Orchids and onions

ORCHID: To Youngstown Police Officer Joe Wess Jr., a member of the department’s K-9 unit, for his heroics at the scene of a deadly shooting at Utopia, a Youngstown nightclub, last Saturday. Officer Wess responded to the East Midlothian Boulevard scene shortly after the multiple shooting was reported. A rapper was killed and two others injured at the club. Wess quickly went into rescue mode, placing a tourniquet on the severely bleeding leg of the female victim, likely saving her life. Police Chief Carl Davis aptly said after the shooting, “Officer Wess’ lifesaving actions should be recognized and lauded.” We second his praise, particularly at a time when many police officers are being vilified for the actions of a very few bad apples. The heroism of Wess represents the rule, not the exception, in modern policing.

ONION: To Tom Stalf, former president and CEO of the Columbus Zoo; and Greg Bell, former chief financial officer for the zoo, for offenses against them outlined in an investigation sponsored by the zoo and released this week. According to the report and another investigation by the Columbus Dispatch, the two executives arranged for relatives to live in houses owned by the zoo and used its marketing sporting-event tickets for their own personal use. Other charges involve personal use of zoo vehicles and ignoring required competitive bidding for a $2 million project. The wealth of violations the two face point to a need for much more stringent oversight by zoo board members.

ORCHID: To the Austintown Fitch High School Concert Choir for becoming the first choir members from throughout the United States to perform without facial masks for about 400 service members who care for and fly President Joe Biden’s helicopter. The fine performance Tuesday carries on a proud and praiseworthy 49-year tradition of the choir of entertaining American veterans over their spring break.

ORCHID: To Edward J. DeBartolo Jr. and Denise DeBartolo York for being included this week in Forbes’ magazines annual listings of billionaires in the United States. York’s family owns more than 90 percent of the 49ers, according to Forbes. Over the years, the DeBartolo-York family has singled itself out with generous philanthropic donations to such worthy groups and organizations in the Mahoning Valley, such as Youngstown Sate University, the DeYor Performing Arts Centre, Akron Children’s Hospital, the Boys and Girls Club of Youngstown, the United Way and others. The Mahoning Valley natives who have made a name for themselves as majority owners of the 49ers have never forgotten their roots, which is clearly visible through their ongoing philanthropy.

ONION: To those responsible for a series of four random shooting incidents in Youngstown in a matter of hours Tuesday night. Fortunately, the depraved criminal actions injured no one at homes on Hunter Avenue and Rosedale Avenue on the South Side and Lauderdale Avenue on the North Side, plus another on the street in the area of West Glenaven and Oak Hill avenues. Damage, however, was done to the public perception of security of all of these neighborhoods. Police should spare no resources to track and prosecute the culprits who have no regard for public safety and human lives.

ORCHID: To Erik Vargo, 18, a senior at Cardinal Mooney High School in Youngstown, and to Emily Bennett, 16, a junior at Lakeview High School in Bazetta for bringing honor and distinction to themselves and their schools by winning national silver medals in the highly competitive Scholastic Art and Writing Awards. Vargo won his award for an emotional photograph titled “Heartbreak on the Hardwood” about a hard loss for the Youngstown State University basketball team. Bennett won hers for her painting, titled “The Year Was 2020,” in which the anguish produced by the COVID-19 pandemic screams out front and center.

ORCHID: To local teens Lena Dunkerly and Giovanni Milleto, both of St. Patrick Church in Hubbard; and Michael Joseph Wilson of St. Stephen Parish of Niles for earning this year’s prestigious Diocesan Eagle of the Cross Award. The annual awards recognize teenagers with model dedication, integrity, values and promise for church and society.



He has paid a full ransom for his people. He has guaranteed his covenant with them forever. What a holy, awe-inspiring name he has!

Psalm 111:9 NLT

Orchids and onions

ORCHID: To the Ohio National Guard for the big lift it gave to Second Harvest Food Bank of the Mahoning Valley when it needed it most. Men and women from the guard have been helping the indispensable food bank meet its skyrocketing demand for assistance over the past full year of the COVID-19 pandemic. Just how much of an increased demand? In 2019, Second Harvest distributed 11 million tons of food in Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties. In 2020, that figure zoomed to nearly 16 million tons. Sadly, the need for community assistance and for the guard’s capable work in delivering it will not be ending anytime soon.

ORCHID: To Rose Ann Lubert for earning a proclamation of honor from Girard Mayor James Melfi recently. Lubert was recognized for her 20 years of work as director of the Girard Free Library and for the many community services the library provides. Lubert, who has now retired, and her staff have overseen much growth in resources and community services over those past two decades of the 102-year-old library system. In so doing, they have ensured that the public library remains more relevant than ever.

ONION: To the M.J. Joseph Development Corp. for its negligence in failing to follow through on its promised development of a large chill-can production and research campus on Youngstown’s East Side. Although some buildings have been constructed and a handful of employees reportedly have been hired, the company has reneged on its pledge to have the facility operating with at least 150 workers by 2021. The city of Youngstown is absolutely correct in its plans to file suit, seeking about $2 million in damages for costs associated with waterline work and tax credits. We hope company leaders can get the project back on track, but the city cannot wait forever.

ORCHID: To Sheetz Inc. for its $1.75 million investment in expansion at its state Route 46 store and service station in Austintown. The project will bring five additional lanes of diesel fuel pumps, a truck scale and expanded parking. The expansion will allow truck drivers to fuel up and have a safe place to stay for the night. We hope other businesses also recognize that the Interstate 80 / state Route 46 interchange ranks among the busiest in the nation and follow Sheetz’s wise investment lead.

ORCHID: To Charles Shasho, Youngstown’s deputy director of public works, for moving swiftly to finally demolish one of the city’s most unsafe and useless eyesores — the Crescent Street Bridge. With bids for the work coming in hundreds of thousands of dollars below the estimate of $950,000, we see no reason for the city’s Board of Control not to authorize acceptance of the lowest bid of $580,000 from a Struthers company for the project when it meets April 15. Then, at last, this popularly-called “bridge to nowhere” can be gone, and the land it occupies can be redeveloped.

ONION: To state Rep. Al Cutrona, R-Canfield, for his recently introduced legislation to authorize bars in the state to remain open until 3:30 a.m., one hour past the longstanding required 2:30 a.m. shutdown. While we can understand Cutrona’s underlying desire to help businesses recoup losses suffered from shutdowns in 2020 from the COVID-19 pandemic, we fear keeping liquor-serving businesses open an additional hour may have unintended negative consequences, including a spike in drunken-driving accidents, injuries and deaths.

ORCHID: To the Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corp. for its ongoing successes in revitalizing homes and neighborhoods throughout the city. Most recently, its achievements won it a featured segment on the WORLD Channel’s “America Reframed” series. The YNDC episode titled “The place that makes us” and shot over several years, aired last week but is available for online streaming at worldchannel.org. It also will be a part of the esteemed Cleveland International Film Festival this year. We’re pleased to see the good works of YNDC Director Ian Beniston, his staff and his legions of hearty volunteer workers get the national and international recognition they so deserve.



And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it.

Matthew 28:2 ESV


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