In both, hand signals are more prudent than shouting "Steal!"

Politics Is Like Baseball 

In both, hand signals are more prudent than shouting "Steal!"

When Indians owner Larry Dolan buys a new outfielder, the Tribe throws a news conference and offers lots of Q&A time for every sportswriter in town to poke and prod the new recruit.

Maybe that's why Dolan sucks at buying politicians. Accustomed to doing so much of his wheeling and dealing in the public eye, he seems to have a difficult time keeping his purchases to himself. Dolan's son, Matt, is running for the Ohio House of Representatives seat currently held by Republican Tim Grendell, who's leaving to run for state Senate. Nothing unusual there, except that Grendell seems to be running four years early -- he still has two elections left before he hits his term limit.

On January 7, eight of Larry Dolan's relatives gave a combined $55,000 to the Cuyahoga County Republican Party. That included $5,000 from Matt Dolan -- twice the amount he's allowed to donate if he gives the money to Grendell directly. Two days later, the county Republican Party donated $35,000 to Grendell's Senate campaign (which is strange, since Grendell isn't running in Cuyahoga County). And two weeks after that, it sent another $20,000 check to Grendell.

Voilà! Larry Dolan's son no longer has an incumbent to run against. And Tim Grendell has 55 large in his pocket. "This is money-laundering that would make Colombian drug dealers jealous," state Senator Marc Dunn said at a downtown press conference last week. Democrats are asking County Prosecutor Bill Mason to investigate.

Dolan may have a hard time keeping his deals private, but Grendell has so far managed to keep mum. Repeated calls to his office last week reached only an answering machine.

Cleveland Public
Cleveland boys Joe and Anthony Russo -- directors of Welcome to Collinwood -- bagged an Emmy last week for directing the pilot episode of Arrested Development. Now maybe they'll have the clout to get backing for their dream project, a TV show set in Cleveland.

The story centers around a Northeast Ohio attorney who "has to go outside the law" to help his clients. Think Batman, with Bruce Wayne running a law firm instead of a corporation. What's even more kick-ass is that the brothers want to produce it here. But the odds are long.

"ABC bought the script," says Anthony. "But they bought 91 scripts that year. Of the 91 scripts they bought, ABC decided to shoot 9. Of the nine, three made it to the air. Not one is left. There's your odds for television. I can never get over those numbers."

Perhaps the Russos would stand a better chance pitching CSI: Parma.

He'll be your Gypsy
When Scene last heard from "Tattoo Gypsy," the biker laureate of Northeast Ohio was offering to sodomize staff writer Thomas Francis with the front wheel of his Harley. The Gyp, it seems, took umbrage at a passage in an article about WOIO Action News, the station where the bearded one was treated as a sage on matters political and social, and other stuff not related to personal hygiene ("Hype Dream," March 10).

Tattoo Gypsy got the last laugh. He wrote to Francis again last week to announce his victory in the editorial/ commentary category of the local Emmys. On his website, Gypsy claims to be the first tattoo artist ever to win an Emmy. "So Mr. Francis," Gypsy wrote triumphantly, "I guess you can say that is your reality check."

Touché! Well, as long as we're keeping it real, Punch can't help but congratulate Gypsy on delivering the most adorable news segment on Cleveland TV. Those heavily tattooed, sunglasses-wearing biker dudes are kind of intimidating, but Gypsy is positively cuddly. He even wore a sleeveless (yes, sleeveless!) tux to the awards ceremony. How cute! Does he do birthday parties?

Left out
When John Kerry spoke at Cuyahoga Community College back in February, the event was heavily promoted. Students could attend for free, and Republicans were welcome. So what's with keeping students and Democrats out of the secret Laura Bush speech held on September 14 in the technology center?

"The Kerry thing was different," says a spokesman. "The [Bush] campaign did all their press. It was not an open event."

In fact, Bush staffers were allowed to handpick students -- Republicans, of course -- to represent the school at the function. Of the more than 150 people attending the standing-room-only speech, a mere 24 were Tri-C students. Most didn't even know about it until the First Lady was safely out of the state.

Maybe once democracy is established in Iraq, we can start working on Tri-C.

Scam filter
Avi Stern has been accused of knowingly selling faulty cars, then reneging on all agreements to get them fixed ("The Lemon Merchant," January 21). Now it seems that Stern is the one left without a ride. For the moment, anyway.

Last month Philip Althouse, an attorney for many of Stern's victims, filed a complaint with the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles against the car merchant. This month, he got a call back from the bureau, telling him that it had revoked Stern's dealer permits for his two companies, Driver's Auto Mart and City Ride Financial.

But Althouse isn't celebrating yet. It's still too easy, he says, for con men to continue dealing in Ohio. "Problem is that here in Cuyahoga County, as elsewhere, many [judges] have little regard for the typical consumer case, particularly when the consumer asks for something radical like a jury trial," he says.

Something in the air
Another list of crappy American cities is out, and finally, finally, Cleveland is nowhere near the top! Environmental Defense's report on which cities pose the greatest pollution risks to children is topped by Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, and Houston. Cleveland was all the way down at number 17, behind such paradises as Sacramento and Bakersfield, California.

But -- and you knew there'd be a but -- there's worse news in the fine print. Pollution in the Cleveland area was so bad over the last three summers that it was often dangerous even for healthy children to play outside. Also, the survey created its ranking by multiplying the number of unhealthy days by the number of kids in the city. Which means that Los Angeles, New York, and Philly all had head starts, because they all have a lot more kids than Cleveland does. "We're not out of the woods yet," says Jack Shaner, spokesman for the Ohio Environmental Council.

Thirty miles to the 40
Just when you thought you couldn't find another use for beer (sinus relief, mid-morning snack, soulmate), along comes a local company that says beer can also power your car. Liquid Resources of Ohio announced last week that it will start taking stale beer and turning it into fuel-grade ethanol.

To do it, the company needed a little help from the Man. First it had to get a license from the federal Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau to operate a distilled spirits plant at its Medina factory. Then it got $1 million from the Ohio Department of Development to buy the machines capable of turning Milwaukee's Best into sweet, sweet crude.

In a press release, Liquid Resources says it's jazzed about its business, because it will help the United States wean itself from the teat of the terrorist-supporting, corrupt-as-hell Saudi royal family (we're paraphrasing). Punch wonders, though: Just where in the hell is Liquid Resources going to get all this "stale" beer? The company says it will only use beer that's past its freshness date. But in hard-drinking Cleveland, there's not a keg, 40-ouncer, or six-pack that doesn't get drunk by somebody. What do they plan to do? Steal the beer from babies' lips to support their diabolical scheme?

Well, in addition to beer, the company will also turn stale soda into fuel. Phew.

Vice city
Case Western Reserve scored a major coup by landing one of the vice presidential debates, and it's rolling out a massive advertising campaign to make sure everybody knows it.

The campaign, touting "the Race at Case," will include a commercial that will air 267 times on CNN, CBS News, and MTV, including during such programs as the Christina Aguilera special on September 29 and Total Request Live: Choose or Lose Rally Edition, whatever the hell that is. Print ads will appear in USA Today, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and Business Week.

Punch can only imagine how CWRU plans to use vice presidential candidates to sell diplomas. We envision one ad with John Edwards brushing back his luxuriant hair and saying, "There are two Americas . . . but there's only one Case!" Another could show Dick Cheney, in an undisclosed location deep in the bowels of the Peter B. Lewis Building, scowling and then offering his trademark catchphrase, "Go fuck yourself . . . at Case!"

They'll drink to that
Ohio University was named No. 5 in a poll of America's best party schools, an unprecedented score for Ohio colleges and a leading indicator that our state's commitment to brain drain may be nearing record highs.

The study, conducted by the Princeton Review, cited the Athens school's 19 conveniently located bars, as well as its top-notch house parties, long valued for fostering underage exposure to the alcoholic arts.

"I think we all take a little pride in the ranking," says Joey Gibson, president of OU's Delta Upsilon fraternity, which once trucked in 10 tons of sand for a beach party. "It makes all of those rough mornings seem worth it."

No Cleveland-area schools made the prestigious list, and Ohio State, long a fixture among the top 20 party schools, failed to qualify for the second straight year. A source close to OSU acknowledged that among top administrators, there's "a great deal of soul-searching going on."

Kidney punch
By the time Gerald Price applied for a full-time job at the Carter Lumber Co., in May 2003, he had been a seasonal employee for the Kent-based company for five years. He started outside, hustling wood in the yard, and eventually won a job as a salesman. So Price thought he had a good chance of landing a full-time sales job. But on its application, Carter Lumber asked whether he had any physical conditions that "preclude you from performing the essential functions you applied for." Price answered honestly, admitting that he suffers from end-stage renal disease, a complication resulting from diabetes. He could work, but would need to alter his schedule to allow for two hours of dialysis treatment every week.

Price wasn't hired, and the federal government believes the company broke the law. "These questions on the application are obviously out of bounds," says Solvita McMillan, a lawyer with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which enforces the Americans with Disabilities Act. The ADA bars employers from asking applicants about disabilities until after a job offer has been made.

Established in 1932, Carter employs 3,500 people and has 240 stores in 10 states. "It's surprising to see for a company of this size, that operates in so many states," says McMillan. "You'd expect them to be more knowledgeable about the ADA."

Calls to Carter were not returned.

The EEOC is seeking $30,000 in back pay for Price, plus $300,000 in punitive damages. And because Carter Lumber put the disabilities question on the form it gave to all job applicants, it's possible that more people could make similar claims.

Speed freak
Eric Bryant is already a giant in the noble field of speeding-ticket evasion. His book, Your Complete Pullover Survival Guide, explains what to do when you get stopped by police. And now he's at it again, with a website dedicated to exposing Cleveland's worst speed traps at www.speedtraps247.com.

Some he's noticed himself, like the one on I-90 East in Euclid. Cops like to sit at the top of the off-ramp, right under the big white Power Alarm sign. "So you have no clue they're there," says Bryant, who works as an internet consultant.

Others are tips he's received from friends and family members. The sneakiest trap he's seen is in Cleveland Heights, at the corner of Mayfield and Warrensville Center. "There's a little city service garage there, and the police will park their cars inside the garage doors, so you can't see them at all," Bryant says. "It seems like they come from out of nowhere."

Bryant dreams of a speed-trap library, and he's always looking for more tips. "Once the speed traps are publicized, the police are just going to move down the street," he says. "It'll require constant updating."

We rock
For the second time since 2001, Scene has won a Missouri Lifestyle Journalism Award, in the General Excellence category. Quoth the judges: "The Scene covers Cleveland's culture and arts in a way that is both readable and insightful. Readers can be assured of depth, humor and attitude."

Run by the University of Missouri's journalism school, the national competition is widely regarded as the premier barometer of quality feature writing. Scene competed against daily and weekly papers with circulations of 50,000 to 100,000.

The prize includes a $1,000 check and fancy inscribed vase, both of which will be used for celebratory beverages.

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