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Knowledgeable Network of Women(KNOW) Luncheon; Unfortunate State of The Infrastructure of The United States

On Wednesday, May 11th, we started the day off by driving to the Sheraton Hotel on Front Street in Cuyahoga Falls to attend an event for KNOW (Knowledgeable Network of Women) which "is a networking and professional development program established by the Greater Akron Chamber. KNOW's mission is to cultivate the talent within each other by reaching out to today's women executives and tomorrow's leaders" as its literature stated.

The program started in 2004 and in 2005 there were only 53 members; today there are 450. Throughout the year there are "empowering women luncheons" and "meet and greets" such as this one today which was attended by perhaps 20 members.

We were thus able to establish contacts with quite a few professional women including a therapist who often assists the children of Bhutanese refugees where she works at the Akron General Hospital. She, herself, is a child of immigrants who immigrated to the United States from Italy in the 1950's. She talked about how many of these Italian immigrants (not her parents though) used to work at the Firestone and Goodyear rubber plants during this time period.

Next week KNOW is having a luncheon and we plan to attend.

Our next event was a luncheon at the City Club (also attended by Ms. Elaine Price who is the wife of our Mr. Gordon Landefeld both of whom are very environmentally conscious) which featured Mr. Greg DiLoreto, Chair of the American Society for Civil Engineers (ASCE) speaking about unfortunate state of the infrastructure of the United IMG_0911 States.

His organization consists of thousands of members and every four years they gather all the available data together and issue a report card on the status of 16 categories of infrastructure so the American public and its leadership can see where improvements are necessary. These before-mentioned categories are aviation, bridges, dams, drinking water, energy, hazardous waste, inland waterways, levees, ports, public parks and recreation, rail, roads, schools,solid waste, transit and wastewater.

In 2013, the date of the last report card, the cumulative G.P.A. was a "D+" and it is estimated that it will cost $3.6 trillon of repairs/replacements to bring the grade up to a "B" by 2020. The three factors that were most responsible for the "D+" grade were age, time, and money. Along these lines, one point that was brought up was that some of the piping in Washington, D.C. that dates back to the civil war!

Mr. DiLoreto offered five indisputable facts which were that as of 2013 there were 240,000 water main breaks in the U.S. per year; 52 service interruptions a day

IMG_0912 throughout the system; 1 in every 9 bridges rated as structurally deficient; 4,000 dams currently deficient in the United States; and that the average cost to U.S. business was $1,000.00 per power disruption. Thankfully, Mr. DiLoreto focused much of his presentation on the costs to all of us if action is not taken in the near future. Among the figures that he cited would be a $3.9 trillion loss to the U.S. GDP; a loss of 2.5 million jobs by 2025; and a drop in income of $3,400.00 to the average household.

On a more positive note, Mr. DiLoreto pointed out that the U.S. spends only 1% of its GDP on infrastructure and we would only have to spend 1% more to turn it around. This would cost the average household only $3.00 a day which

IMG_0910is, as he mentioned, about the price of a Starbucks Latte.

The solutions that Mr. DiLoreto cited were the need for bold leadership and a compelling vision; Repairs/Replacements that were "sustainable" and "resilient"; and effective prioritization and planning combined with smart spending. He was quick to add that all of the legislators that he had spoken to regardless of their party affiliation agreed that something definitely had to be done; the only question was how to obtain the funding. Mr. DiLoreto therefore challenged us all to contact our political leaders and let them know that we were prepared to make sacrifices such as the endorsement of a gasoline tax that 23 states already have adopted.

As far as local leadership, Mr. DiLoreto was preceded in today's program by Mr. Julius Ciaccia, Jr., CEO of the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District and Mr. Bryan Stubbs, Executive Director of the Cleveland Water Alliance who both gave short statements in support of what Mr. DiLoreto would be saying.

During the Q and A, a noteworthy question was asked by Ms. Erin Huber, Executive Director and Founder of "Drink Local, Drink Tap" about how low-come, impoverished areas could be expected to upgrade their infrastructure

IMG_0913properly and cited Flint, Michigan as an example. Mr. DiLoreto readily acknowledged that this was indeed a problem and Mr. Dan Moulthrop, CEO of the City Club, thought that there should be a "social justice indicator" on the 2017 report card.

Another pertinent question about making small children aware of the situation was asked by Ms. Jenny Brown who was there with her husband, Mr. Glenn Brown. They are both old friends of Ms. Margaret W. Wong and Ms. Brown is the founding chairperson of the Cleveland Water Alliance.

Before the program started, we talked to a man who we have seen several times before at the City Club. At this time, he was very happy to report that Margaret W. Wong and Associates had done a good job assisting his daughter-in-law who would finally be able to move here from Cambodia. He was impressed by the relatively shortness of time that the process had taken.

As we were leaving, we stopped to talk to Ms. Barbara Hawkins who we see quite often at Cleveland Council on World Affairs events. She told us that her son is Mr. George Hawkins, CEO and General Manager of the District of Columbia Water and Sewer Authority, who led the successful drive to get an initiative passed to replace the Civil War time piping in that community. In our eyes, Mr. Hawkins is a bold leader with a compelling vision which was exactly what Mr. DiLoreto had called for.


Michael Patterson 

Community Liaison,

Margaret W. Wong & Assoc. Co., LLC.

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