an ethnic identity that defined as a kind of treason any act that betrayed one's own especially to the do- gooders (usually Protestant and Republican.) We were to remain true to the common folk who worked the steel mills, ran a little numbers, picked up a few extra bucks by doing what needed to be done -- all to put food on the table and to pay the mortgage.

In my view, Jim Traficant is the personification of Youngstown's social and political history. He is an ethnic, a Catho lic, a local politician who learned to play politics very well by Youngstown's peculiar rules. He tapped in beautifully to the & quot;us versus them & quot; mentality that is still the rule in many quarters. He argued that he did nothing wrong. In fact, he has done everything perfectly the way Youngstown fully expects a politician to act. Politics is, in part, the art of reciprocal favors. Many in Youngstown have simply refused to accept that politics can be more than that. And so, sadly, has Jim Traficant.

None of this is to exonerate or excuse Jim Traficant. In my view, he has brought upon my hometown disgrace and, perhaps worse, ridicule. The people of my Youngstown are good, hard-working, loyal, shirt-off-their-back kind of folks. Many of them are still loyal to Jim because he is one of their own. But for the sake of a few bucks, a deck on his farmhouse, a fixed boat, some fancy dinners, and many cash payments and kickbacks (always cash) he has returned their loyalty with ashes.

PAUL W. McBRIDE

Ithaca, N.Y.

10 reasons to be happy in the Mahoning Valley

EDITOR:

I read a letter several days ago offering a list of 10 ways that we know we are from the Valley. I guess if I were a negative person, I would agree with that list. However, since I am not a negative person and always see a cup half full instead of half empty, I am submitting my 10 ways that we know we are from the Valley.

1. The Pizzuto family's fixing a home for someone who normally would have had to sleep under a bridge.

2. Hardworking residents who volunteer with Habitat for Humanity and other charities.

3. Neighbors helping neighbors, for example, during heavy snow falls or any crisis as evidenced by Sept. 11.

4. Postal carriers who watch on their routes for the sick and elderly who may need assistance.

5. New Year's Eve celebrations that center around family by featuring entertainment with a non-alcoholic theme.

6. Honest people, such as the person who turned the purse in to the Austintown Wal-Mart with everything still inside.

7. The Vietnam Traveling Wall in Warren giving all who went a beautiful solemn experience.

8. Stambaugh and Powers auditoriums, Packard Music Hall and Museum, YSU, KSU Branch in Warren and Cafaro Field where people can gather for family entertainment and learning.

9. All the places of worship where people can go to give thanks.

10. All the hard working honest people who are our neighbors, co-workers, family and friends who wouldn't dream of doing anything dishonest.

I think that we just read too much of the negative things about our Valley. But if we only do that, it's an injustice.

PAT ZOCCALI

Warren

Right wing dedicated to destroying Social Security

EDITOR:

The discussions about so-called Social Security reform brought back to me a conversation I had with a right-wing acquaintance about nine years ago. We were discussing politics and I mentioned protecting Social Security. He piped up and said that there should not be any Social Security.

I then said what would you have when you get old. He said to live off your investments. I said what about the person who only makes $8 or $9 an hour; he won't have anything.

He said, "so what" or "that's tough." He also said Social Security doesn't work.

The right-wingers have been out to get Social Security since it started. And shame on the American people if they let them do it.

GERALD MILLER

Niles

Smile and pay your taxes

EDITOR:

Here is that time again.

Look at your income tax form. Look at women in the Middle East wearing burqas -- clothed from head to toe.

And be glad you are an American.

So fill out your tax form -- pay your taxes -- eat your oatmeal for breakfast -- and smile.

You are an American.

MARGARET M. HAMROCK

Youngstown




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