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Monday, March 27, 2017

Kevin Kelley: City Council Won't Be Impediment to Passage of Q Deal

Posted By on Mon, Mar 27, 2017 at 2:02 PM

City Council President Kevin Kelley - SAM ALLARD / SCENE
  • Sam Allard / Scene
  • City Council President Kevin Kelley
Cleveland City Council President Kevin Kelley told reporters Monday morning that he expected City Council to pass the Quicken Loans Arena renovation deal.

In a gathering at his City Hall office, billed as the first in a series of "office hours"-styled press sessions, Kelley confirmed that he personally supports the Q deal, given the information he has available to him.

He said he and his council colleagues have been meeting to discuss questions and concerns and that he has been forthcoming with information and sources, including the favorable recommendation of City Finance Director Sharon Dumas.

The issue will be first heard Tuesday morning at the Development, Planning & Sustainability Committee hearing, chaired by Anthony Brancatelli. Kelley said he expected it to be heavy on formal presentations.

"My one request," Kelley said, referencing his colleagues, "is that if you're against [the deal], that you be against it for the right reasons. Don't be against it because it might be politically distasteful to a certain outside group."

He said that while he understands philosophical objections to corporate subsidies, he doesn't think that that argument alone is sufficient to vote against this particular deal, which he refers to in the language of the Cavs: "The Q Transformation." For Kelley, the argument is one of simple math: It's a good deal for Cleveland citizens because the facility generates more money than it costs.

The city's financial contribution will come from the admissions tax. The same portion of the tax that currently goes to pay down debt on 90s-era Gateway bonds (5/8 for Cavs games, 2/8 for non-Cavs events) would go toward the arena upgrades beginning in 2023. Total admissions tax contributions are estimated at $88.5 million. For Kelley, it's cut-and-dry, merely a continuation of an existing financial arrangement.

"Tell me how Cleveland loses by doing this," Kelley said, paraphrasing what he would tell his colleagues who oppose the deal. "Make a better case than 'We shouldn't be giving money to billionaires."

Kelley objected, in even harsher terms, to the argument that investment in the Q was equivalent to disinvestment in Cleveland's neighborhoods. He characterized that argument as a go-to political talking point, (in what's shaping up to be a contentious campaign summer), but an inaccurate one.

"It's a disingenuous argument," Kelley said. "Investing in neighborhoods is all we do. Look at 90 percent of our budget." He rattled off a list of city investments in his own Ward 13 (Old Brooklyn): $8 million for a Pearl Road streetscape project, the renovation of a historic bank building at Pearl and Broadview, $1.5 million for Loew Park, $375,000 for Goudreau Park, etc.

Kelley said he called the press session to calibrate information in the media and to provide a regular opportunity to clarify council activities — to provide, he said, a "different and more complete perspective."

"Often what's covered in the media is something said on the floor Monday night," Kelley said. "But I would remind you that by then, the votes have already been taken... It's important that I provide as much access as possible. I have nothing to hide."

Kelley presented highlights from the the 2017 budget, scheduled to be passed tonight — increased funds for public safety, parks and recreation, and public health — and called it the "best budget [he's] been a part of." He said that 2017 must be an "impact year," to show residents that the income tax increase passed in 2016 will yield visible improvements in city services.

But the recurring questions from the press corps focused on the Q deal. And though Kelly said he wanted to start with a blank slate and allow for ample presentations so his colleagues could make an informed decision, it looks like despite heated opposition from certain members, the votes are already more or less lined up. 

"Do you think City Council will be an impediment to getting this thing passed," a reporter asked.

Said Kelley, "I don't think so, as I sit here today."
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Kinsman Shootings Bring Cleveland’s 2017 Homicide Count to 30; Mayor, Police Chief Address Increasing Violence: UPDATE

Posted By on Mon, Mar 27, 2017 at 1:53 PM

Kinsman and East 75th - ERIC SANDY / SCENE
  • ERIC SANDY / SCENE
  • Kinsman and East 75th
Four people were shot yesterday on side streets near Kinsman Road; by evening, police had cordoned off three separate crimes scenes. Two people, a 17-year-old boy and a 19-year-old man, later died at University Hospitals.

The incidents bring Cleveland's homicide tally to 30 so far this year. Of those, eight victims have been under the age of 20.

Some ballpark math puts 2017 on track to match or exceed previous years' homicide counts. (Last year, the city saw 136 homicides; in 2015, 120; in 2014; 102; in 2013, 88. And note that homicides, generally, tend to rise in warmer months.)

According to police, yesterday's shootings converged around 4:30 p.m., each within just a block or two of one another. Few additional details have been released.

The Sunday shootings follow a pair of incidents on Saturday, when a 61-year-old Cleveland State University adjunct professor was shot and killed nearby, on East 89th and Kinsman. Also on Saturday, a 15-year-old boy was shot and killed at East 79th and Woodland. The sequence of events and motives surrounding those shootings have not yet been divulged. Three men have been arrested in relation to the Saturday incidents.

According to Police Chief Calvin Williams, the Saturday and Sunday events may be linked. “We are heavily leaning toward there being some aspect of connectivity to Saturday’s and Sunday’s shootings,” he said. “We are asking for the public’s help. We want to stop this right now.”

He added that members of the Cleveland Peacemakers Alliance were in hospitals and in neighborhoods Sunday and today, reaching out to people with potential connections to the shootings.

Still, nearly one quarter into the year, the increasing number of data points, clustered mostly in and around Mt. Pleasant and surrounding neighborhoods, provides a foothold in another violent year in Cleveland and a chance to take stock of how the impending spring is shaping up.

Councilman Zack Reed remains one of the few local politicians who discusses the city's rising homicide rate with any frequency or clarity. He's introduced both legislation and opinion that demands more police officers (2,000 within three years, he's suggested), later hours for community recreation centers and, delving into the nitty-gritty of neighborhood relations, working streetlights on every corner.

A memorial for another man killed in the neighborhood in 2016 rests just up the road from Sunday's crime scenes. - ERIC SANDY / SCENE
  • ERIC SANDY / SCENE
  • A memorial for another man killed in the neighborhood in 2016 rests just up the road from Sunday's crime scenes.
He tells Scene that the numbers for the first 10 weeks of each year are only getting worse, tracking with the yearly totals. (We're entering Week 13 now, for context.) Nonetheless and even in the wake of the Department of Justice consent decree and the calls for community policing, the city has yet to turn its soaring homicide rate into a marquee legislative or executive issue.

As recently as last year, the resurrection of the "mini station" police policy — which in the past involved small satellite police stations in community centers — transformed into City Council histrionics. Mayoral candidate and City Councilman Jeff Johnson proposed this year a citywide mini station plan.

The emphasis on visibility and neighborhood policing is the key for Johnson and Reed, who have both routinely raised these arguments at council meetings for years.

"City Hall and the mayor's office have waited, in my opinion, too late to deal with this problem," Reed says. "This problem right now is spreading like wildfire."

Mayor Frank Jackson and Police Chief Calvin Williams held a press conference Monday afternoon, outlining the arrests behind the Saturday shootings and discussing on a more general level the investigations into gang activity and gun violence across Cleveland.

“We had the wherewithal to prevent these things from happening,” Williams said, referencing the officers standing nearby and lamenting the lack of information provided by neighbors on the ground in and around Kinsman. He urged family members and neighbors to call the police department with any information related to gun violence.

Jackson pointed to the flash mob and fights that erupted at the I-X Center over the weekend as an example of the police department’s Gang Impact Unit doing the sort of work that he finds vital to the city’s current plight. Three adults and two children were arrested at the I-X Center; Gang Impact Unit officials have intimated that, based on information, gun violence was imminent at the time they stepped and broke up the fight.

The city overhauled its gun ownership regulations in 2015, and Jackson on Monday pointed to those new laws as a step in the right direction. In 2017 so far, the police department has confiscated more than 200 guns. Still, he recognized the constraints on gun control in Ohio. “What we have available to us to do is very limited based on state law,” Jackson said.

As City Hall and many experts point out, the solution to neighborhood gun violence and gang activity will only come from a broad gamut of sources. Gun control is one oft-cited element, as Jackson and others pointed out this week, but there’s a network of community-based resources and technologies that will play a role in how Cleveland addresses this ongoing problem.

This morning, in the wake of the weekend shootings, Reed cited the Queensbridge Houses in New York City (the largest public housing development in the U.S.), which not too long ago celebrated 365 straight days without a single shooting. Among a spectrum of possible causes, local observers point to arts and cultural offerings, a robust security apparatus, after-school opportunities for children in the development and community partnerships with Cure Violence.

"This is what we need," he says. "It wouldn't stop [violence] if you put police on every corner. But you can stop it if you go into those communities and let people know that this is not normal."

This story was updated at 1:50 p.m. to reflect news and announcements from the mayor and police chief.

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Cleveland Museum of Art Reaffirms Commitment to Diversity and Unfurls New Banners

Posted By on Mon, Mar 27, 2017 at 1:48 PM

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At a time when the current U.S. President and the cronies in his cabinet have adopted a white nationalist agenda, institutions around the country have worked to affirm their commitments to diversity and inclusion.

Today, the Cleveland Museum of Art unfurled new banners that reflect the museum's inclusive philosophy.

“With issues of tolerance and diversity so prominent in the current national conversation, we feel it is important to emphasize the museum’s role as a welcoming place for all,” says William M. Griswold, museum director, in a press release about the new banners. “From the very beginning, it was important to our founders that we provide access to art from all over the world. The museum has always been free and open to the public, helping a broad audience to understand and engage with great art. We highlighted this commitment in our centennial celebration last year, and it remains as strong as ever as we embark on our next century.”

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Bruce Willis and Crew Are Now in Cleveland Filming 'Acts of Violence'

Posted By on Mon, Mar 27, 2017 at 1:45 PM

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This weekend in Cleveland marked the beginning of filming for Bruce Willis' new action picture "Acts of Violence." That means you'll might be seeing some celebs around town, like Sophia Bush for instance, who took in dinner on East Fourth.
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The actress/activist, who can also be seen on Chicago P.D., said that the two entrees and five desserts she sampled at Michael Symon's Lola "ruined" her. Been there, Sophia.

But all of those carbs are sure help with the intense action of "Acts of Violence," in which a cop (Willis) infiltrates a human trafficking ring. Mike Epps stars as the bad guy.

Locals can also be a part of the filming process. Project Casting put out a call for teenagers in the Cleveland area and were previously on the hunt for extras for outside shots and even a gentleman's club scene.

Willis will also begin production on another film shooting in Ohio starting in July, reports Deadline Hollywood. That one is called Reprisal and is directed by Brian A. Miller.
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Update: Snoop Dogg to Appear at 2017 Rock Hall Inductions

Posted By on Mon, Mar 27, 2017 at 1:30 PM

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Update: Rapper Snoop Dogg will appear at the upcoming Rock Hall Inductions to pay tribute to the late Tupac Shakur, one of this year's inductees.

While the gossip website TMZ reports that Dr. Dre has also been invited to the festivities, the Rock Hall can't confirm his appearance.

As the event nears, expect the Rock Hall to announce more details regarding presenters and performers.

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NBC News Covers Corrupt East Cleveland Cops and Tangled Web of Lies, Questionable Convictions

Posted By on Mon, Mar 27, 2017 at 1:18 PM

Justice Center, Photo courtesy of Aivazovsky via Wikimedia Commons
  • Justice Center, Photo courtesy of Aivazovsky via Wikimedia Commons
We've been following along as dozens of convictions have been slated to be overturned in the wake of the East Cleveland Police Department corruption scandal. Three police officers were indicted in 2015 on charges relating to illegal searches and seizures during the course of their investigations; Torris Moore, Antonio Malone and Eric Jones shook down drug dealers and stole from suspects' homes for years.

Only one of the more than 40 convictions tied to those cops still involves a prisoner in custody. (The rest of the defendants have been released or are serving time on unrelated charges.) But the process of undoing the harm is circuitous and slow.

NBC News arrived in town to shed some light on where East Cleveland and Cuyahoga County have gotten to at this point, and it's always relieving to see a national news outlet place a spotlight on Northeast Ohio's abysmal criminal justice record.

Three cops who worked for the city of East Cleveland are in prison. Cases against 22 alleged drug dealers have been dismissed. Authorities are searching for another 21 people who are eligible to have their convictions tossed. On top of those injustices, there is a slim chance that any of them will be fully reimbursed, because the disgraced officers and their former employer don't have the money.

"I always took it on the chin when I got arrested for something I know I did. But when a cop lies to get you in prison, that's a different story," said Kenneth Blackshaw, who was arrested in a 2013 traffic stop and spent two years behind bars before his drug conviction was overturned.

Moving on, NBC gets into the sheer scale of police graft in the U.S. ("In Philadelphia, more than 800 people have had their convictions dismissed. The Rampart scandal in Los Angeles in the late 1990s led to at least 150 tossed cases.") Group exonerations that follow police officer convictions don't get the press attention that, say, DNA-related exonerations do. As Jon Schuppe at NBC explains, the sort of thing that happened here in East Cleveland only stokes anti-police sentiment further and divides communities at a time when hope is most needed.

Moore
  • Moore
"What I saw in this case is a legitimate reason for these folks to have these feelings toward law enforcement," Assistant U.S. Attorney Ed Feran, who prosecuted the East Cleveland officers, told NBC News.

But the path toward undoing that damage has not been simple. The Cuyahoga County Prosecutor's Officer's Conviction Integrity Unit has reviewed any and all criminal cases that Torres, Malone and Jones had touched. Based on the corrupt detective work that led to dozens of convictions, the CIU was left with the sole option of vacating those convictions and declaring the defendants "legally innocent."

The CIU is still in the process of tracking down all formerly incarcerated defendants who were sent to jail on the East Cleveland officers' handiwork.

Do read the full story.

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Singer Bryan Ferry Revisits His Roxy Music Days During Engaging State Theatre Concert

Concert Review

Posted By on Mon, Mar 27, 2017 at 11:24 AM

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Many moments of singer Bryan Ferry’s performance last night at the State Theatre veered toward New Age. With the cooing backing vocals and sprinkles of saxophone and oboe, Ferry and his nine-piece band ventured dangerously close to embracing the somnambulistic jazz-rock fusion that became popular in the '80s.

And yet, the 71-year-old Ferry, who looked dashing in his dapper black suit, performed with such refined restraint that his distinctive aura kept the two-hour show from becoming a snooze.

“It’s good to be back in Cleveland,” Ferry said at the show’s start. “Cleveland and I go back a long way,” he said later in the show. The near-capacity crowd responded with a roar of approval every time he mentioned the city and clearly acknowledged the significance of the band’s first show here in five years.

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