Friday, January 10, 2014

City Club speaker to address Racial Change in America at Friday forum

Native Clevelander Steve Phillips helping to pioneer national political change

Notwithstanding its status as the first American city to elect a black mayor, Cleveland remains a racial backwater when it comes to adjusting to the new demographics shaping the political and economic realities that are remaking much of the country and the world. We failed to seize the moment offered by Carl Stokes’ 1967 election to create a new polity for our community, and quickly fell back into old stylized habits of fighting lose-lose battles over turf without recognizing how nutrient-deficient the whole game had become.

Too often our best and brightest have grown up and gone away to find greener pastures where the public and private battles at least reflect the changes that have occurred in America and beyond since World War II.

One of those best and brightest, Steve Phillips, returns home to the City Club today, to talk about how "Brown is the New White: America's Racial Transformation and the Future of U.S. Politics".

A lawyer, philanthropist and political activist who splits his time between San Francisco and Washington, DC, Phillips grew up in Cleveland Heights, graduating from Hawken School in 1982. Considered a pioneer in political innovation, Phillips created the country’s first Super PAC in 2007, and he is the founder and chairman of PAC+, a social justice political network that was the first national group to back Cory Booker’s successful US Senate campaign and the Texas gubernatorial candidacy of Wendy Davis.

In a conversation earlier this week with The Real Deal, Phillips noted that as a matter of fact “this country has been organized around the interests of white people”. How the interests of a new majority find leverage in new public policies will say much about the future of this country.

Greater Clevelanders of all hues would be wise to pay careful attention and take notes on the insights of this native son.

Sharpened United Way focus to test area nonprofits

Local agencies must adjust immediately to qualify for funding next fiscal year

Nearly 15 years ago the United Way of Greater Cleveland began requiring its nonprofit grantees to adapt outcome-based measurements as a means of demonstrating their continued grant-worthiness. It would no longer be sufficient for agencies merely to count the number of people they served. Results would increasingly be measured and scrutinized in the intensified competition for funding.

The screws appear to be tightening even further now that UWGC has sharpened its focus in an effort to achieve more bang for its bucks. The federated charity introduced this week its new Community Impact Agenda, with the goal of creating “a healthy community where every child succeeds in school and every family achieves financial stability.”

“United Way volunteers and board and staff members identified 11 priorities and 23 strategies to focus intently on our community’s most pressing needs,” said United Way Chairman of the Board and PNC Bank Regional President Paul Clark in a prepared statement.

“Formerly, United Way had 19 priorities and 53 strategies. Moving forward, we have fewer, very targeted strategies crafted specifically to advance education, income and health in Greater Cleveland.”

A new funding process has been put in place to qualify for funding in the United Way fiscal year that begins July 1. Nonprofits seeking United Way funding must submit by Friday, January 10 at 5PM an electronic letter of intent as a pre-application. If the pre-application is approved, then the eligible organizations must submit proposals by 5PM Friday, February 14, 2014.

The pre-application rules and guidelines may be viewed and downloaded here.

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

East Cleveland School Board votes to oust Library trustees

Pair of 5-0 votes put Library leadership in question as lawsuit looms

The East Cleveland Board of Education reelected retired judge Una H. R. Keenon once again as board president at its 2014 organizational meeting tonight. It then adjourned to a special meeting at which it voted in separate 5-0 votes to remove East Cleveland Library Board trustees William Fambrough and Devin Branch.

The effect of the school board’s actions are in doubt, however, as Fambrough and Branch, during brief speeches after the votes, said the school board was without authority under Ohio law to remove them and vowed to continue serving as library trustees.

The school board appoints one library trustee each year to a seven-year term and also makes appointments whenever there is a vacancy. The library board has resembled a game of musical chairs in recent years, as the school board has repeatedly had to fill recurring vacancies caused by resignations.

Tonight’s meeting drew about 40 East Cleveland residents, many of them supporters of Sheba Marcus-Bey, who was fired last week as library director. Fambrough, who intends to continue as president of the library’s trustees, and Branch, were part of the 4-3 majority that voted to terminate her.

While no reason was publicly stated for Marcus-Bey’s firing, The Real Deal has learned that several board members found her to be repeatedly insubordinate to them both publicly and privately. There was a sense that she felt her accountability was to members of the school board and not to the library board, according to several people who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Marcus-Bey attended tonight’s school board meeting, as did three lawyers who identified themselves as working on her behalf.

Attorneys representing the school board conceded before the first vote that their client’s authority to dismiss Fambrough and Branch was debatable. Lawyer Donna Andrew of Pepple Waggoner law firm said it was a close question and one her client was prepared to litigate.

Court action, almost certain to result from the school board’s action, has become a recurring theme for the library system. Just last month the Cuyahoga County Court of Appeals dismissed lawsuits brought against Fambrough by two library employees. The appellate court overturned a lower court finding that Fambrough was in contempt for calling a special meeting of the board while the lawsuits were pending and firing the two employees, the library director and chief fiscal officer.

But Fambrough was vindicated when the higher court ruled that the trial court had overstepped its bounds and improperly sided with the two women, who both accused him of bullying them, a charge Fambrough has denied.

A series of complaints filed against Fambrough with the Ohio Civil Rights Commission by unhappy library employees were all dismissed last year for lack of probable cause.

A confrontation over whether Fambrough and Branch have been properly removed from the Board is likely to come soon. The library’s next regularly scheduled board meeting would normally be Monday, Jan. 20. Since that is a legal holiday, it is unclear when the meeting will actually take place. School board president Keenon made clear that the board would take time and follow an orderly process to select replacements for the ousted board members. But with Fambrough refusing either to relinquish authority or to turn over the keys to the building, the question of who is running the library is all but certain to wind up back in court.