Mayor Bibb backs Issue 2

Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb formally backed Issue 2 Friday, after telegraphing his position for a couple of weeks, including through his health director in this column. You can read that discussion here. Bibb didn’t address the potential negative health effects of smoking marijuana in his endorsement, which focused on the legal equity issues surrounding Issue 2.

“Cannabis criminalization has had a disproportionate effect on Black and Brown communities,” he said. “By regulating marijuana like we do alcohol, we can ensure it is used responsibly and safely while helping to end the cannabis-use-prison pipeline.”

Open call for anti-violence ideas

Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb talks with reporters after an event on violence prevention at Frederick Douglass Recreation Center in the Lee-Harvard neighborhood.
Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb talks with reporters after an event on violence prevention at Frederick Douglass Recreation Center in the Lee-Harvard neighborhood. Credit: Nick Castele / Signal Cleveland

Thanks to federal stimulus, Cleveland has $10 million to spend on neighborhood efforts to quell violent crime.

Mayor Bibb and City Council have given the money to the Cleveland Foundation to manage as the Cleveland Neighborhood Safety Fund. The hope is that the dollars, untethered from City Hall bureaucracy, will hit the streets faster. Bibb also wants to raise more money so the anti-violence fund lasts for years to come. 

Cleveland is seeing historically high homicide numbers, and the police force is well below its budgeted strength. Bibb has made appearances with Gov. Mike DeWine this year to send the message that local police and state highway patrol are making arrests and seizing weapons. 

But the event announcing the fund pointed to the other side of the safety equation. That is, dealing with the deep trauma that might lead someone to pick up a gun. 

“We want to make sure that our police department is working with federal law enforcement and state law enforcement to get the habitual violent criminals off our streets, without a doubt,” Bibb told reporters. “That is always going to be a priority for this administration. But we recognize that it’s so important to also have mental health interventions.”

People interested in applying for the money can find a fact sheet on the fund here. The application period opens Monday, Oct. 9, and closes Nov. 15. 

To apply, login or register on the Cleveland Foundation’s Grant Gateway site where you will find an online application for the Neighborhood Safety Fund.

Cuyahoga County jail site turf war

Cuyahoga County Executive Chris Ronayne has the go-ahead from council to buy land in Garfield Heights for a new jail. The argument over the plan is far from over, however. 

A draft environmental report on an alternative site on Kirby Avenue and East 131st Street in Cleveland found toxins such as arsenic in the ground. Manufacturers used the property for decades to make screw machines and auto parts. The county would need to remove and treat soil before a jail could go there, the report said. 

That would seem to bolster Ronayne’s case for the Garfield Heights spot.

But Sunny Simon, the District 11 council member who voted against buying the Garfield Heights land, told Signal Cleveland she thinks the Kirby site is a better location. 

She wants to schedule a hearing on the environmental report. After all, she said, the county paid for the study, so the public ought to hear what’s in it. 

There’s also the money issue. Council hasn’t yet decided whether to ask voters to extend a quarter-percent sales tax to pay for jail construction costs. 

“This is no done deal,” Simon said. “No, it’s not too late. It’s just the beginning of the conversation.”

Signal background

Weed week

Representatives of the cannabis industry rallied in Cleveland last week for a two-day event, and it had nothing formally to do with the campaign for Issue 2, the proposed law before voters this November that would legalize recreational marijuana.

Taking place at the I-X Center, the third annual Ohio Cannabis Health & Business Summit was a networking and education convention for those working in and around the cannabis industry. It featured talks on banking, payment processing, packaging and cultivation. It also included an expungement clinic service that helps remove low-level marijuana convictions from public records.

Medical marijuana use has been legal in Ohio since 2018. Many of the players in the medical marijuana industry are the ones backing Ohio’s Issue 2, which has always been the real prize.

More Browns Stadium napkin math

Cleveland City Hall has already said it hopes to have a general commitment in place with the Browns by next spring outlining plans for the future of the city-owned stadium and the lakefront. Browns owners Dee and Jimmy Haslam have also said they are looking at comprehensive renovation instead of a new stadium.

The main issue is how much of the price tag – potentially well over $500 million – will the city be willing and able to cover. Signal Cleveland hears that the city has floated the idea of Cuyahoga County helping pay for it, though exactly how that would work is unclear.

Bibb and Ronayne are far more friendly than their respective predecessors and are bonding over a lakefront vision. The two may also have to work together to ensure that the latest renovations slated for Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse, which are guaranteed to the team in its lease, are covered.(Though the county bears the primary responsibility for the arena, the city could play a role.)

Signal Cleveland asked the mayor’s office if it has formally asked the county executive to help pay for a stadium renovation. We haven’t heard back. A spokesperson for the county wouldn’t comment directly on the issue but said the county “is committed to improving lakefront access for all of our residents” and “will continue to collaborate with partners throughout the region to achieve that goal.” 

For more fun with back-of-the-napkin math, remember Bibb and Ronayne are also eyeing a landbridge to connect Mall C to the lakefront, which could cost more than $200 million. Oh, and the county needs a new jail, which is hundreds of millions more. 

New look for Cuyahoga County prosecutor

Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Michael O’Malley recently updated his office’s website. A spokesperson described the makeover as a way to “provide greater accessibility and enhance efficiency for the residents and visitors of Cuyahoga County.”

It doesn’t hurt that the site offers more information about the office as O’Malley makes his case for a third term. The only person in the way at the moment is fellow Democrat Matthew Ahn, who has drawn O’Malley’s attention and scorn. The two will face off next year in the March primary.

The prosecutor’s image on the new homepage stands out for its passing resemblance to lawyer/pitchman Tim Misny. In the large image, O’Malley is sporting a clean-shaven head and pinstripe suit (and goatee). However, he has yet to be quoted saying, “I’ll make them pay.” 

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.