By David Skolnick
“That so many people in trouble are from the Mahoning Valley is a black eye for the area.”
Paul Sracic, chairman of Youngstown State University’s political science department, made the above statement regarding a sexual harassment investigation at the office of Attorney General Marc Dann, a Liberty Democrat. I’m sure many Valley residents feel the same way as Sracic.
This area’s been essentially ignored by politicians, who come around every now and then seeking votes with talk of turning around our ailing economy.
Many feel we hear empty rhetoric from politicians who don’t bother to give us a helping hand once they’re elected. We’re a cynical bunch, and rightfully so. While the Valley shouldn’t rely on the state or federal governments for a bail out, we also shouldn’t be taken for granted.
So when Dann pulled off a surprising victory in 2006 over Republican Betty Montgomery for attorney general, Valley residents felt proud.
He is one of us. He understands our plight, our challenges, our goals. We’re finally at the table.
There were some who believed Dann would screw up and embarrass the area, but as I mentioned, we’re a cynical bunch.
His victory was historic.
Dann became the first Trumbull County resident ever elected attorney general. He was only the fourth person from that county to hold an executive office position in the state’s history. The last one was in 1929.
Dann was also the first Valley resident to serve in an executive office position since William J. Brown of Mahoning County served as attorney general from 1971 to 1983.
Dann recognized the importance of his victory to the area, and stated he wants to use his office “to help stimulate the Mahoning Valley’s economy.”
Dann quickly backed up his words by opening a downtown Youngstown office. While most of the workers came from the former Boardman office, Dann also added employees to the Youngstown location with plans for more hires.
He also selected a number of people from the Valley for key jobs in his administration. As we have unfortunately learned, some of those hires were huge mistakes.
With the sexual harassment investigation leading to the paid suspensions of two of his top administrators, both Valley residents, and Dann’s actions being questioned, it reflects poorly on this area.
The Valley has a terrible reputation — right or wrong — statewide.
Because of that, Dann has to be on his best behavior. To be blunt, that hasn’t happened.
If you look at Dann’s track record as attorney general, it’s pretty solid. He’s aggressively pursued those he believes have wronged the people of Ohio.
Sexual harassment probe
But those hires from the Valley overshadow that. It’s the sexual harassment investigation and accusations of an attempted cover-up. It’s his deputy security director who killed a guy. It’s his top cop not having the credentials for the job and getting fired by Dann, who accused him of improperly taking two public salaries.
Those from the area who believed Dann would fall on his face and embarrass this area are now nodding their heads and saying, “I told you so.”
Those from outside the Valley who like to pick on us are having a field day. Even reporters and columnists from Cleveland — a city with one of the nation’s highest poverty and housing foreclosure rates; a city that sees people flee at a rapid rate; a city that’s been a national joke on and off for decades — make fun of the Valley because of what’s happened in Dann’s office.
The state took a chance on electing someone from the Valley.
The future for Dann looks bleak. There is talk that a significant development could occur today.
Regardless of what happens today, tomorrow, next month or next year, and regardless of Dann’s good intentions to help the Valley, what has occurred will make it extremely challenging for Ohio voters to take another chance on someone from this area.
If Dann goes down, he could be taking all of us with him.