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Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Welp, There Was a Covid Outbreak on Put-in-Bay, Ottawa County Health Department Announces

Posted By on Tue, Jun 30, 2020 at 4:17 PM

DOUG BROWN/SCENE
  • Doug Brown/Scene
The Ottawa County Health Department announced today that a coronavirus outbreak on Put-in-Bay infected at least seven people between June 17 and June 21 and that anyone who visited the Commodore Hotel, The Mist or Mr. Ed's during that period of time should watch for Covid-19 symptoms.

This has been the inevitable update reminding you that the pandemic continues apace and you should WEAR A MASK AND NOT GET CLOSE TO PEOPLE.

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County Weighs $7.9 Million Expenditure to Cover Hilton's Taxes and Debt Payments, Which is Definitely Not a Bailout

Posted By on Tue, Jun 30, 2020 at 3:55 PM

ARCHITECT'S RENDERING OF THE HILTON CLEVELAND DOWNTOWN, 2013.
  • Architect's rendering of the Hilton Cleveland Downtown, 2013.

Cuyahoga County Council's Finance and Budget committee met Monday afternoon to receive additional information about a proposed bailout of the Hilton Cleveland Downtown Hotel. The controversial measure, proposed in recent weeks, would entail an additional $7.9 million expenditure from the county's general fund, at minimum. It would cover the balance of Hilton Worldwide's expected 2020 contribution to debt service and taxes, which the hotel chain alleges it cannot pay due to loss of business caused by Covid-19.

The county maintains that as the owner of the facility — Hilton Worldwide merely manages it, and receives an annual fee for doing so — taxpayers are obligated to cover the full debt and tax load. In fact, the county has objected to the "bailout" terminology on these grounds.

Until now, county taxpayers and Hilton have teamed up each year to cover the substantial payments on $230 million in municipal bonds taken out in 2014 to finance the hotel's construction. Hilton has already paid $3.7 million in the first half of 2020, but said it will be making no more payments for the rest of the year. The county claims, then, that it is on the hook for $6.5 million in debt service and $1.4 million in taxes, (on top of the $9.5 million it had already budgeted for its own contribution).

Monday, reps from CHMWarnick, the hotel asset management company that the county retains to provide updates about the Hilton's financial performance, gave a PowerPoint presentation outlining the grim regional and nationwide trends that supposedly justify Hilton's inability to pay its freight. (Last week, incidentally, County Council extended CHMWarnick's consulting contract for three more years, to the tune of about $250,000 per year.)

Hilton's occupancy numbers are alleged to be proprietary information, but CHMWarnick provided data about recent group cancellations at the Hilton and per-room revenue losses for various hotel classes. The Hilton Cleveland Downtown is considered an "upper upscale" hotel, one tier below the topmost "luxury" class.

In March, an 80 percent year-over-year decline in revenue per-room nationwide was described as unprecedented in history. "Nothing comes close," said CHMWarnick VP Larry Trabulsi. Covid's effects, he said, have been even more severe for luxury and upper upscale hotels than midscale and economy brands.

Cleveland.com reported Monday that the management agreement between the county and Hilton, promoted by then-County Executive Ed FitzGerald and approved by county council with only one dissenting vote, obligated county taxpayers to cover shortfalls on projected revenue. The lone dissenter, Dave Greenspan, told Scene in 2013 and repeated to cleveland.com last week that he thought the county should not be in the hotel business.

Multiple county councilpeople Monday proclaimed their support for the hotel, in spite of the recent financial peril.

"While I understand these concerns," said Councilman Michael Gallagher, who represents the county's southwestern suburbs, "that hotel, at a cost of $230 million, produced $180 million for Northeast Ohio [via the RNC]. Any suggestion that the hotel, in any way shape or form, is a mistake ... is a mistake."

Councilwoman Sunny Simon and Committee Chair Dale Miller both suggested that the committee should henceforth monitor the hotel's financial progress on a monthly basis, on the theory that if conditions improve — if there's a vaccine, for example — the county's bailout might be amended or rendered unnecessary.

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Update: Destination Cleveland Extends Deadline for Cleveland Brewery Passport Redemptions and Introduces Digital App

Posted By on Tue, Jun 30, 2020 at 3:50 PM

PHOTO BY LAURA MORRISON
  • Photo by Laura Morrison
Update: Destination Cleveland put redemptions of its annual Cleveland Brewery Passport program on hold when the pandemic hit. Now, the organization has announced updates to the program. Starting tomorrow, the passport program transitions to a digital app format from a paper booklet.

Additionally, the deadline for redemptions has been extended to Dec. 31.

"Transitioning to a digital app will help protect the health and safety of patrons and brewery staff by eliminating the exchange of printed materials," reads a press release. "The program extension is in response to the temporary closure of breweries during the State of Ohio’s Safe at Home order, which eliminated months for passport participants to obtain stamps."

The Cleveland Brewery Passport will be part of the Destination Cleveland app, which can be downloaded for free in the Apple App store or Google Play store. Participants will obtain digital stamps when they make a purchase at one of 34 participating breweries in Northeast Ohio.

If residents or visitors have an existing passport booklet with stamps, they can transfer the stamps to the app and maintain their progress. (Instructions on how to do that can be found on the Cleveland Brewery Passport webpage and in the Destination Cleveland app when it launches tomorrow).

If participants have completed a passport booklet they need to redeem for prizes at any level, they can mail the booklet to Destination Cleveland (334 Euclid Ave., Cleveland 44114). While supplies last, prizes will be mailed to those who submit their paper passports. Paper passports will not be returned.

Previous Post 3/16/2020:
Given the measures put in place by government officials to protect public health, Destination Cleveland has put Cleveland Brewery Passport redemptions (both in-person and mail-in) on hold because the Cleveland Visitors Center is temporarily closed.

Destination Cleveland Public Relations Manager Kristen Jantonio says that if breweries are able to give stamps to those who choose take-out, they can do so.

"But if they are unable to, we also understand," she states.

Continue reading »

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Cloak and Dagger, a Neighborhood Cocktail Bar, to Open this Fall in Tremont

Posted By on Tue, Jun 30, 2020 at 3:05 PM

GOOGLE MAPS
  • Google Maps
Next in line for the notorious Tremont property that most recently was home to SalsaRito is Cloak & Dagger (2399 West 11th St.), which owner Casey Hughes describes as a “neighborhood craft cocktail bar.” Hughes and business partner Cory Hajde are shooting for a late-September opening.

Despite an admittedly speakeasy-sounding name, Hughes wants to dispel any notions that Cloak & Dagger is going to be a haughty hideaway. Instead, the aim is to be mid-market and approachable.

“I’m going to push the speakeasy vibe down because that’s definitely not what we are,” she explains. “We are first and foremost a bar. We want to be an everybody bar, but we want to bring craft and creativity and hospitality to an everybody bar. We want anyone who walks through Lincoln Park. We’re not going to turn anyone away because they don’t feel like drinking a 10-dollar cocktail.”

In addition to affordable craft cocktails and other liquid refreshments, Cloak & Dagger will launch with a light menu of “plant-based” snacks and, perhaps, larger items.

“It will be mainly bar snacks to keep you drinking and keep you comfortable,” says Hughes, adding that the neighborhood is rich with full-service dining options. “We’re going to start small and see how it goes, but if we have to get bigger, we will do that.”

Prior to Merchant Street opening its doors a few years back, the prominent property on Lincoln Park received a much-needed renovation that relocated the bar and expanded the dining room. Because of that, notes Hughes, the bulk of the work that lies ahead is largely cosmetic.

“The bar has great bones; everything is pretty much brand new,” she reports.

The bar and booths will stay put, but will undergo some refurbishing. The conventional tables and chairs will be replaced with more booths and plenty of soft seating, with the goal of creating a “living room vibe.”

“We want you to stay a little bit.”

On the hunt for a home since late last year, Hughes says she was thrilled to secure such a great location in a fantastic neighborhood.

“We were looking heavily at Gordon Square and Tremont,” she adds. “Gordon Square seemed built-up, but Tremont always felt like the spot to me. I like that it’s a walking town; everything is in one little hub. It’s beautiful, it’s kept up and it has history. We definitely lucked out.”

As for all that talk about a “cursed” location, one that has been home to a revolving door of restaurants in recent years, Hughes laughs it all off.

“We love the word ‘cursed;’ we think it’s great,” she jokes, adding that she believes a lack of attention and customer awareness more likely doomed previous tenants than an address.

And as for launching a new business during a global pandemic, Hughes says that the situation removes any pressure to sprint toward opening day, giving her and her partners the time to make the necessary improvements and ready the staff so Cloak & Dagger can make a great first impression.

“We definitely didn’t expect Covid – I don’t think any nobody did,” she explains. “I’m currently working part-time at the bar I work at now with restrictions. I see the difficulties it does place on the staff and everyone involved. It’s not easy. And I respect my friends who are in the craft industry who have decided to stay closed or do to-go. But for us, it’s taking the pressure off and giving us the time to do the renovations and get everything ready.”

Of course, the team is also mapping out backup plans that include reduced seating, limiting the menu, reservations and to-go business.

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Ohio Educators Question COVID Funding Needs

Posted By on Tue, Jun 30, 2020 at 2:44 PM

ADOBESTOCK
  • AdobeStock

COLUMBUS, Ohio — What will learning look like in the fall?

That's still a question without a definitive answer in Ohio as districts adjust to the challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic.

As a high school teacher in a rural northwest Ohio community, Holly Kimpon, president of the Genoa Area Education Association, says funding is a major concern.

She says her district has already been forced to reduce pay for some advisers and support personnel.

"There's a lot of talk of what could happen and most of it is cuts to things that directly affect the kids," she states. "And it's heartbreaking for our students who really need those services."

The federal HEROES Act, which was approved by the U.S. House of Representatives, provides up to $60 billion in aid to local school districts.

Greenon Local Schools teacher Heather Stambaugh says it could help schools retain staff and pay for laptops to support distance learning.

"If there is a second wave, or keeping all students in the building is not feasible, we're not sending children home with technology that they can rely on," she states.

As a result of revenue losses during the pandemic, Ohio cut roughly $300 million from K-12 and higher education.

While it was offset by $384 million in CARES Act funding, additional education cuts are expected in the 2020-2021 state budget.

Kimpon also is worried about the impact of the pandemic on children who are already struggling with behavioral health issues. She notes her district hasn't had the money for an elementary school guidance counselor for more than a decade.

"We have a lot of kids with a lot of mental health problems in those early, early ages," she points out. "And getting to them quickly and early on is going to help them grow into a functioning adult."

Stambaugh adds that the country needs to place a higher value on the education of its youth.

"Children are our future," she stresses. "They're going to be running this country in a very few short years, especially our older high school students.

"They're seeing these decisions and how they're impacting them. We want them to be participants in democracy. "

Roughly 1% of the $2 trillion CARES Act was allocated for public schools.

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Albert Pickett Lost Everything in a House Fire He Couldn't Put out Because His Water Had Been Shut Off

Posted By on Tue, Jun 30, 2020 at 12:34 PM

GOFUNDME / "SUPPORT MR. PICKETT"
  • GoFundMe / "Support Mr. Pickett"
A devastating story published in The Guardian US Tuesday morning tells the story of Albert Pickett, a 60-year-old Cleveland man who lost everything in a house fire last year that he couldn't put out because he had no running water at his home.

The story, a narrative sequel to the lawsuit filed in December by the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF), shows the injustice of Cleveland's rising water bills, and the punitive measures taken against those unable to pay.

In an analysis last week week, The Guardian found that three quarters of low-income Cleveland residents live in neighborhoods where the average water bill is unaffordable, up from 56 percent a decade ago. A third of these low-income residents face bills that exceed 12 percent of their household income. This creates situations of crushing stress and mounting debt for those with the least means to get out of it.

Albert Pickett's story is particularly galling. He returned to live in his childhood home and inherited the debts of his mother after she died of Alzheimer's. Pickett intended to get on a repayment plan, but didn't have several hundred dollars in ready cash to make a required deposit with the Cleveland Water department and was denied.

Almost unthinkably — this is the United States of America, remember, the world's richest nation — Pickett's water has been turned off since 2013. A lien was placed on his home in 2016 and it then went into foreclosure.

"In order to continue living at home," reporter Nina Lakhani wrote, "Pickett borrowed buckets of water to flush the toilet, showered when he could at friend’s homes, and spent part of his $700 or so monthly benefits on bottled water to drink and to take his medication."

In 2018 he suffered a stroke and spinal injury, and he remains partially immobilized after months of physical therapy. In late 2019, he was unable to put out a small house fire because he had no running water to douse the flames. He's been sleeping on friends' couches and in his car ever since.

Pickett is a named plaintiff in the NAACP LDF's lawsuit against Cleveland Water. A few days ago, a GoFundMe was established to help him get back on his feet. In a message on the page, Pickett thanked those who were able to donate and displayed an almost angelic fortitude in the face of his circumstances.   

"Time is going to get hard," he wrote. "Depression is going to set in, every avenue to try to make you give up is going to attack you. Always believe that sooner or later the situation is going to get better. Stay focused and stay strong and endure."

DONATE TO MR. PICKETT HERE.

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ALT 99.1 FM Broadcasting Speeches by Malcolm X and other Black Leaders in Advance of a Format Change

Posted By on Tue, Jun 30, 2020 at 10:22 AM

IHEARTMEDIA
  • iHeartMedia
ALT 99.1 FM, Cleveland's Rock Alternative, has been broadcasting speeches by prominent current and historical Black leaders in anticipation of a new format announcement reportedly coming Tuesday at noon.

Called "stunting" in the radio industry, 99.1's sudden content shift is a publicity maneuver to generate curiosity and excitement.

Speeches, including Malcolm X's famous "Ballot or the Bullet" speech delivered in Cleveland in 1964, have in fact been broadcast on 15 iHeartMedia radio stations across the country, all of which are low performers in their individual markets. ALT 99.1 is the only Cleveland station affected.

The announcement of a format change is expected later today. AllAccess.com reported that Radio Insight learned that iHeartMedia had registered the domains "BlackInformationNetwork.com," "BlackInformation.net," and "BlackInformation.network" last week, suggesting that the new format could be news and talk radio aimed at the Black community.

Indeed, iHeartMedia has just launched BIN: Black Information Network, which, in addition to being a standalone news network within iHeartMedia, will provide news and commentary for iHeartMedia's 91 Hip Hip, R&B and Gospel stations.

“[BIN] will fill a void by providing continual news and objective information with full focus on the Black community,” said iHeartMedia's (and BIN's new President) Tony Coles. “We began developing our 24/7 Black news source last year, and events of the last few weeks, especially the senseless and tragic death of George Floyd, highlighted the need for this network. Now is the time for our voice to be heard, and I could not be more proud of our work and the team we are assembling at BIN.”

The format change at 99.1 is one of two significant Cleveland radio stories this week. The local Spanish-language station 87.7 "La Mega" is going 100 percent digital Wednesday. It turns out 87.7 FM has actually been broadcasting on the audio bandwidth of a television channel, and the station has been "on borrowed time" since the advent of digital TV.

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