Friday, December 9, 2016

Another Year, Another Raise for Metroparks CEO Brian Zimmerman

Posted By on Fri, Dec 9, 2016 at 12:07 PM

Brian Zimmerman - @THECITYCLUB
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Just like every year, Cleveland Metroparks CEO Brian Zimmerman will receive a raise.

His pay increase for 2017 will likely be 3.95 percent ($8,700), the maximum annual amount prescribed in his three-year contract. That raise will bring his total compensation to 228,700. The increase this year comes on the heels of a substantial 19-percent increase last year, a raise that required separate board authorization.'s Mark Naymik reported the news this week, writing the story that has become (for Scene, anyway) a glum annual ritual. Naymik noted, as we have, that Zimmerman also receives a generous benefits package and the use of a vehicle.

Naymik's piece has already garnered more than 1,000 comments on  As usual, the public sentiment appears to be split: many resent their levy dollars padding the salary of man who is already one of the most handsomely paid public officials in the state, one who makes far more than every United States Governor. Others cite the success of the Metroparks under Zimmerman's leadership and contend that they'd pay even more for a man of his talents, a man who just received the "Professional of the Year" award from the Ohio Parks and Recreation Association.'s VP of Content Chris Quinn addressed the issue on WCPN's Reporters' Roundtable Friday morning, echoing Naymik and saying that, apart from the staggering numbers, Zimmerman and the Metroparks "abhor publicity." (Negative publicity, that is.)

"He could make the situation a lot better by talking about it in the open," Quinn said (paraphrasing), "but he refuses to."

Dan Shingler from Crain's offered the opposing view. He said that in the world of business, Zimmerman's $220,000 salary wouldn't seem outrageous at all. And his salary is a pittance compared to the the eye-popping paychecks of head football and basketball coaches at some state universities. But Shingler did say that the Metroparks have made the situation worse by dropping additional money on crisis communications consultants (on which Scene reported) to "blunt the impact" of the news.

Zimmerman's 3.95 percent raise this year is automatic. That is, it requires no board action and doesn't have to be reported or discussed in their agenda at all. When Quinn suggested Friday that the discussion of Zimmerman's raise had been "postponed" by the board, due at least in part to Naymik's reporting, that was incorrect, according to the Metroparks. A spokesperson confirmed Friday that there's no action to postpone.

The Board of Commissioners are presumed to have discussed Zimmerman's compensation in a private executive session at their meeting yesterday — see page two of the agenda — but all they would have discussed is whether or not to reduce the raise from the maximum 3.95 percent. And as Naymik noted, that's unlikely.

As ever, we'll continue to heed Zimmerman's advice, when he invited a City Club audience in August, 2013, "to look at how [the Metroparks] are spending money."
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An Inmate Overdosed at the Cuyahoga County Jail Last Weekend

Posted By on Fri, Dec 9, 2016 at 11:57 AM

An inmate at the Cuyahoga County Jail overdosed last weekend, Scene has learned.

Few details beyond that are currently available.

Reached for comment, County spokesperson Mary Louise Madigan contacted the jail's wardens, who confirmed the incident, but said that the incident is currently an open investigation and involves medical information and thus couldn't release any more information.

Current stats on the number of overdoses in the jail in 2016 were also not immediately available from the county.

Earlier this year the family of Robert Sharp filed suit against the county and sheriff's department. The 36-year-old was an inmate at the county jail last year when he died of a heroin overdose. It was unclear how Sharp got the drugs into the facility but his family claims that jail officials were told by other inmates that Sharp had hidden heroin in his rectum. Staff did an X-ray, which didn't show anything peculiar, but didn't do a CT-scan, which would have showed if Sharp was hiding contraband in his rectum. The Medical Examiner found that the balloon holding the heroin ruptured and leaked into his bloodstream.

The lawsuit claimed staff "failed to institute adequate policies, procedures, customs, usages and protocols regarding identification, referral and treatment of inmates who use, take, ingest, or stuff heroin and are therefore at risk of overdosing."

Protocols and policies are in place at the jail to prevent contraband from entering the facility. For instance, the county installed a body scanner at the jail. From the sheriff's department website's summarization of modernizations and updates made in 2015:

To increase safety and security for both employees and inmates, the CCSD made substantial investments in technology. The most significant prevention initiative was the introduction of the Jails first whole body scanner. The state of the art scanner provides X-Ray quality images in less than 6 seconds. All inmates are scanned during the intake process as the first step in preventing contraband from entering the facility. To complement, a package/baggage scanner was installed in access to detect and deter contraband from entering through the main access point.

No word yet on what went wrong in the process that allowed the contraband to enter the facility in the first place or what failure in staffing or protocol prevented it from being found after.
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Cleveland Native and Fast Food Exec Andy Puzder Tapped for Labor Secretary, Which Would Be Great for Robots

Posted By on Fri, Dec 9, 2016 at 11:28 AM

Andy Puzder, the CEO of Carl's Jr and Hardee's fast food restaurants, has been picked by President-elect Donald Trump to head up the Department of Labor. It's a telling choice, because the Cleveland native has been fairly outspoken on the subject of jobs in America lately.

His statements from a March 2016 interview have been coursing through the news cycle this week, and with good reason: Puzder (if approved by the Senate) could very well transform the employment landscape of the U.S. If times seem tough for the service economy worker right now, then the future looks like a nightmare zone for anyone who's not a machine.

We're talking about automation, which is an inevitable technological advance in all arenas of modern, developed nations. On the subject of automated machines replacing employees at the thousands of locations he oversees, Puzder salivates thusly: “They’re always polite, they always upsell, they never take a vacation, they never show up late, there’s never a slip-and-fall, or an age, sex or race discrimination case."

There is no doubt on his long record in business: Puzder does not support the American worker.

It's unclear if he'd prefer a fembot in place of Kim Kardashian in his commercials, though we doubt it. "I like beautiful women eating burgers in bikinis. I think it's very American," he told Entrepreneur magazine.

(Our sister paper in St. Louis went back to a 1989 cover story, which sussed out accusations of abuse by his first wife — accusations which were walked back in a Nov. 30, 2016, letter, right around the time Trump and his transition team were kicking the tires on Puzder's cred.)

One does hope, however, that as our American economy vaults toward the void of an automated service industry, we take the time as a society to chart a course that benefits both consumers and the workforce. Puzder may hold the reins to that conversation and others.

“The point is simple: The feds can mandate a higher wage, but some jobs don’t produce enough economic value to bear the increase,” Puzder has said.

There's already state-sponsored backlash to the notion of hiking minimum wages. The Department of Labor would surely follow suit under Puzder. It'll be a show worth watching next season.

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Christmas Shopping With the Guys — The A to Z Podcast With Andre Knott and Zac Jackson

Posted By on Fri, Dec 9, 2016 at 11:04 AM


Andre and Zac share some Christmas shopping ideas, wonder how long the Jordan Brand will live on and talk LeBron's water bottle tossing. ​

Subscribe to A to Z on iTunes here.

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Cleveland Officers Involved in 2010 Use of Force Incident Just Now Facing Discipline Process

Posted By on Fri, Dec 9, 2016 at 7:28 AM

  • Ortiz
Cleveland police officers Brian Kazimer and Dan Crisan will face a pre-disciplinary hearing on Dec. 16, 2016, for a use-of-force incident that occurred in 2010.

For years, police reform advocates and the family of Juan Ortiz have called for accountability from the Cleveland Division of Police.

The story, in short:

Officers responded to a robbery incident in the westside's Jefferson neighborhood. While seeking the suspects — one described as white and of average height, the other black and of average height — two officers spotted [Juan] Ortiz, all of 4'11" and Hispanic. Ortiz also has Down Syndrome, and when he saw the officers, he began to run.

When Kazimer caught up with him, he "grabbed Juan from behind, forcefully pulled him from his mother's arms, and slammed him very hard into [a] vehicle like a football player making a tackle," according to eyewitnesses. He held the boy against the car for 15 minutes. Ortiz was "not making any effort to resist" and was "crying out in pain." (At some point in the struggle, a nearby apartment manager told the officers that the wallet from the initial robbery report had been recovered. Neither officer responded.)

Kazimer and Crisan then hurled racist epithets at his parents and other onlookers. Kazimer told Ortiz's parents that they were lucky he didn't shoot the boy. 

Scene reported heavily on the incident and its lack of a coherent investigation. Finally, in 2016, some developments have carried this case forward. In February, a federal court upheld Ortiz's case, and, in October, the city of Cleveland agreed to pay the man $250,000, averting a trial.

According to Ortiz's attorney, the Civilian Police Review Board recommended discipline shortly after the incident. Disciplinary hearings that were planned to begin in 2011 were "held in abeyance" until the civil case wrapped up in court, according to then-Chief Michael McGrath.

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Thursday, December 8, 2016

Car Plows through Front of Banter Just Days After One Year Anniversary

Posted By on Thu, Dec 8, 2016 at 7:00 PM

  • Adam Rosen
Around 6 p.m. this evening a car plowed through the front of Banter, just three days after the Detroit Shoreway restaurant, bar and bottle shopcelebrated its first birthday.

Owner Matt Stipe said that, fortunately, nobody was in that portion of the business when the driver crashed through the window. But the driver was taken to the hospital.

Obviously, the restaurant is closed for the time being, but Stipe says that they should be up and running by tomorrow.

We’ll update this story as news trickles in.

  • Adam Rosen

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An Impromptu Recording Session Led to Blackberry Smoke's Best Album to Date

Posted By on Thu, Dec 8, 2016 at 4:38 PM

Recorded at the Quarry Recording Studio in Kennesaw, Ga., Blackberry Smoke’s new album, Like an Arrow, finds the country/rock band taking a particularly eclectic approach.

Album opener “Waiting for the Thunder” features loud guitars that make the tune verge on heavy metal.

Some critics have said the song expresses an anti-Trump sentiment, but singer-guitarist Charlie Starr disagrees.

“Lyrically, it’s just an observation about how scary the world is,” says Starr, who brings the band to House of Blues on Dec. 28. He spoke via phone from his Atlanta home as he was doing some Christmas shopping. “From time to time, it hits home with me more than ever. The world has been always been scary and now our lives are inundated with it. Everyone makes jokes about 2016 being the year of all years. There’s a little bit of an armageddon warning to it. Somebody asked me if it was a protest song, and I said it was as close to a protest song as I’ll ever write. It’s not about Donald Trump. It’s about whoever might wind up with that job. Good luck with that.”

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