The Martyr Returns

Cain finds more nobility in her defeat.

Deposed Lakewood Mayor Madeline Cain continues to see additional evidence of her greatness in the November election that turned her out of office after eight years.

Cain supported the use of eminent domain for development of the West End, which voters rejected. In championing the project, she poor-mouthed the city and seemed imperious. Her decision to argue blight with 60 Minutes correspondent Mike Wallace was the height of hubris.

Rather than acknowledge that she had come to be seen as the Leona Helmsley of Lakewood, Cain first blamed her defeat on anti-gay sentiment. She said she felt a coolness after she allowed the Gay Pride flag to fly over City Hall. Yet every council member who voted to fly the flag was reelected.

Only reluctantly has Cain conceded that the West End project contributed to her undoing. But the martyr hat still fits. Cain now credits herself with spurring community involvement. Turnout was the highest in decades, she told WCPN, "so I look back to this as one of the most vibrant and energizing years in this community's history." The Free Times received a steaming pile, too: "Neighbors are talking and paying more attention to local community issues, development issues."

But most of the energy was fueled by a groundswell of disdain for Cain. By this standard, Trent Lott should be bragging that he's responsible for a renewed interest in civil-rights history.

That's not a coffee buzz
Cleveland's own Arabica has been churning out skim lattes since the days when Caribou was just a big deer who couldn't get a job as a moose. But in recent years, the incursion of Ikea-furnished coffee chains has all but choked the venerable company out of its own backyard. Now Arabica has taken to combating the menace with a beverage we all can rally around: booze.

"While we don't want to become a bar, we want to provide an alternative for people seeking a community meeting place," says Jim McDevitt, whose Rocky River Arabica is among the first to peddle hooch -- mostly moderately priced wines and premium beers, as well as some liquor. He cites a growing demand for smoke-free watering holes.

But years of highbrow coffee swilling can't be eradicated overnight, and McDevitt says that alcohol sales initially have been slow. For now, he's just glad the coffee's still hot: Despite competition from a Caribou just down the street, McDevitt reports brisk java sales.

"The way I look at it, having people around who do things worse than you is a plus rather than a minus."

Radio-friendly he's not
There's a reason writers and radio jocks don't work in television. When you have a face only a mother or a taxidermist could love, it's best not to beam your image into the homes of thousands of viewers, especially when they're eating dinner.

So it would seem that radio is the perfect medium for Dennis Kucinich, who gives the impression of a college freshman dolled up for his first frat party. Yet the complicated idiosyncrasies of radio -- like the fact that people can't actually see you -- seem to be lost on our elfin hero.

During a recent Democratic debate on NPR, Kucinich challenged front-runner Howard Dean for refusing to acknowledge that the Pentagon budget is bloated. To make his point, Kucinich held up a pie chart, which forced moderator Neal Conan to interject: "Congressman Kucinich is holding up a pie chart, which is not truly effective on radio."

Kucinich tried to cover his gaffe by saying, "Well, it's effective if Howard can see it."

Which makes plenty of sense, provided that Kucinich is trying to win over that all-important swing demographic of former Vermont governors.

God's ass-whupping truck
Historically, representatives of the Lord have preferred automobiles that come in various shades of vanilla. Prevailing wisdom held that a priest or pastor must drive a four-door American sedan, preferably a Buick or an Oldsmobile, to lend an air of importance without being showy. Though Baptists occasionally got away with a Cadillac and leaders of liberal sects worked the Subaru wagon for that sensible eco-vibe, the SUV was something of a rarity.

Which makes minister James Spivey's phat ride a standout in the church parking lot. Spivey drives a jet-black 2001 Chevy Avalanche. It's one of those gargantuan crew-cab pickups, built to carry a family in comfort while bouncing up the Himalayas or driving over a median to be first in line for the Dillard's sale. When seen from the rearview mirror, the truck's frowning headlights make it look like a mean bulldog.

Then you notice the God stickers. On each window, Spivey has affixed a sticker that reads "Warning. This Property Protected by Jesus Christ." Four more stickers say "Clergy," with a little white cross. The license plate, "GDSprty," stands for God's property.

Instead of a gangbanger's party mobile or a suburban dad's substitute phallus, what we have here is a gas-guzzling, ass-whupping Truck for Christ.

"It reminds people that those who stand up for Jesus the King can have abundance in life," says Spivey, who ministers at Emmanuel Christian Church at East 82nd and Superior. "It's another way of witnessing."

And every time he fills the tank, Spivey gets to witness another 40 bucks drain from his bank account.

Poachers at CSU
A long-distance poacher is moving in on Cleveland State University. A billboard at 18th and Prospect advertises something called the University of North Carolina at Pembroke. Squeezed into the ad are five smiling young people and the line, "Where learning gets personal."

Now it just so happens that UNC Pembroke is 618 miles away from CSU. How personal can learning get if the student is that far away from the classroom, Punch wondered. And then we realized: The school is trying to steal CSU students!

"I don't think we're trying to steal students," says spokesman Scott Bigelow (though Bigelow himself was stolen from Toledo). "This is part of an advertising campaign that started on the East Coast, and then we went to Pennsylvania, and now I guess we're in Ohio."

Pembroke is a liberal arts university that has grown 54 percent in the last four years to an enrollment of 4,432. Students coming from out of state (like, say, Ohio) pay $10,828 a year in tuition. The 16,400 students at CSU pay $6,072 a year.

"There are a number of universities that have begun advertising aggressively in Northeast Ohio," says Brian Johnston, CSU's director of public affairs. "It's become a very competitive market."

Bigelow's denials aside, he does make an attractive offer. "In February, in the middle of a Cleveland winter, if someone happens to see that sign and wants to transfer, we would definitely accept their application."