Orchids and onions

ORCHID: To some 800 Youngstown State University graduates who earned their degrees last weekend during fall commencement. Many told our reporter different stories about what inspired them, but the common theme was a desire to better themselves through knowledge and education. Congratulations to all and good luck to each in their new life chapters.

ONION: To the City of Youngstown for enduring the escalating cost of the still unrepaired City Hall fire escape. While we understand they cannot control those types of rising costs, we can’t help but assign blame to city leaders for allowing such an unsafe and costly situation to develop in the first place. Council on Wednesday approved increasing the budget to repair the city hall fire escape another $300,000, going from $1.1 million to $1.4 million. It won’t be until late February or early March before the work is complete. It was supposed to start in mid-September and be done by next month. The fire escape has been shut down since March 9, meaning it now is expected that it would be a full year that the fire escape and upper floors of city hall will have been shut down.

ORCHID: To the co-sponsors of Ohio House Bill 363, which calls for reform to the selection process for commissioners with the Public Utilities Commision of Ohio. Among the co-sponsors is Youngstown’s Rep. Lauren McNally. The need for reform is crucial, as former PUCO Chair Sam Randazzo faces 11 federal charges, including accepting bribes from FirstEnergy. Included in the bill is a ban on new commissioners or nominating council members who previously conducted business with any PUCO-regulated utility; expansion of qualifications of PUCO commissioners; and more. Now, all it needs is to be fast-tracked to passage.

ONION: To all those who mistreat or abuse their animals, especially those kept outdoors as we head into cold winter months. Campbell officials recently passed an ordinance to better define care of outdoor pets. “We’re very strong dog lovers, and we’re not going to tolerate mistreating animals in our city,” said Council President George Levendis. It’s unfortunate that laws like this are necessary for pet owners, but that’s the sad reality. Bravo to Campbell for keeping these helpless pets on the radar.

ORCHID: To the Ohio Suicide Prevention Foundation and Mahoning County Mental Health & Recovery Board for continuing efforts to educate and drive prevention, especially this time of year when depression and suicide numbers often increase. An event titled, “How to identify when it’s more than just the holiday blues,” was held this week with a primary goal of calling greater attention to the rise in the suicide rates, especially among older adults.


Orchids and onions

ORCHID: To Lori Sprouse for her exceptional work as a caregiver that won her the national Caregiver of the Year from Cornerstone Caregiving, a company with about 130 locations across the country. She was honored at the company’s Youngstown office and received a new Nissan Pathfinder car for her accomplishments. Sprouse, a mother of five children, said the award will come in handy as her current vehicle needed to be replaced. Youngstown Operational Director Morgan O’Brien appropriately saluted Sprouse at the ceremony, saying “Lori defines who we are as Cornerstone Caregiving. She is what we stand for as a company, she goes above and beyond every day.”

ONION: To thieves that twice this week robbed Youngstown-area U.S. mail carriers of their “arrow keys,” which are used by postal workers to access mail collection boxes and other mail drop-offs. Theft of the keys, which is becoming more prevalent, can present a serious problem in achieving the postal service’s goal of protecting and ensuring that the mail gets where it’s supposed to go. Steps must be taken to ensure postal workers are kept safe and to head off these types of thefts from increasing further.

ORCHID: To the Struthers Board of Education and district administrators for opening a new $1.7 million transportation center for the 1,700-student school district. Struthers City Schools cut the ribbon last week at the new 11,000-square-foot transportation facility. According to a district news release, the garage, which houses 12 buses and a district van, is a major upgrade from the old, uncovered parking lot and will help to extend the life of district buses and reduce costs by minimizing exposure to weather. Superintendent Peter Pirone and district Treasurer Ryan Cene said the project was budgeted at $1.7 million. Pirone said the final cost likely will be slightly higher because of an underground retention pond that had to be added during construction. Pirone said savings in other areas of the project helped offset the cost and stay close to the targeted budget.

ONION: To the city of Youngstown that ended up involved in separate lawsuits for cases involving demolition of two buildings in 2020, Anthony’s on the River building and a South Avenue storage warehouse. Both instances will end up costing the city money in lawsuit settlements. The South Avenue case was settled last week for $110,036. It appears the Anthony’s on the River case also is about to be settled. We hope city officials have learned their lesson. And while we are on this topic, the settlement amount in the South Avenue case has not been released, and one of the attorneys said he expects the settlement to remain “confidential.” We remind all parties that the settlement must be publicly approved as a public record that cannot be withheld from disclosure.

ORCHID: To the Ohio Department of Higher Education for awarding $1.1 million to Youngstown State University’s Choose Ohio First scholarship program to help support about 80 new YSU STEM students over the next five years. The scholarship funds help make the YSU STEM programs more attractive to those seeking a degree in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

ONION: To the grinches who broke into a Warren home and stole $1,600 worth of electronics and toys, just days before Christmas. Among the items stolen were Christmas and birthday gifts for the young son of Sarah Pena-Lewis and her husband, Corey Lewis. The house was damaged and ransacked. The doorbell camera captured good surveillance photos that we can only hope are used to capture these burglars and hold them accountable.


Orchids and onions

ORCHID: To Canfield High School junior Tarik Mashqbeh for scoring a perfect 36 on his ACT exam in his sophomore year, putting Tarik in a select group of scholars. Only 3,376 out of 1.24 million students who took the ACT last year — or 0.25% — scored 36 in all categories, English, math, reading and science. Tarik’s exemplary performance is a credit to his teachers and parents, but most importantly, to himself. He began prepping diligently three months before it was administered. Tarik has received many well-deserved congratulations, including from the ACT CEO: “Earning a top score on the ACT is a remarkable achievement. A student’s exceptional score will provide any college or university with ample evidence of their readiness for the academic rigors that lie ahead.”

ORCHID: To the Youngstown State University dental hygiene program for flying under the radar as a hidden local health-care gem. The program’s clinic has been offering services to the public including X-rays, radiography, scaling, fluoride treatments, polishing, screenings for oral cancer, deep gum cleanings, anesthesia and more for decades. What’s more, patients who use these services receive them absolutely free. Of course, students in the program receive close supervision. Mahoning Valley residents are fortunate to have this service at the ready. It also distinguishes itself as one of only two four-year bachelor’s degree programs in Ohio’s public universities in dental hygiene. To take advantage of the clinic beginning in January when the university begins spring semester, call 330-941-3342.

ONION: To Youngstown city officials responsible for the botched and improper 2020 removal and destruction of items in a South Avenue storage warehouse. This week, city council authorized payment of $110,336 to Carl and Patricia Ross from the city’s environmental sanitation fund after Mahoning County Common Pleas Court Judge R. Scott Krichbaum ruled in favor of the Rosses and against the city, fire chief Barry Finley and Michael Durkin, city code enforcement and blight remediation superintendent. The city hired a contractor to remove items from the Rosses’ warehouse in preparation for the building’s demolition, but razing of that property had been stopped by a court order. Let’s hope those responsible for that costly error have systems in place so it is never repeated.

ORCHID: To the Ursuline Sisters order in Canfield for leading the Mahoning Valley’s observance of World AIDS Day, observed Dec. 1 annually. Many community members and HIV / AIDS survivors attended the Ursuline Sisters HIV / AIDS Ministry’s commemoration of World AIDS Day last week. Speakers rightly reminded all of the tremendous progress made in treating acquired immune deficiency syndrome over past decades. On the down side, some noted stigmas and irrational and false beliefs remain about the condition. Others noted that AIDS has not disappeared. Government health statistics show about 1.2 million Americans have HIV, including about 800 people in the Mahoning Valley who are believed to be HIV-positive. The Ursuline Sisters are to be commended for their compassion and commitment to helping those diagnosed with HIV / AIDS for 35 straight years.

ONION: To the Ohio Senate for altering the will of Ohio voters who last month approved a statewide initiative with specific provisions for the sale, use and growing of recreational marijuana. The legislative chamber voted 29-2 this week for the changes that included reducing the maximum THC levels of legal recreational marijuana and cutting in half the number of plants state residents can legally grow in their homes. But the most egregious change was the increase in taxation on the substance from 10 percent to 15 percent. All of that tinkering violates the expressed desires of voters and essentially amounts to taxation without representation.

ORCHID: To Phantom Fireworks executive Ron Zoldan and Juanita Thompson for their work to provide a bountiful Christmas for about 45 low-income inner-city children this week. Thompson, a leader and mentor of Little Miss Inner Beauty, which focuses on character building in girls ages 4 to 12, organized a Christmas gift giveaway for the girls. Zoldan bought the presents for the giveaway at the Jaylex Event Center on the South Side and took over fundraising efforts to ensure the giveaway continues for years to come. And we’re certain the gifts Zoldan donated will be treasured highly. They included Nike tennis shoes provided by NBA superstar LeBron James, who Zoldan knows personally.



Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David.

Luke 1:68-69 ESV

Orchids and onions

ORCHID: To the Youngstown Water Department for offering the surprise of a new and low-cost waterline option that will bring a waterline down Turner Road toward Palmyra Road to service Canfield Township residents. The option became available after the Youngstown Water Department decided to run a 700-foot connection in Austintown that would tie in two main lines on Turner Road. Better yet, Youngstown will foot the bill for the 700 feet of waterline, meaning no cost for the ABC (Austintown-Boardman-Canfield) District or the township . Canfield trustees this week approved the model.

ONION: To all the motorists who drove too fast Tuesday when frigid weather and white-out conditions turned area roadways slippery. The Ohio State Highway Patrol reported crashes, particularly on Interstate 80, including one that involved semi-trailers. One westbound lane of I-80 was closed for a period of time Tuesday. Why is it that the first storm every year brings unnecessary crashes after motorists seem to forget how to drive in winter weather? Slow down and don’t follow too closely!

ORCHID: To Hubbard High School students who, under the supervision of art teacher Josh MacMillan, painted the fourth annual “Choose Joy” paintings on three local business buildings in support of the Edenfield family, who lost their 4-year-old daughter, Melina Edenfield, to a brain tumor. MacMillan and his students recently painted artwork on the Shop ‘n Save, Eagle Grille and Tavern and the Hubbard City Administration Building. The Choose Joy project is intended to raise spirits, change perspectives and, of course, preserve the memory of Melina.

ONION: To Dollar General for charging higher, incorrect prices in Ohio so often that Attorney General Dave Yost sued. This week, Yost came to Boardman to turn over a $22,000 check to Second Harvest Food Bank of the Mahoning Valley, which was Mahoning County’s share of a settlement from the lawsuit. “Most people don’t shop at Dollar General because they have a lot of extra money to spend,” Yost said recently. It’s a shame customers were overcharged, but we are pleased to see the settlement funds go to a good local cause.

ORCHID: To Trumbull County Children Services and OH WOW! The Roger & Gloria Jones Children’s Center for Science & Technology in downtown Youngstown, which came together to mark National Adoption Day last month to celebrate families who have adopted children in the last year, including adoption of 14 foster children and 17 others that are well into the adoption process. Trumbull Adoption Supervisor Trudy Seymour said her agency won a Wendy’s Wonderful Kids grant from the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption and put some of the money toward a membership at the local children’s museum. What a wonderful idea!

ONION: To Trumbull County Commissioner Niki Frenchko for continuing to criticize county Auditor Martha Yoder and question the legality of the county auditor’s role in the county budgeting process. Frenchko believes commissioners should hire a budget director to assist in budgeting and not rely on the county auditor. The other commissioners are not interested in adding the high-paid position. It’s true Trumbull County commissioners’ methodology of budgeting differs from many other counties in Ohio, but the process has been deemed legal and appropriate by other officials, including state Auditor Dave Yost. It’s time for Frenchko to let it go and cooperate.



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