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Out & About in Cleveland

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Painesville Chamber, City Club Youth Forum, and the Judges

Our first event for Thursday, January 29, 2015, was a special networking event that is put on by the Painesville Chamber of Commerce every fifth Thursday. On this day it was held at the Grove Church of Lake County and was put on in conjunction with the Madison-Perry Chamber of Commerce. We met several people today including Ms. Julie Headings of the Lake County YMCA, Ms. Tricia Young of the Painesville Area Little League, and Mr. Frank Cheraso, Principal of Summit Academy School in Painesville.

Mr. David Komjati of KeyBank, the President of the Painesville Chamber, and Ms. Alice Cable, the President of the Madison-Perry Chamber, were both there and said that during 2015 both chambers plan to work together more often because they have discovered that members from both chambers "like the same thing and live in close proximity to each other." We liked hearing this because the Painesville Chamber, which we belong to, has 454 members and the Madison-Perry Chamber has 260 members so more collaboration creates more opportunities for Margaret W. Wong and Associates.

We felt honored when someone said that even though we are from Cleveland we are "as active as anyone out there" in terms of attending chambers of commerce and community events in both Painesville and Mentor.

Our second event for Thursday was a City Club Youth Forum titled "The Cleveland Renaissance" featuring panelists Ms. Marianne Crosley, President and CEO of the Cleveland Leadership Center; Mr. Tom Heinen, Co-President of Heinen's Fine Food Stores; and Mr. Alonzo Mitchell, Founder and Managing Partner of Ohio Homecoming. It was moderated by Mr. Nick Rutherford, Youth Forum Council Member.

All of the panelists were initially from Cleveland but they left it as soon as they could when they were younger because, until recent years, morale in Cleveland was very low. However, different circumstances caused them all to return to Cleveland; for Ms. Crosley it was marriage, for Mr. Heinen it was his family's business, and Mr. Mitchell made up his mind to come back here and devote 10 years of his life to making it better. And all of them were ultimately very glad that they returned.

They agreed that Cleveland has been undergoing a renaissance in recent years. Ms. Crosley said that it "was a rebirth and a new beginning" and noted "a new attitudinal shift." Mr. Heinen recalled that when he left Cleveland in 1973 to attend college there were only 6,000 people living downtown, but when he committed to creating the new downtown Heinen's Grocery Store, there were 12,000 people there -- and he believes that the number has climbed to 14,000 people.  The new store will open on February 25th. Mr. Mitchell said that a renaissance was definitely occurring and anyone who doesn't think so is a "true hater." He talked about the positive changes in downtown Cleveland and places like Tremont and then said "but let's be real" and noted that certain areas of Cleveland have not been on the upswing as much as others and concluded by saying that "we still have a long way to go." Later he talked about the "Village Project" on the eastside which deals with the purchase and renovation of older houses as a positive step.

Ms. Crosley said the word she would use to describe Cleveland at this time is "accelerating," Mr. Heinen said that it was "family friendly," and Mr. Mitchell said that the words were "potential and resilience."

When asked what advice would they give to young people regarding the downtown renaissance and Cleveland's future, Mr. Heinen said that they should not be afraid to move away for a while and experience other cities so they could bring something back with them. He went on to say that there is no greater satisfaction than to give back to the city you grew up in. Regarding the potential impact of young people on Cleveland's future, the three panelists all agreed that, even though the 2016 RNC convention and the return of Lebron James are undoubtedly things to be happy about, young people, like those at the City Club on this day were the future of Cleveland. Ms. Crosley said that "we pass the baton to all of you. It is your responsibility to carry Cleveland forward." Mr. Heinen said that if people not from Cleveland saw the passion of Clevelanders for their city, then the passion would transfer to one person at a time and "our spectrum rises."

Today's program was attended by students from 18 different schools including St. Ignatius High School, Collinwood High School, and Hathaway Brown. We talked to Ms. Denise Wrona, an English Teacher from John Adams High School who told us that her students were writing speeches on pertinent topics and several of them were going to talk about immigration. Ms. Wrona asked us where they could find information on immigration and we told her that there were several items posted on the website of Margaret W. Wong and Associates, and showed her the website on our cell phone. We enjoyed sharing a table with Mrs. Coaston and several government and history students from Shaw High School and one student from John Adams.

Since many students wanted to ask questions during the Q and A, we waited until the program concluded before we asked Mr. Heinen and Mr. Mitchell if they thought that more immigrants moving to Cleveland could be a very important factor in its comeback. Mr. Heinen said that he knew that there were many jobs available in Cleveland that he could see immigrants successfully filling and Mr. Mitchell said that more immigrants moving to Cleveland could really help the city just as they have helped other areas.

We especially like the part of the program when Mr. Rutherford, the moderator, asked the panelists what they would like their legacy to be. Mr. Heinen said that his legacy was intertwined with his family's business and he was very proud of the fact that Heinen's Fine Food Stores are highly respected and provide good jobs to 3,000 people in Cleveland, and is adding locations. Ms. Crosley said that she just want to advance the Cleveland Leadership Center and inspire young people to make a difference in Cleveland. She encouraged young people to find their passion and  go for it. Mr. Mitchell said that he is still writing his legacy at age 33, but when people talk about him years from now he would like for them to say that "he gave 100%, he loved Cleveland, and he went hard."

As the day wore on, it became increasingly rainy and icy. We had wanted to stop by the swearing in of our friend, Judge Francine B. Goldberg which was scheduled to take place at 4:30pm in the Rotunda of the Cuyahoga County Courthouse on Lakeside but we didn't believe that we had the time because we wanted to be in Mentor before 5pm when the serious snow was scheduled to fall.

At the last minute, though, we decided to try anyway so we pulled off Highway 2 on the 6th Street exit and found a parking spot that had to be vacated by 4pm which was less than 10 minutes away. We quickly emptied our pockets of all items that would cause the much needed metal detectors to go off and ran to the courthouse and quickly got through security. Several people were already gathered in the Rotunda, and we learned that Judge Goldberg was still in her chambers on the third floor.

We had never been anywhere in the Courthouse before except for the ground floor but we made it to the third floor via a combination of stairs and elevator. From there, kind people told us which corridor to take and where to turn to get to Judge Goldberg's office so we hurried there as fast as we could. Judge Goldberg was very glad to see us and took time from last-minute preparations to give us a hug and pose for a photo. We congratulated her on behalf of Ms. Margaret W. Wong and ourselves.

We left her chamber and, fortunately, found a flight of stairs right outside of her door (or so it seemed) and we hurried down them as fast as we could and still be safe. Once we made it to the ground floor, another kind person directed us to the front door, so off we went to our car where we found the parking meter still running and, thankfully, no parking ticket because we still had about 2 minutes to spare before 4 pm.

We had to catch our breath but it was worth it because we have admired Judge Goldberg for a long time and are confident that she will do a fine job.

After we congratulated Judge Goldberg, we drove to La Malfa Conference Center in Mentor (where we often go for events) to attend a fundraiser for Judge Colleen A. Falkowski of the Lake County Domestic Relations Court. We told Judge Falkowski that we had just come from congratulating Judge Francine Goldberg and she said that she really likes Judge Goldberg and admires her for her perseverance. We found out that about 50 people had RSVP'd for this event and certainly more than that actually came to it which is very good considering the icy weather outside.

We got to meet and visit with quite a few other judges, both democrat and republican, who came to support their colleague including Judge Paul Mitrovich (now basically retired who was there with his wife and grandson), Judge Karen Lawson, Judge Harry Field, Judge Colleen O'Toole, former Judge Mary Jane Trapp, Judge John O'Donnell, Judge John Trebets, and Judge Mark J. Bartolotta. We even found a person who works on Cleveland's west side who was Ms. Jacki Ols who works for Judge Pat Carroll of Lakewood. And it is always good to see our good friend, Ohio State Senator Kenny Yuko.

We really liked seeing Judge Falkowski's son, Mr. Brian Falkowski who is the President of Laketrans and meeting her mother, Mrs. Margaret Kenchan who told us that she had immigrated to the United States from Ireland in 1950 and initially lived in Baltimore. She then moved to Chicago where she met and married her husband and they settled in Cleveland in 1952 and raised their family. In 1962, Mrs. Kenchan became an American citizen. She firmly believes that "everyone must work hard to succeed" and instilled these qualities in her daughter.

We looked up Judge Falkowski's website and we were quite pleased to read, "my goal is to provide the citizens of Lake County a court which is fair, trustworthy, and responsive to all who enter the courtroom."

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