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Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Cleveland Was Slow to Address Language and Culture Barriers to Reach Spanish-Speaking Residents During Pandemic

Posted By on Wed, Apr 14, 2021 at 9:34 AM

Cleveland dropped the ball in bridging culture barriers during the pandemic - CLEVELAND CITY HALL, ERIK DROST/FLICKRCC
  • Cleveland City Hall, Erik Drost/FlickrCC
  • Cleveland dropped the ball in bridging culture barriers during the pandemic

In the early months of the pandemic, Cleveland Councilwoman Jasmin Santana, who represents a West Side ward with the densest population of Latinos in the city, said health department officials reassured her that when the city released urgent health updates, they would be translated into Spanish.

It didn’t happen.

The city put out public releases, sometimes daily, as the pandemic evolved – about safety precautions, work restrictions, and how many people were infected with the virus – but the information didn’t seem to make its way to the Spanish-speaking residents in Santana’s ward, where close to 40% of residents are Hispanic.

When she pressed again, this time with city communications officials, Santana said she was told the city didn’t have resources for translation.
One high-ranking city official suggested Santana and her office should create Spanish-language versions to distribute, she said.

The reaction startled her.

“I almost didn’t know how to respond,” Santana said. “That's when I started really realizing, ‘You know what? This is a huge issue for the city.’ Who would have thought that a city with more than 300,000 residents wouldn’t be ready to have their communications translated?”

(A city spokesperson did respond to questions about what Santana was told.)

Santana’s concerns as a councilwoman were rooted in what she’d witnessed growing up in her community and later as a health outreach worker: that language and trust act as barriers to resources that can improve or save lives.

The COVID-19 pandemic has intensified pressure on a chronically underfunded public health system that already faced staggering disparities in access to medical care and health outcomes, especially for people with limited English proficiency.

But the crisis also has offered an opportunity, which some local health departments have embraced, to forge relationships and connections that could outlast the virus.

Cleveland, a city that declared racism a public health crisis almost a year ago, with officials vowing to tackle disparities and inequities, has seen some progress but it has been sluggish.

Despite a windfall in pandemic aid, Cleveland still has not beefed up its own contract tracing operations by adding bilingual staff. Instead, it has relied on the state health department for virtual assistance with Spanish-speaking residents and a language translation line. The health department has stepped up its efforts to provide fliers on vaccine clinics into Spanish in recent months, according to a review of its social media posts.

Tracking a virus

To control COVID-19, officials first have to know where a virus is spreading in a community.

The work of identifying and containing outbreaks starts with case investigators and contact tracers, health workers who reach out and interview people who are infected with a virus or infectious disease and people in the community who have been around them. Often lengthy and personal, the interviews include questions about work, family life and health history.

Santana realized how crucial those conversations were when her husband, who does not speak English, was diagnosed with the virus. The councilwoman asked the health department employee who contacted him for someone who spoke Spanish to talk to him about his symptoms. They told her they didn’t have anyone, she said.

“And so I had to translate everything for him,” she said.

It was awkward, she said. And it made her wonder how many Spanish-speaking residents just hung up, without sharing vital information that could help protect their families, neighbors or co-workers.

It was a question that was hard to answer. The city was posting on a public dashboard how many white, Black and Asian residents tested positive, were hospitalized or had died due to complications from COVID-19. But it did not include information on Hispanic residents.

What Santana did learn was this: Nine months into the pandemic, the health department had failed to hire a single contact tracer fluent in Spanish.
Communicating trust

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends health authorities recruit bilingual staff from the community to work as contact tracers and community health workers to overcome language, cultural and resource barriers.

“Not only are these individuals fluent in the language of the population, but they are trusted and knowledgeable about cultural practices and societal norms, thus best able to communicate effectively,” the guidelines state.

In Cleveland, where, according to Census data from 2019, 11.9% of residents identify as Hispanic and where 14.7% speak English as a second language, community leaders like Evelyn Rivera were “floored” when they read in December in Cleveland Scene about Santana’s experience, which she shared at a council meeting.

“It was beyond imagination that [not having bilingual contact tracers] was possible with this life-and-death issue. The importance of finding out who might be spreading the virus to, it was so critical that we [had to] get involved,” said Rivera, a psychologist who has worked in the Latino community in Cleveland, Akron and Columbus for more than 30 years.

LatinOhs, a grassroots Latino coalition Rivera belongs to, sent a letter to Cleveland Department of Public Health Interim Director Brian Kimball, Mayor Frank Jackson and members of City Council demanding the city immediately hire bilingual contact tracers. It was signed by dozens of Latino residents, community organizers and concerned citizens.

The Dec. 8 letter cited grave concerns that the city wasn’t employing bilingual workers to follow up with families that might struggle to navigate the system and that language and cultural barriers left “the Latino community at a much greater risk.”

[Editor’s note: Reporter Claudia Longo was one of the community members who signed the letter.]

Waiting for answers

Prior to her election to City Council, Santana worked as a community health outreach worker, first for MetroHealth Medical Center and as part of an effort to target lead poisoning and housing-related health issues in the Clark-Fulton neighborhood.

She remembers meeting Latinas who had late-stage breast cancer – with tumors so large they were visible outside of their breasts by the time they sought treatment. Many lived within walking distance of the hospital.
“Why did you wait this long?” she’d ask.

The hospital is big, they’d tell her. They didn’t have health insurance. “They didn’t know who to talk to,” she said.

With that past experience in mind, Santana said she first appealed to city officials about the translation and interpretation issues privately in emails and personal conversations to prioritize the hiring of bilingual contact tracers and translating materials.

When that didn’t work, she started asking questions publicly during a December hearing of the council's public Health & Human Services committee meeting,

“I'm just wondering if there's any plans to hire Spanish-speaking contact tracers or if you have them already in place,” Santana asked.

Interim Health Director Brian Kimball responded that the city was “looking and searching” for people to hire and that the city was providing training to a department employee who was fluent in Spanish.

“We recognize that it has been a challenge internally so we have identified that and we're looking to correct that,” he said.

At the same meeting, Tracy Martin-Thompson, who oversees the health department, told Santana that the city had employed a “national search organization” to identify potential bilingual candidates.

It turns out, the search firm was a temporary hiring agency the city already had on contract. And the job description, which Santana requested, didn’t specify preference for any Spanish-language skills.

At the urging of city officials, Santana said she forwarded six resumes from bilingual community members to city health officials a few weeks later and was told that they would possibly hire at least three workers.

Media outlets The Land and La Mega Nota filed public records requests for emails between the councilwoman and city officials on Feb. 22 – six weeks ago – but Cleveland has not released them.

When Cleveland’s coronavirus caseloads were highest, the city had an estimated 80 contact tracers, including full time and temporary staff as well as volunteers, Latoya Hunter-Hayes, a city spokeswoman said. Currently, the health department has 14 temporary staff working as contact tracers. Hayes said the city has not hired any bilingual contact tracing staff since Santana raised the issue in December.

"We previously worked with and continue to work with a temp agency to assist us in hiring English-speaking and bilingual contact tracers. Once the agency identifies candidates who meet the requirements, they will be hired." Hunter-Hayes said.

The city did not respond to questions about whether any case investigators were bilingual.

The state has provided bilingual contact tracing help since August 2020, she said. Ohio health officials said at least two virtual contact tracers who speak Spanish have been made available to the city health department.

The city also uses a service – it’s called Language Line – to provide interpretation, Kimball said.

Language Line is essentially a three-way call using a qualified interpreter who can share information from health officials and also ask questions and get answers in a person’s preferred language.

Using the Language Line appears to meet requirements of the city’s Language Access Plan, established in 2017 in cooperation with the Legal Aid Society of Cleveland. Other health departments, like Cuyahoga County, also use it in addition to bilingual health staff.

For Santana, that type of translation isn’t enough. While it might be necessary in some circumstances, especially for languages that are less common, it shows a different level of care and commitment to residents when the city chooses to hire bilingual staff from the community, she said.

Plus, her husband was not offered the Language Line or one of the state employees, so she doesn’t know how consistently those options are used.
City leaders also have yet to respond to the letter from Rivera and other community leaders.

“At this point, I don't know exactly where we're at,” Rivera said. “I do know that we were helpful to the team in identifying potential people to take those positions. So resumes have been referred to the people that make the decisions. And now we're kind of waiting.” she said.

‘An entry point’ to culture

Inside a broken refrigerator in a Clark County duplex, where a local Hatian-Creole family quarantined last year, sat a lesson for the local public health department: spoiling meat.

The Clark County Combined Health District, which serves about 140,000 residents in West-Central Ohio, had rented the house to offer space for families to spread out to avoid exposure or isolate as they recovered from the virus.

Many of the families were non-English-speaking Mexican, Guatemalan and Hatian-Creole families who work at large plants that process and distribute food. They were at high-risk for infection because they live, travel and work in close quarters. Initially, health officials struggled to get them information about the virus.

Contact tracing initially was strained and involved making awkward three-way calls with translators, Kyle Trout, a health educator who handles communications for the district, said. During one mass testing in June, 800 people tested positive – a majority of them were Haitian-Creole or Spanish-speaking residents.

When a refrigerator in one of the duplex units burned out — twice, actually — Trout peeked inside and saw food the district provided was untouched. With the help of an interpreter, he found out why.

“It turns out it wasn’t food they would eat,” Trout said. “We realized it was a pretty limited menu.”

The district expanded the food options to include tortillas and bread, and more families started taking and using the food, he said.

Clark County is one of the places where the urgency of the pandemic and a boost in resources has led to stronger relationships and improved services for non-English speaking residents, who make up 3.6 percent of the county’s population.

Last year, Ohio recruited more than 250 full-time contact tracers to help state efforts and local health departments, including more than 30 who fluently speak a language other than English, including Spanish, Hatian-Creole, Russian, Arabic and Mandarin, Alicia Shoults, a spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Health said.

Multilingual candidates were critical for building trust with minority communities and identifying and tracking COVID-19 cases across the state, she said.

The state deployed 10 Spanish-speaking contact tracers and one Haitian-Creole speaker to Clark County, Shoults said.

In addition to help from the state, the district reached out to local churches, already a hub for the non-English speaking communities, slowly building up trust and capacity. The district now has bilingual and multilingual contact tracers and community educators - both volunteer and paid, Trout said.

It can more quickly translate public health messages to distribute online and on fliers at churches, stores and neighborhood gathering spots.

Trout said the new connections – in both language and culture – have helped the district move forward “leaps and bounds” with the way it serves the community now, and once the pandemic abates.

Cleveland’s neighbor to the west, Lorain County, also has a high concentration of Spanish-speaking residents, many of whom moved to the area from Puerto Rico starting in the late 1940s for better-paying jobs in steel mills near the Lake Erie coast. Just under a third of the city of Lorain’s population identifies as Hispanic or Latino, according to the most recent U.S. Census figures.

Lorain County Health Commissioner David Covell said he has made it a priority during the pandemic to hire staff that reflects the community the department serves. Of the county’s 15 contact tracers during the pandemic; four of them are bilingual, including two nurses and two support staff.

“We look [to hire] folks that are bilingual, preferably that are from the community, too, that share some commonalities where they may know the people in the community so people would feel more comfortable.” Covell explained.

Covell said the process of building trust with the person on the other side of the line during a contact tracing call is essential.

During calls, where contact tracers identify who patients have been in contact with, they also check to see if residents need help — food, medicine or other basic needs — to be able to isolate safely. Sometimes contact tracers make sure food is delivered to residents’ doorsteps, Covell said.

In several cases, the relationship likely saved lives, Covell said. In one instance, contact tracers dialed 911 after their follow-up calls revealed a resident's health had deteriorated.

Rivera, who is bilingual and lives in Cleveland, said shared language is an entry point into culture.

“If I can enter the culture through the language, there's a better chance that I'm going to connect and build the trust,” she said.

A COVID-19 contact tracer who speaks the same language has the best opportunity to enter into a family's life and build a relationship with an understanding that information will be kept private.

That can be particularly important for the Latino culture, Rivera said.

In some cases, it can be hard for Latinos to share personal details contact tracers may seek, like who they have been around or who else may have been exposed to COVID-19, she said.

Juan Manuel Schwartzman, who is bilingual, was hired to work for Lorain County Public Health in November. The 26-year-old Shaker Heights resident said he applied for a contact tracing job in Cleveland first but never heard back.

Schwartzman has experience in social work from his previous position working for an agency focused on mental health services and is passionate about helping the Hispanic community understand more about COVID-19. He also understands parts of the culture that have to be navigated.

Schwartzman lives in a multigenerational household, similar to many Hispanic residents he talks to as a contact tracer.

“You can’t tell a Latino that they need to isolate themselves from their own family,” Schwartzman said. “That's a non-starter.”

City ‘dropped the ball’

The conversation about contact tracers – Cleveland’s lack of response, its excuses about the expense of translation and interpretation – has “opened up a can of worms,” Santana said.

It has hit a nerve, she said, about how little is done to provide information in Spanish across many systems, including courts, which provide documents, like subpoenas, only in English. Or the lack of bilingual 9-1-1 emergency dispatchers.

“This is beyond COVID,” Santana said. “They dropped the ball here. They really did. But I want to continue that advocacy that the health department needs to have more bilingual workers….Let's not waste another pandemic.”

Though slow, there has been some progress. Before Santana and advocates started speaking out, the city had shared only a handful of translated materials in Spanish about handwashing and quarantine, mostly provided by other public health agencies. More recently, the health department has stepped up efforts, sharing multiple translated fliers about recent vaccine clinics. They’ve partnered with Hispanic churches and organizations to bolster vaccination efforts as well.

A spokeswoman told The Land and La Mega Nota in an email that the city will “continue to build our relationships and partnerships with community groups to help us to reach non-English speaking and other underserved populations.”
Nationally, Hispanics are three times as likely to be hospitalized for COVID-19 and more than twice as likely to die from problems related to the disease, compared to people who are white and non-Hispanic, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Santana and Councilman Kerry McCormack, who chairs the Health and Human Services Committee, pressed the city administration on that point during a January meeting.

Health Director Kimball told the council that ethnicity information is being collected and would be shared in partnership with Case Western Reserve University, which in December, signed a six-month, $299,000 contract to assist the health department with its response to the pandemic.

“We have begun to develop a report,” Kimball told the committee.

Last week, more than a year into the pandemic, Cleveland’s health department for the first time reported how many Hispanic residents were affected by the virus. It showed that since February of 2021, Hispanic residents made up 6.6% of new cases, though ethnicity information is missing for 40% of the cases. Hispanic residents made up 8% of patients hospitalized and 8.5 % Clevelanders who have died from COVID-19.

The report is only available in English.

Claudia Longo is a bilingual reporter for La Mega Nota and The Land who lives in Mayfield Heights with her husband and two kids. She is passionate about the Hispanic community and social issues.

Rachel Dissell is an independent Cleveland-based journalist who works with Cleveland Documenters and the Northeast Ohio Solutions Journalism Collaborative.

This story is sponsored by the Northeast Ohio Solutions Journalism Collaborative, which is composed of 20-plus Northeast Ohio news outlets.

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Savage Love: My Ex-Boyfriend is Dating a Man Now. Why Does This Bother Me So Much?

Posted By on Wed, Apr 14, 2021 at 9:22 AM

Dan Savage answers this week's questions - JOE NEWTON
  • Joe Newton
  • Dan Savage answers this week's questions
I’m a female in my late 20s. I broke up with a toxic ex about a year ago, and I’ve been walking around (my house!) thinking I was over it. I never missed him and rarely thought about him. A brief backstory: In the final months of us living together, we started having more discussions about children and making a lifelong commitment. He told me he wanted both, yet at this exact time his moderate depression became more severe, and he refused to get help. I tolerated his cruel behavior because I knew how badly he was hurting. This ranged from icing me out to berating me and demanding I leave the home that we shared — my house — citing his need for “alone” time. One time he demanded I get up and leave in the middle of the night and go to a friend’s house! It’s worth noting the sex was mediocre at best, which I chalked up to him being a decade older. My self-esteem suffered. I finally left.

Fast forward to now. I find out he’s been dating a man. I can barely cope with the anger I feel about this. I feel like a casualty of his shame. We have progressive friends! His sister has dated women! His parents are accepting! None of the reasons you list as appropriate ones for staying closeted apply to him, Dan! His inability to accept himself caused me the most severe emotional trauma of my life, and I just feel enraged. I logically know this is not about me. It’s about him. So why does this retroactively bother me so much? Part of me wants to say something to him, but I’m not sure that would make me feel better. I’d be very appreciative of any guidance you may have. Not sure what to think.

—Bitterly Enraged And Really Distressed

I don’t want to add to your rage, BEARD, but that night he made you go to a friend’s house? It wasn’t “alone time” he was after. Dude was hosting.

Before I tell you what to do about your rage, BEARD, there’s something I wanna clear up: I don’t think having the opposite of everything your ex-boyfriend had —conservative friends instead of progressive friends, straight sisters instead of bi or heteroflexible sisters, shitty parents instead of accepting parents — are appropriate reasons for a grown-ass man in his 30s to stay closeted. When people are young and dependent on their parents, sure, having shitty parents and no support from friends or siblings are good reasons to stay closeted in high school and maybe until after college. But it’s no excuse for remaining closeted into your 30s — and it’s certainly no excuse for using someone the way your ex appears to have used you, i.e., as a beard, BEARD. (Urban Dictionary: “The girlfriend or boyfriend of a closeted homosexual, used to conceal their homosexuality.”)

Another thing I wanna clear up: There are lots of guys out there in their 30s and 40s and 50s and beyond who are good at sex and lots of guys in their 20s who are mediocre at best.

Alright, BEARD, you have every right to be angry. You put a lot of time and effort into this relationship and if it turns out your ex is gay, well, that means he was lying to you and using you and wasting your time. It’s possible he’s bisexual, however, in which case he wasn’t being fully honest with you but may not have been using you or wasting your time. But gay or bi, your ex treated you very poorly and the news that he’s dating a man now is making you reassess your relationship and his depression, to say nothing of that night he threw you out of your own apartment because he needed “alone time.” To look back on a relationship and think, “I did what I could and it didn’t work out but at least I tried,” is different than looking back and knowing, “Nothing I did could’ve made any difference and I was cruelly used.”

I think there are two things you need to do now: Resolve never to make excuses for someone who treats you with cruelty again. We all have our moments, of course, but someone who can’t treat their partners with some modicum of respect and compassion even when they’re struggling isn’t in good enough working order to be in a relationship in the first place. And I think you should write him a letter and really unload on him. Tell him you’re angry, tell him why. You may or may not get a response — you may or may not want one — but you’ll feel better after writing the letter. And who knows? If he responds with a heartfelt apology, BEARD, you may feel even better.

Cis male here. A number of years ago, I saw a woman for a few months and then we parted ways. NBD. However, I later learned she was pregnant and I’ve always wondered if the child was mine. We haven't talked for years but we're still friends on FB so I see periodic updates and pics of the kid. It’s always just pics of my ex and her son, and I don't ever see pics of anyone that could be the father. However, this morning I saw a post saying that her son will be turning seven in May, which would mean he was born May 2014 and was conceived approximately August of 2013. We stopped sleeping together the late July of 2013, so it’s probably outside the realm of possibility that this could be my kid. We didn’t have a tumultuous breakup and she’s independently wealthy and we were in our mid-thirties when we were together and it’s possible she went the sperm-bank route shortly after we broke up. At any rate, do you think I should ask her if the child is mine? I can see how that would be rude, but on the other hand, I kind of want to know. What do you think?

—The Kid Is Not My Son (Probably)

I don’t think the child is yours, TKINMSP, but then I don’t think the child is hers either. I mean, your ex is definitely this kid’s mother and you may have a biological tie to this kid — you might be his biological father — but ultimately this kid belongs to himself, TKINMSP, and he might like or need to know who his biological father is someday.

Backing up for a second: If you were fucking your ex without protection in late July of 2013 and she gave birth in early May of 2014, TKINMSP, there’s a small chance you could be this kid’s biological father. Sperm can linger in the vaginal canal for a few days before a woman ovulates; some babies arrive a week or two late. I’m not saying it’s likely, TKINMSP; I’m just saying it can’t be ruled out and only your ex knows for sure. So send her a letter. Open by reassuring her that you have no desire to re-enter her life or enter the life of her child but that you’ve always wondered. Then tell her that if you are the biological father and they ever need a family medical history from you or if this child should want to meet his biological father someday — and if that biological father is you — you’re open to providing medical info and/or meeting up once her son is an adult. If you’re the biological father, TKINMSP, which you might not be.

I live in Portland, Oregon, and I’m having the inner fight about whether to reach out to a person. I met a guy in early 2019 for what was supposed to be a one-night stand, but it turned into an entire-year stand. We hung out and hooked up but he told me that he would never date me. In February of 2020 there was a snowstorm and he asked me for a ride. I said yes not realizing that I was picking him up from a girl’s apartment and driving both of them back to his place. He’d been staying with her for a week and told her that he knew me from work. We’d never worked together. That night he told me they weren’t dating and that she was just helping him study and that he didn’t want to see or hear from me ever again. He blocked me on all social media. Fast forward to last Sunday. He texts me saying he wants to hook up. The next Sunday he texts asking me for pictures. I ask if he’s seeing someone else and he tells me that isn’t any of my business. We hook up. Now I feel guilty and don’t know what to do. His apartment has mysteriously improved. It’s like a girl has been staying there and it’s most likely the girl from the snowstorm. I don’t know if I should reach out to this girl to tell her what happened. When we first started hooking up in 2019, he said we were exclusive. A couple of months later he said he lied about being exclusive and that I should go get tested. Clearly this is a pattern for him. Should I warn the woman he’s with now? I definitely would’ve appreciated it if someone had warned me about this guy in 2019.

—Himbo Utterly No Good

Someone actually did warn you about this guy in 2019, HUNG: the guy himself, this guy — he warned you. He warned you about himself in 2019 and again in 2020 and yet again in 2021. Lying to you about being exclusive and potentially exposing you to various STIs in early 2019 was a warning. Manipulating you into chauffeuring him and his new girlfriend back to his apartment during a snowstorm in 2020 was a warning. Suddenly asking you to hook up in 2021 was a warning, and his defensive reaction when you asked if he was seeing someone else (“none of your business”) was a bonus warning. And despite all the warnings this guy gave you over all three years, HUNG, you hooked up with this guy again anyway.

Considering who this guy is and the way he treats people, HUNG, I can only imagine his new girlfriend has received — received and ignored — just as many warnings from him and about him as you did. So I don’t think you should waste your time getting in touch with the woman he’s seeing now, HUNG, as the odds she’ll take your warning seriously after ignoring all the warnings he’s most likely given her himself seem slim. Block his numbers, unfollow him on social, and for fuck’s sake, don’t hook up with this asshole again.

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BrewDog Confirms Plans to Open a Taproom and Restaurant in the Flats

Posted By on Wed, Apr 14, 2021 at 9:17 AM

Rendering of proposed BrewDog development in the Flats. - SURFACE-ID
  • Surface-id
  • Rendering of proposed BrewDog development in the Flats.
This week, Cleveland edged closer to having a BrewDog location of its very own. The Scotland-based brewery presented plans for its proposed renovation at the Avian building in the Flats, which is being developed by Fred Geis. Cleveland's Downtown/Flats design review committee has the proposal on its Thursday agenda.

This past December, USA CEO Jason Block confirmed to Scene that the company was in search of a Cleveland home, and now Block confirmed to Crain’s that they hope to build out a bar and restaurant (not a brewery) in more than 10,000 square feet of space on the Scranton Peninsula.

Launched in 2007 by a pair of young, brash beer lovers, BrewDog played by its own rules. By year two it had become Scotland's largest independent brewery and by year five it was named the "Fastest Growing Company in Scotland." With the opening in 2017 of its large Columbus brewery, the company established a presence in the States. Already they have expanded to Cincinnati, Indianapolis and Pittsburgh.

We’ll know more about the project following upcoming meetings with the Flats/Downtown Design Review and Cleveland Planning Commission. Plans call for a 2021 opening.

BrewDog has been interested in establishing a presence in Cleveland since at least 2017, when former USA CEO Tanisha Robinson told Scene, “BrewDog Cleveland is in the works! We want Cleveland to be our first site outside of Columbus, and are currently scouting locations for a BrewDog bar.”

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The Lighthouse and the Whaler Releases Anthemic New Single

Posted By on Wed, Apr 14, 2021 at 8:53 AM

The Lighthouse and the Whaler. - COURTESY OF THE ASSEMBLY
  • Courtesy of the Assembly
  • The Lighthouse and the Whaler.
The local indie rock act the Lighthouse and the Whaler just released its careening new single, the anthemic “When We Meet.”

The band wrote and produced the tune while in quarantine.

"'When We Meet' is a song about changing perspectives,” says singer Michael LoPresti in press materials. “It’s about focusing on a simpler mindset, making every moment count and caring more for the people I’m with than the things I can achieve alone. It’s been easy for me to get distracted in life, but the last year has taught me — and I’m sure many of us — that the people we can’t live without far outweigh anything else we could ever have."

Last year, the band issued new singles “Brothers” and “California Sun” as well as a new EP, Brothers (B-Sides). A full-length will arrive later this year.

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Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Greater Cleveland Aquarium To Host Virtual World Premiere of Documentary Film About Coral Reef Restoration

Posted By on Tue, Apr 13, 2021 at 4:34 PM

The documentary '100 Yards of Hope' will have its world premiere during NFL Draft Week. - COURTESY OF FORCE BLUE
  • Courtesy of FORCE BLUE
  • The documentary '100 Yards of Hope' will have its world premiere during NFL Draft Week.
The world premiere of 100 Yards of Hope, a documentary about the unique  restoration of a football field-sized coral reef, will make its world premiere virtually at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, April 27, at the Greater Cleveland Aquarium during NFL Draft Week.

The film features FORCE BLUE, a team of retired Special Operations military divers dedicated to saving America’s only barrier coral reef.

Continue reading »

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As Ohio Legislators Proposes Anti-Trans Bills, NCAA Says It Will Withhold Events From States That Discriminate

Posted By on Tue, Apr 13, 2021 at 3:47 PM

Some major NCAA events are slated to be held in Cleveland in the coming years - ERIK DROST/FLICKRCC
  • Erik Drost/FlickrCC
  • Some major NCAA events are slated to be held in Cleveland in the coming years

In an apparent warning to Ohio and other states considering anti-transgender legislation, the NCAA said it will only stage events in places where transgender student-athletes won't face discrimination.

"The NCAA Board of Governors firmly and unequivocally supports the opportunity for transgender student-athletes to compete in college sports," the college sports league said in a statement posted by its board of governors. "This commitment is grounded in our values of inclusion and fair competition."

That could be a big deal as states, including Ohio, consider anti-trans bills.

As the Ohio Capital Journal reported in March: "An Ohio state Senator introduced legislation last month that would prevent transgender girls and women from participating in women’s sports at state K-12 schools and universities. Senate Bill 132, sponsored by Sen. Kristina Roegner, R-Hudson, would require schools to separate student athletics by sex, not gender. The legislation would apply to public schools as well as public and private colleges and universities."

A similar bill was introduced in the Ohio House.

Sports Illustrated reported in March that nearly 550 college athletes signed a letter to the NCAA demanding the organization withdraw its championships and other events from states that pass or are considering passing the transgender bans.

Republican lawmakers are pushing for similar bans in more than 30 statehouses around the country, according to a tally by the ACLU. The push echoes the controversial "bathroom bills" pursued in Texas and other states to keep transgender people from using public facilities.

"When determining where championships are held, NCAA policy directs that only locations where hosts can commit to providing an environment that is safe, healthy and free of discrimination should be selected," according to the NCAA's statement.

Cleveland has recently played host to early rounds of the NCAA men's basketball tournament and will again in 2025; it is also slated to host the 2024 women's final four and the 2026 NCAA men's wrestling tournament.

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Biden White House Gives Ohio 'C-' in Infrastructure While Pitching American Jobs Plan

Posted By on Tue, Apr 13, 2021 at 3:29 PM

Ohio's bridges could use some help, according to the White House - JON DAWSON/FLICKRCC
  • Jon Dawson/FlickrCC
  • Ohio's bridges could use some help, according to the White House

A new "Infrastructure report card" from the White House gives Ohio a C- on a variety of various infrastructure needs — notably, the pseudo-report card doesn't just target the conditions of roads and bridges, but a slew of shortcomings including lack of affordable housing, broadband access, and childcare.

Released Monday, the state-by-state reports arrive as the Biden administration is attempting to build support for its American Jobs Plan. Each state report starts with an identically worded broadside against the "systemic lack of investment" in infrastructure in that particular state. Overall, the reports frame and define the infrastructure challenges in terms of a longstanding, nationwide failure — and while Ohio's grade might not make it an honor student, no state earned better than a C+.

In fact, according to the full release of the Biden administration's report cards, Ohio's C- in infrastructure was matched by 21 other states, including Illinois, Indiana, Idaho, Kentucky, Missouri, Oregon,New York and Washington DC.

Twelve states pulled in solid C's, while six notched technically passing grades with D's and D+'s. At the bottom of the list, Puerto Rico earned the only D-. (Eight states were given report cards but not grades.)

In terms of a hypothetical classroom, it's not the sort of report card that gets framed. No grandparents are going to stick this one on the fridge. But the Biden administration is arguing that new funding is crucial to keep states from failing residents across some very non-hypothetical areas of infrastructure.

According to the Ohio report card:

ROADS AND BRIDGES: In Ohio there are 1,377 bridges and over 4,925 miles of highway in poor condition. Since 2011, commute times have increased by 5.7% in Ohio and on average, each driver pays $506 per year in costs due to driving on roads in need of repair. The American Jobs Plan will devote more than $600 billion to transform our nations' transportation infrastructure and make it more resilient, including $115 billion repairing roads and bridges.
• PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION: Ohioans who take public transportation spend an extra 75.9% of their time commuting and non-White households are 6.2 times more likely to commute via public transportation. 16% of trains and other transit vehicles in the state are past useful life. The American
Jobs Plan will modernize public transit with an $85 billion investment.
• RESILIENT INFRASTRUCTURE: From 2010 to 2020, Ohio has experienced 29 extreme weather events, costing the state up to $10 billion in damages. The President is calling for $50 billion to improve the resiliency of our infrastructure and support communities’ recovery from disaster.
• DRINKING WATER: Over the next 20 years, Ohio’s drinking water infrastructure will require $13.4 billion in additional funding. The American Jobs Plan includes a $111 billion investment to ensure clean, safe drinking water is a right in all communities.
• HOUSING: In part due to a lack of available and affordable housing, 681,000 renters in Ohio are rent burdened, meaning they spend more than 30% of their income on rent. The President proposes investing over $200 billion to increase housing supply and address the affordable housing crisis.
• BROADBAND: 6.2% of Ohioans live in areas where, by one definition, there is no broadband infrastructure that provides minimally acceptable speeds. And 58.2% of Ohioans live in areas where there is only one such internet provider. Even where infrastructure is available, broadband may be too expensive to be within reach. 14% of Ohio households do not have an internet subscription. The American Jobs Plan will invest $100 billion to bring universal, reliable, high-speed, and affordable coverage to every family in America.
• CAREGIVING: Across the country, hundreds of thousands of older adults and people with disabilities are in need of home and community-based services. The President’s plan will invest $400 billion to help more people access care and improve the quality of caregiving jobs.
• CHILD CARE: In Ohio, there is an estimated $683 million gap in what schools need to do maintenance and make improvements and 39% of residents live in a childcare desert. The American Jobs Plan will modernize our nation’s schools and early learning facilities and build new ones in neighborhoods across Ohio and the country.
• MANUFACTURING: Manufacturers account for more than 16% of total output in Ohio, employing 703,000 workers, or 12.6% of the state’s workforce. The American Job’s Plan will invest $300 billion to retool and revitalize American manufacturers, including providing incentives for manufacturers to invest in innovative energy projects in coal communities.
• HOME ENERGY: In Ohio, an average low-income family spends 8-10% of their income on home energy costs forcing tough choices between paying energy bills and buying food, medicine or other essentials. The American Jobs Plan will upgrade low-income homes to make them more energy efficient through a historic investment in the Weatherization Assistance Program, a new Clean Energy and Sustainability Accelerator to finance building improvements, and expanded tax credits to support home energy upgrades.
• CLEAN ENERGY JOBS: As of 2019, there were 114,388 Ohioans working in clean energy, and the American Jobs Plan invests in creating more good paying union jobs advancing clean energy production by extending and expanding tax credits for clean energy generation, carbon capture and sequestration and clean energy manufacturing.
• VETERANS HEALTH: Ohio is home to over 700,000 veterans, 7.9% of whom are women and 49% of whom are over the age of 65. The President is calling for $18 billion to improve the infrastructure of VA health care facilities to ensure the delivery of world-class, state of the art care to veterans enrolled in the VA health care system. This includes improvements to ensure appropriate care for women and older veterans.

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