A variety of public officials came together to discuss whether Cleveland and Northeast Ohio could serve as a model for the rest of the nation – in both responding to matters of national importance and in terms of effective governance – during a July 18 panel discussion hosted by The Purple Tent, an initiative of Purple America meant to encourage civil public discourse.
The discussion, moderated by Project Love and Purple America CEO Stuart Muszynski at Cuyahoga Community College Metro Campus in Cleveland, featured Michele Pomerantz, director of government affairs and advocacy for the Cleveland Metropolitan School District; former Cuyahoga County Commissioner Peter Lawson Jones; and Cuyahoga County Council members Dave Greenspan and Pernel Jones Jr.
All provided examples from their professional experience that underscored the value of collaboration, cooperation, leadership and a sense of respect in terms of effective governance at the local level. Greenspan recounted an instance during which he and Pernel Jones “swapped” county council districts to better understand the needs of each.
“Issues are issues. I may have more of one specific issue in my district than Pernel may have in his, and vice versa, but we have to understand what’s important for the overall good of our community. It’s not just about my district and what’s most important for my district, it’s about what’s in the best interest for the entire county,” Greenspan said. “If you look at our communities, they’re diverse, and some of them are very extremely diverse, but we have to work together to understand how we can solve the issues.”
When asked what role the Jewish community could play in the process, Greenspan said faith plays a central role in civil discourse.
“If you look at faith in general, the values that are involved in the mainstream faiths are very important to how we govern,” he told the CJN. “If each of us is raised with a strong belief and strong faith system, how we interact with each other should be an extension of that. So, our government and the way we operate at least at the county level, I believe, is an extension of what we believe in and how we interact.”
Muszynski asked whether it might be possible to transmit the kind of cooperation seen in Greater Cleveland to families nationwide, the education system or larger government bodies. Lawson Jones said the goal of transforming culture is achievable but that the will to do it must exist – especially among those in Columbus and Washington, but also among those in each community across Northeast Ohio.
“What I would like to see is that energy, that sentiment and that feeling of brotherhood and sisterhood that existed the day 1.3 million people were in downtown Cleveland looking at each other without regard to race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, wealth or lack thereof … ,” he said, referring to the recent Cavaliers championship parade. “If we can capture that – that fleeting sentiment – and sustain that in our community and in our country, then we’d truly be on to something.”
Purple America is an initiative of the Value-In-Action Foundation.