The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

Reality Check

June 25, 2008

Bad vibes: Lack of opportunities, progress make for sour attitudes

Eavesdrop on conversations at the lunch counter, in the aisles of Wal-Mart on a Friday evening or around the sports bar on a Sunday afternoon, and you’re likely to hear some pretty disparaging remarks about the old hometown.

Bashing Ashtabula County and its institutions is a favorite community pastime, perhaps exceeded only by the city’s passion for high school sports and following favorite bickering politicians. Young people like to bash the community’s lack of entertainment and shopping experiences, young adults criticize the community’s lack of opportunities and jobs, and those over 40 engage in bashing the media, political leaders and pothole-rich roads. City council members bash each other and school board members. Back and forth it goes, and year after year, the county under-achieves its potential.

“There’s no doubt about it: We have been down so long; there are far too many people here who think we cannot rise again,” says Steve Sargent, executive director of the Samaritan House homeless shelter and a board member of several city and county-wide nonprofit organizations.

Sargent feels our attitudes about ourselves and community stems from a chronic lack of hope and paucity of innovative leadership with vision. And it’s an attitude that’s showing.

“I have found as I walk around in other counties and other states, that I see people walking with their heads up,” says Ron Clutter, entrepreneur and owner of Nordic Air in Harpersfield Township. “I walk in Ashtabula County, and I see a lot of heads down. I think we lack pride in ourselves; I think we lack vision. I certainly think we lean more toward this idea of entitlement, that (the) government owes me a living.”

Jim Timonere, Ashtabula Area Chamber of Commerce president, says he’s had visitors come into his office and tell them it was the first place they’ve heard locals say anything good about the area.

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Reality Check
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