Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb at the FutureLAND conference in October.
Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb presented his budget to Cleveland City Council. Credit: Nick Castele / Signal Cleveland

Still no deal

Although Teamsters Local 507 and other unions representing Cleveland city workers have cut back their public protests against Mayor Justin Bibb over a contract impasse, they are far from retreating, union leaders told Signal Cleveland.
A strike, they say, is coming. (Just like winter.) 
Teamsters met on Nov. 22 with a “fact finder,” whose job is to listen to both sides and review their materials. The fact finder is expected to issue a recommended settlement by mid-January. If either side rejects it, the unions could strike. 
Bibb recently notified non-union city employees that they are getting a $1,000 bonus. 
“As we continue during these challenging times, anguished by the global pandemic, distressed by disruption in our supply chain, and the economic uncertainty, Cleveland has adapted to the new changes and continues to thrive,” Bibb wrote in the letter’s preamble, burying the news of the bonus and 2 percent raise.
(The bonus and raise for non-union employees is not out of the ordinary. The city typically offers these employees raises and bonuses that reflect those being offered to union employees.) 

Building bridges

The Cleveland Building & Construction Trades Council backed former Cleveland Council President Kevin Kelley in the 2021 mayor’s race, but they are playing nice with Bibb, who defeated Kelley. 

The labor organization, which is headed by Dave Wondolowski, hosted a fundraiser for Bibb Thursday night at the Lago East Bank restaurant. Suggested donations ranged from $1,000 for guests to $7,500 for hosts. 

Wondolowski generated unwanted attention during the campaign when he complained publicly about what he said was uncritical media coverage of Bibb. The labor leader then declared that voters should “kick the s- – -” out of Bibb at the ballot box. 

But the two men have found common ground in trying to keep people working. Oh, and a little fundraiser also helps. 

Policing the corridor 

The Opportunity Corridor lost a prospective new neighbor this week. Bibb said he’ll locate the new police headquarters at the edge of downtown – not on the East Side road project, as envisioned by former Mayor Frank Jackson. 

Bibb explained his thinking at a meeting Tuesday night in Ward 5, home to about half of the $300-some million road. 

I believe we need to invest in more jobs in Ward 5 and really make Opportunity Corridor a jobs hub long term.

Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb

“I believe we need to invest in more jobs in Ward 5 and really make Opportunity Corridor a jobs hub long term,” the mayor said. “That’s critical. Jobs, jobs, jobs.”

Translation: The city wants businesses, not a police HQ, on the corridor.

Cleveland has been selling land to local cheesemaker Miceli Dairy, based just off of Buckeye Road. In September, the city OK’d $2.2 million in tax-increment financing to help Orlando Baking Company build a refrigerated warehouse along the corridor – a continuation of a deal that began last year. 

What will move next door to Orlando? That remains to be seen.

Health board pushes AIDS message

The Cuyahoga County Board of Health marked World AIDS Day on Dec. 1 by calling on Ohio lawmakers to revise HIV-specific statutes that it says are no longer backed by science, and, therefore, discriminate against people living with HIV. 

Dr. Andre Brown, the Cuyahoga County Board of Health’s director of equity, diversity and inclusion, told Signal Cleveland that states passed laws in the early and mid-1990s meant to reduce the spread of HIV by criminalizing certain behavior.

In Ohio, a person with HIV can be charged with assault for spitting on a police officer, though science proves the disease can’t be spread through saliva. Brown said people can also still be charged with a crime for failing to tell a sexual partner they are HIV-positive –  even if they practice safe sex and their virus load is undetectable, which means they can’t transmit the virus sexually.

Brown said the laws need to change to focus on “intent to transmit”  and provide a defense for people who took measures to prevent transmission, such as using viral suppression (through antiretroviral medication use) medication and condoms.

Brown said the current laws have an unintended consequence of discouraging people from being tested. 

Finally, Brown noted that the laws disproportionately affect Black men, who make up 6 percent of the state’s population but account for 31 percent of those convicted for HIV-related offenses.

More COVID money talk

Bibb and Cleveland City Council are still working out how to spend the city’s $511 million slice of the Biden administration’s American Rescue Plan Act.

Council President Blaine Griffin circulated some ideas to colleagues this week. A draft spreadsheet lists $10 million to $15 million for down payment aid and an estimated $8 million in help for delinquent Cleveland power and water customers. 

Bibb’s side of City Hall has ideas, too. One that may get some debate is “participatory budgeting” – letting the public decide how to spend a share of the city’s ARPA cut. 

Stay tuned. Bibb’s next gust of ARPA proposals is expected in January. 


Cleveland Documenter Laura Marica notes details about the cost of buses at the Regional Transportation Authority. The transit system is buying a bus load of buses, each costing $652,032. For more information and context, click here.


Tom Ott, the longtime spokesperson for the Cleveland Metropolitan School District, is retiring at the end of the year. A former Plain Dealer education and government reporter, Ott has worked at the school system since 2013, most recently as deputy director of communications.
Beefing up the district communications department is another Plain Dealer alum and a Pulitzer-nominated columnist, Philip Morris. He recently joined the district as one of two directors of communications, where he’ll oversee the district’s News Bureau, the website and archivist. 
To keep this theme going, there’s another former Plain Dealer reporter and editor worth noting. Mike Tobin, currently vice president of communications, government and community relations at the MetroHealth System, is leaving the public hospital for University Hospitals of Cleveland. He’ll become vice president of communications there in the next few weeks, taking over for Gary Christy, who is retiring. 
Tobin, who spent nearly 10 years handling community and public affairs for the Northern Ohio U.S. Attorney’s Office before joining MetroHealth, is a highly plugged in communications professional. He settled on his new job weeks ago, before the recent developments at MetroHealth, which have had Tobin working every last minute of his tenure. 

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.