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Are You There God? It's Us, Cleveland 

We Could Use Some Old Testament Justice Down Here Right Quick

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Dear Jesus, please smite Sam Miller.

In case you've been too busy with hurricanes and anguished bankers to stay current on Cleveland news, let me get you up to speed. Last week, we learned that the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer Board paid Sunrise Development $1.55 million for some contaminated land that the company had purchased for $200,000.

Sunrise apparently is a subsidiary that Forest City uses to buy up toxic properties to sell to politicians who owe Miller favors for the thousands he injects into their campaign treasuries. Sunrise also purchased the property where the new juvenile courthouse is being built for $383,000 and sold it back to taxpayers a year later for $2.75 million. (Jimmy Dimora, who has collected tens of thousands of dollars from Miller and the Ratner family, was instrumental in that deal.)

Apparently the Sewer District's legal counsel, William Schatz, used an unlicensed appraiser in this latest transaction. Schatz resigned from the NEORSD last year and is one of the targets of an FBI corruption probe - oh yeah, he's also a big-time contributor to the county prosecutor's campaign. I know, right? What are you going to do? It's Cleveland.

So we could really use some good Old Testament smiting. Please, Jesus, smite Sam Miller. And also Jimmy Dimora. And Bill Mason. And I'd like the new Grand Theft Auto for Christmas. Thanks. - James Renner

YOU'RE NOT HELPING

The latest excuse for an excuse in The Plain Dealer's dumping of Donald Rosenberg as critic of the Cleveland Orchestra came from PD "reader representative" Ted Diadiun, whose Sunday attempt to Explain It All for You began by misrepresenting the sequence of events and got to its main point by contradicting itself. None of this had the effect of shedding any light on Editor Susan Goldberg's decision to dump a critic with decades of experience and a Yale School of Music degree.

Elsewhere in the paper that same day, Goldberg showed that she is capable of explaining decisions, and that decisions are sometimes in response to outside pressures. In noting the relocation of Connie Schultz's popular column to the opinion pages, Goldberg wrote, "[T]his year's compelling political race has made it increasingly apparent that the Opinion page is a better fit. Many of you have told us this as well." Schultz is married to Sen. Sherrod Brown, a Democrat, and Goldberg noted that Schultz's column will sometimes include a tagline reminding readers of that - seemingly a wink to those perpetually offended conservative readers, as if to say, "Hey, consider the source."

But that was crystal clear compared to what resulted when PD apologist Diadiun was called to work his peculiar magic. And, to be truthful, we were mystified. First, the reader representative misled with the order of things: Outcry in the blogosphere came not in response to the PD's announcement a week earlier, but days before that, thanks to Baltimore Sun music critic Tim Smith, who beat the PD to its own news.

Next, Diadun proceeded to walk all over his own logic. On the one hand, he quoted Goldberg: "We cannot and do not allow compliments or criticism to dictate our personnel decisions." On the other, he conceded that Orchestra officials and patrons have complained for years about Rosenberg's coverage, and he asked, "Is it reasonable to continue assigning a music critic to review performances by a conductor whose leadership he is unlikely ever to approve?"

A fair question - or it would be, if Diadiun weren't trying to have it both ways.

He asserts that Goldberg - like her predecessor, Doug Clifton - gives hearings to outside parties when they disagree with coverage, but "not one time did either of these editors ever take someone off a beat because of outside pressure." He gives no sign of seeing why that's difficult to swallow in light of Rosenberg's "reassignment."

While Diadiun did refer to the lively give and take on Smith's blog, he made no mention of Cleveland Orchestra CEO Gary Hanson's post, stating that he was always careful to refer to "the paper's coverage" when he met with PD leadership. Of course, for 16 years "the paper's coverage" of the Orchestra was Donald Rosenberg.

Nor did Diadiun say anything about some of those weighing in on Rosenberg's behalf - including Blossom Festival Concert Band leader Loras John Schissel, one of the nation's foremost interpreters of band music, who wrote, "It's no fun to get a bad review - but I do admire Mr. Rosenberg's honesty, musical tastes and his excellent writing. I am very upset about this - such a shame."

Also a shame: the impossible situation Zach Lewis, Rosenberg's replacement, now finds himself in. When he's hard on the Orchestra, some will grouse that he's beholden to his former mentor. And when he's praising, others will complain that he's just trying to keep his job.

How about this, to clarify the Rosenberg Affair: Every time a review of the Cleveland Orchestra appears, follow it with a little tagline noting that the most experienced classical music critic in the state was removed from that beat for being too critical. - Michael Gill

LAST CALL

October 6 is the last day to register to vote early. If you have never registered, moved or changed your name, been released from incarceration for a felony or did not receive a mailing from the Board of Election in September, then you should register. You can do so at any public library (which will also send in the form for you) or at the Board of Elections (2925 Euclid Ave., free parking in rear, off East 30th Street). BOE hours are 8:30 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday-Friday; 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday; and 1-5 p.m. Sunday. For info about voting early, call 216.443.3298 or visit boe.cuyahogacounty.us.

scene@clevescene.com

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