Tuesday, May 19, 2009

ED FITZGERALD WANTS YOU TO KNOW THAT HE HAS POWERFUL FRIENDS

Posted By on Tue, May 19, 2009 at 3:12 PM

Recently I got a flyer in the mail for a fundraiser for Lakewood Mayor Ed FitzGerald, which is interesting, because I live on the other side of town. He’s asking for some pretty small change as far as these events go: $35-$100. But the flyer was impressive: an 8.5-by-11, full-color, four-page glossy affair with two big pictures of his adorable family.

efa3/1242760915-fitzgerald.pngWhat's really eye-popping, though, is his “Friends of FitzGerald Fundraiser Host Committee.” This list contains more than 75 names from across the county — not only his own city council but mayors, city council members, school board members and ward leaders from East Cleveland to Strongsville. The list is headed by Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray, Ohio Democratic Party Chairman Chris Redfern, and both of the county’s congresspeople, Dennis Kucinich and Marcia Fudge. It includes two of three county commissioners (Tim Hagan and Peter Lawson Jones, but not Jimmy Dimora, head of the county party). County Treasurer Jim Rokakis, County Recorder Lillian Greene and Cleveland City Council President Marty Sweeney are also on the list, along with a dozen names with “esq.” after them. The most noticeable omission is FitzGerald's former boss, County Prosecutor Bill Mason.

Nowhere does FitzGerald mention what he’s running and raising money for, and his website isn’t any more forthcoming. FitzGerald was elected in November 2007, after being elected to Lakewood City Council three times, and he isn’t up for re-election until 2011. Rumors says he’s mulling a bid for state auditor, the office currently held by Republican Mary Taylor. The huge host committee of powerful “friends” he’s assembled for this fundraiser certainly gives strength to those rumors. — Anastasia Pantsios

REMEMBER THE FLATS?

Posted By on Tue, May 19, 2009 at 10:45 AM

Used to be, back before ex-mayor Mike White had his goons harassing bars out of business on the East Bank of the Flats in the ’90s to make way for The Future, Cleveland’s riverfront entertainment district had the highest bar-to-drunk density from New York to Chicago. But then three high-profile drowning deaths went down in a month, and it wasn't long before most of the East Bank would go dark, food for the wrecking ball.

4579/1242161383-flatspic.jpgDon’t say you hadn’t noticed: While the West Bank has been electrified at night going on more than a decade now, the East Bank, where Old River Road was once our own little Bourbon Street, is mostly an industrial wasteland of rubble piles, gravel roads and chain-link fences. This is the view from the West Bank today, all this splendor just a water-taxi-to-hell away.

“It makes me feel off-balance,” says Tom Newman, executive director of the the Flats Oxbow Association, about the lack of symmetry today at the mouth of the Cuyahoga.

But help is on the way, at least the first trickles. Developer Scott Wolstein announced last fall that he would stall his $400 million mixed-use redevelopment here until the economy improved, but that didn’t stop the flow of public money to start getting all the infrastructure work out of the way. About $4 million in loans and grants from the city, county and state have been awarded for brownfield remediation. And the entire sewer system is being overhauled, as well, complete with a new pump station to service the entire area, including the Warehouse District, said Nancy Lesic, Wolstein’s spokeswoman. (The sewer work was mandated by the feds before the redevelopment project was even announced.)

“So, if anything, the Flats East Bank project moved up the timing of that work,” she said.

And worry not: The economy will rebound, and the East Bank will live again — maybe not on the back of a convention center, but maybe a casino. Anything would be better than this.

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Monday, May 18, 2009

THE WIND AT THEIR BACKS

Posted By on Mon, May 18, 2009 at 12:09 PM

Four generations and 80 years ago, Myron Kaplan’s grandmother founded Pearl Road Auto Parts in a grimy little box-trailer in the middle of a small pile of dead cars. It was likely the first good example of a recycling business in town.

add3/1242663463-kaplan.jpgNow sitting on a veritable auto cemetery along I-480 at Pearl Road in Cleveland, Myron’s middle-aged son Jon (pictured) is setting about revolutionizing the family spread. On Friday morning, the family started digging a hole for the foundation to a 140-foot tower that will be topped by a giant fan, 65 feet in diameter.

“If I want this all to be here for my kids,” says Jon, “I have to do things right.”

And due to the infusion of new state grant funds for green energy incubation — not to mention the promise of more tax incentives and federal stimulus support on the way — the Kaplans feel like they just found a pile of money with instructions on exactly how to negate their carbon footprint … at a savings. Instead of an electric bill of $2,000 a month — as well as the gas bill to power heaters in the winter — the Kaplans will pay $1,300 a month on a mortgage for the wind turbine. (A state grant covered more than two-thirds the cost.)

“It’s a great investment incentive,” says Jon. “I was told that I can apply for even more money too, but I feel kind of guilty, you know?”

“God bless,” was how Myron summed up his feelings about the government support.

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MED MART DEAL: TWO MOVES IN ONE

Posted By on Mon, May 18, 2009 at 12:03 PM

Two owners of three adjoining properties to the downtown Mall site are all that’s left to settle snugly in their beds, now that the county commissioners have officially agreed to buy the Public Hall site for $20 million. All that’s left before the compasses start twirling is to get Cleveland Council, which is reviewing the deal, to lend its rubber-stamp to the deal.

Maybe somebody is saying something constructive about all the added expenses the city will be taking on now, or wonder aloud perhaps where the $20 million is going to be stashed. But neveryoumind, lowly taxpayer. All that’s left to do now is cross our fingers and wait … for the announcement that the county administration building will be bought up by the sales tax proceeds too. Two deals in one!

The county’s just coming out now for the potential inclusion of its own HQ into the med-mart mix, after saying nary a word about it for more than a year. But now that the nearly billion-dollar deal with Commissioner Tim Hagan’s family friend, Chris Kennedy of Chicago-based Merchandise Mart Properties Inc., is signed in blood, commissioners were ready to set county administrator James McCafferty loose to start bandying about HQ’s worth as a northern entrance area of the new development. Or maybe a swanky new hotel that only rich people from other places will get to use, huh Dick Jacobs?

(Don’t forget, the commissioners are still sitting on the Ameritrust complex it bought from Jacobs a few years back for $22 million, the one they’ve paid about $11 million more so far, supposedly positioning it for sale. Or something.)

Worry not, reminded McCafferty after Thursday’s meeting: The money to pay for all the property acquisitions — county HQ included, if applicable — would come from the $900 million in bond money the county sales tax hike will raise over two decades to cover all of this anyway. See? So it's practically free! We can't afford not to do it!

So the purchase of the county administration building had always been factored in as a potential expense?
“You have to stay open,” says McCafferty, “but the only way for [a county HQ sale] to happen is if it’s a cheaper option.” Rest assured: Commissioners have their best people on it.

They were hoping you wouldn’t see when they pulled these coins from out of your ass. And they were mostly right. It’s been going on for so long it’s probably started to feel good anyway, huh? — Dan Harkins

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Saturday, May 16, 2009

BOWLING FOR ... LETTERS?

Posted By on Sat, May 16, 2009 at 9:00 AM

c13d/1242420958-bowlingball.jpgBowling has one thing in common with any profile of a population: statistics. Consider a brief portrait of literacy in Cleveland: According to Seeds of Literacy (which got its numbers from the Center for Urban Poverty and Social Change at the Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences, Case Western Reserve University), 69 percent of Cleveland residents are functionally illiterate, which is defined as reading on a 4th to 6th grade level. Such a person may struggle to read a bus schedule or a job application. Further, some Cleveland neighborhoods have illiteracy rates as high as 95 percent. Seeds of Literacy combats those numbers with free, one-to-one tutoring in basic education and GED testing to adults in Cuyahoga County. You can support their effort at their first Bowl-A-Thon Friday, May 29. (You’ve got to register and get your pledge sheet by May 22.) You get three hours of non-competitive bowling, shoe rental, food, music, door prizes and a t-shirt. It’s from 8 to 11 p.m. May 29 at Fairview Lanes (21847 Lorain Road, Fairview Park, 216.661.7950, ext. 11.) $25. — Michael Gill

Friday, May 15, 2009

FRIDAY MONKEY BLOGGING: SLIPPERY WHEN WET

Posted By on Fri, May 15, 2009 at 2:00 PM

From monkey blogging co-conspirator Tom O'Konowitz of the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo's PR department:

794b/1242397825-swampmonkey1.jpg

Who knew monkeys could swim? Allen's swamp monkeys [ed.: sounds like a Zydeco band] are very strong swimmers. At Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, the animal keepers encourage the swamp monkeys to practice their natural swimming ability frequently. They'll fill a big tub with water and treats — grapes, nuts or apples — and wait for the swamp monkeys to dive in after the food. Even baby swamp monkeys have taken part in the "diving for grapes" sessions.

Not all primates care to get wet, but the swamp monkeys are specially equipped to do so: they have webbed toes that allow them to more easily paddle through the water. In their native swamp forests of the Congo and Zaire, Allen's swamp monkeys will dive into water to avoid predators.

You can see the swamp monkeys every day at the Zoo's Primate, Cat & Aquatics Building. If you're lucky, you may catch them taking a dip.

Support for the aquatic ape theory? Who cares, they're monkeys that swim! More photos after the jump. — Frank Lewis

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SAM, WOULD YOU BELIEVE IT IF WE SAID WE MISSED YOU?

Posted By on Fri, May 15, 2009 at 12:57 PM

12cc/1242406985-fulwood.jpgScene had a lot of fun at Sam Fulwood's expense back in the day, but even we can't kick the guy now. Since the Plain Dealer gave columnist/reporter Fullwood the axe, the land of Fullwood has been empty. Media-news site Poynter Online has spotlighted Fullwood's latest work, a piece for blog TheRoot.com about how he is now bonding with his 21-year-old daughter, who is about to graduate from the University of Virginia, by struggling through the bleak prospects of today's job market. — D.X. Ferris

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