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Local News 2009: Return of Jimbo



Published: Wed, December 30, 2009 @ 12:00 a.m.

A potential $970 million expansion project and Forum Health’s bankruptcy also made our list of the top 10 local stories of 2009.

By DAVID SKOLNICK

VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER

Out of the spotlight since 2002, when he started serving a seven-plus-year federal prison sentence, ex-U.S. Rep. James A. Traficant Jr. made a well-publicized return to the Mahoning Valley this year.

Traficant’s Sept. 2 prison release and what he’s done since is the top local news story of 2009 as selected by reporters and editors of The Vindicator.

When told of the honor, the ever-defiant Traficant said, “I don’t read The Vindicator.”

Whether or not he’s reading, Traficant was the subject of numerous newspaper articles during the last four-plus months of the year. Traficant was found guilty in 2002 of 10 felony counts, including racketeering, bribery, obstruction of justice and tax evasion. He was expelled from Congress.

During his more than 17 years in the U.S. House, Traficant was known for his outlandish behavior and outrageous statements. His prison term didn’t mellow him.

Only four days after his release, he was the guest of honor at a welcome-home event that attracted a crowd of 1,200.

Rather than apologize for his crimes, Traficant said the federal government, “Had to cheat to convict me.”

In his first post-prison interview with Fox News host Greta Van Susteren, Traficant said about Israel that, “They own the Congress.”

He made numerous other national television appearances and then held his first press conference since his prison release on Dec. 17. At that event, Traficant said he’s looking at three congressional districts in which to seek office and said he wanted to bring an Indian gambling casino the area, something currently not permitted under state and federal law.

Other top stories of 2009 include:

GM ON CRUZE CONTROL

General Motors commits to building the Chevrolet Cruze, a fuel-efficient sedan, at its Lordstown Complex. The auto company completed a $351 million upgrade at the Lordstown plant even as it tumbled into bankruptcy in 2009.

The Lordstown plant scaled back its workforce in 2009 because of the auto-market slump. But GM later brought back a second shift and ended the year with 3,500 hourly and salaried workers at Lordstown.

The compact car has won favorable reviews from a variety of auto analysts.

FORUM HEALTH’S ILLS

Forum Health, a major Valley employer with about 4,000 workers, declared bankruptcy in March. The health-care organization has three bidders interested in operating its entire system, and one interested only in Hillside Rehabilitation Hospital in Howland. Forum’s board of directors and creditors plan to decide by Jan. 11 whether it can reorganize or sell its assets, which also includes Northside Medical Center in Youngstown and Trumbull Memorial Hospital in Warren.

BIROS EXECUTED

Convicted 18 years ago in the brutal murder of Tami Engstrom, Kenneth Biros, 51, of Trumbull County was executed by the state of Ohio after many delays by lethal injection on Dec. 8. Also executed in August was Jason Getsy, convicted in the 1995 killing of Ann Sarafino as part of a murder-for-hire plot triggered by a dispute over a Hubbard landscaping business.

TROUBLES FOR CRONIN, TSAGARIS Maureen A. Cronin, a former Mahoning County Common Pleas Court judge, pleaded guilty Dec. 15 to two felony counts of fraud. Cronin admitted that while she was a judge, she took and concealed an $18,000 no-interest cash loan from a senior executive of a business that had cases in front of her. She’ll be sentenced Feb. 23.

Meanwhile, ex-Trumbull County Commissioner James Tsagaris, also convicted of fraud, was sentenced Dec. 10 to nine months in a federal prison for violating his parole. A judge had placed him on 12-months house arrest in August. Tsagaris violated the house-arrest order.

MOONEY TEENS FOUND DEAD

Jamie Serich and Colin Hart, both of Boardman and seniors at Cardinal Mooney High School, were found dead Dec. 6 in Forest Lawn Memorial in Boardman. Both had been shot in the head. The deaths were discovered on the same weekend Mooney’s football team won the state championship for the year.

YSU PRESIDENT TO STEP DOWN

The Youngstown State University Board of Trustees sent President David C. Sweet a letter April 1, 2009, that Sweet’s job will end June 30, 2010. The board told Sweet, YSU president since July 20, 2000, that it had no interest in renegotiating any terms of his contract. A national search for his replacement has begun. University officials are interviewing four finalists to replace Sweet. They include one YSU administrator.

YOUNGSTOWN SCHOOLS GET AN F

The year didn’t bring good news for the Youngstown school district. The state’s annual report card had Youngstown as the only public school district in Ohio in “academic emergency,” the lowest rating the state gives.

HEROICS OF WARREN FIREFIGHTER

Also, Warren Patrolman Doug Hipple ran into a burning group house for mentally challenged people April 27 on Bonnie Brae Avenue in the city in an effort to save the lives of three women trapped inside. Hipple and the three women were rescued by firefighters a short time later. One of the women, Melissa Watson, died in July. Hipple received burns, and it wasn’t until late this year that he was able to return to work.

skolnick@vindy.com


Comments

1Lifesnadir(164 comments)posted 4 years, 11 months ago

Whether you like Jimbo or not, there's something very wrong about the Vindy reporters and editors. Look at the list. Look again if you can't see the one glaring fault of a list like this.

The "top" list starts off with a corporate "good" thing although GM didn't achieve the "good" without help of a ton of people. Then, Vindy lists 6 definitely negative and even painful stories. Youngstown certainly has it covered: cheating politicians, an entire city's failure to educate its students (and who cares) and even a murderer and how many in the public cheered at his (almost public) execution. For Biros, Youngstown sent a reporter-witness who could report on ~exactly~ how Biros died, step by step. I thought this female reporter might take a risk in her reporting and actually comment on what it is like to actually see someone die, but she didn't, as though an execution is just as the "oh well, so what" reaction we have about the failure of our schools. But I digress from my point.

After this hefty negative list, buried at the bottom, is the one real positive story the Valley can boast about in print: the heroic firefighter.

Why can't Vindy reporters and editors decide that for 2010, they will nominate the top 10 positive, uplifting, role-model stories? The Valley has more to boast about than murder, corruption, bankruptcies, more murders, and failings, don't we? Go visit schools and find the kids who are earning A and B grades despite adversity. Find citizens doing good works. You recently wrote about the cap-maker, angel of warm heads for homeless people-- isn't her act a top story? What about the Big Brother-Big Sister program, isn't there one match there who merits top story status? How about focusing a "top ten list" on the laborers of our communities; I can think of a few... pick someone in Housekeeping at a hospital; someone in street cleaning crews; someone on a crew who climbs poles to restore our electricity in a big snowstorm or bitter temps; a child or teen who creates a goal to help a group; etc. What about picking a Vindy Teacher of the year and Student of the Year and that each is a top story for the year? Find family caregivers taking care of an ill child or parent.

There are SO many good people. Why focus on murderers, cheaters, and crooked politicians.

I think the Valley's negativity starts with the staff of our newspaper and of our news stations. Look for some good -- you will find it if you pay attention.

Suggest removal:

2Tugboat(759 comments)posted 4 years, 11 months ago

Is this supposed to be journalism or are you committed to endlessly campaigning for Traficant?

Suggest removal:

3RFederer(116 comments)posted 4 years, 11 months ago

Lifesnadir doesn't understand news. If it bleeds, it leads and if it doesn't bleed, get a knife. (Mayor Mike Bloomberg on Meet the Press Sunday)

Nobody wants to read about farmer John's cow giving birth.

Just look at what gets responded to here on the Vindy site.

If it's a Traficant article, the responses are fast and furious. Which then guarantees more Traficant articles.

Good news isn't really news.

Suggest removal:

4tookie(64 comments)posted 4 years, 11 months ago

Vindy editors and reporters need to get out of the newsroom and get a life. Traficant is so old news, so old thinking and his toupee is so old school as well. For the first time we had two communities collaborate for economic development. The V&M story was by far the top story of the year. To fall for the Traficant story provides good insight as to why newspaper journlism is dying. The Vindy needs to get out in the fresh air. Very disappoining.

Suggest removal:

5Stan(9923 comments)posted 4 years, 11 months ago

"When told of the honor, the ever-defiant Traficant said, “I don’t read The Vindicator.”

His olfactory proboscis seems to be growing .

Suggest removal:

6Stan(9923 comments)posted 4 years, 11 months ago

Jim loves attention and speaking stipends .

Suggest removal:


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