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Freedom Reigns 

Summit's smoking ban is much ado about nothing.

When Summit County passed its smoking ban on November 20, health-conscious Akronites celebrated in vain. No one bothered to inform them that the ban had as many teeth as an 87-year-old bar hag from Arkansas.

Two weeks before it even passed, Akron Law Director Max Rothal told Scene that the county ordinance would not affect the city ["Up in Smoke," November 16]. City law trumps county law, and Akron already has a clean-air ordinance that allows for the smoking of tasty American-made tobacco products in bars and restaurants, as God intended.

Yet the media largely ignored the news, continuing to trumpet the ban as a sweeping measure.

Now supporters are realizing that, due to the cunning of the county's old-school pols, the townships won't see much change either. After weeks of intense debate, the county conceded exemptions for bowling alleys, racetracks, private clubs, and hotels.

Sure, the two bars in Richfield might suffer come February 28, when the ban begins, but who actually drives out to Dante's to get hammered?

Meeting the natives
The search firm charged with coercing someone into leading the Cleveland schools is meeting with parents to see what they want in their next CEO, besides obvious traits like "honesty" and "won't sell kids on eBay."

But since you're busy Googling "cheap Catholic schools" and "Cleveland," Punch attended a recent session on your behalf. There were free cookies. You totally should have gone.

Consultant Bill Attea met with parents and teachers at the Slavic Village Boys and Girls Club. Attea asked what people like about the school district. You know, the positives.

As you might have guessed, he's not from Cleveland.

"What has been totally lacking is integrity," one angry man started in.

Attea politely cut him off: "Let's come back to what people value."

"What truly concerns people," another parent lashed out, "is what's going on with kids today."

Attea righted the ship again. The positives.

"Technology!" someone blurted out.

"Is that a good thing?" Attea asked cautiously. "Or an issue?"

"An issue!" the parent tossed back. And the issue is, the computers suck.

Finally, a glass-half-full parent came to Attea's rescue, speaking passionately of the district's rich history of producing world-beating graduates. But before Attea knew it, the glass was half-empty again. "Right now," the parent said, "we're just in a slump."

Courting for dollars
Last week, state Senator Teresa Fedor (D-Toledo) called on all but one Ohio Supreme Court justice to recuse themselves from deciding a lawsuit that challenges the constitutionality of the state's charter-school system. The reason: Akron charter mogul David Brennan and his family have contributed almost $130,000 to the justices' campaigns since 1992.

"It's the same old story, pay to play," Fedor says. "And David Brennan learned very quickly how he can pull the strings in Columbus and manipulate public policy by just giving a whole boatload of money to everybody."

Chief Justice Thomas Moyer raked in $11,500 from Brennan. Justice Terrence O'Donnell took $7,000, while Justice Paul Pfeifer got $5,150. And the list goes on. In all, Fedor asked for six of the seven justices to recuse themselves.

The only judge who didn't take money from Brennan was Alice Resnick, the victim of buffoonish attack ads from Citizens for a Strong Ohio -- a business group financed by Brennan to the tune of $25,000.

While Brennan is not named in the lawsuit, he's hardly a disinterested party. His White Hat Management operates 31 charter schools that enroll 15,000 kids, making it the ninth-largest district in the state, raking in $110 million in taxpayer money.

"All the money he's put into contributions, he got a pretty good return," Fedor says.

Yet it probably doesn't matter if the court is bought off or not. It's already ruled Ohio's school-funding system unconstitutional four times, and the legislature just blows it off.

Marcia, Marcia!
After a nationwide search, which presumably involved very creative use of expense accounts, Esquire magazine has deemed Beachwood's own Marcia Masters its "Hostess of the Year."

The Red Steakhouse employee says she's "really, really flattered" by the award. Especially since she'll probably make an even hotter cop. She's enrolled in the Cleveland Heights Police Academy.

"The traffic department ripped out the article and posted it in the call room," she says. "Afterwards, all these officers kept peeping into the classroom."

We're dangerous again
It was a bad year to be a masochist in Cleveland. A series of news reports made it much harder to practice our tradition of self-loathing and cynicism.

First, we lost our title belt as the poorest city in America (those bastards from Detroit took it). Then we learned that our poverty rate had fallen from one out of every three people to one in four.

Can't we even do poverty right anymore?

But we're on the rebound, ladies and gentlemen, thanks to new rankings provided by Morgan Quitno, a company that studies crime. Not only were we named the 19th most dangerous city in America -- which should get us a wild-card spot in the playoffs -- but we once again brought home the Ohio crown. Crime-ridden Canton, mob-filled Youngstown, riot-crazy Cincinnati, and even Columbus, where cappuccino thieves have been on a rampage, all took a back seat.

Yet City Hall spokesman Chad Self is doing his best to put a damper on our triumph. He disputes the results, saying that in her four years in office, Mayor Campell "actively worked to make safer neighborhoods" and that "we're all a lot safer because of it."

Memo to Chad: If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all.

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