Casting call

Mayor Justin Bibb wants to freshen up Cleveland’s communications office. 

The city is seeking a consultant to evaluate the city’s multimedia operation and “identify media talent throughout existing departments.” 

The City of Cleveland doesn’t just send out press releases and field requests from news outlets. It also employs photographers and runs TV20, a public access television channel known for broadcasting council meetings, municipal court hearings and youth sports. 

Mayor Frank Jackson appeared regularly on TV20 in a segment aptly named “Frank Talk.” Rather than simply replace the show with something like “This Just-In,” Bibb is trying to put his own spin on the city’s media act. 

“The City is seeking to consolidate the media talent that currently exists across the enterprise in pursuit of Mayor Bibb’s vision of a more engaging, multimedia approach to strategic Communications,” the request for proposals reads. “This contemporary approach will focus on proactive storytelling via photojournalism, short and long form video content, social media presence, and frequent resident engagement.”

Police reverse course

The Marshall Project and Signal Cleveland recently reported that the City of Cleveland began removing police officers’ names and badge numbers from internal department bulletins that detail discipline cases. The move contradicts promises made by the new mayor to be more transparent and comes at a time when such transparency is the spirit of the city’s deal with the U.S. Justice Department to reform the department. 

Cleveland Director of Public Safety Karrie Howard said last month that officers felt that the open notices made “shaming” part of the discipline and led to “significant misinformation.”

But following our reporting, the city appears to have reversed course. The names are now back in the notices, according to several police officers and department watchers who alerted reporters in both newsrooms to the change.

Through a city spokesperson, Howard said: “The goal of the Department of Public Safety has always been to be fair and transparent with both community members and those of the Division of Police. This accomplishes these goals.”

Dennis is back

Former congressman and Cleveland mayor Dennis Kucinich, who dropped out of the news after losing a mayoral comeback bid in 2021, is now writing his own headlines. 

Last month, Kucinich launched the “Dennis Kucinich Report” on the Substack newsletter platform, which relies on paid subscribers. “Today, a sense of urgency requires me to speak out for the common good,” he wrote about his new gig. 

His first post highlighted his speech during a recent “Rage Against the War Machine” rally on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. There, several hundred people, including leaders of Libertarian and far-left groups, protested U.S. actions related to support of Ukraine, which is fending off a Russian invasion. Kucinich accused President Biden and his administration of not wanting a peaceful resolution to the war. 

Meanwhile, the self-described pacifist continues to wage legal war against his enemies.

Kucinich recently unmasked a Cleveland City Council aide, Steven Rys, for what the former mayor asserts was his involvement with an anonymous website that criticized Kucinich during his 2021 campaign. Rys’s attorney argued in a legal filing that the website was protected by the First Amendment and that Kucinich is trying to bully critics into silence. For more detail on this defamation case, check out the Axios Cleveland summary of the backstory. 

Kucinich’s  legal battle also continues against The Plain Dealer Publishing Co. He filed a libel suit against it in 2022 claiming the company “intentionally targeted” him and defamed him by falsely tying him to the scandal-ridden FirstEnergy Corp. Kucinich cites written stories as well as’s news podcast. The Cuyahoga County Common Pleas docket shows the parties are in the discovery phase and a final pre-trial has been set for late September.

Stadium speculation

The Cleveland Browns organization has completed its assessment of FirstEnergy Stadium, City Hall spokesperson Marie Zickefoose told Signal Cleveland.

But that report has not been turned over to City Hall, which would make it a public record and open to scrutiny and instant sports punditry (what other kind is there?).

“This is the product of the Browns and Haslam Sports Group,” Zickefoose said. “My understanding is that we have not received a copy, and we have not been presented with a full look at the report.” 

As we reported in an earlier newsletter, Mayor Justin Bibb and Jimmy and Dee Haslam met privately in November. While the Haslams and Bibb declined to say what was discussed, odds are good they talked about the “Factory of Sadness.” The city-owned facility, which opened in 1999, is now falling behind many of the league’s newer stadiums, and the Haslams are eyeing a major upgrade.

Guessing what the Haslams will get and want – a new stadium or a renovated one with a roof, a lakefront site or a downtown one – is an off-season parlor game. All options have likely been floated at some point.

For perspective, consider this: the Haslams have said publicly that they are looking to renovate the existing facility and that they want to be part of new development on the lakefront. There is no source of public money available to absorb new construction costs. Separately, a covered stadium would not make the city a mecca for concerts and conventions, based on one study commissioned by civic leaders years ago. That said, NFL owners have shown elsewhere they can have any stadium they want–when they fully pay for it. 

First Energy Stadium with train tracks in the foreground
First Energy Stadium Credit: Jeff Haynes / Signal Cleveland

Community budget watching

This week, Cleveland City Council members returned to the budget hearing table to vet Mayor Bibb’s proposals for how to spend the city’s expected allotment – nearly $34 million–of Community Development Block Grants and related federal grants, often referred to as CDBG funding.The money supports many neighborhood projects.

The Cleveland Documenters team watched and highlighted key discussions and details you can’t find anywhere else. One that stood out was a discussion about how the city’s community development corporations, which are key distributors of federal money, are underperforming. You can find more about this and other issues here.

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.

Community and Special Projects Editor (she/her)
Rachel leads our special projects work on topics that demand deeper coverage, and works with Cleveland Documenters and Signal staff to report those stories for wider understanding and accountability. She is our liaison with the Marshall Project in Cleveland where she focuses on including residents' voices in criminal justice reporting. Rachel has reported in Cleveland for more than two decades on stories that have changed laws, policies, hearts and minds. She was part of the team that helped launch Cleveland Documenters in 2020, and she was a John S. Knight Community Impact Fellow in 2021. Dissell is a two-time winner of the Dart Award for Excellence in Coverage of Trauma for narrative stories about teen dating violence and systemic failures with rape investigations.