A Quick Little Post, About Cleveland, Opinion, Uncategorized

Let’s Take a Break at the Lake: Another Quick Little Post.

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The East 55th St. Marina lookng West.

One of the reasons I haven’t been able to write as much as I wanted is because of all the things that have been happening at once. This does not include what is being shown on the news everyday. Last Sunday there was an afternoon with Jerry Springer in Bainbridge Ohio.  Friday, a planning and zoning workshop in Warren Ohio.  This week block watches and ward club meetings once I get home from the job.    I have to use the lunch break on the job just to read the Washington Post Daily 202 just to get my bearings with what the heck is happening to this country.   I wound up listening to NPR’s broadcast of the James Comey hearing in my car as I drove from work to get ready for my dental appointment.

To think that two years ago we would be at this point right now boggles my mind.

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A view of the marina looking West.

So, when things are spinning around you and you shoe horn things into your daily routine so they can get done, what do you do?  Well, in my case drive to the East 55th St. Marina Saturday night to hear a band and hang out by the water.   A waitress at a local diner told me about this and in some ways it’s one of Cleveland’s best kept secrets.  The marina, just west of the remains of Gordon Park  and the now demolished First Energy Power Plant, hase been driven past by thousands of commuters from Eastern Cuyahoga and Lake Counties daily as they head downtown to work or go to the West Side.  It’s that easy to miss since it looks like a blur of docked boats with an ugly structure at the end of a parking lot extending into the Lake.   However, there’s a little more to it than what meets the eye.

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View of the restaurant/shop from the dock.

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Looking North from the shore.

Every Saturday night in the summer, the marina is host to a series of bands just like those held at Edgewater Park on Thursdays or at Wade Oval at University Circle on Wednesdays.  However, with a smaller crowd and ample parking, the ones at the marina seem more appealing.  Also, instead of a bunch of food trucks, there is an outdoor bar and restaurant people can order from.  While the place may not have the bottles of champagne in wine cases that I saw Friday at Warren’s Avalon Inn, there is a pretty full bar there and soft drinks too which is what I settled for.  The menu is basic but from what I see just as good as what you can find at Wendy Park on the other side of town. There’s even a little shop.

Since they took over, the Cleveland Metroparks have taken measure to improve the maria (as they have the other parks and beaches they acquired like in North Collinwood).  However, I think that more can be done.   As I stood on that pier jutting out into the water I looked across to the breakwall.   For some reason, I can see at least six boathouses like I saw up in the Muskoka Lakes Region of Canada being built there.   I can also see a water taxi to downtown and Edgewater Park or better a tour boat like I saw in Erie PA going out on Lake Erie from there going to, let’s say, Grand River Ohio for lunch.  You can dream up a lot of things standing at the end of a dock.

Another crazy week in the news coming up.

 

Photographs by James Valentino

 

 

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A Quick Little Post, About Cleveland, Opinion, Uncategorized

Northeast Shores’ Membership Meeting; A Quick Little Post.

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The NE Shores Development Corp. Meeting at Euclid Beach.

I truly believe that to have a successful city, you must have strong neighborhoods.  One of the signs of this is to have a good network of local development corporations that work with the community.  The Collinwood area happens to have two of them; the one representing North Shore Collinwood being the Northeast Shores Development Corporation.  This has been around for decades and I remember stopping in their offices in the 90’s when they were actually housed in a building next to Euclid General Hospital. Board members, and executive directors, come and go but I’ve been a fairly loyal member.  However, Wednesday’s Quarterly Membership meeting was the first I’ve been to in a year.  Instead of at the Collinwood Rec Center, they decided to put it across the street at Euclid Beach Park.  That’s where I went a little before 6:00 to the pavilion to see what was going on.

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Mary Louise Daily speaks with Scott standing next to her.  New Executive Director Camille M. Maxwell sits to his left.

I knew some of the people already, such as Councilman Michael Polensek’s aide Mary Louise Daley, but the vast majority were new faces. Even the new Board president, a guy named Scott, I never met before.  However, I wound up staying there for over an hour and a half, and not just because of the hot dogs.  They just appointed a new Director and I got to chat with some of the staff for the first time in years.  None lives in the neighborhood.  However, one young lady did just buy a house in Old Brooklyn which at least is in the city.  As for the business development specialist, he lives in the same area of Cleveland Heights where my mother grew up.  As for the new director, I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt.

Actually, a lot of positive things are still taking place here.  Work is still going on regarding the new Euclid Beach Pier.  As for the La Salle Theater on East 185th Street, they are in the process of getting more funding for the renovation project there.  Also, we’re going to get one of the big white Cleveland signs like the one that everyone has been taking photos with at Edgewater Park.  Considering the terrible events last month at Mr. Car, this meeting put things all back into perspective.  While my neighborhood is not one of those targeted in that new Cleveland State Univeristy study commissioned by Mayor Jackson for investment, it still on the cusp of becoming one happening place.  Chatting with some of the people there, I met a lady who moved here from Shaker.  She told me that a realtor told her that the area where she moved to was getting a lot of money coming in renovating those lakefront properties.  Also, like many of the other former Heights’ residents who moved into North Shore Collinwood over the past few decades, she loves the lower taxes from what she was formerly paying.

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I hope the Corporation starts renovating their new offices on East 185th St. soon so they can move back there.  I also will try to attend more meetings to see what is going on.

 

Photographs by James Valentino

 

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A Quick Little Post, About Cleveland, Opinion, Uncategorized

Buying Irises; A Quick Little Post.

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The main entrance to the Rockefeller Greenhouse seen on East 88th St.

In light of all that has been going on, not just on the news but also in this blogger’s life, I haven’t gotten around to seriously working on a post that I’ve been researching for weeks. However, I offer to my readers (roughly all three of you) this quick little post!

The Rockefeller Greenhouse had their annual plant sale Thursday May 18th through yesterday.  Fortunately, I was able to get there around 10:15 A.M. yesterday  Organized by volunteers, it may not be as flashy as the sales organized at the Holden Arboretum but this one draws a good crowd as evident by the cars parked on the street and the parking lot in the park on across the road.  I went there determined to buy a few dwarf irises for the garden.  I knew that I could find them there since I bought one last year at a table manned by iris enthusiasts who tend the Greenhouse’s Willott Iris Garden, many of the plants in the pots being grown from rhizomes thinned from it during their regular maintenance.

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Ron (left) and Bob (right) pose for the camera.

I wound up striking up a conversation with a man named Bob who sat behind the table with occasional comments from his colleague Ron who was busy for the most par running around.

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The Willott Iris Garden.

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A view of one of the beds.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Iris Garden is past its peak bloom but there are still many plants with flowers of a nice array of colors.  I wasn’t able to locate the two that I purchased but spotted some that I hope Bob, Ron, and the others would thin out for next year’s plant sale.    The origins of the garden started in 2008 when the iris hybridizer Tony Willott died leaving behind his rows of hybrid irises.  So, with the support of his widow Dorothy, a group of iris enthusiasts got together, cataloged then, dug them up and by 2012 had them replanted on the grounds of the Rockefeller Greenhouse.  Today, the Willott garden is a big attractions in late spring with its many blooming irises of various sizes.

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As for yours truly, I bought two dwarf irises for the yard and they are now in the ground. One, Laurelwood, is a very unique rust bi-colored one while the other, Dainty Design, is an apricot colored one brused with cream. They should be very nice additions to the garden.  However, it will take a whole year to see if they bloom and a lot of things can happen in the meantime.  As for the plant sale, from the way the crowd was even on its’ last day, I’m positive it was a success.

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My two purchases .

 

Photographs by James Valentino

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About Cleveland, Opinion, Uncategorized

Back to a Brown Bag Lunch.

 

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The Brown Bag Lunch.

The song “Spinning Wheels” by Blood, Sweat, and Tears seems appropriate for today as I drove downtown from the job Wednesday afternoon to stop in at my alma mater, The Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs at Cleveland State University.  This is one of the varieties of programs that my old college has to fill the large building at the corner of East 17th Street and Euclid Avenue.

Moderated by Charles (Chip) Bromley, Director of the Ohio Fair Lending Coalition, it featured former Country Treasurer (now Director of the Thriving Communities Institute) James Rokakis and Cleveland Neighborhood Progress Inc.’s Erika Anthony.  To a packed room, they discussed how organizations such as theirs play a role in pivoting new housing and investment into rehabilitating housing.

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Erika Anthony (left) and James Rokakis (center) at the Brown Bag Lunch.

The audience consisted of students, planners, and even two professors from when I was there as a student. Ms. Anthony, herself a graduate of the College, talked about how she’s now teaching a class there.  As for the Ohio Fair Lending Coalition, it is a collaboration of fair lending organizations throughout Ohio and part of Organize! Ohio which is a community organizing group.

James Rokakis delivered one of his speeches on the impact County Land Banks have had not only in Cuyahoga County but throughout Ohio.  Roughly half of the state’s 88 counties have one.  Since 2008, the Land Bank Bill has been tweaked six times.

However, demolishing vacant buildings isn’t just an inner city phenomenon.  “Blight is everywhere,” Mr. Rokakis told the audience and gave examples of small cities and towns throughout Ohio with downtowns as virtual ghost towns.  The loss of local government funds has paralyzed communities such as Portsmouth and Elyria Ohio for that matter.  He also added that Dan Gilbert’s Office was very helpful with getting the demolition fund money.

“People ask me ‘What are you going to do with all the vacant lots in Ohio?” Mr. Rokakis admitted, “ I have no idea.”  However, at least in Cleveland some things such as infill housing, urban agriculture, and adjacent homeowners buying the vacant lots to add to their own yards is quite common.  Warren Ohio had a plan to create wildflower gardens on their vacant properties.  While studies show that these demolitions helped stabilize the property values of surrounding houses, many of the buildings that wind up in the Cuyahoga County Land Bank are structurally sound and, with some work, can be put back on the market.

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Charles Bromley checks out the audience.

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Cleveland Ward 12 Councilman Anthony Brancatelli listens during the Q&A session.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For Erika Anthony, the goal of Cleveland Neighborhood Progress Inc. (also known as CNP), is not so much to tear down but to rehabilitate houses and getting people to move in them.  As CNP’s Executive Summary states, “We estimate that 1,081 programmatic rehabs completed between 2009 and 2015 in Cuyahoga County preserved or increased just over half a million dollars_$539,318,3018_in its values of surrounding houses.”  This is not an insignificant amount of money and this, combined with the work by the Land Banks, certainly stabilized the property values of many neighborhoods.

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Map of Cuyahoga County showing sub-markets and location of rehabilitated properties.

As for how all this impacts North Shore Collinwood, it’s hard to say.  As of this writing, I’m still waiting for Ms. Anthony to get back with me with data on this.  However, according to the map, the further West you go, the more stressed the submarkets’ become.  Admittedly, on the East Side of Cleveland there are no truly higher functioning ownership areas.  However, the submarket with East 185th St. (and where I happen to live) is in the Moderately Functioning Ownership category with 10-11 rehabs taken place there.  In this category, the average impact per rehab is $501,651.  It’s really hard to tell how this translates into neighborhood property values but the average median price has not only stabilized but we up again a little since the mortgage meltdown of almost a decade ago.  On the other hand, it is still a far cry from what houses off East 185th St.  were fetching in 1997.

One felt there that the speakers as well as many in the audience were all trying to squeeze blood from the proverbial stone when it comes to finding the funds not just for home rehabing but other programs as well.   The elimination of the local municipal fund by the Kasich Administration was a major blow to city planning and housing departments and the proposed cut to HUD’s budget trickles down into less money from the Federal Government as well.

It will be interesting to note how the housing market and the money available for home and land bank programs will fare in the next few years.  In the meantime, there will be more Brown Bag lunches.

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About Cleveland, Opinion, Uncategorized

What Happened to the West Quad Project?

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A view of the West Campus of Case Western Reserve University taken in October 2016.  Note the solar farm and the old Mt. Sinai Hospital Parking Garage in the distance.

For every highly touted project that gets built in the Cleveland area, another slowly vanishes.  I see one of them every workday as I drive drown East 105th street past the site of the old Mt. Sinai Hospital.

More than eleven years have passed since Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) announced its’ plans for the former Mt. Sinai Hospital property on East. 105th St.Called the West Quad Project, it was to be designed to be one of the premier research parks in the nation. Case Medical School committed itself to be the first ‘anchor tenant’ and Forest City Enterprises was to build the new buildings on the 14 acre site. As the plan stated “The first of these partnerships is already underway “

Within a few years, things changed.  In 2008, Shannon Mortland wrote in Crain’s Cleveland Business that the university was retooling the project, renamed the West Campus, into a smaller, less expensive, light (August 4, 2008).  Instead of a 1 million square feet research campus, plans were made for a 100,000 square foot building to house a variety of programs. That proposed building wasn’t built.  Since then, very little has been done and the visions of a medical research center have moved elsewhere.  The CWRU Health Education Campus, originally announced for the West Campus, is now currently being built on Euclid Avenue on land donated by the Cleveland Clinic.  With the exception of the Temple Tifereth Israel being acquired in 2014 (and now the Maltz Performing Arts Center) to all appearances the West Campus’ development is now a low priority.

In the fall of 2016, I tried contacting people at Case Western Reserve to learn the current status of the project.  After some false starts, I did reach Kevin Maywood was nice enough to refer me to his boss Bill Lubinger.  In our brief phone conversation, Mr. Lubinger did mention the new pedestrian bridge CWRU built over Doan Brook for around $7 million as a recent investment regarding the West Campus.  At his suggestion, I sent him an email with further questions on the project (his reply, as of February 2017, is still pending). In the meantime, I did a little investigating of the site myself.

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The Western side of the campus seen on Ansel Road.

While I already knew about the road construction on East 105Th St., Mt. Sinai Dr. was completely blocked for the same reason (Mt Sinai Drive has since been reopened).    Currently, the West Campus appeared to consist mainly of parking; a reminder of the days Mt. Sinai Hospital stood on the site.  Besides the Mt. Sinai Parking Garage, solar panels, a grassy slope, the Maltz Center (still waiting for phase two) and the Wright Fuel Research Center for Structural Biology Building stand.  Dedicated in 2005, the 18,700 square foot facility is the only new building that the university constructed as part of the original proposal.  East 101 St, and Ansel Road, which borders the Campus on the West side of the street, consists mainly of empty lots on the west side (with the exception of the Citizens Leadership Academy) with many of the side streets having road blocks right at the end.  However, the housing stock, though run down, appears to have plenty of character and the makings of a great neighborhood.

Why should this matter?  For starters, having taken over the site when Mt. Sinai Hospital closed and promising great things for it, Case Western Reserve University should follow through and make a real campus out of the place.  Also, considering the money both the VA Hospital and natural History Museum put into their facilities in the same area, it makes sense that this remaining component to what I consider for many motorists coming from the I-90 the Gateway to University Circle should be taken seriously.   Finally, that can be a great spot to put some of the university’s non-medical related programs in.

Besides CWRU’s plan to add a wing to the Maltz Center, what else can be put on the site?  One must remember that when it became part of Case Western Reserve University in 1967, the Case Institute of Technology was considered by many to be the MIT of the Midwest. Along with the Performing Arts, and Fuel Cell Research, why not some engineering programs related to green energy or artificial intelligence? The School of Engineering can easily construct another building (I don’t know, say 100,000 square feet?) for their programs.  After all, with the new money for a Center for Excellence, why not put it on the West Quad?  Also, a business incubator along the lines of the one in Youngstown, Ohio wouldn’t be bad for that location either.

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A view of some of the housing stock off of Ansel Road across from the West Campus.

Why not buy the vacant lots along East 101th St and reopen the entrances to the side streets?  A quick look at the County Fiscal Officer’s website shows that many of the parcels between East 93rd and East 101st are either owned by the City of Cleveland or the Cuyahoga County Land Bank; it would be relatively inexpensive for CWRU to take them over.  Graduate student housing can be constructed along the latter street facing the West Campus, at least on a small-scale.  It would be possible that, over time, a vibrant college neighborhood adjacent to the Campus can become a reality. Then, as part of an emerging innovation district at University Circle, we can have a “community of opportunity.”  According to the research institute PolicyLink, such communities are “places with quality schools, access to good jobs with livable wages, quality housing choices, public transportation, strong social networks. “ (Jonathan F. P. Rose, The Well Tempered City, pg 279). This can be seen to some extent already in Pittsburgh near Carnegie-Mellon University and it’s only logical that something like that should exist here.

In the four months since I started writing this, nothing has changed. As I drove down to University Circle this past Sunday, I stopped at the parking lot next to the Rockefeller Lagoon.  The empty hulk of the Mt. Sinai Parking  Garage loomed in front of me in the distance.  You couldn’t tell this was part of a major university.  Yet, the potential is there.

Case Western Reserve, is it time for a reboot?

 

 

Photographs James Valentino

 

Note; this was originally intended to be an op-ed which I submitted to a Cleveland Area publication in early December.  After emails with the editor and a phone call in early January where the editor said they will get back with me a week later, I received an email in February stating it wasn’t a “good fit”.  So, I apologize for the delay.

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About Cleveland, Opinion, Uncategorized

Our 45th President.

With all that has been happening in the past forty-eight hours, it is difficult to put down all that I’ve seen and heard into a post for this blog.  Events of historic proportions have been constantly happening in this country; to the joy of some, the shock of many.

The Washington Post’s Daily 202 did a pretty good summing up of all the events of the Inauguration Day, and on that speech.  I must admit that it was rather interesting to see how the whole inauguration ceremony went and that our new POTUS was rather more restrained than I imagined him to be in his speech.While I was listening to it, I didn’t pick up on half of the things that the media is debating about right now.  However, looking back at it a few days later, I can see why Chris Matthews can consider his speech ‘Hitlerian’. Meanwhile, protests turned violent on K Street and Sean Spicer has a meltdown the next day parroting his boss’ line as journalists came to ask about any thoughts on the Women’s March that drew record crowds .  All this in twenty-four hours: I wonder what will be happening as the year progresses.

While all this has played out before the cameras, things have been relatively serene here on the North Coast.  We have springlike weather in the middle of January and, today, bright sunshine. Who knows how the rest of the month, and year, will turn out and yet, while not everyone could take a bus down to D.C., many around here were still getting mobilized for the challenges ahead.

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The Lake County Democratic Party’s meeting Saturday.

Yesterday, as the Women’s March took place in D.C. and across the nation, I was at a union hall in Mentor Ohio.  There, the Lake County Democratic Club had their joint Central and Executive Committee Meeting.  The place was packed.  In fact, someone commented that there was twice as many people than at any meeting last year. What was supposed to be a short meeting turned out to be almost three hours long. Lake County Democrats were hit hard in November.  Both incumbent commissioners Judy Moran and Kevin Malecek lost as did County Recorder Ann Radcliffe and many others. Only State Representative John Rogers (District 60) and County Treasurer Lorraine Fende got re-elected.  In the five westernmost suburbs of Lake County Ohio (referred to locally as “The West End”) all but one precinct went for Trump.  What is notable about this is the fact that area usually goes heavily Democratic.  This is the reality everyone in that room Saturday was faced with.

This was one of the most energized meetings I’ve seen out there; and I have been to a few. For example, Party Chairman Tom Tagliamonte made example, a point that Lake County Democrats need to rebuild their party and leave the meeting united, “Elections matter, this (the General Election) was a disaster for Ohio and our party.”  Later on, State Representative John Rogers said that “We need people at the local level before we can get people at the state and federal level,” elected while Commissioner Dan Troy told the group that the Democrats had to “get away from identity politics”.  Instead they should take back the message about working to provide good paying jobs, decent schools, and lower prescription drugs; things that for some reason many in that county thought Trump would provide.  Along with the regular business any political club had to do, there were votes for people to fill in spaces in the Central Committee; many of whom only started getting involved last year. All in all, this and meetings like this across the nation in the next few weeks may be for people like myself something constructive.  Instead of wasting time with ‘listening tours’, getting out and mobilizing for 2018 and winning back a few seats in places like Lake County locally, and the U.S. Senate nationally, would be a very good start.

 

Photograph by James Valentino

 

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About Cleveland, Uncategorized

The calm before the storm.

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Wade Lagoon from East Boulevard.  Taken today.

Christmas Time on the North Coast.  Local municipalities have their lighting displays up, Christmas, or if you still prefer Holiday Parties, pack many people’s weeks, and places from Crocker Park to Hale Farm and Village have decked their halls with more than just holly.  The local weatherman reminds us that, a year ago, we were in the 60’s and even hit 70 one day.   This past week, we had not only my neighborhood dumped with a foot of lake effect snow in one day, but a month ahead of schedule an arctic blast hits the area with wind chills in some places below zero.  I am not the type to read the changes in weather as reflections on changes in our nation, at least politically, but with a bunch of hot air ready to reside, part-time apparently, at the White House real soon Old Man Winter must have thought we needed his version of a chill pill.

 

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Window display at the Holden Forests and Gardens Gift Shop.

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Amaryllis in bloom at GLOW.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This time of year has always been rough for me and I long for the day the Winter solstice hits and the daylight starts to increase.  I have posted my thoughts of this time on this blog as I did last year; of course in 2015 no one knew what crazy things would happen since then.  At least the house is decorated, the gifts bought, and I got to finally see the annual Glow Show at the former Cleveland Botanical Gardens (now called by the awkward title Holden Forests and Gardens).  I even got to see Santa Claus, at least the one at Severance Hall, as people came in to dine at the restaurant (where they have an excellent buffet on Sundays) before the three o’clock Christmas Concert.  Considering the ice storm that passed through last night, the roads were surprisingly good.

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Greetings from Santa Claus at Severance Hall.

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Desserts at the Severance Hall Restaurant.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For me, it is kind a funny.  In little over a month, Donald Trump is going to be the next president of the United States.   It’s kind of like knowing there is a big tsunami hitting that can create enormous damage.  However, you cannot flee for the hills to avoid it since, in this metaphor, the ‘hills’ in question would have to be another country.

When I heard about the fact that there was evidence that Russian President Vladimir Putin had a direct role in the hacking of the DNC to influence this year’s election, I have become more perplexed about what will happen next year. The antics going on in North Carolina the past week don’t help matters.

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The bar of the Severance Hall Restaurant.

Enjoy the Christmas Season and buy a bottle of champagne to ring in the New Year; who knows what may happen a year from now

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Severance Hall from Euclid Avenue.

 

(photographs by James Valentino)

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