A Sure Bet

Letters published May 26, 2004

Jar the Floor Karamu House, 2355 East 89th Street Through June 13, 216-795-7070
A Sure Bet
Time to make a virtue of necessity:
I am in favor of a casino in Cleveland ["Place Your Bets," May 12]. Gambling rakes in over $60 billion per year, and you'd be dumb, stupid, or both to ignore the vast amount of money we are missing out on. Create an aura of elegance at the casino. Make it someplace to go on Friday or Saturday nights -- or even after a Browns game. Have a jazz band perform. Host world poker tournaments, so I can go say hey to Shana Hiatt.

Besides, why not create a few hundred new jobs downtown? I bet CSU kids would be all for parking cars or dealing a few hands of blackjack part-time. Surely that beats flipping burgers and serving French fries. I bet the money is 10 times better too.

I'll even show up at the Indians game to watch them lose, if I know I can look forward to making some of my points at the craps table when I ditch out after the 5th inning.

Matt Vild

Bring it on home: In response to "Place Your Bets," as a native Lakewoodite, I could not agree more. I have been working in the gaming industry here in Vegas for 16 years. It would do wonders for Cleveland -- not to mention give me a good reason to move back to my favorite city.

Tom Ross
Las Vegas

Fuel for the Fire
Same story, different state:
I just read Kevin Hoffman's article "Burning Down the House" [May 5] twice, and I must say that there are huge cultural differences in most fire stations, where we must spend many long hours confined together. I'm a 19-year veteran of the Department of Fire and Rescue Service of Montgomery County, Maryland. I'm also of African American descent. One of the problems I've seen recently within my own department is how frequently African Americans are fired. For instance, within the last two months, three black firefighters were terminated, cause unknown. Thanks for the unbiased article.

Timothy Bell
Montgomery County, MD

Negative on the affirmative action: Affirmative action was intended to level the playing field for all the minorities taking the entrance exam --or so I thought. Why is this program continued? Every fire station receives a written notice of all exams and the list of books to study for these tests. So why is it necessary to give this unfair advantage to minorities?

Paul Stubbs was appointed under this program. Paul was promoted to lieutenant, captain, battalion chief, and assistant chief through affirmative action. I was passed over for battalion chief by two minorities who scored well below me. I was promoted a year later, but this affected my salary and my pension.

Robert Viancourt

Adjusted numbers: The article "Burning Down the House" applies to me, too! When I was hired in '81, I had to wait for a later class (and lower seniority number) to start, just because of the color of my skin.

When testing was done and promotions were made, instead of being the 22nd lieutenant promoted, I discovered that my "adjusted" number was 24. The city only promoted 22 lieutenants, and I was left waiting for another test, years away, just because of my race. After finally scoring high enough to overcome injustices like that, I had to remain in limbo at my new unit, allowing time for members of another color to refuse a position before it was offered to me.

Racism? Of course. Demeaning? You bet. During my 23 years on the Cleveland Fire Department, I have been discriminated against so many times, I'm amazed Scene didn't put my picture on the cover.

Keith Mercek
Granger Township

It cuts both ways: "Burning Down the House" was so one-sided and exaggerated that it really pissed me off while I was reading it. I write this as a retired lieutenant of the Cleveland Fire Department. I was appointed in 1970, and I retired in 1995. I worked with Louie Williams at Station 7 for many years; he was loved by everyone and treated with respect. I also lived and worked with most of the people mentioned in Kevin Hoffman's article.

All cadets are treated the same way. I have seen many a white guy get flour in his bed. I've seen beds fall apart when someone lay on them. Hell, that happened to me! We even short-sheeted battalion chiefs' beds. Black or white, a cadet is a cadet, period. I know that sometimes things would go too far, but race was never the reason. It usually had to do with the individual.

The biggest problem between whites and blacks is affirmative action. The day that I was promoted to lieutenant was the same day that Chief Stubbs was also promoted to lieutenant. His number on the list was well above 100, yet the nonminority candidate who was number 34 on the list didn't get promoted. Here is a man who, in my opinion, should never have been promoted. Now he's the chief? How do you think that makes the whites feel, knowing that he really didn't earn it? How do you think that it makes guys like me feel, knowing that when he retires, his pension will be more than I ever earned while on the job? When a man is promoted through affirmative action, walks into a station, and starts barking out orders, what do you think will happen when the guy he's barking the orders to is a passed-over white? The white guy naturally resents it, and the fun begins.

As an Italian, I was a minority in the Fire Department also, but no one handed me anything. And I didn't insist on being called an Italian American either. People today are too sensitive.

I don't believe that any Cleveland firefighter would pick and choose whom he would save. If a brother firefighter is in trouble, I believe that everyone on the scene would do all that is humanly possible to save that person, no matter who he is.

Fred Bartuccio
Retired Lieutenant
Cleveland Fire Department

Another numbered account: "Burning Down the House," by Kevin Hoffman, was a very good article. Don't think this problem is just in Cleveland. It's all over.

Here's my story on getting hired to the Massillon Fire Department: The city announced that they were going to hire eight new firefighters in 1989. I thought, "Great, I'm fifth on the list. I'm in." Not quite. The city at the time had a decree: For every white, a black had to be hired. They hired only three people, two blacks and one white.

I went to the EEO [Equal Employment Opportunity] officer to ask why only three people were hired. He said there were no minorities left on the list; they would have to give a minority-only test. When they did, only 14 people showed, and only 7 passed. The highest score was 85 percent. When I finally got hired, I was sworn in fourth, with a score of 96 percent. Two blacks with lower scores were ahead of me (they swear you in by test score for reasons of seniority).

I busted my ass to get the score I got, yet it didn't seem to matter. Tell me, how would you feel?

D. Smith

Cleveland's collapse is the burning issue: Of course racism exists within the Cleveland Fire Department. Alarmingly, the biggest culprit is the federal government, thanks to the Headen Consent Decree. In response to mammoth mistakes made nearly 40 years ago, the decree to this day essentially contends that blacks and Hispanics are too stupid to compete with other races on the written portion of the firefighter entrance exam! Is that the proper tone to set for an environment that requires firefighters to live together for about 100 days a year?

As for truculent Emmett Jordan, cold temperatures, and no BET, save it for the unsuspecting. To all you other crybabies out there, regardless of race: Try having to produce on a daily basis in order to support your family. I'd rather run into a burning building with the guys on my shift seven days a week.

Ultimately, all of this is mere inconvenience compared to the real problem, which is the City of Cleveland's out-of-control downward spiral. Over the last few decades, money has poured out of the city. The most painful and visible results are the formerly solid neighborhoods that are now simply pitiful. Exactly what has the city's parasitic leadership -- city council included -- done to provide a glimmer of hope?

Michael Kormos
former Cleveland firefighter

The Good, Bad, and Ugly
Humanity sucks:
In response to "Burning Down the House" and "Star Struck," May 5: How repulsive we are. I took the firemen's test and was told that I would never get on because I was not Irish or black. My ex-brother-in-law lied about his address, got on, and is now a captain.

Of course we lip-synch crap, like this from Starbucks' website: ". . . an emphasis on respect in how we treat our customers and each other." Obviously they mean something else than what they say, but even if they got caught and fined for this impropriety, it would soon be back to the same old business. I was going to apply at Starbucks, and your story changed my mind. I wouldn't last too long anyway, being an honest, caring person.

Tom Habanek

It's bad business to beat up on good employees: In response to Pete Kotz's article "Star Struck," I have been a regular morning customer of this store since it opened. I was both surprised and upset to read about the way Meghan Crawford is being treated by Starbucks management as the result of a legitimate complaint. Meghan always provides fast, friendly service, which is not easy to do at 6 a.m. My advice to Starbucks: Be glad to have an employee like Meghan; don't cut her hours as punishment for rocking the boat. Instead, get rid of the staff who actually cause trouble and are bad for the business. The good workers at this store are an asset to Starbucks and deserve better.

Tom Malak

Not punishing the perp is abuse of power: I would like to respond to the May 5 article "Star Struck." I think Meghan Crawford should be commended for her courage to stand up for herself. What Starbucks has done to her is absolutely despicable. Instead of cutting back on her hours, they should be punishing her offender. Anyone in a management position holds a certain degree of power. This power should not be abused, period. Starbucks should be ashamed of itself and the way it has handled the situation. This is truly beyond disgusting.

Sarah Anstandig

Read and Feed
Good word on good food:
Recently, I visited Scene's website to learn what restaurants Elaine Cicora has reviewed lately. I was pleasantly surprised to see that she had been to Gusto! in April and had written a review. I went there for dinner right when they opened, at the recommendation of Barbara Strom, the owner of La Bella Vita, a shop in Little Italy; she had done the interior design at the restaurant, including the dining-room mural, and recommended Gusto! heartily. I tried the restaurant and was very impressed, that evening and on several other visits since. It was nice to see that you were too.

Thanks for some additional insight on one or our area's newest dinner attractions. Keep up the good work. There are many of us who depend on you, Elaine!

Jeff Rassie
Rocky River

Ad Mad
Don't forget rude, crude, and vulgar:
Scene's political statement "ad" with Kerry/Bush is disrespectful, wrong, in bad taste, and inappropriate [First Punch, May 19]. And on top of that, it's a lie. Look, if Scene really needs to get its political point across, do it in an editorial; to print something like this makes Scene look pretty foolish. I wonder if charges could be brought against the magazine for publishing this. I hope. The ad is a lie -- Kerry was kicked out of Vietnam for being inept, and Bush did serve in the Guard.

"John Kerry. He makes stupid decisions." Yes, he does. It was funny to see Scene attempt to be smart and fall flat on its ass.

Joe Williams

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