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Oakhill — the new Caddyshack

Published: Sun, June 27, 2010 @ 12:00 a.m.

By Todd Franko (Contact)

There’s a scene in the movie “Caddyshack” that I thought of this week in the wake of the calamity that occurred at Oakhill Renaissance Place during Mahoning County’s Great Earthquake of 2010.

Here’s the scene: Actor Rodney Dangerfield is in the midst of a horrid golf match versus his nemesis in the film, played by Ted Knight. They have a steep bet on the outcome.

Dangerfield drives his ball square into a ball washer. The ball caroms off the ball washer and nails him square on the arm. All was well with Dangerfield — until a second or two passed and he realized this bit of bad luck was actually good luck. He now had a way out of his disastrous match.

Looking at the folks around him, Dangerfield flailed his perfect arm like a broken hinge, and uttered the legendary words:

“Oh, my arm! It’s broken!”

He got out of his golf match, just like many Mahoning County workers got out of work due to the quake.

As most of you now know, there was an earthquake Wednesday in Canada. There, it measured 5.0 on the Richter scale.

By the time it rumbled its way down past a couple of lakes to get here, experts say it measured 2.0. For reference sake, 2.0 is somewhere between a good Thanksgiving dinner belch and a cement truck driving by your house.

Though unnerving, that range is generally acceptable to just about every person known to exist on Earth.

In Akron, people strolled from their desks and buildings, shrugged, and went back to work.

Same for Cleveland, Buffalo and Toronto.

But in Youngstown, more specifically, Oakhill, county workers were sent home due to building safety. Adding to that ridiculousness, a firetruck and a sheriff’s car were parked outside the facility due to the “danger” that the facility now presented to the public.

“Oh, my arm! It’s broken!”

It’s hard to target who exactly is the Rodney Dangerfield in the Oak-hill fleece. But as sure as “Caddyshack” has several absurd characters, so too does Oakhill.

Helen Youngblood, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 2001, might be the most Rodney-like of all.

There’s a push currently afoot inside Oakhill to make anything a grievance. (I am guessing their unearned wages Wednesday won’t be grieved.)

It’s what some disgruntled workers do when they want to be disruptive and raise any minor nuisance to a major, more time- consuming level.

Here’s the deal: Workers could not wait to get out of Cafaros’ old JFS building. And taxpayers got them out of that mess and even supplied raises to boot.

Now, under Youngblood’s leadership, these grateful workers are doing whatever they can to treat Oakhill like a shack — Caddyshack.

George Tablack and the three commissioners, as reports go from Wednesday’s debacle, were as comedic as any of the other cast members in determining what to do after the quake. Ultimately, the closure came down to this:

God forbid the slightest bit of bad karma befall any of Youngblood’s staffers, even if it were something that would have happened without a minor quake. Whoever let them back into the building would be “personally responsible.”

So on to TV news that night went the county’s emergency-management official to explain why it was critical to close Oakhill to ensure occupant safety, etc. (He’s the boss in natural disasters.)

But at no point was any emergency official rushing to ensure the safety of taller structures such as International Tower, Realty Tower or any tall buildings in the Valley potentially set to come tumbling down on taxpayers.

So, when Mahoning taxpayers were allegedly vulnerable to an earthquake that threatened their surroundings, the Oakhill workers worried about themselves.

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