Nazis March in Toledo & Panzica Marches into Minds
For me, Toledo's always been the most plain-vanilla of Ohio's Big Five cities. Famous for nothing, but also infamous for little or nothing. Akron has its rubber legacy and now the tough-talking, would-be Daley mayor, Don P., which makes it not uninteresting. Cincy, the right-wing P&G company town, has its occasional fundamentalist eruptions against modern art and its beautiful city squares and restored Art Deco hotels. Youngstown has its closed steel plants and mob legacy, which provides all the narrative color any town needs. Cleveland--well, where to start? But what does Toledo have to recommend it? Yesterday, I would have said not much--just some scattered glass-making, the memorably named minor league baseball team, the Toledo Mudhens, and a failed, white elephant commercial lakefront project. But that was before I read about the violent marches by Nazis there. Not sure I would have picked Toledo as the obvious site for violence to break out at a Nazi march, but there you have it.
Panzica Marches into Minds. Meanwhile, I got an eye-opening eyewitness look at the whole Kathy Panzica phenomenon last week. She's the friend of Cleveland Mayor Jane Campbell who has suddenly seemingly taken over the whole re-election campaign. Henry Gomez of the PD memorably profiled her and her Red Room Revolution in last week's PD, and the local blogs have been abuzz over her in recent weeks, for good reasons.
Anyway, there we were Tuesday evening at Community of Minds, a wonderful monthly event that has been bringing together the entrepreneurial community for about six years (beginning when we might have called it the new economy community). Before the tech bubble, the co-sponsors--the law firm Thompson Hine, web developer MarchFirst, the software company Oracle and Silicon Valley Bank--poured so much money into it that they underwrote lavish free food an open bar for a couple of hours at a time. As you might guess, it was an impossibly popular event. But since the bubble, all the other players have dropped away except for Thompson Hine, which has stuck with it ever since in scaled-down fashion, winning boatloads of goodwill in the process.
The agenda that night was to hear from the two leading lights of One Cleveland, Scott Rourke and Lev Gonick. Seconds before they were set to begin speaking, Panzica and Campbell marched into the room as if they owned it. Jane was of course just Jane, looking like a slightly baffled housewife with a pained smile painted on. But Kathy P. had this eerie, unblinking quality, surveying the room but not really appearing to see much. But what came next was far eerier. Ignoring the proceedings, she marches up to the front of the room near the podium, and with nearly 100 people looking on, waiting to hear from the One Cleveland pair, she tromps right up and begins hugging everyone in the showiest possible fashion. First a deep body hug for tech czar Mike DeAloia, and then one for Rourke and another for Lev. She may also have hugged her Thompson Hine law colleague Tom Zych, who was serving as emcee. It was as if she owned the damn place.
The whole thing was more than a little creepy.
The beauty of Community of Minds, as its name suggests, is that it has mostly stuck to the subjects that engage progressive types that care about the region and understand some of what it will take to get us out of our funk. It's remained largely free of territoriality and pettiness, of any of the usual rivalries that divide people in business, instead choosing to focus on what brings people together. Until that night, I can't recall a single time (and I've been at most of these for its entire life) where partisan politics intruded in even a substantial way, much less in this crude manner.
Neither Campbell nor her weird new sidekick won any friends that night.
Magnum Reloads. And Speaking of DeAloia and Panzica, check out my boy Dan Hanson's wonderfully relaunched site, which highlights his interviewing skills with various tech luminaries via podcasts. You'll find a great hour-long interview with tech publisher Tim O'Reilly. But even more germane to our earlier subjects, the shorter interview with Cleveland tech czar Mike DeAloia (conducted in August, Dan tells me) includes him talking about Panzica (then named Cathy Horton) as his "right-hand person," even "chief of staff" on tech matters. Dan's been calling himself the Entreprenerd for some time, and it fits. But I prefer this new nickname he's given himself: Great Lakes Geek. Knock yourself out, Dan.