Rev. Otis Moss Jr.
The Greater Cleveland United Pastors in Mission at Antioch Baptist Church on July 17, 2023. The group was speaking out about the city's uptick in street violence. Rev. Otis Moss JR. speaking at lectern. Credit: Mark Naymik

Honoring Rev. Otis Moss Jr.

Cleveland political leaders want President Joe Biden to award the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Rev. Otis Moss Jr., the storied pastor emeritus of Olivet Institutional Baptist Church

Sen. Sherrod Brown wrote a letter to Biden this fall extolling Moss’ long career.

Moss, 88, is a contemporary of Martin Luther King Jr. and one of Cleveland’s living links to the Civil Rights Movement. He joined in the Selma-to-Montgomery march and ran the Cincinnati affiliate of King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference. 

“There is no doubt that Rev. Dr. Otis Moss Jr. has pushed the wheels of progress forward and brought us closer to the just and equal society we’re all striving to create,” Brown’s letter reads. 

Mayor Justin Bibb has also joined the effort. In a letter to Biden, the mayor said this of Moss: “His fingerprints can be found on nearly every victory for justice in the last 50 years.”

Med Mart Makeover

Global Center for Health Innovation
Global Center for Health Innovation Credit: Jeff Haynes / Signal Cleveland

The transformation of the underperforming public project once known as the Medical Mart is well underway. At a cost of nearly $50 million, the space – also branded the Global Center for Health Innovation – is being converted into an extension of the Huntington Convention Center of Cleveland. The Global Center, which was supposed to showcase medical technology and attract high-tech businesses, had been mostly vacant in recent years.

There is some good news on the horizon, according to records from the Cuyahoga County Convention Facilities Development Corp., which manages the space. As of October, the atrium space has booked 24 events, including eight for 2024. A total of 50 events are being proposed.

Among those locked in for the coming years are the American Society of Association Executives (2024), Association of State Dam Safety (2025), Educational Testing Service (2025-2028), National Association of Credit Management (2025), and Obesity Week (2028). The events combined are expected to draw 13,000 people.

Building local support for Ukraine

Heather Conley, the head of the German Marshall Fund, a Washington-based nonprofit that fosters transatlantic relationships, was in Cleveland this week promoting the need to keep supporting Ukraine.

Her trip included a speech at the City Club of Cleveland and some talks with local congressional offices. But you can’t come to Cleveland and not visit the Ukrainian Museum-Archives, which holds one of the largest collections of Ukrainian cultural artifacts in North America.

There, Conley joined Parma Mayor Tim DeGeeter, whose town is home to Ohio’s largest Ukrainian community, along with representatives of Brown and U.S. Rep. Max Miller’s offices. Conley told Signal Cleveland that supporting Ukraine is as important as the support the United States gave Europe after World War II through the Marshall Plan.

“Strong U.S.-Ukrainian economic ties will strengthen American companies and Ukrainian companies, and when the war is over with Russia, and Ukraine is victorious, we will have one of the most capable militaries in Europe that degraded the second most significant military in the world that is a U.S. adversary,” she said.

“I’m here trying to make Americans understand we did something very powerful and successful in the 20th Century, and we can do it again in the 21st Century.”

Conley’s visit also included promoting the Marshall Memorial Fellowship program, which receives support from the Cleveland Foundation. Through the program, business leaders, public officials, nonprofit executives and others travel to Europe to learn from their counterparts and build relationships. (I’m an MMF alumnus.) This year’s fellows include Cleveland City Council Member Jenny Spencer.

People’s Budget on the airwaves

The campaign for Cleveland’s participatory budgeting amendment is making its case for Issue 38 on local radio stations. 

The People’s Budget Cleveland Committee spent $4,000 to place a 15-second spot in the ad rotation on iHeartMedia’s 96.5 KISS-FM and hip-hop station Real 106.1. 

The ad buy occurred too late to show up in the latest campaign finance filing that Signal Cleveland covered this week. But it does appear in disclosures with the Federal Communications Commission. 

The People’s Budget campaign said it also has a 30-second spot airing on WOVU, a community radio station run by the nonprofit Burten Bell Carr and a Signal Cleveland partner. That ad cost the campaign $500, according to the committee’s financial filing. 

Open call for a Good Sanitarian

Police vacancies may get the headlines, but Cleveland needs health inspectors, too. The city is currently down 10 inspectors. Dr. David Margolius, the health director, told Signal Cleveland his department is “up to date and making it work” with just 15 on staff. 

Inspectors primarily keep an eye on food safety at restaurants and carryouts. But the Health Department’s portfolio has historically included jobs such as writing up property owners for tall grass – a task better suited for building inspectors. 

The city is in the process of bringing five new health inspectors on board, according to Margolius. There are more jobs open. If you think you have what it takes, inquire within

And for a status update on the Cleveland Health Department, read our Documenters’ notes here.

Take note:

The recent Cleveland City Council Health, Human Services and the Arts Committee also touched on a number of other topics worth noting.

Documenter Alyssa Holznagel flagged a discussion about turnover in the Department of Aging, driven in part by what some say is bad culture and a lack of career advancement.

Officials also said that about 75% of the $100 rebates issued in 2023 for the electric lawn mower program went to non-Cleveland residents and that seniors need help writing wills to keep their properties from being stuck in probate court after they die. Signal Cleveland reporters will continue to follow up on these issues. 

Dubai update

A few weeks ago, Cuyahoga County Council grilled Executive Chris Ronayne’s administration about a planned trip to Dubai for the COP28 climate conference. This week, the county’s board of control signed off on the trip. The George Gund Foundation is footing the bill for Ronayne, and the county is seeking legal opinion on whether the foundation can cover a county staffer, too.

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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.