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Mayor Scores on School Scare

Another week, and another masterful diversion by Imperial Mayor Mike White. Two months ago, it was a phantom band of white supremacists in the police department diverting attention from White's handling of the Ku Klux Klan. Conveniently, last week's Columbine conspiracy at South High came just as the mayor was being hammered for helping engineer $5.3 million in debt forgiveness for his buddy Sam Miller. That got blown off the front page by Friday's screaming South High story, which relied heavily on an anonymous "source close to the investigation" leaking dark details of guns, bombs, floor plans, and "mass slaughter." By the time four students were charged on Sunday, the sum total of evidence was apparently one map and a lot of big talk. "There was no crime or crime that was going to be committed," says Larry Zukerman, a defense attorney representing one of the students. "There were no bombs. There were no guns or ammunition." The Plain Dealer tried to backpedal on Saturday, wondering if it was all a "plot or prank," even as it plastered the names (and two photos) of the juvenile suspects across the front page. While the story is obviously far from over, the initial results are troubling. Four adolescents are in lockup, charged with a crime that essentially never happened, their reputations destroyed. The mayor has reaped a windfall of national publicity and dodged another political bullet. The media went for White's gambit like lemmings rushing to a cliff. And more than ever, anybody thinking about moving into the city has to ask themselves: Would you want your children in the Cleveland public schools?

The taps were flowing again this weekend at the Treehouse, the Tremont bar where a 17-year-old robber was shot to death last week by off-duty Cleveland police officers. In fact, the joint was jammed, mostly with employees of other Tremont bars and restaurants who came out as a sign of solidarity. Owners Tom and Pete Leneghan continue to decline public comment though privately say they have no intention of leaving the neighborhood. Score another for the Irish.

Tavern trouble of another sort hit the Executive Den, an East Side strip club that was forced by the city to close one of its two bars and stages last month. Apparently the Den got the wrong building permits when it expanded six years ago, and City Hall suddenly decided to crack down -- not on touching the dancers, but for expanding too close to a park. Admittedly, Neff Park is less than 1,000 feet away. But it's separated from the Den by eight lanes of I-90. "I don't think it's a problem for the kids in the park," opines Den denizen Tom Wirsing. Adult attorney Angelo Lonardo promises an appeal.

Remember that funny thing he used to do with his mouth? It's taken former WOIO news anchor Emmett Miller all the way to Los Angeles, where he debuted this week as co-anchor of the KTLA morning news. Miller is the source of many funny stories, including the time he confessed to a Chicago Tribune reporter that he didn't read the newspaper. But there is absolutely no truth to the rumor that he once did the news here sans pants, even after ardent fan Mary Strassmeyer teased him, "Do you ever do the news in your shorts? Maybe you should tonight."

Briefs and hot tips to edge@clevescene.com.

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