Health board employees push to unionize

Cuyahoga County Board of Health employees are expected to formally vote this summer to join the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME Ohio Council 8). Employees began organizing in January, and more than 65% of the roughly 150 staffers have since signed paperwork signaling interest in joining the union, according to employees. They say they want better pay and work flexibility. They also say they were motivated in part by the challenges of working during the COVID-19 pandemic and under new management. (Former Board of Health Commissioner Terry Allan retired in April 2022.) His successor, Dr. Roderick Harris, is supportive of employees’ right to organize and is not interfering, a board spokesman told Signal Cleveland. Employees also claim to have the backing of U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown and a dozen other officials.

Bibb and Bill

The latest release of Mayor Justin Bibb’s calendars shows a meeting with former President Bill Clinton last month. 

The calendar entry for March 23 shows 45 minutes blocked off for the mayor and the man from Hope, Ark. It was unclear from the entry whether Bibb met one-on-one or in a group with Clinton, nor did the entry say what they discussed. 

Later that day, Bibb took part in a Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) roundtable in New York on decarbonization.

The roundtable brought together “mayors, climate innovators, nonprofit leaders, real estate corporations, and more to launch a community of doers, addressing critical elements of urban decarbonization in buildings and transit, prioritizing equity in climate action, and building momentum in cities around the world,” according to a CGI post on LinkedIn

Earlier that week, Bibb spoke on a panel at the Black Economic Alliance’s Solutions Summit in New York City. Also on his calendar that week were meetings with a principal at James Corner Field Operations – the company handling Cleveland’s lakefront master plan – and with executives at the private equity firm Blackstone.

MetroHealth System’s income falls

MetroHealth System's new CEO, Dr. Airica Steed began her term in December 2022.
MetroHealth System’s new CEO, Dr. Airica Steed began her term in December 2022. Credit: Kayode Omoyosi for Signal Cleveland

The county hospital had a $23 million loss in the first quarter of this year, down from a $13.7 million gain during the same quarter last year, according to financial statements released at a recent board meeting. The hospital system told Signal Cleveland the loss was expected because inflation and labor costs have been rising and the hospital sustained operating losses in four of the last six months of 2022. It said that the 2022 first-quarter profit included some one-time settlement money, which boosted the bottom line. Also, it said the October opening of the Behavioral Health Hospital added to its expenses but will generate more income in the coming months. New CEO Airica Steed is cutting costs, including reducing nurse overtime rates from triple pay to double pay, Metro said, adding that Steed has no plans to cut staff.

Help wanted

The Cleveland Department of Public Safety not only has hundreds of unfilled police officer positions, it also has openings in the 911 dispatch center, according to J. Barbara Harper, a call-center trainer and dispatcher who answered questions about the center during the department’s recent Fourth District community meeting. She said the city is trying to fill 22 open positions, including 11 dispatchers and a bilingual Spanish-speaking call taker. Harper said the city has five applications in the pipeline.

Labor leader drama continues

Dan O'Malley, head of the North Shore AFL-CIO Federation of Labor with Louie, his dog rescued from a research lab. Photo taken Dec. 21, 2022
Dan O’Malley with Louie, his dog rescued from a research lab. Credit: Kayode Omoyosi for Signal Cleveland

Dan O’Malley’s name has disappeared from the North Shore AFL-CIO Federation of Labor website. As head of Northeast Ohio’s largest labor organization, O’Malley was suspended (with pay) in February for allegedly making improper purchases with the federation’s credit card, pending an investigation and a hearing before the executive board. Though there’s been no formal announcement about his future yet, his name has been removed from the federation’s website.

“I want to stay respectful of the process while at the same time I strongly maintain that I have done nothing wrong, that all of my expenses were approved every month, and that I have been a good steward of the federation’s finances,” O’Malley told Signal Cleveland.

Executive board members did not respond to a request for an explanation about O’Malley’s status.

Abortion-rights petition

Cleveland-area Democratic elected officials are lending their names to the statewide campaign to write abortion rights into Ohio’s constitution. 

Mayor Bibb, Cuyahoga County Executive Chris Ronayne and Richmond Heights Mayor Kim Thomas are endorsing the campaign to place the amendment on the ballot. They were scheduled to collect signatures Saturday, according to a media advisory from Bibb’s campaign. 

The amendment would grant individuals “a right to make and carry out one’s own reproductive decisions” in contraception, abortion, fertility treatment, miscarriage care and continuing a pregnancy. 

If the petition drive succeeds in putting the measure to a vote, this year’s elections will draw national attention and make Ohio the next electoral battleground in the post-Roe fight over abortion rights.

New NAACP director

The Cleveland Branch of the NAACP has named Edwin Hubbard Jr. as its new executive director to manage the organization’s daily operations. The storied civil rights organization, which has been here for more than a century, has been working to grow its voice around high-profile issues such as social justice and minority entrepreneurship, but it has faced financial challenges and leadership turnover during the past decade.

A Cleveland native and graduate of the Maxine Goodman Levin College of

Urban Affairs at Cleveland State University, Hubbard is a board member of 100 Black Men of Greater Cleveland Inc. and The Black Professionals Association Charitable Foundation, among others. He previously worked for New Bridge, a nonprofit that provides job training, and for the Akron Urban League. He starts in May.

More from the candidates

The finalists for the Cleveland schools’ new CEO – Warren Morgan and Ricardo “Rocky” Torres – participated in eight community interviews this week, including livestreamed sessions with parents and students. They answered questions on school safety, the equitable distribution of resources, and how they plan to listen to parents and students. 

Morgan,who grew up in Chicago, is the chief academic officer for Indianapolis Public Schools and worked for the Cleveland schools at one time. He said ensuring students have transportation to the school of their choice is among his priorities. You can hear more from him here

Torres,who isassistant superintendent of student services for Seattle Public Schools and a former principal at Cleveland’s Luis Muñoz Marín Elementary School, pledged to conduct a district-wide listening tour if chosen. You can hear more from him here

Students told the candidates the next CEO should invest in the Say Yes educational support program, in music and arts, and should give students more say on big district decisions.

The district expects to name the new leader in early May.

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.

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.

Criminal Justice Reporter (she/her)
Stephanie, who covered criminal justice and breaking news at the Chicago Tribune, is a bilingual journalist with a passion for storytelling that is inclusive and reflects the diversity of the communities she covers. She has been a reporter and copy editor for local newspapers in South Dakota, Kansas and Arizona. Stephanie is also a Maynard 200 alumni, a Maynard Institute for Journalism Education training program for journalists of color that focuses on making newsrooms more equitable, diverse and anti-racist.

K-12 Education Reporter (he/him)
Paul, a former City Year Cleveland AmeriCorps member based in a charter school, covered K-12 education for Signal Cleveland until August, 2023. Paul joined us from Cleveland Documenters, where he focused on creating infographics and civic tech to make public information more accessible. Paul is also a musician, photographer and graphic designer.

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.