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Out & About in Cleveland

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Cinco de Mayo Celebration at City Hall

On Tuesday, May 5th, we of course attended the annual Cinco De Mayo celebration in the Rotunda at Cleveland City Hall which was put on by the City of Cleveland's Community Relations Board. A lot of our friends were there helping out like Ms. Lucy Torres and Ms. Chia-Min Chen, respectively the Hispanic Liaison and Asian Liaison at Cleveland City Hall which is an illustration of how the different communities of Cleveland can come together to put on events like this one. Indeed, Reverend Eddie Negron captured the spirit of the program when he said that Cleveland was an inclusive, not an exclusive city.

Other speakers like Mr. Blaine A. Griffin, Executive Director of the Community Relations Board; Cleveland Mayor Frank G. Jackson; and Cleveland City Council President Kevin Kelley who all echoed the reverend as they praised the diversity of Cleveland.

A nice surprise occurred when Ms. Natividad Pagan, the Principal of the International Newcomers Academy at Thomas Jefferson, was honored for her years of service to the Cleveland schools.

Mr. Lou Acosta of Northcoast Magazines served as the emcee and reminded us that Cinco De Mayo is not Mexico's Independence Day which is September 16th. Instead it commemorates the victory of the Mexican militia over the French army at the Battle of Puebla in 1862. The militia was poorly armed and outnumbered but because its members loved their country and had courage they were able to win. As the program notes stated, "the victory was a glorious moment for the Mexican patriots, which at the time helped to develop a needed sense of national unity, and is the cause for the historical day's celebration."

One of the two main speakers for this event was Mr. Juan Manuel Solana Morales, Consul of Mexico in Detroit. Mr. Morales said that he believed that Cleveland was one of the most important cities in the United States and has high hopes regarding the new groundbreaking program at MetroHealth called Ventanilla de Salud/Window of Health which will help Hispanics obtain vital medical services. In fact we were there at this program's kickoff several weeks ago and are excited about its potential.

The second main speaker was U.S. Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur who acknowledged that the history and relationship between the United States and Mexico is long and complicated but by studying the history of both countries, one can appreciate the struggle of people to fight off their oppressors to achieve liberty. She quoted the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. who said that the "arc of the moral universe is long but it bends towards justice."

That evening we drove to LaMalfa Party Center in Mentor to attend a fundraiser for Mr. Kevin Malecek who was recently appointed to the office of Lake County Commissioner. Mr. Malecek will face his first election in 2016 but he is wisely getting an early start to secure resources.

We could only stay for a little while so we asked Mr. Malecek (who we worked with when he was President/CEO of the Mentor Chamber of Commerce) what his priorities are. He replied that the top priority is to keep Lake County stable budgetarily. Plus, Lake County's population is growing older so Mr. Malecek wants to explore what can be done to attract and retain younger families. We talked to him for a moment about immigration because Painesville has a sizable Hispanic population. Mr. Malecek said that immigration reform at the federal level is necessary and he would like to see the immigrants of today have the same opportunities that they had 100 years ago because, and we share his belief, we are all the children of immigrants.

We passed Mr. Roger Sustar, CEO of the Fredon Corporation, in the hall so we talked to him for a minute about the talk that he gave at the last Mentor Chamber Luncheon where he said that education should be looked at as a tool to help a young person establish a career. We also met Ms. Heather DiFranco, who is the Director of the Office of Career Planning at CSU. Ms. DiFranco certainly has heard of Ms. Margaret W. Wong and admires her for all that she has done to help others. Lastly, we had a good conversation about the upcoming election in 2016 with Mr. Mark A. Schneider, who is a city council candidate in the City of Lakewood and Mr. Martin LaMalfa who is Senior Vice President of the very place where we were having this gathering.

We were glad to see that Mr. Malecek was so popular that all of the tables were full and the buffet line was long. Quite a few people were starting to sit down on the stage and eat because there were no more chairs. We asked Ms. Lisa Klammer, Lake County Prosecutor, why she thought that this was so and she replied that "Kevin helps everyone else out so now they are helping him out."

We hope that this trend continues through the November, 2016 election.

Our last event for the night was the monthly "Happy Dog Takes on the World" at the Happy Dog (where else?) at 58th Street and Detroit Avenue in Cleveland. Tonight the topic was "The World Water Crisis" and the panelists were Ms. Elizabeth Holst, Founder and CEO of "SplashLink" which is an online marketplace that connects the global water industry to various resources; Ms. Erin Huber, Executive Director of "Drink Local, Drink Tap" that "inspires individuals to recognize and solve our water issues through creative education events and providing safe water access to people in need"; and Mr. David Christof from "Run Around the World for Safe Drinking Water" who has taken part in many track events throughout the world in the name of clean water and works to educate students about the world water crisis. Mr. Christof is from the Czech Republic and has been taking part in activities throughout the United States since December, 2014. He will be Cleveland for two weeks total.

The discussion was moderated by Mr. Tony Ganzer, a host/producer of WCPN, who alluded to Cinco De Mayo when he said that we are talking about water on this particular day when everyone else is drinking beer and margaritas.

All of the panelists were of a similar philosophy so they worked together to impart the message that 80% of the world's water supply in not secure and people in countries like East Africa where the poverty is high are particularly vulnerable. Most of the projects that were intended to help fail after two years because they are not sustainable and not tailored to the specific needs of the community. A good water project does not have to be costly; in fact Ms. Huber's ultimately successful project to bring safe drinking water to a Uganda village via a well was very cost efficient.

Too many of us take clean water for granted and, even though we have an abundance here in Cleveland, we should all practice conservation methods like turning off our water taps immediately after obtaining the water that we need for simple household tasks. If we do not do something about this now, the costs will be much higher later on. An example of this is China which was so focused on economic growth for many years that it allowed its water infrastructure deteriorated. They are now spending or will spend billions to upgrade it.

All of the panelists agreed with the United Nations which considers universal access to water to be a basic human right and an essential step towards improving worldwide living standards. We admired all of the panelists for their passion and dedication to what they are doing. In fact this Saturday at Edgewater Park, there will be an event titled "4 Miles 4 Water" featuring a 4 mile race and a 1 mile walk. Mr. Christof will take part and all of the proceeds will go towards supporting the projects and programs of "Drink Water, Drink Tap" and we hope that we will be able to attend.

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