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2018: Meet the Candidates; Annual Meeting of The Swedish-American Chamber of Commerce Ohio (SACC-Ohio)

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On Tuesday, January 30th, we went to the City Club to attend another "2018: Meet the Candidates" forum this one featuring Mr. Bill O'Neill who is campaigning for the democratic nomination for Governor of Ohio. To say that Mr. O'Neill is a former Ohio Supreme Court Justice (2013-2017) would be true but it was only one part of his impressive resume because from 1997 until 2007 he was a Judge on the 11th District Court of Appeals; a pediatric nurse; a practicing attorney, a two-time U.S. Congressional candidate in Lake County; and a decorated U.S. Army Officer and a Vietnam Veteran to name only a few of his successful ventures.

On this day, Mr. O'Neill devoted himself to discussing his platform which included legalizing marajuana. This is a highly questionable matter but, to his credit, Mr. O'Neill made a detailed case for doing this very thing with accompanied by strong regulations. He believed that by taxing the product, perhaps $500 million a year could be generated in revenue. Plus he contended that there would be some spinoff industries (such as hemp production) that had an excellent chance of being lucrative.

Among the other things he would work for if elected governor would be a making college more affordable to the lower and middle classes; re-establishing state mental hospitals because many people who are incarcerated now could be better served by good mental health treatment as well as those suffering from an addiction to opioids; solar panels to be installed on all government buildings as well as tax breaks for property owners who use wind and/or solar power to heat their homes in order to further popularize the alternate energy industry; revitalizing laid-aside plans to build a light rail system between Cleveland and Cinncinati;  exploration of new ways to fund public education since the current system has long been judged unconstitutional; and raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour because if people had money they will spend it and in fact boost the businesses who now fear that having to pay such wages would ruin them.

What we liked about Mr. O'Neill was the he didn't rely on scapegoating to get his message across or trying to make complicated issues seem black and white. He acknowledged that some of the charter schools had their problems but he didn't blame parents for sending their children there because many of the public schools are under-performing. As a nurse, he didn't believe it would be to our benefit to "villainize" all doctors and pharmaceutical companies for the opioid crisis because from his own experience he knew that there a some good anti-pain medications out there that need to be brought to the forefront. On the latter point, he indeed had first-hand knowledge and demonstrated this as he described a situation that involved he, himself, having to administer drugs to save a child's life.

Although he favored free community colleges, he didn't believe that it should be free to attend a four-year institution because a benefit would be extended to people who weren't trying and going to college just to have something to do as opposed to those who were struggling to get an education to make something of their lives. He did believe though that the overhead costs for going to college could be cut 10% a year over the next four years thus making the expenses equivalent to what he and his sisters paid for attending Ohio University back in the mid-1960's.

Mr. O'Neill illustrated his commitment to education when he introduced his running mate who is Ms. Chantelle E. Lewis, a former East Cleveland City Councilperson who is now the higly respected principal of Larkmoor Elementary School in Lorain which is recognized as being the highest performing elementary school in that district. We chatted with Ms. Lewis for a moment and she praised the work of immigration attorneys like Ms. Margaret W. Wong because she knew that there were many children whose families are in need of such legal help in the region that she serves.

Along those lines, we arrived early and got to converse for a few minutes privately about immigration matters with Mr. O'Neill (who went to Cleveland-Marshall College of Law at the same time as Ms. Wong) and Mr. Eric Brewer, the former mayor of East Cleveland. Mr. O'Neill wanted to know more about the policies of what is known as "sanctuary cities" and Mr. Brewer, a very knowledgeable and articulate man, filled us both in on some fine points of law enforcement procedure.

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During the Q and A, we brought the immigration issue up again and Mr. O'Neill talked about situations pertaining to laborers that he had encountered in Lake County. He also mentioned that as a community activist he joined with others to show support for an undocumented person, a 20-year fixture in the community, who was suddenly arrested and placed in the Solon jail.

Like us, most of the people at the forum were there because they wanted to hear as many of the candidates running 2018 as possible. We shared a table with Ms. Leslie G. Ungar, a consistent City Club attendee, who said that it was fascinating to hear what they have to say in as many venues as possible which is what we like to do too.

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Later that day we went to the Holiday Inn on Rockside Road in Independence to take in the annual meeting of the Swedish-American Chamber of Commerce Ohio (SACC-Ohio) highlighted by an interactive presentation via television by Mr. Bjorn Arvidsson, Minister Counselor and Head of Trade and Economic Affairs stationed at the Embassy of Sweden in Washington, D.C. This presentation/conversation was arranged by Ms. Malou Monago, Honorary Swedish Consul.

Mr. Arvidsson said that that the Swedish economy is doing quite and that relations with the U.S. are "robust" and this trend should continue no matter which one of the two mainstream parties wins the upcoming election. We learned that Sweden is the 15th largest foreign investor in the United States and that 360,000 U.S. jobs are "supported by Sweden" and in Ohio this number is approximately 15,000 where just a few years ago it was 11,000 so an upswing is quite apparent. On the other side, some 1,300 United States companies have offices in Sweden. Of course, Mr. Arvidsson conveyed some concern about how our new tax policies might affect foreign investments but even here his attitude was more "let's wait and see" instead of anxiety. 

Indeed it seems that "Swedish Footprints Facing Future" which is this year's theme at the Swedish embassy is quite appropriate. During the Q and A, it was also pointed out that many of the songs sang by such artists as Ms. Britney Spears were written by Swedish songwriters.

We asked Mr. Arvidsson about Swedish immigration to the United States and he replied that since the economy was pretty good, not an inordinate number of people wanted to leave their homeland at this time. If they did, it was probably because they had a job opportunity elsewhere. On the other hand, due to its high standard of living and democratic values, quite a number of people would like to immigrate to Sweden. After the presentation, we threw out a question about the number of refugees entering Sweden as of late and we learned from several SACC-Ohio members that this was a very problematic situation because Sweden accepted a million multicultural refugees in just three years and it was estimated that the process of learning the language and adjusting to the Swedish lifestyle sometimes takes seven years. Along these lines, having to accommodate the number of unaccompanied minors is especially challenging.

One of the people who we liked visiting with while we were there was Mr. Arthur Rice, an adjunct professor at Kent State University who is teaching a class titled "Global Business Management". He said that it was interesting because last semester he taught this class during the day to mostly young, seemingly not-too-interested people who didn't participate in the discussions that much. This time, however, he taught the class at night mostly to people who worked during the day and could at least appreciate what he was talking about. As a result, classroom participation has been excellent. 

 

Michael Patterson

Community Liaison,

Margaret W. Wong & Assoc. Co., LLC

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