Friday, March 30, 2007

Initial Impressions of the Advance Northeast Ohio Launch

I attended the launch today. I have notes to go through and papers to read for some hopefully more detailed posts later. For now, some from-the-hip takes.

First off, we've moved well beyond Voices and Choices. The sign at the entrance to the hall proclaims "Voices and Choices Turns to Action." During the event, presenters mentioned V&C in passing, but part of the agenda was rebranding the efforts of the Fund for Our Economic Future. The Voices, as it were, have made their, as it were, Choices. Those Choices have been run through an expert mill of some sort and now Advance Northeast Ohio has set forth its agenda.
And let's work on the name. It's going to be shortened if the effort seriously catches on. I'm thinking AdNEO, but we'll take suggestions from the audience.

Also, as George noticed last night, the Advance Northea -- erm -- AdNEO website is up. You can register and, from what I've been told, post contend.

Beyond the change in focus, there is also a change in demographic. Gone is the great hoi poloi of the Voices Town Hall Meeting. No painter capturing the scene. No digitally-enable democracy. And, sadly, no rappers. This event was for the movers and -- hopefully indicated by my invite -- a few shakers. The audience was overwhelmingly in business attire. Among other things, this made the journalists (and the blogger) easier to pick out.

The commitment to regionalism was evident, though somewhat focused on the biggest counties. First off, meeting in Akron is in itself a symbolic nod toward regionalism. Last week I attended a more typical "regional" meeting in Cleveland (for something entirely different) in which I was the only representative from outside the Cleveland region. Even for Clevelanders, Akron represents a sort of not-West-Side/not-East-Side neutral ground. And apparently the folks from up north found their way down the dirt roads to Knight Center Holler without any problems.

The presenters came from Cuyahoga, Summit and Lorain Counties. I saw a pretty strong Youngstown contingent. But not a lot of serious talk about how to bring into the effort the less densely-populated counties or those on the perifery of what we are calling Northeast Ohio.

At this stage, discussion of K-12 education is minimal. I'll get into the wherefores in a later post.

Finally, I have to praise the overall blog-friendliness of the Fund. The Voices and Choices part of the effort got seriously cuffed around in the blogosphere as it unfolded. Nonetheless, the organizers reached out to us. While I was on the mailing list thanks to my participation in the Regional Town Meeting, FFEF Director Chris Thompson extended a personal invite to me and spoke to me afterwards.