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Scene & Heard

Monday, February 17, 2020

Dan Gilbert Gives First Interview Since Stroke, Says Recovery is Slow But He's Getting Back to Work

Posted By on Mon, Feb 17, 2020 at 1:48 PM

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Billionaire developer Dan Gilbert is slowly rebuilding his life after suffering a stroke in May with the help of a wheelchair and a black Lab service dog named Cowboy.

On Friday, the founder and chairman of Quicken Loans plans to deliver his first public speech since the stroke as he’s honored by Crain’s Detroit Business as the publication’s first Newsmaker Hall of Fame.

"When you have a stroke, here's the problem with it: Everything is hard. Everything," Gilbert told Crain's. "Like you wake up, getting out of bed is hard, going to the bathroom is hard, sitting down eating at a table is hard. You name it. You don't get a break. You're like trapped in your own body."

Gilbert had an ischemic stroke on the right side of his brain, which temporarily paralyzed his left arm and leg. His recovery has been steady, but he has a long way to go.

“I can grab a ball and drop it into a box sometimes,” he told Crain’s. “But not always.”

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CMSD's Joseph Gallagher Middle-School Chess Team Still Making History

Posted By on Mon, Feb 17, 2020 at 12:31 PM

Coach Amit Ghose and the Joseph M. Gallagher chess team are once again making history. Last week, the CMSD K-8 school in Detroit-Shoreway announced on its Facebook page that the chess team became the first middle-school team ever to defeat all the high school teams at the local "Legends Tournament" held at Brush High School.

The feat is only the latest for a chess program that, last year, made waves regionally and nationally with its unprecedented success. (Scene spent time with the Gallagher chess team to document their season of triumphs.)

Last year's team was led by mostly 8th-graders, who are now Freshmen in high school across the district. And though Coach Ghose said last year's achievements may never again be replicated, current 8th graders Sunita Magar and Reyosh Biswakarma are anchoring the squad as they conquer new challenges and set new benchmarks.

Gallagher has the highest percentage of Asian students among CMSD schools, and the chess team has been composed chiefly of recent immigrants from India and Nepal. Coach Ghose, himself an immigrant from India, recruited the students in large part to give them a social outlet because they were struggling to make friends. Their success in tournament play was a bi-product of their close friendships. 

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Anti-Poverty Groups Call on Congress to Save Safety Net

Posted By on Mon, Feb 17, 2020 at 9:00 AM

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COLUMBUS, Ohio - With the U.S. House and Senate in recess this week, poverty-fighting groups in Ohio are hopeful the state's congressional leaders will hear their calls to save crucial safety-net programs.

The White House released its $4.8 trillion executive budget last week. Trump's budget plan would cut Temporary Assistance for Needy Families by $20 billion and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or 'SNAP' by $182 billion, both over ten years.

Joree Novotny, director of external affairs with the Ohio Association of Foodbanks, says it would slash funding for multiple programs that help low-income families and seniors meet their basic needs.

"Food programs are under attack, health-care programs are under attack, housing programs are under attack," says Novotny. "Basic cash assistance programs are under attack. Any funding that helps lift up the most vulnerable families, in Ohio and across the country, is threatened by this budget."

The budget proposal also would eliminate the Social Services Block Grant, which states use to fund anti-poverty programs, and would cut federal spending on Medicare by $750 billion over the next decade.

The White House claims its plan would close the budget deficit in 15 years, while reducing costs and improving efficiency of government programs.

Trump's budget plan makes the 2017 tax cuts permanent, which Novotny contends largely benefited wealthy individuals and corporations. The President is claiming that the economy is "the best it's ever been," but Novotny counters that not everyone is benefiting.

"We're not seeing anything in our hunger-relief network that tells us that things are a whole lot better for those who are at the bottom of the food chain, so to speak," says Novotny. "We are seeing the same number of people coming to our food pantry network as we have, basically, since the end of the Great Recession."

Some analysts say the budget plan is essentially "dead on arrival," because it won't be taken seriously by congressional leaders. But Novotny says it shouldn't be taken lightly, noting the Trump administration has proposed similar program changes and reductions through regulatory action.

"Even if these proposals aren't ultimately implemented by Congress, it's very likely that the administration will intend to try to figure out other ways and other means to circumvent the will of Congress and implement these cuts," says Novotny.

Novotny is hopeful Ohio's congressional delegation will focus on ways to protect and strengthen programs for vulnerable Ohioans, instead of dismantling the safety net.

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Seriously Stop Reading This Headline and Register to Vote in Cleveland

Posted By on Mon, Feb 17, 2020 at 8:50 AM

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Tomorrow, Feb. 18, is the last day to register to vote in the upcoming Ohio primaries, which means that anyone 18 or older and who is legally able should make sure they are signed up to vote. Because it may seem simple, but if you're not registered, then you can't vote.

Yes, registering to vote does take a few minutes, and can seem like it takes away from other fun activities, but it can truly be a pretty painless process.

First, it's important, especially here in Ohio where thousands have recently been purged from the voter rolls, that you confirm your status as a registered voter. If you're no longer registered you can sign up and even update your address online at the Cuyahoga County website.

The Ohio primary is Tuesday, March 17, aka St. Patrick's Day. Scene highly recommends voting before heading downtown for all the festivities. The day is also Super Tuesday and will most likely determine the Democratic nominee for president.

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Friday, February 14, 2020

Plain Dealer Editor George Rodrigue Departing March 1

Posted By on Fri, Feb 14, 2020 at 1:05 PM

Plain Dealer editor George Rodrigue delivers remarks at the community tribute to journalism, (7/5/2018). - SAM ALLARD / SCENE
  • Sam Allard / Scene
  • Plain Dealer editor George Rodrigue delivers remarks at the community tribute to journalism, (7/5/2018).
Plain Dealer editor George Rodrigue has announced that he will depart from the newspaper's top position on March 1. In a letter to readers, Rodrigue said that he has accepted a role with the PD's sister company, Advance Local, and will work with other editors in the Advance network sharing the lessons about collaboration and solutions journalism that he has gleaned from Cleveland.

"I’m going to miss my colleagues here in the Plain Dealer newsroom," Rodrigue wrote. "They’ve inspired me, every single day. Even the cranky ones. Working with people this dedicated to community service — to finding and telling the truth — builds powerful feelings not just of loyalty, but of love. I hope you can feel that, too, when you see their work in our pages."

Rodrigue acknowledged the difficult newsrooms changes of the past several years, which he attributed to trends across the industry, but said that he was grateful for new bonds that had been forged and strengthened between the newsroom and the community. He said reader input now has a more important role in the creation and execution of the paper's journalistic agenda.

Rodrigue will hand the reins to managing editor Tim Warsinskey, a newsroom vet who handles the day-to-day operations of the paper and has edited some of the PD's flagship series in recent years.

"As Tim is too modest to say, he’s been doing all the hard work around here for several years now," Rodrigue wrote. "You won’t miss me much, and that makes me feel just a little bit better about leaving."

News Guild Local 1, the union representing PD journalists, issued a statement wishing Rodrigue well and thanking him for his personal and professional support during a tumultuous few years, which have included multiple rounds of layoffs.

"We, of course, continue to have deep concerns about the local journalism landscape and where the Plain Dealer fits in," the Guild wrote. "Continuing staff cuts and the cost of maintaining two separate newsrooms and a remote design and production staff has made our jobs harder. But our commitment to the future of journalism in Cleveland remains strong, and we will continue to fight to tell the stories of the community."

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Former Ohio State Wrestler Accuses U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan of 'Cover Up' in Sex Abuse Case

Posted By on Fri, Feb 14, 2020 at 10:36 AM

U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan - U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES PHOTO
  • U.S. House of Representatives Photo
  • U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan
A former wrestler at Ohio State University told state lawmakers this week that U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan, once an assistant wrestling coach at OSU, was engaged in a "cover up" around sex abuse committed by former OSU team doctor Richard Strauss.

Jordan, a Republican, has repeatedly denied he had any knowledge of Strauss' behavior. The doctor, who committed suicide in 2005, sexually assaulted at least 177 people at the school between 1979 and 1997 according to an investigation commissioned by OSU.

The Ohio House of Representatives is currently considering a bill that would waive the state's statute of limitations on sexual abuse claims brought by Strauss' victims. About 350 men have sued OSU over allegations Strauss sexually assaulted them.

One former wrestler who has alleged sexual abuse at the hands of Strauss, Mike DiSabato, has said he told Jordan and another coach about Strauss' actions and has been highly critical of the way OSU handled the situation. DiSabato, one of the original whistleblowers calling out Strauss' actions, has a controversial historywith OSU, and some have questioned his motives for his testimony.

Jordan, now a powerful conservative in the U.S. House, has maintained he never had any knowledge of sexual abuse.

DiSabato's brother and another former OSU wrestler Adam DiSabato this week told the Ohio House's Civil Justice Committee considering the statute of limitations legislation that Jordan called him asking him to contradict his brother's testimony.

“Jim Jordan called me crying, crying, groveling on the Fourth of July (2018), begging me to go against my brother," Adam DiSabato told the House committee. "Begging me. Crying for a half an hour. That’s the kind of cover-up that’s going on here.”

A spokesman for Jordan told USA Today that Adam DiSabato's accusations this week are "another lie."

The DiSabatos aren't the only ones who have made accusations that Jordan knew about Strauss' behavior. Last year, a former referee said in a lawsuit that he notified Jordan and other coaches about incidents involving Strauss. Other former OSU wrestlers, however, have spoken in Jordan's defense.

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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

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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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