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Friday, February 14, 2020

Ohio is One of a Few States That Doesn't Require Employers to Provide Pay Stubs

Posted By on Fri, Feb 14, 2020 at 10:32 AM

  • Adobe Stock Photo
COLUMBUS, Ohio — With Valentine's Day landing on a Friday, some people might be more interested in getting their paycheck than receiving flowers or chocolate. Roughly half of all employees in the United States are paid on Fridays, but some don't get a paystub to go along with their pay.

Ohio is one of nine states that doesn't require employers to provide a pay statement to employees, which Michael Shields, a researcher for Policy Matters Ohio, said creates a lack of transparency.

"If workers aren't getting a paystub, it makes it really easy for, one, mistakes to happen in pay," he said, "and two, we know that there are a number of employers in Ohio who are actually committing wage theft. That's a lot easier to do if an employer is not providing a record."

Research from Policy Matters Ohio found that employers in the state steal an average of $2,800 from each of 217,000 workers a year through minimum-wage violations alone. Shields noted that it could be much higher, since most cases go unreported. In Ohio, a Senate committee is considering House Bill 137. Passed by the House, the legislation would require Ohio businesses to provide pay statements. Pay statements help workers determine if they're being paid hourly, or on a salaried basis, and to double-check any deductions from their pay.

Shields said unscrupulous employers could misclassify workers to avoid paying overtime or taxes.

"A worker may think they're being paid what was agreed on, and they don't realize that the employer hasn't withheld payroll taxes," he said, "and then, if you're classified as a contractor, not an employee, you actually owe the employer's portion of those taxes as well. So, workers can get a substantial and costly surprise."

Shields said other aspects of an employee's life also can be affected by not having a paystub.

"It creates challenges for applying for credit, qualifying for a rental lease for an apartment," he said. "People need a paystub to verify their income eligibility for things like food assistance, if they're low-income."

He added that research suggests that about 20 million workers in the United States do not receive paystubs, despite most states requiring employers to provide them.

The report is online at policymattersohio.org.

This story was produced in association with Media in the Public Interest and funded in part by the George Gund Foundation.

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Trump's Budget a Non-Starter for Great Lakes Restoration?

Posted By on Fri, Feb 14, 2020 at 10:21 AM

  • Ken Lund/Flickr
COLUMBUS, Ohio — After past attempts to gut funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, the Trump administration's new budget plan funds the program at current levels.

But some advocacy groups note that support is undermined by drastic cuts to other core clean water programs.

President Donald Trump's proposed Fiscal Year 2021 budget slashes Ohio's funding for sewer upgrades and repairs by about one-third and for drinking water infrastructure by one-fourth.

Chad Lord, policy director of the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition, says that's money used to keep drinking water safe and prevent problems such as the 2014 Toledo water crisis, when toxic algae contaminated the city's drinking water.

"At a time when we need to significantly boost water infrastructure investments, the president's budget is a giant step backwards," Lord states. "If the president's proposed budget were enacted, states like Ohio and Michigan would each lose about $6 million to deal with drinking water infrastructure."

The Environmental Protection Agency has estimated that approximately $179 billion is needed over the next two decades to update drinking water and wastewater infrastructure in the eight Great Lakes states.

Lord contends the White House budget is a non-starter, and says the coalition is calling on congressional leaders to restore funding for clean water programs.

Laura Rubin, director of the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition, says Ohioans and residents of other Great Lakes states have seen the power and effectiveness of federal investments in the region.

"Federal investments to clean up toxic pollution, reduce runoff pollution, fight invasive species and restore fish and wildlife habitat are benefiting communities, but serious threats remain," she states. "This budget kicks the can down the road when projects will be more expensive and difficult."

The White House budget proposal also replaces $171 million in non-point source pollution grants with a $15 million program to combat toxic algae; slashes the EPA's budget by 27 percent and eliminates a $25 million grant for small and disadvantaged communities.

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Masrah Cleveland Al-Arabi's Bilingual Production of 'And Then We Met...' at CPT Brings Four Strangers Together on the Path to Mutual Respect

Posted By on Fri, Feb 14, 2020 at 9:38 AM

  • Photo by Steve Wagner
Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland never received an award for promoting cultural engagement, but maybe they should have. Many times, in their song 'n' dance flicks when they were both young and spry, they would gather their friends and shout, "Let's put on a show!" And then they did.

It turns out, putting on a show is a pretty damn good way to bring people and communities together. Cleveland Public Theatre under the leadership of Raymond Bobgan knows this better than most, and the proof is on stage for everyone to see. Their theater company Teatro Publico de Cleveland has been going for seven years, presenting the voices of the LatinX-Cleveland community.

And this is the second year for a new company, Masrah Cleveland Al-Arabi, involving the Arabic-speaking citizens of our town. The latest production by this group is And Then We Met..., an episodic tale of four strangers from the Arabic world with very different backgrounds and religions. The multiple tragedies of war throw them together but also lead them on a path of mutual understanding and respect.

The play, developed by the 11-person cast under the direction of Bobgan and Faye Hargate, is unpolished in a theatrical sense. This is particularly true since many of the performers are first-timers on stage. But this is as much a coming out party for a little-seen community in Cleveland as it is a theatrical event. And in that regard, it succeeds beautifully.

As those four strangers live their lives, in the Middle East and here in Cleveland, we see people struggling for and sometimes achieving the lives they want. The bi-lingual script is performed in both English and Arabic, with surtitles projected in the language that is not being spoken in the moment.

The performers and creators of this piece are Abbas Alhilali, Ebaa Boudiab, Issam Boudiab, Jamal Julia Boudiab, Hussein Ghareeb, Anna Handousa, Ahmed, Kadous, Omar Kurdi, Shirien Muntaser, Haneen Yehya, and Ahlem Zaaeed. And their work—replete with humor, heartache, music and laughter—helps the audience see the world in general, and the Arabic community in Cleveland, in what will be a new light for many.

As Bobgan and Hargate mention in their program notes, our city is stronger when we come together. One way to do that is to put on a show so creators, performers and audience can experience the same moments together. Aa a result, they can see each other for what they really are—fellow human beings who share the same hopes and dreams

When you do that, people can change for the better. Mickey and Judy would be proud.

And Then We Met...
Through February 16, presented by Masrah Cleveland Al-Arabi at Cleveland Public Theatre, 6415 Detroit Ave., cptonloine.org, 216-631-2727.

Christine Howey, a former stage actor and director, is executive director of Literary Cleveland.

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Thursday, February 13, 2020

Great Lakes Brewing Co. Reopens Friday With New Brewpub/Beer Garden Split Concept After Renovations

Posted By on Thu, Feb 13, 2020 at 6:00 PM

  • Emanuel Wallace
Throughout its 32-year lifespan, Great Lakes Brewing Co. (2516 Market Ave., 216 -771-4404) in Ohio City has grown, expanded and changed with the times. Along the way, the front-facing facility, which is comprised of the taproom, brewpub, cellar pub and beer garden (along with the sidewalk patio), has been on the receiving end of various tweaks and improvements designed to keep the things current.

On January 26, the doors closed to the public so that management could undertake the latest “refresh” of the space, which is designed to improve all aspects of the guest experience, while simultaneously offering those guests more ways to enjoy the facility.

“We’re trying with this renovation to really honor our roots, but also to embrace change,” explains Allison Pryce, general manager of brewpub operations. “I like to think of it as opening the doors to a brand new generation of our beer drinkers. When you look at our core product, which is our beer, people like to drink that in a lot of different ways, and who are we to say that it should be one or the other.”

When the brewery reopens its doors at 11:30 a.m. on Friday 14, it will do so with a new “split-concept model” that offers guests a different experience depending on whether they choose to visit the brewpub or the beer garden, notes Pryce.

“Essentially, we are going to reopen as two concepts,” she says.

The brewpub and taproom will be called Brewhouse No. 1, which takes its name from the brewery’s original brewing equipment that lives onsite and still is used to brew all pub-exclusive beers. Folks seated in the restaurant will enjoy a new “gastropub” menu with items like roasted bone marrow and Dortmunder Gold bratwurst cassoulet. (View the Brewhouse menu here.)

Executive chef Shorty Coleman, who has been with the company for 15 years, is overseeing the changes. He will be doing so from a completely renovated kitchen with new floors, ceiling and cooking equipment.

“We’re just taking the food items up a little notch, so someone could feel comfortable coming here for a fun date night or a nice dinner,” reports Pryce, adding that many classics will survive the change.

“We’re still keeping favorites like pretzel chicken and fish and chips, but even with those we will be incorporating more exciting and modern plating to bring them into the new decade,” she says. “Everything has to be Instagram-worthy in 2020!”

Concept number two is the Beer Garden, a casual first-come, first-served environment with new communal seating, large-screen TVs and a projector broadcasting every major sports game. A separate menu will be filled with more snack-style foods, but diners also can elect to order from the Brewhouse No. 1 menu. Guests in the Brewhouse, however, will not be able to order off the Beer Garden menu. (View the Beer Garden menu here.)

“With this concept we are really going for more of that traditional sports bar meets German beer hall feel,” Bryce explains.

That leaves the lower-level Cellar Pub, which will remain an informal space with open seating, while utilizing the Brewhouse menu.

“The reason we decided to split is ultimately because what we saw was people like to interact with our product in a number of ways,” Pryce states. “They might want to just swing by and watch the game and crush some bar food. They might want to come in and have a nice dinner. Or they might want to throw back a pint sitting on the patio. And the way we were set up before was somewhat limited. If you wanted to sit down, you had to order from the menu, you had to be having dinner, and as result we were turning a lot people away that we wanted to come in and drink beer and have a great time.”

Another significant change is the relocation of the main entrance from the Taproom side to the Brewhouse.

“When I asked [owner] Dan Conway what he was most excited about with this new relaunch, he said, ‘I’m excited to not have that bottleneck at the front door of the tavern anymore.’”

In the future, every new guest will enter into the main restaurant space. When they arrive, they will be able to take advantage of a convenient coat check and storage area, outfitted behind the old Feed & Seed counter.

“We are one of the major tourist destinations in the city, and so many times people are rolling up with suitcases, strollers… and we just had no place to put them,” reports Bryce.

The last remaining piece of this puzzle is the patio, which will be split into two different zones belonging either to the Brewhouse or the Beer Garden.

Pryce assures diners that the goal is to improve the overall experience, while taking pains to preserve those physical elements that we all have come to appreciate, not the least of which is the taproom’s gorgeous tiger mahogany bar that date back to the late-1800s.

“For so long, because it is a historical space, and because over the years we have expanded into this room and that room, the space felt a little disjointed,” she says. “What we’re trying to address with this renovation is to give a cohesive feel to the whole restaurant. Obviously, we would never touch some of the really important historical pieces.”

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Cleveland is What Happens When You Gut a Newsroom

Posted By on Thu, Feb 13, 2020 at 1:51 PM

The Plain Dealer Plaza at 1801 Superior Avenue - SAM ALLARD / SCENE
  • Sam Allard / Scene
  • The Plain Dealer Plaza at 1801 Superior Avenue

As the McClatchy chain cedes ownership and control of its 30 newspapers to a hedge fund after filing Chapter 11 bankruptcy, the Cleveland Plain Dealer and the city it covers should serve as cautionary tales for what happens when profit-oriented owners gut newsrooms and centralize production.

Roughly one year ago, the Plain Dealer, Ohio's largest newspaper, outsourced 29 unionized editorial positions, members of what was known as the Pub Hub. Those staffers molded and laid out the print product: They selected and organized top stories, wrote headlines and created original graphics, work which is now performed by a non-local production team that simultaneously does the same thing for 19 papers across the country. A few weeks later, a brutal round of newsroom layoffs reduced the Plain Dealer's unionized editorial staff to roughly 30, a 90-percent reduction since 1990.

Editor George Rodrigue told Scene at the time that the centralized production model had been "industry-tested and proven to be effective." In a letter to readers, he said that the decision would allow the PD to remain a "local institution" and would allow reporters and editors to retain "editorial control."

"This change offers savings where they are least likely to harm the quality of our newspaper," he wrote. "It preserves local editing of local stories. It allows us to focus on the coverage that matters most to our community: in-depth breaking news, investigative journalism, stories that explain issues and events, and coverage that helps people make the most of everything Northeast Ohio has to offer." 

A year later, Rodrigue's letter reads exactly like the corporate PR schlock it was. The quality of the paper has clearly been harmed. And it sure hasn't been the case that saving money on design allowed the PD to hire additional reporters or make investments in the important coverage Rodrigue highlighted, (unless we're to assume that these savings were spent in their entirety on "Case Closed.") Indeed, shortly after Rodrigue's letter, the paper saw fit to part ways with some of its most senior reporters and photographers. 

As the News Guild fought to save their colleagues' production jobs last year, one of their main fears was that a non-local team would create a generic product. That fear has been borne out repeatedly. It is now standard for miscellaneous national stories to take precedence over local news. Thursday's top front-page story, for example, came from the Associated Press. It was about T-Mobile's acquisition of competitor Sprint and what that "means for you." Monday's top story, also from the Associated Press, was a piping hot report about almonds and food labeling.

The front pages are now identically constructed, a template that allows for one major story above the fold and two newsy local items beside and beneath it, generally harvested from Cleveland.com, the Plain Dealer's digital, non-union, sibling.

So far in February, there has been only one featured above-the-fold story written by a local reporter (PD or Cleveland.com) on any day other than Sunday: Michelle Jarboe's Feb. 7 piece on Sherwin-Williams' decision to remain in Cleveland, with a fabulous accompanying photo by Marvin Fong. Eight of the other 10 non-Sunday top stories were from the Associated Press. One was from the Washington Post. One, about the U.S. Senate's decision to reject witnesses in the impeachment trial of Donald Trump, was from "wire reports."

Whether by preference or by accident, these wire reports generally supersede local reporting and analysis on identical topics. Cleveland.com sent its chief political writer, Seth Richardson, and (curiously) a private-citizen correspondent to Iowa to cover the caucuses there, but the PD's front-page coverage after the electoral SNAFU came from the Associated Press.

In the two Sunday editions this month, the top stories have been a feature about local poet Honey Bell-Bey, by Mike McIntyre, and a story about UH's new Chief Transformation Officer, by Brian Albrecht.

The interior of the paper is not much better. Which is to say: every day but Sunday, there's barely enough locally reported content to fill the few pages that precede the sports section. Other than wire reports, rewrites of Cleveland.com stories populate Metro capsules—murders and the like—and the occasional court story from Cory Shaffer or Eric Heisig, criminal report from Adam Ferrise and county update from Courtney Astolfi (which are often quite good), and various statehouse dispatches from the Columbus team, fill in gaps.

And just to be clear, it's not like the Sunday edition is some paragon of local coverage. While it tends to cobble together top stories from the week, it's by no means the case that there are hard-hitting watchdog investigations, fun arts and culture packages, and long, magazine-style narratives printed regularly. What can be said for it is that it sometimes approximates what a newspaper should strive to be: a home for original reporting with coverage that matters to the community. (Education reporter Patrick O'Donnell's recent coverage of the school voucher debate at the Ohio statehouse is one example.)

The paper's sterile design and grab-bag editorial sensibility has reportedly been exacerbated by communications issues between local reporters and national layout folks. Due to burdens on the centralized production team, Sunday stories that require graphics must be submitted nine days in advance, a schedule that precludes the publication of so-called "in-depth breaking news" stories when they require illustration.

At best, these issues and restrictions limit the paper's ability to exist as a living, urgent, essential document for the region. At worst, it eliminates that ability altogether.

The Plain Dealer, in other words, has been thoroughly degraded. If you're not a person of means, who's supporting journalism kind of like how you'd support the Animal Protective League, anything other than a Sunday-only subscription is very hard to justify. We're told that to support journalists we should subscribe to our local papers, and that's certainly true. But the paper needs to provide value to its subscribers if it wants to be more than a charity case. That means having a sufficient number of reporters on staff to cover the breadth of the region's happenings, (and not just its pro sports teams); having knowledgeable and courageous editors to steer bold investigative work; and having illustrators and designers to present it all in engaging ways. 

Like in other industries, individual workers at the PD are doing extraordinary work in the face of immense pressures and frustrations, to say nothing of the financial predations of Advance executives and the hedge funds pillaging and plundering across the industry. (It should go without saying that Advance's corporate leadership, much like the glossy Patrick Batemans of Chatham Asset Management who will soon preside over the McClatchy titles, do not give one iota of a shit about what papers need to do to provide value to subscribers. Their interest is immediate profits, and those have generally been obtained by making dramatic newsroom cuts and "creating efficiency" by centralizing production.)

But unlike in many other industries, the killing of local journalism has dangerous and sweeping ramifications. Look no further than the state of Cleveland's democracy, the economic performance of its citizens and the tumult of its institutions to clock some of its effects. "Newspaper closures hurt Ohio communities," was the headline of a Policy Matters report on the subject last year. It cited research about the correlation of voter turnout, government performance and community news literacy with the strength of the local press. 

Advance already dealt Cleveland journalism its death blow when it cracked the Plain Dealer into two competing newsrooms, a union-busting scheme disguised as a "digital first" approach. Now, as it pursues the galaxy-brain strategy of alienating its readers by letting its flagship print product wither and die, citizens should recognize that it's not just their paper that hangs in the balance.

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Amanda Berry's Restored Monte Carlo SS to Debut at the Upcoming I-X Piston Powered Auto-Rama

Posted By on Thu, Feb 13, 2020 at 1:28 PM

  • Courtesy of the I-X Center
Working under the direction of Greg Boykin, the students at Max S. Hayes High School are restoring the 1986 Monte Carlo SS that belonged to kidnapping survivor and activist Amanda Berry.

The restored vehicle will be displayed on Thunder Row at the I-X Piston Powered Auto-Rama that takes place at the I-X Center from March 13 to March 15.

Berry’s love for cars started as a young girl. When she was to turn 16, the family car would've been hers. Unfortunately, it sat idle because Berry was kidnapped on April 21, 2003, one day before her birthday.

The students will have spent more than 500 hours refurbishing the vehicle.

“The show has a deep commitment to working with local schools through our Career Day and Hotrodders of Tomorrow programs,” says Show Manager Steve Legerski in a press release. “When Greg [Boykin] from Max S. Hayes brought this project to us, we knew debuting a car like this at the Piston Powered Auto-Rama would be the perfect platform.”

The restoration is made possible by Berry, Axelrod Collision Center, Dollar Bank, Evercoat, Boykin, Max S. Hayes High School, Meguiar's, Safelite AutoGlass, Sherwin-Williams and Summit Racing Equipment.

For more information about Amanda Berry's Monte Carlo SS restoration, please visit pistonpowershow.com/amanda-berry.

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Bad News, Cleveland Browns Fans: Your Suffering Does Not Qualify You for Medical Marijuana

Posted By on Thu, Feb 13, 2020 at 12:52 PM

  • Photo by Emanuel Wallace
If you're hoping to self-medicate with a little weed to soothe the sorrows of another losing football season, you're going to have to do it extra-legally.

The Ohio Medical Board yesterday ruled that being a fan of the Cincinnati Bengals or Cleveland Browns is not a qualifying condition that makes fans eligible to purchase legal medical marijuana via the state's program.

Cincinnati resident Vincent Morano turned in an application to the medical board asking for the designation. The board's refusal to consider football fandom for medical marijuana eligibility isn't exactly a surprise, but the body did also turn down more serious ailments, including depression, insomnia and opioid disorders.

Anxiety, autism and a wasting disorder called cachexia will move on to the next step in the process, however, receiving expert reviews as a prelude to possible inclusion on the list of eligible conditions.

Currently, Ohio residents can get a medical marijuana card if they have any of the following conditions: AIDS, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, chronic traumatic encephalopathy, Crohn’s disease, epilepsy, fibromyalgia, glaucoma, hepatitis C, HIV, inflammatory bowel disease, multiple sclerosis, severe chronic pain, Parkinson’s disease, post-traumatic stress disorder, sickle cell anemia, spinal cord disease or injury, Tourette’s syndrome, traumatic brain injury or ulcerative colitis.

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