The Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority's grand $500 million scheme to relocate the port to East 55th Street continues to take on water and looks like it could be sinking for good.
Port board chairmen Steven Williams says that port leaders have doubts about the relocation project after the messy split with now-former port CEO Adam Wasserman, according to the PD. Wasserman abruptly resigned earlier this month and left with at least $330,000 in severance pay (for all the sordid details, read Scene's story "Sunk"). Williams and other board officials also revealed that the port's budget is $458,000 short and layoffs could happen next year.
Williams says the board's main objective now is to raise $158 million to help the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers construct a dredge storage facility off of East 55th Street. If this doesn't happen by 2015, the city's harbor might have to be closed, the Army Corps says.
Something stinks at the port, and some bloggers, like Roldo, are reacting to the news by focusing on port board member John Carney. In "Sunk," writer Mike Roberts points out that Carney has a conflict of interest in the port relocation plan because he owns four properties in the Warehouse District. If the port vacated and transformed its current site into a mix of attractive housing and retail, Carney's property values would increase 20 to 45 percent, according to an appraisal commissioned by a downtown developer.
No matter how you look at it, it's been a season of upheaval for the struggling port. Just two months ago, Wasserman and port officials were aggressively selling the relocation plan, and city leaders were buying it.
So much for confidence in our leaders. — Damian Guevara
His lips are moving. The Democratic Party breaks down the many, many, many lies about healthcare reform. Ohio's John Boehner makes an appearance, of course.
"This is not rocket science." Palin supporters in Columbus struggle to explain what she stands for and why they find her positions that they can't explain so inspiring.
Did you know that Plain Dealer columnist Connie Schultz can read minds? It's true. She's good too — doesn't even have to know you. She can report on your deepest fears and secret prejudices after just talking to someone who talked to you on the phone. From her November 18 column:
About two weeks into The Plain Dealer's coverage of the Imperial Avenue murders in Cleveland, some women from more privileged neighborhoods began to complain about the coverage.
As Managing Editor Debra Adams Simmons told me, the theme has been essentially this: Stop putting these stories on Page One. They are not relevant to the majority of your readers.
Translation: They are not us.
"They" are poor black women who ended up dead and buried at the home of Anthony Sowell because of addictions, troubled pasts and lousy judgment. We are white suburban women who'd never dream of becoming addicted or succumb to mental illness. And we certainly would never let ourselves be lured into a false sense of security by a man with ill intentions.
Ah, Connie. Are you trying to sound like a liberal puke?
Despite the headline — "When other women join in blaming the victims of a killer, we're in real trouble" — Schultz never states or even implies that the callers in fact blamed the victims. Nor does she give any indication that they mentioned race. But this does not slow her rush to judgment. Her take on these people she's never met, whose backgrounds and true feelings she's guessing at based on the area codes and exchanges that showed up on caller ID — as she revealed later in a comment on the web site — is that they're cold-hearted bigots.
So, to review: Opinion on matter in which race is a factor + perceived affluence = racism. QED. How's that for Sharpton-level reasoning?
But that might be unfair to Rev. Al. He at least has the sense to leave out details that undermine his own case. Schultz, however, in her eagerness to dole out scarlet R's, forgot that she'd revealed that the calls started coming "two weeks into" the PD's coverage, and that the complaints were rather specific: "Stop putting these stories on Page One." And it's not a criticism of PD reporters to note here that the story hasn't really deviated from the pattern well established by every serial-killer-themed movie and episode of 48 Hours you've ever seen. Grisly discovery, shock, grief, finger-pointing — it's all as predictable as the inevitable comments from neighbors about how he kept to himself. As you read this, it's a safe bet that someone, somewhere, is fictionalizing the Anthony Sowell case for Law & Order; serial killers are pop-culture archetypes, modern-day monsters and guaranteed ratings-generators. So maybe the women who called the PD — who apparently are part of the ever-dwindling minority of Northeast Ohioans who still read the paper of record — just don't like watching it turn into 19 Action News in wild-eyed sweeps-month mode. That's a guess, of course, but it's no less informed that Schultz's.
In recent years the mainstream media — TV news in particular — have been rightly criticized for their obsession with missing white women. But to suggest that the solution is equally breathless and pervasive coverage of black women in peril misses the point entirely. The callers, Schultz writes, complained that the coverage is "not relevant to the majority of your readers." And her loathing aside, that's correct. This isn't an election or a government corruption scandal; there is very little to be learned from endless reporting on Sowell and his deeds. We all know that at the fringes of society are the poor and addicted and mentally ill, and the soulless creatures who prey on them. Sometimes we lament this, sometimes we're perversely fascinated, most of the time it's far from our minds, and all of those, equally, are part of being human. Put another way:
Let's at least be honest about this: We are not shocked. We are horrified, we are heartbroken, but only the disingenuous will claim total surprise that a nondescript house in a poor section of Cleveland could hide the bodies of women whom no one describes as mainstream.
I dare say that's the callers' point exactly. Schultz wants to make their frustration out to be the most loathsome form of callousness, but look at it this way: If the 11 victims had been killed by 11 different men, would any of them have gotten anything close to the same level of attention?
She goes on to make the unsubstantiated claim that "Blame for these women runs rampant," and wraps the muddled mess up with some imagined scenarios that could end in the rapes of suburban women and the questions — "Did you even try to fight back? Why didn't you scream? — that the victims should never have to face, because "not one of them establishes a right for a woman to be attacked. There is no such right. Not ever."
But accusing women of racism and misogyny for failing to meet the wallowing standards of a newspaper columnist, whose standing to judge comes from having driven through the killer's neighbor "countless times," back when she happened to live in the same ZIP code? Totally fair. — Frank Lewis
Cincinnati CityBeat looks at mountaintop removal, a quick but devastating method of mining coal:
Picking his way through the mountain laurel near his Appalachian home, McKinley Sumner explains that all he ever wanted was a peaceful life on his family’s land where he was born and raised. … The oak forest around him is thick and silent, dappled with autumn sunlight. But the serenity stops abruptly at a cliff on the edge of Sumner’s 63 acres. It’s been six years now since his neighbor sold out to the International Coal Group and the mountaintop removal mining began, but Sumner’s eyes still flash at the sight.
The mountains in front of him have been turned inside out.
Giant bulldozers (“monsters,” Sumner calls them) have shorn away the forest and chiseled the mountaintops into vast, dusty plains that dwarf a handful of 18-wheeler trailers parked antlike on their surface. The mountainsides are strewn with rock and rubble, and sediment ponds in the valleys brim with wastewater. It is a standard scene of mountaintop removal mining in the heart of America’s coal country, but familiarity hasn’t made the sight any more tolerable for Sumner.
“This is a disgrace to the human race and a disgrace to God’s creation,” he says, jabbing a finger at the devastation in front of him. “I’ll never give up fighting mountaintop removal mining. I hope it stops in my lifetime.”
The article mentions the Clean Water Protection Act, a U.S. House bill that has several Ohio co-sponsors, all of them Democrats. When it comes to "God's creation," Republicans can be such moral relativists. — Frank Lewis
Running a town like East Cleveland can be like walking a minefield, and outgoing mayor Eric Brewer says he’s willing to help his successor, Gary Norton, navigate the treacherous territory.
It’s quite the gesture, considering the, uh … tense nature of East Cleveland politics. Brewer found a noose on his desk on his first day as mayor in 2006. The campaign between Brewer and Norton blew up after someone leaked photos of Brewer wearing women’s clothing (Norton denied having anything to do with the leak).
To no one’s surprise, Brewer doesn’t mince words in his letter. Some of the problems Brewer addresses — limited financial audits and certain city contracts — were created by a council Norton sat on, he says.
Brewer also raises serious questions about the police department and police union he so often clashed with during his tenure (Brewer blamed police, who supported Norton, for making the cross-dressing photos public). Brewer says he’s gone to the Justice Department and the NAACP to “investigate the East Cleveland police department for its mishandling of internal affairs complaints from citizens.” He says residents have complained about brutality, theft, racial profiling and harassment.
The deal to bring a Medical Mart to Cleveland continues to get more troubling and confusing after the Chicago-based developer reneged on a plan to incorporate the city’s Public Auditorium into its project.
Officials from Merchandise Mart Properties, Inc. say the company scrapped plans to incorporate Public Auditorium into its grand scheme for a complex at Mall C because the building's mechanical, electrical, heating and cooling systems are in shambles and too expensive to fix. Those officials reiterated that point during a marathon three-hour session in front of Cleveland City Council Tuesday.
What’s troubling is that MMPI didn’t come to this conclusion until after the city and county — the catalyst of the controversial project — made a tentative $20 million deal for Public Auditorium and the city’s underground Convention Center. As Mayor Frank Jackson told The Plain Dealer last week, MMPI should have known that building needed extensive work from preliminary inspections. Jackson’s chief of staff, Ken Silliman, told Scene Tuesday that the city never hid the fact that the auditorium is an aging building with aging systems.
MMPI says it had budgeted $32 million for renovations at Public Auditorium (the company is looking to spend roughly $425 million on the project). The renovation number jumped to roughly $90 million because of the building’s condition, officials said.
MMPI hammered the point home with a PowerPoint presentation showing Public Auditorium’s ancient ductwork and electrical panels. MMPI vice-president Mark Falanga said the company had assumed that public auditorium was "safe and code-compliant" because it had hosted large events, including the funeral of Congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs-Jones and the Rock Hall induction ceremony. Thousands of people attended those events.
As MMPI officials presented a photo slide show of the auditorium's ancient innards, Council President Martin Sweeney ordered them to speed up their presentation and move on. "We know we have some issues over there," Sweeney said tersely.
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