The iOpener: NAACP Says Cleveland Has Water Affordability Crisis; Spike in Overdose Deaths

A Cleveland water tower along Shoreway
A Cleveland water tower along Shoreway [Lisa Ryan / ideastream]

Good morning, iOpeners. It's Friday, May 24, 2019. What plans do you have for Memorial Day weekend? And how will you be honoring those you lost serving our country?   

The NAACP Legal Defense Fund says Cleveland’s water department disproportionately applies tax liens for unpaid bills on properties in majority-black neighborhoods. In a summary report of a study of race and water affordability released earlier this week, the civil rights group said the city issued 11,000 between 2014 and 2018 for unpaid water bills. In most years, about two-thirds were attached to properties in majority-black census tracks. The Jackson Administration and Cleveland City Council, in a joint statement, called tax liens a “last resort” to collect delinquent water bills.

Ohio coroners have issued new warnings after recent spikes in drug overdose deaths around the state. Cuyahoga County's medical examiner in Cleveland said Thursday the county had seven overdose deaths in just over a 48-hour span. Officials haven't determined the specific drugs but suspected fentanyl was involved. Franklin County's coroner in Columbus reported nine apparent overdose deaths in roughly 36 hours from May 14 to May 16.

MetroHealth says a whistleblower lawsuit filed earlier this week is an attempt to “smear and grossly mislead” people about the healthcare provider’s role in problems at the Cuyahoga County Jail and the dismissal of its former nursing director. Gary Brack has accused MetroHealth and Cuyahoga County officials of retaliation after he raised concerns about inmate health care. The jail is under scrutiny after eight inmates died last year.

Hundreds of Browns fans joined Cleveland and Cuyahoga County officials for a big tailgate party in Public Square to celebrate the news that the 2021 NFL Draft will be held in Cleveland. County Executive Armond Budish said the draft, the biggest off-season event for the NFL, is expected to bring 250,000 visitors to Cleveland.  "That is huge for us here," he told the crowd.  

In an effort to combat opioid overdoses, the city of Green will equip several hotels with emergency Narcan kits. Data has shown a high percentage of overdoses take place at locations with easy access to Interstate 77.  “More than half of our overdoses are actually people who don’t live in Green and a good majority of those are in our transportation corridor,” said Mayor Gerard Neugebauer.

The Indians’ slump continues, with a 7-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays. The Tribe also lost outfielder Oscar Mercado to a hip injury after he collided with center fielder Leonys Martin while both were tracking a fly ball off Tampa Bay’s Kevin Kiermaier in the sixth inning. Kiermaier rounded the bases for an inside-the-park homer to put the Rays up, 6-0.  The Indians have lost five of their last eight games.

Weather forecast: Mostly sunny, high 66.  Tonight, mostly cloudy, low 61.  Tomorrow, partly sunny with thunderstorms likely after 5 p.m. High 84.  Sunday, showers and thunderstorms, high 75.  Monday, Memorial Day, perfect weather for a picnic at Lake View Cemetery with partly sunny skies, high 75.

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