Little Big Man 

When it's time to debate, the yipping dog runs silent.

Congressman Dennis Kucinich, whose megalomaniacal presidential campaign made him a national punch line, is on intimate terms with the concept of shamelessness. So it comes as no surprise that he refused a City Club invitation to debate Republican opponent Ed Herman.

Spokesman Doug Gordon says Kucinich is not a wuss; the Elfin One simply doesn't want to cross the river. "The fact of the matter is, the City Club is not in his district, and the Congressman is spending his time talking to voters." Which, of course, doesn't quite explain why Kucinich spent the last year roaming the country on the taxpayers' dime, trying to seduce the brie and yoga crowd.

Can't anyone tell a decent lie around here?

Wimps: The Sequel

Fortunately for Kucinich, state Representative Tim Grendell (R-Chesterland) is proving that cowardice is a nonpartisan affliction. In August, Grendell, who's running for the Ohio Senate, said he'd debate opponent John Hawkins "anywhere, anytime, on any important issue."

So Hawkins sent Grendell a proposal for three debates. "He never responded," says Alex Hewit, Hawkins's campaign manager.

He did respond to Scene, however. "I've met my opponent in more than 10 candidates' forums and editorial board meetings," says Grendell. Still, when someone says "anytime, anywhere," there isn't a lot of wiggle room. But if Kucinich's fear is that he doesn't have a record to run on, Grendell has the opposite problem. His ample record is beginning to look like a rap sheet.

First he was caught skirting campaign laws by promising a hefty bonus for two fund-raisers, Kyle Sisk and Brett Buerck, in return for muscling potential rivals out of the Republican primary. Sisk and Buerck are now prime subjects in corruption investigations by the FBI and the IRS.

Then news came out that eight members of Indians owner Larry Dolan's family may have illegally funneled $55,000 to Grendell's campaign. Not too coincidentally, Dolan's son Matt is running for Grendell's old House seat.

If the FBI serves Grendell with a subpoena over this mess, expect him to learn the true meaning of "anytime, anywhere."

Strange bedfellows

Okay, so using the word "bedfellows" might be a little risqué when it comes to Summit County Republican chief Alex Arshinkoff, who pushes anti-gay measures by day and cruises leather bars by night. But when Arshinkoff teams up with the American Civil Liberties Union, you know the apocalypse is near.

Last month, Arshinkoff erected a gigantic Bush/Cheney sign in his front yard, which violates Hudson laws barring really big political signs. So the city slapped the Night Rider with a $75-a-day fine for not taking it down. Present tab: $1,875.

That's when Arshinkoff turned to the ACLU. As deep guys like to say, we're looking at some delicious ironies here.

Back in 1988, when George Bush the Elder was scoring points against Michael Dukakis by labeling him a "card-carrying member of the ACLU," Arshinkoff was helping to run Bush's campaign. Later, Arshinkoff punished former Republican state Representative Tom Walkins by gerrymandering him out of office. Walkins's crime: He declared the Stow city seal unconstitutional because it included a cross and a Bible. The ACLU represented Walkins in subsequent lawsuits.

Jeff Gamso, legal director for the ACLU of Ohio, is used to former enemies changing their stripes once they find trouble. "There are always going to be people who are angry with us because they think the people we represent are just awful," Gamso says. "Interestingly, those people sooner or later end up turning to us, because it's the principle of free speech that we are defending."

White glove news

Ever since the U.S. Census Bureau informed us that -- get this -- Cleveland is poor, the white-gloved set at The Plain Dealer has been struggling to cover the mysterious phenomenon known as Regular People. Consider it a work in progress.

First, the paper cracked the high security of Bob Evans to send a reporter undercover in the foodservice industry. The two-part series produced shocking results. Among the revelations: Restaurant work is -- gasp! -- hard and the pay kinda sucks.

Then, the day Cleveland swarmed with national media for the Cheney-Edwards debate, columnist Sam Fulwood III delivered more stunning news: Some people don't have washers and dryers! They must go to places called laundromats! And going to the laundromat kinda sucks!

After the debate, reporters from The New York Times and Chicago Tribune were spotted commiserating at an airport bar and taking angry calls from editors, who wanted to know why they'd been scooped on the discovery of laundromats.

Not to be outdone, trust Scene to raise the bar in covering this new frontier. Next week, we launch the first of our eight-part series: "The Horror: Hardly Anyone in Slavic Village Owns a Cuisinart! "


Akron has jumped on the outsourcing bandwagon. Mayor Don Plusquellic announced that the city will import 20 German artisans and craftsmen for this year's Christkindl Market at Lock 3 Live. They'll be peddling their knick-knacks and apple strudel as part of what Plusquellic spokesman Mark Williamson calls a "cultural exchange."

Unfortunately, the city won't be shipping Akron artists and craftsmen to the Mutterland to hawk their junk on the Krauts. Instead, they'll be sitting on the sidelines watching the Germans score all the cash.

But Williamson says that's not the point: "There are plenty of vehicles for local artists to display what they do. This is a way for people to have a measurement of enlightenment of another culture, because a lot of people here have no idea."

So, what are you saying, Mark? That we're not very continental? And can Germany technically be called a culture? Or is it really just a large group of serial killers in temporary hibernation?

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