Orchids and onions

ORCHID: To the Community Initiative to Reduce Violence and its director, Guy Burney, for sponsoring a call-in program earlier this week. The program involves calling in young men who have had brushes with the law or are at risk of criminal activity to take part in a program designed to get their lives back on track. During the sessions, the dangers of easily being apprehended and the brighter possibilities of adopting a crime-free mindset are explored. So far in its several years of existence, it has had an 80% success rate in achieving those goals. We commend Burney and his neverending efforts to move young people toward positive choices and to make the streets of Youngstown safer places for all to live and work.

ORCHID: To Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine for visiting Campbell late last week to announce a $10.5 million grant to build a health and community development center in the school district. The new 55,000-square-foot building next to the district’s elementary school will provide access to food, hygiene products and school supplies through an on-site pantry and greenhouse; health care services and much more. The grant is the largest of some $64 million in similar grants to Appalachian region districts. Other districts benefiting from the governor’s generosity in the Valley include Warren, Newton Falls, Sebring, Bristol, Crestview and East Palestine.

ORCHID: To Hubbard police Chief Robert Thompson and his detectives for never giving up on its ongoing investigation of the killing of Cody Pitts on a city street in March 2015. The young man was found shot in the head and the neck and his death was ruled a homicide nine years ago. Earlier this week, the department alerted residents that a Walther P-22 firearm with serial number L404221 may have been used in the crime and asked residents to report any information they may have on that weapon to the department. “Our current focus on understanding the specifics of this firearm is a testament to our unwavering commitment to leave no stone unturned,” Thompson said. It would be easy for overworked police agencies to abandon years-old investigations of violent crimes, but we are pleased that Hubbard law enforcement officers continue to remain committed to solving that abhorrent crime.

ONION: To U.S. Sen. J.D. Vance, R-Cincinnati, for voting against a $1.6 trillion government spending bill last week that was necessary to avert a partial shutdown of U.S. government operations. Not only was his vote irresponsible in that regard, Vance also said “no” to millions of dollars of federal tax dollars returning to the state and the Mahoning Valley for dozens of viable projects, such as $1.4 million for the OH WOW! Children’s museum in Youngstown. His opposition is all the more puzzling as it provided millions in assistance to beef up security at the U.S.-Mexico border, a passionate priority of the Buckeye State’s junior senator.

ORCHID: To the Poland Lions Club for its generous donation of about 2,000 specially made solar eclipse glasses for students, faculty and staff in the Poland school district. Considering the hype surrounding the cosmic event April 8, the club, which promotes preventable blindness, the gift of safety glasses served as an excellent way to encourage proper viewing of the eclipse next month. To its credit, too, the school district joined the effort by preparing viewing kits for students and by encouraging teachers to incorporate eclipse information and safe viewing tips in their lesson plans leading up to the big day.

ONION: To thoughtless family members who have neglected to remove Christmas decorations from their loved ones’ grave sites in cemeteries throughout the Mahoning Valley. In recent weeks, several cemeteries have placed notices in this newspaper that such decorations must be removed soon or cemetery workers will remove them. There is little excuse for such decorations to linger long past their prime. Often, by now they have wilted or have been damaged by nature’s whims. It also is a telling sign of disrespect to the cemetery and to the loved ones the fading decorations ostensibly were placed to honor.

ORCHID: To Mahoning County Prosecutor Gina DeGenova and her office staff for its sterling performance in 2023. DeGenova this week released her office’s 2023 annual report that included several noteworthy achievements. For example, he number of felony cases the county prosecutor’s office disposed of in 2023 was 1,056, up from the 930 cases in 2022 and 916 in 2021. The number of convictions in 2023 was also higher in 2023 compared with the previous year — 664 in 2023 compared with 629 in 2022 and 577 in 2021. Here’s hoping those positive trends continue throughout this year.

Orchids and onions

ORCHID: To Boardman High School senior Swathi Padmanabhan for recently winning two prestigious awards with national allure. First, she won the Congressional App Challenge in the 6th District of Ohio for 2023. Her winning app, Nalox-Not-Alone, serves as a compassionate public service to thousands as it consolidates locations that sell naloxone over the counter and provides locations for people who need the overdose antidote. Second, she has won a $3,000 scholarship from the national NHS, one of the few students in the history of Boardman schools to do so. Her personal honors also reflect incredibly well on the quality of Boardman schools.

ORCHID: To the Federal Emergency Manage-ment Agency for awarding the Mahoning Valley Sanitary District, which is the largest water supplier in the Valley, a $38.1 million grant to strengthen and update the Mineral Ridge Dam in Meander Reservoir. The nearly century-old dam has been classified as a “high-hazard dam.” The work should ensure its safety for at least 50 additional years. This award illustrates poignantly your federal tax dollars at work.

ONION: To Mahoning County commissioners for this week approving a retire / rehire plan for county Administrator Audrey Tillis. The odor of this onion does not stem from Tillis; she has performed remarkably well during her many years of exemplary service overseeing county government. Rather, it emanates from our longstanding opposition to the overly lenient laws in Ohio governing public workers’ compensation. About 12,000 retirees in government service in the state have returned to their old or similar positions while enriching themselves with what’s often a princely public pension as well. We can’t blame them for taking advantage of that generous system, but such double-dipping does a double whammy on state and local taxpayers.

ORCHID: To Trumbull County commissioners for demonstrating fiscal responsibility by acting to limit severely the amount of unused sick and vacation time cashed in by workers. In 2023, county government paid out $990,535 to employees to compensate them for vacation and sick days they did not take. Those funds could be better spent on worthwhile county projects. Employees should use those days appropriately for rest and recovery. In much of the private sector, the policy has long been “use them or lose them.”

ONION: To individuals who harbor children and animals in inhumane conditions inside their residences. The most recent shocking case in the Mahoning Valley comes from Campbell, where police and humane agents raided a home they nicknamed “a living hell.” Inside it, they found 22 dogs, all in very poor health and a 14-year-old girl amid unspeakable debris and squalor. The girl was removed from the home for her safety, as were the dogs for treatment. Sadly cases like this are not all that rare. “It’s a very large societal problem and it creates a huge burden on the agencies that have to work with animals and with children,” Campbell police officer Jim Conroy said.

ORCHID: To the Hubbard Youth Coalition and its president, James Chaney, for their work to convert the old Roosevelt gymnasium into a Student Wellness Center. The organization with partnerships with city government and other groups has succeeded in raising funds to transform the 1920s-era structure into a site for school athletic programs and communitywide uses. So far, the effort has raised more than $200,000 in cash and in-kind donations, enough to enable reconstruction of the space to commence. We’re pleased to see the community unity behind this worthwhile project.

ORCHID: To Danella Monsman of Warren for sponsoring and hosting an Egg My Yard fundraiser to benefit a 9-month-old Struthers boy who desperately requires a costly seizure monitor. The toddler, Greyson Bloomberg of Struthers, has tuberous sclerosis complex, which causes tumors to grow on major organs, according to his mother Emma Johnson. For the fourth year in a row, Monsman is leading an Egg My Yard fundraiser for children with medical issues in the Valley. To have your yard decorated in candy and stuffed Easter eggs and help a young child toward recovery, contact Monsman at 330-647-0673 or email dmonsman@hotmail.com. Hurry! The deadline for orders is Sunday.

Orchids and onions

ORCHID: To the Boardman High School girls bowling team for winning the Division I State Championship last weekend at HP Lanes in Columbus. The Spartans were making their fifth consecutive trip to the state tournament. It is the second bowling state title in Boardman girls bowling history. Boardman Junior Kaitlyn Greenaway won the individual Division I state title. Fellow junior Marissa Funk earned Second-Team All-Ohio honors, finishing in 10th place. Congratulations to the team for striking it rich in honors for the Spartan bowlers, their school and their community.

ONION: To motorists who leave the scene of an accident, particularly a serious life-threatening accident. Two such incidents occurred in Mahoning County this week. On Monday, a truck struck a pedestrian on Market Street in Boardman near Akron Children’s Hospital, critically injuring the victim. The driver then left the scene but was found by police a short time later. Then on Tuesday night in Austintown, a truck struck and killed a woman walking her dog on Lancaster Drive in the township. The truck has since been located, but the driver remains at large. There is no valid excuse for leaving accident scenes, particularly when prompt alerts to first responders could mean the difference between life and death.

ORCHID: To the Women’s Infants and Children program on its 50th anniversary this year. Mahoning County commissioners last week recognized WIC for its work in providing nutritious support maternal and child health with nutritious foods, education breastfeeding support. Given Mahoning County’s above-average rate of infant mortality among urban counties in the state, WIC is a service that is needed more today than ever. That’s why we urge Congress to resist attempts by some to severely cut back the vital program.

ORCHID: To the Boardman-Youngstown Kiwanis Club for donating about 1,200 books to elementary school students in Boardman and Youngstown earlier this month. The donations are part of a program of the service organization that pays homage to Tom Eisenbraun who loved to work with children. Next year, the program plans to invest more than $12,000 to donate 5,600 books to young Spartans in kindergarten through third grade. We commend Kiwanians for this thoughtful book giveaway that no doubt will pay dividends for years to come by helping to instill a love of reading among our leaders of tomorrow.

ORCHID: To Jacob Reese, a Boardman High School senior, for carrying his passion for history to new and civic-minded levels by becoming the newest and youngest member of the Oak Hill Cemetery Volunteer Research Team. Jacob collects data and prepares reports on prominent people among the 2,500 buried at the expansive South Side cemetery. The fruits of his and other members’ labors can be viewed weekdays at the cemetery superintendent’s office / chapel at Oak Hill. We also commend Jacob and the group for their noble work to preserve and replace military veterans’ headstones there.

ONION: To thieves who have targeted USPS mail carriers for their “arrow” keys in the Youngstown area. A mail carrier was robbed of his key on Wednesday, during his final delivery of the day, and it’s the third such reported incident since the beginning of 2023. The increase of such incidents is completely uncalled for as mail carriers are simply doing a job that serves the needs of the community. They must simply be left alone.

ORCHID: To award-winning Boardman High School junior Gina Misel for joining an exclusive statewide club by having her talented artistry displayed in Gov. Mike DeWine’s office in Columbus. Gina’s watercolor painting titled “Lily Pond” ranked among the top 5% of more than 8,000 pieces of high school artwork submitted to this year’s Ohio Governor’s Youth Art Exhibition.

ORCHID: To Lakeview High School eighth-grader Joey Constantine for winning the 91st annual WFMJ-TV Regional Spelling Bee last weekend for the third time. Joey correctly spelled “brouhaha” and “aughts” in the final round of the time-honored competition at Stambaugh Auditorium to beat 75 other competitors from schools throughout Mahoning and Trumbull counties. Last year, Joey finished 22nd out of 231 competitors at the Scripps National Spelling Bee outside Washington. We wish him even greater success at this year’s event over Memorial Day weekend.

Orchids and onions

ORCHID: To the Nurse Honor Guard of Eastern Ohio Delta XI Chapter for the noble work it does to honor nurses at their funerals for the care and service they provided during their professional careers. The organization, which represents Trumbull, Mahoning and Portage counties, pays the respect due to their deceased colleagues, gives comfort to their grieving families and serves as a reminder of the critically important role nurses play in health care. When members perform the ceremony, they wear special official attire, carry a Nightingale lamp and give a biography about the person, who oftentimes, was a colleague of someone in the honor guard. Also, a white rose, meant to signify the dignity of the nursing profession, is presented to the family. What a touching and beautiful way to give tribute to the person and the profession. And member Debbie Hetrick of Cortland said it perfectly: “We all know that nurses give and give and give to care for others. This is a chance for us to give back to our peers, our sisters and brothers, and all they have done in the nursing profession.”

ORCHID: To Howard Haynie, a sergeant with the Hubbard City Police Department, for being named “Officer of the Year,” an award given to recognize an officer’s commitment to keeping the community safe and for being a selfless community servant. Police Chief Robert Thompson recently publicly noted some of Haynie’s attributes, including his professionalism and patience on high-stress calls, as well as reliability in helping make the department run smoothly. Thompson also talked about what he called “the grimy work no one ever wants to do, but it’s essential,” referring to the audit’s Haynie performs for the department for L.E.A.D.S (Law Enforcement Automated Data System), a statewide data repository used in law enforcement. Well-done sergeant, it’s apparent the recognition is well-deserved.

ORCHID: To Youngstown City Council for aggressively tackling the problem of blighted and derelict houses that plague the city by agreeing this week to spend $1 million from Youngstown’s American Rescue Plan allocation to demolish 75 to 100 vacant homes. The work is sorely needed to remove some of the worst vacant homes in the city, which has seen more than 2,600 vacant homes taken down since 2016. Council’s vote Wednesday allows the city’s board of control to sign the agreements needed to bring down the houses, and that work can’t happen soon enough.

ONION: To the contractors for Norfolk Southern that recommended a controlled burn of five railroad cars containing toxic chemicals following the Feb. 3, 2023, train derailment in East Palestine, when, as it turns out, doing so was unnecessary and based on flawed information. During questioning this week by Republican U.S. Sen. J.D. Vance, chairwoman of the National Transportation Safety Board Jennifer Homendy said the railroad company’s contractors “lacked the scientific background to address” the decision and there was another option to the burn — let the rail cars cool down, which would have avoided the catastrophic burn that released toxic chemicals into the air. U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, a Democrat, is correct when he called the revelation “outrageous,” especially given that residents there and the surrounding region are still dealing with the devastating fallout from the burn. Norfolk Southern has denied the claim that the controlled burn wasn’t necessary.

ORCHID: As the adage goes, hard work pays off and it’s no truer than when applied to Owen Puhl, a senior at Poland Seminary High School who’s made it to be a finalist in the prestigious National Merit Scholarship Program. More than 1.3 million students in the U.S. entered the 2024 program and 16,000 made it to the finals, where they’ll compete for 2,500 scholarships worth $2,500 each. It’s an outstanding accomplishment already for Puhl, who we wish the best of luck to in the finals. What we haven’t mentioned here, but will now, is Puhl’s other scholastic accomplishments, like being ranked No. 2 in Ohio and No. 7 in the U.S. as a member of the school’s Speech and Debate team, and he’s president of the school’s Interact Club. The future is certainly bright for this young man.

Orchids and onions

ORCHID: To Boardman Local Schools Superintendent Tim Saxton on his upcoming retirement. Saxton announced last month he will step down from his decadeslong career in the Boardman school district to open a new chapter in his life. Over the years, he has served as a teacher, coach, assistant principal, principal and chief of the district, a post he has held for the past eight years. His contributions to the academically strong suburban school district have been many, but his biggest legacy may well be his diehard work to realize the construction of a state-of-the-art football field and stadium for the district several years ago. We wish Saxton the best in his well-earned retirement but also believe Boardman officials would be foolish not to take him up on his offer to occasionally return as a teacher’s aide.

ORCHID: To the more than 400 community leaders, elected officials and others who attended the Cookie Table and Cocktails fundraiser for the Mahoning Valley Historical Society last weekend at St. Mary’s Byzantine Catholic Church’s social hall on the West Side. The four-hour gala was expected to raise $25,000 for valuable society operations and preservation efforts at its three locations, including its newest — the old IBM Building that is getting a welcome new lease on life in the heart of the central business district thanks to the MVHS.

ONION: To the Youngstown Board of Education for dawdling for more than five months now on officially finalizing a contract that was ratified with the district’s 400 teachers last September. The leader of the Youngstown Education Association has been understandably upset about the lack of a final revised contract that ended a protracted teachers strike in the district last fall. We advise school officials to move more quickly now that spring is arriving in organizing negotiations for a new teachers’ pact as the current one expires June 30.

ORCHID: To TTM Technologies in North Jackson for its plans to expand operations and create 50 additional jobs at its global technologies solutions manufacturing facility. TTM manufactures engineered systems, radio frequency components, microwave / microelectronic assemblies and printed circuit boards. We’re pleased to see TTM invest more robustly in Northeast Ohio’s growing semiconductor and microelectronics supply chain and we thank it for recognizing the value of choosing the sprawling North Jackson-Lordstown industrial corridor to do so.

ORCHID: To the seven individuals who have been selected for induction into the Mahoning County Democratic Party Hall of Fame on April 19. Those being inducted are Richard Clautti of Boardman, Anita Davis of Youngstown, Joe Leonard of Milton, Patrick Lowry of Poland, former state Rep. Sylvester Patton of Youngstown, Larry Fauver of Boardman and James McCormick of Austintown. As Chris Anderson, chairman of the party aptly put it, “I’m so proud of the work they’ve done and will continue to do. As a party, it’s so important to honor their decades of service.”

ORCHID: To Susan Davenny Wyner for 24 years of sterling service as music director and conductor of the Warren Philharmonic Orchestra. Wyner announced this week she will be retiring this spring from the post. She has led the orchestra to many quality performances over the past 2.5 decades and has attracted many stellar and internationally acclaimed musicians, such as renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma in 2018. Fortunately, Wyner’s departure from the orchestra will not be the last group in the Valley to benefit from her leadership expertise. She plans to remain as music director of Youngstown-based Opera Western Reserve. Wyner clearly has earned a standing ovation from scores of appreciative fans.


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