Scene & Heard

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Cleveland Has the Worst Pre-Thanksgiving Traffic in the Country, But it Can Be Avoided

Posted By on Wed, Nov 22, 2017 at 11:23 AM

  • Photo via sharpshooter1165/Instagram
It's not all in your head, Cleveland has the highest concentration of Thanksgiving traffic in the country the day prior to the holiday, a Google Trends analysis called Mapping Thanksgiving recently discovered.

According to the data, more people are traveling through/from the Cleveland area than in any spot in America the day before Turkey Day, in presumably an attempt to meet up with loved ones in other parts of the state or country. Google Trends even suggests that leaving for your Thanksgiving destination from Cleveland at 4 p.m. today is pretty much the worst idea you've ever had.

But there's a simple solution — besides banging your head against your car window and calling your mom to tell her you can't make it — leave Thursday morning. This way you get to sleep in your own luscious bed the night before all while avoiding the shitshow highway parking lot.

The rest of the weekend, feel free to take it easy, with family or not. Whatever you do, just don't drive back to Cleveland on Sunday (see below).

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Cleveland Rape Crisis Center Sees Upturn in Calls After Celebrity Sex Assault Stories

Posted By on Wed, Nov 22, 2017 at 10:22 AM

  • Photo via ClevelandRapeCrisisCenter/Facebook

The ever-growing list of powerful, famous men accused of sexual assault and harassment has come about because of and resulted in a greater willingness by victims to tell their stories. That cultural change is being born out in headlines but also on a smaller scale.

For some victims it has meant speaking publicly, as seen with the #MeToo campaign where victims took to social media and even the streets to show solidarity against sexual violence. For others, the process is playing out more privately.

Since the campaign began last month, the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center has seen a 50-percent increase in the number of calls/texts/chats to its rape crisis and support line. According to Center records, they're on pace to exceed 6,000 calls by the end of the year, which would be the most it's ever handled.

"Over the last five years, we've experienced an overwhelming increase of calls to our hotline, which reflects the seismic shift in cultural attitudes about sexual assault and more people willing to come forward," a Rape Crisis Center spokesperson tells Scene.

Sondra Miller, president and CEO of the Center, says that while the public accounts have helped, victims need to know that getting help comes first.

"It's really important for victims to understand they have no obligation to share their story with anyone; they don’t owe that to anyone," Miller says. "Telling your story is really about feeling safe enough that you can share your information."

Like new Clevelander Gabrielle Union, whose recent memoir We're Going to Need More Wine describes being raped as a college student. The actress, and wife of the Dwyane Wade, officially went public with her survival story in 2014, but it took years of therapy and healing to get to that point.

"Once I shared, others shared ... I realized I was offering a bridge, a hand, to other people who wanted to share, or who just needed to know, 'Hey, I’m not alone.'" Union told the Washington Post. (Watch her speak more candidly on the subject below.)

"I do see it as positive momentum. I think many people who have this experience... they think they’re the only one this happened to, that there is something wrong with them," Miller says. "When we have these conversations, the blame belongs with people who committed the crime, not the victims."

And it's not just women who are utilizing the Rape Crisis Center's services. After the Jerry Sandusky scandal hit in late 2011, Miller says the amount of men calling for help went from about 2 percent to 11 percent of inquiries. She says that number hasn't dipped since.

"None of this is new. It’s being revealed," Miller says.

A harrowing report published earlier this year confirms that sexual assault and rape are far more prevalent in America than one might think. According to the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, produced by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in three women and one in six men in America will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime.

"Prevalence of sexual violence isn't more now than any other decade, just then it was under reported," Miller says. "There was so much stigma, and we’ve been gradually chipping away at that."

Miller says the most important thing friends and family can do for sexual assault survivors is to listen.

"This may seem simple, but telling survivors you are sorry this happened, and this isn’t their fault — that can be transformative," she says.

The 24-Hour Cleveland Rape Crisis Center hotline can be reached at 216-619-6192 or 440-423-2020.
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Forrest, Bull Mastiff at Center of 2013 Animal Cruelty Case, Has Died

Posted By on Wed, Nov 22, 2017 at 8:59 AM

  • Forrest
Forrest, the bull mastiff who was found shot and chained to a tree in Cleveland Heights and who later became the centerpiece of an Ohio animal cruelty criminal case, died last weekend.

We published an extensive feature on the case in January 2013.

Robin Stone and Patti Harris adopted Forrest and gave him a tremendous life, often making him the star of their social media posts (which featured their other pets, as well).

He became a symbol, in many ways, of the long-running struggle to reform animal cruelty laws in Ohio. When Goddard's Law finally passed in 2016, making it a fifth-degree felony to "cause serious physical harm to a companion animal," Forrest was there.

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Federal Judge Puts Pressure on City for Backlog of Citizen Complaints Against Police

Posted By on Wed, Nov 22, 2017 at 7:53 AM

Federal courthouse in downtown Cleveland - ERIC SANDY / SCENE
  • Federal courthouse in downtown Cleveland
At the behest of U.S. District Judge Solomon Oliver, the U.S. Department of Justice consent decree parties gathered on Tuesday to discuss the most glaring source of frustration in the 2015 agreement: the investigation of civilian complaints against Cleveland police. Hundreds of open complaints remain untouched, dating back to 2014 in some cases. Even with the addition of six temporary investigators at the Office of Professional Standards, which is tasked with processing those complaints, the backlog grows almost daily.

On Aug. 30, by way of illustration, the office had 401 open complaints from the past several years. As of this week, it had chiseled that backlog down to only 383. Matthew Barge, the consent decree monitor, said that the pace was "not even close" to where the office should be right now.

"The problem with OPS [is] it's not any better than it was two years ago when this process started, and it's not getting better," he said. "[This] systemic failure of the city of Cleveland has perpetuated over time, stemming back from the creation of the office in the 1980s."

Records from 2016 show that most of these complaints involve "lack of service" or "unprofessional behavior."

One complaint about an improper tow was received Feb. 3, 2016. It wasn't cleared until Feb. 15, 2017, at which time the complaint was "sustained in part" by investigator Anitra Merritt. And that's one of the rare closed cases in the hundreds of complaints on the OPS desk.

Leaving complaints uninvestigated or even partially investigated — and thus hanging over individual officers' heads — creates a sense of public rot. The word "fester" was used multiple times during the hearing, like when Barge said: "This has been festering for a long time. ... Officers and civilians deserve [a solution]."

The city has maintained that it's plagued by a lack of resources and by a sudden mandate to conform to new policies and best practices — that the matter of training is taking considerable amounts of time and keeping investigators from the actual work of investigating. But the federal oversight team wasn't having it; instead, Barge pointed out again and again that the city simply hasn't stepped up its game.

He referred to a November 2015 meeting with Damon Scott, who until recently led the OPS. During that conversation, at the outset of the consent decree, Barge and Scott discussed a computerized database that could be used to track and catalog complaints. Barge said the conversation was "in-depth." But as of today, OPS is still not using that system (which is the same system used by the police department's internal affairs unit, Barge pointed out).

"That's not a resource issue," he said. "That's a will issue. We need will and drive and urgency. ... This is not about resources. This is about leadership."

The city's law director, Barbara Langhenry, said that they will look to hire a senior investigator via a national search. The city is also hoping to find a permanent replacement for Scott; that job posting went up last week.

"It is our hope that there will not be a backlog this large going into the future," Langhenry said.

But since Aug. 30, OPS has been tasked with achieving at least 2.5 new investigations per month per investigator (or five "backlog" investigations per month). Even that modest goal hasn't been reached, with only 38 investigations being closed in that time frame, Barge said. And of those 38, 66 percent of them were "non-compliant" in how they were carried out.

This week's hearing had a back-to-the-drawing-board feel to it. Despite Oliver praising certain segments of the consent decree, he insisted that this problem has grown dire.

"If we can't make more progress than this, frankly I'd be looking for a different kind of hearing — one where we'd more adversarial," Oliver said. "And I don't mean that in a bad way — [but] one where we can be more formal." He hinted at the potential need for testimony from Public Safety Director Michael McGrath, who was present today.

"I look to the city to take the lead in coming up with standards and resolution of this issue," Oliver said. "This has to be one of the highest priorities in the area of the consent decree. This is one that we cannot let fester."

The hearing wrapped up with a plan to meet again in mid-December with a more concrete plan of action.

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Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Jeff Follmer Wins Election and Returns as President of Cleveland Police Union, Ousting Steve Loomis

Posted By on Tue, Nov 21, 2017 at 1:09 PM

  • Follmer
In a 387-349 vote, the Cleveland Police Patrolman's Association voted former president Jeff Follmer back into the presidency this week. Steve Loomis will return to his detective work in the Third District.

It's an instance of history repeating itself at CPPA, as Follmer beat Loomis in a 2011 vote. Then, in 2014, Loomis beat Follmer.

This week, Follmer beat Loomis again.

We summarized Follmer's 2014 departure, which was marked by the shooting death of Tamir Rice and a Follmerish rant against former Browns WR Andrew Hawkins. “It’s pretty pathetic when athletes think they know the law," he said at the time, referencing Hawkins' shirt, which read "Justice for Tamir Rice and John Crawford III."

A statement from Steve Loomis on the results is below.

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Exercise/Activity Heatmap Shows Just How Much Cleveland Uses the Metroparks

Posted By on Tue, Nov 21, 2017 at 1:02 PM


Pulling together some 10 terabytes of raw data, including 1 billion sporting activities covering 27 billion kilometers over 200,000 aggregate years, Strava, which makes apps that allow users to track exercise and activity, put together an updated global activity heatmap.

There's a detailed blog covering some of the more unique and interesting plot points gathered from Strava users (the course for the marathon in Antarctica, Burning Man, the channel between England and France, the Ironman Kona Swim in Hawaii) that you should absolutely explore. For our purposes though, a quick zoom in on Northeast Ohio reveals a burning white necklace around Cleveland. That's the Emerald Necklace (Cleveland Metroparks), of course, easily highlighted as the most active path(s) in the city.

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More Than 50 Applications for Medical Marijuana Businesses in Cuyahoga County

Posted By on Tue, Nov 21, 2017 at 12:54 PM

  • Scene Archives Photo
Across the state, 370 applications for medical marijuana dispensary licenses have been filed. More than 50 of those are for businesses located in Cuyahoga County.

The state only has 57 licenses to issue — at least in this initial round. (Three licenses allotted to counties in western Ohio will go unused, as no businesses applied in six counties in that part of the state.) Notable Cuyahoga County names in early applications include Majestic Steel CEO Todd Leebow and Bobby George.

The medical marijuana law is expected to be fully implemented and active by next fall. It's not yet clear when these dispensary licenses will be approved.

Cuyahoga County, being one of the larger counties in the state of Ohio, may have multiple medical marijuana dispensary operations when these licenses are issued. Businesses may hold up to five dispensary licenses and operate in five different locations; some businesses owners applied for more than five licenses in this first round. The application cost $5,000, netting the state another $1.85 million right up front.

Jackie Borchardt at has pointed out that the state's application fees for cultivators, dispensary owners and processors will outpace the expected costs of the medical marijuana program by millions of dollars.

Already, the state has issued lower-level medical marijuana cultivation licenses to 12 businesses, which may operated facilities up to 3,000 square feet. (Those "Level II" licenses demanded a $2,000 application fee.) Another 12 will be selected for bigger operations — facilities up to 25,000 square feet. Those larger "Level I" licenses demanded a $20,000 application fee.

In all, nonrenewable applications fees generated more than $2 million in revenue for the state of Ohio. Those dollars may only be used for the medical marijuana program. Not every cost has been accounted for; while personnel expenses have been factored into state estimates, there are unknown costs — like the creation and oversight of a tracking system used for each marijuana plant.
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