Fire Captain issue continues


12570571_gThe administration’s desire to reduce the number of Warren Fire Department Captains from six to three continues to be a contested issue. WFMJ covered yesterday’s City Council committee meeting. This is the first I’d heard anyone offer an estimated savings to the move — $370,000 per year according to Mayor Franklin.

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Fire Captains Endangered


mg_08972The day before Thanksgiving, the city’s administration attempted to have passed as an emergency, an ordinance to reduce the number of Warren Fire Department Captains from six to three through attrition. This raised a fair amount of controversy and City Council elected to give the bill three readings rather than voting that evening as an emergency.

I don’t know if this is a good idea or a bad one. Regardless of the tax increase, the city must look for ways to save money, and I am reluctant to criticize them for trying. That said, given the many possible ways to save money, it seems odd to me that their first effort would be aimed directly at the only group of city workers who did anything meaningful to help the Mayor get the tax increase passed.

Needless-to-say, the firemen aren’t happy. Fire union president John Jerina spoke at Council last week and made their case for how much money they have saved the city over the past few years, and promised to address the legislation’s shortcomings in the next few weeks. Thanks to Warren unofficial “official political photographer,” Pat Pernice, we have video of his remarks which you can view by clicking here. We can only hope that Mayor Franklin or the SSD will publicly give us their argument before the ordinance gets a vote.

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Income tax update


clipart_of_15195_sm_2300x225I plan to comment on the passage of the income tax increase as plans for the money develop, but for those of you who don’t read the Tribune regularly, I have reprinted below a letter it published Sunday from Paul Clouser, the spokesman for the Citizens Committee, which examined the city’s financial situation independently, and recommended passage. I have a lot of faith in the people who served on this committee, but their most valuable service will be in the coming months as they work with the administration to insure that the money the tax generates is used wisely.


I have never celebrated an income tax increase and I never will. However, I am pleased the Warren City income tax increase narrowly passed by less than 500 votes. A little more than half the voters have agreed to willingly pay more money to the city. It is more important to remember a little less than half of the voters are having their hard earned money taken against their will. This point cannot be lost.

There is no more important a task than the proper and responsible spending of taxpayer money. As part of the citizens committee, which will continue to meet with the administration, we will work diligently toward that goal. But it truly is not the committee’s responsibility to keep the administration on task. It is city council’s and it is yours, the voter. We cannot allow mistakes of the past to squander this second chance the voters have given the city. The administration needs to submit a responsible budget and council needs to review and approve it, not just rubber stamp it. These politicians asked for the job. Let’s make sure they earn their money and do what is in the best interest of we the people. After all, they are spending our money.

Downtown Warren is experiencing a resurgence, which is the first step in most communities’ return to prosperity. We cannot afford to blow it due to poor management. The election is over, but the work has just begun. We must hold the mayor and all of city council accountable.

All Warren residents need to stay involved with the community and particularly with the politics. The committee will be meeting with the administration monthly and we will provide a grade card each time on the progress being made. We will do this because no one five years from now wants to be back in the same bad spot of having a tax increase surprised upon us last minute with the threat of disaster if it isn’t passed. This is not acceptable.

If you truly love Warren, you will stop voting for a name or a party. If you truly love Warren, you will support the politicians who produce results, and you will vote out those who fail or do nothing. This is our house. We must put it in order!


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To my New York friends


img_1339It was wonderful seeing all of you recently at Tout Va Bien, the world’s worst French restaurant; although I know we all wish the reason for gathering had been different. It was great catching up on your lives. Naturally, the election was a regular topic but I felt a little like a visitor from Albania or Uruguay, or some other far flung, never-visited place, repeatedly asked to explain the strange culture I inhabit.

You pressed me for insights into how so many people out here where Trump was never a long shot could support him, knowing that I, like you, would vote for Hillary. And I was happy to try because I’ve spent so much time the past year trying to answer this question for myself.

Well, nothing explains it like the front page of this morning’s local newspaper. Into the ’70’s nearly 70,000 people lived here in Warren (now 41,000), and General Motors employed more than 25,000 people. Another 15,000 or so worked in the steel mills. Today all the mills are gone. Half the GM jobs were making wiring harnesses for automobiles; they’re all in Mexico now.

The GM assembly plant in Lordstown, just outside town, makes the very popular Chevy Cruze now, but consumer taste is shifting back to trucks and big SUVs, so GM is cutting the third shift and 1,250 people will lose their good union jobs just in time for the Holidays.

The Lordstown plant once employed over 12,000, but they make more cars today, of dramatically higher quality, and it only took 4,500 people (before this layoff) to do it. That’s technology at work in the way most of my neighbors understand it, rather than as the latest iPhone apps.

We’ve fallen off the cruise (Cruze?) ship and the boat is pulling away. Trump threw a life vest into the water and people grabbed it. It doesn’t matter that you think the life vest was full of holes — some of my neighbors saw the holes too — but it was more than Hillary was throwing them, so they swam for it. Unless you live here it is hard to understand how it feels to see the world you grew up in fading away from you.

The feeling is nothing like the uncertainty of working in a thriving economic environment where everything is changing. In that situation it’s mostly a matter of repackaging your skill set for the new world. The only new worlds coming here are Dollar Stores and Casinos.

Trump actually only won 50.1% of the vote in our county, but this is a county in which every single county and city elected official is a Democrat. Our Democratic Congressman received 68% of the vote. Trump won because so many people voted against Clinton. And they did that because she had no message for the white, working class (WWC) voters who dominate the population here.

One of the best things I’ve read on this topic is a recent George Packer article in the New Yorker: Hillary Clinton and the Populist Revolt delves into the complexities of how the Democrats lost the WWC vote. Of course race has something to do with it, but if you think every one of Trump’s 60 million voters a racist, then you are beyond convincing.

The Democratic party and Hillary Clinton have, at best, taken the WWC and organized labor for granted for decades. You may not know that, but they know it. And they know liberal Democrats  don’t really give a shit about them, because they see their lives on TV every day. They know they care more about electric cars than they do about them. They know they care more about farm-to-table food than they do about them. They know they care more about transgender bathrooms than they do about them.

They know they live in a fly-over state, and they know “fly-over” is just a euphemism for “not my concern.” Did liberals really think they’d care how liberals, or the editors at their favorite newspapers and magazines, thought they should vote?

*  *  *

I also recommend Hillbilly Elegy to anyone who wants to understand the reality of life in towns where the mills have closed. (I’m hardly alone; it’s a best seller and is frequently sited by the pundits who don’t have the time to actually visit). It’s both fascinating and real; depressing and uplifting at once.

The writer, J.D. Vance, who is only 32, pulled himself up from a very rough childhood, beset with all the modern problems, into the Marines, Ohio State, Yale Law School, and a career in Silicon Valley. He’s white, male, Protestant, well-educated, straight, and now affluent. But he identifies with his “hillbilly” roots and is uniquely capable of providing their perspective.

Why do we talk at all about the WWC? Why not just “the working class” — black, white Hispanic, whatever? Because the GOP cut them out of the herd in the ’60’s and the Democrats just let them go. They are more likely to label them as part of the problem (deplorables) than they are to enact policies to help them.

Yes I know Obama saved the auto industry, but that was eight years ago. What have they done for us lately?

My home is open to any of you who want to visit for a first-hand look.

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Vote for Sam


samlamancusa08The easiest and safest vote I will cast next Tuesday will be to reelect Sam Lamancusa (D) as Trumbull County Treasurer, and I urge you all to join me.

It’s an easy vote because I’ve been closely watching Sam do his job for five years now, and no local elected official I know takes his job more seriously.

It’s a safe vote because Sam gets results and the decisions he’s made and the policies he has implemented have made Warren and Trumbull County a better place to live.

I’ve written more here on the topic of vacant properties than on any other, and I have heaped well-deserved praise on Trumbull Neighborhood Partnership for all they have done to eliminate this blight on our community.

I’ve mentioned Sam’s role in all this less often, in part because he is the most publicity shy elected official around. But without Sam, TNP couldn’t have done most of what they’ve done.

After collecting your taxes, the Treasurer’s biggest job is to preside over the Land Bank — the Trumbull County Land Reutilization Corporation. No law says a county has to have a land bank, but Sam started only the third land bank in the state of Ohio, despite the fact that he received no extra revenue or help; he had to find a way to do it on a shoe string with part time help.

Once he got it established, he hired TNP to a part time role implementing programs and writing grant applications to get demolition money.

Once they had some success, Sam hired TNP as a full time administrator of the TCLRC. Since that time, TNP, and the land bank, have brought more than $11 million into Trumbull County to tear down vacant and abandoned buildings and rehabilitate those that were not too far gone. Hundreds have bit the dust and a couple hundred more will find the same fate. Dozens have been rehabbed. I can’t imagine what Warren would look like had they not been so successful.

Throughout all this time I’ve never once heard Sam debate the political consequences of any action; he only wants to know, “what’s the right thing to do?”

I’ve never heard him try to grab credit for anything. He just goes about getting the job done, and he is always looking for a way to save a buck. One of the big reasons TCLRC has been so successful getting grants is the efficient way they have used the money that has come in. Sam watches your money like it was his own.

A lot of people don’t really know exactly what the Treasurer does, and have little way of knowing how well they are doing it. Please accept my eye witness report that Sam Lamancusa is doing a great job for you and deserves your vote on November 8th.

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