Cleveland Community Media Producers Hold Roundtable with Mayor Justin Bibb

[Republished with permission from the Plain Press]

At the Neighborhood and Community Media Association of Greater Cleveland first press conference with Mayor Justin Bibb, time allowed each news outlet just one question for the mayor. Below are the questions from the members of the Neighborhood and Community Media Association [and other community media producers] and Mayor Justin Bibb’s responses.

Chuck Hoven, Plain Press

A number of years ago at Walton School I sat in a session with grade school kids and they were asked a what if question.  What if they could have whatever they wanted for afterschool programs at their school. And the kids came up with maybe seventy or eighty things within about a half an hour – everything from a sewing club to their own soccer field.

What I wanted to ask you about is the Comprehensive Extracurricular Activities Program. In the late 1990s the Cleveland Browns Stadium was given a tax exemption. The Cleveland Schools were promised that they would be made whole – they wouldn’t lose the tax dollars that would have come from the stadium. It was supposed to be two million dollars a year. And for the first decade it was $2 million dollars a year.

Then it just slipped down to $1 million. And one of the regulars at the Board of Education meeting, Gene Tracy, a retired teacher, noticed the discrepancy and he brought it up at almost every School Board meeting for over a decade. This money was basically promised to the Cleveland school kids. For these extracurricular programs, there are more kids that want to be in them than there are slots. And when kids attend these programs, their attendance goes up. When kids go to school, their grades go up and their graduation rates go up. This is a very important program.

And the monies that were passed. [Editor’s Note: Ordinance 1025-A-95]. There were three taxes passed at the time – I think a parking tax, an admissions tax and some kind of fee for rental vehicles. I think they run maybe from $10 million to $19 million a year – they were running. I don’t know what they are running now. But just two million of that was to go to after school programs, most of the rest went to the Browns stadium for repairs and some to city programs.  At some point they took $1 million from the afterschool program allocation and shifted it to the Browns. I’ve asked the previous mayor the same question. Would you restore that money to the after school programs and give them the back dollars from the years they were shorted?  – I think it is over a decade now.

Mayor Justin Bibb’s response:

Mayor Justin Bibb responded saying, “First and foremost, I’m not familiar with the aspects of that deal. So, I would have to have my Chief Financial Officer (CFO) and Law Director look at that.

Secondly, what I have done is as we prepare for a pending new deal for the Browns, as their lease is up in 2028, I have already started looking at the analysis of whether or not the City has been getting the right return on investment for supporting the stadium for the last decade or so.

The answer is no we haven’t. It was not the best deal that benefited the residents of Cleveland. So, as we prepare for this process, it is my intention to structure a deal that is going to serve the residents of Cleveland. Limit the general exposure I’m going to have to our general fund and budget, because I don’t believe I should be subsidizing billionaires to create more fancy stadiums if I still have potholes to fix, streets to plow and young people to support in our community. So, structuring a deal that benefits the residents of Cleveland will be my priority as we enter into this process. But we have a long way to go in order to get there.

To your point about the broader need for afterschool programming and out of school programming for young people in the district, it is an important priority for me as mayor. We have done a couple of things to address that already in the first ten months.

Number one: I’ve hired a Chief of Youth and Family Success Sonia Prior Jones. Her job has been to really examine all of the recreation center programs, school programs and the out of school time programs that we have across the broader community and make sure they are coordinated with the Cleveland Metropolitan School District (CMSD) first and foremost.

Secondly, next year we will be launching something I campaigned on, a Children’s Cabinet – where we can make sure the city, the county and all our core social service providers are all aligned on how we have the right social and emotional supports for young people across the city.

Thirdly, as we prepare for the next Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of CMSD – I want to say at the onset Eric Gordon has served the city admirably as the head of schools and we have a strong foundation to build on because of his leadership – But, one thing we are really going to focus on with our next CEO is making sure every school in the district has the right resourcing and afterschool programming to serve young people. This is going to take an all of government approach and a more intentional and thoughtful approach of both the City and CMSD to make sure young people can thrive long term.

One thing we are doing already to address that is for the first time in our City’s history, we’ve done a true master planning process for all of our parks. We have never done a complete study of how we are doing on parks and what’s the quality of parks in our city.

Another thing we intend on doing is to create a separate Department of Parks and Recreation in Cleveland – like you have in cities like Denver and New York City – so you have a dedicated leadership team that is just focused on parks and recreation. Right now, Public Works has too much under its portfolio. So, we need dedicated leadership focused on parks and recreation.

So, that just gives you a snapshot of what we are focused on for young people. But it is important that in the future we structure these deals in a way that is going to benefit the residents of Cleveland, not billionaires.

Ken Schneck, Editor of The Buckeye Flame

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) Clevelanders enjoy protections only a fraction of people in the state enjoy. Almost certainly in the next few weeks during lame duck session here in Oho there will be bans on gender affirming care, bans on teaching divisive concepts in school around race and LGBTQ identity, banning trans-youth from participating in school sports, and forcing all teachers and school staff to out LGBTQ students to parents. Cleveland is in Ohio, so that will apply to us here. What will you say about how you plan on navigating that.

Mayor Justin Bibb’s response:

Ken I’m sure you recognize this — being a Democratic mayor in a red state is very hard. Columbus has not been helpful on guns.  Columbus has not been helpful on reproductive freedom. And Columbus has not been helpful on making this a city where it is hard for me to execute policies that I want to because they have undermined home rule for me as mayor for a long time.

I will say this. We pride ourselves in this city on being very LGBTQ friendly. We want to have the most inclusive city in the state, and one of the most inclusive cities in the country. I just signed a bill earlier this week on banning conversion therapy because you know our young children should be able to live their authentic selves without fear of harm and fear of hurt. I’m really supportive and proud of the work of the Trevor Project.

As you have seen we have really beefed up our lobbying efforts, not just in the District of Columbia (D.C.), but in Columbus. We’ve joined for the first time in the City’s history the Ohio Mayors’ Alliance, where big city mayors across the state lobby and advocate for issues affecting our respective cities. We have a lobbyist dedicated in Columbus to execute my policy agenda as mayor.

I’d welcome the opportunity to organize and mobilize with City Council in the LGBTQ community to prepare for whatever may come down from this lame duck session to make sure we protect your rights and all the rights of all our citizens in this city.

Shelli Reeves, Reframe History

So, thinking about community development and redevelopment of the East Side of Cleveland often some historic landmarks as well as the stories of those who have been in the community for so long kind of are getting pushed aside.

As you continue your efforts of redeveloping and really putting money into the East Side of Cleveland, do you have any plans really herded toward those historic landmarks -buildings that are getting redeveloped as well as community elders whose stories may be getting lost?

Mayor Justin Bibb’s response:

A really important point Shelli. It is so important that we think about development, not just of the East Side, but of the broader city, through an anti-racism, anti-gentrification lens.

There is amazing work in development right now on Buckeye with Burton Bell Carr and the St. Luke’s Foundation that is really focused on what does anti-gentrification planning look like. I have instructed my planning department to look into how we imbed that point of view not just in the East Side but in a broader master plan for the city long-term.

It is important that we balance new development while also protecting historical landmarks in our city. Things like the Civil Rights Trail that’s been moving forward in Cleveland. And making sure we support our Community Development Corporations (CDCs) and grass roots organizations to go after historical tax credits at the state level to protect those as well assets too.

So, I think it is a ‘both and’- in many ways. But let’s be clear about this. We need more people – living, working, and playing—on the East Side. And we need more targeted, concentrated development on the East Side of Cleveland. My administration is in the early stages of designing and developing a Marshall Plan for the East Side. As I said on the campaign trail, I’m going to try to raise between $5 billion in capital over the next ten to fifteen years and make the East Side a thriving part of the city. It is the last missing piece, in addition to the lakefront, to really make us a globally competitive city long-term.

As a native son of the Southeast Side specifically, this is an important priority to me as Mayor. Probably my most important priority as Mayor is revitalizing the East Side of the city.

Jae Williams, General Manager WOVU 95.9 FM Cleveland

Mr. Mayor, as the son of a former police officer, how important are the police to you in making the city safe?

Mayor Justin Bibb’s response:

It is important. I have a dual mandate.   One – keep the city as safe as possible. I am really proud to say it is in the data. In almost every major category violent crime is down – homicides, the shootings, the felonious assaults.  It’s positive. It is going in the right direction.

We made some inroads on some of the training and talent attraction issues in our department.

We got a new police contract with the union in four months – an 11% raise over the next three years. New officers out of the police academy will start now at $20 per hour, which is a huge step in the right direction.

Prior to us taking office, our officers were not allowed to wear baseball hats, have beards, or have tattoos. Now they can. We were losing officers — not because of pay, but because they could not wear a ball cap, have a beard, or have a tattoo — to Shaker and other suburban theaters. So, we are trying to do some big and small changes and to increase moral and change the culture.

Another thing that is important is making sure we hold police accountable when they step out of line. In the next week or so we will be announcing my appointments to the new Community Police Commission that was created via Issue 24. Now that is called Charter Section 115. I’m really excited about the appointments we have to that commission because I think they reflect the diversity of the city and commitment not just to public safety but to true police accountability and constitutional appropriate policing.

We are also seeing in the data that the Consent Decree is working. Use of force cases are down in double digits, complaints against officers are also down. And we are using our crisis intervention model in more cases than we ever have as a department.

We have allocated up to $30 million from the American Rescue Plan to fund my vision around violence prevention. Expanding our core response model in the five police districts and exploring the care response model of policing so mental health professionals can also take advantage of taking care of those nonviolent 911 calls that don’t require a true police response. So, we are putting the building blocks in place for public safety. It will always be my number one priority as mayor, because if you can’t keep people safe, nothing else works.

Richard T. Andrews, The Real Deal Press

Will you talk about the role that you played in the conference that is coming here – Future Land?

Mayor Justin Bibb’s response:

For those that don’t know, we put together a conference in just a couple of months really – called Future Land. Really the vision behind it is to elevate Cleveland as a mecca for black and brown tech entrepreneurs. Prior to becoming mayor, when I was out of town traveling the country going to Austin, at South by Southwest, Afro-tech, Silicon Valley and seeing black and brown entrepreneurs thrive and showcase their talent. I always wondered, as a majority black city, how come we didn’t do that in Cleveland.

So Future Land will be our pilot version of our attempt to make Cleveland a mecca of black and brown entrepreneurship and native tech talent. We are going to bring in folks like Rich Paul, who is a native Clevelander, and others to talk about what they are doing on technology, what they are doing in crypto, what they are doing on entrepreneurship because we should always be striving to make Cleveland a destination for our children and grandchildren to move to, not move from.

If you can’t see yourself in work, if you are a black and professional you are going to go to D.C., and to go to Atlanta, and go to New York. How to keep that talent here.  So, want to make sure we start to build an ecosystem to attract that kind of talent. That is really the goal of Future Land.

Shana Black, Black Girl Media

My question is kind of continuing that thought. Lately, I’m hearing from a lot of our readers, almost weekly, that they are moving and that they are telling their children – get out of Cleveland. Get out of Northeast Ohio. Do not come back here, there is no opportunity. And small business owners, too. I hear there is a lot of friction to do business here.

I know there is a commission for black women after the study by Micro Solutions. I guess, what is message for that? Or what is the help to increase the likelihood to stay?  Future Land is a great step.

Mayor Justin Bibb’s response:

Listen. I can’t fix it in ten months. This is a systemic problem and systemic change takes time. But I think the early progress that we made shows. I think it is a good testament to show folks that the trend lines are moving in the right direction.

I can leave you with a couple of things. Number one, we hired, for the first time ever, a black woman leading economic development. A board trained economic development professional to help us think about how we do incentives differently to support black women to start a business.

I intend to launch relatively soon a universal basic income program for women of color to start a business so they can create good jobs in the local economy. We will be launching sometime next year a small business task force to look at how do we make this an easy place to do business in Cleveland.

There are a lot of structural things we need to fix in order to get there. But I think there is a lot of progress to be made in small victories. And, so you guys have to keep repeating that story. If you see an impression, let my team know, and elevate that to my team so we can address the material pain point issues you might be seeing, but I think we are making solid progress.

Rosie Palfy, and freelance journalist

Sir, I made a public comment Monday about Crisis Intervention. Thank you for commenting on that when you saw me the following day. I was going to ask a question, but based on your response to Jae, I’m going to change it a little bit. What I wanted to know is you know the standard for using force with police is objective reasonability. And I see hiring a lot of consultants, taking a look at things in different departments.

And so, I was going to ask two things. One: Would you consider hiring a consultant to look at the job the monitoring team has done over the last seven years. Because as someone who has been involved on a committee with reform that was created by the consent decree that supposedly has had the most progress, I can tell you that in my opinion, any objectively reasonable person who read the consent decree and looked at what is actually happening would see that it is not as good as people say it is.

So, I’m not suggestion that any contracts be terminated, but that it might be a good idea to take a look at that with fresh set of eyes.

Mayor Justin Bibb’s response: I think the monitor would tell me that they share your opinion that we haven’t made enough progress. Is that what you are saying?

Palfy: I’m sorry Sir. No. I mean what the monitor is doing. When I read the semi-annual reports following the court. The crisis intervention portion — it reads like a work of fiction to me.

Mayor Bibb: Oh. The CIT work is what you are saying.

Palfy. Yes. What I am saying is we have not made as much progress as they are saying.

And, then my other question sir is, I’m a member of the Mental Health Response Advisory Committee, and my public comment is Would you take a look at the memorandum of understanding between the Alcohol Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services (ADAMHS) Board and the City? Neither party is following it, so it has opened them both up to potential liability. And I think with the new Charter Amendment it is time to take off the training wheels and have the City have their own Mental Health Response Advisory Committee that is staffed by them.

Bibb: So, I have already instructed my Law Department to take a look at the Memorandum of Understanding – so we can find what’s working and what’s not working so I can get an objective analysis.

And then as you may have heard we are going to be hiring an executive director of police accountability. So, we really need that conduit between my administration, the police department and the monitoring by the Department of Justice (DOJ) to really identify what does street compliance look like and how do we sustain the reforms over time.

Now, I’ll tell you this: It is important that we have very clear focus on how to get compliant and quality controls around that compliance. Because I think that is key. But at the same time, I’m not going to keep the City under a consent decree forever, either. Because it has been $2 million to $3 million dollars a year. And, at the end of the day, I’m the duly elected mayor. I appoint the Chief of Police. I’m in charge of this department, not the monitoring team. And so, we want to make sure we have a thoughtful road to compliance and get out of the consent decree in collaboration with DOJ and Judge Solomon Oliver. But I’m not going to wait for that to happen. We are going to lead the charge and be proactive about getting there.

Palfy: We haven’t been told about the police accountability team we’re generally not kept informed – we have to read about it.

Mayor Bibb: We can have Marie share all the information you need about it. When did we make that announcement?

Mayor’s Staff: A couple of weeks ago.

Ron Calhoun, The Cleveland Observer

I want to circle back around. It seems to me that the focus, particularly at City Planning, your focus is density. Getting more people into the city through development. There are a lot of incentives around development. Isn’t the City’s budget based on income tax?

Mayor Bibb: It’s a dual thing.

Calhoun: But it’s about 60% income tax?

Mayor Bibb: 60% income tax.

Calhoun: The question I have is why not incentivize business? Because I live and built in Cleveland, and I send my money out to the suburbs.

Mayor Bibb: What kind of business?

Calhoun: The Cleveland Observer

Mayor Bibb: ok

Calhoun: The question is, if that same focus on incentivizing development went into business, wouldn’t that benefit the City more? I get the mentality –build it and they will come. But I’ve been here for a long time, 30 years, and I go out of the city to get anything, because those amenities are not here.

Mayor Bibb: I don’t disagree with you. I don’t have the luxury of choosing one or the other as Mayor.  The economy got so disrupted after the pandemic. But in many ways the post pandemic economy really fits into our strengths.

We are moving from a world where we don’t just have a central business district, we have what I call a community business district. We can work anywhere, anytime, anyplace in the world. Right? What we learned in the pandemic is that the amenities of a neighborhood matter. Whether you are in Lee Harvard, Downtown or in Tremont.

What I want to do is — how do I make sure is regardless of whether you are in Lee Harvard, or Westpark there is a grocery store where you can get fresh fruits and vegetables withing fifteen minutes, there is a park that is well programmed and well-lit within fifteen minutes, there is reliable transit that comes on time within fifteen minutes, and there is maybe a job that you can walk to  or get to within fifteen minutes? That is the North Star that I’ve instructed my planning team to focus on.

By doing that, not only do we help those that have been fighting the fight for a long time, but we become a destination city as well too. Right? Because not only to I have to maintain and expand the pie with what we have, but we have to grow as well. Right? Because we are competing for capital, competing for tax dollars, and competing for resources.

I agree with you the best thing we can do to grow our city is to take care of our own. Absolutely. But I also have to tell people about the greatness of the assets if they want to come and stay at the same time. So, I think it is not an either-or proposition, it is both of those folks. Folks that have been fighting for a long time and folks that may say, ‘you know what I’m not paying five grand a month for rent in New York. I could work on Wall Street and have a nice brownstone in Lee Harvard.’ That’s the dream. That’s the vision I have for the city long-term.

Rhonda Crowder, Rhonda Crowder & Associates Creative Services Agency

So, two parts. One is kudos because you met with the Greater Cleveland Association of Black Journalists and Hispanic Journalists shortly after taking office.

Mayor Bibb: You got me almost the third week, almost before I had time to turn the lights on.

Crowder: I asked the question about literacy, and you have put a program you are going to be launching very soon in place. So, I just want to say thank you for that because reading and literacy is a passion of mine.

I do want to ask a question around racism as a public health crisis. I am currently working on a twelve-part series in partnership with Ideastream. I know there have been some things done the Office of Equity developed, there is a task force. How do you feel about the progress that has been made? I know this is prior to your administration but how do you feel about the progress, or the lack thereof that has been made? And, do you have anything that you are bringing through your administration to address racism as a public health crisis?

Mayor Bibb: Yeah. So, what happened to that legislation is that it brings a new office of Social Justice and Health Equity in Public Health. That commissioner, Rita Wills, is awesome by the way. She is fantastic.

When I took office, I instructed her to work directly with my new director of Equal Opportunity and Employment, Tess Mitchell. We have a cabinet level team looking at every department and studying what are the structural barriers around racism and the social determinants of health at the department level. After that study is complete it will bring those recommendations back to me, as mayor, as a clear policy agenda both internal and external so there is a citywide focus for our prescription.

Let me give you an example. There is a regulation in the books, that in order to do business with the City of Cleveland, you need to exist at least six months as a policy. Think about that as a small barrier. If you want to get a catering contract, and you are a black entrepreneur with a catering company, you got to be in business at least six months before you can get a contract.  Or the bonded requirements that you need to be a Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) and be registered with the City of Cleveland. That doesn’t make any sense.

Crowder: And that you have to re-certify every year.

Mayor Bibb: And, so we are looking at all these regulations and seeing what doesn’t make sense any more. What is further exasperating racism from a system perspective that we can alleviate and address? We are struggling to lay a foundation for that work as we speak.

Anne Ying Pu, Erie Chinese Journal

I just am talking about the Chinese Community, which is right now the Asian Community. You are already involved with so many events. Right now, the Payne Avenue is really a good opportunity for us since Dave’s closed in 2019. They have lots of limits on the site, no opening of a grocery store – something like that.

This summer, the library and Middle Town, they have very good events for the parking lot. The last day – which was the close day -I was there, there were so many Chinese elders asking why they close the building. If (the former Dave’s) building was open as like art – or like a cultural center — we can go inside.

After the event we met Friday, Saturday, Sunday and I met with the group leaders for all the United States’ Chinese. And they say how much money they can invest here. I just say, 5 million dollars. You know. They say ok, we can come in.

I need your help maybe this month or the next couple of months and sit down with the developing people. Because I don’t know anything about it at all. Only thing, I know need the money here.

Another thing about Payne Avenue, they spend about $1 million for the renovation of the Buddhism Temple for the 42 Street. That is a very short area to E. 55th we also have a of full bigger supermarket and five restaurants. You know this is really Asian Town. We be like a movement really good for the City of Cleveland. I need your help.

Mayor Bibb: I agree. We will work with you on that and get a pocket park for Payne.

Ying Pu: Yes. Yes. They also have an Asian supermarket—also they have over 30,000 square feet. I’m just wondering if the City can do something help for us if I have the money for the seed.

Mayor Bibb: Make sure you connect with Joyce Huang and Jeff.

Rich Weiss, The Tremonster

In Tremont there are a couple of areas: one is Scranton on the way down to the Scranton Peninsula and the other is Clark on the way down Clark hill. We can see, particularly on Scranton, the pressure of large scale development creeping up on tiny little houses with long time owner-occupied residents. And, of course, they feel the pressure of the increased home price values – Cuyahoga County went around and increase home price values by algorithms.

A number of different pressures are on my poor Tremont residents. And a couple of those areas, include other things like water main breaks that take out furnaces that can’t be replaced by the city. Just acts of God. Particularly Clark was that issue.  As chinks in their ability to stay in their homes occur and they get closer to what it seems to me to inspections that could just end up shutting down homes in certain conditions. If we don’t get to them soon enough, do they just wind up getting torn down and turned into boxy condos? Do we have more condominium living in some of the areas with some of the best views in Tremont? Is there some way to find someone other than the boy who cried LOOP?  Because we have heard about the LOOP, the Long Term Owner Occupied Program, for a long time. It has been under consideration for maybe a decade but has really no advancement. I am interested in your take on those long-time owners and whether they will be able to stay in their homes as prices rise and property values increase.

Mayor Bibb: A couple of things. One: So back to my point on making sure we have a strong and aligned policy agenda with Columbus. We will be looking actively at LOOP and as part of that agenda next legislative session next year. In addition to LOOP, here is what we have done already to date on housing policy. One  — we passed pay to stay legislation. So that’s now permanent so folks can stay in their homes if they hit hard times. We are also looking at source of income protection legislation as well, so that there is no discrimination against folks who may be using a housing voucher to have a home that is safe.

We are also looking internally at how we go after these out of state LLC investors and these negligent racist property managers like Holden Wise that are predatory. So, I’m working with my housing policy team and my Director of Building and Housing Sally Martin to have an ordinance that allows any out of state investor to have a local agent that I can sue and bring into court. That is critical because right now we have a Chinese LLC buying some properties and I have no idea on how to hold them accountable. That is inexcusable.

This may be controversial, but I don’t care. We should be looking at point of sale inspections in Cleveland. Right? If it is good enough for Garfield, Shaker, and our suburbs, it damn sure should be good enough for Cleveland.

I was on Mound Avenue with the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless Coalition and United Way a couple of weeks about with Sally Martin who runs Building and Housing. And in this duplex, there were two things. One was an elderly couple who were paying their rent via cash forever because the landlord would not give them a lease and the house got flipped three or four times. The other one upstairs, a single mom with two kids, the roof was caving in, and she could not get ahold of the landlord. No one should be living like that. If we had point of sale inspection that would have never happened.

So, we’ve stacked the deck against renters in this city. Instead of prioritizing them, we prioritize these rich, overly zealous landlords and developers who don’t give a damn about working class people in this city. And so, we have a housing policy that reflects that commitment to help these families and we are working on that.

The other thing, we’ve through the American Rescue Plan Act home repairs, and senior home repairs are a big focus. We put $195 million towards housing and home repair, particularly for our seniors, has a large chunk of that money through the American Rescue Plan Act.

Pierre Bejjani, Profile News Ohio

First of all I want to congratulate you on being involved especially down in Columbus for the opening of this big Intel. I was so happy to see you there. I was so proud of your being involved in this. Probably this opening can mean something to Cleveland from this attempt.

Number two I want to speak on behalf of the multinational people community. I wanted to take your input on how we proceed to do with this administration about all these different ethnic groups. Big cities have a lot of different ethnic groups. How do you plan on reaching out? The last administration, Mayor Jackson was very open to invite all the different ethnic groups and celebrate them in the city and open the city. I was very appreciative. This is how we developed this relationship with the mayor and I’m very proud of my involvement. That is when we started doing the different ethnic groups days which we will be having again this November. How do you plan on reaching out to these different ethnic groups?

As an Arabic community we have a very sizable community and a large number of businesses in this area – they are a big part of Cleveland.

I have a couple of things I would like to see. I would like to see the area of Lorain Avenue by W. 117th become an Arabian Village probably. This is where most of the Arabic businesses are. We have China town. We have Little Italy. I think an Arabic Village, we can promote it.

Another thing I would like to see some involvement from our community into your team. How to see these different diverse groups. If you have something to check on with us as a community.

I’m not saying only the Arabic community, but different ethnic community groups. And we have a lot of different groups available. We have the International Community Council that I sit on as a vice president. We are involved in the cultural garden. We were a big part of developing Global Cleveland.

And I don’t’ even have the group here that is the different liaison persons. I don’t see anybody from the Arabic Community that is on it, number one. Number two at this stage you can put a group together from the city just to inform you. To take some ideas from these different ethnicities, what is good, and what is bad, and what is going on. Just I wanted to give you my thoughts on this.

Mayor Justin Bibb’s response: We have just been really so far working specifically with Global Cleveland as a conduit. I think it is the best organization to be that conduit.

And then, I know I have welcomed probably dozens of counselors and ambassadors to my office in this room since I took office as much as possible. But we are still ramping up our staff. Still trying to get settled. Still trying to focus on the basics. But this still making sure we maintain strong international players is an important part of this.

Bejjani: You are open the idea of being more involved more with the ethnic communities?

Mayor Bibb: Absolutely. But there are only 24 hours in a day.

Bejjani: I know. I know this is probably something probably new and you are grasping what is going around you here and I appreciate you for what you are doing. You are trying. I will have an ambassador from Lebanon during Lebanon Day here – not the ambassador to Washington, but an ambassador from Lebanon who is here and doing some affairs. Yeah, I

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