Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Thrash Punk Icons Suicidal Tendencies to Play House of Blues in October

Posted By on Tue, Aug 30, 2016 at 5:40 PM

If the thrash/punk band Suicidal Tendencies had only released the tune “Institutionalized,” that would have been enough to ensure the band’s legacy.

In the wake of delivering one of punk’s greatest anti-anthems, the band has continued to tour and record, albeit with a variety of different lineups.

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FirstEnergy Wants to Charge Ratepayers $568 Million per Year in Surcharges

Posted By on Tue, Aug 30, 2016 at 3:48 PM

In an outrageous proposal reminiscent of Cleveland sports-franchise owners, energy giant FirstEnergy wants to charge ratepayers surcharges worth $568 million per year over eight years to "compensate for the economic impact of having its headquarters in Akron," Bloomberg reports.  

In an interview with Bloomberg, a FirstEnergy VP used threatening language — the Sin Tax vibes are everywhere — to say that the the state's public utilities commission (PUCO) should amend a plan to provide vastly more aid than initially proposed.

"They should weigh the value of keeping our nexus of operations in Akron," Eileen Mikkelsen, the VP, told Bloomberg. "If the commission thinks that is important to the state, they should recognize that in their order." 

PUCO had suggested surcharges totaling $131 million over three years for the utility company that is supposedly struggling and yet boasted revenues of more than $15 billion in 2014 and 2015.

"FirstEnergy says it...can live with the structure of [PUCO's] plan if the amounts pledged to the company are increased. Instead of a total of $393 million in aid, it should get $558 million a year for nearly eight years, or $4.5 billion. And on top of that, it wants compensation of as much as $568 million for the added impact of salaries, vendor purchases and local employee spending in Akron," Bloomberg reports.  

FirstEnergy employs 1,360 people at its Akron headquarters. Among other things, it pays $6 million per year to the Cleveland Browns for stadium naming rights.
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Reminder: By Tomorrow, There Will Be No ABV Limit on Beer in Ohio

Posted By on Tue, Aug 30, 2016 at 3:27 PM

Earlier this year, the state lifted the 12-percent ABV limit on beer. That law, the heady House Bill 37, goes into effect tomorrow. 

Brace yourself for all sorts of new brews flowing from taps across Ohio. (At midnight, several bars in Cleveland will be celebrating the arrival of Dogfish Head's 120-Minute IPA, for instance.)

From Columbus Business First, earlier this year:

Rep. Mike Duffey, R-Worthington, called it a jobs issue and added that the craft brewing industry is growing – Ohio is near 200 breweries now – and the state should support those growing and creative members.

“Brewing is an art form,” he said on the House floor. “Sometimes that can be high gravity (ABV) beers. These are not cheap. These are not easy to make. These are not easy to drink. These are sipping beers.”

Indeed, the high ABV segment is a small niche of the beer world. High-alcohol beers are expensive and time-consuming to make, which results in smaller batches and high price tags. But while many of these beers aren’t major sales drivers, rare and complex beers are often reputation-builders and some of the most revered and sought-after by customers.

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Date Set for Boozy Opening of Taco Bell Cantina

Posted By on Tue, Aug 30, 2016 at 2:53 PM

Back in June, we shared the news that Cleveland would be on the receiving end of a Taco Bell Cantina, a new concept from the “Mexican” themed fast-food mega-chain. In 2015, Taco Bell opened up its first two Cantina restaurants in San Francisco and Chicago, promising future spots in urban settings like Cleveland.

“Expansion into urban markets is a key focus for us both this year and over the course of the next several years,” Brian Niccol, Chief Executive Officer at Taco Bell Corp. said in a release.

According to Taco Bell, these urban concept restaurants have five things in common that differentiate them from standard Taco Bells: décor, localized artwork, open kitchen layout, open plating and shareable menus. Additionally, Cantina restaurants serve alcoholic beverages, which can include beer, wine and sangria.

Yes, you can soon get loaded at the place where you go to eat after getting loaded (though we recommend still getting loaded before because, well, Taco Bell).

The Cleveland spot is earmarked for the old Cadillac Ranch space on Euclid by Public Square. The rustic/modern style features reclaimed wood, corrugated metal, brick and glassy, open kitchens.

While corporate has been vague as to opening dates, a recent Craigslist ad in search of employees for the new spot is pegging the opening at mid-September.

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Ballsy East Cleveland Merger Proposal is "Non-Starter": UPDATE

Posted By on Tue, Aug 30, 2016 at 2:20 PM

One of our favorite East Cleveland memories: William Fambrough confronts the board, with police in tow, in January, 2015.
  • One of our favorite East Cleveland memories: William Fambrough confronts the board, with police in tow, in January, 2015.
East Cleveland City Council met last night and ultimately decided not to approve the memorandum in support of a merger with the city of Cleveland. Much discussion took place — including concerns that the memorandum (detailed below) was being interpreted by local news outlets as a list of demands. 

Council still intends to move forward down the path toward a merger.

Council President Tom Wheeler told outgoing WEWS reporter Homa Bash that they’ve never merged with another city before, so it’ll be a little touch-and-go for a while here.

The public will be gathering at 5:30 p.m. Aug. 31 at East Cleveland Public Library to hash out further conversation on these points and many more.

Originally published Aug. 25

Cleveland City Council President Kevin Kelley has rejected a merger ordinance presented last week by East Cleveland's annexation commission. The ordinance included a list of merger conditions so extreme that Kelley rejected the proposal out of hand, gently calling it a "non-starter." 

[Correction: The ordinance was drafted by East Cleveland's City Council, not by the three annexation commissioners. The annexation commission was created in the same ordinance that included the merger conditions, attached as a Memorandum of Understanding, elaborated below.] 

“I am committed to continue discussing ways toward a possible merger with East Cleveland,” Kelley said, in a statement. “But any movement must be fair and feasible to both cities."

In its current iteration, the proposed ordinance is not. A Cleveland city council spokesperson confirmed that Kelley will not be presenting the ordinance to city council; and, accordingly, council will not be appointing three of its own representatives to the annexation commission.

The merger has, therefore, effectively stalled out. Until East Cleveland presents a more reasonable proposal, or until, improbably, 25 percent of Cleveland voters petition to force Cleveland city council's hand, discussions won't be moving forward.      

Perhaps East Cleveland's strategy was akin to open-air-market haggling, kicking off negotiations with ludicrous demands, hoping to arrive somewhere in the middle. If so, Kelley (as vendor) has called their bluff.

What East Cleveland proposed doesn't even resemble a merger. They'd like to to remain a "semi-autonomous" ward within the city of Cleveland, retaining its name, its red light traffic cameras (which Cleveland voted down in 2014), and its city council. The proposal calls for current East Cleveland city council members to keep their salaries while managing a new all-powerful community development corporation, which would have rights to every publicly owned parcel in the ward. They would also like to absorb parts of University Circle, thank you very much! 

The list is frankly outrageous. It requests a one percent annual income tax credit for all East Cleveland residents (or 1.5 percent credit, presumably, if Cleveland were to pass its income tax hike in November), $20 million from the State, via the Cuyahoga County land bank, for home rehab loans, and $10 million as a "merger incentive payment" to cover city debts and capital repairs. 

In a further and yet more profound misunderstanding of the word "merger," the new ward of East Cleveland wants to keep its own municipal court, become its own police and fire district, and outsource maintenance of all ward parks to the Metroparks system (what??). 

The ward of East Cleveland also pretty clearly intends to keep Gary Norton in power. Envisioned by the annexation commission is a councilperson to be "elected from an election of standing elected government officials." 

Mad props to East Cleveland for the melon-sized cojones in submitting the ordinance. But as Kevin Kelley is only too pleased prove, East Cleveland is in no position to be making demands of this magnitude (or any demands at all).

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As Opiate Crisis Worsens, Access to Treatment Facilities Remains Static

Posted By on Tue, Aug 30, 2016 at 1:59 PM

There is one inpatient treatment bed available for every 52 heroin addicts in Cuyahoga County, according to data provided by the Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services (ADAMHS) Board of Cuyahoga County. When prescription medication like oxycodone, hydrocodone and fentanyl are factored in, the data point becomes bleaker: approximately one bed for every 207 people abusing opiates in this county.

There are only 387 inpatient beds in Cuyahoga County, with 169 of those being funded publicly by the ADAMHS Board. Those beds serve a massive population; according to a 2014 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration survey, there are between 70,000 and 90,000 Cuyahoga County residents abusing prescription medication. (Included in that number: 20,000 heroin addicts.) 

Inpatient treatment is an involved process, one that often includes supervision and counseling in a residential setting. Outpatient treatment services are available too, and an individual's decision to proceed to treatment can be voluntary or court-mandated. It's a vital component to getting clean.

On top of that, though — and here's the kicker — there are only 63 detox beds available here (or one detox bed for every 318 heroin addicts). Detox is distinguished as a process that sees addicts getting clean in a safe facility, like Rosary Hall at St. Vincent Charity Medical Center, for a few days. It can be a painful experience. Once the immediate withdrawal symptoms subside — and an addict is no longer "dopesick" — inpatient services typically pave the path ahead to long-term sobriety.

The problem is that access to that path isn't easy. Whichever path an opiate addict takes to an open bed here in Cuyahoga County, the first step is often spent idling on a waiting list — a significant problem amid a public health crisis where one wrong step could cost someone his or her life. ADAMHS CEO William Denihan says that, recently, wait times have ranged from three weeks to none at all. It's a problem that has been brought up by sources in our reporting over the past year (see here and here). Call 216-623-6888 to begin the path toward addition treatment in Cuyahoga County.

Earlier this year, County Executive Armond Budish said that one goal is to lift or ease Medicaid reimbursement restrictions that limit the number of addiction treatment beds available in a given publicly insured facility. (These regulations haven't been updated in more than 20 years. They were introduced in the 1960s as a way of limiting the population of men and women committed to institutions for mental health issues. When the addiction field began growing the 70s and 80s, the regulations grew to encompass those services as well.) Lifting those caps today would allow, at the very least, dozens of additional treatment beds to open up here in Cuyahoga County. 

"We're asking that they remove the restrictions on the addiction side and either double it or just remove it altogether," Denihan told Scene, referring to the nationwide push for reform. His is an adamant call. "This is critical: getting the beds and offering long-term sobriety."

Of course, inpatient treatment services remain just one element of the ongoing fight against opiate addiction here. Denihan also lauded the work of Project DAWN, which has distributed 1,500 naloxone kits this year in Cuyahoga County. He reported that more than 160 lives have been saved through that organization. 

Still, though, the county is facing its most serious health crisis in decades. By the end of 2016, it's likely that the heroin/fentanyl overdose death count will top 500 — more than double the number of deaths in 2015 (228), 2014 (224) and 2013 (199). The current increase is dramatic.

"Even with those numbers, we were overwhelmed by the need for people with treatment," Denihan said, charting the course through recent years. "Our capacity has not changed. That capacity of beds and availabilities for detox is one of the major dilemmas that we have right now. We just don't have the funds for those, and that's a very critical point right now."

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Video: Rapper Ezzy's "Goodbye," First Soundtrack Single From "The Land," Is Great

Posted By on Tue, Aug 30, 2016 at 1:55 PM

The music video for "Goodbye" by Ezzy, a Cleveland native (who we profiled last September), has officially been released.

The song is featured on the soundtrack for The Land, which debuted at Sundance earlier this year. The film is directed by Cleveland native Steven Caple Jr. (read our mini profile of him here); the soundtrack is executive produced by Nas.  

"Goodbye" is described as "a love letter to the neighborhood and the struggle," by Caple. Read that bit below but first watch the video and listen to the song; we've done so about 15 times in a row now.

"Goodbye is a love letter to the neighborhood and the struggle. It has the classic hip hop vibe with fresh lyrics. Ezzy wrote the perfect song for the film, we wanted that feel-good energy that lifts people's spirits. So to be able to direct the video and collaborate with Ezzy and Rafi, who produced the track in a closet of a hotel, was special. As we share it with the world it becomes an open love letter." — Director Steven Caple Jr.
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