When Ben Childs' car was stolen from a West Ninth parking garage last week, he was forced to endure an even greater trauma: dealing with Cleveland police.
Here in the City That Never Works, reporting an auto theft means your odds are about 50-50 that someone will actually show up and pretend to care. So Childs, the computer geek here at Scene, waited . . . and waited . . . and waited.
The next day, he decided that if police wouldn't come to him, he would visit them. So he stopped by downtown HQ. When he approached the front desk and blurted that his car was stolen, a cop testily responded, "Why don't you start by showing me some ID, like the sign says?" Then he pointed to a sign that read "SHOW IDENTIFICATION."
Childs would have happily obliged. Unfortunately, his ID was in his car, which was currently on a freighter bound for Russia. When he explained this, the desk cop regarded him blankly and repeated his demand. After all, studies show that crime victims appreciate when you act like a huge dick toward them. That's just good police work.
Childs got a ride to his Lakewood home and returned with his passport. The cop, thus satisfied, now felt comfortable letting Childs in on a little secret: He was in the wrong place. Turns out they handle stolen car reports at a station on 21st and Payne.
So Childs embarked on Step Three of his Quest to Get Cleveland Police Interested in a Crime. Fortunately, the desk cop at 21st and Payne couldn't legally turn him away. Unfortunately, there's no law that says she has to care. As Childs explained about the car, "she would zone out for minutes at a time," he says, "and stare like a retarded fish" at a TV on her desk. Judge Mathis was on, and crime fighting is much more entertaining when it's televised, since the real-life version entails paperwork.
Childs eventually succeeded in filing his report, but he has little faith that a cop is hot on the trail. He does, however, have a fabulous new bar story to tell. The CliffsNotes version: "It's a story about the wonderful limp dick that is our city government."
Politics & The PD
The Plain Dealer's adventure in political blogging suffered a major blow last week after editors discovered an unbearable truth about one of its political bloggers: He's political.
The paper started its "Wide Open" blog as an attempt to capitalize on the small but lively banter that takes place on Ohio's political blogs. Editors also hoped it would reduce the average age of the paper's readership, which is firmly ensconced in the Murder, She Wrote demo.
So the paper contracted with four writers — two liberals, two conservatives — to riff on cleveland.com about everything from gun laws to the Tribe.
Yet things began to go south when Congressman Steve LaTourette (R-Divorced His Wife by Phone from Washington) complained about liberal scribe Jeff Coryell. Coryell hadn't written about LaTourette for The PD, but he had criticized the congressman on his personal website, ohiodailyblog.com. He'd also contributed 100 bucks to LaTourette's opponent.
Of course, partisan political bloggers tend to make partisan political contributions. But suddenly The PD was confronted by an alarming problem: One of its political bloggers was acting, well, politically. Editors asked Coryell to never write about LaTourette. He refused, and was promptly whacked. The next day, the blog's other liberal writer, Jill Miller Zimon of writeslikeshetalks.com, quit in solidarity. (Unfortunately, she didn't actually use the term "solidarity," which always sounds cool during acts of defiance, so she was docked two points for style.)
PD editor Susan Goldberg tells Punch she has no problem with her political bloggers making such contributions. Those bloggers just can't be on her payroll.
Punch isn't clear why this is, but if you figure it out, let us know. We'll be watching Murder, She Wrote.
Quality in City Hall?
This fall, Mayor Frank Jackson lost yet another foot soldier to the Washington, D.C. public schools. Tracy Martin, his education chief, became the third in a string of Clevelanders to depart for the nation's capital, which is taking the novel approach of rebuilding its schools with administrators who've demonstrated no success elsewhere ["Thanks, D.C.," First Punch, August 1].
It's not clear what Martin did as education chief, aside from keeping the school board's rubber stamp polished. Yet Jackson did something unusual in finding her replacement: He appointed someone competent.
Monyka Price, former principal at the Citizens' Academy charter school near University Circle, has a stunning history of actually being good at her job. Under her leadership, Citizens' Academy's overwhelmingly poor, black students beat state averages on standardized tests, and the school was recognized nationally for its innovation. Hiring someone this qualified to work in city government is not only unprecedented; it requires a papal decree.
Alas, it turns out the mayor might have simply done something smart by mistake. Price is good friends with Frank's brother, Nick Jackson, the Bungling Patronage Appointee the School District Just Can't Get Rid Of (soon to be a straight-to-video horror film). So why not give his pal Price an $85,000 job in the mayor's office?
Now that's the Cleveland government we know and love.
She's Baaaaaack . . .
Congressman Dennis Kucinich picks his media appearances wisely — David Letterman, Stephen Colbert, Syrian President Bashar Assad. It's easy to sit there and be a punch line, or join in a merry game of torch the Bush doll.
But explaining why he's spent 10 years in Congress, consuming more than $10 million in salary and federal campaign funds, and his biggest accomplishment is getting fewer trains to run through the West Side? No thanks.
So it comes as no surprise that Dennis refuses to debate his latest challenger in the 2008 congressional election, Barbara Ferris. Ferris, a nonprofit exec, lacks the Democratic Party's support, has no major funding, and doesn't have a chance in hell of beating Denny, since we prefer our government to be costly and ineffectual. It's gotten us this far, hasn't it?
So she's trying to capitalize on her strengths: She's bigger and meaner than him.
You might recall that infamous moment during the 2006 primary, the last time our heroes came face to face ["Congressman Candy-Ass," April 19, 2006]. Denny had agreed to debate Ferris at the City Club, then backed out on the day of the debate, deciding instead to hastily assemble a press conference on a preschool bill back at his Lakewood office. An audience of school administrators would be much more friendly — and the questions much more staged.
Alas, Ferris decided to show up with news cameras, stopping Kucinich in mid-sentence to ask why he chickened out. Denny, fearing a repeat of the traumatic Atomic Wedgy Incident of 1959, tried to ignore her. But Ferris wouldn't leave. Luckily for the congressman, the day ended with his underwear intact, though his dignity was shredded.
Yet if Denny thought he could win reelection by continuing his grueling campaign tour of Hawaiian resorts, Ferris says he's sadly mistaken. "His record is blank," she says. "I think he has nothing to say in a debate."
Then she added, "Thursday, three o'clock, behind the high school. I'll be waiting for you, Elf-boy."
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