Orchids and onions

ORCHID: To everyone involved in helping to fund, coordinate and even act in a short film created locally to help make an impact on choices of young people facing violence. The film, titled “Give Me The Gun,” is a joint project through Operation Keepsake that included Mahoning County Juvenile Court and the Boys and Girls Club of Youngstown, which provided some of the actors, including Edna Edmonds, project manager at the Boys and Girls Club. The video will serve as an excellent outreach tool for our community. Bravo!

ONION: To Youngstown Municipal Court officials who are proposing enormous pay increases of up to 31 percent for court security officers and coordinators. We fully understand the challenges that come with maintaining quality employees; however, such large raises — especially if they are not attached to promotions or added duties and responsibilities — will only set a precedent for other Youngstown city employees to seek giant pay raises. Let’s not lose sight of the fact that funds for these salaries are paid by the taxpayers. A better plan might be setting forth more aggressive step increases over the next several years in an attempt to reward workers for longevity with increasingly more competitive salaries.

ORCHID: To Col. Michael Maloney, new commander of the 910th Airlift Wing, who already is readying the Youngstown Air Reserve Station for transition to upgraded new military aircraft, even though the final announcement about the C-130J aircraft placement isn’t expected for about another month. Maloney said during this week’s Regional Chamber-sponsored panel discussion on the Valley’s military and defense industry that he already has lined up training spots for pilots and maintainers. While some might say the commander is acting prematurely, we believe he is being aggressive and proactive in his confidence that the aircraft will be assigned here. If he’s correct, the air base will be ahead of the game.

ONION: To Mill Creek MetroParks for again planning to appeal last week’s ruling by the 7th District Court of Appeals ordering the bike-trail case to return to Mahoning County Common Pleas Court for further hearings. Such hearings would determine whether the MetroParks can show the necessity to acquire a former railroad bed owned by Green Township property owner Thomas Hough. In a previous trial, a jury awarded Hough $68,975 as compensation for acquiring the right-of-way. The MetroParks has been trying for several years to acquire rights of way on about a dozen properties in Green Township that once carried railroad lines but became privately owned about 30 years ago. The MetroParks wants to use the land to create the third phase of its MetroParks Greenway hike and bike trail. As we’ve said before, this matter needs to be put to bed, and ongoing legal maneuvers that are costly to taxpayers must come to an end.

ORCHID: To Liberty Local School District for making a big commitment to security, an issue that, sadly, is much needed in this day and age. This week, the school board voted to award a $344,728 contract for security equipment for each district building from Pacific OneSource Inc. It will include installing, configuring and programming security cameras for each building, and is being funded largely through the Ohio K-12 School Safety Grant Program.

ORCHID: To the local organization “Comfort and Hope,” Mahoning County Children Services, Northeast Ohio Adoption Services and the Bair Foundation, all who are teaming up to help make birthdays a little brighter for children in foster care. Throughout the year, Comfort and Hope provides birthday bags, gift cards, comfort blankets and holiday gifts to more than 600 youth from infants to teens age 22 in Mahoning County. Each month the Comfort and Hope Program delivers birthday bags. Each bag contains all new and age-appropriate toys, clothes, cozy blankets and other items a child may wish for or need, all made possible by donors and sponsors. What a wonderful idea to help kids who, undoubtedly, need an extra heaping of happiness in their lives.

ONION: To Suzanne Ginty, 55, of Girard, who will serve three years in prison after being convicted for her sixth OVI within the last 15 years. Police said she had a blood-alcohol level at 0.36 when she was stopped Sept. 6, 2022, in Liberty Township. The legal limit for driving in Ohio is 0.08. We are relieved that no one was hurt in this dangerous crime, and we hope the prison time sends a strong message to Ginty and all others who drive drunk. And we hope she gets the help she needs.


Orchids and onions

ORCHID: To Youngstown officials for shutting down school zone speed cameras while the appeals process for violations there is being worked out. We are disappointed that the cameras have been operating since February with more than 22,000 tickets being issued, yet only now are city officials dealing with the fact that not one appeal has been heard in Youngstown Municipal Court. Without due process, these cameras are an enormous violation to citizens’ rights. Law Director Jeff Limbian this week said the camera suspension will be “very temporary.” It must remain indefinitely until the appeal process is resolved with the court.

ORCHID: To Rich Limongi, Shepherd of the Valley chief executive, for winning this year’s Visionary Leadership of Honor award from LeadingAge Ohio for his contributions and leadership in aging services. As the award notes, the honor is a testament to Limongi’s 30-year commitment to advancing the well-being and quality of life for older adults in the Mahoning Valley. Shepherd has facilities in Poland, Liberty, Howland and Boardman.

ONION: To the Youngstown city administration for its attempt to win council’s approval for a $2 million contract for emergency repairs to the Covelli Centre roof and that of the city’s traffic sign and signal shop — both without bids. Council acted swiftly to shut down the request by unanimous vote. Good. The fact is the materials needed for the repairs are not available immediately and the work won’t begin until next spring for the Covelli Centre roof and later this winter for the other project. Just how does that constitute an “emergency”?

ORCHID: To the Ohio Turnpike Commission for moving forward with its plan to “electrify” the toll road by adding Tesla supercharger sites at eastbound and westbound turnpike stations in Mahoning County. The stations are part of a public-private partnership, bringing the number to 64 Tesla supercharger sites and 16 Electrify America units at eight service plazas. That plan will go far in helping keep up-and-coming electric vehicles to also go far.

ONION: To the owner of the dog that on Aug. 27 attacked and killed the neighbor’s Chihuahua and injured that dog owner’s thumb on Alameda Avenue. Sadly, Tim Mezakowski, owner of the unvaccinated, unregistered and uncontrolled attacking dog, pleaded guilty to three misdemeanor charges, but was sentenced to pay only $85 in fines and fees. Really? Certainly, the law should allow for much higher degree of crime and more severe penalties for irresponsible owners of dogs who kill other pets.

ORCHID: To Youngstown State University Board of Trustees and the 169-member Association of Classified Employees union that reached a new three-year labor contract calling for raises and bonuses that most should consider reasonable. Kudos to the negotiating teams on both sides for two months of negotiations and agreeing to the pact without any work stoppage after the previous contract expired last month. As Trustee Chairman Michael Peterson said, this “is a testament to the values we hold dear, including the centrality of students, excellence and innovation.”

ORCHID: To Youngstown State University quarterback Mitch Davidson and to donors to The Friends of the Rich Center for Autism, which helped make it possible for Davidson to serve as the first-ever student-athlete ambassador for the Rich Center for Autism. The Friends of the Rich Center is a nonprofit that aims to raise funds, promote and support the center. Davidson, YSU Penguins captain, has been visiting The Rich Center, meeting with students there and even wearing custom-designed cleats featuring his number 14, “Rich Center For Autism” and “Treatment, Education and Research” painted on the sides. Davidson’s involvement at The Rich Center is meaningful and, undoubtedly, will make an impact on the lives of the students there.

Orchids and onions

ORCHID: To all the Youngstown residents who have offered tips and eyewitness accounts surrounding a slew of recent homicides in the city. It’s a welcome departure from too many cases in the past where those with critical information chose to remain silent. As city police Capt. Jason Simon said, “We have amazing investigators, but we still need help from the public because (investigators) are not on the scenes when (killings) happen. They rely on the public for that information, and the public has been forthcoming and will get a lot of the credit when we make arrests.”

ORCHID: To Ursel J. McElroy, director of the Ohio Department of Aging, for receiving the Ohio State Alumni Association’s Alumni in Government Distinguished Service Award recently. The Youngstown native and East High School graduate, who has led the department for four years, led the state aging network’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, served as chairwoman of the state’s task force on Alzheimer’s disease and its task force on nursing home quality. She’s been actively involved in social services in state and local government for more than three decades. The award is richly deserved.

ONION: To irresponsible parents who take illicit drugs and risk putting the health and safety of their children in grave danger. Last week, for example, a Boardman woman was found passed out in her Hubbard boyfriend’s residence by her 10-year-old son after having taken an oxycontin drug, according to a police report. Fortunately the boy had the wherewithal to recognize his 1-year-old sister was in danger of drowning in a bathtub, and he successfully rescued her. The mother has been charged with four misdemeanor counts of child endangering and a felony drug possession charge. Such behavior by parents warrants stiff punishment as well as strict drug-treatment intervention.

ORCHID: To Second Harvest Food Bank of the Mahoning Valley and Liberty police for efforts to build stronger ties between police and children in the community. Last week, police officers delivered low-sugar ice cream sandwiches donated by Giant Eagle to students at Guy Blott Elementary School. Police Chief Toby Meloro said the program enables children to “see us in more of a positive light, because a lot of times, children see us in a negative light.” To its credit, the food bank plans to take its Care-A-Van to local schools for tasty trust-building events with public safety forces.

ORCHID: To the drone team within the Mahoning County Sheriff’s Office for its cutting-edge work in building skills and using the flying devices to keep our community safe. The half-dozen team members, all certified by Federal Aviation Administration, have used drones in a variety of situations — from finding lost children at the Canfield Fair to searching for victims and suspects at violent crime scenes. As Sheriff Jerry Greene aptly said, “There’s no limit to how it benefits law enforcement.”

ORCHID: To the Harding Park Board of Commissioners in Hubbard for planning an appropriately festive 100th birthday party today in the park. A parade, commemoration ceremony, speakers, music and food are planned beginning at 1 p.m. at the park. Harding Park, which originated in 1923, has 100 acres of sprawling recreational space and community landmark. We commend board members and others in the community for ensuring the park remains a vital asset for years to come.

ORCHID: To officials of Sebring Local Schools and their many partners for organizing tonight’s “Literacy Under the Lights” event. The observance, scheduled to begin 6:30 p.m. today at Sebring McKinley’s Schaefer-Davies football stadium, will feature reading books under the lights, participating in educational activity stations and interacting with authors and other special guests. It’s a highlight of the school district’s Readers as Leaders initiative, and it should be ripe for copying at other school districts throughout the Mahoning Valley.

ONION: To the grinch who stole thousands of dollars from East High School intended to finance a senior class trip. Confusion seems to reign in trying to track down receipt and proper deposit of the funds, and the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation is probing the suspected theft. We hope it is successful in finding and charging the thief or thieves and that they wind up slapped with the harshest penalty possible.

Orchids and onions

ORCHID: To Austintown and Vienna, the two local communities that consistently host events in remembrance of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The Austintown Beautification Committee will host its annual 9/11 ceremony at 10 a.m. Monday at the Mahoning Valley 9/11 Memorial Park on South Raccoon Road. Vienna also will host its annual event at 6 p.m. Monday at the 9/11 Memorial near the Vienna fire station. Thank you to these two communities for helping to ensure we must never forget.

ORCHID: To Mahoning County Prosecutor Gina DeGenova, for her planned launch of a STOP program, or Self-defense Trauma-informed Outreach Program, in which area residents will be able to receive tips and training on the essential components of self-defense in a safe, trauma-informed environment. DeGenova collaborated with service providers, including Mercy Health, Youngstown State University Campus Recreation, COMPASS Family & Community Services and the Youngstown Area Jewish Federation, to help participants learn education on local laws and local victim services; awareness and confidence building; and physical training.

ONION: To the owner of the pit bull mix that killed Jazzy, a four-pound Chihuahua owned by Shanise Clark and that also injured Clark’s hand during a violent attack as Clark walked her dog on Alameda Avenue in Youngstown. An investigation determined the dog that attacked did not have up-to-date shots, and a dangerous disposition indicating it clearly should not have been roaming free. Jazzy’s heartbroken owner called the dog her “baby.” What a horrific thing to witness and endure. We hope justice is fully served.

ORCHID: To Niles officials for their involvement in making the historical Ward Thomas House accessible to visitors with physical disabilities. Niles City Council recently authorized Mayor Steve Mientkiewicz to apply for an Ohio History Fund grant to improve the home’s accessibility. Additionally, the city plans to contribute $15,000 to the project. The city owns the property, and the Niles Historical Society is curator. Mientkiewicz asked the historical society in 2019 to evaluate the site. The evaluation drew the city’s attention to some serious issues.

ORCHID: To Niles McKinley High School for its practice of granting each senior a dedicated parking space and allowing that driver to take ownership of it by painting and decorating the space. This rite of passage is a wonderful way to recognize and welcome back seniors for their final meaningful and memorable high school year.

ORCHID: To Dr. Farid Naffah of Cortland, one of three people statewide reappointed by Gov. Mike DeWine to serve another term on the Ohio Arts Council, a state agency that funds and supports arts experiences to strengthen Ohio communities culturally, educationally and economically. Arts council Executive Director Donna S. Collins said Dr. Naffah and the others “work tirelessly to make Ohio’s arts and culture sector as robust as it is today.


Orchids and onions

ORCHID: To the Ohio Nurses Association, District 3 chapter for creating a $650,000 endowment for the Youngstown State University Foundation to offer four scholarships for students interested in entering the nursing field. Two scholarships are in the name of Mary Ellen Patton, a trailblazing Youngstown nurse who was a strong advocate for safe, effective and quality patient care. Sadly, the ONA District 3 group is disbanding soon because of the retirement of many of its members. The endowment serves as a most appropriate swan song for the group and its focus on giving and compassionate care.

ORCHID: To the Canfield Fair Board of Directors and area police and fire agencies for working over the past year to ensure maximum safety and security at this year’s 177th fair, which continues through Monday. After about eight meetings on security with law enforcement agencies, the board has increased uniformed police presence throughout the fairgrounds, updated security technology and authorized smaller carts to move more speedily through the fairgrounds for emergencies. The actions follow fights and disturbances at the fairgrounds last year and help to ensure enjoyable and safe days throughout the run of the fair this year.

ONION: To the Youngstown Board of Education for wasting valuable time stalling negotiations with striking teachers represented by the Youngstown Education Association. Before Wednesday’s negotiating session, the board had not participated in talks since Aug. 21, two days before the strike officially began. As we had pointed out in an editorial last week when scolding the board for failing to engage in serious talks, there appears to be no sense of urgency to settling the dispute. That’s unfortunate for teachers, staff, community and, most important, students being denied the appropriate face-to-face learning.

ORCHID: To U.S. News and World Report for letting the universe know what we here in the Mahoning Valley have known for decades: Our region is among the most affordable places to live in the United States. The news magazine’s researchers unveiled its 2023 list of the most inexpensive places to live among the nation’s 150 largest metro areas. Greater Youngstown ranked No. 2. Home costs, utilities, food expenses and medical costs all fall well below the national average. We hope development groups in the region use this data as a strong magnets to attract new businesses and vitality to the Youngstown-Warren-Boardman Metropolitan Area.

ONION: To politicians who thrust themselves unnecessarily into often tense labor negotiations on behalf of one partisan side. Earlier this week, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Cleveland, and state Sen. Mike Rulli, R-Salem, met with striking teachers in Youngstown and gave them their full support. Brown also met with UAW Local 1112 members from Ultium Cells in Lordstown this week and gave them and their calls for a more worker-friendly contract his full-throttled endorsement. Given that politicians generally are not privy to the inner workings and under-the-radar complexities on both sides of organized labor talks, the most that public officials should do is to urge both sides to work seriously and quickly toward a mutually beneficial resolution — without taking sides.

ORCHID: To Xaloy, an Austintown-based company that produces components for the plastics industry, for landing the first-ever Jobs Ohio R&D Center Grant in the Mahoning Valley. The grant is the product of much teamwork among the company and various development agencies in the Valley and northeast Ohio. The grant of $2.2 million helps pave the way for construction of a $7.4 million research and development center. It also ensures a strong and growing presence for the company in the Valley for years and decades to come.



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