Mayor Justin Bibb speaks at a community meeting at the Phillis Wheatley Association in the Central neighborhood.
Mayor Justin Bibb speaks at a community meeting at the Phillis Wheatley Association in the Central neighborhood. Credit: Nick Castele / Signal Cleveland

Hot wheels

Mayor Justin Bibb prefers to be shuttled around by his security detail in roomier SUVs than in the iconic Ford Crown Victoria sedan his predecessor favored. Shortly after Bibb took office in January, the police department retrofitted a couple of its late-model Chevy Tahoes for the mayor’s travel. 
Last March sources told me the mayor was thinking even bigger, hoping to upgrade his ride to a pricier Ford Excursion. 
After I asked back then for records about a purchase or lease of such SUVs, City Hall told me there were no records to support the claim. The city considered buying the vehicles but withdrew the request. 
But Fox 8’s Ed Gallek reports a shiny new Ford Excursion is now resting comfortably in the City Hall parking garage. (It’s one of three new ones.) 
Exactly what they are used for is unknown. Here is what City Hall told me this week about its earlier statements and the purpose of the new vehicles: 

Three SUVs were purchased and are being added to the police fleet. I’m told the chief will determine where each one is assigned more specifically.

City Hall statement

Fair-wage victory

Cleveland City Council this week backed a wage ordinance barring the city from doing business with companies found to be shortchanging workers’ pay, a practice known as wage theft. 

The legislation was pushed by Guardians for Fair Work, a coalition of 30 community, faith-based and labor organizations. 

The coalition began lobbying council last year, arguing it should play a role in ensuring labor laws are enforced. Advocates found an ally in Council President Blaine Griffin. 

“We’re enjoying celebrating this week,” said Grace Heffernan, board president of the Northeast Ohio Worker Center, which she described as the “driving force” behind the wage-theft campaign. “We will be back in front of City Council members over the course of the next few months, letting them know what it is that they passed and why it’s important for them to resource it.” 

The new law bars businesses found cheating workers out of pay from getting city contracts and financial assistance.

Heffernan said she is most proud that the law will require the mayor to appoint a seven-member Fair Employment Wage Board in 2023.

The board will monitor the living-wage ordinance, which is designed to make sure low-wage workers aren’t exploited. The ordinance was passed more than 20 years ago, but the board currently has no members.

Signal Cleveland’s Olivera Perkins did a deep dive last month into wage-theft cases in Ohio.

Will Dow go down again? 

Former Cleveland Council Member TJ Dow wants back on the public dole.

He announced on Twitter this week that he’s running for a Cleveland Municipal Court judge seat open next November. 

Elected in 2008 to represent Ward 7, which includes the Hough neighborhood, Dow was dogged by controversies of his own making. He lost re-election in 2017 to Basheer Jones, who ran unsuccessfully for mayor last year. Dow, a former Cuyahoga County assistant prosecutor, ran for Jones’ open seat in November but lost to former Ohio State Rep. Stephanie Howse.

Among the controversies that followed Dow as a council member:

He frequently got into trouble for not filing proper campaign-finance paperwork.

He failed to pay property tax on his Cleveland home for nearly five years. 

He used his council expense account to bill taxpayers for copies of his self-published book series called “The Success Factor.” 

He held up a $100 million Cleveland Clinic development until players involved contributed money to a pet project, though he eventually dropped his demands. 

I could go on, but you get the point. 


Documenter Daniel McLaughlin noted that a number of serious issues came up during the most recent meeting of the Division of Children and Family Services Advisory Board. Among them: DCFS has 133 caseworker vacancies. You can review McLaughlin’s Twitter thread from the meeting here.


On Thursday, the Cleveland school district celebrated its first-ever state football championship, brought home by the Glenville High School Tarblooders last Saturday. 

The team, led by Coach Ted Ginn Sr., had made it to the big show twice before but fell short. 

The Division IV title winners were honored with a parade and rally attended by many Cleveland officials, downtown workers and residents. 

The celebration raised one question among at least a few observers: What the heck is a tarblooder? 

Here a is brief history lesson about the possible origins of the name, per the Cleveland school district’s website:

It is a school battle cry that started during the 1940’s indicating that members of the Glenville athletic teams would whack the “tar” and “blood” from its opponents. Thus, our colors are red and black. The team mascot symbol is a cross between a robot and a tin man derived from the imagination of a former Glenville student.

Another explanation is that a Tarblooder was a person who installed the ties for the railroads. Each tie was soaked in tar and the workers worked so hard they were said to sweat “tar” and “blood.” Thus, the mascot symbolized hard working, committed, dedicated individuals in the school and community. 

The championship proves the players and coaches at least took the latter definition to heart.

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.

Economics Reporter (she/her)
Olivera, an award-winning journalist, covered labor, employment and workforce issues for several years at The Plain Dealer. She broke the story in 2013 of a food drive held for Walmart workers who made too little to afford Thanksgiving dinner. Olivera has received state and national awards for her coverage, including those from the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing (SABEW). She was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University. Olivera believes the sweet spot of high-impact journalism is combining strong storytelling with data analysis.