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COCO: A Pixar Animation; Ohio 2018: Meet the Candidates with Congressperson Renacci; Cleveland Council on World Affairs Global Dialogue

 Over the Thanksgiving weekend, we went to the movies and watched "Coco" the wonderful new animated film by "Pixar" that tells the story of a boy living in Mexico who during "Dia de Los Muertos"  (aka "Day of the Dead") unintentionally travels to the land of the dead to communicate with one of his ancestors regarding their shared love of music. Along the way, we learn a lot about "Dia De Los Muertos" and its special meaning to the Hispanic people and, more importantly, about family ties and special commitments that pertain to us all.

 We especially appreciated the film because it celebrated cultural traditions in a way that was fun while being respectful. We always try to attend the "Dia de Los Muertos" festival that the Cleveland Public Theatre puts on every year and next year we will appreciate it all the more.

 Recently we discovered that the director of "Coco" was Mr. Lee Unkrich who was quoted as saying, "it's been painful for me and a lot of people that there's been so much negativity in the world, specifically and unfairly having to do with Mexico. We're just honored and grateful that we can bring something positive and hopeful into the world that can maybe do its own small part to dissolve and erode some of the barriers that are between us."


 On Tuesday, November 28th, we went to the City Club of Cleveland to for another installment in the "Ohio 2018: Meet the Candidates" series which on this day featured a speech by U.S. Congressperson James B. Renacci, Ohio Republican gubernatorial candidate for 2018. Other candidates for governor who have spoken at the City Club in the past year have been Attorney General and Secretary of State Mike DeWine and Jon Husted (though not in this series) as well as State Senator Jim Schiavoni, Lt. Governor Mary Taylor, former State Rep. Connie Pilich, and Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley and speaking in January, 2018 will be former U.S. Congressperson Betty Sutton.


 Prior to the start of the forum, we spoke to one of U.S. Congressperson Renacci's aides who reminded us that the U.S. Congressperson's grandparents immigrated to the United States from Italy and passed through Ellis Island and settled in Pennsylvania where his grandfather worked as a coal miner. The aide went on to assure us that helping constituents with matters pertaining to immigration is a priority for the U.S. Congressperson's district office.

 During his speech, U.S. Congressman Renacci discussed his background growing up in Pennsylvania and how the family often had to struggle to make ends meet. He, himself, had to work three jobs in order to put himself through college but he ultimately graduated with a degree in business administration from the Indiana University of Pennsylvania and went on to become a Certified Public Accountant and a financial advisor. As the notes in the City Club brochure read, he moved to Wadsworth, Ohio "in 1983 where he founded LTC Management Services, a company that owned, operated, and managed nursing facilities throughout the region. Through his 30-year business career, he owned and operated more than 60 entities, created more than 1,500 jobs and employed more than 3,000 people."

 Unsurprisingly, as a CPA he was quite well-versed in the details of the tax overhaul plan and greatly impressed us all with his knowledge of its intricacies when queried about it during the Q and A.

 U.S. Congressperson Renacci emphasized that he believed and it has been his experience that through sacrifice and hard work a person can realize the American Dream just as he did. He also believed strongly in public service and held several positions before being elected Mayor of Wadworth in 2004 and U.S. Congressperson in 2010. After serving in Washington, D.C., for seven years now, he was of the conviction that it was unfortunately too easy for both Democrats and Republicans, to get caught up in the system and after a whille care more about the next election than the next generation and lose sight of the citizenry that they are supposed to be serving. Along these lines, he believed the only way that the only way that this culture will ever change is for strong governors to stand up and say enough is enough in terms of excessive taxation, spending, and government regulation. Taking this even further, he was of the strong conviction that the best policy was that shaped by local governments to address the specific needs of its people and economic establishments so local government should be able to operate with as few restrictions imposed by state and federal government as possible.

 As for himself, regarding the issues that he will prioritize during his gubernatorial campaign, it is his contention that Ohio is greatly suffering due to an unperforming economy, very high unemployment and lack of job growth, student loan debt, and the opioid crisis. Accordingly, among his goals is the restructuring of state government to cut bureaucracy and expenditures, halt the medicaid expansion which he termed "unsustainable", genuinely reducing taxes instead of shifting them, and fight the opioid epidemic by putting drug dealers who prey upon those recently released from drug treatment in jail, encouraging the use of less risky methods to combat physical pain.

 Above all, he maintained that it was imperative that Ohio create a positive climate for business to thrive. He restated this after we asked him what he would do to make Ohio a more hospitable place for immigrants to settle. He also said that people who have immigrated to the United States legally like us grandparents are one of the keys to a successful future for Ohio as well as the United States as a whole. Going further on the subject of immigration, he said that he did not endorse sanctuary cities and, in response to another question, said that he believed that it was wrong for President Obama to impose DACA through executive order and should have instead worked with the Congress and Senate to fashion a comparable program. He thus praised President Trump for cancelling the executive order and asking the legislature to come up with a bill which is certainly in the works at this time.


 Although we did not agree with many of the things that U.S. Congressperson Renacci had to say, we credit him for being just as hard on his own Republican Party as he was on the Democrats and not being afraid to offer bold solutions to to difficult problems.  Both before and after the luncheon, we visited with our friend Mayor Pam Bobst of Rocky River who told us that she has not made an endorsement in the Ohio Governor's race at this time but that U.S. Congressperson Renacci's office is excellent in terms of providing assistance to both constituents and local government and that its "responsiveness" is to be highly commended.


 Later on Tuesday we went to the Music Box Supper Club in the Flats where we attended a Global Dialogue Program of the "Cleveland Council on World Affairs" which featured Mr. Mohamed Amine Zariat who is touring the United States as part of the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) which, as stated on the U.S. Dept. of State's website, is its "premier professional exchange program. Through short-term visits to the United States, current and foreign leaders in a variety of fields experience this country firsthand and cultivate lasting relationships with their American counterparts."


 Mr. Zariat is a former basketball player from Morocco who is Founder and President of "TIBU Morocco" which, as its brochure reads, "uses basketball as a means of education, social cohesion and human development. TIBU aims to inspire young people with the noble of values: Teamwork, Commitment, Leadership, and Fair Play through its sports, educational, and social projects and programs."

 We learned that "TIBU Morocco" was initiated in 2010 and has grown steadily over the years. It targets youngsters, both boys and girls, ages 8-12 and combines the exhilaration of learning how to play an exciting game with good citizenship skills. To be sure, there are all sorts of activities and opportunities which help children from disadvantaged backgrounds excel in life and special sessions for the physically challenged so no one is left out.

 To be sure, Mr. Zariat was quite an engaging guy and like Mr. Lee Unkrich and U.S. Congressperson Renacci he is firmly committed to giving back to his community and making it, if not the world, a better place than it was before.


Michael Patterson

Community Liaison,

Margaret W. Wong & Assoc. Co., LLC

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