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Are we still in 'crappy' Valley?

Published: Sun, June 15, 2014 @ 12:00 a.m.

By Bertram de Souza (Contact)

Before you get all hot and bothered over the use of the “c” word in the headline, consider this: Seventeen years ago, a special prosecutor from outside the Mahoning Valley who was brought in to investigate government corruption was upset with a Vindicator reporter for delving into his background and tossed out a comment that would become his trademark:

“I’m trying to save your crappy community.”

So said Jonathan E. Rosenbaum, an assistant in the Lorain County Prosecutor’s Office, in January 1997 — six months after being appointed by the Mahoning County judges to decide which corruption cases to present to a special grand jury.

Rosenbaum had a well-earned reputation for speaking his mind, and it wasn’t long before he was locking horns with defense lawyers and a visiting judge.

This led to the suggestion that Rosenbaum came in believing that government corruption is in the region’s DNA.

Subsequent convictions of officeholders, including a congressman, judges, a county prosecutor, a sheriff, a county treasurer and a couple of county commissioners, certainly give credence to the negative attitudes outsiders have of Mahoning and Trumbull counties.


Indeed, a federal prosecutor assigned to Youngstown made this observation about the court system: Judges should be the loneliest people in the community. The message was clear: There’s something unseemly about judges socializing with lawyers and then presiding over their cases.

Such political incest has existed for a long time and is another layer of government corruption that must be attacked.

It is, therefore, telling that after all the special prosecutors, grand juries and convictions, we find ourselves in the midst of another scandal.

The so-called Oakhill Renaissance Place conspiracy has turned the spotlight on the extent to which local government officials will go to please one of the richest and most powerful (politically speaking) individuals in this region.

Court documents in support of the criminal charges, including bribery and conspiracy, filed against Youngstown Mayor John A. McNally (relating to his tenure as a Mahoning County commissioner), county Auditor Michael Sciortino and Youngstown Atty. Martin Yavorcik provide a narrative of master-and-slave that is both troubling and embarrassing (for the families of the accused).

Remember Jonathan Rosenbaum’s invective, “I’m trying to save your crappy community”?

It’s not hard to imagine the individual in the Oakhill indictment identified as “Businessman 1” quipping:

“I own this crappy community and when I say jump, you say, ‘How high, sir?’”

Although the prosecution team, led by Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, has not publicly identified the businessman, all signs point to Anthony M. Cafaro Sr., retired president of the Cafaro Co.

The company is one of the leading shopping-center developers in the nation and until recently owned Garland Plaza on Youngstown’s East Side.

The plaza was home to the county’s Job and Family Services agency for about two decades, but two commissioners, Anthony Traficanti and David Ludt, decided to relocate JFS.

Former hospital

They voted to buy the former Southside Medical Center in 2006 and turn it into a government complex, with the JFS as the main occupant.

The indictment alleges that Cafaro Sr. conspired with county government officials and others, including McNally, Sciortino and Yavorcik, to block the county’s purchase of the former hospital complex.

A reading of numerous documents, including those released by prosecutors last week, shows the participants in the criminal enterprise — named and unnamed — lacking in self-respect and devoid of a sense of propriety in the conduct of their official duties.

How can any adult, especially an officeholder, be so subservient to one man? And, how can that man, dealt a winning hand by his Creator in the card game of life, not see anything wrong in using his money, influence and power to corrupt government?

When Rosenbaum used the word “crappy” to describe the Valley, many residents took offense. It’s now clear we should have agreed with the special prosecutor and made a commitment to change the evil ways of government.


1Roger_Thornhill(1068 comments)posted 2 years, 1 month ago

"And, how can that man, dealt a winning hand by his Creator in the card game of life, not see anything wrong in using his money, influence and power to corrupt government? "

That sums it up nicely.
Hoping for a Belinky and Cochran column soon that sheds light on their shenanigans.

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2TERRAPINST(321 comments)posted 2 years, 1 month ago

Bert when you ask how a grown man especially an officeholder can be subservient to one man, you mean of course the subservience Traficanti, Ludt, Gains and yourself appliend to George Tablack right? Only the subservient would crappy up the budget with a 20 million pit. 75,000.00 my a--.

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3Roger_Thornhill(1068 comments)posted 2 years, 1 month ago

Oops, sorry. I meant Atway & Cochran. Didn't mean to leave anyone out.

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4redeye1(5666 comments)posted 2 years, 1 month ago

The only ones who feel that this valley isn't crappy are the ones that live here. But the rest of the state knows it as that. Let's face it this valley will never change to be anything good. How do I know this just look at how the younger generations who cant wait to get out of here. All that is left is the steel mill mentality people who still think that they are coming back. Then of course you have the union mindset people who feel they should run every business that comes here. But there just might be some hope , but not much. When you have people working for some companies who have voted down union membership. They are the smart ones.

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5papa1(711 comments)posted 2 years, 1 month ago

keep their feet to the fire Bertram.

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62muchtax(897 comments)posted 2 years, 1 month ago

Hopefully they get carfaro, these ponds are just 3 of many democrats that have been suckered with minor sums of money!

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7lbf(220 comments)posted 2 years, 1 month ago

BdS/Bertram's on w/me now
he says this is a spell-check issue
he meant "HAPPY VALLEY" !!!

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8Askmeificare(1229 comments)posted 2 years, 1 month ago

I bet Cafaro is the one working with Federal Government in corrupting local officials in the same sense as a 'sting operation'.

There are many reasons and ways that a Federal Government and Cafaro's can equally benefit from such a relationship.

Think about it...

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