10 Storylines That Shaped Cleveland Last Year

The City Council Shuffle

It's no secret that Cleveland has shrunk, population-wise, but because of a city charter that links city council representatives to population, the 19-member legislature had to shrink as well this year. Former council president Martin Sweeney orchestrated a behind-closed-doors redistricting process with consultant Bob Dykes which re-organized the city's wards and cut two council seats. The secrecy ticked everyone off, except, of course former councilman Eugene Miller, the issuer of expletives who vowed allegiance to Sweeney in exchange for a favorable ward shape (which looked much less like a district and more like a weird dumbbell). Sweeney's master plan backfired in a big way. Not only were articles written castigating the manner in which Sweeney attempted to manipulate the process — i.e. with zero public comment or council feedback — but three eastside councilmen formed a bloc against him to thwart his designs. All three, Mike Polensek, Kevin Conwell and Jeff Johnson, retained their council seats in November. Miller wasn't so lucky. Sweeney, who will keep his seat but will cede the presidency to Kevin Kelley, gave a parting address in which he attacked Conwell and Polensek for their opposition, assuring Polensek that the only two words that would be written about him in Cleveland's history were "irrelevant and pathetic." He then exited the room through a secret passageway and waited in darkness until the chambers cleared. Still no word on the receipts for Sweeney's home additions, the construction of which have long been rumored to be  linked to the Cuyahoga County corruption scandal.   

The Heroin Capital of the Rust Belt

Heroin smoked, snorted and shot up its way into the news in 2013, and this year the suburbs, Ohio's politicians and the media circled the wagons on the epidemic. Cuyahoga County began a forum called "Heroin in the Suburbs" — i.e. "Heroin in white communities" —  to address rising overdose deaths in non-Cleveland areas because, according to the Plain Dealer, "it's not just an inner-city problem — more than 50 percent of those deaths involve someone from the suburbs." In Cuyahoga County, the number of heroin-related deaths will hit an all-time record, nearing 200 for the calendar year. Meanwhile, various groups pushed for wider distribution of naloxone, an overdose-reversing drug with no side effects. Project DAWN began distribution in Northeast Ohio, and legislation is winding its way through Ohio's chambers to get the life-saving antidote in the hands of users and their families. In September, the FBI and local cops wrapped up a long investigation into a massive heroin ring centered in the east side of Cleveland (East 117th and St. Clair, specifically) that ended up being the single largest heroin takedown in the region's history: 92 people were booked on federal and state charges related to heroin trafficking. The problem isn't going anywhere, but now more than ever, a nexus of agencies and organizations are committed to stopping the deaths.

It Was Tribe Time Now

One of this year's most compelling sports stories transpired over the final days of the Cleveland Indians' 2013 campaign, during which new manager Terry Francona led a gritty squad to one of two American League wild-card spots. The Indians won their final 10 games of the season on pain of elimination. The statistical unlikelihood was mind boggling. Though they lost to the Tampa Bay Rays, Progressive Field sold out on Wednesday, Oct. 1, for the one-game playoff and Clevelanders sniffed a postseason for the first time since 2007. The winning streak energized the city, which had been beating itself up (sort of existentially) about low attendance numbers all year. The streak's highlights? In general, the late-season dominance of Ubaldo Jimenez and Jason Giambi's walk-off home run against the Chicago White Sox on Sept. 24, moments after Chris Perez had blown his 3,547th save that week. The brief "Hoyer the Destroyer" stint, its subsequent predictable tragedy, and the Cavs' big-ticket signing of Andrew Bynum (and his subsequent nose dive into problem child) were (and remain) big news stories, but the Tribe's streak had the entire town on the edge of its seat, with Tom Hamilton as beacon and scribe: For those 10 days, the magic was back at Jacob's Field.

We Re-elected a Bunch of the Same Guys

Mayor Frank Jackson was elected in November for a third term in one of the silliest and least inspiring election seasons in some time. Not only was voter turnout abysmally low, but the only opposition to Jackson came in the form of Ken Lanci, a Bentley-driving, Jesus-loving businessman with orange skin who regularly used the word "biblical" to characterize the direction of his leadership. Lanci was furious that his campaign wasn't taken seriously... but, I mean, come on. In other election news: Zack Reed, who earlier this year was convicted of driving under the influence for the third time in eight years, was re-elected in a landslide to his ward's city council seat. That's less surprising when you consider that Reed's principal challenger cited a "love of animals" as a leadership credential in what passed for campaign literature. Out in the 'burbs, Beachwood mayor Merle Gorden was elected once again to his town's top office despite wide media coverage -- spearheaded by Mark Naymik at the Northeast Ohio Media Group and a Scene cover story over the summer -- cataloguing manifold financial abuses. Gorden literally used taxpayer money to take his own staff out to expensive lunches, go on trips, buy a luxury car, compensate himself for "unused vacation days," etc. Golden-haired challenger Brian Linnick -- Gorden's first opponent since 1997 -- swore to be more transparent about spending and immediately cut millions from the city's budget. Beachwood basically said, "Screw you, Brian. Who do you think you are? Pass the ribeye, please."    

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