Bibb uses Issue 1 victory to ask for money

Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb speaks to a news reporter. Behind him, FirstEnergy Stadium's name is beginning to come down off the building.
Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb speaks to a news reporter in June 2023. Credit: Nick Castele / Signal Cleveland Credit: Nick Castele / Signal Cleveland

Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb isn’t taking credit for the resounding defeat of Issue 1, the proposed amendment to the Ohio Constitution that would have made it harder to make future changes. But he says his efforts to turn out voters are worth a few bucks, according to his latest fundraising email that seeks political contributions of at least $5.

“After Statehouse Republicans believed creating a special August election would result in low voter participation, Ohioans proved them wrong and turned out in numbers,” he writes. “I’m proud to have used every tool at my disposal – from simply knocking on doors to contributing to putting a ‘vote no’ message in mailboxes across Cuyahoga County.”

The mayor didn’t get into numbers, but here’s the recap. Cuyahoga County had a turnout of 38% (76% of those who participated voted against the issue). High turnout was driven by suburban voters. Cleveland’s 23% turnout was the lowest in the county. That is comparable to what it was in the 2021 mayoral election. Low city turnout in recent elections is considered a drag on Democratic Party power in Cleveland, a topic that continues to spark debate over what officials need to do to earn the trust of voters and motivate them.

Cleveland labor groups take an Issue 1 victory lap too

The North Shore AFL-CIO Federation of Labor, which is taking credit for helping with Issue 1’s big defeat Tuesday, says it hasn’t stopped mobilizing voters.

“All of us from the Issue 1 campaign have the expectation that we’re going to continue because there’s even more good trouble to get into,” said Leonard DiCosimo, who heads the largest labor organization in Greater Cleveland, which has 85,000 members. 

Issue 1 failed miserably in Cuyahoga County. In Ohio, it failed 57% to 43%. Many proponents of the amendment had hoped its passage would stymie an abortion rights amendment on the November ballot, which also includes an initiative that would legalize marijuana

The federation was part of a greater effort by the Ohio AFL-CIO to defeat Issue 1. When DiCosimo, whose official title is executive secretary, took office in May, he placed defeating the measure among his top priorities. He and the federation’s political director, Brian Pearson, focused on stepping up mobilization efforts, which included organizing 375 volunteers for the Issue 1 campaign. The volunteers mailed 55,000 handwritten postcards to Ohio union households and knocked on nearly 20,000 doors in Greater Cleveland.

The United Auto Workers, the Communications Workers of America and the OhioAFL-CIO assigned staff to work full time on the campaign, which helped the federation coordinate plans. 

“Organized labor was better able to mobilize because we increased communication between each other, between political staff, and we had more meetings,” DiCosimo said, adding that supporters even put off vacations to devote more time to the campaign. “The high interest in Issue 1 also coalesced us.” 

DiCosimo said also key to the Issue 1 mobilization effort was getting retirees involved and developing alliances with the faith community and veterans groups. He sees this continuing in November and into 2024, which includes the presidential election and labor friendly U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown’s re-election bid.

Cage match over People’s Budget

After agitating for months for a faceoff with the backers of the proposed city charter amendment that would give residents a direct say over a small portion of Cleveland’s budget, pugilist and West Side Council Member Kris Harsh will get his match. 

According to a council press release that sounds like a UFC promotion, Harsh (and a tag-team partner to be named later) will debate representatives of the People’s Budget Cleveland – the group behind the proposal – on September 26. 

“PB Cleveland leaders have accepted a council member’s challenge to debate their initiative to take $14 million from the city’s general fundand give it to a group outside of Council to decide how to spend it,” the release said, referring to the proposed amendment’s requirement that 2% of the city’s budget be directed by residents. 

The referee will be Carrie Cofer, the head speech and debate coach at the Rhodes High School Campus and the assistant debate coach at Hathaway Brown School.

The event is being staged at Public Hall’s theater and starts at 6 p.m. sharp. There’s no warm up card.

Tri-C keeps public profile high

Cuyahoga Community College released new promotional videos earlier this summer, including a five-minute “institutional overview” and a one-minute commercial. The commercial is slated to air 50 times in the Cleveland TV market on several cable networks, including CNBC and Discovery Channel. A short-form documentary will be “distributed to more than 170 public television stations beginning in September and air over the ensuing 12 months,” per a July 24 news release.

The college collaborated on the spots with the Viewpoint Project – which boasts actor Dennis Quaid as its host. The cost, according to records requested and reviewed by Signal Cleveland, clocked in at $28,900.

Similar to the recent deal between the college and Cleveland Magazine (which Signal Cleveland reported on last month), what’s arguably more notable is who the college is trying to reach with this content and why it partnered with this particular company. College officials seemingly laid it out in that July announcement: “Viewpoint provides curated educational content on the world’s most influential organizations and individuals to public television audiences.”

Police grants draw great interest

The city’s new Community Police Commission received almost 100 applications for community grants totaling four times the money the commission has available.

Commissioner John Adams, chair of the Budget and Grants Committee, said applicants collectively are seeking $4.6 million to fund their work in violence prevention, restorative justice and mediation. The commission has $1.08 million to allocate.

The Community Police Commission, which was created by the police reform charter amendment passed by voters in 2021, has final say on police discipline cases and on Division of Police policies and training. The commission gets 0.5% of the police budget, or $1.8 million, to fund grants of up to $50,000. (With council approval, the commission can issue larger grants.) 

About 70% of the applications are for violence prevention work, Adams said. The committee plans to interview applicants before deciding who will receive funding, Adams said. The funding is expected to go out to organizations by Nov. 1.

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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.

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