Orchids and onions

ORCHID: To Poland fifth-grader Jayde Simon for demonstrating the value of self-sacrifice. Jayde asked for contributions from individuals and organizations in lieu of presents for her recent 11th birthday. The McKinley Elementary School student collected about 80 donations totaling more than $1,600. She forwarded the funds to the Boo Squad to help 30 needy local families with their Thanksgiving meals.

ORCHID: To Youngstown State University’s Williamson College of Business Administration for being recognized as among the Top 5 “Career Ready” U.S. college and university business schools. The award, presented by SkillSurvey, a provider of career readiness solutions, recognizes business schools that best measure students’ career readiness in the competency areas that U.S. employer value most. The prestigious honor adds extra credit to Williamson’s longstanding reputation as a premier institution of business administration in Ohio and the nation.

ONION: To outgoing Campbell mayor Nick Phillips who has been noticeably absent since losing the Nov. 2 general election to longtime councilman Bryan Tedesco in a tight race. Since the election, Phillips has not attended the regular council meetings, even though he remains in office until January. Phillips also did not return our calls seeking comment on election night, and prior to the election, he declined to return our candidate questionnaire and did not participate in our candidate interview process. We all should expect more from an officeholder.

ORCHID: To Liberty second-grader Ariana Centrella for leading a one-girl campaign to help hearing-impaired children. Ariana has been collecting soda-can tabs, redeemed for cash, and staffing a lemonade stand for two years as fundraisers for HIKE, or Hearing Impaired Kids Endowment. She also plans to donate funds to Ronald McDonald House in Akron that helped her family while her brother underwent treatments. Ariana’s Liberty PK-6 principal called the girl a “role model for all of us to follow and learn from each day.”

ORCHID: To the Ohio Department of Natural Resources for awarding parks in the Mahoning Valley and the state needed grant awards to finance a wide array of improvements. Mahoning County received more than $90,000 for projects at Milton Township’s Community Park, Youngstown’s Spring Common Park and Mill Creek Park’s Golf Course. Trumbull County received about $82,000 for projects at Waugh Park in Hubbard and Willow Park in Cortland. The grants will go far toward enhancing the quality of recreational fun in our region.

ONION: To those who participate in an unseemly but growing national trend of organized thievery. The National Retail Federation reported this week — in the immediate aftermath of several smash-and-grab thefts at large stores across the nation — that organized theft rings are putting a big dent in retailers’ profit margins. During the high-traffic holiday shopping season over the next month, retailers should take extra security precautions and local police departments should plan extra patrols to help lessen the potential for such brazen hooliganism.

ORCHID: To Liberty fire Chief Gus Birch for providing Liberty and other Valley communities professional firefighting and emergency medical services over the past 41 years, including 27 in Liberty. Birch will retire next month. Over the years, he has seen many changes, including some that have disheartened him such as a lowered degree of pride among some firefighters. Nonetheless, Birch retires in Liberty with a record of which he can be proud, having increased staff, added new ambulances, fire engines and cardiac monitors.

ORCHID: To the U.S. Justice Department’s Community Oriented Policing Services for awarding the Austintown Township Police Department a $250,000 grant to hire two new officers. The result should strengthen police protection and enhance public safety in the large suburban community.


Orchids and onions

ORCHID: To Ohio State Highway Patrol trooper Daniel DeLuca and dispatcher Cheryl Smith for winning prestigious awards recently at the Canfield Post. Deluca has been honored with the Trooper of the Year Award based on his outstanding service, leadership and ethics. Smith, of Poland, has won the post’s Telecommunications Award. She has earned Dispatcher of the Year award 16 times over the years. We wish both luck as they vie for district and state honors.

ORCHID: To Canfield R.E.D., a recently formed organization designed to explore racial equality and diversity in the community. The group of a diverse membership of community stakeholders, held its first meeting this week, attended by Canfield residents. It aims to develop a detailed plan in 2022 to make the town more inviting to minorities. We wish it success in its overarching goal of ridding Canfield of negative stereotypes and in making the community a welcoming place for all people.

ORCHID: To the Youngstown Foundation for awarding the Oak Hill Collaborative community service organization a $20,000 grant to help the collaborative bridge the digital divide in the Mahoning Valley. The funding will be used for qualifying residents to receive reduced-cost internet service, discounted computer equipment and free classes. As OC Executive Director Pat Kerrigan puts it, “today, meaningful access to the internet is a basic human right.” The foundation’s gift will expand that right and necessity.

ONION: To irresponsible individuals who operate golf carts on public streets and sidewalks. In Hubbard, that problem has become so bad that the city is considering an ordinance to ban the use of golf carts on public thoroughfares. According to data gathered by the federal government, tens of thousands of people are injured each year over improper use of golf carts, particularly when used off of golf courses. Other communities should follow Hubbard’s lead to remove this unnecessary public safety hazard from the streets.

ORCHID: To Denny Furman of Berlin Center for being honored with the Mason of the Year award from Argus Lodge No. 545 F. & A.M. recently. Furman, a Berlin Township trustee, has been active in the Masons for more than 16 years and has distinguished himself in many groups. Among them are the Youngstown Saxon Club, Berlin Ellsworth Ruritans, Ohio Township Association, American Legion, Salem Eagles an the Berlin Center Historical Society. Furman has proven himself as a community leader extraordinaire.

ORCHID: To the Mahoning Valley Land Bank for its dogged pursuit of funding to demolish Youngstown’s remaining stock of abandoned, unsafe and beyond-repair houses and commercial structures. The land bank recently secured a $500,000 grant in state funds. Debora Flora, executive director of the land bank, said ridding the city of all such homes is now in sight. Now, serious attention must shift to repurposing the properties to productive residential and business use.

ORCHID: To the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio for this week approving the sale of Youngstown Thermal LLC to SOBE Thermal Energy Systems. The sale paves the way for the heating and cooling supplier of downtown-area businesses to be free of financial problems that had plagued and compromised its services. The new owner pledges to grow the business using primarily nonfossil fuel as energy.

ORCHID: To Niles Intermediate School for winning an award from U.S. News and World Report recognizing it as one of Ohio’s best elementary schools for 2021. The schools are ranked by student test scores, reading and math proficiency, attendance and effective preparation for high school. The publication noted this school ranks “well above expectations” in overall academic performance. Students, teachers, administrators and parents have every good reason to be proud of this nationally recognized honor.


Orchids and onions

ORCHID: To Youngstown police and Ohio State Highway Patrol for combined Youngstown patrols in a joint offensive against violent crime. On one recent afternoon, the two agencies made five arrests of illegal possession of guns during traffic stops. Given that the city has now gone more than six weeks without a homicide, it appears the city’s new strategy in high-crime areas might be working.

ORCHID: To identical twin veterinarians Robert and William Kerpsack for recently being honored on their 90th birthday with a celebration in Canfield, and for their resilience in showing no signs of slowing down. The two first opened a local veterinary clinic in 1962. Their longevity and commitment have earned them high esteem from pet owners for decades.

ONION: To Youngstown City Schools CEO Justin Jennings for making an agreement with Insight Enterprises to provide internet to homes of district students and employees, all without consulting city officials or seeking competitive bids. Jennings denies signing a contract worth $17 million for the project, as city leaders allege. Now he’s pulling the plug on the entire initiative. City Law Director Jeff Limbian is absolutely correct in labeling this fiasco “outrageous.”

ORCHID: To World War II veteran Arthur Newell of Struthers, awarded the prestigious Legion of Honor award, the highest military and civilian honor bestowed by France. Newell was recognized for “great deeds for France.” Serving in tandem with the forces of storied U.S. Gen. George Patton, Newell and his division played critical roles in liberating France from Nazi occupation.

ORCHID: To Easy Street Productions for exercising responsible caution by canceling its planned live productions of its perennial favorite holiday musical, “Miracle on Easy Street,” due to ongoing COVID-19 concerns. This is the second consecutive year that the Powers Auditorium stage will remain dark in December for the Mahoning Valley Christmas staple. Though disappointing, this year’s show, however, will still be produced in smaller vignettes and aired on 21 WFMJ-TV on dates to be announced later.

ONION: To the vile thief who stole money from a parishioner and several hundred dollars from cash registers at the gift shop of Our Lady of Lebanon Shrine in North Jackson earlier this week. Jackson Township police Chief Greg Taillon characterized the crime as “ruthless … I mean to target a church? You have to be pretty low to do that.” Taillon is 100 percent correct. The thief should be prosecuted to the fullest extent.

ORCHID: To Huntington Bank for reversing its earlier decision to permanently leave its downtown Youngstown office in the historic 13-story Mahoning Building downtown. Instead, the bank now plans to renovate and reopen the recently shuttered space. Orchid also to city leaders who were involved in attempts to convince the bank to stay put. We’re pleased bank officials recognize the worth of staying. Too much is going right in revitalizing the central city to allow a prominent piece of real estate to go vacant.

ORCHID: To former Youngstown / Warren Regional Chamber President Thomas Humphries of Girard for being formally inducted into the Ohio Veterans Hall of Fame in a virtual presentation by the Department of Veterans Services on Thursday. Humphries, one of 20 inductees in the Class of 2021, served in the U.S. Air Force during the Vietnam War, following by years in the Air Force Reserve. After that, Humphries has been a strong advocate for prisoners of war and soldiers missing in action. The entire ceremony from Veterans Day is available on the DVS YouTube channel.

ORCHID: To Coates Car Care of Howland for raising more than $15,000 for the Melina Michelle Edenfield Foundation to help fund pediatric brain tumor research. The spooky, yet fun, fundraiser took the form of a “Haunted Carwash” and attracted many participants. Melina Michelle, 4, of Canfield was diagnosed with diffuse midline glioma, a childhood brain tumor in May 2020, and died one month later. Michelle Edenfield, mother of Melina, thanked the Coates family for going “above and beyond for our Melina.” The money raised will go to great use in search of a cure for DMG.


Orchids and onions

l ORCHID: To Jeff Harley of North Lima, for logging 3 million miles during his 27 years as a truck driver for Yellow Corp.’s Youngstown terminal. More notably, Harley traveled that distance — the equivalent of 12 or 13 trips to the moon and back — without a preventable accident or traffic ticket. Harley rightfully was honored last week during a ceremony at the company on Market Street. Harley’s long and clean record serves as a model for all truck drivers, and all drivers of any motor vehicle.

ORCHID: To 17 members of Congress, including U.S. Reps. Tim Ryan, D-Howland, and Bill Johnson, R-Marietta, who have gone to bat for Delphi salaried retirees in their vigilant 12-year fight to obtain their earned pension benefits. The lawmakers filed a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court last week urging justices to overturn a lower court ruling that dismissed their case to restore full pension funding from the Pension Guaranty Corporation. An orchid as well to Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost and six other state attorneys general for similarly urging the high court to review the retirees’ case to restore to the pensions that were slashed deeply when the auto-parts maker went bankrupt.

ORCHID: To the Pittsburgh-based Giant Eagle supermarket chain for settling a lawsuit with Trumbull and Lake counties in the counties’ legal fight over pharmacies the counties argue have been complicit in the worsening of the opiate overdose crisis. Though terms were not announced and Giant Eagle argues it did not cause the crisis, it is believed the settlement will be similar to one reached with Rite Aid, in which Rite Aid agreed to pay Trumbull County $1.5 million. Other defendants in the federal case — CVS, Walgreens and Walmart — remain as the trial over their role in the crisis winds down in Cleveland.

ONION: To Youngstown City Council for action that overreaches into the private lives of its constituents and private businesses. Council last month passed action mandating restaurants in the city must offer nonsugary default beverages with kids meals. While we don’t necessarily disagree with the need to find ways to help curb childhood obesity, we believe that decision should be made by restaurants that create their menus or, even more appropriately, by the parents.

ORCHID: To Friends of the Mahoning River and Tri-County Cleanways for doing their part toward the long-term cleansing and rejuvenation of the river that traverses throughout the Valley. Volunteers recently plunged into the waters and recovered 58 dumped tires and many pounds of pollution-laden trash. Coupled with other private and public initiatives, the volunteers’ work goes far toward making the waterway a viable recreational asset for our community.

ORCHID: To Marvin L. Logan, a Warren G. Harding High School and Kent State University graduate, for being selected as the new director of the OH WOW! Roger and Gloria Jones Children’s Science and Technology Center in downtown Youngstown. Logan brings impressive experience working with young people at the Boys and Girls Clubs of Southeastern Michigan and as a coordinator for the acclaimed Inspiring Minds Warren program.

ONION: To the 75 percent of Mahoning County’s more than 160,000 eligible voters who failed to exercise their responsibility of contributing to our democratic form of government by not voting in this week’s general election, particularly since these local elections most directly affect their lives. Those who snub their nose at their right to cast a ballot thereby forfeit their right to criticize the government with which they may be displeased.

ORCHID: To the Youngstown Board of Education for significantly increasing academic expectations of its students in a revised improvement plan it is forwarding to the Ohio Board of Education. We had criticized the original plan for setting proficiency levels for basic mathematics and language coursework far too low for students in the troubled district. With the higher standards, we hope the state board quickly approves the plan so the state-run district can begin its journey back toward local control as soon as possible.

ORCHID: To Mahoning County commissioners for awarding Valley Economic Development Partners $1 million in American Rescue Plan money for creation of a Small Business Relief Fund. The fund will offer grants of up to $10,000 each for small businesses throughout the county that have suffered at least a 25 percent reduction in revenue between 2019 and 2020. We urge any and all businesses in the county to take advantage of this relief opportunity by applying for the grant at www.valledp.com.



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