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Out & About in Cleveland

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Perry Goodwill Now Open, Harriet Tregoning at Cleveland City Club, Transgender Celebration, and Senator Skindell

On Monday, June 29th, our first event for the day concerned the official opening of the new drop off center for Goodwill Industries which was located on Ridge Road in Perry Township. The ribbon-cutting was organized by both the Madison-Perry and Painesville Chambers of Commerce which will merge by the end of the year. The ceremony was attended by Mr. Wally Siegel, Township Administrator/Zoning Inspector and Perry Township Trustees Mr. Rick Amos, Mr. Bob Dawson and Ms. Nancy Steele as well as Lake County Commissioner Kevin D. Malecek. We took part in the actual ribbon cutting by holding one end of the ribbon so Ms. Katrina March of the Madison/Perry Chamber took a picture and emailed it to us.

We got to meet Mr. Eric Schwarz, President and CEO of Goodwill Industries for Northeast Ohio and Northwest Pennsylvania as well as Mr. Blake Johnston, Marketing and Development Director who has a friend from Miami who is studying in Columbus to be an immigration attorney. We talked to Mr. Schwarz and Mr. Johnston about Goodwill Industries for a few minutes and learned that this Ohio/Pennsylvania branch was established some 80 years ago and now has about 35 donation locations. Moreover, Goodwill Industries is an important asset to any community because it provides job training and educational opportunities to people with such employment barriers as physically disabling conditions, cognitive impairments, mental health impairments, English as a second language, and hearing/visual impairments.

In the last couple of years we, ourselves, have made use of Goodwill Industries when we have helped friends move or clean out their house. We are are always glad to drop off stuff there because we know that our older but still functionable items will be given a second chance to be put to good use.

Next we went to the City Club where the program for the day was "Building Economic Resilience in the Great Lakes Metros" presented by Ms. Harriet Tregoning who is the Director of HUD's Office of Economic Resilience which "helps cities, counties, and towns across the country build a strong foundation for a diverse and prosperous economy based on enhancing community quality of place, economic opportunity, fiscal stability, transportation choice and affordability."

Essentially, Ms. Tregoning, who is has been called the rock star of smart growth and urban planning, said that Cleveland has created excellent opportunities for itself via the Opportunity Corridor but we must make sure that we take utilize them to the utmost by encouraging business growth along its route and economic revitalization of the neighborhoods surrounding it.

We asked her about the potential contribution of immigrants and she said that she was glad that we asked that question because according to her experience immigrants were a key to a city's positive growth thus it would be very much to our advantage to attract and retain immigrants. She did say, however, that older people were often miffed because they were puzzled by the habits and customs of these newcomers so she urged us to think of ways to bring the various cultures together.

One excellent message that she imparted was that "fortune favored the prepared mind" and all of the counties of Northeast Ohio must work together to face our upcoming challenges and deal with them accordingly. She was very optimistic that we will do this and went so far as to say that the leaders of Northeast Ohio are "clever exceptionalists" who will pave the way for furture generations.

At our table on this day was Mr. Eduardo Romero, Risk Manager for the Dept. of Finance for the City of Cleveland. Mr. Romero brought a young friend with him in order to introduce him to the City Club and hopefully to motivate him to join. Although we do not know if the young man actually joined up we do know that he liked it a lot and is open to coming to other programs thus making Mr. Romero a "clever exceptionalist" who, in terms of community/civic engagement, is paving the way.

Our third event for the day was a Transgender Celebration put on by the Open and Affirming Coalition of the United Church of Christ (which was having their convention in Cleveland) at the Hilton Garden Inn.

We visited with several people including Ms. Martha Gibbs who is the Office Manager aka "Chief Cook and Bottle Washer" for the Coalition in Cleveland. Ms. Gibbs' son serves on the Board for Cleveland Pride so she told us what a painful decision it was to have to cancel the Cleveland Pride Festival and Parade last Saturday. She introduced us to Mr. Andy Lang who is the Executive Director of the Coalition who told us that he really respects the work that Margaret W. Wong does.

Mr. Jacob Nash of GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network) spoke for a moment about the need to support Ordinance 1446-13 which strengthens Cleveland's non discrimination ordinances by prohibiting discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people in public accommodations and employment. Mr. Nash says that this ordinance would be passed overwhelmingly by the Cleveland City Council but, unfortunately, Mayor Jackson has indicated that he will not sign it. Thus we all signed postcards to addressed to Mayor Jackson asking him to reverse his position and support it.

Just before we left we had a talk with Mr. Dave Ream, a civil rights activist who raised interesting questions about how the SCOTUS decision will affect LGBT couples in which one or both of them are trying to immigrate to the United States. He also posed a good question about transgender people attempting to immigrate to the United States whose names might be different on their birth certificates.

Another event that we attended on Monday, June 29th, was a fundraiser at the Emerald Necklace Marina for Ohio State Senator Michael Skindell who is running for Mayor of Lakewood, Ohio.

During his speech, Senator Skindell said that although the main issue will be his opposition to the controversial proposal to close Lakewood Hospital there are other issues that need to be addressed. In the course of the campaign he also plans to discuss the economic neighborhood development process, the fixing of broken sidewalks, road repair, the heroin opiate epidemic and what Lakewood can do about this, the maintenance of rental property, how snowplowing can be made better, and possible assistance to first time homebuyers and renters.

One of the attendees was Mr. Jim O 'Brien, the owner of the "Lakewood Observer" who said that he admires Senator Skindell and believes that he will "bring an honesty and transparency to city hall that is long overdue." Mr. O'Brien has known Senator Skindell for years ever since the senator was a Lakewood city councilman. From there he moved on to become an Ohio state representative and then a state senator. Mr. O'Brien said that Senator Skindell was and is "always an advocate for people and that it's great that he is finally coming home!"

We talked for a little while to Mr. Regis Barrett and his wife Fran who always enjoy receiving Ms. Margaret W. Wong's holiday greeting each year because they like hearing about how Ms. Wong and her family are doing. Mr. Barrett really respects what the Wong family has accomplished. Mrs. Barrett's parents immigrated to the United States from Slovakia; her mother came with her family when she was only 3 years old and her father made the journey all by himself when he was 16. Accordingly, she really appreciates what immigrants have to go through and appreciates the contribution that they make to our society. Mr. Barrett's grandfather immigrated to the United States from Ireland many years ago and eventually became a president of the United Mine Workers in its early years "before John L. Lewis put it on the map."

Many people came to this event and it was a great success for Senator Skindell. Among the elected officials there were Ohio State Senator Kenny Yuko, South Euclid City Councilman Marty Gelfand, Cleveland City Councilman Brian Cummins, Brook Park City Councilman Dennis Patton, and Fairview Park City Council President Mike Kilbane.

We asked Senator Skindell what could be done to help the immigrants who have settled in Cleveland. Senator Skindell replied that he realized that quite a few immigrants soon settle in Lakewood after arriving in the United States. He believed that an important step would be to keep them informed about the services that are available to them and making sure that they have the transportation to get where they need to go. He smiled as he said that for instance, they may need to go to Margaret W. Wong and Associates for help on an immigration matter.

Mr. Jim O'Brien, upon hearing that we work for Ms. Wong, said that Ms. Wong was "a powerhouse on immigration laws" and always ready to help "people who do not understand the system."

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