Raises for park workers and boss

The Cleveland Metroparks is giving its employees raises. As it does every year, it’s adjusting salaries to keep up with inflation and to account for state minimum-wage increases. But the park system is also adjusting the paychecks of top salaried employees to “maintain market competitiveness,” according to recent board documents. This, of course, includes CEO Brian Zimmerman. 
The Metroparks’ three-member board hired Zimmerman in 2010 at $145,000. He has since received large raises and generous benefits as he has earned high praise for his stewardship of the park system, which has added trails, services and space. 
The latest bump means in the new year Zimmerman will be paid $288,532, plus benefits, a Metroparks spokeswoman told Signal Cleveland.  
The public does not appear to mind. Last month, voters overwhelmingly backed a levy replacement, which costs them more money than the soon-expiring levy. 

No take backs 

Cleveland’s Ward 7 just elected Stephanie Howse to City Council last year, and already some constituents are trying to oust her.
Howse’s opponents turned in 641 petition signatures seeking to trigger a recall election, Signal Cleveland’s Nick Castele reports. The problem for them is that only 165 of those were valid for the purposes of a recall, according to the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections. 
The anti-Howse effort now has until early January to collect the names it needs. 
All told, a recall effort must get signatures from 20 percent of the voters in the ward who cast ballots in the last municipal election. In Ward 7, that comes out to 535 people. 
Howse, a former state lawmaker, has offered this response: “My service to our Ward 7 community is at the will of the residents of Ward 7 and I will continue to do my best to serve our community to bring people together and improve life for all our community members.”
The ward, which covers the Hough neighborhood, has been through this before. Howse’s predecessor, Basheer Jones, found himself the target of two recall campaigns in 2018 that ultimately fizzled.

Public records reset 

The Bibb administration hosted journalists at Cleveland Public Auditorium earlier this month for a friendly chat about public records. 

The law department shared tips on writing precise records requests and fielded questions and complaints from reporters. The overarching message from City Hall: We’re trying to get you the records you are seeking.  

“As a new administration, we recognize that we have to do better,” Law Director Mark Griffin told reporters. 

The city said it has received more than 29,000 requests for documents in 2022. That’s not all from local reporters and gadflies. Cleveland handles sizable requests from the producers of true-crime shows. Who knew?

New police commanders 

Photo credit: Jeff Haynes Credit: Jeff Haynes

Cleveland’s police department has appointed new commanders for three of its five districts, reports Signal Cleveland’s Stephanie Casanova. Commanders oversee daily police operations and are often the face of the department in their district neighborhoods. 

The new commanders are: 

  • Jarod Schlacht in the First District, which includes West Park, Edgewater, Cudell and the Bellaire-Puritas neighborhoods. 
  • Robert Tucker in the Third District, which includes the Downtown, Central, Hough, Fairfax and Little Italy neighborhoods. 
  • Maurice Brown in the Fourth District, which includes the Buckeye-Shaker, Larchmere, Lee-Harvard, Slavic Village, Mt. Pleasant and Union-Miles neighborhoods.

The city has also created a new police management position called Special Assistant to the Chief’s Special Projects and Innovations. Former Fourth District Commander Brandon Kutz steps into the role, where he will oversee high-level projects in the department such as the possible expansion of ShotSpotter, a gunshot detection system whose use has raised constitutional concerns. 


Documenter Karima McCree-Wilson notes some interesting discussion about Cleveland City Hall’s zoning vision and plans for pedestrian-oriented retail. It occurred during a recent meeting of the Board of Zoning Appeals. The discussion was triggered by opposition to a zoning change for an event center near Kamm’s Corners in the city’s West Park neighborhood.

Students want to be heard

The Cleveland Metropolitan School District’s Student Advisory Committee recently held its second quarterly meeting, Signal Cleveland’s Paul Rochford noted. Holly Trifiro, Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb’s chief of education, was there and presented a list of education priorities to the students. Trifiro also asked the students to identify three issues they care about most. But Rochford couldn’t get details of what was discussed because the meeting was closed to reporters.

Rochford recently talked to a student at the meeting about what was said there. The student, who did not want to be publicly identified, said that students were disappointed the mayor himself did not attend and that students did not get a chance to engage in a question-and-answer session with the administration. 

Rochford wrote a story this week worth highlighting how state lawmakers weakened a preschool quality rating system that their own research supports. You can read the story here. 

Managing Editor, News (he/him)
Mark is a veteran journalist with experience in alternative media, print, digital and television news. For 19 years, he was a groundbreaking reporter and metro columnist with The Plain Dealer and cleveland.com. Most recently, Mark spent three years as an investigative, enterprise and breaking news reporter at WKYC-TV, where his "Leading the Land" series on Cleveland's 2021 mayoral primary race earned a regional Emmy.

Government Reporter (he/him)
Nick joins us from the world of public radio. He has more than a decade experience covering politics and government in Cleveland and Cuyahoga County. In 2021, he produced and hosted "After Jackson: Cleveland's Next Mayor," an Ideastream Public Media podcast on the Cleveland mayoral race. He has also covered breaking news, opioid lawsuits and elections nationally for NPR.

K-12 Education Reporter (he/him)
Paul, a former City Year Cleveland AmeriCorps member based in a charter school, covered K-12 education for Signal Cleveland until August, 2023. Paul joined us from Cleveland Documenters, where he focused on creating infographics and civic tech to make public information more accessible. Paul is also a musician, photographer and graphic designer.

Criminal Justice Reporter (she/her)
Stephanie, who covered criminal justice and breaking news at the Chicago Tribune, is a bilingual journalist with a passion for storytelling that is inclusive and reflects the diversity of the communities she covers. She has been a reporter and copy editor for local newspapers in South Dakota, Kansas and Arizona. Stephanie is also a Maynard 200 alumni, a Maynard Institute for Journalism Education training program for journalists of color that focuses on making newsrooms more equitable, diverse and anti-racist.