Anything from current events, campaign finance reform, sports (especially baseball), corporate/political/legal ethics, pop culture, confessions of a recovering comic book addict, and probably some overly indulgent discourses about my 3-year old daughter. E-Mail: sardonicviews -at-
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Friday, September 19, 2003

Good Timing

Blogging is over for a couple days. Heading out in a little while for a wedding in Pennsylvania. Question: Rain isn't supposed to be the best thing on a wedding day, so how does a hurricane rank?

We're Not Irrelevant. We're Not! Really!

This AP article about feminist groups (well, mainly NOW) protesting that they've been the target of ridicule and are being disrespected. It's not their fault that their goals and rhetoric have fallen so far off the mainstream though. They are victims of a conspiracy.

"We have become a target," said Roselyn O'Connell, president of the National Women's Political Caucus, which joined NOW in endorsing former Illinois Sen. Carol Moseley Braun.

"There is a movement coming from a number of different places to marginalize and discredit the feminist movement," O'Connell said. "The parties and candidates want women's votes, but they expect us to capitulate on the things that are important to us."

Apparently, they are a tad miffed that the New York Times took them to task for endorsing Braun for President. [Insert your own snarky comment about what it means when a core liberal group is being smacked by an NYT editorial.]

As for "capitulating on things that are important," I think they did that to themselves when they decided it was better to back and defend President Clinton's right to fool around with a college age intern, than their principles.

Thursday, September 18, 2003

Never Missing an Opportunity to Miss an Opportunity

Unbelievable. The Free Times has been hammering away at the situation concerning Whiskey Island since it returned to publishing in May. Cuyahoga County gets into the mess, forcing the Cleveland Plain Dealer to belatedly start covering the whole mess. Maybe it's just me, but I would think that this was the big break the Free Times had been looking to re-imprint themselves with the local populace. They've had no buzz. People have not been talking up the Free Times. They haven't differentiated themselves from Cleveland Scene, the other alt-weekly. They could take a bow and provide more info. Actually stand a chance on influencing the situation, while people were still paying attention. Something you would think they would want.

They had two weeks since this broke into the PD to put an issue together covering something they had previously been the lone voice. They knew all the parties, they knew the situation. This was the big story that they broke, that the PD had ignored and the other alt-weekly Cleveland Scene has steadfastly ignored.

So, yesterday afternoon the new Free Times and Scene are published (they usually don't appear on the web until today, and as of this the Free Times is still last weeks issue.). I wondered what angles the alts would take. No surprise that Scene ignores the whole thing. They missed the boat, and didn't want to concede that the Free Times got the better of them. But the Free Times?

Not one damn thing.

Not even a gossip item. Nothing. No editorial. No feature story. They missed their window. For whatever reason, they ignored the big story that they owned to stay on their planned features and items.

There's a reason why I feel such contempt for the local print media in Cleveland. They don't respond to the situation. They think they can dictate the situation and what the people will think and read. Guess what? The paradigm has friggin' shifted. The internet has changed the way media has to deal with things. It's not all on the media's whims any longer. It's why blogs have gotten popular. We decide what is interesting; what's important; what we want to know more about. The media can either oblige the interest or be marginalized and circumvented.

At the blog meetup last night, theme that emerged was the issue of whether blogging has been anything but "masturbatory" (you're going to have to live with it being associated with you). For myself, I know it has gotten me involved with local matters, where I would simply just dismiss it with a cynical comment. Now, if I want to write about it, I feel a responsibility to dig deeper and look directly for information, if it isn't forthcoming in the media outlets. I have e-mailed politicians and bureaucrats, gone to their offices to get information, and attended public meetings. Simply put, I've gotten involved while trying to understand.

Letter to the Cleveland Plain Dealer

I felt a need to answer the spin.

On Wednesday, October 17, 2003 you published a letter from one Evan Davis claiming that the Palestinian conference planned for OSU claims that it seeks only peaceful goals and does not seek the destruction of Israel. He further states that there is no anti-Semitic activity by the group. The kicker is, "None of the Palestinian solidarity groups involved is calling for the "destruction of Israel," and none has expressed any glee, as one letter claims, over the deaths of Israelis or Americans under any circumstances."

He claims that those who are opposed to the conference have even looked at their material. Then lets look at it.

Looking over the site of the New Jersey Solidarity Chapter where the conference was to take place is quite revealing.

On the home page is a press release link regarding the cancellation at Rutgers. The administration after approving the conference had to end it, because the organizers never submitted the information the university needed -- such as an estimate of the number of attendees, number of rooms needed, a schedule -- the "logistics". How does NJS explain it? By spinning a dark tale of a Pro-Israel Lobby to conspire against them -- "This decision comes the day University President Robert McCormick is scheduled to appear at a dinner sponsored by Rutgers Hillel, a Zionist group on campus."

Hillel is not a "Zionist" group. Hillel is an organization that promotes the Jewish faith on campus. The use of Zionist for Jewish was deliberate and betrays how they see all Jews and Jewish groups.

As far as what the participants have to say about Israel well here's a nice example for Mr. Davis.

Then there are the linked organizations ( such as Al-Awda, "The Palestinian Right of Return Coalition," which completely opposes any possible two-state solution to Israel and Palestine Again from the NJS site, the press release on resolutions passed at their convention that NJS and other chapters attended and apparently support.

Resolution 2

Al-Awda 2003 Convention opposes the US sponsored Road Map, which aims at suppressing the human and national rights of the Palestinian people. The Convention expresses support for the struggle of the Palestinian people, currently spearheaded by the Intifada, to achieve national resistance goals including, but not limited to, ending Zionist colonization, implementing the right of return, and achieving self-determination. Al-Awda Convention does not recognize any self-proclaimed Palestinian leadership, elected or appointed, in compromising any Palestinian national rights, especially the right of return.

Resolution 3

Al-Awda 2003 Convention demands the immediate termination of the use of the term "Israel/Palestine", and any of its combinations, in all and any Al-Awda related documents.

This was not linked on their site, this was a document they put on their site.

Mr. Davis can say that there is no desire to destroy Israel, but he is lying if he thinks that an unfettered "right of return" and a single state solution will result in anything but the destruction of the State of Israel and extreme violence and bloodshed against Israelis.

The other thing that should stand out from visiting NJS and the Palestine Solidarity Group site, is the inability to even mention the suicide bombers and Palestinian terrorists. Instead there are phrases supporting those "opposed to the occupation" without differentiating between protests and direct violence. So, no, there is no explicit statements condoning violence against Israelis or Americans. Only talk of the struggle against Israeli and American "imperialism." There is not, however, anything condemning the violence by Palestinians.

Wednesday, September 17, 2003

Tastes Like Chicken

In something of a shock to me, a clear-headed, funny and signed editorial in the Cleveland Plain Dealer by editorial pages associate editor, Jim Strang, regarding a rather strange decision in Shaker Heights.

Few things better illustrate the gulf between elite urbanity and rural practicality than the disposal of nuisance wildlife.

Case in point: the dictum by Shaker Heights Mayor Judy Rawson, who discovered that somebody in her public works department was actually (shudder, gasp) eating some of those raccoons the city was trapping.

No more.

"The practice has been stopped," the mayor told the world.

The question is, why?

Ohio law is clear on the fate of the so-called "nuisance" animals. Once trapped, one of two courses may be followed: They may be released within 24 hours back at the point where they were captured, or they are to be destroyed. As in killed. Dead.

As the editorial makes clear, you can't just set city scavengers loose out in the country. They would die out there. They are unfamiliar with that way of living.

Which means, in the case of the raccoon, 20 pounds or so of meat on the paw to be dealt with.

Much as it may pain Mayor Rawson to think of it, lots and lots and lots of people around Ohio think of raccoons as a feast wrapped in fur.

Yep. Outside the upper-class suburbs, away from the wide-aisled supermarkets, people do eat such critters. With gusto.

Type "raccoon recipes" into your computer search engine and get, oh, 17,000 or so hits.

You can bake 'em with yams, roast 'em with onions and bread crumbs, or cube 'em and toss 'em into a tasty stew. You can pan fry 'em dipped in flour, barbecue 'em with your favorite sauce, or put 'em on a spit for a slow broil over an open flame.

Think of it as diversity in diet. Yum, yum.

I can't believe Strang was able to slip this in. The PETA people must be firing off e-mails to the PD by the bushel right now. Can't say I've had raccoon. Not a big fan of eating an animal that feeds directly off local garbage. Rabbit isn't bad, though.

But, here's why the mayor of Shaker Heights wants it stopped.

The mayor protests, "It is inhumane and a cruel way to treat trapped animals."

Uh, mayor? If your people are following the law, they're going to be killed anyway. You would rather that what a Service Department worker can turn into a tasty meal for his family instead be tossed in the Dumpster and buried in a landfill?

Sorry, but it's difficult for some of us, who were taught from the earliest days to watch for the No. 6 shot pellets in the table meat, to understand why making good use of good flesh is "highly inappropriate."

That reminds me, I have to ask my father-in-law if he's got some extra venison steaks next time I see him.

Monday, September 15, 2003

Whiskey Island Update

And now it is time for the comedy portion of the blog.

On Friday, the Cleveland-Cuyahoga Port Authority followed through on its vow and voted to seize Whiskey Island through eminent domain. Court battle and lots of legal fees are expected to ensue. The silver lining and interesting upshot of the court fight was captured right away

Even Ed Hauser, one of Whiskey Island's most ardent guardians, sees a silver lining in the Port Authority's decision to pursue land there through eminent domain.

"Filing for eminent domain means they have to prove the public need," he said. "I haven't seen the case for it."

This could be trickier than it seems even given the porous standards for eminent domain.

Of course the cost of paying fair value for Whiskey Island ($6.7 million) plus how much it would cost to move the port authority are still a little nebulous

A three-year-old study by Osborne Engineering estimated the cost of such a move at $600 million.

The port doesn't know exactly how it would pay for the move, but has its initial sights on lease savings, the federal government, and the sale of property, port Executive Director Gary Failor said.

"If you view it over 10, 20, 30 years or more, it becomes less daunting," he said.

The sale of the old Port Authority property would be to the City of Cleveland. Though, one might wonder where the city plans to come up with the money for the property and to then clean it up for any public use/development given its own budget problems.

This fighting for Whiskey Island has led to another whining piece from the PD Editorial Board.

On one side is the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority, which has been trying to buy the parcel in concert with the city of Cleveland. On the other is Cuyahoga County, as represented by its three commissioners; they, too, want to buy Whiskey Island. In the middle of this mess, sits Dan Moore III, managing partner of a consortium that owns the 62 acres and owes nearly $800,000 in taxes on them.
If the county commissioners truly had wanted to resolve the stalemate between Moore and the port, they could have offered to be mediators. They could have offered Moore, whose fight with the port has obviously become personal, an honorable out by selling to them, then selling the property to the port.

Or they could have pressured Moore to pay his taxes, using that as leverage to get negotiations going. After all, the port made Moore a generous offer based on an independent appraisal of his land's value. The deal apparently floundered over wording of the sales contract. Rather than treat Moore with kid gloves, the commissioners might have treated him as the deadbeat he is - a supposedly wealthy man who is unconscionably withholding nearly $500,000 from the Cleveland public schools. That would buy a lot of books.

Instead, the commissioners, with no public discussion, announced that they want to buy Whiskey Island. Having ignored a very public 18-month process, they now want more say in the lakefront's future. Noting that the port planned to give roughly half the Whiskey Island property to the city for use as a park, they question the city's ability to operate one. And they say they're just being helpful.

It's nice to see which side the PDEB stands on this -- against the County Commissioners and de facto owner of the property. The "outrage" over denying tax dollars to Cleveland schools is a riot. They paint him like he is stomping over kids text books, and laughing at the poor and downtrodden at the schools. It would have been nice to see this concern when they were talking about tax abatements for the other companies and real estate developers whose projects they supported -- what they don't thing a tax abatement has the same effect by removing/reducing any property taxes that would have gone to the Cleveland schools? (The reality is more complicated. If I recall, he bought the land with a group of partners when the land already had overdue taxes on it -- there was supposed to be a work out on the overdue taxes, but when negotiations with the Port Authority broke down, Moore and his group stopped paying as part of the leverage.)

Print Media Spin/Side Taking
The whole thing is a joke and the PDEB is as obvious in its choosing the side as the Free Times. From a publicity view for the Free Times, they must love it. I am assuming they will be taking advantage of all the attention by this weeks issue. Scene on the other hand must be pissed. They haven't said much of anything in the whole time, and now they will be stuck either trying to side with the PD or Free Times. Neither is an appealing option to them. I wouldn't be surprised if they just pretended the whole thing wasn't happening. The other option for them is to just wish a pox on both sides and condemn both sides of the mess.

Stay tuned.

General PD Editorial Board Idiocy

A double shot of stupidity from the Cleveland Plain Dealer Editorial Board (PDEB) today. Today's subjects: Endorsing a candidate in a Cuyahoga County suburb and Cleveland's budget looming crisis.

The city of Lakewood is on the west side of Cleveland. It is an "inner-ring" suburb, that has remained a popular living area for both young and older. It has a diverse population and is the most concentrated population of gays and lesbians in the county. The PDEB has endorsed the Lakewood Mayor Madeline Cain for a third term. The major issue, and probably what will decide her reelection is the "West Side Project." A plan to "revitalize" the tax base for Lakewood by way of an upscale condo and shopping area. Of course to do that, Lakewood has decided to abuse its power of eminent domain. Something the PDEB has supported as just needing a good sales job.

So in endorsing Mayor Cain, how does the PDEB address the issue? They don't.

One good measure of Cain's leadership is her willingness to acknowledge strategic mistakes. She admits that she erred by allowing the much- ballyhooed West End redevelopment program to be identified as a "West Side project. " That tag created geographic tension in a city that needs comprehensive redevelopment.

But the truth of the matter is the $151 million West End project is the most ambitious revival initiative yet proposed by any of the suburbs that ring Cleveland. It is precisely the type of revenue-producing, residential and commercial effort that could stabilize Lakewood's aging population and attract affluent newcomers.

So, the problem with the West Side project was the name. Not the abuse of eminent domain, and the subsequent attempts to keep it from becoming a ballot initiative. I like the way they describe the project and Lakewood itself. They make it sound like it is on the verge of becoming another dying community with nothing but people in their 60s or older.

The next editorial concerns what Cleveland has to do to balance the books. Cleveland is looking at falling $12 million short on its expected budget by the end of this year and $50 million for next year. [Personal aside, can you imagine how badly the convention center would have fared on the ballot if it had made it to November with this news?] The Mayor and the President of Cleveland City Council have conceded that layoffs are coming and also that they will not be raising taxes to cover the deficit. The unwillingness to raise taxes strikes the PDEB as wrong.

Although both Campbell and Council President Frank Jackson have ruled out tax increases, that may be premature: Raising the income tax by a quarter-percent would generate more than $38 million.

This is the brilliance of the PDEB. After decrying the "quiet crisis" of Cleveland area. The brain drain, city population falling, the unwillingness of people to live in the city, the state of the city schools and a host of other problems -- the instinct of the PDEB is still to go with a tax hike. That will be the key to revitalization -- make the suburbs look more attractive by having lower income tax rates on top of lower property taxes, cheaper and more plentiful land, better schools and better housing.

This after they spent most of the editorial speaking of the reality that yes, city jobs will need to be cut or reduced in the number of hours; and most importantly the city will need to severely control the abuse of overtime that has plagued the police, fire and EMS departments to drive up expenses.

Sidewalk Talk

A simple, straight-forward article on sidewalk repairs in Cleveland shows nicely how quickly and easily it is to move from a limited project to an ongoing expected entitlement.

The sidewalk in front of Nick Biel's home has been dug up, and he's not happy about it.

Gesturing toward a bulldozer a few houses down on West 98th Street, Biel can't hide his irritation. He and his neighbors, who last month received letters about the repairs, must pay for the work on the street's sidewalks and curbs.

Biel's bill comes to $960.

"Everybody thought the sidewalks and the curbs were the city's [responsibility], because that's what we pay taxes for," Biel said.
In Cleveland, it seems, people expect the city government to take care of sidewalks. Never mind that in most Ohio communities, sidewalks in front of homes are considered the homeowners' responsibility.

So when did Clevelanders start thinking otherwise?

The notion apparently dates to the 1970s, when federal community block grants were plentiful. Many council members chose to use chunks of the money for sidewalk work in their wards.

The money went for "wholesale sidewalk replacement for certain neighborhoods that were in good political standing," recalled Councilman Jay Westbrook. And so the die was cast: The city takes care of sidewalks.

In more recent years, with cutbacks in federal money to cities, council members have felt compelled to keep helping residents with sidewalk repairs - though the city could afford to only cover a portion of the bill.

Since 1994, the city has spent roughly $1 million a year on a program that pays half of a homeowner's sidewalk repair bill. The program applies to work Cleveland mandates on a street based on inspections or complaints from residents, and the city's contractors do the work.

City Council has even been blocking desperately needed work on roads and bridges in the city to get money for the sidewalks. All because they dropped the federal money into giving homeowners free sidewalk work some 30 years ago. Now they can't stop.


(Copyright © 2002-2005 Chas Rich All rights Reserved.);
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