Canton Repository

January 8, 2003

Congressman says creating jobs tops list 

By Paul M. Krawzak
Copley News Service 

WASHINGTON — With more than 100 supporters cheering him on, Rep. Timothy Ryan was sworn in Tuesday as the first new congressman from Ohio’s Mahoning Valley in 18 years.

Ryan, a Democrat, succeeds the flamboyant James Traficant, who is serving time in federal prison for accepting thousands of dollars in bribes and payoffs.

As Ryan took the oath of office in the Capitol, three busloads of friends, relatives and volunteers from Ohio gathered at the Teamsters union headquarters a few blocks away.

Watching the opening of the next session of Congress on a video screen, they let out a whoop when Ryan’s name was mentioned.

“He’s great,” said Cindy Cuchna, who uses a wheelchair. She got to know Ryan while attending the same church, Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Niles. “He used to help me up and down the steps of the church. He’s such a good worker and
a good guy. He’s always willing to help.”

During an interview in his shell-like office on Capitol Hill, Ryan said although he respects Traficant’s intelligence and talent, he intends to be a different kind of lawmaker.

“He was a one-man show, and I think I need to be more a team builder,” said Ryan, who worked as a legislative aid to Traficant after graduating from Bowling Green State University. “Jim focused on ‘look how we got screwed.’ My focus is going to be on ‘look what we can do if we work together.’ ”

Ryan, who lives in Niles, has less government experience than most lawmakers. At 29, he is one of the two youngest members of the freshman class in the House. A state senator for the past two years, he also is an attorney. Ryan demonstrated considerable political skill in upsetting veteran Rep. Tom Sawyer of Akron in last year’s Democratic primary.

Sawyer and Ryan vied against each other in the redrawn 17th congressional district, which combines the Youngstown area from Traficant’s former district
with portions of Akron that Sawyer represented. Ryan won with strong labor union backing. The district also includes most of Trumbull and Portage counties
and portions of Mahoning and Summit counties.

In the November election, Ryan went on to defeat Republican Ann Womer Benjamin and Traficant, who sought re-election as an independent.

Ryan’s supporters in some cases express a strong personal loyalty to the man. They also believe he has what it takes to succeed over the long haul.

“Tim was a great debater in school,” said George Herlinger, who lives down the street from Ryan’s mother and has known Ryan since he was in
kindergarten. “Tim’s got the personality for it.”

The top issue for constituents such as Herlinger is job creation in the Mahoning Valley, which has lost thousands of jobs as the steel industry shrank.

Ryan said job creation in the district is his top priority.

His plan is to foster the development of partnerships among universities and private companies in the district that will lead to the creation of high-tech jobs.

“I really think there can be a synergy that is created between Akron and Youngstown and Cleveland, to some extent, to help with economic development,” he said.

Even though he begins with the disadvantage of being a first-term lawmaker in the minority party, Ryan is confident he can “find ways that they
(universities and businesses) can work together that they’re not looking at right now, and then bring in the money to do the research and development.”

He’s also intrigued with the idea of building a light-rail system that would make it easy to travel between Akron, Cleveland and Youngstown.

“First of all, it’s good for the environment,” he said. “Second of all, it reduces our dependence on foreign oil. And three, it creates an environment where
people living in Summit County could work in Cleveland with no problem. Same in Youngstown,” he said.

Unlike fellow Democrat Traficant, who often sided with Republican leaders in Congress, Ryan appears to be in harmony with most if not all of his party’s
positions.

He criticized President Bush’s proposed tax cut as foolish during a time when the nation is fighting terrorism and might be going to war against Iraq. The
Democrats’ economic stimulus plan “looks more up my alley,” he added.

He opposes legal abortion, a position that puts him at odds with many in his party.

Ryan has his own ideas for stimulating the economy. He said the federal government should “come in and pay 100 percent of the cost for police and fire” in communities such as Warren and Youngstown in his district, which have laid off law enforcement. “I think that can be part of a stimulus package,” he said.