Town Hall (3/29/05) Feedback

Submitted by Jeff Buster on Thu, 03/31/2005 - 10:32.

On 3/29 there was a town hall style meeting held in the Levin College at CSU. 3 or 4 TV stations covered the event. The topic was American Jobs; the sponsors of this open meeting of local and Ohio leaders and the public were the Council for Excellence in Government and Goldman Sachs along with GS’s Global Marketing Institute. Similar meetings are being held in other cities across the US. The panel included, Ohio’s lieutenant governor, John Ryan of the AFL-CIO, Stephanie Mc Henry, president of Shore Bank, A J Hyland, president of Hyland Software, Myron Robinson president of the Urban League, and Mayor Jane Campbell. The meeting space was full to overflowing (say 400) ; the moderator was lively and the audience kept the questions/comments coming.

A significant number of participants called for more help for Cleveland’s (and Ohio's)schools and colleges. It was pointed out by the passionate audience more than once that Ohio’s funding of the public schools has been found to be unconstitutional by the Ohio Supreme Court four times. People were (politely) shouting “unconstitutional� from the floor. Lt. Gov. Johnson maintained a terse composure. This was not exactly his audience. Johnson was the panel member who sat up the least straight. Seriously...

When asked what CSU could do, the president said his university did not have the resources to deal with kids that had not completed a high school education. He commented that already many entering students were not prepared to buckle down and handle the work. Several students asked why, in the face of statistics emphasizing the importance of higher education to securing a good job and livable wage, Ohio was making it more expensive to get such an education.

One person said his neighborhood lacked the transportation to get to jobs. He wants to try “cycle/ships� as a means of moving people around. (anyone know who this is? He should be invited to REI Tuesdays - let's link him with transportion community)

Another person pointed out the growing disparity between the rich and poor. He said when he opened his small business 1% of Americans controlled 20% of the wealth and now 1% controls about 40% of the wealth. The relevance to jobs is that with the concentration of wealth, the population at the lower end of the economic spectrum is being sucked dry of money – they have less buying power which means the factories which might make stuff for this part of the population loses market – round and round.

Someone asked what was being done to help former felons find work. Mayor Campbell said the City has a program that helps approximately 1000 of the 5000 felons that come home to Cleveland in a given year. That only leaves 4000 on the street without work.

After the meeting ended we asked a Goldman Sachs rep what GS hoped to get out of this national dialogue. She said she didn’t see any direct gain for GS; the motivation was civic outreach inspired by the observation that government and business were often talking past each other and the public was getting lost in the process. By creating a dialogue they hope to improve the economic reality – and any increase in US business would potentially improve Goldman Sachs’ bottom line as well.

The questions from the audience were excellent, not scripted, and the tone of the meeting was very civil, invigorating, and encouraging.

Good networking opp with city officials, Goldman Sachs execs, and audience - with free beer and hors d’oeuvres afterward.

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