I read with great concern Bertram de Souza's column in last Sunday's Vindicator. As the leader of the largest business organization in the region, I become very defensive when I read or hear about any business owner being the subject of purported harassment, especially when that criticism is reportedly coming from an elected city official or officials. I'll admit, I was a bit confused when members of Youngstown City Council came out in support of striking Vindicator employees.
The fact of the matter is, everyone has a right to their own opinion, but unless you've taken part in contract negotiations, been privy to the Vindicator's financial books, or have some inside union knowledge of the current situation, it's not really a great idea to so wholeheartedly come out and endorse any side in such a labor dispute. I feel for both sides in the on-going strike, but more focused minds than mine or council members will be needed to tackle the challenges at hand and get everyone back to work again.
That being said, I was even more concerned with the second business person who de Souza states has reportedly been the target of, what I consider to be, irrational remarks by at least one city councilman when it comes to the Youngstown Convocation Center. If these comments were truly made, and I have every reason to believe Mr. de Souza isn't making it up, then Councilman Hudson has some explaining to do. First off, the simple fact that Mr. Zoldan pays the highest municipal income tax in the state, pumps millions of dollars into the local economy in payroll, and employs hundreds at his business located in Youngstown has to stand for something.
And really, Mr. Zoldan isn't the only one looking and waiting for answers to the question of how the full construction of the arena project will be funded. If Mr. Hudson or other city officials have the answers, and I hope they do since the project is already underway, then share those answers with everyone. Keep in mind; we stand by the construction of the project. It only adds to the millions of dollars in downtown redevelopment we are witnessing and that can only mean great things for the business community, not to mention the region's overall image. And I also want to say that we admire Herb Washington for stepping to the plate with his commitment to fund a hockey team and improve the region's quality of life.
I guess what I find so alarming is the simple fact that the same people who keep the city afloat by contributing generous payroll taxes, businesses such as B.J. Alan and The Vindicator, would be the same targets of political assaults. The bottom line folks, my organization strives to keep business people "in business". What we can't do is decide for them where they choose to locate their business; that's their call.
Political actions like those that Mr. de Souza talks about by certain Youngstown City Council members can play a key role in future decisions these business owners make. Staying, expanding, or relocating to the city of Youngstown are decisions that are made by business owners. It's my hope those decisions aren't made easier due to the inappropriate actions of certain Youngstown elected officials.
THOMAS M. HUMPHRIES
X The writer President/CEO of the Regional Chamber, with offices in both downtown Youngstown and Warren.