Column — a year’s worth of building bridges (mostly)

By Todd Franko

Hi, I’m Todd.

It’s been a year already.

In the mass of our year-end looking back and looking ahead, I did the same with this Sunday column that started one year ago.

My first thought: I didn’t miss a Sunday.

You could say, “It’s your job not to.” But so is maintaining my home, and you should see my bus-length list of “I’m gonna get to thats.”

I thank you for your time on Sundays and the responses. I like the give-and-take that comes from being part of your paper every Sunday.

Bertram de Souza, Dave Skolnick, Ernie Brown, Joe Scalzo — they all have unique voices: sports, bad guys, diversity, politics — and bring that to you in the pages of The Vindy.

I’m simply big into life and enjoy bringing all aspects of what I enjoy and what I’m concerned about to the paper in some way.

This newspaper is certainly something I enjoy, and on Sundays, I’ve taken time to explain what we do. We do lots of good things. We do some dumb things.

But mainly, we just do. Oftentimes, we do without explaining ourselves.

I hope, after a year of reading this column, you have better understanding of why we do what we do. Blitz, Neighbors, message boards, a teen-fight video, a bad-football column and having fun in The Vindy have been among the things written about here.

I like getting behind valid and worthy causes, and downtown Youngstown is one such example.

I enjoyed exploring life with Scott “Mr. Clean” Burin, who can be found daily cleaning up outside his International Tower residential high-rise.

You met salon owner Lisa Reali, artist James Pernotto and Realty Tower’s first residents — Mike Morley and Anita Lin.

I still get my hair cut at Lisa’s, and Morley reported that their first downtown holiday brought some fun celebrations.

I have kids, family and neighbors, and their lives have been explored. I don’t like selling kids’ fundraising stuff to neighbors, so we discussed. I still don’t know if my neighbor’s name is Boni, Bonnie or Bone with that squiggly mark above the “e.” I shared the challenges of being a dad and also having buried a brother.

I like celebrating people, and last year, I had that chance at an Easter Seals event with a great kid named Hunter Crites. I enjoyed sharing the lives of the competitive Cox brothers, Mike and Matt, and how they channeled that competition into fundraising for Matt’s son, Benjamin, who was born with several disabilities.

Equally inspiring was the fight to live by Pete Gabriel. And at Christmas, I enjoyed seeing firsthand how the care of Coach John Diaz made Christmas happen for a Youngstown family.

I don’t mind complaining either, and there was some of that with proposed 911 legislation, city residency rules, the ridiculous scaffolding that is downtown and obnoxious youth-sports parents.

In one subject, my celebrating and complaining combined. I celebrated and criticized Kelly Pavlik. In looking back, Pavlik was column fodder about five times in 2009, and the columns seemed to mirror Kelly’s year — up, then down, down, down — then finally a leveling off.

I expect a great 2010 for him and will be eager to write either way. Kelly’s a big deal for us, as shown by the thousands who showed up to watch in February and the thousands who did not in December.

I think 2010 will be better for this space as well.

A year of doing this has built some bridges and opened some doors. I’m grateful for that and am eager to pour some of that insight and access into this space.

The year also will be big for this newspaper as we launch our new press and use it to launch several new products and build on our existing efforts.

I like a lot of things about this job, but mainly it’s the bridges that can be built.

A song I fell in love with in 2009 is a folk tale called “Bridges” written by New Englander Bill Staines (he’s on YouTube). Just a few simple lines, but pretty darn good ones for me:

There are bridges, bridges in the sky

And they are shining in the sun

They are stone and steel and wood and wire

And they can change two things to one

They are languages and letters

They are poetry and awe

They are love and understanding

And they are better than a wall

So let us build a bridge of music

Let us cross it with a song

Let us span another canyon

Let us right another wrong

Oh, and if someone should ask us

Where we’re off and bound today

We will tell them “Building Bridges!”

And be off and on our way.

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