I come from a family of teachers, laborers, and salesmen. My dad is a science teacher and was president of his union. My mom recently retired from a New York corporate investigations firm, and spends her free time as a peace and justice activist when she isn’t spoiling her favorite grandson. My dad’s parents were factory workers. My mom’s parents were a salesman and a secretary. My stepmom and my sister are former public school teachers. And I went to law school.
I watched my mom’s political awakening as a child. In a year’s time, she went from being president of our church’s Altar Rosary Society to co-founder and president of the local NOW chapter. After my parents divorced, we moved from Geneva to Youngstown, when the city was in continuing decline following the collapse of the steel industry. I cut school to go to a political rally, to see Dick Celeste, Teddy Kennedy, Fritz Mondale, and yes, Jim Traficant. My view of the affluent eighties was from the south side of Youngstown, the kind of place that prosperous times no longer reached.
My mother taught me to see the good in people, to seek justice, to seek peace. My grandfather taught me how to pray. My dad taught me about reason and philosophy. My uncle taught me that gay people are just like everyone else. My other uncle taught me how to run a business. Living in a declining steel city and rural Ashtabula taught me about poverty, and race and class. Living in a single parent household taught me many of the challenges that women and struggling families face.
I first got interested in city politics in another college town, Bowling Green. When I was in school there, the city used a ward system for city council, and packed the university and the students into a single ward holding nearly half the city’s population. We started a successful fight over voting rights that went on for years, long after I graduated and went to law school.
At law school I made law review, and I interned for Congressman Eric Fingerhut and then at the Department of Justice. I had lofty ideas about changing the world. Student loans sent my professional career in a more practical direction. I clerked for Judge Kathleen Ann Sutula at the Court of Common Pleas. I worked at a boutique law firm where we did great work on challenging cases for people who really needed the help.
Along the way, I lived around greater Cleveland, and lived in University Heights from 1998 to 2000, and then from 2005 to present. I met my wife Gina through a mutual friend who was in a writing group with her. We married in 2007, and made our home here.
When the economy crashed in 2008, Gina had gone back to school. I made the perilous jump of opening my own law practice. Times were tough, and we nearly lost our home. But through hard work and some luck, we made it through. In my law practice I take cases I believe in, cases involving consumer protection, employment discrimination, and animal rights. Sometimes the odds are long, but the fight is always worthy. Gina sings, writes, and works in medical research. And in the Women’s March, she marched for justice, just like her mother in law.
I have grown interested in city politics out of a desire to give back, to become more involved and engaged in our community. I was part of the citizens’ effort to build our new Community Park. I joined the board of FutureHeights, our grassroots community organization that serves to promote Cleveland Heights and University Heights as destinations to live, work, and play. When President Obama said after the 2016 elections, “If you're disappointed by your elected officials, grab a clipboard, get some signatures, and run for office yourself,” I felt like he was talking right to me. Politics affects us whether we participate or not.
My intentions over these next few months, and then the four years that follow, is to bring people together, seek common ground and consensus, and lead us forward. Our city has a number of challenges and opportunities facing it, both short term and long term. I am going to address these challenges and opportunities in this campaign. The decisions we make now can improve our city and make it a better and more desirable place to live for years to come. Together we can reach new heights.