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Fleeing Cleveland 

Athersys is ready to make good on its threat.

Add Athersys to the list of high-profile companies leaving Cleveland. It's not yet official, but reliable sources -- i.e., guys who know, but don't want their names printed -- confirm that the biopharm glamour boys are bolting for Durham, North Carolina.

President and CEO Gil Van Bokkelen made it clear a few months ago that Athersys would need serious support from local money guys -- like the $100 million kind of serious -- to meet its ambitious growth plans. The not-very-thinly-veiled threat: If Cleveland didn't come up with the loot, the company would have its hand out elsewhere.

Cleveland tried. Some dollars were pledged, but nowhere near enough. The real consensus was that the bio-sticker price was too high, and local nonprofits -- governments, hospitals, foundations, and universities -- aren't meant to be high-risk venture capitalists.

Durham didn't supply the money either. But company co-founder Huntington Willard is at Duke University, and North Carolina's Research Triangle is a more fashionable bio-address. You know Ohio is in trouble when companies see Mayberry as a step up in the world.

The mobile bottom line

The "George Voinovich: Senator With Stature" era appears to have passed.

All policy eyes were on Voinovich in April, when Ohio's junior senator burnished his reputation as a deficit hawk. He broke Republican ranks, resisting a tax cut larger than $350 billion. The administration's wish list be damned, ol' George wasn't going to pass the kidney stone of debt to his grandchildren. Asked on NBC's Meet the Press if $350 billion was his bottom line, Voinovich replied: "You got it, and anybody that knows George Voinovich knows that when I say something, I mean it."

He should have added: At least for a couple of weeks.

On May 15, Voinovich voted for a Senate plan loaded with enough accounting gimmicks to make it a budget for Enron. The Washington Post estimated its true price to be $660 billion -- a few nickels north of Voinovich's supposed bottom line. In an editorial, the Post singled out Voinovich, ridiculing him for voting for a plan that "delivers the worst of all worlds: It costs more than he claimed was affordable and delivers less stimulus than he claims is needed." (The Senate and House negotiated a final package last week.)

Voinovich responded with an editorial of his own last week, taking "strong exception" -- that's senatorial-speak for "I'd kick your ass, but I punch like a Girl Scout" -- to anyone who would dare suggest that he caved.

A plea, but no apology

David Lowe walked into the Justice Center last week to plead guilty in the boating death of Carol Patch ("Unavenged Angel," May 7). Or so his lawyers thought.

Flanked by his two teenage sons, Lowe told attorneys Terry Gilbert and Kenneth Bossin that he'd changed his mind. "We don't believe it's right to plead guilty to something I'm not guilty of," Lowe said.

Gilbert and Bossin promptly donned pained expressions that seemed to say, "Please don't be pulling this shit." They'd spent months nailing down a plea for Lowe, initially accused of aggravated vehicular homicide and drunk driving (among other charges) after Patch's death on August 12, 2001.

The lawyers escorted Lowe into a conference room, but it might well have been a woodshed. Minutes after re-emerging, a flush-faced Lowe copped to attempted involuntary manslaughter and reckless operation of a vehicle.

His plea brought an end to a case in which Patch, 53, was killed while saving a young girl from being struck by Lowe's boat on Lake Erie. But he was in no mood to talk, bolting past reporters on his way to the elevator.

"He thinks you made him look cold and heartless," Gilbert told our ace correspondent on the scene. In our previous story, Lowe said Patch "wasn't very bright" and added, "I guess she could be a real bitch, but she never was like that with me."

Lowe also left without talking to Earl Patch, Carol's brother, who says he's still waiting for an apology. One may be forthcoming at Lowe's July sentencing, when he'll face a maximum of 18 months in prison and a $5,000 fine. But by then, any remorse will sound less like sorrow than a last-ditch effort to save his own hide, says Earl. "He needs to stand up and be a man. It's about time."

Pistols at dawn

It's possibly the strangest end to a political career in metro history. After the May 6 primary, Lorain County officials announced that Gary Mingee, long-time mayor of Sheffield Lake, had finished last in a pool of three candidates. Out of the approximately 2,000 votes cast, he fell just one vote below runner-up Richard Rosso and 432 behind John Piskura.

Because the lakeside suburb runs non-partisan races, Rosso and Piskura would take part in a November runoff; Mingee was out.

Or was he? In a subsequent recount, Rosso and Mingee ended up tied for second place. State law requires ties to be decided "by lot," says James Lee of the Secretary of State's office. Regretfully, Lee ruled out Punch's initial idea for settling the matter: "No pistols at dawn or anything like that." The issue would be decided by a more civilized -- but far less entertaining -- coin toss.

Mingee, whose legacy is marked by his disinterest in showing up for work, had already survived a recall attempt in 2000. But this time his luck didn't hold -- the coin flip went to Rosso. Stay tuned: A second recount is expected this week. By that time, Lee may have reversed his position on the whole pistol thing.

Rise of the elderly class

Pittsburgh professor Richard Florida's book, The Rise of the Creative Class, is all the rage among people who care about such things as the "Quiet Crisis." Florida's thesis: If cities are to renew themselves, they must attract young professionals, artists, and other creative types capable of organically rebuilding neighborhoods like, say, Ohio City. Municipal leaders nationwide are taking heart ("Calling All Queers," July 31, 2002).

When the professor wrote his book, he could have used Lakewood as a model. It's teeming with young hipsters, gays, artists, and the sort of upwardly mobile twentysomethings who generally desert Cleveland for New York and Chicago. But Lakewood Mayor Madeline Cain apparently didn't get the memo.

Last week, in an interview on WMJI's Lanigan and Malone morning show, Cain made the case for her bold new West End development plan by arguing that Lakewood is losing its senior citizens.

The city needs to demolish the apartments of youngsters, she said, because older Lakewoodians are bolting for Avon and Avon Lake. "They're moving to places that are accessible," with one-story floor plans. The West End development would seize houses and buildings through eminent domain, then put condos and stores in their place. "If we're going to have a future, we have to take down these buildings," sayeth the mayor.

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