A GM financing company is suing Traficant for repossession of a car he leased in 1999.
By MARALINE KUBIK
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- Reports of 600 supporters' turning out to gawk at a Hollywood-style walk-of-fame star installed in the middle of the night at the John Young Memorial were greatly exaggerated.
There weren't even 600 footprints in the snow.
And by this morning, the object of the scant attention was gone.
The city of Youngstown was not amused. The star was illegally installed on city property. City workers had it out of the ground and were chipping frozen dirt off its back by 10 a.m.
Last night, though, 17 curious onlookers, not all thrilled by the sight of the crudely installed star emblazoned with the name of James A. Traficant Jr. and a machine gun, milled about just after 5 in front of the monument at Oak Hill and Mahoning Avenue as a man prompted the group to cheer into his cell phone.
The call was broadcast over Clear Channel WKBN-AM and was supposed proof that there was indeed a crowd.
The star, honoring the 17th District congressman who went on trial in federal court in Cleveland on Tuesday, roughly measures 3 feet square.
It purportedly was installed by "an artist and a group of his friends" Sunday night, according to an anonymous letter distributed to news organizations Tuesday.
Unhappy with it: Bob Barko Jr., an artist and owner of Steel Town Studios downtown, was insulted that anyone would suggest that the star is a work of art.
"It's manufactured, and I don't think that this is the place to put it," he said, shaking his head.
"They should have put it in front of Traficant's office. Putting it in front of a memorial honoring Youngstown's founder is disrespectful. How can they equate Traficant or any politician with John Young?"
Ed Hulme, who has been instrumental in maintaining the John Young Memorial, called the act "a disgrace. I'd tear it out myself," he said.
Favorable reviews: His daughter, Mary Hulme, a Youngstown mail carrier, had a different opinion. She and co-worker Craig Baker stopped to see the star after listening to reports about it on a radio talk show while they were delivering mail.
"I think it's a wonderful piece of art," she said. Likening the star's appearance to spontaneous art exhibitions in major cities, Mary Hulme said, "We should enjoy it. It's fun, and it's part of who we are -- it represents who we are."
"It's beautiful and is as professional as it could be made," Baker added.
Tom and Velma Reid of Austintown, self-described Traficant supporters, weren't quite as enthusiastic, but they were happy to see a display of support for the congressman.
"It's nice," Velma Reid said.
Steve Vicker, a Traficant supporter from Youngstown, called it spectacular. Then, pointing north across the bridge toward the nearby WRTA bus station, he said, "It would be nice to see the convocation center sitting right there."
Repossessing car: One entity not amused is General Motors Acceptance Corp., which is suing the Poland Democrat for repossession of his car.
The action was filed Tuesday afternoon in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court.
GMAC of North Olmstead says Traficant defaulted on payments for a 1999 Oldsmobile Alero he's leased since May 1999 from Columbiana Buick-Olds-Cadillac.
He missed payments in November, December and January, totaling $844.86, the suit says.
It seeks recovery of the vehicle, court costs and unspecified damages.