Bill Clinton Works Crowds in Youngstown, Niles

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — Greta Frost stopped in at Joe Maxx Coffee Shop downtown Wednesday for a favorite tea the shop serves while she studied economics. She didn’t count on a side of politics – or having her picture taken with a former president.

Frost is a senior at Youngstown State University with a double major in political science and economics, vice president of the YSU College Democrats and president of YSU’s political honor society. She was among patrons of the coffee shop who got to meet former President Bill Clinton when he stopped in following his speech in Boardman earlier yesterday.

“I knew he was coming to the area. I didn’t know he was coming here,” she said. “This was a complete surprise.”

The coffee shop was one of two downtown stops Clinton visited at midday while in the Mahoning Valley campaigning for his wife, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. His first stop was at the Starting Lineup Barber & Beauty Shop, just around the corner from Joe Maxx.

The “Stronger Together” bus and accompanying motorcade arrived downtown at 10:56 a.m. After shaking hands and posing for photos outside, the former president, joined by U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, D-13 Ohio, walked into the barber shop 10 minutes later.

“I feel like I’m in the middle of a TV show, or maybe a movie,” Clinton – among the most photographed individuals in the world – remarked as he entered.

The owner of the shop, Jerome Franklin, greeted him and gave him a tour during which he urged customers and employees to vote for Hillary Clinton. The former president was presented with a hand-painted portrait of his wife a local artist rendered.

Franklin said he was notified only minutes earlier, around 10:30 a.m. of the former president’s visit. In addition to talking about the shop, he said they discussed how downtown is growing.

“I was real excited,” stylist Juanita Pete said. Leo Simpson, a manager at Joe Maxx, said he too had learned only an hour earlier that the former president would visit. “The Secret Service came in and said that we were going to have a special visitor,” he said. “And we were delighted to have [him], absolutely.” Although the visit offered “a bit of disruption” to the lunch hour trade, “it was an honor to have him here.”

Frost had been sitting at a table near the entrance for some time, working on a laptop. “And all of a sudden, Clinton shows up.”

They exchanged greetings and she got a photo with him. She neglected to mention her connection to the College Democrats “probably because I got nervous and just wanted the photo,” she admitted.

Inside the cafe, Clinton held an extended discussion about growing coffee with manager Victoria Clark. The Clinton Foundation, which the former president co-founded, has helped countries such as Indonesia find markets for their products and hire local workers.

“It’s fascinating to see what grows where,” he said.

Clark told Clinton – at Ryan’s urging – that in fourth grade she had written an award-winning essay about him.

After getting a cup of coffee, Clinton took a few questions from reporters.

“This ought to be about the voters and what the consequences of this election are to them,” he said. Voters need to start investing “emotional and intellectual bandwidth” in the issues, particularly the economy, and regardless of the results Nov. 8, spend the next 30 days cooling off and assessing how to best move forward as a nation.

Clinton touted the New Markets Tax Credit, which he supported and signed into law, which supported the ongoing renovation of the nearby main branch of the YMCA of Youngstown. Hillary Clinton, he said, wants to simplify and broaden the program.

Clinton also responded to a question about his remarks regarding deficiencies in the Affordable Health Care Act, which he described as “the craziest thing I’ve ever seen” earlier in the week while campaigning in Flint, Mich. He said he wholly supports the health-care law, but that it isn’t working as desired for those above the income cutoff lines for subsidies or Medicaid expansion coverage.

Action must be taken to make insurance more affordable for this group — and Hillary and President Obama acknowledge this, he said. Obama’s plan would have avoided the problem, but it was not in the final bill, he explained.

Clinton said he does “focus groups” with people when he visits blue-collar communities about the Affordable Care Act.

“They all know somebody who has health insurance who wouldn’t have it,” he said, and everybody knows someone affected by the provision that bans denying coverage because of preexisting conditions. As time goes by, the law’s “adversaries” are trying to use a problem facing people it hasn’t helped “and they worked hard to make sure that those people didn’t get help,” he said.

In addition, Clinton voiced his objection to what he characterized as a “cheap and unfair shot at my foundation” that Indiana Gov. Mike Pence made during Tuesday’s vice presidential debate. Pence suggested that the former president and his wife might be receiving money under the table from their nonprofit.

Clinton said he wished more of last night’s debate between Pence and U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., had included “genuine” discussions such as their stances on abortion.

After leaving Youngstown, Clinton and his entourage traveled to Niles – Ryan’s hometown – to get lunch at Vernon’s café. While ordering food to go, Clinton and Ryan mingled with the crowd of diners for brief chats, handshakes and selfies.

Clinton pointed out one woman who greeted him, telling the crowd, “She just got her citizenship so she could vote for Hillary.”

Yianilda Psaras of Girard said she moved to the United States from the Dominican Republic at age seven and lived in New York City several years. Since she was legally in the country, she never saw a pressing need to obtain her citizenship, she said.

The Trump-Clinton contest changed her mind, Psaras said. She recently attended a ceremony in Akron where she became an American with all legal rights, registering to vote the same day.

“I don’t trust anything he [Trump] says. He would throw us all out,” Psaras said, referring to immigrants.

Pictured above: Bill Clinton and his entourage arrive at the Starting Lineup Barber & Beauty Shop where they are greeted by owner Jerome Franklin and manager Victoria Clark.

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