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« Reason

Denounce Criminal Jim Traficant

By Tyler S. Clark (Contact)

Published August 11, 2009

The Sunday Vindicator deployed a deplorable amount of front-page ink in the recognition of events and people welcoming criminal Jim Traficant out of prison and back home with open arms and wallets. (Front page? Seriously?) The Mahoning Valley Scrappers, with apparent disregard for what this region has been through at the hands of the criminal Traficant, is hosting “Traficant Release Night.” Mr. Anthony’s, which I assume declines editorial control over the dinners it hosts, will be the site of “Jim Traficant Appreciation Dinner,” organized by former aide Linda Kovachik. Half of the tickets for the dinner have already been sold, aided in part by Trolio’s Original T-Shirts.

I would rather not talk about criminal Jim Traficant, but for the next two months that’s going to be impossible. And if we’re talking about people lining up to celebrate the criminal Jim Traficant, then we have to name names. I understand that Ms. Kovachik is a personal friend, but that suggests she should host a private dinner party in a private home to have a private celebration for him. Flaunting for the world to see how dumb we are to get screwed over by an elected official and then pine for him while he’s away and fête him when he’s released is destructive, counter-productive and irresponsible.

Why do some locals still view criminal Jim Traficant as a hero, a martyr, an unjustly persecuted saint? It’s because they don’t understand his self-interest. Criminal Jim’s motivation was his own, personal enrichment and fame, not the well-being of his home district. That’s the only conclusion that can be reached when viewing his behavior.

It’s one thing to feel that you’re ignored and overlooked. Surely our region has justification to feel this way. We’ve seen our jobs base eroded while federal policies promote urban flight and new development over historic preservation. But the level of mistrust goes deeper than that. Many locals perceive some kind of pernicious, vindictive plot to keep us down. Congress, the FBI, “them”… there are innumerable imagined foes and oppressors.

It’s another thing to be in a power position in Congress with your middle finger permanently raised at everyone around you. Is your Congressman effective if he’s “the only rank-and-file member of Congress without a committee assignment?” If he’s consistently ranked as the least powerful of 435 representatives? If he’s only the second member of Congress to be expelled since the Civil War?

It’s useful to tell your story: you’re a truck driver’s son; your district suffers from segregation and deindustrialization. Your story breeds empathy, which can help build alliances and secure projects. But when you step into the halls of Congress, you play the game if you want to get ahead. This means you don’t always say what you think, you don’t constantly aggrandize yourself in front of your peers and you don’t cast yourself as the court jester. A jester is an amuser—a servant—and that’s not a power position.

Criminal Jim Traficant is part of our past. (Judging by his clothing, even when he was in the present he was part of the past.) That past features close to seventy-five individuals indicted for corrupt and criminal activities. These criminals undermined the decent citizens of this Valley by sucking up its wealth and resources for themselves. They deprived us of justice for all, opportunity for all. Instead it was privilege for the few and justice for the well-connected.

I’ll acknowledge where criminal Jim Traficant was able to spur development, through his involvement in the Covelli Centre and a few other structures. His example overall, however, is part of a culture of corruption and crime that was a prime driver behind the region’s inability to recover from the collapse of its manufacturing base. So many dollars that belonged to the hard-working residents of the Valley—not to mention his staffers—ended up in criminal Traficant’s pocket, reinforcing that we need to continue the move away from old-school machine politics and towards the grass-roots activism exemplified in the most recent Presidential election.

Organizations and individuals who lift up and celebrate the criminal Traficant are spitting in the face of the working-class constituents he claimed to represent and then abandoned, as he did his principles and his party. When Heidi Hanni says, “Jim Traficant has always been the guy … that took care of the little guy,” I want to vomit. As The Vindicator opined back on April 12, 2002, “He took favors, equipment, building supplies and labor in exchange for doing nothing more than what a congressman is supposed to do.”

In fact, The Vindicator’s front-page trumpeting of the “Welcome Home, Jimbo” festivities is all the more remarkable given the no fewer than nine editorials published about criminal Traficant between April and July, 2002:

·         April 5 – Ethics in government should concern us all

"The challenge is to make the difficult choices," the executive director of the Ohio Ethics Commission said. "It's up to you to create the expectations of having the highest level of ethics. The responsibility of changing the climate in a community is with its people."

·         April 12 – Traficant’s career could have been spared, had he seized his second chance

Traficant always had one of the highest staff payrolls in Congress, and now we know why. Some of those employees were required to kick back thousands of dollars from their paychecks to Traficant. Others were being used to work on his houseboat or to do chores at his horse farm. Even while he was on trial, he brazenly had a government employee serve as his chauffeur much of the time.

·         April 14 – Will Traficant do the right thing for the 17th District?

By continuing to blather about the FBI and the U.S. Justice Department having a vendetta against James A. Traficant Jr., and by your demeaning and unsubstantiated allegations of unfairness against U.S. District Judge Lesley Brooks Wells, you not only bring shame to the legislative body in which you have served since 1985, but you bring shame to the region you claim to love so dearly.

·         June 15 – Mahoning Valley’s ranking shameful and worrisome

"Youngstown's [the Valley's] reputation for crime and corruption has made growth for this Ohio metro extremely difficult. ... It's going to take a lot to draw business to this rundown city plagued with bankrupt companies and a history of economic scandal."
Make no mistake about it: Traficant's conviction on 10 federal criminal charges and his refusal to take any responsibility for his misdeeds are feeding the negative opinions like those expressed by Forbes.

·         June 30 – U.S. House can strike blow for honest politics by voting to expel Traficant - now

He was convicted on April 11 and since that day has not stepped into his office on Capitol Hill, has not participated in any debates on the floor and has not cast any votes.
His presence in the congressional district hasn't served any useful purpose, either. Most of his time is spent trying to find a way to get the jury verdict overturned. Thus, the people are paying him to pursue his private agenda. Meanwhile, the needs of the Mahoning Valley are being ignored.
This region has been without an effective, dedicated representative in Congress for more than a year -- the indictment was handed down May 4, 2001. We deserve better.

·         July 16 – Traficant dredges up same old, same old for Congress

Of course, Traficant wasn't playing his role as aggrieved good guy for the eight members of the committee. His show was designed for his supporters around the country watching CSPAN, the men and women who buy into his absurdities and really believe that the government is out to get him. They honestly believe that he's been fighting for the little guy when all along he's been taking the little guy's hard-earned tax dollars to feather his own nest and line his own pockets.

·         July 21 – If Traficant thought ‘they’ were out to get him, he should have behaved

Jim Traficant took money from the mob when he ran for sheriff in 1980. He denied it at first. Then he said he took it only to keep it from being used against him. And then he said he took it in a one-man sting to destroy the mob. But he took it. And even though a jury in 1983 found him not guilty, subsequent events and testimony showed that he not only took the money, he spent some of it.

·         July 25 – Traficant’s expulsion brings shame, hope to the Valley

Last night's overwhelming vote to expel him made it clear that no one bought his tissue-thin arguments that he was the victim of a grand federal government conspiracy, that his criminal trial was replete with judicial and prosecutorial misconduct, and that he has been a target of the FBI and the Justice Department for the past 19 years.
It was a shameless display of arrogance on the part of an individual who still refuses to take responsibility for his actions and who continues to ignore one basic truth: that he and he alone chose to stray from the straight and narrow -- and got caught.

·         July 31 – Federal convict Traficant has shamed the Valley and must be rejected

But rather than spend the past 17 years truly representing the people of the Mahoning Valley and behaving in a manner that would have made us proud, he became the congressional jester, the buffoon who attracted attention because of his gutter mouth, his unconventional attire and his one-minute speeches. He was not a serious legislator, but he knew that he didn't have to be. Election after election showed that he had pulled the wool firmly over the eyes of a sufficient number of voters in the 17th District. He was their hero and could do no wrong. 
Unfortunately, he was the lens through which the nation viewed the Mahoning Valley. And so today, we must suffer the consequences of having had Traficant as our congressman. 
Time to close the book.

The only reason to hold up criminal Jim Traficant is as an example of our corrupt past: a past that will not be repeated. Through their words and actions, the Mahoning Valley Scrappers, Linda Kovachik, Tony Trolio and Heidi Hanni are willing us to return to corruption, disgrace and failure. Have you no shame?

If you care about the future of this region, then you must denounce criminal Jim Traficant.

If you want to see the Valley have effective representation at the state and federal levels, you must denounce criminal Jim Traficant.

If you would rather see national business magazines rank Youngstown as a “Top Ten City to Start a Business” rather than a “Worst Place to do Business or Advance a Career,” you must denounce criminal Jim Traficant.

Denounce Criminal Jim Traficant.


1Nonsocialist(710 comments)posted 6 years, 11 months ago

Jim Traficant will have served his debt to society.

This is in stark contrast to Charlie Rangel (Tax Evasion), Chris Dodd (using office for sweetheart Countrywide mortgage deal), Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner (Tax Evasion), Nancy Pelosi (lying to Congress re: CIA waterboarding info), Tom Daschle (Tax Evasion), and Mark Sanford (Misuse of SC state funds). These are ones worthy of denouncement.

I suspect what you truly fear is Jim's populist return to power:

It seems to me that if an ex-con can make a serious run for the 17th district seat held by a Democratic-Socialist Party yes-man, than that suggests great dissatisfaction amongst the subjects. If a thoughtful, sincere and intelligent individual ran who could do math and had some vision, he/she would probably smoke either the ex-con or the yes-man.

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2tylersclark(182 comments)posted 6 years, 11 months ago

I'm all for thoughtful, sincere and intelligent individuals. What I fear is a return to corruption in the Valley, which Traficant will forever represent, long after his prison term has ended.

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3projectgeniene(87 comments)posted 6 years, 11 months ago

I support Tyler in his opinion & I am not afraid to say this. I find that whenever I remotely mention that Jim Traficant wasn't entirely perfect or representative of everyone in this Valley, I am immediately attacked. I have to say that Traficant supporters remind me of Republican tactics to suppress an exchange of ideas & opinions at town hall meetings regarding health care reform of late. Why is this area so fearful of moving into the future in a positive, progressive way? Must we relinquish ourselves & our legacy to crime, old school politics & negativity? Do people really wonder why any Gen X'ers or younger leave this area as soon as possible when the older generations worship individuals like Traficant & make comments such as I heard a couple weeks ago "We don't need to change anything here for younger people. If they don't like it, they can leave." I can't tell you how many times I have heard that when discussing changing the ways we do things in the Valley or think about doing business. This celebration for Traficant will only bring more negative coverage to our Valley &, once again, make us a laughing stock just as Traficant made us all across the U.S. during his tenure in Congress. I am tired of being mortified by his antics & defending our area to anyone outside of it because he has been such a dominant, negative symbol of anything to do with the Mahoning Valley. If you want a younger generation to stay here, make a tax base, support the social programs for this rapidly aging area, then try moving forward into the future rather than languishing in the past. Otherwise, you have something else to thank Jim Traficant & his supporters for - 25 years+ of young people leaving the area.

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4Stan(9923 comments)posted 6 years, 11 months ago

" Otherwise, you have something else to thank Jim Traficant & his supporters for - 25 years+ of young people leaving the area."

The young have left because of rampant crime that basically nothing is being done about . Lack of jobs just fueled the exodus all the more .We don't need any more social programs ! We need jobs ! Lets get a mayor put in office that has the expertise to bring companies into Youngstown thus creating jobs . We also need to facilitate trade from Youngstown to foreign countries .

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5MVRelic(4 comments)posted 6 years, 11 months ago

People believe what they want to believe. In 2002 over 27,000 people in the 17th District of Ohio still believed in Jim Traficant enough to vote for him as an independent candidate to return to Congress--as a convicted and imprisoned felon. It would be interesting to see how many of those "true believers" are left if Traficant decides to run for office again. Whatever he chooses to do when he gets out of the Federal joint, I'm sure that he will still want to stir things up. Hopefully he won't get any local traction from his outlandish behavior as he did with such regularity in his prime.

As for me, I thought that Jim Traficant was a gifted populist politician who kept some very shady company from when he first emerged on the scene in the late 1970's. That opinion never changed, and I never once voted for him between 1980 and 2002. As for those who choose to herald Traficant's return to society, or at least to profit from it, I believe they are free and welcome to do so. I must say that my wife and I planned to attend at least one more Scrappers game before the end of the 2009 regular season. After reading the front page story in yesterday's Vindicator, we changed our minds and will look for other ways to spend our entertainment dollars in the coming weeks.

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6AceMarketing101(11 comments)posted 6 years, 11 months ago

I too was disappointed at the Vindy's decision to run the Trafficant article on Page One, as opposed to the front page of the local section. Each would have garnered news and reviews, but not making it front and center gives the Vindy less "pandering to popularity" standing to increase sales. As someone who just moved to Ohio as the Trafficant trial was going on, I was both happy to see justice being done, and a little embarrased that I decided to move to a place where Congress had to kick out it's elected representative. As a political junkie, I got many a good natured ribbing about that from back in my old stomping grounds.

I am willing to concede that Jimbo probably did good things for the Valley, but why can't his "supporters" concede he was also a crook! I know of a very nice guy who was very civic minded and a help to his community but also stole from his company and cheated on his wife. I appreciate what he did for the community, but he is still a crook and should not have the public trust back just because.

I also agree with Tyler that a private reception is very appropriate for his friends, but a public venue like the Scrappers and a ticketed fund raiser is ridiculous. Where is the money from the Anthony's money going? If he wants to help out the Valley again, there are many community organizations he can help with, but a run at public office again is not only an embarrasment, but just plain stupid. I also think that 7 years in a prison, no matter how white collar or hard core the population, is going to change a man. If Jimbo comes back the same person as when he left, I am very scared to put him into any position of public service.

I am thinking he should ask Eric Ryan for a position in promoting the Covelli Center, I really wouldnt wish that on Eric or Mr. Covelli, but you just gotta know there is gonna be a push for a plaque on that place for him sometime soon......Sigh!

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7MVRelic(4 comments)posted 6 years, 11 months ago

The plaque on the Covelli Center could read something like this: "This facility is dedicated to James A. Traficant, Jr., who sold his political soul for $26 Million in order to fund its construction."

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8Stan(9923 comments)posted 6 years, 11 months ago

I am amused by those who are worried about Jim's release . There must be some underlying fear that he knows too much and may tell all . When he was in prison The Valley didn't flourish . Crime escalated to new heights . Thousands lost their jobs . The retired lost money from their pensions . Health benefits were cut . So now the renaissance will be cut short because Jim is coming back ?

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9markmcd(1 comment)posted 6 years, 11 months ago

I support this article. Jim Traficant, and all he represents, is an embarrassment to anyone from the Valley.

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10MVRelic(4 comments)posted 6 years, 11 months ago

"When he was in prison The Valley didn't flourish . Crime escalated to new heights . Thousands lost their jobs . The retired lost money from their pensions. Health benefits were cut." Are you saying that things would have been different here in the Valley if Jimbo had stayed in Congress for the last seven years?

BTW, the real peak in crime (at least in Youngstown) occured in the early 1990's while Traficant was serving in Congress and that gang of 70 or so who were later indicted and convicted of corruption were running a huge revolving door for criminals called the Mahoning County Criminal Justice system.

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11msweetwood(179 comments)posted 6 years, 11 months ago

Tyler: The article on Traficant has spawned 82 comments online as of 1 p.m. Tuesday, many phone calls and two blogs. Certainly, his release is of much interest, else, like many stories also published Sunday, there would be paltry few comments and no blogs generated.

A1 stories are selected based on what we think would interest the most people in our diverse Valley. We do not select stories based on our long-held editorial views (the editorial page staff does not select A1 stories and we don't tell them what to opine about).

Your view that because you believe someone is an unworthy criminal that news of them should not be on the front page is what separates bloggers from actual newspaper editors. It is OK for you to crusade and promote your opinions and self-interests on a blog, but editors fill a larger purpose (even if that purpose is just to provide you something to rail against).

Traficant's release and life after prison is going to be big news and that will be something that is abhorrent to you. I understand that. Someone else will relish the day. I understand that, too. And likely, as has been the case for the past two days, everyone will criticize us for either over-covering or dredging up too much of the past. I understand that, as well.

At the end of the day, however, newspaper coverage is not aimed at reflecting a given person's very narrow views, as much as we like to provide space - both in-print and on the Internet – for folks to state such views. Purposefully burying a high-interest news item inside the paper merely because its existence reflects ugly truths or a sad history would make someone less than an objective editor. I believe Mr. Russo would call that "managing the news."

Mark Sweetwood
Managing Editor

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12Stan(9923 comments)posted 6 years, 11 months ago

Well MVRelic I can assure you that we had far less crime before Jim went to prison than we do now . If you think that corruption in The Valley has ended then you are a prime candidate to respond to email fraud promising you millions . Jim's being in prison didn't make one iota of difference in crime nor will there be any difference because he is coming home . So, what is driving your phobia ?

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13Tugboat(759 comments)posted 6 years, 11 months ago

We are so used to existing amidst the image of our local politics that even those who claim to hate it would probably miss the spectacle were it suddenly taken away by a truly educated electorate. I guess we should go ahead and paint a caricature of Jim on the nose of a C-130 a la Kelly Pavlik.

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14MVRelic(4 comments)posted 6 years, 11 months ago

"Jim's being in prison didn't make one iota of difference in crime nor will there be any difference because he is coming home." Thank you for clarifying your position, Stan.

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15AceMarketing101(11 comments)posted 6 years, 11 months ago

It's Official, Chris Mathews Hardball, Nationally shown on MSNBC, just made fun of the Scrappers night honoring Jim Trafficant. Embarrasing! Time for the Mahoning Valley to be a Laughing Stock again!! Sigh!

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16valleyred(1103 comments)posted 6 years, 11 months ago

Anyone watching MSNBC should be laughed at because you actually embrace such a far left agenda.

In regards to this blog, I disagree enormously with Tyler Clark on this particular subject. Although I am a conservative Republican that wasn't even born when Traficant first became our Congressmen, I have read up on his many accomplishments over the years and believe he did more good than bad for our area.

Here is what sets Jim Traficant apart from most politicians, he was a true Maverick while in Congress. I'd be willing to bet he worked across the aisle more than anyone in the House during the Clinton years.

Embarrassment or not, I think he did a lot of good for our area and he was the man that warned us about fearing our Government. In this period of time with debate on health care and energy, he may just be the right guy to take down Tim Ryan.

I have also covered Jim Traficant on my blog, www.MVRed.com. I have included a Countdown Clock until his release and will post a number of articles on him over the next 21 days.

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17TAXEDOFF(118 comments)posted 6 years, 11 months ago

And I think the whole thing is hilarious. I can't believe that panty wearing cheerleaders must have their panties all up in a ruffle.

This city will be the laughing stock of the entire country the late-night hosts will make fun of this for weeks.

While you're out there shouting Youngstown. Every weekend at the four seasons flea market there is a nut job. selling his book about Jim Traficant and having a Parade/Party for Jimbo. When he returns, what an embarrassment for the this city we will have a parade/party for a convicted FELON


Watch this U-Tube titled"YOUNGHSTOWN STRIPPERS"


I must be NORMAL I don't like the Jimbo lovers, and I don't like the Jimbo haters

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18Stan(9923 comments)posted 6 years, 11 months ago


No problem in the clarification . Since Jim was in prison who can we pin the blame on for the catastrophic loss of jobs to Mexico and China ? Lets see I recall the very liberal Bill Clinton had something to do with NAFTA . It's a good thing that Jim was silenced with his buy American Rhetoric .

How about all that money Bill Clinton squandered building a nuclear reactor for our friends in North Korea who now have the bomb and long range missiles to carry them . It sure is a good thing that Hilary is still in government to straighten things out .

If Jim wasn't in prison things could have been a lot worse right ? Crime in The Valley escalated with no ceiling in sight . Who can we blame this on ?


Times are rough but today will seem like the good old days before Obama is through .

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19valleyred(1103 comments)posted 6 years, 11 months ago

To Erplane, although I am not going to sit around and go through everything Traficant brought to our area, here is a small list I posted on my site, the source is the Vindy:

$26 million for the Chevrolet Centre
Money for the state Route 711 Connector
Sanitary-sewer project near Lake Milton
Kaufmann's warehouse in North Jackson
Funding for Federal Street downtown
Securing $2 million to widen U.S. Route 422 near Eastwood Mall
Doubling the size of the Youngstown Air Reserve Station in Vienna;
Building a federal courthouse in Youngstown

I am so short-sighted erplane that I, a conservative Republican, am actually supporting a Democrat. Before you call me short-sighted, why don't you look at yourself in the mirror. I am not as biased you may think. I just speak what I believe.

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20valleyred(1103 comments)posted 6 years, 11 months ago

FYI: I am good friends with the Dravecky's here in the area. I believe he lives out west, but perhaps if he were to come in for a weekend they could honor him.

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21leaveusalone(103 comments)posted 6 years, 11 months ago

One of the great virtues of people here, is their sense of loyalty to their friends - through good times and bad. Sometimes, though, that fine quality trips them up - as in this particular case. However, Tyler, I wouldn't worry about how Trafficant's return will effect our national reputation. The country has much more important issues to consider. Youngstown's been on its own for longer than you've been alive. And here's a news flash: It has always been what it is. Sometimes you remind me of a guy who buys a working class beer joint and then tries to turn it into an upscale wine bar - and wonders where all the customers went. Remember that the first step towards change is acceptance of what already is.

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22tylersclark(182 comments)posted 6 years, 11 months ago

@leaveusalone I hope I'm always open to criticism such as yours. I accept Youngstown as it is, and I don't accept that it's wrong to want more for it. That means primarily jobs and revenue. Sometimes, in order to attract that, there are improvements that need to be made. I want us to be sensitive to that. This doesn't suggest that people need to change who they are, though there are prevalent attitudes that hold us back from our potential.

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23cambridge(4152 comments)posted 6 years, 11 months ago

Dravecky threw out the first pitch against the Dodgers on Monday. See the link below.

Go Giants!


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24msweetwood(179 comments)posted 6 years, 11 months ago

"Likewise, when was the last time a newspaper ran a story about the increasing share of the news pie being eaten up by online media?"

C-D: Run a search on Vindy.com for "Internet+news" and you'll find 6,648 stories about the Internet's impact on news that were published by this newspaper just since 2001. It's all there from how the Internet is luring away auto advertisements to readers' changing habits. By the way, there are 815 results to "newspapers+decline." Each arrived on our Web site after being published in the newspaper.

Plus: We offer space on Vindy.com to everyone who wants to document how bad of a job we do each day.

Actually, I could bat your soft pitches out of the park all day, C-D. Suffice to say, since you have no idea on how this newspaper operates, it is pointless to pick apart your odd notions of The Vindicator's inner-workings.

I wasn't suggesting that news placement decisions do not include subjective opinions. I was suggesting that to make a case, as Tyler did, that the front page was not an appropriate place for a Traficant story merely demonstrates how easily someone might allow his admitted bias to override a relatively straightforward news decision. Even those who hated the article have found it hard to make the case that a story of a local ex-congressman being released from prison after a nationally televised scandal should NOT be on the front page.

My view: Each edition of a newspaper should be viewed as one part of an ongoing community conversation (which makes taking one day and focusing ire upon it disproportionate in my view). To demonstrate, let's look at the past 72 hours: Because Sunday's newspaper informed the community, the reaction by some readers has caused the Scrappers to scrap the Traficant event.

As I explained to one outraged reader who called Monday morning, if the paper had not published the story, would you be informed enough to be angry right now? Eventually, he agreed and decided he was truly mad at the folks organizing the events. I presume he called them next.

Not sure what Richard Nixon and Rupert Murdoch have to do with all of this. What I do know is that both of the events we mentioned Sunday were being organized whether The Vindicator reported on them or not. What you decide to do after we report (call the Scrappers, pound out an angry blog, kick your dog, yell at the editor, write out a check to "Traficant for Congress," etc.) all falls within the bounds of being an informed member of the community.

Mark Sweetwood
Managing Editor

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25valleyred(1103 comments)posted 6 years, 11 months ago

Let me be clear where I stand on this whole issue:
I do not approve in any way, shape, or form of the criminal acts of Jim Traficant.

Having looked past that, I respect what he did for our area, although he may have given the Valley a bad image. He should be commended for standing up for what he believed in and standing up to his own party on a number of occasions,

During this time of such partisan politics, a politician like Jim Traficant is one man with the record of being bi-partisan and working across the aisle to get things done. He could do a great deal on the health care debate in my eyes.

That is what I like most about Traficant. I understand the bad image issue and his criminal acts in which many continue to bring up here, I just believe he did more good than bad for our area, and he did a great deal of good in Washington DC working across party lines.

Traficant was a true Maverick and did what he felt was best for our nation, it is just a damn shame he had to associate with some corrupt individuals.

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26leaveusalone(103 comments)posted 6 years, 11 months ago

Tyler - my comment wasn't actually intended as criticism - merely observation. But I would point out that wanting more (jobs, revenue, etc.,) is a contradiction to your assertion that you accept Youngstown as it is. Now, I am not passing judgement on your desire for more. But the change you want cannot come before you truly accept and understand what this town is - which will then equip you, and others who share your perspective, to put the RIGHT factors in place to achieve what you hope for. Stately neighborhoods, pretty gardens, and cultural events are all fine and good - but they will not attract middle class people, or the companies that hire them, to a city that is perceived to be dangerous, and burdened with a poor public school system. Never mind about Traficant - he's history. Worry more about how that history is being taught in the local schools.

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27jjsmith(6 comments)posted 6 years, 11 months ago

Well, I said I'd never be one of those vindy posters, and here I am.

To citydweller: great insight, as always.

To erplaine: "Guys like Tyler and Phil Kidd are busting their butts to revive the image of the Mahoning Valley." Phil Kidd and Tyler Clark aren't from the Mahoning Valley. Let's keep that in mind. Phil doesn't bother me. He seems like a man who puts in a day's work for a day's pay and respects long-time valley resident. Tyler doesn't seem to do much beyond self-promotion. He blogs and he talks, but working his butt off. Naw. He's only been here a couple of years. What's he done?

Mr. Clark, You ask "Why do some locals still view criminal Jim Traficant as a hero, a martyr, an unjustly persecuted saint? It’s because they don’t understand his self-interest. Criminal Jim’s motivation was his own, personal enrichment and fame, not the well-being of his home district. That’s the only conclusion that can be reached when viewing his behavior."

When I read that, I see a kid who has not lived through the history of this valley showing up and telling longtime residents what they've done wrong and how they've been foolish. If you had lived here and watched your friends' dads lose their jobs, you would know that Traficant is a hero to folks around here because he refused to enforce bank foreclosures on the families of displaced steelworkers. When your city is dying rapidly around you, that kind of action is a beacon of hope. Someone earlier commented about valley loyalty. The point was well made.

Mr. Clark, if you truly seek to help redefine the valley you need to make more of an effort to understand the people who have always lived here. We've supported local businesses, paid our taxes, participated in our kids' public schools. We've done community work here. We may not have aggressively promoted ourselves as you have, but that's because we were busy taking action and dealing with the day to day.

You probably want to know where I stand on Traficant. I never voted for him. Never would. However, I'm not going to stand by and let the good people of my community be accused of collective stupidity. The whole tone of your rant here is arrogant and sanctimonious. The repetition of "Criminal Jim Traficant" has a very Limbaughesque air about it.

I can understand why the vindy's coverage got you worked up. It is ridiculous. The vindy is a ridiculous excuse for a paper. All of the good writers left with the strike years ago. Sweetwood, no need to jump in here as is your usual albeit completely unprofessional m.o.

Take this criticism as it is intended. Tone down the "you oldtimers don't have a clue" rhetoric and then listen and then you might learn a thing or two about what it was like to live through the valley's history.

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28tylersclark(182 comments)posted 6 years, 11 months ago

@jjsmith I came to Youngstown in '94 and graduated from YSU after attending for 4 years. I married a Youngstown native whose dad worked in and was later laid off from a factory. I think I have a pretty good idea of what the past here has been though, no, I didn't live it myself.

I try to listen to and learn from everyone I can so that I can understand Youngstown better. Feel free to pass judgement on my style and my intentions, I can take it. I'll keep working to improve my neighborhood and adopted city the best I know how.

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29jjsmith(6 comments)posted 6 years, 11 months ago

erplane, many of us long-time residents have always seen the potential of Youngstown. That's why we've been here trying to keep the valley alive. We don't need a self-appointed messiah who has nothing but disdain for the majority of people who live in this valley because they don't fit into his very narrow definition of what it means to be pro-Youngstown. As far as posts that are sensitive, give me a break. Mr. Clark likes the attention that he gets from provoking. He never passes up the chance to write about topics that will garner lots of comments.

Mr. Clark, my point is this, you claim far more Youngstown cred than you've earned. How many years total have you actually lived in the city? We're all thrilled that you see the potential of our valley, but when you put yourself above long-time residents, it's offensive.

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30leaveusalone(103 comments)posted 6 years, 11 months ago

Erplane, thanks for the compliment. About the blight: I would argue that companies pay little attention to it, if the other factors in an area make economic sense to them. In fact, I would suggest that they don't even need us to "show them around". Businesses interact globally, and they pay attention to where their partners and rivals do business. You're right; urban blight can bring people down emotionally - but I would argue that liberalizing local laws on permitting, zoning, etc., would be a quicker answer to eliminating blight. If companies think they're going to have a battle on their hands just to open their doors, they'll go elsewhere.

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31tylersclark(182 comments)posted 6 years, 11 months ago

@jjsmith I know the history of Traficant's refusal to foreclose in the early 80s, and I can appreciate what that meant. I'm not suggesting you're saying so, but I don't think that excuses his subsequent criminal career. Am I calling out his supporters to take a second look at the guy? You bet.

Perhaps I've somehow injured you in word or deed for you to brand me a self-appointed messiah, and I'd welcome the opportunity to address that with you, if so.

Let me ask you: just how long does someone have to live here before they can speak their mind? And what action would prove to you that I care about and respect the people of the Valley?

The reason I chose to raise my children here is because of the people and communities, which I respect more than anywhere else I've lived.

As for blogging, I've done it for eight years. It seems to me that if you're going to spend the effort to blog, you might as well have readers. And sometimes that means raising controversial issues. And since this blog (which the Vindicator personally invited me to write) is avowedly political, many of the topics invite spirited comments--such as yours. Yes, I do welcome that, and I also appreciate your input.

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32leaveusalone(103 comments)posted 6 years, 11 months ago

Tyler, I'd like to address jjsmith's calling you a "self appointed messiah". Perhaps you don't mean to sound like such, but your blogs have a tone to them that give rise to this sort of assessment. I noticed on your Youngstown Renaissance blog, for example, that you branded my comment that some of us considered Stambaugh Auditorium to be ugly as "ridiculous". There was nothing ridiculous about it. It was a statement of fact - some of us do NOT share your taste in architecture. Some of us prefer modern design. Since these are your blogs, you're free to say what you want in them. But please be aware that you do sometimes sound arrogant, and arrogance accomplishes very little change.

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33jjsmith(6 comments)posted 6 years, 11 months ago

Mr. Clark, I was addressing the general tone of your blog posts here on vindy. Much of the time, your tone is accusatory against "old Youngstown." You ignore the good work of those who came before you. You tend to make blanket observations about groups of people. Your characterizations are often overly simplistic. The good people of Youngstown who voted for Traficant believed they were doing what was best for the valley. You don't agree with them. Neither do I. Challenging them to think differently is one thing, deriding them is another. Insulting Traficant's clothing should be beneath a professional writer. It's an easy joke and an old one. Don't think that I didn't notice that you didn't answer the question about how many total years you've lived here. I did. We need new energy in the valley, but not if that new energy brings with it disrespect.

leaveusalone, thank you for understanding and supporting my point. I think you picked up on my meaning and framed the argument even better.

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34sarah_beth(2 comments)posted 6 years, 11 months ago

Ted Kennedy just received the Presidential Medal of Honor and Jim can't even be recognized publicly? Apparently racketeering is way worse than murder...

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35leaveusalone(103 comments)posted 6 years, 11 months ago

Erplane, I don't disagree that blight needs to be addressed - I just don't think it's as high a priority to companies as some would have us believe. As for initiatives, keep in mind that some companies view them as an indicator of how obstructive or intrusive a municipality is likely to be - so they are a two-edged sword.
I do agree with you about the tension in the area between the old and the new; and it's ironic to me that many of the "new people" are trying to preserve the physical manifestations of the "old order", through buildings, and the like; while many of the "old people" are hungry for physical manifestations of the "new world." (like new stores, new schools, and parking lots). Lots more to discuss on this subject - unfortunately, I must beg off at this moment, as I have an appointment to keep. Great conversation everyone!

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36jjsmith(6 comments)posted 6 years, 11 months ago

erplane and leaveusalone, perhaps one or both of you should approach the vindy about a blog. You are both intelligent, moderate, and able to look at complicated matters from multiple perspectives. Better yet, maybe you could start your own alternative online local news source. I've enjoyed reading both of your viewpoints here.

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37ochi56(30 comments)posted 6 years, 11 months ago

As an outsider looking in & trying to understant if Jim Traficant is a 'hero' or (as Mr. Clark calls him) a 'criminal'. I finally came to the conclusion, it depends on who 'you' are. (Thanx leaveusalone)
If you are a "new person" --- JT is a 'criminal' & if you are an "old person" --- JT is a 'hero' !!!

Here is a thought from me;
The jury that convicted JT was comprised of 12 "new persons" ('criminal' believers)!!!!
In his previous trial; the jury was comprised of "old people" ('hero' believers)!!!!
That is THE reason his trial was moved to Cleveland.

What is the difference between "old" & "new"???
"Old" is over 40 and lived in the Valley most of their years; probably know JT; Know the Vindicator.
"New" is under 40 and lived in the Valley less than half of their years; never met JT; and (this is the most important fact) read the Vindicator/Blogs.

Where I come from the people had a saying:
"Don't believe anything that you hear; and only half of what you see."

In conclusion; Wait & HEAR what JT has to say when he 'comes home'. There is a reason why his 'voice' had to be silenced.

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38epicfail(217 comments)posted 6 years, 11 months ago

@ leaveusalone,

Your comment about Stambaugh seemed ridiculous to me as well.

Not because of your taste in architecture. But rather because you as a longtime resident, are attacking someone who came back to the area with good intentions. All he was saying is that we deserve better in our historical neighborhoods than a cookie cutter eyesore of a rite aid on the main road.

@ the others

As a Ytown native, let me point out again that "old youngstown" failed. Whether by their best intentions or not, they time and again elected a crook. When the crook finally made a national laughing stock out of us they denied it by idealizing him as a martyred folk hero. I know because I lived through it. I've met him several times in the past and he's just another relic from a bygone era when crooks were all we had to choose from.

I don't dislike the man, I just hate blatantly corrupt politicians, which is what he is. Anyone who makes a hero out of a politician deserves what they get.

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39leaveusalone(103 comments)posted 6 years, 11 months ago

epicfail, Nothing in my comments constitutes an attack on anyone - unless expressing a difference of opinion has suddenly become the new form of attack? Tyler has his perspective - and I have just pointed out that some people, myself included, have another. I haven't assaulted his good intentions - but have suggested that sometimes his expression of them makes him appear less than interested in others. But I will add this: before you write off all of "old Youngstown" (and that's a LOT of accomplished people to write off!) and defend good intentions, remember the old saying: The road to hell (which I know some would argue runs right through Youngstown) is paved with good intentions.

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40epicfail(217 comments)posted 6 years, 11 months ago


Good points, thank you. I understand what you mean about everything being an ATTACK nowadays. But that was how I saw it. When you open a statement with "you know, not everyone thinks the way you do." you're not really extending the olive branch. And when you're online you need to do just that. This is a cold, sterile medium that turns ugly fast.

btw, when I referred to "old youngstown" I wasn't referring to any individual, just the culture of corruption and the poverty mindedness. Youngstown has a lot of great people, but it also has a propensity for allowing the schmucks to float to the top.

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