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« Stirfry

Traficant takes center stage

By Bertram de Souza (Contact)


Published February 20, 2006

Former Congressman James A. Traficant Jr. may be out of sight he serving time in the federal penitentiary but he certainly isn't out of mind. In the past couple of months, he has had more media attention local, state and national than his successor, Congressman Tim Ryan. Whether its his obstinate behavior in prison, or his jailhouse paintings that friends have been selling on e-Bay, Traficant has reporters and the public intrigued.

And then there's the Chevrolet Centre, which stands because the ex-congressman secured a $26.8 million federal grant for it and the 711 Connector, which his supporters belief should bear his name.

Traficant is news, regardless of where he is or what he's doing. But there is larger question that residents of the Mahoning Valley must answer: Is he good or bad for this region?

That's the question to be answered Saturday in the second community forum sponsored by Vindy.com and WFMJ-Channel 21. The event, which is open to the public, will be held in the Chevrolet Centre starting at 10 a.m.

Arguing that Traficant is good for the Valley will be John Brown Jr. of Warren, a steelworker who has remained loyal to the former sheriff of Mahoning County. Indeed, Brown circulated candidacy petitions for inmate Traficant.

Making the case that it's time exorcise the former congressman from the region will be Robert Fitzer, former president of the Citizens League of Greater Youngstown and long a good-government advocate. Fitzer is adamant that the this region's continued embrace of Traficant is undermining our economic recovery.

There will also be a brief panel discussion of veteran journalists who covered Traficant when he ran for sheriff, beat a federal criminal rap and then ran for Congress. They are Mona Alexander, news director of WFMJ, and two reporters from the television station, Glenn Stevens and Dick Skelton.

The final segment will be audience participation. And that's where you, the posters to this blog, come in. The comments to a previous blog about Traficant make it clear that he does inflame passions.

Thus, your participation is crucial if the debate is to be more than soundbites and personal attacks. There is a need for intelligent discussion about the most influential politician in the Valley recent history.

The fact that the debate is being held in the house that Traficant built is a testament to him regardless of your feelings towards him.


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