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How the Cuyahoga River Fire Saved the World and True-ish Stories

On Friday, November 18th, we went to the City Club for a program titled "How the Cuyahoga River Fire Saved the World and True-ish Stories" where the speaker was Professor David Stradling, Ph.D. who has taught urban and environmental history for years at the University of Cincinnati where he now serves as the Associate Dean for img_6110Humanities at the McMicken College of Arts and Sciences. Along with his brother, Richard Stradling, he is co-author of the book, "Where the River Burned: Carl Stokes and the Struggle to Save Cleveland." We had met Professor Stradling in April, 2015 when we attended a CSU Presidential Forum on African-American Mayoral Leadership in the United States where he and his brother were both panelists.

It was Professor Stradling's contention that the June, 1969 was not so important by itself but it pointed to bigger problems that Cleveland was facing regarding pollution and physically detriorating neighborhoods. Mayor Stokes realized this and used the occasion to take the press on a tour of polluted areas and to bring these problems into focus. Unfortunately, many of these problems needed to be addressed on a regional basis so as mayor he could do very little.  Fortunately, the environmental movement was gaining steam at this time and the images of the burning river attracted nationwide attention and federal legislation like the Clean Water Act soon came into being thanks to efforts made by such people as the mayor's brother, U.S. Congressman Louis R. Stokes.img_6109

Along these lines, Dr. Alex Johnson, the President of Cuyahoga Community College, announced that 2017 will be the 50th anniversary of Mr. Carl Stokes being elected Mayor of Cleveland and his policies and there will be several programs devoted to celebrating both Mayor Carl Stokes and Congressman Louis Stokes' legacies and examining their policies.

As the program notes indicated, the presentation on this day was one in a series regarding the value of water sponsored by the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District (NORSD) along with support from the Great Lakes Brewing Company and the Unger Family Foundation. Mr. Julius Ciaccia, CEO of the NORSD, spoke for a moment and said that he appreciated it that the good work of the sewer district was being recognized here. He also thanked local elected officials and community leaders for having the courage to raise the funding for capital investments regarding the sewer district. He noted that Cleveland is now far ahead of other communities in this area. Another speaker was Mr. Eric Sokol, Program Coordinator of the Cleveland Water Alliance who said that 2016 had been a great year in terms of obtaining funding, developing patents and creating jobs.

Getting back to Professor Stradling's presentation, since it concerned an important part of Cleveland's history we were glad that the attendees included approximately 27 students from St. Ignatius High School chaperoned by Mr. Bob Wimbiscus, a teacher of Cleveland and world history, and that Mr. Forest Clayton, Dean of Engagement for the MC2 STEM High School, brought 9 students with him.

We had a good conversation with Professor Andrew Bajada from the Business, Mathematics and Technology Dept. at Cuyahoga Community College who hopes to soon escort some students to China in order that they might witnessimg_6113 hope business is conducted there. We also enjoyed visiting with now retired Professor Bob Heath, an Ecosystem Ecologist at Kent State University. Professor Heath told us that he has enjoyed working with international students over the years because the learning has been mutual; he has both imparted knowledge and has learned from his students.

As a bonus today, Dan Moulthrop, City Club CEO, announced that contributors recently donated their collections of political buttons to the City Club's already impressive collection. We got there early and thus we got to watch Ms. Maria Gerstenberger, Manager of Content, place buttons from the Trump/Clinton/Sanders campaigns in the glass cases. The City Club now has a display reaching back to 1828 and ending this year in 2016.


Michael Patterson 

Community Liaison,

Margaret W. Wong & Assoc. Co., LLC

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