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Building One Ohio

On Monday, December 15th, we drove to Strongsville for the "Building One Ohio End of the Year Celebration and Awards Reception" which took place at the Ehrnfelt Recreation and Senior Center. Building One Ohio works in conjunction with Building One America to bring together local civic, elected and community leaders to explore bipartisan/nonpartisan solutions to challenges facing middle class communities such as situations pertaining to housing, schools, water, and, of particular discussion lately, transportation and infrastructure. In June of this year, Building One Ohio conducted a Northeast Ohio regional summit, also at the Ehrnfelt Center, in which 150 people attended including city council people, union leaders, and representatives from such organizations as Fresh Water Cleveland. The focus was on how state and federal policies can affect an entire region instead of just a particular city. One of the participants was Mr. Dean Rusk, national policy expert, who said that this was not about government mergers but acting "as one on issues that cross municipal boundaries." According to the conversations that we overheard and what people said in their speeches, the June summit was quite a success.

Today the award recipients were Mayor Georgine Welo of South Euclid (Visionary Leader of the Year), Dr. Byron White, Vice President for Community Engagement at CSU (Strategic Partner of the Year), Mr. Anthony Liberatore, Jr. of Local 860 (Powerful Ally of the Year), and Mayor Thomas Perciak of Strongsville (Mayor of the Year). Unfortunately, Dr. White couldn't be there on this day so former Cuyahoga County Councilman Julian Rogers, who now works with him at CSU, accepted his award for him.

Mayor Welo and Mayor Perciak kicked off today's event by welcoming all of the attendees. Mayor Welo said that "we are one" because it doesn't really matter where you live or what your political party happens to be, this organization is about diversity and all people working together. Mayor Perciak said that we were there for the common cause of building a better Ohio and to create a better atmosphere in which people of different beliefs can actually work together; something that has not been taking place lately in Washington, D.C. Mayor Perciak believed that a lot of political clout is created when an eastside democrat like Mayor Welo can work with a westside republican such as himself.

We shared a table with Mr. Liberatore, Cleveland City Councilman Zack Reed, Mayor Tom Coyne of Brook Park, Ohio State Rep. Bill Patmon, and Mr. Terry Killeen and Mr. Douglas J. Hogan of First Energy. During the course of our conversation, the issue of immigration came up and Councilman Reed told us that he didn't see how Congress could rescind President Obama's executive order because it would make no sense for them to do so. Immigration also came up when we were speaking with Dr. Robert Kleidman of the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences at CSU who did much of the planning and organizing for this event. Dr. Kleidman told us that his grandmother's parents had immigrated to the United States from Lithuania before she was born, thus she was a citizen by birth. In the 1920's, however, she lost her citizenship because she married a person who was not an American. She thus had to re-apply and became a naturalized citizen. Dr. Kleidman told us that this pertained only to women; if his grandmother had been a man who had married a foreign born woman he could have kept his citizenship.

Mr. Keith Benjamin, Director of Public Services for the City of South Euclid, is very involved in AsiaTown and asked that we say hello to Ms. Wong for him.

The awards were handed out by Lakewood City Councilman Tom Bullock and Warrensville Heights Mayor Brad Sellers. Councilman Bullock read the Building One statement of purpose which is "organizing for inclusion, sustainability, and economic growth." He went on to say that this was not about regionalism but about "pairing up" and praised the organization's bipartisan/nonpartisan approach because he had learned through his own experience that on local level issues, the citizenry wants practical solutions to problems instead of partisan ones.

After we left the event in Strongsville, we hurried over to Severance Hall for the "Engage! Cleveland" holiday networking event. We picked up some literature for "Engage! Cleveland" that told us that it is a "link between young professionals and Cleveland." Among its goals are to "connect young professionals to each other and the community"; "strengthen and convene young professional organizations"; "assist employers with attracting, engaging and retaining talent"; and "showcase Cleveland as a top destination for young professionals."

From what we saw at this gathering, it was doing all of the above because there were at least 300 people there. We networked for a while and were then were treated to a beautiful violin duet by Ms. Alexandra Preucil and Mr. Jeff Zehngut of the Cleveland Orchestra before we went back again to networking. We were happy that we made about 25 new contacts including a woman named Victoria who shares a building with an accountant who handles a lot of foreign born people and a man named John who told us that his country is always looking to hire engineers and might eventually reach out to other countries to do so.

We had a particularly good conversation with Ms. Jackie Adams and her friend, Mr. Earl Pike. Ms. Adams started the U.S. Chapter of "tareto maa" which is a home for young girls in Kenya who have run away from home rather than have to go through genital mutilation and marriages to older men. At this home, the young women are fed, sheltered and educated. At this time a trade school is being created, thanks in part to the partnership of the University of Nevada, so that these young women can become financially independent. We gave Ms. Adams our contact information and told her to stay in touch.

Between our networking encounters we relaxed with Ms. Jill Pecoraro of the Cleveland Leadership Center and took turns taking each other's photo holding a violin.

After we told Mr. Brendan Sweeney that we worked for Margaret W. Wong and Associates, he told us that his father had immigrated from Ireland to the United States in 1960 when he was in his 20's; he literally came here via ship. In Ireland he had worked as a carpenter so he was eventually able to secure a position with Lincoln Electric where he worked for 33 years before he retired some 15 years ago. Through his beloved father's hard work, Mr. Brendan Sweeney was able to attend college and now has a very responsible position with Forest City and is also quite involved with "Engage! Cleveland." We asked him if it was all right that we were there because we are not exactly "young professionals" any more (although there were a few older people there too). Mr. Sweeney replied by laughing and saying, "you are here for the long run!"

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