Cloak and Dagger

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It's your classic twisted tale, beginning quietly when a few power brokers can't get what they want. Then comes the clandestine plotting. The backroom lobbying and political head-counting. The eavesdropping moles and stealthy intelligence gathering. A trail of intrigue, a hint of payoff, and of course, the lawyers. It always ends with an army of lawyers, racking up their "billable hours," preparing their serpentine legal briefs, leaving fiscal devastation in their wake.

Damn, we love a good mystery. Especially when it involves corporate/political power games. And ya won't find much better than our still unfolding I-X Center tug-of-war. Ya need a slick villain in the antagonist role, and who better than that sovereign sultan of secrecy, Clevo Mayor Mike White? Baron Von White's had the I-X in his crosshairs for some time, and now he's got the financial clout of some Growth Association power brokers behind him. Together, they sneak around and buy the I-X property, giving the owner a cushy leaseback for fifteen years. Then comes the wrecking ball, making way for a new Hopkins Airport runway. Or so goes the grand plan.

Enter our protagonist, Brook Park Mayor Tom Coyne. By golly, the I-X sits in his town, and he can't stand to see this font of economic growth purloined away. So he gets his city council to start eminent domain proceedings to buy the I-X. This gets Baron Von White to gear up his eminent domain machinery, already well-oiled and awaiting his pal Sam Miller's beck and call. This is where it gets ugly. Yep, here come the $300-an-hour lawyers, visions of protracted appeals dancing in their heads. For Clevo, airport work is usually done by mayoral pal Fred Nance's firm, Squire Sanders & Dempsey. And hey, no matter who wins, all the players in this drama get paid. And some poor, never-seen innocent victim named Joe Taxpayer foots the bill.

That's how it always ends. Ah, but there are many intriguing questions left. Foremost, our villain has framed the debate by painting Hopkins expansion as the only option. Will anyone explode his false premise, and would our Iron Curtain media even report it? Will anyone demand a cost/benefit analysis of expanding landlocked Hopkins versus Burke Lakefront Airport? Will anyone point out that I-X's consumer and trade-show markets have far different facility needs than the convention market the downtown power brokers crave? Will anyone speak for homeowners already fed up with increasing Hopkins plane noise? Will anyone mention the 700 homes or the new air terminal that would have to go to make way for a runway through the I-X?

Nyet, comrade. It'll end in tears, but we'll have a few laughs along the way.

Terror on the 16th Floor!
Whew! Have you survived our overhyped winter apocalypse? Being outside in it was actually easier to take than seeing it portrayed on local TV. Between all the shots of flickering snowflakes and those psychedelic weather maps, we were seeing spots. Next big storm, we wanna see a live report from high atop the new Al Lerner football palace on the lakefront.

By then, maybe the new windscreens will be added. Yep, Hizzoner has given project manager Diane Downing another task, and Uncle Al's gonna cover the $5 million cost. Supposedly, that hikes the 1.6 million-square-foot Megasaurassic Park's cost to $283 mil, a far cry from the $220 mil estimate. But who really knows?

Why add windscreens at this late date anyway? More wind-tunnel tests found that some upper-deck gusts could knock people off balance! Yeow, bring your lead boots, fans! While the Old Gray Lady was 115 feet tall, that miniroof at the new place will sit 165 feet above field level. Can ya imagine shoveling this month's snow out of that upper deck? Knowing how lopsided the NFL Monopoly's stadium leases are, look for Hizzoner to hire some $6-an-hour shovelers.

Pseudo-Event Central
These days, the pseudo-event is a media staple. And after seeing that parade of prospective Browns owners, followed by six months of Carmen Policy coronations, we gotta be The Pseudo-Event Capital.

But comrades, we ain't the only ones chuckling about it. Once again, Mouth's gotta belch out a salute to Plain Feeler sports columnist Bud Shaw, who's now given us "No news is big news in Browns Town." It nicely chronicled the total irrelevance of last week's Policy no-news conference on potential top draft pick Tim Couch. Only three more months of endless Couch versus Ricky Williams questions until draft day! Even the Loophole Lawyer himself poked fun at the lunacy of it all, musing about how Couch parts his hair, and adding, "I can see this press conference is going nowhere."

Mouth's teeth have bitten on a few pseudo-events over the years, and trust us, the sports media are definitely the most eager swallowers of bullcrap around. At least in the Modell days, you'd get the occasional wacko comment that nobody could believe, and the veteran writers would try to pin him down. But today, these pussycats don't even ask questions. It's like some new-age Oprah therapy session. "Oh Carmen, talk about your feelings on the importance of the top pick." But never, "Carmen, talk about inventing legal loopholes in the salary cap, and how it spurred inflation in the NFL that far outpaces the consumer price index." Hey, you can't expect today's sports pimps to ask about anything that affects a fan's wallet. Their specialty is the squishy softball lob. And no matter how innocuous the response, you'll be sure to get "live team coverage" of it.

Blame O.J.'s Lawyers
Dang, Ernie Tarle may not be around to entertain us much longer. Twice a councilman, and the first Akron politico ever to be recalled by voters, Ernesto got plastered in his recent Dem primary run to reclaim the Ward 7 seat. Jeez, the guy's ex-wife even campaigned against him.

Now the former local rock singer says he's done with politics, and he may move to Nashville. Hey, scan the Opryland vendors if you're down there. But the news that really choked up Mouth was the nasty ripple effect of Tarle's bribery trial. Ern told The Akron Leakin' Urinal that when he campaigned door-to-door, "People said things like, 'Yeah, you were acquitted, but so was O.J. Simpson.'" Oh well. Chalk up another victim for The Juice.

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