Friday, August 29, 2008
This article details the reasons why the union chose to picket the store. In February 2007 the former proprietors at the location, Patton's IGA, closed the store due to increased competition, declining sales and increasing expenses. Patton also could not reach a new wage agreement with the union. When Nemenz re-opened the store, it was opened as a non-union shop. The UFCW local 880 descended on the store and began picketing when only one former employee was re-hired.
I have been driving by the picketers for almost a year, scratching my head in wonder at their goal. Their signs say Henry Nemenz is unfair to Hubbard but he opened a grocery store on the end of town that did not have one. He saved this small community from having a large empty storefront. He hired citizens from the community and provided jobs with decent wages and benefits. The store sponsored local events like the Fun Fest and St. Pat's parade. Does that sound unfair?
I personally cannot confirm the union picketers kept enough shoppers away from the store to contribute to its decline but I do know that in this area, in this economy, no business can succeed with a determined group actively driving away customers.
Hubbard will soon have a vacant storefront. Hubbard workers will soon be unemployed. The city will soon lose income tax revenue. I think it is abundantly clear that the only party being unfair to Hubbard is the United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 880.
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
As much as I am enjoying the spectacle, I would like to hear a little more about the Democrats' platform. For Obama to win over independent voters, we need to hear specifics about what he plans to do about health care, education, the economy and the war. Will our taxes go up? Will we see Federal funds for new teachers? What about renewable energy? What's the plan? The party and their candidate will never have a bigger audience for laying out their specifics. They shouldn't waste the opportunity.
Saturday, August 23, 2008
Well, it's the easiest thing in the world unless you run into the tar pit that is regional government cooperation in the Mahoning Valley.
To begin with, Mayor Jay Williams should never have attempted to utilize a Joint Economic Development District (JEDD) in Liberty plaza. The area was developed decades ago and is in desperate need of redevelopment. JEDD's are primarily used to encourage economic development in undeveloped areas. If Wal-Mart wanted to develop the land near the 711-Gypsy Lane interchange a JEDD would be appropriate.
Next, we have the Liberty trustees who are encouraged Wal-Mart to build knowing the project would utilize Youngstown city water, without understanding what was involved. Given the recent press concerning JEDD's between Austintown and Boardman and the vehement opposition from those communities, it is unbelievable that the trustees did not read the Youngstown city application for a commercial water tap. The application states that the new business make a best effort to hire at least 25% of their work force from Youngstown. This oversight is especially grievous because the workforce clause has been in effect since Pat Ungaro's term as Youngstown city mayor. Mr. Ungaro is now the Liberty Township Administrator. One has to wonder how this potential roadblock was overlooked by both the trustees and the administrator who initiated it.
Finally, this fiasco has been marred by the public statements from Mayor Williams and Trustee Jodi Stoyak. Both parties have made statements to the press that indicate cooperation is not a priority:
“Wal-Mart could have actually hired more than 25 percent from the city, but by doing this and stopping this project, no one in Mahoning or Trumbull County will see any additional jobs,” Stoyak said. “We are starving for jobs in this area, and this project is being held up by the mayor. Unfortunately, I don’t think Mayor Williams realizes that Wal-Mart is not going to play games with him.”- Trustee Stoyak.
“All trustees can do is work with the press to apply more pressure publicly and let the public know exactly what is going on with this situation,”- Trustee Stoyak.
“... If this [building] program is being put on hold, it is because of the incompetency of either Liberty or the people at Wal-Mart.”- Mayor Williams.
If the project somehow doesn’t move forward, “it’s not our fault,” Williams said. Ungaro should have mentioned it to Wal-Mart years ago, Williams said.- Mayor Williams.Given those statements it's clear that the interests of township and city residents are being ill served by their leaders. The most important thing is to get the Wal-Mart built so that jobs are created and the Liberty plaza has a strong economic anchor. This petty bickering and finger pointing serves no purpose except to show potential developers how hard it is to accomplish anything in an area where politics trumps all other interests.
Now is the time for regional leaders to come together and do the following:
- Perform a lessons learned study from this project to identify potential problems like the 25% employment requirement.
- Identify the areas best suited to new economic development.
- Decide which areas would benefit local areas best by utilizing a JEDD.
- Develop a list of needs for each political sub-division within the Mahoning Valley that can be satisfied by regional development.
- Develop a marketing plan for attracting business.
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
The mayor cites a study that says Youngstown has a higher ratio of ranking officers to patrol officers than other cities of similar size, like Canton. The cost savings realized is a way to balance public safety with budgetary constraints. The heads of the union cite promotion opportunities as a concern but that concern is of little importance when balanced against the need for officers on the street and a budget that is strained.
If less opportunities are available for promotion it should mean that the absolute best are chosen for the open slots. In the long run this decision, passed by the city council, may make the YPD more effective. More eyes on the street may help reduce the opportunities criminals have to commit crimes. More patrol officers means calls can be responded to more quickly. Response time has been a complaint for a long time so more bodies should help. Hopefully the rank and file see this as an action that is good for the city.
Monday, August 11, 2008
Saturday, August 09, 2008
Monday, August 04, 2008
The Bush administration on Monday extended a test program allowing long-haul trucks from full access to U.S. highways for up to two years, despite pending legislation in Congress to shut it down.The impact of this decision is not limited to Texas and the other Mexican border states. There are transportation companies right here in the Mahoning Valley that will be negatively impacted if Mexican carriers are allowed to enter the United States. The operating costs of Mexican carriers are much lower than those of American carriers. The drivers are paid less, have less regulatory compliance and enjoy cheaper diesel fuel prices thanks to government subsidies. In short, American carriers cannot compete against Mexican carriers on a level field.
"We intend this extension to reassure trucking companies that they will have sufficient time to realize a return on their investment, and we anticipate additional participation with this extra time," said John Hill, the Transportation Department's top trucking safety regulator.
Transportation is heavily regulated for good reason. A fully loaded, 53' dry van can weigh as much as 80,000 lbs. It is important that the driver of that vehicle pass a physical, be well trained and be in compliance with Department of Transportation hours of service regulations. The Mexican drivers involved in the pilot program may be the best of the best but if this experiment succeeds and more drivers are allowed to enter the United States for the purpose of hauling long distance, eventually less well trained drivers will enter the country.
It may sound protectionist to object to this program but it simply is not good policy for the country or for this area. Our manufacturing base has dwindled and now the Bush administration stands poised to harm another industry. Whether President Bush recognizes it or not, truck drivers are professionals who are well trained in their vocation. Protecting those jobs should be a priority for the president but clearly it is not. It should also be a no brainer for our government to protect American families traveling on interstates but President Bush seems to lack common sense on the issue.
Hopefully Representative James Oberstar, chairman of the House's Transportation Committee, will be successful in ending the program and ensuring the Department of Transportation cannot start it back up.