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‘It is what it is’ isn’t an answer (at least not a good one)

Published: Sun, August 16, 2009 @ 12:00 a.m.

‘It is what it is’ isn’t an answer (at least not a good one)


During my brief trip home for a Cleveland friend’s wedding, I was amazed to read last Sunday’s top headline: “’Welcome Home Jimbo’ countdown begins.” I was also amazed when I read a few blogs on vindy.com with many bloggers supporting “Jimbo” on the basis that “everyone is corrupt” — as if that makes government corruption OK. The man is a convicted felon several times over. He is responsible for millions of Congressional earmark dollars, then called pork barrel spending, being misappropriated for personal gain. Money that was supposed to shore up Youngstown’s infrastructure. That is not your standard political corruption favor, that is bilking your constituents out of opportunity, improved quality of life, and employment opportunities. It is because of this man’s actions and the mentality of his supporters, that I, and many, many other young professionals, have left this town.

I now reside in Annapolis, Md., just minutes from Wshington, D.C., where I suppose that most of “Jimbo’s” supporters would claim the greatest government corruption exists. I have met and befriended a number of lobbyists, campaign designers, and congressional aides in my time there, and I can assure you that the “Inside the beltway” political favors that are labeled corruption are a far cry from multiple felony counts — and no one celebrates those who stray across that very large, very clear legal/illegal line.

As a government teacher, I actually have a picture of “Jimbo’s” mug shot on my classroom wall. The caption below it reads: “Pay attention in government class, or this man could become your congressman.” The picture becomes part of my lesson plans each year: 1. when students ask “What is racketeering?” and 2. when I stress the importance of paying close attention to government actions and actively participating in government by voting, campaigning, or at the very least, writing a letter (or e-mail).

It embarrasses me to bring my wife home to Youngstown (she is an Annapolis native). I tell her about all the great things here, the people, the food, the atmosphere of so many local stores and restaurants — all to be undone by stories of parties for convicted felons, and other odd behaviors (grocery store picketers). My sense of pride in my hometown dwindles with each trip back. Youngstown, if you want your children to stay, and your grandchildren to know you, stop condemning yourself. Just because “that’s how this town is” doesn’t make it right.


Annapolis, Md.


1leaveusalone(103 comments)posted 5 years, 9 months ago

Sigh....Why would anyone feel personally embarrassed by their hometown? The only factors that anyone is truly judged on - either here or in the next life - are their personal behaviors, virtues, ethics and actions. I'm always amazed at how many people here, or from here, find it necessary to criticize this place. It has its faults - some of them huge. But even if we could eliminate all of them tomorrow, each individual here would still be responsible for their own lives - just as they are today. I often feel that all this criticism is aimed at deflecting this basic truth. Yes, Trafficant was corrupt and yes, many others were also. But, if my father was still alive, he'd be asking me, "so what does this have to do with what YOU have to get done today?"

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2Kellie(24 comments)posted 5 years, 9 months ago

Hi Josh,
I see your point and agree with it. It feels in Youngstown that some of the more mature (as in older) citizens in the Mahoning Valley area have glorified a felon and an era who happened to be our elected congressman and that is embarassing. There seems to be a mindframe that Traficant was some sort of hero. Sometimes, I think that older citizens are looking for something to be a part of, and if "welcoming home" a felon is that club then they will join. If there were family members and friends that wanted to have a welcome home party, it should be a private personal affair. Making it a community event would be wrong.

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3VINDYAK(1803 comments)posted 5 years, 9 months ago


Congratulations on your move to Annapolis...nice town! So much history there. And thank you for teaching our children the rights and wrongs of politics. Your teachings would have fallen on unopend minds here in the valley. Hope someday one of your students becomes President of The United States of America.

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4JeffLebowski(953 comments)posted 5 years, 9 months ago

Right on, Josh; odd behaviors, indeed.

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5OldFashionedMama(77 comments)posted 5 years, 9 months ago

Youngstown has suffered enough from the negative attitudes of people like you, Mr Cartwright. Why are you wasting time writing a letter to a newspaper you don't subscribe to or support and bashing a place you don't even live in anymore?

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6Josh1856(6 comments)posted 5 years, 9 months ago

Thank you for the feedback, all - and I do mean all.

OldFasionedMama - I do not care to "bash" Youngstown, nor is it so that I do not "support" the Vindicator. I am a son of Youngstown, I love my home town. My letter is written out of hurt, not hate. I believe that Y-town has the ability to revitalize and be a great place - again. However, the 'old guard', if you will, and the mentality of it, is preventing progressive young thinking from moving Youngstown forward. The area continues to thrive on sprawl rather than reinvestment. I applaud the works of those like Phil Kidd, Paul Hagman, and Chad Chromer, who see the possibilities of Youngstown, but are routinely thwarted by the, as I call them, "good ol' boys club" who use the same shenanigans as Trafficant - looking to make their own buck at the expense and ruse towards the public. All the while, the business, building, investment, and employment spreads further and further from the city leaving decay in its wake. Last I was home, I thought Canfield was more like the beginnings of the Boardman plaza. All those great buildings, Youngstown landmarks, location to freeways and the park, squandered; when they could be very valuable assets.

Youngstown is poised to be a commercial (not industrial) real estate powerhouse. Throw in a TON of retail, coupled with the low cost of living - could be great! All those jobs from entry level commercial offices, retail for the college kids and young adults, plenty of open (and cheap) space downtown and uptown (rather than sprawling into North Jackson next)...the possibilities!

But instead, we celebrate Jim Traficant, picket Sparkle markets, throw up the union war flag whenever anyone offers us a job, and then complain about 'outsiders' and what they don't get. Youngstown needs to move on, and each day that it doesn't breaks my heart.

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7planforthebest(53 comments)posted 5 years, 9 months ago

Youngstown only has four libraries, and one of those is falling down and about to be closed.

Please don't take your embarrassment about Jim Trafficant out on the libraries, they are two completely separate things.

Yes, it's embarrassing that some people are welcoming home a convicted felon, but what he did isn't any worse than what Michael Vick did and he's being welcomed by Philadelphia. I would never consider attending a welcome home party for either man, but that doesn't mean that others who feel differently shouldn't.

We still have freedom of expression here and if some people feel like throwing Trafficant a party, what's that to you? You don't even live here anymore, probably because the area doesn't have enough amenities to make you happy.

Can you really begrudge those residents who haven't run away from having something nice like our great library system, just because you are angry at Jim Trafficant?

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8planforthebest(53 comments)posted 5 years, 9 months ago

Oh, I forgot, Youngstown only has four libraries, the other ten are in other cities and communities. Don't the suburbs of Irving TX and Annapolis MD have libraries, too?

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9Josh1856(6 comments)posted 5 years, 9 months ago

Who said anything about libraries? Wrong letter. I have no opinion about Youngstown's libraries, other than each time I have entered one, I was ALWAYS able to find the help and resources I needed. I fondly remember trips to the West Side library for all sorts of things.

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10LocalYokel(12 comments)posted 5 years, 9 months ago

What is your plan to change things? Move to Annapolis? You don't like the way things are in Youngstown so you write a letter to the editor of the Vindy. Things here are tough, it is what it is, if you don't like it your choices are try to change it or run, you ran out on Youngstown, and now you want to throw stones from Annapolis.

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