Seeing Friends: Judge Fuerst, Dale Miller, the Gelfands, and Cleveland Stonewall Democrats
Thursday evening, September 18th, we attended three fundraisers and the monthly Stonewall Democratic Club meeting in the space of two and a half hours. It was quite a jaunt but we had a good time playing our own version of "beat the clock" and "drive the mile." The first fundraiser was for Judge Nancy A. Fuerst of Cuyahoga Common Court. It was held at XO Prime Steaks on West St. Clair in downtown Cleveland. When we first arrived about 4:50pm we spoke to Dave and Connie Bellini who were checking in attendees at the door. They told us that their good friend, Ms. Jean Deike once worked for Ms. Margaret W. Wong.
Former Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Bill Mason was there and he told us that he thought Ms. Wong was "a great lady." We also had a good conversation with Mr. Ronald C. Balbier, Magistrate of the Brooklyn Mayor's Court about the political history of that city. We could only stay for a short time but Judge Fuerst was very grateful that we stopped by and told us to give our best to South Euclid Councilman Marty Gelfand who we would see later that evening.
As we left a man walked in and said that this was, "my first fundraiser of the night!" and we replied, "same here!" as we walked outside about 5:10pm.
We only had to drive a short distance to get to our next event which took place at Massimo's on West 25th Street. This one was a combination fundraiser/65th birthday party for District 2 County Councilman Dale Miller. We arrived about 5:20pm.
We always enjoy going to Massimo's because the Italian food is so good and we enjoyed a small plate of spaghetti, potatoes and green beans while we chatted with a couple from Seven Hills who were oddly enough named Patterson. They used to live in Councilman Miller's district and now spend time working for Habitat for Humanity.
Quite a few prominent people turned out to show support including former Cuyahoga County Treasurer Jim Rokakis, State Rep. and County Executive Candidate Armond Budish, Cleveland City Councilman Martin J. Sweeney, and former North Olmsted Mayor Thomas O'Grady but certainly more were on the way because Councilman Miller is a very respected person.
We finished our food and said goodbye about 5:40pm and we off to our next event which was a little farther away.
In fact, our last fundraiser, which was for our good friend South Euclid Councilman Marty Gelfand, took place at Sanctuary on the Green on South Green Road in South Euclid and it took us 45 minutes to navigate our way up Carnegie Avenue in close-to-rush hour traffic. We finally got there about 6:25pm just in time to hear Councilman Gelfand speak.
Councilman Gelfand praised his wife Dr. Sherry Ball and thanked her for all of the support that she has given him. He also poignantly expressed regrets that his mother had passed away recently so that this was the first political event for him that she has missed.
He then talked about his efforts to not only serve the people of South Euclid but to look beyond and see South Euclid as part of Cuyahoga County and the State of Ohio and the effects that one has on the others. He spoke of the things that he was involved in during his three years on council including chairing the safety council, passing a nuisance ordinance and how it worked, and passing a safety levy. In addition, Councilman Gelfand has also been heavily involved in local street associations and block clubs.
South Euclid Mayor Georgine Welo spoke up and said that there is a difference between serving and being a public servant and that Councilman Gelfand is an example of what a public servant should be. Actually Councilman Gelfand is not running for re-election until 2015 but we feel that he is doing the right thing but getting started early. He was most appreciative of the support that he has received from Ms. Margaret W. Wong.
Among the other people who turned out to show support were State Senator Michael Skindell (who left before we got there, probably to attend County Councilman Dale Miller's event), Candidate for State Senate Kenny Yuko, and Woodmere Village Councilman Azaadjeet Singh.
We wanted to get to Trinity Commons for the Stonewall Democratic Club monthly meeting which started at 7pm so we made ourselves a tasty sandwich to eat on the way and left about 6:45pm.
Then it was time for the program for the evening which was titled "A Community Conversation: How Do We Harness the Energy of Gay Games 9 Into Political Change?" which was a panel discussion moderated by Stonewall Democratic Club President Rob Rivera and featuring Ms. Alana Jochum of Equality Ohio; Cleveland Heights City Councilwoman Melissa Yasinow; Mr. George Forbes (Past President of Cleveland City Council as well as the Cleveland NAACP); Lakewood City Councilwoman Cindy Marx; and Ms. Phyllis Harris (Executive Director of the LGBT Community Center of Greater Cleveland).
First of all everyone agreed that Gay Games 9 was a tremendous success largely due to the support that the average Clevelander gave to the Gay Games 9 and the athletes involved. The panelists and several of the audience members all spoke of seeing rainbow flags in businesses that they never thought would be so supportive and how great it was when the athletes would stopped and congratulated for the medals that they were wearing. Everyone was proud of the way the LGBT community stepped up and took leadership roles in the process and how everyone, both straight and LGBT, successfully worked together to make Gay Games 9 as successful as it could be.
When it came down to discussing where do we go from here, Ms. Jochum said that it was about the eradication of fear and that marriage equality and non-discrimination laws should be the focus. Mark Szabo, an audience member, talked about how the issue of homelessness particularly amongst LGBT youth needs to be addressed. And someone said something should be done about the treatment of aging LGBT people in nursing homes.
Mr. Forbes, a political veteran indeed, said that all of the people who supported the games and/or worked on them should be utilized as the LGBT community moves on to future projects. All of the panelists and the audience would be agreed that Ms. Harris and the LGBT Center will play a crucial role in the future just as in the past.
Councilwoman Marx and Councilwoman Yasinow come from the progressive cities of Lakewood and Cleveland Heights but they resolved to see what they could do to make their communities even more LGBT friendly. Councilwoman Marx talked about how surprised she was to discover that there was no actual anti-discrimination law in Lakewood and Councilwoman Yasinow talked about the potential for Cleveland Heights be designated a "safe zone" and possibly passing a resolution calling upon the Ohio State legislature to support marriage equality.
Cleveland Councilman Cimperman said that unfortunately what Cleveland would like to do and what it is financially able to do are different things but city codes will be reviewed to bring them up to date in terms of LGBT inclusivity; transgender protection will be passed; and as far as domestic partner benefits to city employees, as it stands now, we can expect legislation in the next two weeks that will extend full benefits to city employees in gay domestic partner relationships but, due to current financial considerations, not to those in hetrosexual domestic partner relationships because they have the option of marriage which gay people do not.
Hopefully, this situation will change in the near future.