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Civitism: Cleveland City Council's Policy Agenda 2015-2017

On Wednesday, June 17th, we started off at the City Club where we attended a presentation by Cleveland City Council President Kevin J. Kelley titled "Civitism: Cleveland City Council's Policy Agenda 2015-2017". At the beginning of the program, Mr. Dan Moulthrop, City Club CEO, said that if ever we needed to be lifted up, today is the day referring to the Cavs' loss of the NBA Championship the evening before so Mr. Kelley rose to the occasion with a very inspiring speech.

"Civitism," said Mr. Kelley, "is a term used by Cleveland's 37th mayor, Newton D. Baker. Civitism is the equivalent of patriotism at the municipal level. The concept of civitism holds that the greatness of a city does not depend on its buildings, but rather on the intensity with which its citizens love their city as their home."

Mr. Kelley said that the role of local government is to do provide public safety, exemplary services, and to maintain the infrastructure. But we must also deal with quality of life issues that affect the "soul" of the city. Of course we will partner with developers to create beautiful buildings but we must all work to together to meet certain challenges like infant mortality which, during Mr. Kelley's tenure, will not be a "beer of the month" issue but an ongoing effort instead because we already know "what works" so it is a matter of delivering the best practices and necessary resources. Also high on Mr. Kennedy's agenda are to fight lead poisoning, opium addiction, and blight removal.

He also discussed the unrest that has been prevalent after the recent controversial police shootings and how he and other councilpersons held community meetings and listened to people express their outrage. Mr. Kelley said that the goal is to restore confidence in police/community relations and even though we have a long way to go in this regard he hopes that someday Cleveland will be a model for them.

He concluded by saying that among our goals must be iconic buildings; beautiful, well-designed and maintained public spaces; and to leave no person out of Cleveland's recovery.

For this gathering, the City Club was packed with a waiting list. Among those present were Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson and many members of the Cleveland City Council. Accordingly, there were representatives there from a wide range of organizations like Cleveland Building and Construction Trades, Greater Cleveland Partnership, Cleveland Playhouse, MetroHealth System, Cleveland Metroparks, and the Legal Aid Society to name a few.

During his presentation, Mr. Kelley mentioned that another priority for Cleveland, thanks to the efforts of Councilman Cimperman, is the "plight of refugees" and extensive efforts have been made to make Cleveland City Hall more accessible to those who are struggling with the English language and cultural differences. During the Q and A, we asked him about what could be done to attract more immigrants to Cleveland. Mr. Kelley said that the city is working with Global Cleveland because attracting more immigrants here is "the right thing to do" since they contribute greatly to the rebuilding of neighborhoods and economic development so on this point "we're all in!"

As soon as we left the City Club we drove directly to the Gordon Square Arts District to "Startup Scaleup 2015" which was JumpStart's annual community event. As their literature stated, on this day the attendee will "see the full spectrum of resources available to help entrepreneurs, small business owners and job seekers throughout the 21 counties of Northeast Ohio." Thus, the attendee would be able to chart his/her own path through 28 different events at 13 different venues based entirely on his/her "individual entrepreneurial journey."

There was a pitch competition; a social wherein marketing experts talked about branding, social media and websites; a presentation about what companies are looking for in terms of entrepreneurial talent; a presentation on how to market a tech product; and many more. Among the locales for these events were the Near West Theatre, the Happy Dog, the Capitol Theatre, and the Gordon Square Atrium.

Global Cleveland was kind enough to let Margaret W. Wong and Associates put some of its literature on their table at the Near West Theatre. We sat in on a presentation put on by Mr. Richey Piiparinen, Director of the Center of Population Dynamics at CSU, about the New Economy and what Cleveland's place in it will be. As we have said before, Mr. Piiparinen is a strong advocate of making Cleveland hospitable to immigrants because they are twice as likely to start as business as someone who is originally from the U.S.; they are globally connected; and their knowledge leads to more economic development (which Mr. Kelley said earlier). In fact, Mr. Piiparinen considers immigrants to be the "tip of the spear" in terms of economic development. He told us that Cleveland/Northeast Ohio ranks fifth in the nation in terms of attracting immigrants with advanced degrees.

We introduced ourselves to quite a few people in just a couple of hours and exchanged contact information with representatives from such organizations as the University of Akron Research Foundation, Ohio Aerospace Institute, the Youngstown Business Incubator, Brain Tree Business Development Center, Cleveland SCORE and Bizdom. Most of these were concerned with helping startups.

We talked to several interesting people who were starting their own companies including Mr. Martin Basiri who just started a company named Apply Board which helps international students "find, connect and apply" to a United States University that is right for their own particular needs. And, there were two promising young CSU students from India named Ravi and Mrunal who are already laying the groundwork to start their own software company.

Our last event for the day was at the Maltz Museum where we were recognized and warmly welcomed by Mr. Jeffrey Allen, Director of Education and Public Programs. The presentation of the evening was titled "Integrating Cleveland Baseball" by Ms. Stephanie Liscio who also wrote a book titled "Integrating Cleveland Baseball: Media Activism, the Integration of the Indians, and the Demise of the Cleveland League Buckeyes" and co-founded a blog titled "It's Pronounced Lajaway" which strives "to take a thoughtful approach to the Indians involving sabermetrics and analysis, as well as some pieces that may be off the beaten path."

Mr. Allen told us that earlier on Ms. Liscio gave her presentation to the Maltz Museum docents who just loved it. We, ourselves, know almost nothing about sports but we found Ms. Liscio to be delightful and we very impressed by her knowledge and her enthusiasm regarding the subject matter so we settled back and had a good time as we listened to her cover the period from 1920 to 1950 when the milestones of integration occurred.

Ms. Liscio talked about the formation of the "negro leagues" in the 1920's and how the big push for integration came during World War II with the "double v campaign" which called for beating the tyrants abroad and racial equality at home. Most of the presentation centered around Cleveland so we learned a lot about how the "Call and Post" campaigned for integration and how Mr. Bill Veeck, as owner and team president of the Cleveland Indians back in 1947, signed Mr. Larry Doby and successfully integrated the American League as well as all aspects of the stadium; African American reporters were allowed to share the press box with their white counterparts.

Near the end of the presentation, we discussed what has been going in in baseball lately and why the percentage of African American players has dropped considerably since the 1970's. Ms. Liscio was open to all ideas and suggestions and we got to talk about how our own son preferred soccer and water polo to baseball when he was younger because they moved so much faster.

We told Mr. Allen that we were glad that Ms. Liscio was chosen to make this presentation because it broke she broke the stereotype of sports being mostly a matter for men. Along these lines, Ms. Liscio looks forward to the time in the not-too-distant future when we will see a woman pitching in the major leagues and we look forward to that also.

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