Open U.S. doors to immigrants

My grandfather Albert Joseph Bialek came to the United States from Poland (Galicia) in 1910. Per the Ellis Island website he boarded the ship Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse in Bremen, Germany (formerly Prussia).

He had just completed his service in the Austrian Army. Poland at that time was divided into three spheres of influence namely Austria, Prussia and Russia. Upon being discharged he returned to his father’s farm. Officers from the Austrian Army made an attempt to re-enlist him but tradition dictated that he could remain at home so long as he was sorely needed on the farm. Immediately after the officers departed Albert’s father gave him his brother’s travel documents and instructed him to immigrate to the United States. His father knew that war was coming and he didn’t want to lose his son to it. It took me longer to locate my grandfather on the passenger list because I had forgotten he was traveling under the name Jan and not Albert. Given the fact that Albert entered the United States under the name Jan Bialek and later burned his immigration papers it is evident he was by definition an illegal immigrant.

He went on to become a very hard-working brick mason and law-abiding citizen raising 12 children with the help of his Polish wife Mary (nee Mazan). Just as Cleveland is a city of neighborhoods so is the United States a country of immigrants. In fact all the major cities of America at one time served as incubators for immigrants to not only become accustomed to the ways of this country but also to intermingle with each other, often prohibited in their native homeland.

It's a shame that the inner cities were handed over to the absentee landlords following World War II. Just imagine how much stronger and united our country might have been had this unofficial tradition continued. Gentrification is not the answer. Preventing immigration is not the solution. Intense vetting is acceptable during these challenging times but to unfairly deny one person access to the United States makes us all orphans again. As a popular song goes: “Let me in immigration man.”

Joe Bialek, Cleveland

Narcan not answer to overdose epidemic

The heroin and Fentanyl epidemic continues to grow in Northeast Ohio. The number of opiate drug deaths exceeds traffic-related fatalities. Much is said about drug treatment, but little is said about keeping heroin out of our communities.

As a registered nurse, I appreciate the well-intended efforts to save addicts’ lives by expanding access to Narcan, but the expanded availability of Narcan does not stop addicts from using heroin or fentanyl. In fact, giving Narcan to heroin addicts invites more and potentially more harmful heroin/fentanyl use. Emboldened by access to Narcan, heroin addicts continue to take heroin, often in more lethal doses. Some heroin addicts participate in “Lazarus parties” – group heroin use where an addict takes a serious dose of heroin and is subsequently saved (resurrected) with Narcan by another addict.

Providing Narcan to heroin/fentanyl addicts may seem humane, but it is not preventing heroin use or addressing the growing heroin epidemic. In reality, it is only serving to encourage more heroin abuse. There were reports that heroin dealers are now selling Narcan to heroin addicts along with heroin.

Giving Narcan to addicts is like giving fire extinguishers to pyromaniacs. The only thing assured is more criminal activity.

Certainly, more and better drug intervention treatment is needed to help heroin addicts overcome their drug addiction. But, again, such treatment addresses the drug epidemic from the back end. What about stopping the easy flow of heroin into Northeast Ohio?

What is not being discussed is what is really needed – stopping the easy access to heroin and fentanyl in Northeast Ohio. The best and most effective way to prevent heroin and fentanyl addiction is to eliminate easy access to those illegal drugs. Unfortunately, when asked, local drug addicts readily say that there is easy local access to heroin and multiple readily accessible drug dealers.

Yet, the State of Ohio has placed its primary attention on post-addiction efforts such as Narcan and treatment, instead of drug prevention.

If heroin and fentanyl were less easy to obtain, there would be less need for Narcan or treatment.

If we, as a community, really want to address the current heroin/fentanyl problem, we should demand that federal, state, and local governments and law enforcement agencies take the actions needed to stop the flow of heroin and fentanyl into our communities. Ohio will not continue to be the “overdose capital of the United States” if heroin and fentanyl are not readily available in Ohio. While getting these drugs out of our communities may not be easy or cheap, bringing a real end to the heroin epidemic would be well worth it both in the lives saved and reduced taxpayer-funded social services costs.

It’s time to attack the heroin/fentanyl epidemic head-on. It is time to fight with every tool available to keep heroin out of our communities. An ounce of prevention certainly is worth a pound of cure.                                                                                  

Judge Diane V. Grendell,  Ohio Eleventh District Court of Appeals

Attend district park board meetings

The January Geauga Park District board meeting, usually held in one of the park facilities, was moved to the Geauga Probate and Juvenile Courtroom for the Jan. 10 meeting. While no reason was offered to citizens who called earlier this week , John Oros was quoted in a local paper that “the board meetings have been disruptive at times.” Evidently, asking questions is “disruptive” to those who want to conduct public business secretly.

About 30 minutes prior to the start of the meeting all park board members were in the meeting room with the door closed – members of the public were refused admittance. Approximately 30 citizens waited in the corridor while the board discussed unknown topics.

Refreshingly, new board member Andrej Lah asked pertinent questions about plans that he had evidently had the opportunity to study prior to the meeting. We applaud his questions but wonder when he was given the documents…having only been sworn in that morning.

Once again there was very little question or comment from the other board members, even when presented with a replacement for the financial report that they had approved in less than 8 minutes at last month’s meeting. Director Oros mentioned a formatting error that moved sections of the financial document out of place – leading members of the public to wonder if the board members had even looked at the financial document that they so quickly approved at the Dec.13 meeting. The entire public part of the meeting was completed in 17 minutes.

Responsible citizens must ask, “How and where are park decisions being made?”

Protect Geauga Parks encourages all citizens to exercise their right to attend these public meetings despite the fact that Judge Grendell’s handpicked Commissioners have eliminated all public comment. Public meetings are meant to be open so that the public can understand how decisions are made concerning our tax dollars and public property. It is more important than ever for responsible citizens hold this public board responsible to the public.

Please attend the next Geauga Park District board meeting. I suggest you check the park website (for time and date) to make sure it has not been changed again.

Kathy Hanratty, Chardon

Approve changes to Landerwood Plaza

The is an open Letter to the Architectural Review Board of Pepper Pike and all residents.

As relates to the proposed changes to the Landerwood Plaza North and South:

I recognize the responsibilities of the ARB. They are charged with protecting the statues that govern construction in Pepper Pike. Their mission does not include obstruction of progress for our community. Keep in mind we do not have a historic district (like Gates Mills which may require protection of historic landmark structures). Landerwood Plaza buildings are 60 years old, neglected , tired, sort of Western Reserve looking building which need updating. We are fortunate enough to have a developer that is willing to spend $2 million to accomplish this goal. That being said, I am an almost 30-year resident of Pepper Pike; our home is directly behind Landerwood Plaza. I worked in the plaza in college. I had my office above the stores for 15 years. I am very concerned about the future of Landerwood Plaza.

I respectfully caution the members of the Pepper Pike ARB not to be looked upon as obstructionist rather than protectionist. We (Pepper Pike residents) have a developer that paid top dollar for the plaza and is now willing to put an additional $2 million into the center.

A very highly regarded architectural firm has done its research and spent over six months with many revisions. The ARB has been unreasonable and over-reactive to the plans presented.

Keep in mind Pepper Pike is primarily a residential community. It is not Nantucket or Charleston, S.C. with historic structures.

 I respectfully suggest everyone go on Google Maps and look at the following:

RESIDENTIAL: 28845 South Woodland Road;29930 Bolingbrook Road;29500 Bolingbrook Road

COMMERCIAL: 31050 Pinetree Road; 31100 Pinetree Road; 31200 Pinetree Road; 31099 Chagrin Blvd.

All these structures were approved by the ARB.

The developer and the architectural firm have made many changes to satisfy the ARB. ARB are clearly overstepping their bounds. Their mission is not to obstruct progress in our community. ARB has a right to its opinion. But in this case we are not looking at a “Frank Gehry” contemporary building.

 There is no way the 5,000 Pepper Pike residents will all agree on the changes proposed. This does not make either right.

The Pepper Pike ARB should approve the plans and allow our community to have the key commercial buildings be upgraded.

Jimmy Kleinman, Pepper Pike

Paramount to protect parks

My wife and I visited the American Northwest in September, visiting three national parks. As a result, our appreciation of the beauty and awe inspiring natural wonder that parks provide is strong. The history of parks in this country reveals that all parks, national, state county and city, require the wisdom and foresight of dedicated private and public sector leaders to establish and then protect parks for the enjoyment and life-enriching qualities that these natural places provide. Unfortunately, there have always been, and will continue to be, those who would prefer short-term economic gain over the long-term preservation of natural spaces for current and future generations. This was true when John Muir worked with President Teddy Roosevelt over 100 years ago, and it is still true.

Geauga County for many years has enjoyed farsighted leadership resulting in a wonderful park system. Unfortunately however, at this time its current leadership, appointed by Geauga Probate Judge Timothy Grendell has taken steps to subvert the mission of these parks. This phenomenon is not unique to Geauga County. Today there are many existing parks, including those in the National Park Service, which need to be protected from short term economic and political thinking.

While we should think globally, we should act locally. Therefore I encourage all citizens of Geauga County, as well as those of surrounding counties, to get involved with protecting the Geauga Park system from the current, short-sighted, efforts to undermine its true mission.

Dr. Nelson Mostow, Moreland Hills

Safeguarding religious freedom vital to the U.S.

I share Andrew Sand’s hope that the Trump administration will protect the freedoms of all Americans.

In his letter of last week referencing my previous letter, Mr. Sand claimed that much of the opposition to President Trump is based on a perception that Christianity will now be the “preferred” religion and others will be threatened. But it was the growing disregard for the religious freedoms of committed Christians that helped propel Mr. Trump into office, and a primary reason why I voted for him.

So when I stated that a president should protect “my” faith, I didn’t mean as preferable to other faiths but as equal in deserving protection. I believe the notion that “millions” are “very afraid” that their freedoms will be abridged in a Trump administration is a scare tactic perpetrated by his detractors designed to stir up the passions of the protest party. Our country was founded on biblical principles guaranteeing core freedoms including one of the most fundamental which is to live and worship according to one’s own conscience. Not just worship, but live.

 The First Amendment protects the “free exercise” of one’s religion, which for anyone whose faith is more than a box to check on a census or where they attend religious services, means the freedom to order every aspect of their lives according to their beliefs. Sometimes this “exercising” bumps into what others feel is their right to exercise a particular freedom and folks get bruised.

So they complain and charge the religious exercisers with unlawful discrimination and an increasingly secular society 200 years removed from the crafting of the Bill of Rights brings the hammer down on the Christians just trying to live out their faith. Instead of the much more reasonable alternative of advising the complainers to find another baker, photographer or florist. Which is more worthy of protection, the First Amendment (number one on the list) or the feelings of some who don’t like that not everyone can in good conscience celebrate their lifestyle?

 Under the Obama administration, feelings were favored and a Hillary Clinton administration promised more of the same. James Madison, known as the “chief architect of the Constitution” and who as a member of Congress introduced the Bill of Rights, said this in arguing against the establishment of religion by law: “… the policy of the bill is adverse to the diffusion of the light of Christianity” because “it at once discourages those who are strangers to the light of Truth, from coming into the regions of it.”

 As a Christian he recognized that, “religion … can be directed only by reason and conviction, not by force” and “that all men should enjoy the fullest toleration in the exercise of religion according to the dictates of conscience, unpunished and unrestrained by the magistrate.”

A sober appreciation and support of Christianity is the best safeguard of religious freedom. If it continues to be undermined we may find ourselves having to follow the dictates of a caliphate instead of our conscience.

Caroline Smith, South Russell

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