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Chamber chief : Freed Traficant deserves no appreciation event

Published: Sun, August 30, 2009 @ 12:08 a.m.

By David Skolnick

YOUNGS- TOWN — The head of the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber criticized those having a celebration for former U.S. Rep. James A. Traficant Jr. saying the event for the ex-congressman — and soon-to-be ex-con — is “inappropriate.”

In a column, appearing in today’s edition of The Vindicator, Tom Humphries, the chamber’s president and chief executive officer, called Traficant “someone who brought shame and ridicule to his office and to his community.”

Traficant, a former nine-term congressman, is getting out of federal prison Wednesday after serving a little more than seven years for racketeering, bribery, obstruction of justice and tax evasion.

In his letter, Humphries wrote that he wishes Traficant well, but there is no reason to hold an event to honor his release from prison.

About 1,000 tickets are sold to an event next Sunday at Mr. Anthony’s banquet hall in Boardman to celebrate Traficant’s release.

Linda Kovachik, the event’s organizer and a former Traficant staffer, said Humphries is entitled to his opinion. But the “Jim Traficant Appreciation Dinner,” at $20 a ticket, is going on as scheduled, she said.

“This is a community effort to honor the man for his work,” she said. “Anyone who wants to come can come, and those who don’t, don’t have to come. The man served his time. Should he go crawl in a hole?”

Kovachik said the chamber treated Traficant as an adversary for years, refusing to cooperate with him when he sought federal funding for local projects.

In his letter, Humphries wrote that the Mahoning Valley has changed for the better since Traficant went to prison seven years ago.

“We should not turn the clocks back and return to the past,” he wrote. “We have suffered enough. I really believe we are poised for much success after many years of decline.”

Humphries couldn’t be reached to comment on the letter.

Tony Paglia, the chamber’s vice president of government affairs, said Humphries “was compelled [to write it] because he saw so many messages celebrating his return. He felt the need to put [Traficant’s release] in perspective.”

As for why many other community leaders aren’t criticizing Traficant, Paglia said doing so is “a difficult thing.” But that silence was one reason why Humphries wrote the letter, Paglia said.

The letter didn’t sit well with George Felix Farris, chief executive of Farris Marketing and a chamber member.

Farris said he doesn’t care what Traficant does, but it is not the chamber’s job to tell business owners how to think.

“It just ticks me off,” he said. “And it’s insulting. ... We don’t need to be told what is appropriate. I’d just like to see the chamber help my clients get more information, grants, find new markets [and] not expound about non-business issues like Traficant.”

Farris added that Humphries’ letter, written on chamber stationery, makes it sound as if he is representing all Valley businesses.

“Where does the chamber get off telling people what is and is not appropriate when it comes to [Traficant’s] return?” Farris asked. “The chamber is not my chosen preacher, my therapist or my elected political leader. Here’s a suggestion for the chamber: promote business.”

Mahoning County Democratic Party Chairman David Betras doesn’t object to the welcome-home appreciation event for Traficant.

“If they want to hold a party, they can and I won’t criticize them,” he said. Traficant “had a rabid and strong following. I understand those people’s admiration for him. But a majority of people have moved on. As a community, we’ve moved past this. I won’t be there, but they should be allowed to celebrate his return.”



1Tugboat(759 comments)posted 6 years, 9 months ago

“When I get out I will grab a sword like Maximus Meridius Demidius and as a gladiator I will stab people in the crotch.” - James Traficant

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2Viewpoint(89 comments)posted 6 years, 9 months ago

A well written and long overdue statement from the chamber has finally seen the light of day. Where are the rest of the rational thinking people in this valley? Speak out and be heard on this issue.

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3UnionForever(1470 comments)posted 6 years, 9 months ago

WELCOME HOME JIMBO!!! Time for you to kick Timmy Ryan's butt out of Congress.

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4Stan(9923 comments)posted 6 years, 9 months ago

"In his letter, Humphries wrote that the Mahoning Valley has changed for the better since Traficant went to prison seven years ago."

I must have missed the better part of the change . What did I miss ? Perhaps Tom Humphries could explain what I have missed ?

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5queenie(12 comments)posted 6 years, 9 months ago

Who does Mr. Humphries think he is to decide who deserves a welcome home party? If the Chamber worried about doing their jobs they wouldn't have time to worry about someone having a party. Nobody asked their approval and nobody needs it. Remember folks everyone has skeletons in their closets and they have a way of sneaking out, especially if you are a public servant. Do your jobs and keep your nose out of things that don't concern you. Are you jealous that nobody thinks enough of you to give you a party? Jimmy was well loved 7 years ago and as you can see he is still well loved and you can't change that.

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6Attis(1119 comments)posted 6 years, 9 months ago

Rabid following?! If there is anyone who is infected with rabies, it is that pack of wolves who feared and framed Traficant and sent him packing out of the US Congress against the wishes/votes of his constituents. Jim is Youngstown and we, the people are dam proud of him.

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7What_the_Heck(34 comments)posted 6 years, 9 months ago

Some day Humphries may be caught doing some thing and we will see if he practices what he preaches. Probably not. Mr. Traficant's successes should not be forgotten because of mistakes he may have made. Just because the Fed's got a conviction doesn't mean he was guilty. To me he will always be THE MAN!!!!!

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8VABuckeye(14 comments)posted 6 years, 9 months ago

"Jim is Youngstown and we, the people are dam proud of him." That's your first problem right there. Tell me exactly what he did during his tenure as a Confressman besides take bribes, and make himself and the Youngstown area look like fools with his outfits, and comments. He did NOTHING for the area. Where are the jobs? After the mills closed, there was nothing. The city has steadily lost population since the early 80s. It's turning into a ghost town. He got an arena that we didn't need,and is constantly in the red. Big freakin deal. The people of Youngstown need to wake up, and realize what they really are voting for. Do-nothings. No one wants anything to do with Youngstown, because of it's history of corruption, and the fact that they continued to vote for a scumbag like Trafficant for so many years.If you all want real change, and progress, wake up, take a long, hard look, at what your constituents, and your Party are really doing to benefit you, and vote for people who will really make a difference.

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9pit_bull_marley(291 comments)posted 6 years, 9 months ago

He has been gone for 7 years...too bad...Timmy is doing a bang up job...welcome back Jim

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10JJ(28 comments)posted 6 years, 9 months ago

Celebrating the life of a criminal that played a major role in holding back the progress of the Valley is ridiculous. Legit business never looked at Ytown until the old regime was pushed out or went to jail. Now projects like the Incubator represent progress. Making the Forbes list as one of the best places in the U.S. to start a business is progress, not a politician that did things the old way of practicing CORRUPTION.
Additionally the Chamber does have a right to comment Farris is totally in the wrong and lacks the vision to make the connection with the fact that the Chamber helps to drive business in the Valley and Trafficant was a source that stiffled that progress.
The Chamber chief has worked diligently to create good reputation for himself and for Youngstown and wants to continue that trend by distancing himself as much as possible from corrupt sources that impede progress. It is his right, so legitimate businesses want to come to Youngstown and those invested in the community know that the Chamber will not support the "old ways," of doing business.

As a political figure Jim spoke loudly and told it like it is, which is refreshing from a politician, however he did not live by what he preached, which is evident in the time he spent behind bars.

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11queenie(12 comments)posted 6 years, 9 months ago

Jimmy has been gone for 7 years and what has the Mahoning Valley gained in that length of time? What business has the "Chamber" and Mr. Humphrey brought to Y'town? The Vindicator reports daily of closings and layoffs and drugs and murders, now who is to blame for that? Jimmy Traficant???? Wake up Y'town and take a good look at where you have improved in the last 7 years. It took more than 1 man to bring down Youngstown but 1 man paid the price while the rest of them walked free.We are talking about a Welcome Home party, not a nomination for president so get your panties out of a twist and worry about your own jobs.

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12EliotNess_DC(86 comments)posted 6 years, 9 months ago

It has obviously never occurred to Mr. Humphries that Traficant might in fact be innocent.

How would an innocent man react in Traficant's situation?

Maybe he would say: "I will die in jail before I admit to crimes I did not commit." (public statement, 2002)

Or perhaps he would say: "If I was guilty of any crimes, why did they need Detore to lie?" (private letter, 2007)

Mr. Humphries will be distressed to learn that what Traficant has to say and publish is going to put Youngstown back in the national news again very soon -- beginning on Fox News.

Youngstown's crime problem is not the Traficant family; it's the Cafaro family.

Tony, J.J., and Capri have all lied in sworn testimony.

N.B. that the Detore jury didn't believe either J.J. or Capri, and returned a unanimous 'not guilty' verdict in two hours.

J.J., of course, confessed to his perjury on behalf of murdering mob boss Lenny Strollo.

Tony and J.J. were sanctioned by the DC sniper judge for blatantly lying to the court when facing Detore in Fairfax County, VA. (J.J.-the-jester even made a joke about it!)

If the influence-peddling Cafaro 'crime family' were to move its operation to Minnesota for 7 years, the Valley WOULD be improved ethically, if not financially.

When the historical dust finally settles in the Traficant case, JT's grandchildren will have nothing to be ashamed of -- rather, they will be able to be proud of their liberty-protecting granddad.

Tony and J.J.'s grandchildren, on the other hand, stand to be embarrassed by their family's narcissism and Kennedy-like hypocrisy -- performing ostentatious public service while bankrupting their unregistered shell business, having their tax fraud whistle-blown on C-SPAN, and having their incessant political influence-peddling exposed to Youngstown's discredit.

Will the tables turn after Traficant speaks out? I've seen the unpublished materials, and like George Zimmer says about the Mens' Warehouse: "I guarantee it!"

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13joseph(58 comments)posted 6 years, 9 months ago

Humphries is a bum with too much time on his hands.

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