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Betras battles the Chamber

Published: Fri, March 25, 2011 @ 12:00 a.m.

By David Skolnick (Contact)

Attention candidates: If you are running in a competitive Democratic primary in Youngstown, Struthers, Warren, Girard, Lordstown, Salem or Leetonia and haven’t received a candidate questionnaire in the mail from The Vindicator, please contact me at skolnick@vindy.com. If you received one, please fill it out by Monday. There are no Republican primaries in the newspaper’s coverage area.

Merger talks: The Democrats of the 17th and 6th Districts — a club that at one time had almost as much political clout as the Mahoning County Democratic Party — is losing membership and wants to merge with the North County Democrats.

The Dems of the 17th and 6th unanimously voted in favor of the merger, which would also mean a new name for the combined club.

North County is meeting Monday to vote on the merger.

“We concluded having one strong organization” is better than two with lesser members, said Sherman Miles, Dems of the 17th and 6th’s secretary-treasurer. Andrew Hamady, a co-founder, recently resigned as the club’s president.

The campaign by Mahoning County Democratic Party Chairman David Betras against the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber is far from over.

Betras, as well as organized labor and some local business owners, are angry that the chamber took a position on Senate Bill 5, a proposal that would severely restrict collective-bargaining rights for public employees. They’re even more bothered about the outcome of the vote.

The chamber’s board of directors voted [sort of] earlier this month to support the bill.

The vote was 8 in favor, 1 against, 5 abstentions and 9 members who chose not to vote even though the chamber gave its board members an extra day to cast their ballots.

The chamber did a remarkable job over the years of staying out of partisan politics — at least as far as its public perception. But that came to an abrupt end right before the November 2010 gubernatorial election when Tom Humphries, the chamber’s president and chief executive officer, co-hosted a fund-raising event in October for Republican John Kasich.

The chamber vote in support of SB5 seems to be another effort by Humphries to remain in the good graces of Kasich, his new BFF.

There isn’t any other logical reason for the vote, which makes the chamber essentially a partisan political agency.

The chamber is supposed to represent the interests of its members. If only 8 of 23 members of its board of directors support something, the chamber is obviously not representing the interests of its members.

Chamber-labor relations

The vote will also hurt the chamber’s relationship with organized labor. Chambers of commerce and labor unions typically don’t get along that well, but in the Mahoning Valley that hasn’t been the case.

A couple of members of the chamber board have expressed concerns publicly about the SB5 vote. There are others who are privately concerned, but for various reasons, including fear, won’t say anything public about it.

Betras’ concerns are political. Organized labor is a key supporter of Democrats and Betras is the county party chairman.

Betras also said he’s angry that the chamber, a major economic development agency for the Valley, is alienating businesses, organized labor and local elected officials with its endorsement of the bill.

So Betras, who loves to talk, is taking his show on the road.

He spoke against the chamber’s vote and his concerns about it remaining as a Valley economic development entity on Wednesday at city council meetings in Campbell and Struthers. Betras will speak to the Mahoning County commissioners next week and to Youngstown City Council on April 6.

Also, chamber board members, who’ve been largely sheltered from the fallout from the SB5 vote, will be greeted, and not warmly, by several protestors as they enter the chamber building for their Wednesday meeting. [Betras has a previous commitment and won’t be at the protest.]

There are no plans to rescind the vote at that private meeting though there almost definitely will be a discussion about the issue, said Tony Paglia, the chamber’s vice president of government affairs.


1saddad(655 comments)posted 5 years, 4 months ago

Only 8 rabid Republicans out of 23. Things are looking up. Tell us who the 8 are so we can cast our votes when we make decisions as to which businesses to support.

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2outsideobserver(31 comments)posted 5 years, 4 months ago

Mr. Betras who can’t stay off my tv and has to be in the media spotlight all the time has found another excuse for more attention. I wish Mr. Betras were more concerned about a sitting Judge that doesn’t pay his taxes than a vote by a private organization that is really meaningless. As if the legislature is going to pay any attention to the Chamber of Commerce in Mahoning and Trumbull counties!

When did Mr. Betras become this big community advocate? When he gave us Marc Dann? Mr. Humphries has been doing a good job for years and he will continue to do so even with this distraction from Mr. Betras.

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3TAXEDOFF(118 comments)posted 5 years, 4 months ago

Personally I don't care for the ambulance chasing attorney Betras but he's right about the Chamber.

Humphries and the Chamber of Commerce have a long track record of failures in spending tax dollars

Remember the blimp factory. remember the indoor racetrack, remember the brewery, remember the cargo hub.the list goes on and on



Millions have been spent by this Chamber with nothing to show for it!!

I need only mention their famous STEAL TO SCHOLARS PROGRAM which used A $650,000 FEDERAL GRANT supposedly to improve the local schools and now Youngstown city schools,is LAST in the state.

$300,000 of that money was spent on advertising then 150,000 was spent on salaries for the chamber employees then a few dollars about $10,000 was given out in grants.

What a waste!!

That's what the chamber has been to economic development a COMPLETE WASTE!!!

Now they want to build a World Trade Center downtown.


Watch this video about the failures of the Chamber


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4tkytown(43 comments)posted 5 years, 4 months ago

Public employees (unions) have given back and made concessions, look at the sheriff's deputies....however others have not, educators need to ante up some sacrifices, however don't take a hatchet to these employees when a few nips and tucks can do the job. We need good educators, it's the disgruntled, abused private sector worker with few skils that are jealous of teachers and educators and want to see them suffer like them. we need teachers who are paid a good living wage and are dedicated, and they need a longer work year, say 220 days not 180!!!

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5tookie(64 comments)posted 5 years, 4 months ago

I can't think of a more distasteful person in the Valley than Dave Betras. It's one thing to disagree with the Chamber's action, it's another to make it a personal thing with Tom Humphries. Mr. Humphries has been one of our area's outstanding leaders for many years. He's head and shoulders in class and talent above people like Betras.

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6saddad(655 comments)posted 5 years, 4 months ago

Go Dave-kick the RWG's every chance you get. Give us the names.

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7saddad(655 comments)posted 5 years, 4 months ago

This is how bad the right wingers are.....

Godspeed Mr Betras

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8JME(802 comments)posted 5 years, 4 months ago

"...and 9 members who chose not to vote ..."

Care to guess which way these 9 would vote? If they were clearly against, it would be known.

Keep going Dave, your doing a fine job of continuing to make the Valley the joke of the state.

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9JME(802 comments)posted 5 years, 4 months ago

Oh, and the left:


Not the mention all the folks the SEIU had to hire for the Wisconsin protests.

Keep it up Betras and friends, you have such outstanding results for the Valley in the last 30 years!

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10Alexinytown(246 comments)posted 5 years, 4 months ago

The reality is Dave Betras and all of his influence and bloviating cannot do one single thing for Mahoning County in the next four years. So who is going to represent us here? Tom Humphries is at least making the effort, and there are others in the community making a diligent effort to shore up support here.

So Tom Humphries has embraced Kasich. You know, in consideration of the fact that the Mahoning Valley has no voice in Columbus at this present time since this area insists on being highly partisan (unless it a race where there is no party identification and they end up voting for Republicans on merit and not because there is a big ol' D next to the name), this should be considered a good thing.

SB 5 is a mixed bag, and that is coming from a Republican. I think it leaves a lot to be desired and I think it is unfair to public education teachers, police, and firemen. For the most part, this bill needs to be reworked.

Mr. Skolnick, everything is political. Everything. You of all people should know that. Be it a Chamber of Commerce, a Law Library, a not-for-profit charity, everything in Mahoning County is political if you dig deep enough. Of course the Chamber is political, their motivations are not that hard to figure out. An organization that is economy and business focused is not going to fall on the left side of the political spectrum. It just isn't.

Anyway, my two cents.


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11Alexinytown(246 comments)posted 5 years, 4 months ago

And while we are on the topic of partisan politics, let me cover the finer points of why an area like Youngstown is going to have political problems.

1.) Democrats know they have this area. Even if they do nothing for us at the state level, they can count on our vote. The risk of backlash for doing nothing for the area is very, very, very low, and so nothing from the state happens here when Dems control.

2.) Republicans know they can't win here. That is, they perceive that notion. Voinovich won Mahoning County, so I disagree with the theory that Republicans cannot win here. Having said this, I am seeing more Republican influences here (courthouses, office buildings, technology centers, and the Covelli Center {thank you Traficant and Hastert}) than I am seeing Democratic influences.

Point is, when one side knows they have the vote and the other side knows they can't get the vote, time and money spent here pales in comparison to other more competitive Ohio regions.

Mahoning County, for your own good, get more politically competitive so we can have better opportunities in the state.

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12saddad(655 comments)posted 5 years, 4 months ago

JME--you dont have the brains to find your azz with both hands

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13borylie(949 comments)posted 5 years, 4 months ago

Saddad is such a deep thinker with great rhetorical retorts. I can hardly wait for his next post. No wonder Skolnick and the Vindy reporters want an increase in the minimum wage.

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14saddad(655 comments)posted 5 years, 4 months ago

I do hope they raise the minimum wage and you get your increase bor. I'm not against your kind making a few more bucks while you carry water for the right.

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15author50(1121 comments)posted 5 years, 4 months ago


The monikers bring back the memories! Tanks.

How about writing the "Rise and Fall of the Democrats for the 17th/6th District"?

The reason they fell apart are threefold.
1) the majority of the members died (the average age was 150). 2) Those that weren't dead or dying got a job or elected to office (Ludt, Belinky, Lyden, Miles, etc 3) The group became a toady for the establishment in endorsing ALL TAXES!

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16borylie(949 comments)posted 5 years, 4 months ago

saddad, The minimum wage remark was directed toward Skolnick and the Vindy reporters,that they are probably paid minimum wage for their quality of reporting. If the Vindy pays them more than the minimum wage they're not getting their monies worth. I surely wasn't referring to you. You surely are a highly paid intellect,based on your posts. Hahaha.

Jessiedavid should be employed by the Vindy. One of the best posters ever and I'd enjoy reading him in the newspaper.

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17JME(802 comments)posted 5 years, 4 months ago

Sad-dad, you are such a hypocritical "inbred mutant"

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18Askmeificare(1226 comments)posted 5 years, 3 months ago

Here is a song for all of you-


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19republicanRick(1731 comments)posted 5 years, 3 months ago

David Betras is only a buffoon and it is sad that he represents the Mahoning valley. He will not create one job, he will drive away good honest people. He is an ego maniac that will do a great deal of harm to every one of us.

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20outsideobserver(31 comments)posted 5 years, 3 months ago

carlstaatz - you are wrong about Mr. Betras and his tv commercials stink.

It is interesting that his firm is called Betras, Kopp & Harshman, and Kopp and Harshman live and work in Florida. Isn't that fraud?

Of course like everything else in Mahoning County it is swept under the rug, why would the local tv stations investigate when he buys all of those commercials from them?

We need all the help we can get from Columbus and someone should thank Tom Humphries for supporting Kasich so at least we have one person that the new governor would listen to from our community.

Mr. Betras is grandstanding for the promotion of his business, he is not helping working people. If you ever meet Mr. Betras you quickly find out that unless you are somebody, you are a nobody in his book.

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21lbsurfettes(9 comments)posted 5 years, 3 months ago

The chamber should be a non partisan group based on the fact that it's members are politically diverse and that they are as Wikipedia describes: a local organization of businesses whose goal is to further the interests of businesses.
However, it seems that their main concern is always "landing the big one' which happens what every decade or so. Why are they not supporting more of the local small businesses that by virtue of their dues pays the salaries of said chamber officials.
Of course bringing in a big business to the valley is worthy of celebrating but what about the storekeeper/business owner that has been in the valley for years, has paid his chamber dues and gets no recognition or attention from his own local support group.
Have you driven down RTE 224 or Market St. lately. Empty storefronts and office space everywhere. I see this and I ask this question. Where is my local chamber and what are they doing to resurrect this area?
Come on Tom Humphries tell us where you are shopping.

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22Westsider(269 comments)posted 5 years, 3 months ago

Thanks Marianne - I suggested weeks ago that people look into what is and is not part of SB 5 - but unfortunately the lemming Democrats of the Mahoning Valley - who will never be more than uneducated, blue collar thinkers, hate to have the facts stand in the way of their illusions.

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23andersonathan(687 comments)posted 5 years, 3 months ago

SB5 Can not be that bad if Betras is on fire acting like a idiot.

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24Philo(99 comments)posted 5 years, 3 months ago

When the taxpayers find out how they have been abused by the unions and public sector, there is absolutely no way SB 5 will be overturned in a referendum. And once the television advertisements start, they will find out. Some of the abuses that have occurred will shock and sicken the taxpayers. Finally, someone has come to the aid of the poor elderly homeowners on fixed incomes who are being taxed out of their homes at an alarming rate.

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25GPackwood(35 comments)posted 5 years, 3 months ago

Suppose all of this "nastyiness" is why most cities dropped the name Chamber of Commerce many MANY years ago?

It all has to do with economic development for cities or towns.

In Cleveland it is the Greater Cleveland Partnership (Formerly, The Cleveland Growth Association)

And in Houston, Texas it is the Greater Houston Partnership

Any business would go broke instantly without electricity, water, sanitary sewers, storm sewers, police, fire, health/medical services for employees/customers and schools - elementary, middle, secondary and universities.

And the arts are very much part of economic development.

Thus a "CHAMBER" for one function of a community makes no sense.

It takes 'partnership' thinking to move forward into economic development TOGETHER!

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26Askmeificare(1226 comments)posted 5 years, 3 months ago

@ evreyone who posted bad stuff about unions:

If unions are causing so much strife, then why is it taking our dedicated city firemen 22 years to reach the top rate of pay in their career?

I believe you folks are suffering from MK Ultra disease. Perhaps you folks actually don't know what is reality anymore.

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27Cowboyfan(105 comments)posted 5 years, 3 months ago

Looked at the members list so I can avoid shopping at all the remaining companies.

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28rootseeker(1 comment)posted 5 years, 3 months ago

"Have you been bitten by a dog, then call..." Can anyone really take this guy seriously? He is doing this to get his face plastered on television. Jessiedavid you have this right, self-serving union politicians. I am disgusted by this whole thing. I have a son who is a POLICE OFFICER, and a Union member. He understands that he might have to give some things up, just as we all may have to do. I also have a nephew who is a TEACHER. He also understands he may have to give up some things. The Chamber of Commerce, and Mr. Humphries, have done a great job. I have now joined the Chamber to show my support.

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29atek101(77 comments)posted 5 years, 3 months ago

Okay, did this article really have the acronym "BFF" in it? That made me chuckle.

The Chamber of Commerce is supposed to represent the interests of local business. I don't really see what public bargaining has to do with local business, so why even bring it up? This seems blatantly political...and as someone considering starting a small business in the Valley someday, I'm not sure if the Chamber is really representing my interests. Running a business is certainly about profit, but it shouldn't be about profit at the expense of people. It's also about making an honest living and about producing quality goods and services for your community. Call me an idealist, but this is America. I'm all about individualism, but greed's not something we should condone or support as a society.

There's a measure of tact and neutrality you need to have as an organization like the Chamber, in my opinion at least. I'm not saying Betras is entirely in the right, either, but the Chamber of Commerce is more responsible for being non-biased on issues like this than the Democratic Party Chairman.

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