Orchids and onions

ORCHID: To David Bonnar, bishop of the Youngstown Catholic Diocese, for carrying a message of hope and compassion to victims of the Feb. 3 Norfolk Southern train derailment in East Palestine. Bonnar led a Mass at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish before about 120 members. He also said Catholic Charities will continue to help the community during “this challenging and uncertain time.” The strong support shown by Bonnar and the Diocese of Youngstown should be a source of comfort to all in the troubled town.

ORCHID: To Neighbors for Neighbors, a group of Hubbard High School sophomores, for organizing a benefit dinner to help the Brightside Project assist families affected by the Norfolk Southern derailment. The six students — Makenzie Pickard, Jillian Palumbo, Maila Hivner, Alexis Craft, Gianna Rotunno and Lily Hoffman — raised more than $7,000 for the cause. These thoughtful teens went above and beyond the call of duty to help neighbors in need.

ORCHID: To the city of Struthers for being recognized by the Arbor Day Foundation with a 2022 Tree City USA Designation for its commitment to environmental awareness and integrity. This was the third consecutive year for the award. “It’s showing that we’re proud to be conscious about our dedication to our city’s tree coverage,” Mayor Catherine Cercone Miller said. Tree cover is important to absorb sounds of traffic, reduce energy costs and provide green spaces for mental and physical well-being.

ONION: To Youngstown leaders for the premature eviction of more than a dozen tenants from the city-owned 20 Federal Place last year, when the project still has not begun. In fact, the Youngstown Board of Control just this week approved a $6.98 million contract for the remediation work there, now set to begin in mid-April. When asked about the delay in awarding the contract, a city official said re-evaluating the scope of the project “took time.” The downtown revitalization project has been little more than a comedy of errors.

ORCHID: To Michael Conny, president of MAC Trailer Manufacturing, for his commitment to transform a large swath of vacant and partially contaminated land in Sebring into a site rich for economic development and high-paying jobs. Work to remediate the brownfield site that once housed the renowned Royal China Co., one of the largest in the nation, began in earnest this week when soil samples were collected for testing. As Sebring Mayor James J. Harp said this week in thanking Conny for acquiring the acreage, it has great potential to revitalize the community.

ORCHID: To the Canfield Fair Board of Directors for booking a diverse and talented lineup of major musical acts for the 2023 fair. The board this week announced that rising rebel country artist Koe Wetzel will perform Sept. 3, and established top-selling R&B group Boyz II Men will perform Sept. 4. The dynamic lineup has the right stuff to fill the 6,200-seat grandstand both nights.

ORCHID: To the Youngstown State University men’s basketball team for making history this season as the university’s greatest basketball squad of all time. Among the highlights of its historic championship season were its record high number of wins since joining Division I, its first Horizon League title and its second appearance ever in the National Invitation Tournament. We’re hopeful the Penguins will remain a strong force to be reckoned with in the 2023-24 season.

ORCHID: To Liberty Township for its grant application efforts that have led to the award of a $51,000 Northeast Ohio Public Energy Council grant to assist in energy efficiency projects; a OneOhio opioid settlement grant of $139,000; a $360,000 Transportation Alternative Programs sidewalk grant for Belmont Avenue; and a $210,000 grant from the Ohio Department of Transportation for the Naylor Lloyd Road project. Fiscal officer Matthew Connelly said, in all, the township has applied for 14 grants recently and still awaits word on many. You can’t win if you don’t try.


Orchids and onions

ORCHID: To local police departments and the state of Ohio for working together to help fund a plan to add more police officers to the ranks. As part of Gov. Mike DeWine’s Ohio First Responder Recruitment, Retention and Resilience program, an additional $20 million is being dedicated to the program. Youngstown Police Department will receive $36,000 and Eagle Joint Fire District in Hubbard will receive $1,974 to help fund professional counseling when needed.

ORCHID: To the Austintown Senior Center, local police and area seniors who worked together on learning about gun safety and then used their training at the shooting range. The program began a few years ago when the senior center’s director realized many seniors had little firearm knowledge. Austintown detective Sgt. Ryan Reese has helped teach gun safety and self-defense, and seniors were trained at a local range. What a fabulous way to be trained and prepared!

ONION: To members of Youngstown City Council’s finance, community planning and economic development committees for even considering the possibility of holding meetings to conduct public business while banning public attendance due to fire safety concerns. After our reporter argued against this clear violation of Ohio open meetings laws, the city’s law director opined the meeting could not go on without access to the public. The meeting was canceled. It should never have been planned with such restrictions in the first place. What were they thinking?

ONION: To Trumbull County Commissioner Niki Frenchko for recently dialing 9-1-1 when there was no emergency. Frenchko called because wanted to talk to a supervisor about an administrative question. As commissioner, Frenchko should know better than to tie up the emergency 9-1-1 number when there is no emergency. For future reference, the non-emergency dispatch number is 330-675-2730.

ORCHID: To Austintown police for pursuing a grant to help battle drug and human trafficking. If awarded, the township would consider using the funds to patrol on Interstate 80. To be clear, we are not fans of using local police to patrol area interstates because we believe local police should focus on local community policing for the residents who fund them. But grants that could increase funds and, therefore, add patrols to fight ever-increasing trafficking crimes, are worth exploring, so long as it doesn’t reduce local patrols.


Orchids and onions

ORCHID: To retired LPGA golfer Annika Sorenstam, as well as to her husband, East Palestine native Mike McGee, and to Ed Muransky, CEO of The Muransky Companies, for their planning of a May 15 fundraiser at the Lake Club to benefit East Palestine. The ANNIKA Foundation, managed by McGee, will team with the United Way of Youngstown and the Mahoning Valley and The Way Station to help residents have access to bottled water along with clean up efforts. It’s a wonderful gesture that proves the local disaster still is tugging on heartstrings of generous people around the world.

ORCHID: To Austintown Local Schools for its dedication to the skill of public speaking and debate by hosting last week’s state competition for the Ohio Speech & Debate Association. Teri Dutton, Austintown speech and debate coach, spent an entire year working to help organize the event that hosted some 1,400 people from around Ohio. The project was quite an undertaking and, by the looks of things, went off without a hitch!

ONION: To those who allowed Youngstown City Hall to remain occupied and meetings held there when the building’s fire escape was not safe. The issue came to light just this week, but the top floors have been occupied and regular meetings held there consistently. It’s unclear how long the fire exit has been unsafe, but an inspection report was provided more than a month ago, on Feb. 3, to Kevin Flinn, city buildings and grounds commissioner. City leaders now say no public meeting will be held in council chambers until safety repairs are made. To make matters worse, it also just came to light that no inspections nor fire drills have been done in city hall for years. This lack of attention to safety is inexcusable.

ORCHID: To Poland Village council members for considering becoming a Certified Local Government, which would open the door to grants that could help with local historic preservation. The grants could be used for things like community education on historic preservation and rehabilitating historic properties. Poland already is very conscious of the importance of its history. We all must stay keenly aware of the value of preserving local history.

ONION: To Youngstown city for increasing policing-for-profit efforts by adding more unmanned traffic cameras in four more school zones. Beginning Monday, new cameras will be located at Horizon Science Academy on Southern Boulevard, Chaney High School on Overlook Drive, Chaney Middle School on South Schenley Avenue and Summit Academy on Oakwood Avenue. After a 30-day warning period, violators will receive citations in the mail, ranging from $100 to $150. If police are serious about improving safety, then increase area patrols, and don’t pay an out-of-state camera company 40 percent of the fines in what we see as a money grab from local residents.

ORCHID: To all those involved in Youngstown’s grant plan to encourage exterior improvements of local businesses. Four businesses recently were provided $20,000 grants each to help upgrade their business facades, funded with $1 million from American Rescue Plan funds. Approved were BGMC LLC, 407 Steel St.; Daddy D’s BBQ, 530 Mahoning Ave.; The Calvin Center, 755 Mahoning Ave.; and Voyager Coffee and Tea at 1586 and 1588 Mahoning Ave. What a wonderful way to encourage and assist private business in upgrades that stand to improve aesthetics and property values in our city.

Orchids and onions

ORCHID: To Youngstown State University football player Dra Rushton and his teammates for visiting Blott Guy Elementary School in Liberty recently to talk to students about athletics, the importance of academics and following their dreams. We’re certain the college athletes wowed the youngsters by their visit. Kudos to the college gridiron players for using their off-season time so constructively.

ORCHID: To all contributors to Second Harvest Food Bank of the Mahoning Valley’s annual Harvest for Hunger campaign that began this week and runs through May. Considering emergency allocations of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits are ending for 673,000 Ohioans this month, the need for assistance Second Harvest provides in Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties is certain to grow. Here’s hoping this year’s campaign tops the $300,000 and 32,000 pounds of food collected in the 2022 Harvest. There are many ways to contribute, the easiest of which may be adding a monetary contribution as you check out groceries at Giant Eagle supermarkets across the Valley.

ONION: To Youngstown city leaders for acting improperly in their eviction of the Subway sandwich shop from the city-owned 20 Federal Place complex downtown. Mahoning County Common Pleas Court Magistrate Timothy Welsh noted in a recent ruling the city still collected rent from Subway into October, long past the Sept. 23 eviction date. The magistrate did, however, clear the way for Youngstown to properly evict Subway, the last remaining commercial tenant in the complex so work can progress on the building’s renovation. The eviction mess continues a series of setbacks for the city in its plans for revitalizing the former bustling department store. Let’s hope it’s the last.

ORCHID: To former U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, an Ohio Republican, and the University of Cincinnati for launching an academic center to foster civility and bipartisanship in politics. The new Portman Center for Policy Solutions aims to groom future leaders for results-oriented public service. Portman himself opted against reelection to the U.S. Senate last year in part because of the divisiveness and rancor consuming politics and preventing constructive change. Clearly, this center for civility couldn’t have come too soon.

ORCHID: To Sen. J.D. Vance, Portman’s Republican successor, and Sen. Sherrod Brown, Ohio’s senior Democrat senator, for vowing to work together cohesively and constructively on legislation to toughen safety standards on all rail cars traversing the U.S. Let’s hope this is just the start of cooperative politics that typifies the civility and bipartisanship Portman’s new center advocates.

ONION: To the occupants or squatters at a home on Youngstown’s North Side for turning that house into a filthy and stinky mess and for abusing and neglecting a menagerie of animals in the process. Fifty-two animals including snakes, hedgehogs, a bearded dragon, foxes, turkeys and others were removed from the home. Fourteen of them were found dead by Animal Charity of Boardman. According to Youngstown firefighters, the home also had no heat and 1 to 2 inches of raw sewage. Charges should be filed swiftly against those responsible for this disgraceful mess and for the gross abuse inflicted on the animals.

ORCHID: To Mahoning County Common Pleas Court Judge R. Scott Krichbaum for denying a request this week from a Youngstown woman to be released from jail after having served only two months of a six-month sentence. The woman, Rayne Dunmire of the South Side, left her dog alone for weeks in a sweltering attic last summer. While Dunmire vacationed, her dog suffered an agonizing death. Dunmire hardly deserved any leniency from the criminal justice system.

ORCHID: To brothers Serdar Dede and Erdal Dede, owners of Cafe 422 restaurants in Boardman and Warren, for sponsoring a benefit at their Warren eatery that raised more than $30,000 for earthquake relief efforts in Turkey and Syria. The brothers, originally from Turkey, on Monday provided a buffet dinner, basket raffle and entertainment in the fundraiser. An accompanying GoFundMe page raised about $11,000 as of Friday. The death toll from the Feb. 6 quake totals around 50,000.



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