Published May 9, 2007
The overwhelming vote Tuesday in support of a permanent renewal of the 0.5 percent sales tax in Mahoning County was a repudiation of the tactics adopted by the Cafaro Co. to turn voters against county government.
Although Anthony and J.J. Cafaro insisted that their airing of an infomercial it ran the past two Sundays on two local television stations featuring commissioners Anthony Traficanti and David Ludt was not designed to undermine the sales tax issue, voters saw through the ploy.
Traficanti and Ludt were shown in depositions related to a lawsuit the Cafaros have filed against the county to block the commissioners from moving the Job and Family Services agency from Cafaro Co.-owned McGuffey Mall to Oakhill Renaissance Place (formerly South Side Medical Center.) The two commissioners were not able to provide minute financial details about the cost of the county's owning Renaissance Place. The infomercial the Cafaro Co. paid for the half-hour TV time for each airing was designed to prove to the taxpayers that Traficanti and Ludt are not good stewards of the public treasury. The third commissioner, John McNally, is opposed to the county's takeover of Renaissance Place.
In the end, however, the voters delivered a clear message to Anthony and J.J. Cafaro: We aren't impressed with your claim that you have only the best interest of the community at heart.
From a political standpoint, commissioners Traficanti and Ludt stood up to one of the most influential families in the Mahoning Valley and won at least on the issue of the sales tax.
Had the tax renewal gone down to defeat, the JFS relocation would have been shelved, the Cafaro Co. would have continued receiving $480,000 a year in rent (the county also pays the maintenance and operational costs) and Traficanti and Ludt would have been licking their wounds today.
Instead, they are the political giant killers in this battle, at least.