Published August 29, 2009
The Youngstown-Warren Regional Chamber gets this week’s leadership award. For at least the last two weeks, the Chamber has facilitated meetings for negotiations in the V&M Star deal. The headlines evolved from portraying a breakdown in communication to declaring a breakthrough in the deal and a commitment from the company to leave the window open, based on a review of the progress in talks between Youngstown and Girard.
Then, Friday, Tom Humphries issued a statement urging Traficant to accept a retiring life, rather than listen to pleas for a return to Congress.
“Mr. Traficant has served his sentence and will be coming home on Sept. 2. He has paid for his crimes and deserves to be with his family and friends. He deserves to be free and enjoy the things in life that are important to him. I do wish him well.
However, it’s one thing to wish someone well, someone who has completed his debt to society, but quite another thing to celebrate his release and homecoming. Celebrating James Traficant’s return, as some in the Mahoning Valley are doing, is inappropriate.
He is a convicted felon, someone who brought shame and ridicule to his office and to his community.
Admittedly, Mr. Traficant was a longtime leader in the Valley, and he had his accomplishments, including such legacies as securing funding for the Covelli Centre and two courthouses in downtown Youngstown
Nevertheless, his failure to be an honest public servant far outweighs those accomplishments.
Now, there is even talk of him running for Congress again. I think that is inappropriate as well.”
This is an important statement to be officially issued from the Valley. I realize there are those who see this as the Chamber overreaching into a political issue, in the same vein as its leadership in the push towards regionalizing local school district administration.
These issues, however, go straight to the heart of the business climate in the Valley. “It was difficult for entities like the Chamber to bring business to this area when Traficant was our Congressman,” a local business leader told me this week. “People thought this area was a joke.”
The same goes for the school issue. The news this week that Youngstown is the only district out of 610 in the state to be put in academic emergency and the first to receive a visit from the state Department of Education’s Academic Distress Commission is an untimely setback as the city looks for ways to capitalize on its status as a Top City for Entrepreneurs.
To realize the business potential in the region, we need leadership on these issues, and if the Regional Chamber is willing to lead, I say let them. Can we recognize together that in these difficult times we need all hands on deck? Whether you’ve been here your whole life, ten or twenty years, or two weeks, solving our challenges requires creativity, energy and talent. Whoever is offering to provide it, we should recognize and welcome the help.