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Commissioners did the right thing when all flights were grounded

Sunday, October 7, 2001

Commissioners did the right thing when all flights were grounded
The advice I have always followed is "you can't go wrong by doing the right thing," an axiom that appears to be true in every situation except at the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport during a crisis. At least that is the impression left by a recent Vindicator editorial that unfairly criticized the Mahoning County commissioners for the actions we took on Sept. 11 in the wake of the terrorist attack on the United States.
Given the fact that the airport is subsidized by both Mahoning and Trumbull counties and that the commissioners appoint the members of the Western Reserve Port Authority which governs the facility, there can be no question that we have a vested interest in everything that occurs at the airport -- particularly at a time of crisis.
Since the airport operates on a tight budget with limited staffing, we knew it would be extremely difficult to accommodate a possible influx of 1,500 people -- exactly the situation airport director Tom Nolan faced when the FAA grounded all commercial air traffic.
In contacting Mr. Nolan to offer our assistance on Sept. 11, we learned of his concern that the airport would not have adequate food and restroom supplies. In coordination with Mahoning County Emergency Management Director Walt Duzzny, the commissioners sent a van-load of toiletries and paper products to Vienna. At the same time, Jeff Chrystal, owner of Chrystal's Restaurant, called to offer food and beverages to the suddenly grounded passengers and crews.
Mr. Duzzny contacted airport security and requested and received permission to transport the food and supplies to the facility. Upon our arrival, one planeload of shaken, hungry and thirsty passengers was still outside the terminal. They, along with the pilots and flight attendants, could not thank us enough for our hospitality during an exceptionally difficult time. They were particularly grateful when we allowed them to use our cell phones to call their loved ones to let them know they were safely on the ground and out of harm's way.
At no time did the commissioners, including Trumbull County Commissioner Michael O'Brien, or Mr. Duzzny interfere with emergency operations. In fact, the scene was not at all the three-ring-circus mistakenly described in The Vindicator, but was very calm and controlled.
However, because we should learn from the unfortunate events of Sept. 11, I will soon convene a public meeting of commissioners from both counties and other appropriate officials to review the events that occurred at the airport.
I hope this meeting and one being conducted by various Trumbull County agencies will yield new, more effective disaster response procedures that will be implemented as quickly as possible.
The answer to whether it was appropriate for officials from Mahoning County to respond to the crisis is a resounding "yes." Indeed, after the story criticizing our response to the crisis appeared, several Trumbull County officials including Vienna Township Trustee Mark Finamore and Vienna Township Police Chief David Ovesny called me, stating that the article was not an accurate reflection of the events occurring that day.
Further proof that we had done "the right thing" could be found in the faces, the handshakes and the words of thanks offered by passengers from New Jersey, Canada, and Hawaii who didn't care at all that I and my colleagues were from Mahoning County -- only that we cared enough to help in a small way on one of America's worst days.
President, Mahoning County Board of Commissioners
X This letter was also signed by commissioners Edward J. Reese and David Ludt.
U.S. must set measured example to other nations
On June 1, 1995, your editorial column carried the following headline: "U.S. national interest must define U.S. role in Bosnia" Your editorial was occasioned by then-President Clinton announcing that he was willing to send U.S. ground forces into Bosnia. Great Britain and France had provided the bulk of the U.N. forces in Bosnia. Under the heading of "Responsibility," you stated that "As disturbing as the events in what was formerly Yugoslavia may be, it is, first and foremost, a European problem."
In my letter, printed on June 6, 1995, (coincidentally 51 years to the day after the D-Day invasion of Europe), I listed some historical events, with the conclusion that we could not isolate ourselves from the rest of the world. The closing remarks of my letter were rather sarcastically paraphrased by your headline writer as follows: "First we bury our heads, then come the bodies." How ironic his sarcasm has come to be.
In the aftermath of this terrorist tragedy, Great Britain, France and literally the rest of the world has rallied around the United States. We have become the hub of the response to this despicable act of terror. The rest of the world looks to the United States to provide the leadership in combating what is a worldwide problem. War is not the answer.
When President Bush exclaimed that we are at war, I do not believe that he meant we were actually at war such as World War I or II. We are at war against terrorism, as we are at war against drugs or crime or some such evil that exits in our world today.
What we do will forever be with us. Anything that will diminish what this country is all about can only hurt us in the future.
As a nation of laws, any act that is not in keeping with our traditions would cause the rest of the world grave concern, lest we become like them.
We have heard much from the few, but little from the many. The future impact of the tragedy on the lives and minds of all Americans dictates measured, wise and prudent decisions from our leaders.
Valley won't improve with more gambling
It may come as a great surprise, but a poll on your Web site (and only 589 people as a sampling at that) is hardly a huge majority of area folks in favor of casino gambling.
Many of us (gasp!) have no interest in Web sites -- even more amazing! -- we do not own computers and do not feel that they would in any way contribute to our qualify of life.
I for one, find the thought of casino gambling repugnant, to say the least, and a definite zero toward making this Valley a better place to live. Gambling brings misery to families and the possibility of jobs is no excuse for inflicting this affliction upon us.
When a child comes home and wants to do something harmful because "everybody else is doing it," the good parent says "no." I say an unequivocal "no" to casino gambling.