More strike talk
Teamsters Local 507 and other unions representing Cleveland city workers continue to publicly protest a contract impasse with Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb’s administration.
They are also messing with Ryan Puente, Bibb’s chief government affairs officer, whose job is to work with City Council, other elected officials and unions.
As I noted in last week’s newsletter, a number of labor leaders are upset that the city is not offering snowplow drivers, waste collectors and other municipal workers raises on par with those recently offered to the city’s safety forces.
At Monday’s Cleveland City Council meeting, union members showed up with placards. On Wednesday, the unions demonstrated at the airport, where some workers are represented by Laborers Local 860.
But the unions hit Puente directly. After last week’s demonstration outside City Hall, the unions made hundreds of automated phone calls to city residents, urging them to contact City Hall about a potential disruption in services if they strike. The robocall included one number – Puente’s cell phone.
Puente told Signal Cleveland he started receiving calls shortly after the demonstration and was forced to shut off his phone temporarily. He said the unions crossed a line and should respect the bargaining process.
The next step in that process takes place later this month when a “fact finder” will listen to both sides and review their materials. A recommended settlement is expected about 30 days later. If either side rejects that, the unions could strike in early January.
The unions say they are not bluffing.
Power of the sample ballot
Cleveland City Council Member Brian Mooney (Ward 11) is lucky to be a Democrat. At least that’s the explanation Democrats are offering for his razor-thin victory Tuesday over Republican Cuyahoga County Court Judge Joan Synenberg. Mooney, a former assistant county prosecutor appointed to council in 2020 and elected to a full term last year, did little campaigning for the bench seat. He submitted to screening interviews with just two of the six bar associations participating in the nonpartisan Judicial Candidates Rating Coalition, which produces the rating site Judge4Yourself.com. He earned a grade of “not recommended.”
Though running against the political tide in the county, Synenberg had won election twice, thanks to vigorously campaigning and her reputation as a fair and compassionate judge. Five of the six bar associations gave her a “highly recommended” rating. (The other gave her a “good” rating.)
If Mooney’s less-than-one-percentage-point margin holds, he’ll take the bench on Jan. 12.
Council will have to appoint a temporary replacement to represent Ward 11, which includes the Cudell, West Boulevard and Bellaire-Puritas neighborhoods.
Among the rumored candidates eyeing the seat is former Cleveland City Council President Marty Sweeney. But people worried about his return can relax. Appointed to County Council last year, Sweeney told Signal Cleveland he appreciates the attention but he’s happy to have been “duly elected” (without opposition) Tuesday to his first full term to county government, where he plans to stay.
Some members of Cleveland City Council are already thinking about election year 2025, when council leaders are required by the city charter to resize the body to reflect the 2020 Census figures. This means residents will lose two council seats, shrinking from 17 to 15. The process is political and messy and leaves residents with fewer officials. This has some members considering whether the charter should be amended again. The options include locking the number of seats at 17 regardless of population shifts (which could raise questions about their salaries); or restructuring to include a couple of at-large members. Publicly, nobody is talking.
It’s no surprise that Democrat Chris Ronayne defeated his Republican opponent, Lee Weingart, to become Cuyahoga County’s next executive. Ronayne was a tireless campaigner, raised big money and benefited from many political ties in the Democratic-leaning county. So, I’ll offer this small footnote: Cleveland’s NAACP, which is not the political force it once was, gave Ronayne a “C” grade on his responses to a candidate questionnaire. It asked candidates for their plans to address racial equity and support Black women, among other topics. Weingart also earned a “C,” though a slightly lower raw score. You can read the questionnaire and their answers here.
Documenters Marvetta Rutherford and Sarah Tan note that the Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services Board of Cuyahoga County (ADAMHS) is stepping away from the Mental Health Response Advisory Committee (MHRAC), which was created by the City of Cleveland and U.S. Justice Department to try to foster relationships and support between the police, community and mental-health providers. This change came to light during a recent MHRAC meeting.
St. Vincent Charity Medical Center’s decision to close its medical emergency room and inpatient care – among other services – is a blow to healthcare in Cleveland’s Central neighborhood. But the medical center, which closed Friday, earlier than originally planned, also provides another service to the community not getting much attention: It’s a source of affordable, freshly cooked hot meals distributed through a program known as Mission Kitchen. Read Signal Cleveland’s Candice Wilder’s story on the future of the hospital’s cafeteria and its impact on residents.