About Cleveland, My blog., Opinion, Uncategorized

Countdown to the RNC…


One of the many reasons why things have slowed down on Mad Man On A Great Lake in regards to posts is that the guy doing all the writing has been very busy; and not just at the job that pays the bills.  While everyone is getting ready for the three-ring circus called the Republican National Convention downtown, I’ve been around town pitching for the other team.  From marching in the Fourth of July Parade in Chester Township to attending a fundraiser in Willoughby Hills for the Ohio Democratic Party (ODP), this writer has been busy; too busy to write that’s for sure.

Fourth of July, 2016, the Janet mobile.

Geauga County Democratic Club Chairwoman Janet Carson smiles behind the wheel at the Chesterland Fourth of July Parade


U.S. Congressional candidate Michael Wager (center) poses with Geauga County Commissioner candidates Ron Wiech and Bonnie Cavanaugh .








In fact, that fundraiser Monday, and the one I went to at a Kiwanis Hall in Newbury Township this past Saturday, are part of a slew of invitations that dropped into my mailbox in this election year.  The thing on Saturday was rather important since this was the first big fundraiser that a Geauga Democrat, Bonnie Cavanaugh, had for her race to be a commissioner in Geauga County.  All this has been going on while the other side was working on how to throw their own big party in downtown Cleveland.


A ODP organizer talks at the Cleveland Ward 8 Democratic Club Picnic.


ODP Chairman David Pepper talks to some Lake County Democrats.








No matter what political party they’re affiliated with, many local officials are betting on the RNC Convention bringing in the big bucks. In fact, at the ODP fundraiser, I overheard a Lake County Commissioner tell someone of his hopes of the delegates staying out there would do just that.  There will even be organized tours of Grand River Wine Country where delegates from Hawaii and Connecticut can visit Debonne, Grand River, and other wineries on the Lake County side of the appellation.  The Columbus Dispatch recently had an excellent piece about all this (and quotes former Cuyahoga County Treasurer Jim Rokakis to boot).  Despite all the brouhaha, the article was correct in citing the various problems Cleveland has that cannot be seen in the Q.  For example, only Detroit Michigan has lost more people than the Forest City and more than 30 percent of its’ residents live in poverty.  Those facts will remain as the news crews and delegates head for the airport and highways.

In a week, it will be all over.  Then, the local movers and shakers get to assess how much it was all worth doing.


Looking West towards downtown Cleveland Wednesday.

About Cleveland, Opinion, Uncategorized

The 2016 Regional Workforce Development Forum


The Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland sponsored a regional workforce development  forum on Wednesday June 1st 2016.  This free event was held at the Corporate College of Cuyahoga Community College (Tri-C) in Warrensville Heights, Ohio, a suburb of Cleveland.  For an entire day, people of various walks of life tied to figure out, as urban  economist Jim Shahahan put it, how to create a regional plan to get jobs to people in this region.


Taking a break.

Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish and Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson were there for introductory speeches plus greetings from staff members from the Federal Reserve, such as Mark Sweitzer (Senior Vice President of External Outreach) who moderated the first session.  Like the Midwestern Resilient Cities Summit (or the planning and zoning workshop I attended a week later) the forum’s format followed the traditional structure of introductory speeches from local officials, panels of experts, breakout sessions, and closing remarks interspersed with continental breakfast, breaks, and a boxed lunch.  They all are interchangeable in format if not in content; right down to an email asking to answer another survey one week later.

Nevertheless, the meeting was convened for all the right reasons.  As Sweitzer told the audience.  “We are not reaching our maximum employment unless everything on the ground is working right.”  Two-thirds of our workers don’t have a college degree at any level. In a state where municipal governments are still struggling with the loss of revenues that resulted with the repeal of the estate tax, how are we going to provide the monies necessary for the community colleges to take on the role everyone Wednesday wanted them to play?

One thing that was a common theme of the forum which, I must admit, has been mentioned many times before is the role community colleges play in workforce development in this region; what more they must do in the future.  According to Fred Dedrick, Executive Director of the National Fund for Workforce Solutions, from his experience employers expect high school and community college graduates to be ready to work; an impractical expectation.

For himself,  Holzer believed that, despite what they are doing, community colleges like Tri-C and Stark have problems they must solve; addressing the weak academic skills of many freshmen students, containing rising costs, providing more information to students on the labor market and something which may be difficult for so many students these days to solve, the pressure of working a full-time job to pay for a part-time education. He naturally argued that community colleges are under resourced and face the wrong incentives to expand workforce programs. More tightly targeted government funds for community colleges based on accountability should be implemented.

He then reminded the crowd about life-long learning.  Personally, I would argue that Cleveland State University’s elimination of its’ Division of Continuing Education was a mistake it this regard.  After all, the workforce development role the experts were talking about in that room for community colleges is exactly what state universities, like Cleveland State, were originally intended to play.  On the other hand, the rise of  Massive Online Open Courses (MOOCs) can enable a person to gain certification for a career without stepping into Tri-C’s Corporate Campus.  Why get a technical writing certificate from Lakeland Community College when you can get one online from MIT?

Holzer also believed that the Government must commit to a “Good Jobs Strategy” with incentives and assistance.  Well, what does that mean and is it any different from what has been tried before?  After all, Zenyep Ton of MIT discussed this in her own book published in 2013 titled, what else, The Good Jobs Strategy.  Personally, when I think of a strategy like this, it should be an effort to bring in more better paying jobs to te region not just cross-train people who already have one so they don’t feel stuck.


Inside the Forum.

The break-out sessions were interesting.  For example, in our group, someone from Stark State College, Daryl Revoldt, Executive Director of Workforce and Economic Development, talked about how the situation is south of Akron. He said that in Stark County, many of the college’s graduates stay there and go to the small local firms; unlike here in Cleveland.   Another thing worth noting, for example, is the fact that the average manufacturing firm in Wayne and Stark Counties has 30 and 40 employees respectively.  However, there is the potential for job growth in such firms; and they are looking for what is called ‘soft skills’ in an employee.  In regards to Dedrick’s enthusiasm for internships and apprenticeships,  Revoldt mentioned that, for a small firm, the profit margins are not large enough to get a college intern or apprentice, unless they get help to knock down the costs.  Therefore, the state or federal government would have to provide the funding; something which they are most likely unwilling to do.

There was also something that I never heard before were the terms saints, sinners, and savables, which someone with Summit County referred to as describing the workforce population that needs to be helped by such a workforce plan.  Saveables include the underemployed, or those working two part-time jobs to make a full-time wage just to get by.  There are currently some programs to address such workers’ needs.  As Mr. Revoldt said, in Stark, there is a program which can move people like this into full time jobs.  They even find head hunters for the participants.

One of other things our group agreed upon was a lack of public transportation, particularly commuter rail, in the region outside old fixed networks such at RTA in Cleveland.  One of our group, who happens to be with an organization called All Aboard Ohio, raised the point that Cleveland is the only major city in the Western Hemisphere that has only one rapid transit station it its’ downtown. Since those most likely to benefit from a workforce development program rely on public transit the most, it seems very important that money is invested in the network.

Another issue everyone agreed upon is the need for some type of CCC or WPA style program to get the unemployed or chronic job seekers back into the workforce, and build worthwhile projects in the process.  It was unanimous in the belief that such a program would be labor intensive. Demonstration projects could be done to show how such a new program can work (with the Fed involved and providing funds)..  A county WPA, say operated by the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency (NOACA), can be such a model.

When you look at Brynjolfsson and McAfee’s books, for example, there is absolutely no guarantee that the vast majority of Americans will find the jobs that our parents and grandparents had 45 years ago.  It is also possible that many of the jobs will have lower wages due to the number of applicants vying for these positions.  Will money put into higher education, let alone community colleges, be worth the long term investment for these students?

One wonders if it’s all worth it? As Mr. Shahahan himself admitted, job recovery  in Northeast Ohio has been sluggish at best.   There has been a very poor rebound in many sectors, including IT (which is anemic).The picture is not good that workforce development can increase the number of jobs. The vast amount of hires in this area are to replace jobs vacated by workers who go to other jobs;  there is no real job creation. Can a region like Northeast Ohio rely on one or two centers of excellence (on an innovation district for that matter) to generate the number of jobs needed for its’ residents; especially with talent coming in from other parts of the country?

I was discussing this with a friend on the phone Saturday.  A former Wickliffe Ohio councilperson, she told me the forum sounded like again re-inventing the wheel, unless the folks in Columbus or Capitol Hill give the money necessary to implement any of these measures proposed.  “I think they should go down to Columbus and Washington yelling and screaming,” she told me “all we need is the money and no one wants to part with it.  Nobody wants to raise taxes.”  Of course this is just one part of the problem but still significant.

This past Friday, I went out to Concord Ohio to attend a planning and zoning workshop.  Out there at the Lake Metroparks Environmental Learning Center, there were a few presentations that in fact tied into what happened the week before.  Rob Ziol of Cleveland State University (of all places) gave a very good one on leadership and collaboration.  While he started out talking about the programs offered by my alma mater, Ziol went on into programs related to workforce development. For example, Metrohealth Hospitals recently announced it is bringing in high school students into two year study programs where they get on the job skills in the health profession.  This is something that many at the Workforce Forum would have used as an example of what they want done areawide.  In fact, it seems that GE does the same thing at their Nela Park facility. He also provided some interesting links for those in public service like myself.

Having a comprehensive regional plan, be it workforce development, resilient cities, or community planning, is only good if it can be translated into effective programs that have a real impact on people outside a conference room.  If that small company in Wooster gets money from the State or the Feds to hire two interns from Stark State to learn a full-time job that pays at least $15 an hour with benefits, that can be a success story.


The Corporate College.


Photographs by James Valentino



A Quick Little Post, Uncategorized

Shades of Spring: A Quick Little Post

With the national media fleeing NE Ohio it’s nice to go back to something that really matters; spring flowers are blooming in my garden.

Wade Park, February 21, 2016, snowdrops.

Snowdrops blooming at Wade Park, February 21, 2016.

Seriously, after two years of an arctic blast each Winter, it’s really nice to see at the end of February snowdrops beginning to bloom at Wade Lagoon across from Severance Hall.  Since then, spurts of May like weather have led to more signs of spring; from the witch hazel bushes blooming in front of the Cleveland Botanical Gardens to dwarf irises, crocuses, and now even daffodils blooming in my back yard.   Even the colder temperatures of this weekend can’t dampen the feeling that Winter is on its way out.



Crocuses at the Cleveland Botanical Gardens


Dwarf Irises in the garden.


As for this blog, things may be a tad low-key now but it will go on.  This year, Mad Man On A Great Lake has been looked at by a broader range of people.  For example, this year, there have been 30 views of this from Brazil which I find amazing (I wonder if it’s because of my review of the Second Machine Age?). There has been one post I was working on that has evolved to the point that I want to try to submit it to a local newspaper first and see if they publish it.  If they do, I will try to post a link to it here.  However, there is still plenty of time in 2016 to do more writing.


Witch hazel in bloom at the Cleveland Botanical Gardens this week.

For all who have stumbled upon this blog, thank you very much for the continued interest and there will be more to come.


Photographs by James Valentino

A Quick Little Post

Thanksgiving Musings: A Quick Little Post.

Today, while almost overwhelmed by the commercial hoopla of the Christmas Shopping Season, families across America are celebrating a holiday that has its’ roots right here in the American Experience as this link to the History Channel’s  The History of Thanksgiving shows.

While we some of out there will have   While up in Toronto Globe and Post columnist Doug Saunders tweeted in his greetings to all his Yank followers to be “Easy on the marshmallow sweet potatoes & deep-fried whole turkeys” neither was on the menu today for me.  Nor will the giblet gravy my Grandma used to make when we went over her house off of Payne Avenue as a kid (with no regrets) or the desserts my other grandparents had at their house in Mayfield Heights. However, every family has their own traditions and try to pitch in if possible.  Even today, I brought to my aunt and uncle’s house dessert, a home-made pound cake that utterly American cookie called Bohemian Crescents.

The roast turkey my aunt made turned out to be very good as were the stuffing, green beans, and other dishes on their dining room table.  My cousin was there with her husband and two boys; both of them growing up way too fast.   Unlike last year, the weather was almost like a day at the end of March, and not November.  To have temperatures in the 60’s and partly sunny skies is something one in NE Ohio should be very thankful for.

This blog is not the place for me to tell the world what I am thankful for, or if I can find anything to be thankful for in the first place.  All across this country, people are thinking this thought right now as they either get ready for bed or running around to any stores now open for Black Friday deals.  The Holiday Season has officially begun and soon another year.  Time goes quick.




A Quick Little Post

Fall in NE Ohio; Another Quick Little Post.

The North Chagrin Reservation Nature Center.

The North Chagrin Reservation Nature Center.

Oberlin November 1, 2015

A quiet street in Oberlin, Ohio.


The view from Chalet Debonne in Ashtabula County.

One of the reasons that I haven’t come up with any in-depth posts for Mad Man On A Great Lake lately is because of the wonderful weather we’ve been having here in Cleveland Ohio.  The last couple of days we’ve had highs in the 70’s which makes everyone want to go outside and enjoy.  This made the last couple weeks a great time to hop in the car and see the leaves change colors.

A view of the Polly Harper Inn in Grand River Wine Country taken in October.

A view of the Polly Harper Inn in Grand River Wine Country taken in October.

Many locals complain about how the weather seems to change all the time.  The saying goes that you can have 60 degrees one day and the next snow.  Of course, it’s an exaggeration to a point.  We have four seasons here and while it does mean we can get hot and sticky humid summers which make me want to sit in front of the air conditioner (and cold snowy blustery winters that make the morning commute a mess), we usually happen to have very a nice spring and fall.  The warm waters of Lake Erie moderate the weather a little and, while killer frosts have hit places like Mansfield further inland, Impatiens are still blooming in my yard.  This must have an impact on the trees as well.  Even though it’s already November, as I drove through Rockefeller Park in Cleveland to get to the job Friday morning, I marvelled that most of the trees still had their leaves; and it made a nice show.

A view of Shaker Boulevard at Shaker Square in Cleveland, Ohio. Taken November 4th, 2015.

A view of Shaker Boulevard at Shaker Square in Cleveland, Ohio.

The autumn leaves at Our Lady of Lourdes Shrine in Euclid, Ohio.

The autumn leaves at Our Lady of Lourdes Shrine in Euclid, Ohio.

However, on this first full weekend of November, temperatures will be reverting back to seasonal 40s and 50s, at least for a spell.  Soon, the trees will be bare and pines will be brought inside for the Holidays.  The colors are fleeting but an annual treat.

South Ridge Road in Ashtabula County looking west.

South River Road in Ashtabula County looking west.

Photographs taken by James Valentino


Out in the Boonies; a trip to the Jefferson Diner.

Considering the fact that some of my relatives think I’m only into haute cuisine, I sure hang out at a lot of diners.


                                                          The Jefferson Diner in downtown Jefferson, Ohio.

Speaking of diners, there happens to be one called the Jefferson Diner in, believe it or not, Jefferson Ohio. It is the county seat of Ashtabula County which is the largest county in Ohio and located in the NE corner of the state and people are more familiar driving though it to get to other places than actually stopping there.

The thing about Jefferson Ohio is that, it is so easy to overlook. The two major highways, 1-90 and 1-11, are miles away to the north and east and I actually took route 307 to get into town. It was far more better connected to the world in the age of railroad and, in fact, it’s one of the few places where today there is still a track and not a bike path in its’ place. When I drove out there last fall, I parked almost exactly where I did today and for the life of me didn’t pay attention to the place.

One of my colleagues at work stumbled onto the place with her boyfriend last year when they attended the Ashtabula County Covered Bridges Festival. She liked it so much that she posted a review on TripAdvisor saying how much she enjoyed it. In fact, from what I’ve seen on the web, many people have written good things about it and I was determined to head back out there and find out for myself.


The cafe at lunchtime.

It’s really a nondescript little place on the main drag through town right across from the Court House. The interior looks like something out of a 1950’s T.V. show; wood paneling on the walls and a blue and white tile ceiling that complemented the same colored curtains on the windows. The long counter and the stools reminded me of what one would see at a soda fountain at Woolworth’s.

Inside a glass case they had an assortment of pies, blueberry, peach, cherry, coconut cream, but no chocolate, and they did appear homemade.
I must admit that my coworker was right; the place was clean and the service excellent. Their menu did look quite reasonable.   According to what my coworker heard when she was there, the breakfasts are supposed to be wonderful.  However, it was lunch going on dinner so I looked at the other side of the menu.  They had a steak and shrimp dinner for $9.95 but I settled for the ham steak for $8.25 which included a salad, potato, and vegetable; pretty standard for such establishments. It was very good I must say.   I must also add that they make one heck of a milk shake.

0829132338The Jefferson Diner seems like the place someone running for a state-wide office would stop in on a campaign swing through Ashtabula.  Actually, this would be a good place to chat with State Representative John Patterson (Dist. 99) about the state of his county and the efforts locals are trying to do to turn it around.  While there are bright spots for sure, such as Grand River Wine Country, the Lodge at Geneva-on-the-Lake, and of course now the Jefferson Diner, the county as a whole still hasn’t recovered from the economic doldrums it has experienced in the past four decades.  Just to the north of Jefferson, the cities of Ashtabula and Conneaut, once the main ports for Lake Superior iron ore heading by rail to Youngstown, and even Pittsburgh, have never truly recovered from the collapse of the steel industry.  Yet, for such a large county, there is so much potential.

As I was leaving a woman at the next booth asked where I was from and I said Cleveland Ohio, which kind of interested her and I told her and we talked a little more.  Then, as I paid at the register, I asked the server if it was a lot busier the week before with the Ashtabula County Fair going on. It turns out, the vendors and cooks who sold things at the fairgrounds wound of eating in that diner which is not a kind of endorsement of the place I don’t know what is.




                                                                                 Is this really a milk shake?

Photographs by James Valentino