Elyria's 2016 Mayor's Address; "Mardi Gras" business networking and "Understanding Leads to Peace"
On Tuesday, February 9th, we drove to Wesleyan Village in Elyria to hear Elyrian Mayor Holly Brinda give her 2016 Mayor's Address which was comparable to our Mayor Frank Jackson's State of the City. Mayor Brinda's address was very detailed and made use of a power point with almost 70 slides to explain the conditions in Elyria as at right now and what progress she envisions in the future. Among the subject's that she talked about were steps being taken to improve the city's economy, how the city's employees are striving to deliver excellent services with lessening resources, plans to revive the downtown area, safety concerns and Law Dept. successes, promotion of public health, infrastructure repairs, strengthening neighborhoods, and parks and recreation matters. One point that we found promising was that there has been a Jumpstart Elyria market analysis and re-development strategy for parts of Elyria that will be implemented. In order to do this, the city is working with 30 community partners to leverage redevelopment projects. Just as Cleveland is doing, there will be "mix-use business (and eventually residential) development downtown to attract more residents and visitors, including young professionals from neighboring communities." We were especially glad to hear that Mayor Brinda seeks to encourage a protocol amongst localities regarding business re-location. This program was put on by the Lorain County Chamber of Commerce so we got to meet several prominent people like Mr. Thomas G. Jama, Superintendent of the Elyria City School District; Elyria's Police Chief and Law Director (respectively) Mr. Duane Whitley and Mr. Scott Serazin; and Lorain County Commissioners Mr. Matt Lundy, Ms. Lori Kokoski, and Mr. Ted Kalo. We shared a table with Ms. Debra A. Cihla, the CEO of Wesleyan Village and Ms. Robin A. Kaufman, the President of Aztec Steel, a business founded by her family 125 years ago. Another person who sat near us was Ms. Betsey Kamm who works for The Nord Center (Comprehensive Behavorial Healthcare) in Lorain but drives there each day from Euclid not far from where we live in Euclid Beach. As it turned out, we both enjoy spending time at the Euclid Library. We surprised and delighted to run into Ms. Maude De La Porte, who along with her late husband Mr. Arnie De La Porte, is an old friend of Ms. Margaret W. Wong. Speaking of old friends, we introduced ourselves to Ms. Jennifer Gallant, who worked all over Cleveland/Lorain as a librarian for 40 years. When we told her that we worked for Margaret W. Wong and Associates, Ms. Gallant brightened and said that her parents and Ms. Margaret W.Wong's family were friends quite a few years ago. She laughed and said that this was long before Ms. Wong "achieved greatness." One person that we are starting to see at events is Ms. Joan Samkow of Big Brothers, Big Sisters of Lorain County. She was present at the Mayor's Address and we saw her at the "Mardi Gras" business networking event put on by North Coast Chamber/Power of More at Westside Jaguar on Brookpark Road in Cleveland. We both laughed and admitted that we both do get around. We then encountered Mayor Kelly Gallagher of Brooklyn and told her about Mayor Brinda's speech.After speaking with the mayor, we made a good connection with an insurance agent who assists a lot of foreign-born people. Two other people that we saw at the Mardi Gras that we had seen recently at other places were Ms. Nikki DiFilippo who we saw at the City Club when Ms. Whitney Johnson spoke and Mr. David Bourque who we satnext to at a recent Brecksville Chamber of Commerce meeting. Next we talked to a man named Richard who told us that he had listened to a program on NPR about how some churches are trying to assist undocumented immigrants. We met a woman with a good sense of humor named Kim who is a certified wedding and event planner who does just about everything that she has to do make the wedding itself (including those for the LGBT community) a success even though she could not account for what happens afterwards. By the time we left Westside Jaguar, it was snowing heavily but that didn't matter because we had less than three miles to go to our last event which took place at the Islamic Center of Cleveland. This gathering was titled "Understanding Leads to Peace" and was organized by Cleveland Peace Action "to gain an understanding of Muslim religious beliefs and practices, family and social life." The speaker was Mr. Musa Sugapong who handles outreach programs for the mosque. In the space of about 45 minutes, he did an excellent job of capsulizing the topics of what Islam is; who Muslims are; what distinguishes American Muslims; the beliefs, practices, and spirituality of Muslims; and the origins of Islam in the Abrahamic faiths. There was then a Q and A in which the attendees were encouraged to ask any questions that they wanted and Mr. Sugapong was more that willing to talk about such sensitive topics such as schools in Pakistan that might be encouraging violent behavior. He said that one simply has to explore google to find countless examples of Islamic leaders and organizations who have condemned the violence of Isis which includes every prominent and respected Muslim organization throughout the world. Mr. Sugapong discussed his own fascinating background. He was born in San Diego, California and has been living in Cleveland for the past 4.5 years. His parents immigrated to the United States from the Philippines and were not Muslims themselves but he, himself, converted when he was only 19 and went on to devote a large part of his life to practicing his faith because he loved it so much and has gotten so much out of it. We were particularly glad to see Ms. Karen Posner, who we have met before, there on this occasion, along with a friend of hers named Melanie. Both of them attend John Carroll University and have busy study schedules but really wanted to attend this program because they are both very socially concerned and committed. This was evidenced by the fact that even though neither Karen or Melanie are Muslims, they still wore hajibs out of respect for the house of worship that they were visiting.