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Hey, Jay, remember me?

Published: Fri, June 15, 2012 @ 12:00 a.m.

By David Skolnick (Contact)

On the side

Cover story: Republican Marisha Agana’s congressional bid for the 13th District seat, held by Democrat Tim Ryan, will be the cover story in July’s edition of Pediatric News. Agana, a pediatrician, is also a national spokeswoman for a recent Doctor Patient Medical Association survey of doctors with 90 percent who responded stating the medical system is on the wrong track with 65 percent contending government involvement is most to blame for the current problems.

Hitting the airwaves: The National Republican Congressional Committee has reserved $296,000 in the Youngstown television airtime for the 6th Congressional District race between incumbent Bill Johnson, a Republican, and Charlie Wilson, his Democratic challenger. In late April, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee said it was reserving $1.06 million in TV time for this race.

Also, Newt Gingrich, unsuccessful GOP presidential candidate, headlines a Johnson fundraiser on June 22 at the Spread Eagle Tavern in Hanoverton.

The race is shaping up to be one of the more competitive in the nation.

The Mahoning Valley now has one of its own in the White House.

Well, at least former Youngstown Mayor Jay Williams will be working at the White House.

He was appointed deputy director of the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs after 10 months as executive director of the Office of the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Recovery for Auto Communities and Workers.

In what can best be described as something government does when bad news happens, David Agnew, the office’s director and a deputy assistant to the president, posted an entry at 6:11 p.m. Friday on the office’s website.

And the office gave no advanced warning to any Ohio media outlet.

From what I can gather, I’m not sure it was given to any media organization.

You have to be a hardcore political junkie to look at various federal government websites after normal work hours on a Friday night to find out Williams has a new job.

This shouldn’t come as a surprise because many federal government employees are afraid of their own shadows. They’re absolutely terrified of the media — even if the news is good.

I’ve had dozens of conversations with communications officials at numerous federal government agencies over the years. A very large percentage don’t want to be quoted at all.

When I learned Monday morning about Williams’ promotion, I called the White House press office. I was told to send an email with my request to speak to Williams or anyone who could tell me about his new job.

About five hours later, I sent a follow up email: “I still haven’t heard from anyone. Will I receive a call today?”

Blog post

A response email from a White House spokeswoman, at 11:36 a.m. the next day, pointed me to the blog post.

I then requested an interview with Williams.

The reply was: “Off the record: I can put in the request, but I don’t know that he is doing any interviews right now.”

I never agreed that our email exchange was off the record so there’s no ethical issue to keep it secret.

I then wrote: “On the record: Regardless, please put in the request.”

I haven’t heard anything since.

For those wondering what Williams will do, Agnew’s blog post states the former mayor will “lead our local engagement with mayors, county and municipal officials across the country.”

Doing what?

And what does the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs do?

According to its website it “works closely with state, tribal, county and local officials elected by the American people to ensure America’s citizens and their elected officials have a government that works effectively for them and with them. State, tribal, county and local governments are critical to the creation and implementation of national policy. Maintaining a strong partnership between federal, state, tribal and local entities is the best way to bring change to American families and provide the leadership the American people deserve.”

How’s that working out?


1chuck_carney(499 comments)posted 4 years ago

Jay couldn't help the Delphi Salaried employees. There's no resson to think he will benefit the valley in his new position. Also, I wonder what accomplishments he has as car czar to merit a promotion.

Maybe this is a demotion.

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2AtownAugie(884 comments)posted 4 years ago

The White House staff -- from Biden to Williams -- refuse to give you the time of day, Mr Skolnick? Sounds like you "get no respect." Perhaps you will change your byline from "David Skolnick" to the more apt "Rodney Dangerfield?"

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3Old_School(39 comments)posted 4 years ago

For gosh sake David a guy like you should have his cell phone number. Federal government at it's finest!

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41loaf(100 comments)posted 4 years ago

I can't understand folks who wonder about the administration ignoreing the Mahoning Valley. The Chairman/extortionist has the flock lined up to pull the D lever in November. They save the goodies for the votes still on the market. Y-Town would elect Hitler if he had a D after his name!

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5pjohn(25 comments)posted 4 years ago

Haha I've talked to him 3 times in the past year. Maybe I should have my own column at the Vindy... I thought it was your job to make and keep connections in a civil manner so that you can establish ongoing communication and rapport. Isn't that journalism? Or is journalism complaining about how he won't drop all of his plans to speak with the oh so prestigious Vindy and answer some loaded questions about who knows what

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6pjohn(25 comments)posted 4 years ago

Also why is this called a "political column"? Shouldn't it be a failed attempt to contact column?

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7bumbob(146 comments)posted 4 years ago

An unusual amount of the comments here are nothing more than harassment of Skolnick and Williams, making it look more like the comments section found beneath a Tribune-Chronicle article than a Vindicator one. Strange, and also not a good thing....

"They’re absolutely terrified of the media — even if the news is good."

I'd say that's exactly it. Many public employees, particularly the recently-hired, have in my experiences been intimidated about speaking in front of a camera, reporter, or any outlet that broadcasts information. That said, it's no excuse to be recalcitrant or shy. The U.S. government's actions, however minor or major, should be broadcast to the public so that it knows what's going on with its officials, elected or appointed.

This was a necessary column to write as a journalist seeking information, Mr. Skolnick. I hope you continue to pursue the information you're seeking on other matters with less barriers than were put up for this one. That's probably asking for alot, though.

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