The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

Reality Check

June 25, 2008

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

(Continued)



Just two weeks ago, the Pittsburgh Post Gazette featured Ashtabula City on the front page of its Sunday edition under the headline “Ashtabula: A city that cries despair.” Written by Dennis B. Roddy, the story points out the city’s grim demographic figures and quotes Jason Strong, the city’s director of community development, as saying “Basically, we need someone to rescue us.”

Old attitudes are hard to break.

Some community leaders contacted for this story feel the most devastating attitude present in the county stems from the fact that many county residents simply have not accepted the fact the world has changed. This is no longer the Ashtabula County of the 1950s and ’60s, when a person did not need a college education to get a job and, if the morning’s job didn’t work out, a laborer could walk down the street to the next factory and get another job after lunch. The world has changed dramatically, even as many residents still wait for True Temper, Bow Socket and Reliance Electric to reopen their doors.

Businesses that have survived these decades of vicissitude have done so largely by eliminating competition, which has also reduced opportunity, innovation and progress in those sectors. When that survival is threatened through progressive ideas, evolution or direct competition, there is a fear of losing one’s place and livelihood in the community. Anthony Cantagallo, Ashtabula city manager, compares it to the “I will lose my rice bowl” mentality of the Chinese peasant. This has led to blocks of “good old boys” who watch out for each others’ interests while ignoring the overall good of the community.

Additionally, Cantagallo says leadership in the city and many parts of the county has been marked by re-active rather than pro-active spirit.

“As a populace, we are more concerned about where we are going to put our schools than how they are going to educate our children,” Cantagallo says.

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Reality Check
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  • images_sizedimage_069195701 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.

    June 25, 2008 1 Photo

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    June 25, 2008

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  • Some people just don’t want a job Ashtabula County Commissioner Deborah Newcomb talks to a lot of employers, and they all express the same concern: finding people reliable people with basic skills is a problem.

    June 25, 2008

  • images_sizedimage_070212402 POOR BUT WORKING A winter wind blew across the parking lot of the Neighbor to Neighbor Food Pantry next to St. Joseph’s Church in Ashtabula; the six adults lined up at the door turned their faces from the wind, toward the metaphoric concrete wall of the building.

    June 25, 2008 2 Photos

  • images_sizedimage_071213603 County's largest hospital feels the Medicaid pain Perhaps no one in Ashtabula County feels the pinch of subsidizing unemployed or underemployed individuals more than Philip E. Pawlowski.

    June 25, 2008 1 Photo

  • Crime & Drugs Inc. always hiring Some “unemployed” residents find crime to be their best source of steady income. Judge Richard Stevens of Western County Court says he noticed a 50-percent increase in the number of criminal cases handled by his court between 2005 and last year.

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