Breakfast, Transportation And Planning the Next Northeast Ohio.
On Friday, January 8th, we drove to Akron for a breakfast meeting of the Greater Akron Chamber of Commerce. Over 100 people turned out for this event which featured Mr. Brian Bailey, the person who co-founded Old Carolina Barbecue, as the speaker. We were surprised to meet several people here that we knew from networking at other chambers like Ms. Chrisse Louis (Solon Chamber of Commerce), Mr. Bob Pacanovsky (COSE), and Mr. Mark Pinto (10,000 Small Businesses).
Even though Cleveland was about an hour away quite a few people there were familiar with the work of Margaret W. Wong and Associates. In fact, one person that we met told us that he once played soccer with a couple of foreign born people that we assisted with some matters pertaining to their immigration status.
We enjoyed Mr. Bailey's talk very much because he stressed that it is important that a person really like what he does professionally in order to succeed. He entertained us with some humorous stories about how Old Carolina Barbecue (and several other businesses that he established) got started.
We also had a good talk with Ms. Liz Watson from the Hartville Pet Insurance Group about prospects in Akron. Ms. Watson said that even though she had had several opportunities to move out of Akron, she chose to remain here because is "stable, vibrant and a good place to grow-up and to live."
The subject of Akron came up at our next event which was a City Club program on transportation and planning titled "Planning the Next Northeast Ohio" featuring Mr. Jason Russell, Lakewood City Planner, interviewing Ms. Grace Gallucci, Executive Director of the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency, Metropolitan Planning Agency for Greater Cleveland; and Mr. Jason A. Segedy, Director of Planning and Urban Development for the City of Akron . First of all we met Mr. Tim Francisco who told us that he recently conducted a radio show on WYSU 88.5 FM about how Akron recently become an official "Welcoming City" for immigrants.
And then, during the Q and A, we asked about the importance that public transportation to the immigrant population of Northeast Ohio. Mr. Segedy seized the opportunity to talk how Akron's North Hill area has been resettled by people who immigrated to the United States from Bhutan, Burma and Nepal and how they have revitalized neighborhood businesses and rehabilitated many structures. Mr. Segedy told us that public transportation definitely plays a vital role in the community but they were also taking steps to make the area more bike friendly and walkable. He obviously loved working with these newcomers to the United States and mentioned that when a person could afford to buy a car he/she often shared it with the community.
Ms. Gallucci said that immigrants can be important advocates for public transit because they come from countries where it is the most common means of transportation. She went on to tell us that she comes from an immigrant family who believed that if a bus didn't go someplace then that someplace was not worth going to. The rest of the conversation was very informative with Ms. Gallucci and Mr. Segedy both sharing important insights about how some things we have tried in the past have worked and some have not and what should be done in the future regarding planning and transportation. Ms. Gallucci stressed that point that in order for public transportation to achieve its potential it must be regarded not as a social service but as a "mobility option" for everyone regardless of income.
This was the Leonard Ronis Memorial Forum. Mr. Ronis was the last general manager of the Cleveland Transit System, the first general manager of the Regional Transit Authority and a two-term president of the American Public Transit System. He was very respected individual who inspired many people so Mr. Joseph A. Calabrese, CEO and General Manager of the RTA, started the program off by delivered a moving tribute to Mr. Ronis.
We saw and said hello to several people that we knew including Mr. Jim Rokakis (Western Reserve Land Conservancy), Mr. Jay Westbrook (former Cleveland City Councilperson), Mr. Tim Hagen (former Cuyahoga County Commissioner), Mr. Dan Troy (Lake County Commissioner), and Mr. Ray Jurkowski (General Manager of Laketran in Lake County).
We had a good conversation with Mr. Michael J. Connor; President of the Buffalo Cattaraugus and Jamestown Scenic Railway Company, Inc.; and Ms. Sue Mancino from the Ohio Chapter of the National Association of Railroad Passengers about passed up opportunities to expand the railway system in the Cleveland area.
One of the sponsors of the forum (along with the Western Reserve Land Conservancy and OpenNEO) was Bike Cleveland which had an information table there so we got to visit for a couple of minutes with Mr. Rob Thompson, Communication and Membership Manager, who told us about current possibilities of expanding biking in the Cleveland area. Mr. Thompson immigrated to the United States from Australia in 2002 and currently has a green card. He was very knowledgeable about the subject of biking and from him we learned that a cold, snowy winter doesn't necessarily stop a dedicated biker; for instance he, himself, has a bicycle with studded tires. Moreover, some places like Minneapolis have facilities which aid winter bikers.
But...if the current weather conditions in Cleveland continue this winter (if you can call it that)...we believe that most bikers on most days should do just fine for the next couple of months until spring arrives.