Frank Jackson looks back

Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson speaks at a Police Week event in May 2021.
Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson speaks at a Police Week event in May 2021.

Cleveland’s longest-serving mayor, Frank Jackson, has kept a low profile since leaving office almost two years ago. Now he’ll appear in a new book, titled “Mayor’s Desk,” that features interviews with 20 heads of city government around the world. 

The book was written by Anthony Flint, a fellow at the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy. He spoke with Jackson in 2021, before the mayor handed over City Hall’s keys to Justin Bibb.  

Flint told Signal Cleveland that, like other older cities, our town has “good bones” to build upon. He and Jackson talked about the skeletons, too: Cleveland’s longstanding racial and economic inequalities. 

“It wasn’t a victory lap,” Flint said of his talk with Jackson. “He seemed to be genuinely reflecting on the work that still needed to be done.”

Jackson was hardly known for peppy optimism. When he announced he wouldn’t seek a fifth term, he spoke of the visions of poverty and violence that still haunted him. In his interview with Flint, the former mayor expressed hope for Cleveland’s future – with a dose of wry Jacksonian realism. 

“That’s the advantage to where Cleveland is now,” he told Flint. “To have a blank canvas, so to speak, gives us that opportunity. Now the question is whether or not we mess it up.”

Read more about the book from publisher Columbia University Press here.

People’s Budget fallout

As the dust settles from the narrow defeat of Cleveland’s Issue 38, which would have given residents a direct say over a small portion of the city budget, Cleveland City Council Member Michael Polensek is kicking up some dirt. 

In a letter to colleagues after the election, Polensek called out Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb, who said he was against the issue, for failing to get his hands dirty and campaign against it. 

“I would be remiss if I didn’t express my extreme dismay over the lack of engagement by Mayor Justin Bibb and his team on this matter,” he wrote. “They were totally missing in action during the campaign and on Election Day.”

The mayor was indeed mute. Council President Blaine Griffin, council members and city unions led the opposition, arguing Issue 38 would usurp elected officials’ power and divert resources from key city services.

Proponents of the plan, which included residents and activists supportive of Bibb’s progressive politics, argued it would engage Clevelanders and give them a greater voice.  

Opposing the citizen-led initiative came with political risks, as Signal Cleveland’s Nick Castele laid out in a recent profile on Griffin, which is worth revisiting. 

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Greater Cleveland Partnership wants to help people earn and learn

The Greater Cleveland Partnership, the region’s advocate for businesses, says it’s trying to help people secure apprenticeships and ultimately good-paying jobs. 

Using a $6 million grant from the U.S. Department of Labor, GCP is working to build a system to connect workers to industries not traditionally served by apprentice programs, such as the information technology, banking, retail, insurance and human resources sectors.

Mike Glavin, GCP’s vice president of talent, said the goal is to place people in hard-to-fill jobs in the region and “educate both sides of that equation on the value of apprenticeships.” 

“A lot of great talented folks in our region, quite candidly, just don’t have the access, the privilege, the time, the money to connect with a four-year degree pathway,” Glavin said. “Apprenticeships create the conditions where somebody can earn while they learn.”   

Signal Cleveland’s Amy Morona, who covers higher education and workforce development issues, attended GCP’s recent “Signing Day” event, which is a worker’s version of athletes committing to colleges or professional sports teams. Nearly two dozen Greater Cleveland residents were there, either accepting offers for an apprenticeship program or offers to jump right into a new job.

GCP says it hopes 80% of people placed in apprenticeships will come from populations underrepresented in the trades like women and people of color.

Among the local companies participating in the GCP program are Medical Mutual, Sherwin-Williams, the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland and Compass Payroll Services. 

Shaker Square landlord fights back against City Hall

The corporate owner of three Shaker Boulevard apartment towers is pleading its case in Cleveland Housing Court. 

The City of Cleveland is suing the landlord, Shaker Heights Apartments Owner LLC, and asking Judge W. Moná Scott to declare the properties a public nuisance. The city’s complaint, filed in March, cited leaking pipes and broken elevators among the problems reported by tenants.

The lawsuit is one example of the tougher line that the Bibb administration has promised to take against landlords who don’t maintain their properties. 

In a new legal filing, attorneys for the landlord accuse City Hall of targeting their client with code violations. The attorneys blamed the apartments’ conditions on the prior owner, who sold the buildings in 2022.

“Since taking ownership, Defendant has worked to address each of the building violations referenced by Plaintiff in a timely and thoughtful manner, but an instantaneous fix after years of neglect is not possible,” Yaacov Amar, one of the investors in Shaker Heights Apartments Owner, said in the filing. 

The next hearing in the case is scheduled for Dec. 8.

TJ Downer

Apparently, it’s never too early to declare your candidacy for Cleveland municipal judge. Former Cleveland Council Member TJ Dow, who lost a bid for the bench Nov. 7, told a group of Cleveland residents last Saturday that he’s running again next year. He stopped at the Cleveland Ohio South East Residents Association meeting, which Signal Cleveland attended, to thank residents for their past support and declare his new candidacy. 

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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 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.

Higher Education Reporter (she/her)
Amy, who’s worked in both local and national newsrooms for nearly a decade, previously covered higher education at Crain's Cleveland Business in partnership with the national nonprofit news organization Open Campus. A first-generation college graduate, Amy is committed to highlighting the voices of students in her coverage.