The recent flare-up involving Mahoning County commissioners Anthony Traficanti and John McNally over the future of Oakhill Renaissance Place (former Southside Hospital) suggests there's more going on than just a difference of opinion.
Indeed, McNally's public use of the word "horse----" in responding to Traficanti's contention that his relationship with the Cafaro family is driving his opposition to county government's taking over Oakhill Place was a reminder of James A. Traficant Jr., the former congressman turned federal prisoner.
Traficant was famous for swearing, but "horse----" wasn't in his vocabulary. Rather, the ex congressman and ex sheriff was partial to the more pedestrian "bull----."
However, it wasn't just McNally's colorful language that had Traficant casting a shadow over the Renaissance Place debate.
It has been suggested that Commissioner Traficanti's disdain for the Cafaro family stems from J.J. Cafaro's testimony in Traficant's criminal trial. Cafaro testified under oath that he bribed the then congressman. Although J.J. Cafaro pleaded guilty to bribery, he was given a pass by federal prosecutors on the sentencing. He has not served a day in prison.
Traficant, on the other hand, had the book thrown at him.
Thus, when Anthony Cafaro, head of the Cafaro company and J.J.'s brother, publicly announced that the mall development company was interested in taking over Renaissance Place, the fur hit the fan.
Traficanti contends that the only reason the Cafaros are vying for the former Southside Hospital complex is to prevent the county from getting it. That way, the developer would block the county from moving the Jobs and Family Services agency out of the McGuffey Plaza, which the Cafaro Co. owns.
McNally does have personal relationship with the Cafaros, but denies that he is a shill for them in his opposition to the county's taking over of Renaissance Place.
For his part, Traficanti argues that the county is paying more than $700,000 a year to house JFS and the Child Support Enforcement Agency in the McGuffey Plaza and moving those and other administrative offices to Renaissance Place would result in huge savings.
While the outcome of this fight is impossible to predict, this much is certain: Former Congressman Traficant has once again managed to cast a shadow over the Mahoning Valley even while behind bars.