VSD case will be revived this year



Since New Year's resolutions, like political promises, are meant to be broken, it is an exercise in futility for this columnist to resolve to be a kinder, gentler human being in 2003. Some things are just not in the cards. ("I resolve to be nice to the Mahoning Valley's new congressman, Tim Ryan ... who has no business occupying such a lofty public position." See, it doesn't work.)
Therefore, rather than filling the space with a list of resolutions that won't be kept, here are some predictions for 2003 that hopefully will be forgotten by this time next year:
UYoungstown State University will raise tuition again in the fall because its financial condition will remain comatose, if not worsen.
The YSU board of trustees, at the urging of President David Sweet, approved a 9.5 percent tuition increase that goes into effect this summer. Sweet and the trustees said the increase would enable the university to close a $2 million-plus gap in the operating budget.
The gap was largely caused by the trustees giving the president, his top administrators, the faculty, classified employees, professional staff and police lucrative pay raises -- at a time when the private sector is slashing expenditures by freezing wages, demanding higher employee contributions for such things as health care, and even downsizing operations.
At YSU, however, when the braintrust realized it didn't have the money to meet operating expenses, it simply decided to let the students pay.
But even with all the optimism being expressed by Sweet, the reality is that 2003 is going to be the year of unmet expectations. Despite Gov. Bob Taft's insistence that he intends to increase state funding for higher education, there won't be a windfall for YSU. In addition, the enrollment target that Sweet has set as part of his budget projections will not be reached.
And so, by the fall semester, Youngstown State will be scrambling to make ends meet -- and once again tuition will be increase because it is the only revenue source that the trustees control exclusively.
UIt won't take long for Tim Ryan, who will be sworn in as congressman on Tuesday, to earn a reputation as Congress' No. 1 party boy. After all, what's a freshman Democrat with limited work experience and on the wrong side of the aisle to do in a job that pays more than $150,000?
Ryan, who spent 22 months in the Ohio Senate without blazing any legislative trails and without saying anything of consequence either in committee meetings or on the floor won last year's congressional race on the basis of his nice-guy image.
After 17 years and 7 months of James A. Traficant Jr., with his bombastic style and criminal nature, the voters of the Mahoning Valley wanted someone who would not make waves. Ryan fits that bill.
Thus, in the House of Representatives, as a member of the minority party, the resident of Niles will get lost in the crowd -- and assure himself re-election in 2004.
UOhio's new attorney general, Jim Petro, will go after two former Mahoning Valley Sanitary District directors, Edward A. Flask and Frank DeJute, with a vengeance.
The setbacks that the AG's office suffered under Betty Montgomery -- she has replaced Petro as state auditor -- will not dissuade the man who wants to be Ohio's next governor. It was Petro as auditor who found that the MVSD has improperly spent $2 million of water-user money during the time Flask and DeJute were on the board of directors and that a major contract holder had been paid for work it never performed.
While Montgomery was a reluctant advocate for the 300,000 water users in Mahoning and Trumbull counties, Petro made it clear during his campaign to be the state's top lawyer that he will not rest until the former MVSD directors are made to pay.
UPatrick J. Ungaro, the former mayor of Youngstown and currently administrator of Liberty Township, will begin testing the waters for a possible bid for another term as the city of Youngstown's chief executive.
Mayor George M. McKelvey cannot run for the third consecutive term -- he will leave office in December 2005 -- and so the field of mayoral wannabes grows by the day.
Ungaro still enjoys tremendous support among the voters from his 14-year tenure as mayor, and in a crowded race would have a distinct advantage.
UJim Traficant will become just another crooked politician serving time.

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