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There may be something in the water over in the hardscrabble city of Lorain, but more likely it's something in the malt liquor and crack.
How else to explain the wilting steel town's legacy of lunacy? Lorain is where daughters knife their mothers over discussions of who gets the cocaine. Where enterprising teens steal more energy drinks and nicotine products than they are physically capable of transporting from their crime scene of choice. Where grown men flash toddlers and bite off ears. It's where drunkenly slamming your car into a snowbank can be expertly explained away with the defense that you were simply "mowing the sidewalk."
And how does one humble burg cultivate such a bumper crop of degeneracy? By giving its future generations precisely the head start they need to become the mug shot highlights of tomorrow.
We pick up the action on a sunny day back in August. It looked like good news for 17-year-old Brytny McCall when she freed up some quality time to play with her one-year-old baby that afternoon. For, in addition to successfully locating her baby, Brytny also happened upon an unexpected bonus bag of cocaine. Not so conveniently, that bag was found in the baby's mouth, and a precious quantity had already been wasted on the wee tot's lips. Brytny said it was the oversight of Anna Irizarry, the child's not entirely doting grandmother.
So Brytny called her friendly Lorain police (motto: "There's Coke at Your Place? We'll Be Right Over"). When they arrived, Brytny pulled the sack from her bra and handed it over. She had no idea how the baby got the powder, but she went off on Mom, as all good daughters of Lorain do.
Thankfully, cooler heads prevailed. According to the police report: "It should be noted that [the grandmother] did not appear to be upset or concerned that her grandchild had possibly just ingested cocaine."
On the plus side, the baby was to be taken away by children's services the following day anyway, so the afternoon's events amounted to one last memorable moment of Lorain-style family bonding. Happily, the baby is OK, apart from being forever linked by genetics to her mother and grandmother.
Despite her stoicism amid crisis, Grandma Irizarry was arrested for child endangerment as well as possession of coke and drug paraphernalia — or what local parents call a "happy meal." Though she lost a bag of crack and perhaps nearly killed her grandchild, Grandma carries the comforting solace that a fellow Lorain resident is sure to do something even stupider sometime very soon.
Until then, we proudly present Anna Irizarry with this year's Award for Hillbilly Paragon of Child-Rearing Excellence. Drill a hole through Art's nose with a 3/8 inch bit, and your prize doubles as a handsome crack pipe!
At the outset of 2011, MetroHealth Medical Center was toasted by credit-rating geeks for its turnaround in performance since the arrival of CEO Mark Moran in 2008.
The county-run hospital had reported net income of more than $85 million in Moran's first two years, following losses in the years preceding his arrival. Even better: Metro eyed a profit of $25 million more for 2011, despite the soured economy and the wave of corruption all around it. Bonus round: There would be no shortage of sick and dying residents!
For his next trick, Moran would devote 2011 to steering the ship back to the brink of ruin and garnering all the negative publicity taxpayers could eat. He would achieve it in that classic fashion favored by all arms of Cuyahoga government: by overpaying executives, losing ungodly sums of cash, having no standards of performance or ethics, and keeping it all nice and quiet to those who might not take kindly.
It all seemed so perfect on paper. But eyebrows were raised early on when Moran agreed to take on embittered former county commissioner Tim Hagan as a $90,000 consultant in exchange for two days a week of alleged work. (Among Hagan's key achievements: showing up occasionally and using proper change in the executive vending machine.)
For his next number, Moran sent 42 executives packing with nothing more than hundreds of thousand of dollars in their pockets to soften the blow. The hospital calls the departed honchos "contractors" — which is Cuyahogese for "one who draws a paycheck in exchange for keeping his damned mouth shut."
Another consultant drew more than $240,000 from Metro for six months of temp work while the hospital sought to permanently fill the vacant spot — a $105,000 job.
One of the dearly paid departed, CFO Sharon Kelley, abruptly resigned over the summer and walked away with the lovely parting gift of her $440,000 salary plus benefits in exchange for making sure nobody knows about it. Thank you for playing, Sharon!
As a bonus, the hospital is paying another guy $576K to do the same job Kelley is being paid not to do.
It's an arrangement that works way better with the institution's ribbon-cutters than it does with medical staff — but Moran had a plan for them too.
This fall, he announced that he would whack 450 people from the payroll, almost all of them non-essential personnel: the kind who fix broken people.
Moran also pledged to consider introducing actual policies at Metro, including plans for not getting so roundly jacked whenever it's time to whack a few more bosses. The news comes more than a year after the rest of Cuyahoga government figured it might be a good idea to not be such brazen assholes all the time. It also comes as Metro gears up for a return to the ballot to ask voters to keep doling out the millions to sustain it.
Final score for 2011: Metro's projected profit: $25 million. Metro's actual profit: -$1.1 million.
And there will be no overtime period for Moran, who announced in December that he will step aside early this year, the better to follow his passion of torching yet another business in an alarmingly brief period of time.
On your way out the door, don't forget to grab this year's Jesus We Blew Through a Lot of Money and We're Not Done Yet Award. Nice going, Mark!