Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Hagan - A True Youngstown Democrat

From my friend Lauren (who is actually a New Yorker):


Ban Republican adoptions, not gay adoptions, lawmaker says

COLUMBUS, Ohio State Senator Robert Hagan says he has a better idea than barring gay couples from adopting children.The Democrat from Youngstown says he'd ban Republican adoptions.

In a tongue-in-cheek memo to his colleagues, Hagan spoofs a bill from House conservatives that would keep gays from becoming adoptive or foster parents in Ohio.

He counters that adopted children raised in Republican households have told him it's just plain boring most of the time. Hagan also writes that the kids are more at risk for developing -- as he puts it -- "an alarming lack of tolerance."

An aide says there's no comment from Republican Representative Ron Hood of Ashville, the sponsor of the gay-adoption ban.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Pro Football in the Real Steel City

"In 1922, a proposed Youngstown team -- to be run by Elgie Tobin -- was actually granted a National Football League franchise, but the project died in the planning stage."-from Vic Frolund's "The Story of the Patricians." You can read the whole article at:http://www.footballresearch.com/articles/frpage.cfm?topic=yngstown. He basically throws the quoted section above in at the end- the article is about a professional football team that was once run on the southside by St. Patrick's Catholic Church from 1914 to 1919. I'm most intrigued by the thoraway line about the NFL franchise, though. Imagine what could have been.

"The Valley"

To most Americans, the phrase "the Valley" refers to that ultra-hip, uber-wealthy, and celebrity-ridden area of Southern California. But for Youngstowners, "the Valley" is shorthand for the Mahoning Valley, the massive "greater Youngstown" area.

The borders of this Valley, of course, are ambiguous and hard to define. More or less, it includes the WYTV, WFMJ, and WKBN viewing areas. It's essentially the tri-county area that includes Mahoning, Trumbull, and kinda-sorta Columbiana counties. Sometimes, it also includes the area around Sharon, Pennsylvania, but only, it seems, on slow news nights or at Christmastime when Kraynak's puts up its annual display.

There definitely exist the need for a short, convenient name for Youngstown and its surrounding communities. Chicago has Chicagoland, Cleveland has Greater Cleveland, and Washington has the DC Metro and Beltway tags. The problem with this "Mahoning Valley" term, though, is that no one outside of the local media or the single-A baseball team in Niles uses it. It's never really caught on with the general public, despite the fact that it's been in use in the local media for as long as I can remember.

Part of the problem, for me at least, is that the phrase doesn't include the word "Youngstown" in it. This is probably an intentional thing, since a lot of people in the suburbs like to forget that the city actually exists. The school profile provided by Poland Seminary High School, for example, lists Poland as a place "equidistant between Cleveland and Pittsburgh." But not anywhere near the Yo, apparently. By using the term "Mahoning Valley" on the news and in the paper (which, of course, used to be called The Youngstown Vindicator, and is now simply The Vindicator- another issue for another time), the viewers and readers in the nicer areas around town can go about their day without having to think about the blight, the poverty, and the crime just a couple miles away. For those people actually living in Youngstown, it's problematic, since it ignores the city's relevance altogether and makes the citizens of Y-town proper feel unimportant and ignored. You can't have suburbs without a city- let's not forget that.

Another, less subjective reason that the term hasn't caught on is that people really feel all that much of a connection between the other communities in the area, beyond the ones that border their own. Understandably, people in Canfield don't really care about the Hubbard-Brookfield score, and people in Youngstown don't really identify with what happens out in West Branch. Despite their relative proximity, a lot of towns and cities around Youngstown are quite distinct from one another in culture, appearance, and economics. As a result, this idea of a unified Mahoning Valley feels forced.

And finally, in its most literal sense, the term "Mahoning Valley" just doesn't make a whole lot of sense when applied to such a large area. The Mahoning River, although originally the source of life and industry in town, isn't really all that relevant nowadays, especially to those living more than a few miles from the city. In fact, I imagine there are quite a few people in the Valley who couldn't tell you where the river is even located. And plus, it's hardly a massive waterway, and the actually "valley" around the river is not all that wide. It's basically Brier Hill to the near West Side, rather than New Castle to Salem.

Of course, it's still a convenient term, and a recognizable one, at least to people in and around the area that it includes. But beyond those boundaries, it's nonsense- no one has a clue where this "Mahoning Valley" might be located. You might, it seems, be able to guess that Chicagoland is near Chicago, and that Greater Cleveland is around Cleveland, even if you've never been there before. But the Mahoning Valley? That must be where they make those computer chips or shoot those dirty movies.