Orchids and onions

ORCHID: To Mahoning Valley Sojourn to the Past and the Zinn Education Project for hosting a valuable and enlightening program for young people titled the Youngstown Freedom School project last week. The five-day educational program at St. John’s Episcopal Church centered on learning about the 1964 Mississippi Freedom Summer project in which hundreds of mostly white middle and upper-middle class northern college students received training to register blacks to vote and set up Freedom Schools in Mississippi. The program also focused on the importance of nonviolence, a lesson that is particularly important given the hyper-violent start of summer in the city of Youngstown this month.

ORCHID: To Mahoning Valley native and 1989 Cardinal Mooney High School graduate Ed Policy for being named president and CEO of the Green Bay Packers NFL football team this week. Policy, the son of former San Francisco 49ers and Cleveland Browns president Carmen Policy, will assume the role when the NFL’s only publicly owned franchise holds its shareholders meeting in July 2025. Policy brings a wealth of talent and experience in football administration to the post. During his tenure with the Packers, his roles have included directing the team’s legal affairs and leading the team’s communications, marketing and fan engagement, sales and business development, security and hospitality departments. Even we diehard Browns and Steelers fans in this region wish Policy the best in his new prestigious role.

ONION: To those who abuse and misuse fireworks and other pyrotechnics this Independence Day period, risking injury and death to themselves and those around them. Ohio law allows their use today and Sunday and then Wednesday through next Sunday. But with those rights come responsibilities. The State Fire Marshal urges people using consumer fireworks to use protective eyewear, keep children and pets away from them and not hold any fireworks in your hands when lighting them. In 2023, the Consumer Product Safety Commission reported eight deaths and 9,700 injuries associated with fireworks. Most, if not all, of those deaths and injuries could have been avoided by reading instructions closely and using common sense.

ORCHID: To Mahoning County Prosecutor Gina DeGenova for introducing Spanish-speaking victims witness services in the office. The services will include translating victim rights documents into Spanish and providing victims with notifications about hearings and proceedings in Spanish. With the slice of total county population identifying as 10% and growing, the new services translate into an expansion of the needed effort to ensure all victims of crimes in Mahoning County are treated fairly and compassionately.

ORCHID: To the Youngstown State University Foundation for acquiring and donating three parcels of property on Arlington Street to the university to expand parking on campus. The gift will result in growing capacity at the M66 lot from 45 parking spots to 220 spots. That expansion should help alleviate frustrations among students and staff who have encountered problems finding easy, convenient parking, particularly since the 1,200-space Lincoln Avenue deck was demolished two years ago. We urge university officials to proceed as rapidly as possible to complete this much-needed project.

ONION: To Vienna trustees for moving forward on plans to implement speed cameras in the township — state Routes 82 and 11 have been targeted. This newspaper has long opposed such cameras as there are better ways to slow motorists down while also improving the safety of residents and other drivers. Using speed cameras that have the potential to take millions of dollars from the local economy is not the answer for many reasons, not the least of which are fairness and due process issues. At least in Vienna, officials are not hiding the underlying reason for the devices: to pump up the township’s anemic budget after the mysterious loss of more than $1 million in revenue discovered earlier this year and to fend off fiscal emergency.

Orchids and onions

ORCHID: To Youngstown City Council for awarding the trustees of the McGuffey Centre $262,500 in American Rescue Plan funding to reopen and revitalize the East Side landmark. Due to financial problems, the deaths of several key leaders and the COVID-19 pandemic, the nearly century-old community center had fallen into inactivity and disrepair in recent years. The funding from the federal COVID-19 rescue program plus tens of thousands in other grants will help those committed to restoring the center’s physical space and its programming geared primarily at offering young people educational alternatives to hanging out on the streets. We hope others offer their financial or in-kind assistance to enable the McGuffey Centre to thrive again as a community gem.

ORCHID: To the Canfield Board of Education for last week taking the first steps toward placing a much-downsized bond issue proposal before voters this fall to construct a new middle school. The new bond issue would cost a total of $64 million and would focus on building the school. The board and administration clearly listened to the will of voters who rejected a more grandiose bond issue totaling $105 million last fall. We hope the board also prioritizes public input on another issue — a proposed ban on Crocs and flip-flops in the district. We suggest a public meeting at which parents could offer their views before formally adding the ban to the district’s dress code.

ONION: To U.S. Sen. J.D. Vance, R-Ohio, for spearheading an effort to stall action in the U.S. Senate on Democratic Party initiatives and Biden administration appointments in protest of the conviction of former President Donald J. Trump on 34 charges last month in the so-called hush money trial in New York. Vance and five other conservative GOP senators misguidedly pledge to blockade key appointments and some legislation at least through the general election in November in protest of what they claim is “political persecution” of Trump. Though Vance and his supporters are entitled to their opinions, they should not use them to retaliate by exacting revenge on the smooth and orderly flow of work in the nation’s upper chamber of Congress. The verdict against the former president has nothing to do with key appointments for judges and other federal officeholders. Vance should therefore end the foolish and counterproductive blockade.

ORCHID: To Lily Lange, a Boardman High School senior; Aubrey Panigall, a 2024 Hubbard High School graduate; and Katherine Toepfer, a recent Howland High School graduate for earning national acclaim for their visual artistry. The three Valley students rose to the cream of the crop of 110,000 high school students nationwide in the annual Scholastic Art Competition. Lange won a silver medal for her sculpture from polymer clay, resin, a glass jar, wood, nails, acrylic paint, chains, nails and moss. Panigall won a gold medal for her linoleum block print of multicolored betta fish adorned with various leaves and flowers. Toepfer also won a gold medal for her very detailed photograph of a rooster staring directly at the viewer. The works of all three will be hung this fall in the prestigious Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, a testament to their superlative creativity and quality.

ONION: To residents and landlords of properties who fail to pay garbage collection bills, which results in items such as mattresses, couches, dressers and assorted trash sitting at curbside for weeks or longer. Not only do these careless actions ruin a neighborhood’s aesthetics, they also pose potential health threats. Girard officials fed up with the problem are looking at tightening zoning regulations and fining the guilty parties. Other communities should follow suit.

ORCHID: To representatives of FirstEnergy and the Ohio Power Siting Board for their intensive and responsible work to reroute a needed 6-mile-long, 138-kilovolt power line in Youngstown. As many recall, the original proposed path of the power line would have traveled through the heart of the downtown entertainment district behind the Covelli Centre and Youngstown Foundation Amphitheatre. A thunderous chorus of opposition, including this newspaper, opposed that path for its potential to ruin views and aesthetics downtown. We’re pleased that the siting board rejected that path and that it is intent on satisfying the public’s preferences. American Transmission Systems, a FirstEnergy subsidiary, recently unveiled four alternative plans at a public open house. All are designed to minimize impact on landowners and the community.


Orchids and onions

ORCHID: To Ultium Cells LLC of Lordstown and United Auto Workers Local 1112 for reaching a tentative local agreement for the 1,600-plus workers at the sprawling Valley plant manufacturing battery cells for electric vehicles. The tentative agreement calls for significant wage increases, a signing bonus and fair work rules for the membership. We hope the contract serves as a template for other battery plants throughout the nation. UAW members should not hesitate to vote “yes” on the contract throughout this weekend.

ORCHID: To the Community Volunteer Council of Warren for marking its milestone 45th anniversary this year. The group has been doing a yeoman’s job in helping hundreds of people receive basic food and supplies in Warren as well as Trumbull and Mahoning counties. Andrea Taylor, a 23-year veteran of CVC, explains in a nutshell the value of its work: “There are people who are hungry and homeless. We provide that helping hand that they need.”

ONION: To those who get their kicks by participating in extremely dangerous so-called “car meets.” Police in Cleveland, Akron, Youngstown and across the country have been battling this new summer pastime that features parades of vehicles driving recklessly and ignoring all traffic signals throughout cities. One such car meet in Youngstown earlier this week ended in violence: a shooting in which nearly 100 bullet casings were found and a young woman was killed. City police should make it a priority to prevent such car meets before they gain traction and prosecute to the fullest extent of the law any and all participating in these menacing and sometimes fatal hijinx.

ORCHID: To residents of Hubbard city and Hubbard Township who overwhelmingly supported a 4.1-mill continuous property tax levy last fall. Their reward for levy support bore fruit last week when the Eagle Joint Fire District hired its first-ever crew of full-time firefighters / paramedics to serve the 20,500 residents of the fire district. The full-time staff will ensure someone is always present at the department when a call comes in, fire Chief Ron Stanish said. The added security is needed as call volume to the department has increased substantially in recent years. All of which proves that despite today’s anti-tax environment, voters still will support additional taxation if a compelling need is clearly presented to them.

ORCHID: To the Austintown Township Board of Trustees for voting unanimously to permit a marijuana dispensary or dispensaries to operate in the township. The vote last week scrubbed their earlier plans to place a moratorium on considering any such businesses. But given that voters approved Issue 2 legalizing recreational marijuana last November, efforts by the state Legislature and local governments to rein in commercial marijuana businesses run counter to the voters’ will. We hope other communities in the Valley that have banned dispensaries follow Austintown’s lead.

ONION: To state Rep. Al Cutrona, R-Canfield, for his misguided legislation introduced recently to force libraries to keep materials deemed “harmful to juveniles” out of sight or risk losing state funding. We agree with the Ohio Library Council, which fears the “chilling effect” this legislation could have on the free access and flow of information in the state. Legislators should quickly give Cutrona’s bill the heave-ho into the trash bin.

ORCHID: To the hundreds of participants in today’s Mahoning and Columbiana counties Relay for Life at the DeBartolo Commons outside Southern Park Mall in Boardman. The Relay has long been the principal fundraiser for the local American Cancer Society chapter for use in serving cancer survivors in the region and for ongoing research to cure the disease once and for all. Today’s event features a walk for life, basket raffles, a vintage car cruise and more. Make it a point to go the distance to fight cancer by showing up today any time betweeen 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the commons.

ORCHID: To the West Branch High School baseball team for defeating Hamilton Badin 3-2 earlier this week to clinch the Ohio High School Athletic Association Division II state championship. In so doing, they brought pride onto themselves, their school and their community. This was the Warriors’ first trip to the state title game in 51 years and the first time it ever has clinched a state championship. Cheers to the team, its coaches and fans, and best of luck toward a repeat performance in 2025.

Orchids and onions

ORCHID: To the softball teams from Austintown Fitch and Canfield high schools that captured state championship titles in Akron last weekend in their respective divisions. The Fitch Falcons repeated their Division I state championship honors from 2023 in blanking rival Watkins Memorial 4-0. The Canfield Cardinals achieved the same stunning 4-0 win over Bryan to win the Division II softball title and avenge their loss to Tallmadge in the same game one year ago. The talent, teamwork and tenacity both teams displayed in the playoffs and throughout the 2024 season brought honor to themselves, their schools and their communities. Three cheers!

ONION: To Canfield city officials who, according to Canfield Township Trustee Marie Cartwright, said publicly that Canfield opposed a proposed merger of the Cardinal and Boardman fire departments. Those officials did not specify only city council members and other city leaders opposed the merger. “The city does not speak for the township. We need to take a position publicly and let the city know it,” Cartwright rightly said at a recent trustees meeting at which all three trustees agreed to do so. The trustees were taking the proper course by waiting for final numbers from the Mahoning County Auditor’s Office on the financial ramification of a joint fire force before making a decision on the potentially cost-saving proposal.

ORCHID: To Girard police officer JJ Silverman for his life-saving efforts in rescuing a young child who fell into a pond May 23. The toddler had fallen into a pond behind a home. His father had rescued him from the water, but Silverman initiated life-saving procedures before the boy was sent to Akron Children’s Hospital. We join Girard Mayor Mark Zuppo in publicly commending Silverman, and we are pleased that city officials and councilmembers already are reviewing zoning codes to craft new legislation to prevent a repeat of that near tragedy.

ONION: To the Girard Board of Education and administrators for approving a contract for the school district’s treasurer that included a stipend of 1% of all revenue incoming to the school system. That 1% stipend for Mark Bello totaled $325,918, raising his 2023 salary to $461,000 in fiscal year 2023, up dramatically from his already generous 2022 total income of $188,683. A state audit that chastised the district hits the nail on the head: “The amount paid to the district treasurer as a retire / rehire employee represents an excessive and extravagant use of district resources and behavior a prudent person would not consider reasonable and necessary business practices.”

ORCHID: To the Welcome Home Ohio program within the state Department of Development for awarding the Mahoning County Land Bank, in partnership with the Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corporation, $2.4 million to renovate six vacant homes and to purchase six new homes. The new state program provides grants for the purchase of qualifying residential properties, the cost of construction or rehabilitation, or a nonrefundable tax credit for qualifying activities. We are pleased that state decisionmakers recognized the great need for additional affordable housing in Mahoning County as well as the fine track record of the land bank and the YNDC.

ORCHID: To Youngstown CityScape and the estimated 1,000 volunteers who took part in last weekend’s massive citywide cleanup and beautification work in the downtown and other areas of the city. The 27th annual Streetscape event, designed to polish the look and feel of Youngstown, came at a most appropriate time — just days after a fatal explosion ripped through the Realty Tower on Central Square. The army of volunteers, many from businesses in the community, weeded, mulched, planted foliage and tended to close to 70 sites.

ONION: To reckless all-terrain vehicle drivers who wreak havoc on area roads. Just last week, Liberty police were forced to go on a mad dash in pursuit of an ATV that had traveled through a front yard near Pleasant Valley and Oriel Rogers roads, and was eventually chased at speeds reaching 60 mph while traveling on the wrong side of Liberty roads. The ATV eventually escaped into a wooded trail eluding authorities. As a reminder to would-be ATV thrill seekers, state law prohibits ATVs from using any road, street, highway, or public land in Ohio, unless they are properly registered, and many are not. If they are, the law does not absolve them of responsibly following the rules of the road.


Orchids and onions

ORCHID: To the Youngstown Police Department and other participating law enforcement agencies in Mahoning County, as well as the New Middletown Farmers and Sportsmen Club, for sponsoring the innovative “Cops and Bobbers” program for about 75 fourth- and fifth-graders from Paul C. Bunn Elementary School in Youngstown last week. The program enabled the city pupils to engage in a day of fun and fishing with local police officers. The benefits of the program were multifold. It enabled young people to view police in a positive, respectful light, and it offered them a chance to put away their video games and other electronic devices for awhile to enjoy the simple pleasures of the great outdoors.

ORCHID: To state Sen. Mike Rulli, R-Salem, and state Rep. Al Cutrona, R-Canfield, for securing a grant of about $140,000 for Austintown Township Park to upgrade its playground. Construction crews last week began pouring cement and installing new playground equipment that includes a new zip line, handicap-accessible chair swing, a climbing wall and a sensory wall. The expanded amenities also will make the new playground accessible to children of all abilities. We look forward to the official grand opening this summer, at which Rulli and Cutrona will be appropriately honored.

ONION: To Youngstown City Council, Boardman Township trustees, Howland Township trustees and other community governing boards in the Mahoning Valley for acting to ban or to place lengthy moratoriums on the opening of marijuana dispensary stores in their communities. While we can support regulating the number and locations of such stores in any community, banning or delaying their opening clearly violates the will of the Ohio electorate. Last fall, voters approved by a margin of 57% to 43% Issue 2 to legalize recreational marijuana sales and use by adults in the state. Just as the Ohio Legislature should cease its misguided attempts to circumvent the new law, local communities, too, should respect the clear wishes of a clear majority of state voters

ORCHID: To Canada-based Graphite One for its commitment to prioritize hiring and training of its workforce right here in the Mahoning Valley for its planned $435 million manufacturing plant in Warren. Graphite One, which will produce essential material for electric vehicle batteries, said it is developing project labor agreements with local construction unions and has received letters of support from more than two dozen organizations in Ohio, including universities engaged in technology and workforce development. That commitment bodes well for the region’s dual goals of energizing economic development and stabilizing and growing the Valley’s population.

ORCHID: To Gabi Gasser, a sophomore Hubbard High School student, for beating out 800 other American high school students to earn a full scholarship for the 2024-25 academic year from the Youth for Understanding program. The scholarship will cover her studies abroad in Argentina for her junior year. We could not agree more with Hubbard schools Superintendent Raymond Solomon, who said, “I just applaud her efforts and her commitment to go over to Argentina and work into their schools, and we just wish her the best of luck and congratulate her on the prestigious scholarship she received.”

ONION: To political candidates who fail to do their due diligence in gathering sufficient valid signatures to secure spots on Election Day ballots. The race for the 14th Congressional District, of which all of Trumbull County is included, is a strong case in point. Maria Jukic filed to run as an Independent candidate against incumbent Republican David Joyce in that race, but she fell almost 700 valid signatures short of qualifying for the November ballot. She collected only 3,029 signatures when 3,000 valid signatures were required. That left an extremely small cushion to account for problem signees.


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