Helping teen fathers

For nearly two decades, Cuyahoga County’s Fatherhood Initiative has been encouraging noncustodial fathers to play a more active role in raising their children. It has done this through a variety of programs, including boot camps for new dads, sponsoring museum days for families, and helping fathers find better paying and more stable jobs. It also offers real talk and hard truths about the emotional and financial responsibility of being a young father, which is part of what the initiative describes as “premature parenthood prevention.”  

Al Grimes, who has headed the initiative since its creation in 2004, said high school students were the initial audience. But Grimes said the initiative now also speaks to middle school students because it has been seeing younger boys become fathers. (The initiative talks to more than 1,500 teens a year.) 

The St. Luke’s Foundation (which also supports Signal Cleveland) and Dollar Bank help cover the initiative’s operational expenses, while the county and other grants pay for county programs that offer services and programs for fathers. Grimes said keeping teens from becoming young fathers – or improving a young father’s parenting skills – saves taxpayers millions of dollars, especially in reducing medical costs.   

“We can’t afford to not do it,” he said. 

The initiative will hold its annual daylong Fatherhood Conference on June 16. It includes access to resources, workshops for fathers and a luncheon. The featured speaker will be actor and former Cuyahoga County Commissioner Peter Lawson Jones, who is responsible for establishing the Fatherhood Initiative. 

High on jobs

Is Greater Cleveland on a streak when it comes to declining unemployment rates? For the second month in a row, Greater Cleveland nationally had the second largest drop in the unemployment rate among large metro areas, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Greater Cleveland’s jobless rate was 3.4% in April. A year earlier, the unemployment rate was 4.8%. This means the jobless rate dropped 1.4 percentage points between March 2022 and March 2023. Greater Detroit, where the unemployment rate dipped 1.5% in a year, was the only large metro area in the United States to have a larger decline.  

Greater Cleveland’s unemployment rate was 4.2% in March. The metro area ranked second nationally for a 1.4 percentage point drop in the unemployment rate from the year before.

Refi for the Dawg Pound

The city-owned Cleveland Browns stadium, as seen from City Hall.
The city-owned Cleveland Browns stadium, as seen from City Hall. Credit: Nick Castele / Signal Cleveland

Cleveland is refinancing its debt on the taxpayer-owned Browns Stadium. As Signal Cleveland reported recently, the public has been on the hook for hundreds of millions in costs at the 24-year-old stadium. 

And there is more money still to pay. The city owes about $54 million in principal on what are called certificates of participation – a financing tool that Cleveland used to pay construction costs in the late 1990s.

The current owner of the city’s certificates is Wells Fargo. That agreement is expiring, and the city will have to seek new bidders for its stadium debt. 

The bad news for taxpayers is that U.S. interest rates have been going up. It remains to be seen what sort of deal the city will land.

From crocodile country to Gator Nation

Eden Giagnorio, a Justin Bibb campaign staffer from day one who followed the new mayor to City Hall, is moving to Florida. She’ll be the new communications director for the Florida Democratic Party. 

From Melbourne, Australia, Giagnorio won a U.S. green card in the visa lottery and jumped into American politics in 2020. She served as Bibb’s deputy campaign manager and later joined the mayor’s press shop, where she has been working on Cleveland’s forthcoming website redesign. 

The new chair of the Florida Democratic Party, Nikki Fried, announced Giagnorio’s hiring this week along with a slate of other top party staff. 

Florida Democrats have lost recent gubernatorial and Senate races in a state that – like Ohio – has been getting redder. But the party will take on new prominence as the home-state antagonist of Republican presidential candidate Ron DeSantis.

College bound

As Signal Cleveland and other media outlets noted last month, Eric Gordon, the outgoing CEO of the Cleveland Metropolitan School District, is taking a newly created senior vice president position at Cuyahoga County Community College that is focused on enhancing the student experience.

The non-contract position pays $210,000 annually. What wasn’t clear from the college’s initial announcement is whether the position was being paid for from the college’s operating budget or through its foundation, which raises private money for student scholarships and has more spending discretion than the college. We asked and this week the college said it is paying for Gordon’s position, not the foundation.

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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, where he has 10 years' experience covering politics and government in Cleveland and Cuyahoga County. Last year 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.

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.

Higher Education Reporter (she/her)
Amy, who’s worked in both local and national newsrooms for nearly a decade, previously covered higher education at Crain's Cleveland Business in partnership with the national nonprofit news organization Open Campus. A first-generation college graduate, Amy is committed to highlighting the voices of students in her coverage.