D.C. calling (again)

Fresh off a trip to Washington, D.C., Mayor Justin Bibb returned to the nation’s capital this week for the U.S Conference of Mayors winter meeting. 

On Wednesday, he sat down with Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell — also elected in 2021 — for a panel discussion moderated by Amy Liu, the interim president of the Brookings Institution.

These panels are typically polite affairs where there’s little chance for the counterpoints or curve balls of local press conferences. 

But sometimes the chats do produce news. For instance, Bibb offered a glimpse of what he’s looking for in the new CEO of the Cleveland Metropolitan School District:

“Number one, a proven track record on being disruptive but also effective in closing the achievement gap for Black and brown students,” he said. “Because when I talk to parents in my city, their kids are graduating from high school — from a public high school — but they can’t pass English 101 at a community college. That is unacceptable.” 

The mayor also talked up his administration’s proposals for American Rescue Plan Act spending. Bibb said the stimulus proposals were “not just a wish list of pet projects from City Council, but smart, focused investments.” 

The comment did not go unnoticed back home in council’s City Hall offices. 

The mayor also attended a discussion about combating the spread of fentanyl. Bibb was not the lone Ohioan at the conference. The mayors of Columbus, Cincinnati, Toledo, Akron and many other Buckeye State cities registered for the event.

Marshal matters

Ronald Davis, the director of the U.S. Marshals Service, dropped by Cleveland City Council for a roundtable on violence Thursday. 

The city saw 154 homicides last year, according to police figures. Although that’s a decline from the number of killings in the prior two years, 2022’s grim homicide statistics were still above pre-pandemic levels. 

What did Davis take away from the meeting with council members? That Cleveland wants more federal resources, more collaboration with law enforcement, and a deeper analysis of why violence has spiked, he told the media afterward. 

“I think what we’ll take back is that we can help at the national level to better understand why we have the spike,” Davis said. “And not just here in Cleveland, but we’re seeing the spike around the country.”

College colleagues 

Cleveland State University President Laura Bloomberg and Cuyahoga Community College President Michael Baston have forged a strong working relationship.
Cleveland State University President Laura Bloomberg and Cuyahoga Community College President Michael Baston have forged a strong working relationship. Credit: Cleveland State University

Cleveland’s newest college presidents – Cleveland State University’s Laura Bloomberg and Cuyahoga Community College’s Michael Baston – are friends. Having both started in 2022, they’ve appeared on a handful of panels together, snagged lunch at the Union Club, and earlier this week hosted a combined summit for their leadership teams at Tri-C’s Metro campus.  

They’re in conversation about the region’s challenges, too, and hope others across the region note their relationship, the pair told Signal Cleveland’s Amy Morona. 

“We recognize that as we align the conversations, the strategies, that there are things that we can do to make a difference,” Baston said, citing examples such as writing grants together and building programs. 

Bloomberg said she’s been “honored” that local CEOs and non-profit leaders take her calls, but she wants to extend that network. 

“As a newcomer to this community, I don’t always know the best way to seek out the elders who really can speak to truth over time,” Bloomberg said.

Talking up nurses 

New MetroHealth System CEO Airica Steed has a long list of credentials and experience, including time as chief operating officer of a large Chicago hospital. But she started her medical career as a nurse. Signal Cleveland recently asked Steed, who also has a doctorate in education, to tell us a bit more about how being a nurse has prepared her for the job of running a hospital. (Her comments have been edited for space.) 

My background gives me credibility with those on the front lines – especially after all they’ve been through these past few years – because I’ve been there. They know I’ve walked the walk and can talk the talk. Before I had my nursing degree, while I was still in school, I worked many jobs at the hospital, including patient transporter, unit secretary, registrar and CNA (certified nursing assistant). 

When you’re in those situations, caring for people, comforting their families, literally holding their hands through some of the most frightening times of their lives, you see healthcare through a very different lens than other professionals might. 

We have to understand that our patients have complicated lives that might not fit into neat boxes on a spreadsheet or schedule. Empathy matters in healthcare, and I think nurses, because they are on the front lines, understand that.

Speaking of MetroHealth

As we have reported, the State of Ohio Auditor is conducting its own investigation into former CEO Dr. Akram Boutros’ bonuses and Metro’s compensation system. In a Dec. 20 subpoena obtained by Signal Cleveland, the auditor asked for numerous records, including the hospital board’s resolutions related to compensation and a list of any employees receiving a bonus from 2013 through 2022. You can read the auditor’s subpoena here

TAKE NOTE

As Cleveland Documenters first pointed out in November, the Cuyahoga County Alcohol, Drug Addiction, and Mental Health Services Board (ADAMHS) is stepping away from the Mental Health Response Advisory Committee (MHRAC).  

The City of Cleveland’s Director of Public Health, Dr. David Margolius, is taking the lead on the committee, according to a Jan.12 letter sent to committee members. He said in the letter he’s beginning to recruit new members.

The committee was formed out of Cleveland’s 2015 deal with the U.S. Justice Department to reform the police department, an agreement that is often referred to as the consent decree. The committee’s purpose includes recommending policies for how police deal with residents having a mental health crisis.

Anti-violence proposal

Cleveland City Council recently introduced an ordinance sponsored by Mayor Justin Bibb that calls for using American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) money to create a long-term violence-prevention strategy.

The administration wants to use nearly $1 million to pay for organizing community meetings on the topic and for youth employment opportunities, among other things. 

Administration officials told Signal Cleveland that Cleveland Metropolitan School District students will have input in the new plan. The mayor and students have met several times and discussed how to reduce violence, among other topics. 

The mayor’s office also said the city wants to expand its youth jobs program beyond the summer months, possibly year round. The proposed legislation includes funding for youth employment positions that will assist in “the shaping and implementation of the new violence-prevention strategy.”

Council has the final say on the shape of the ordinance and whether it becomes reality. 

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 cleveland.com. 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.

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.

Health Reporter (she/her)
Candice, a Cleveland Documenter since 2020, has been a freelance writer whose reporting and digital media work have appeared in The Daily Beast, VICE, Cleveland Magazine and elsewhere. She has written about health, equity and social justice.

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.