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Candidates' Night for The Cleveland American Middle East Organization (C.A.M.E.O.)

On Wednesday, August 9th, we attended candidates' night for the Cleveland American Middle East Organization (C.A.M.E.O.) at the Holiday Inn on Rockside Road in Independence. According to our good friend Mr. Pierre Bejjani, the President of C.A.M.E.O., the purpose of this evening was to give the local candidates of all parties running in 2017 a chance to speak about what they stand for and what C.A.M.E.O. means to them. In the course of the evening, the candidates would be evaluated by a panel of three C.A.M.E.O. members who would make recommendations to the C.A.M.E.O. board who would vote on the endorsements which would be submitted to the membership for their approval on September 13th.

On this occasion, though, some 77 local candidates were scheduled to speak for 2 minutes each so things got off to an early start at 6pm and ended around approximately 9:30pm. With the exception of Judge Kathryn Michael of Akron Municipal Court, all of the candidates were running for various offices in Cuyahoga County most of which were for city council positions or judgeships. The contestants ranged from those engaging in their first political venture to veteran elected officials like Mayor Dennis Clough of Westlake who has held his office for 32 years now. As for ourselves, we estimated that we knew 2/3 of them already but we still relished being there because it gave us the opportunity get acquainted with the 1/3 who we did not know.

From our perspective, issues that often came up during the short speeches were the need for public servants to listen to what/his her constituents had to say instead of being so quick to talk themselves and the benefits of their communities being diverse. Plus, since quite a few of them were 1st, 2nd or 3rd generation U.S. citizens, they talked about what their parents/grandparents went through to immigrate to the United States so that their offspring could have more opportunities. This enabled them to relate to the members of C.A.M.E.O. because many of them were foreign-born. 

For us, it was particularly moving when Ms. Susan Grodek, an elementary school teacher who is a candidate for Brooklyn City Council, talked about how much she and her United States-born students have learned by interacting with youngsters who have immigrated here from other lands. This prompted Mr. Abby Mina, one of the founders of C.A.M.E.O. and a Brooklyn resident, to ask her if she had taught his grandchildren and, as it turned out, Ms. Grodek had indeed. We also admired Mr. Terry Groden, a member of the North Olmsted Board of Education, for devoting most of his time to discussing recently passed legislation in Columbus that might have an adverse effect on local school funding. As he left the podium, Mr. Bejjani thanked Mr. Groden and told him that he definitely wanted to learn more about it.

To be sure, several of the candidates commented on the candidates' night proceedings. North Royalton City Councilperson Paul Marnecheck playfully boasted that he was a third generation C.A.M.E.O. member since his grandfather, Mr. Richard Ganim, helped to found the organization. Councilperson Marnecheck, who actually supervised a C.A.M.E.O. candidates' night years ago, showed empathy as he said that he knew how stressful the endorsement process could be so he would yield the rest of his speaking time. Likewise, Councilperson Mark R. Getsay of Westlake observed that the very act of gathering so many politicians in one room and successfully enforcing a two minute speaking time was quite an achievement.

As the evening came to a close, Mr. Mina, who was one of the moderators, said that the members of C.A.M.E.O. take their endorsement process very seriously because by endorsing worthy candidates their organization's credibility is maintained. He also stated that C.A.M.E.O. takes pride in having a membership composed of people of all backgrounds but is able to work together for the betterment of the community.

 

By:

Michael Patterson

Community Liaison,

Margaret W. Wong & Assoc. Co., LLC

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