What's Taft Hiding?

Even senators get stonewalled by the guv's office.

Powerman 5000, with 12 Stones and Gatlin Odeon, 1295 Old River Road, the Flats 8 p.m. Saturday, May 31, $16.50, 216-241-5555.

State Senator Marc Dann of suburban Youngstown has taken up the cause of public records. Although he's married to a Youngstown State journalism professor, he's not looking for points with the missus. He's pissed at Governor Taft.

In January, Dann asked the administration for all documents pertaining to a budget shortfall in fiscal year 2003. During the election, you may recall, Taft dodged discussions of the state's financial problems, claiming he didn't have sufficient information. Then, in January, he announced that there was a $720 million hole that needed to be filled by summer.

It all looked a bit fishy. Even those of us with public-school math skills could see a deficit like that coming. Hence, either Taft was lying during the campaign, or his budget staff is incompetent.

Obviously, the guv's office isn't eager to let Dann know which conclusion is correct. Six months later, he's still waiting for the info.

Under current law, state agencies have a "reasonable" amount of time to respond to public-records requests. Dann, a Democrat, wants to codify "reasonable" as 15 days for requests by mail, 10 days if you get it in person.

The Shaker Heights native says he didn't want to sue the governor in his first months in office. (He was appointed to the seat after Tim Ryan's election to Congress.) His legislation is just a way to remind the governor that he's waiting not-so-patiently. "And I still may sue," he says.

The hit man cometh

Here's the rule about CBS News: If it's a light, fluffy story, they send in those good-looking reporters with hair that defies winds of 100 knots. But if the situation calls for heat, they bring in Mike Wallace.

So it couldn't have been good news when Mayor Madeline Cain heard that Mike was coming to Lakewood. It seems that the city has become a national poster child for eminent-domain abuse. 60 Minutes producers were already in town for pre-interviews with the mayor and opponents of her West End development plan.

This should make for one of Mike's easier hits. Lakewood comically declared one of the nicer parts of town "blighted" so that it could steal homeowners' land, then hand it over to developers. The only thing missing is a villain with a black cape and a handlebar mustache.

In other news: Word has it that opposition homeowners have an unusual ally in their fight: developers. Owners of an upscale Westlake mall have quietly contributed to the cause. It's not eminent domain that bothers them; they just don't want the competition.

To the cops go the spoils

Crime has paid off big-time for the Caribbean/Gang Task Force, which last month reaped a $1 million windfall for its role in dismantling one of the largest pot rings in Cleveland history ["The Schmuck," May 30, 2002].

The 2001 bust netted $3.5 million -- most of it found in the Texas home of the ring's supplier, Samuel Carrasco -- and 560 pounds of weed, confiscated after it was hauled to Ohio. The task force -- made up of federal, state, and city agencies -- received its cut for leading the investigation. Three Texas agencies snared $670,000, while the Justice Department vacuumed up the rest. No word on who got the pot.

Meanwhile, money's getting scarce for "The Schmuck" -- better known as Dave Takach, one of 16 people convicted in the case. He dealt dope for the ring's mastermind, Clyde Baer of North Royalton, who ran a real-estate company as a front for his more profitable enterprise.

Housed in the Elkton federal pen on a 51-month sentence, Takach watches helplessly as his West Park plumbing business goes under. And his wife Rochelle boils after hearing that authorities were raking in drug proceeds: "Why in the hell should they get paid again for doing their job? Here we are, our family torn apart, and they're walking away with all this money. It's bullshit."

Hail to the chief

It's always scary when local TV reports on complex stories like economics. When your primary skills involve the application of makeup and sounding cheery on cue, these things can get a little confusing.

Yet this cautionary note was lost on WKYC Channel 3 last Wednesday, when it weighed in on President Bush's $350-billion-dollar tax cut. Reporter Barbie Doll gushed that it would provide us all with more money. You'll also save on capital gains! she squealed, delighted on behalf of the six Clevelanders who actually list capital gains.

Nary a mention was made of the many criticisms of the plan, namely: That it only helps Bush's country-club buddies, that it won't spur growth, and that it will once again return us to those grand old days of Really Big Debt. Nor did Barbie mention that, due to last-minute changes, millions of minimum-wage families would be denied the increased child credit.

Nonetheless, anchor Tim White concluded the segment by pronouncing the tax cuts "good news." His makeup was perfect.

Pee Wee at The Matrix

Punch occasionally likes to get in touch with his inner geek. Punch also believes that the actual "work" part of holding a job is a major nuisance. So last week Punch decided to blow off said job for an afternoon showing of The Matrix: Reloaded at Tower City.

A bespectacled, pimply kid plopped himself down two seats away. Strange, considering the theater was nearly empty.

Stranger yet was the rustling sound coming from the kid's seat. It started during the sex scene between Neo and Trinity. Any Pee Wee Herman suspicions faded, however, when the sound continued through completely sexless action sequences. Surely the boy had nothing more than a bad itch.

But as soon as Italian model/actress Monica Bellucci sauntered onto the screen in a skintight cocktail dress, the sound intensified. Peripherally, it was impossible to locate the kid's hand . . . until . . . oh, dear God! . . . Punch's worst fears were confirmed.

The whole episode made Punch nostalgic for the sci-fi dorks of yesteryear. Hell, Shatner got tons of alien ass, but you never saw Trekkies whipping out their wands during the matinee.

Education, Parma-style

The city of Parma is getting rave reviews for pioneering its breakthrough Three Stooges style of governance. But town fathers might be wise to turn their attention to city schools. As Punch motored along Pleasant Valley Road recently, a yard sign caught our attention. It read: "Thee Garage Sail." The "S" in "Sail" was drawn backwards.

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