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Breakfast with The Lake County Commissioners; Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America; 15th Annual Four Eagles Banquet and Award Ceremony

On Friday, May 5th, we attended very different events.

The first one was a breakfast with the Lake County Commissioners put on by the Eastern Lake County Chamber of Commerce at Painesville Township Hall on Nye Road.

We got to hear presentations from the three commissioners who were Mr. Dan Troy, Mr. Jerry C. Cirino (newly elected) and Mr. John R. Hamercheck (newly elected). Each of them spoke for a few minutes and addressed such issues as economic development, realization of the potential of the lakefront, fiscal stability, the need to retain and attract younger residents, providing high quality senior and children's services, and the importance of coordination of the databases of different branches of government. Ohio State Senator John Eklund was also present and he talked about budgetary priorities and energy development.

Many people that we knew like Ms. Judy Burr, Executive Director of "Project Hope"; Ms. Melanie Blasko, President and CEO, and Ms. Gail Keegan, Development Officer, of "Lake-Geauga Recovery Centers"; and Mr. Michael Manary, Painesville Township Administrator were there and we got to meet Mr. Robert Rutherford, Promotions Director, for the "Classic Lake County Air Show" and Ms. Joan Bottger-Venaleck, VP Administration, of "Meritec" who is working with Mr. Rutherford on the Air Show project.

We talked for a moment with Commissioner Hamercheck who expressed a keen interest regarding immigration issues and we hope to be in touch with him later on.

After having breakfast with the Lake County Commissioners we drove to the City Club for its annual Law Day lunch which featured a presentation by Dr. James Forman, Jr., Professor of Law at Yale Law School, concerning "Struggling for Racial Justice in Challenging Times."

Free copies of Dr. Forman's recent book, "Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America" were available for everyone courtesy of the "Morino Institute." We got to meet Ms. Susan R. Karas who very much believes in the work that the "Morino Institute" does and talked to us about it. As its website reads, "the overarching theme of our work has been the exploration of the opportunities and risks of the Internet and the New Economy to advance social progress."

As we ate our lunch, we shared a table with Mr. Laura Hong, of "Tucker Ellis, LLP", who said with a smile that she was "the 4th Chinese-American lawyer in Cleveland and Margaret W. Wong was certainly ahead of me."

We also visited with Ms. Adaora N. Schmiedl, Director of Development and Marketing, of "Towards Employment" and Ms. Miriam Robinson with "Positive Education Program."

In the course of his presentation, Dr. Forman talked about what he witnessed as when he was a public defender in Washington, D.C. at a time when many African-American judges, prosecutors and police officers were extremely tough on crimes committed by other African-Americans because, as the cover of his book read, they "feared that the gains of the civil rights movement were being undermined by lawlessness-and thus embraced tough-on-crime measures, including longer sentences and aggressive police tactics."

As Dr. Forman observed, they believed that they had to do this but still wished that there were enough resources for better schools, parks, health services, etc. that were factors in creating and/or solving the problems. They also did not know what is known now about how a tough sentence for possessing a small amount of marijuana might indeed have an adverse effect on the life of a young person but they did what they believed was right at the time.

This trend still often continues so Dr. Forman advocated a different path that has the potential to help those of all races which involves the election of more progressive prosecutors who might consider alternative sentencing; employers being more open to giving a convicted felon a second chance, churches assuming a greater role in assisting those newly released from jail/prison; and exploring what we, ourselves, could do.

Along these lines, Dr. Forman certainly did something-he now conducts the "Educational Opportunity and Juvenile Justice Clinic" and in 1997 with the help of a friend he founded the "Maya Angelou Public Charter School" which our program notes describe as "an alternative school for school dropouts and youth who had been previously arrested."

In conclusion Dr. Forman spoke of how taking part in such projects has helped him grow as an individual and what a gratifying experience it was for him when he encountered a man who had once been a troubled youth and a client of his when he worked as a public defender. Dr. Forman put his skills to work and managed to steer the youth away from prison and into an alternative program. Dr. Forman shared with us that the once misguided youth had grown up to be a person who is now gainfully employed doing work that is rewarding to him and is a responsible citizen.

Our last event on Friday was the Shrine Church of St. Stanislaus 15th Annual Four Eagles Banquet and Award Ceremony at the Tremont Cityside Ballroom on West 14th Street where we stopped off for a couple of hours.

We particularly wanted to attend this event because the honoree was the late Cleveland Housing Court Judge Raymond L. Pianka who passed away a short time ago. Accordingly the honor would be accepted by his widow, Karen Pianka who was accompanied by her daughter, Kirsten. We gave them both our congratulations and our condolences. From the program notes we read that the Polish legend of the "Four Eagles" dates back centuries and involves paying tribute to heroes and we cannot think of anyone more worthy of such a tribute than Judge Pianka.

During our time at the ballroom, we said "hello" to a lot of people we knew and had several good visits with such people as Mr. David Krakowski, the Music and Liturgy Director at St. Stanislaus, who was acting as he emcee for the night. We also got to talk to Mr. Larry Bender about "Margaret W. Wong & Associates" being able to table once more at the Fall Festival. During dinner we shared a table with Mr. Ron Zeszut, St. Stanislaus' Pastoral Council Chairperson, and his wife and mother who were respectively Mrs. June Zeszut and Mrs. Florence Zeszut.

We would like to add that another person who we saw at this event was Mr. Brandon Chrostowski, the Founder of "Edwins Leadership and Restaurant Institute" in Shaker Heights which help convicted re-integrate themselves into the workforce. Mr. Chrostowski might well be a candidate for Mayor of Cleveland this year and thus we have encountered him at no fewer than three other events this week where he is diligently listening to people and learning how Cleveland could perhaps be a better place. Naturally, he was at the City Club earlier and we discussed Dr. Forman's presentation.


Michael Patterson

Community Liaison,

Margaret W. Wong & Assoc. Co., LLC