Only in the Mahoning Valley

By Bertram de Souza

In just about any other region of the country, the decision by General Motors Corp. to tie its future to the local assembly plant would have prompted public demonstrations of support. But not in the Mahoning Valley.

GM’s choice of its Lordstown complex to build the Chevrolet Cruze, which the automaker is banking on to capture the compact car market, was met with muted public response.

An investment of $350 million by GM to prepare the Lordstown facility for the Cruze — on top of the $1 billion spent several years ago before the Chevrolet Cobalt, which replaced the Chevrolet Cavalier and the Pontiac Sunfire, was launched — got less reaction than … the return of a corrupt politician who has the morals of a slug.

Almost 1,500 Mahoning Valley residents jammed Mr. Anthony’s banquet hall in Boardman to welcome home James A. Traficant Jr., after he had served more than seven years in federal prison.

Only in the Mahoning Valley would a former congressman with no discernible understanding of the word shame receive the adulation of residents, while a giant auto maker’s investment in the region is given short shrift by those same people.

French company

In any other region of the country, a French company’s willingness to consider an investment of almost $1 billion for a state-of-the-art steel making plant would have had the people learning the words to “La Marseillaise” and ordering escargot.

But not in the Mahoning Valley.

Apart from the fact that the cities of Youngstown and Girard went through major convulsions before reaching agreement on a tax-sharing land deal, there were people in this region whose behavior could only be described as ignorant.

In the midst of the negotiations between officials of Youngstown and Girard, the Internet became the stage for public debate on the project.

This writer received a couple of calls from individuals who were working closely with executives and representatives of V&M Star Steel, a division of Vallourec of Paris, France, concerned about the derogatory comments being posted on about the French.

The folks in Paris had been monitoring the web site to get a sense of what the people of the Mahoning Valley were thinking and came across the negative remarks.

Yes, the Valley is doing so well economically that a billion-dollar investment is treated by some with disdain — because of the owners of the company.

In any other region of the country, the Republican Party would be preparing for the 2010 election by focusing on the large number of Democratic officeholders who have ended up on the wrong side of the law.

But not in the Mahoning Valley, where GOP leaders have not only embraced the man who epitomizes the corruption that has permeated local Democratic Party politics for so long, but they are actually thinking about supporting Traficant in his bid for Congress.

Why? Because GOP chairmen Clarence Smith of Mahoning County and Dave Johnson of Columbiana County think they’ve come up with a winning formula. They believe Traficant’s presence on the ballot in either the 17th District or the 6th District will hurt the Democratic incumbents.

Badge of honor

And Traficant, who wears his convict status as a badge of honor, is relishing the attention.

Well, it’s time for the thinking people of this region to stand up and be counted — as advocates of a new political beginning in 2010.

Let us resolve not to let some two-bit former member of Congress continue to be the face of our community and to define our politics.

Let us resolve not to let the Republicans taint our politics with their sleazy games.

Let us resolve to support the federal and state investigations into government corruption and urge a quick resolution through the issuance of indictments.

Finally, let 2010 be year to unveil the businessman who bribed James Tsagaris and Maureen Cronin when they were officeholders.

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