IMG Loses Race, Wins Mayor

That was the nose of Imperial Mayor Mike White firmly up the butt of IMG at last week's Grand Prix press conference, announcing the unhappy switch from CART to the Indy Racing League. After gushing repeatedly about his "relationship" with the sports superagency, White declared, "I think we can't do anything but support what [IMG is] trying to do here. It would be wrong to do anything else." Even IMG Motorsports President Bud Stanner winced at the obvious overkill, which included Medic Drug and Firstar executives taking the podium to wax enthusiastic about their own "trusting relationships" with IMG. Pretty sweet treatment for an outfit that nearly choked the race by refusing to pay CART's sanctioning fee increase of $500,000, which is reportedly what IMG makes on the race every year. IRL isn't quite the soapbox derby portrayed by hand-wringing Plain Dealer sportswriters, but it's still a tough sell. The key to a successful race next year will be in what IMG can do behind the scenes, in getting CART teams to jump to the IRL or — in the ultimate power-broker fantasy — persuading the rival race-car circuits to merge.

Opportunists who long for the days of fat government giveaways should stop by the Olivet Institutional Baptist Church Thursday (July 8), where the county commissioners are poised to award one of the largest health and human services contracts in county history. A two-year, $35 million welfare-to-work package has been gift wrapped for a coalition of six groups: Cleveland Works, Towards Employment, Vocation Guidance Services, Goodwill Industries, the Urban League of Greater Cleveland, and the Salvation Army. The idea is to provide a cushion for the estimated 16,000 people who will be thrown off county welfare rolls in October 2000. The catch is, first, the middlemen who assembled the deal: the Federation for Community Planning — better known for its insular ways as the Community for Federation Planning — and Orion Consulting, the public pocket-plundering pros who assembled the coalition and are now eyeing their cut of the pie. Then there's the enormous size of the pie, a potential embarrassment for groups whose total annual budget is only $2 million (Towards Employment) or less (Cleveland Works). "We're whores," admits the director of one group, in one breath rationalizing the package as "trying to do the right thing," but in the next warning he'll turn down the money if it arrives tainted by the smell of too many hands.

Watch those additives at Tommy's, the cheery vegan eatery on Coventry. As the holiday bustle began to build last Friday afternoon, a waitress working behind the takeout counter hurriedly poured a can of tomato juice into a glass. Almost as an afterthought, she began stirring it with a fork — and promptly fished out a dull metal disc. "What's that?" a startled customer asked. "The top of the can," she replied. "I knew I dropped it somewhere." Without missing a beat, she wedged a lemon slice onto the lip of glass and took it to a waiting table. In that same (post-) holiday spirit, we'll refrain from puns about cutting your teeth, cutting loose, cutting attractions, cut short, cut up, cut down — and order only clear drinks from now on.

Water, please, and hot tips to [email protected].

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