Party, Chamber bury the hatchet

By Karl Henkel


After months of back-and-forth, the feud between Mahoning County Democratic Party Chairman David Betras and Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber President Tom Humphries appears to have ended.

U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan of Niles, D-17th, announced an agreement Monday between Betras and Humphries, who have clashed since Humphries publicly backed now-Gov. John Kasich and Senate Bill 5.

SB 5 curbs some collective-bargaining rights for public employees. Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted certified last week the referendum on SB 5, which means it will appear on the November ballot.

Betras told The Vindicator on Monday that he now is focusing his efforts on repealing the bill, which he said would harm working class families.

“It’s on the ballot, and we’ll try to repeal it,” he said.

And if it’s not repealed?

“Then we’ll deal with it,” he said. “But I’m hoping that’s not the case.”

In a release, Humphries and Betras both said they are willing to put aside ideological differences for the betterment of the Mahoning Valley.

“While Mr. Betras and I won’t always agree on every issue facing the Valley, Ohio and the nation, I know that he wants to see our community grow and prosper as much as I do,” said Humphries, who did not return a call seeking additional comment. “We can only succeed in bringing investment and jobs to our community if leaders provide a united front, whenever possible, for that purpose.”

Betras previously had called for Humphries to rescind his pro-SB 5 statements. He later called for his resignation and even challenged Humphries to a public debate. On multiple occasions, Betras requested copies of the chamber’s financial documents, questioning how the chamber used taxpayer dollars.

Humphries, meanwhile, refrained from engaging publicly with Betras, except on one occasion in May, when he responded to a Betras record request by sending copies of the documents to media outlets.

Those documents showed that the chamber received about $400,000 in federal, state and local taxpayer dollars in 2009, the latest available year in which tax documents are publicly available.

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