Thursday, October 19, 2017

Frank Jackson, Armond Budish Announce Cleveland's Amazon HQ2 Bid

Posted By on Thu, Oct 19, 2017 at 6:34 PM

Mayor Frank Jackson and County Executive Armond Budish announced this afternoon that Cleveland had formally submitted its bid to land the tech giant Amazon's second headquarters, the so-called HQ2.

At a press conference, Budish said that more than 20 organizations and 90 individuals had worked days, nights and weekends over the past several weeks to assemble a strong bid package. All bids were due today.

Though the bid itself is evidently proprietary, meaning no specifics will be shared — which, why? — Budish said he was confident Cleveland had distinguished itself from the more than 100 other cities who have submitted bids.

"I truly believe that this is the best location for Amazon in the country," Budish exulted.

The bid was submitted by the TeamNEO and the Greater Cleveland Partnership on behalf of the public entities. Leaders are encouraging everyone to use the #AmazonHQ2CLE hashtag to build momentum and all that jazz. Finalists likely won't be selected until 2018. 

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In the Wake of the Controversy Surrounding a New Book About 'Rolling Stone,' Rock Hall Cancels Appearance by Author Joe Hagan

Posted By on Thu, Oct 19, 2017 at 4:13 PM

In the wake of the controversy surrounding the forthcoming book, Sticky Fingers: The Life of Times of Jann Wenner and Rolling Stone Magazine, the Rock Hall has canceled an appearance by its author, Joe Hagan.

Wenner, Rolling Stone’s publisher and founder, has had a well-publicized falling out with Hagan.

The Rock Hall appears to have taken Wenner’s side on the manner. Wenner co-founded the Rock Hall and according to his bio on the Rock Hall website, "he remains vitally active in its operation to this day."

"This was not done at Mr. Wenner's behest," the Rock Hall’s Todd Mesek tells Crain’s. "The excerpts we've read take a much different tone than what we originally understood."

Continue reading »

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Metaphor Falls Flat in convergence-continuum's 'In The Closet'

Posted By on Thu, Oct 19, 2017 at 3:33 PM

  • Scott Zolkowski

The company of dedicated theater folks called convergence-continuum has long had a commitment to presenting gay-themed shows, or at least plays with significant LGBTQ roles. And good for them since, over the years, plays with such themes and characters have been stuck in the shadows.

That said, the title of the play by Siegmund Fuchs, In the Closet, might be better titled “On the Nose.” True to its title, the play takes place in a very spacious gay man’s closet where clothes are neatly displayed (well hung?) all around the walls of the small theater space.

Inside that space, we meet three gay guys dubbed “Old Man,” “Middle-Aged Man,” and “Young Man” (just so we don’t get confused). Those three gentlemen share small talk about, you know, being gay, until a young fellow named John catapults himself into the closet with them.

At this point, if you’re hearing the high-pitched squeal of a metaphor being stretched to its breaking point, you wouldn’t be mistaken. Playwright Fuchs is determined to make points about how hard it is to be gay, and dammit he’s not going to let the niceties of playwriting get in the way.

Over the course of two hours, those four characters act out various scenes from their pasts. And in an Act One closer that is about surprising as being told some interior designers are gay, we are informed of a fact that most in the audience have already figured out: That all the men in this closet are the same person, at different stages of his life. Setting aside the issue that there are two young men representing the same person at that age, this device enables John to see what will become of his life.

Yes, it’s a faux Frank Capra-esque gay version of It’s a Wonderful Life with lots of cock talk and regrets that end up tangled in a maudlin conclusion. Fuchs actually has a budding talent for humorous lines, and some of them land effectively. However, others are so predictable you can deliver the punch lines before the actors do.

The playwright’s inclination to lecture the audience on one hand and then devolve into weepy histrionics on the other eventually becomes exhausting. Fuchs seems to sense that he’s being a bit too didactic at times, and has the Old Man throw in dismissive asides to take the edge off the “lessons.” But that too is an overdone device.

A central conflict involving the memory of a gang rape of the Young Man years ago, with him strapped to a swing (!), feels a bit florid, extraneous and hard to decipher: Exactly which guys raped him? And why? In some ways, the narration of this attack feels like a propaganda scene that might have been written by the Westboro Baptist Church in a Reefer Madness-style film, “Homos Gone Mad!!”

Director Cory Molnar tries to sort all this out, and he uses a table and some chairs in multiple and inventive ways to stage the flashbacks. As for the actors—Clyde Simon, Jason Romer, Mike Frye and David Lenahan—they do their best to evoke the various stages of John’s life. But they don’t look at all alike and, even though they sometimes parrot the same catch phrases, it’s hard to find a visible thread that connects them all.

There lies the problem of animating a metaphor. It’s why, when someone on stage says, “It’s raining men,” a volley of actors don’t fall from the flies and land in a heap. Sadly, that’s where the egregiously extended metaphor of In the Closet also lands.

Betty Sutton Adds Marcia Fudge to Robust Endorsement List in Governor Campaign

Posted By on Thu, Oct 19, 2017 at 3:22 PM

Betty Sutton speaks in downtown Cleveland about her advancing gubernatorial campaign. - ERIC SANDY / SCENE
  • Betty Sutton speaks in downtown Cleveland about her advancing gubernatorial campaign.

Former U.S. Rep. Betty Sutton's campaign for governor of Ohio has attracted the attention of labor organizations and state politicians from Cleveland to Cincinnati. Today, she added U.S. Rep. Marcia Fudge to her endorsements.

The two women stood before the script "Cleveland" sign at Voinovich Bicentennial Park to announce the deepening of a partnership between Sutton's campaign and her friend in Washington. The partnership, they agreed, would be a boon to Ohio voters as the 2018 Democratic primary looms.

"We have to be very, very serious about who we elect to public office," Fudge said, alluding to the results of last year's presidential election.

It's a powerhouse endorsement seven months out from the May 7 primary election, which will pit Sutton against Democratic challengers Nan Whaley, Connie Pillich and Joe Schiavoni. (Richard Cordray, Dennis Kucinich and Jerry Springer, all Democrats, have teased the possibility of running, as well.) For Sutton, the Fudge endorsement solidifies a through-line from Columbus to Washington.

"We are going to have a partner who understands that this needs to be a state with an economy that works for everyone," Sutton says. She intends to organize a Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity, a move that would return the state government's workforce relations to the public sphere. (Gov. John Kasich has spent his two terms touting the private nonprofit corporation JobsOhio, which has proven largely exempt from public scrutiny.)

And with Washington bookending one side of the state's partnerships, Sutton's gaze is fixed on local communities too. "We have to stop cutting all of our local government funds and pushing the crisis down onto our communities. We have great people. It is our greatest resources in this state, and we need to invest in empowering our people to succeed."

On the matter of health care in particular, Sutton noted Kasich's work on maintaining the Medicaid expansion. She pointed to the turbulence in the White House as something she will stand against. "Health care is serious for us," she said. "I would fight to keep [the Medicaid expansion]. President Trump and the Republicans, any time they try to roll back and rip away health care from Ohioans, they are going to find their fiercest opponent in Gov. Betty Sutton."

Sutton served in the U.S. House from 2007 to 2013. She served in the Ohio Statehouse from 1993 to 2000.

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The Man With the Plan: Jackson and Reed Square Off in Lone Cleveland Mayoral Debate

Posted By on Thu, Oct 19, 2017 at 2:52 PM

Frank Jackson and Zack Reed, with Rick Jackson between them, - (10/19/17). - SAM ALLARD / SCENE
  • Sam Allard / Scene
  • Frank Jackson and Zack Reed, with Rick Jackson between them, (10/19/17).
Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson and City Councilman Zack Reed took their best shots Thursday afternoon in what Jackson has made certain will be the only public mayoral debate before the Nov. 7 general election. Both men presented themselves as the man with the plan and their opponent as "all talk."

Indeed, "conversation" and "dialogue," which are generally regarded as signs of responsive leadership, were Thursday decried as the enemies of action. Jackson several times accused Reed of doing little but talk about issues. He repeated a version of the "what have you done" speech with which he closed the primary debate in August, and he reiterated what he'd said at the Plain Dealer endorsement interview earlier this week: Reed would, sooner or later, have to do something. Thursday, Jackson's "what have you done" became, "How are you going to build your wall?" (An allusion to Donald Trump?)

But Reed leveled similar charges at Jackson. He said it was the Mayor who was all talk, while he was the candidate who would reverse the decline of the past 12 years. "He talked about the future," Reed said in a closing statement, "but he didn't lay out what he was going to do."

These back-and-forths were at times virtually indistinguishable from bad absurdist theatre, though the debate was not without substance. Moderator Rick Jackson, from Ideastream, and a panel of local journalists — WKYC's Russ Mitchell, Ideastream's Amy Eddings, and Cleveland.com's Chris Quinn — presented a series of incisive questions that forced the candidates into uncomfortable admissions and tense responses.

In what was far and away Reed's weakest moment, Russ Mitchell asked him about the five police officers who'd taken part in the shooting of Timothy Russell and Malissa Willliams, (in the infamous #137shots incident), who were re-instated on the Cleveland Police force today. How did Reed feel about this news, Mitchell asked him, and prefaced the question with Samaria Rice's request that Reed disavow the endorsement of the Cleveland Police Patrolmen's Association. 

"I may not have made that decision, I may not agree with it," Reed said. "It doesn't matter what I think about it. I have to follow what was laid out [in the Constitution and the City Charter]."

When Mitchell doubled down, Reed dodged again — "I may not agree with it," he said. But in light of the CPPA endorsement, the answer came off as a direct appeal to the police and incredibly weak-willed. The re-instatement of those officers should be condemned, especially given Reed's comments about the "debacle" of police promotions during the Consent Decree era. 

Jackson scored big points when, a moment later, he characterized the answer as a pattern of Reed's: "You change how you feel depending on which way the wind is blowing politically," Jackson told his challenger.

Jackson, however, was not without weak moments either. Multiple times, he accused Reed (and his former primary challengers) of not owning up to mistakes. He accused Reed of attacking him, though wouldn't acknowledge a recent campaign attack of his own. When he mailed out literature highlighting Reed's three DUIs, Jackson said, it "wasn't about the councilman's drinking and driving." It was merely to show an error in judgement, and to highlight Reed's preternatural unwillingness to accept responsibility. In a high-pressure job like being Mayor, judgement in high-stress situations is an important consideration. (That's an awfully convenient spin on a negative campaign ad.)

Jackson also said that the other candidates, and certainly Reed, can't admit when they make mistakes. Jackson then proceeded to give himself a C+ on the Cleveland Schools, to totally mischaracterize the debate over Public Square and to qualify the city's population loss as "population gain in certain areas."

Both candidates had solid answers to a question about reconciliation between the police and the community (posed by Amy Eddings). Jackson mentioned something that should be obvious: Before you can talk about reconciliation, you need to have parties who are willing to reconcile.

Reed, who again talked about being open and transparent — and stressed that the police officers he wants to hire would be community-oriented officers who would "walk the beat" — received a phone call during his answer. 

"Right on time," said Jackson.

The moment turned out to be a strong one for both candidates. For Reed, it highlighted his accessibility. He said he has given out his cell phone number on the campaign trail, and lo and behold, here was an example. Reed said, further, that he would hold office hours at City Hall every Saturday so that anybody in the community could come speak to the Mayor one-on-one.

It was a strong moment for Jackson, also, because he laughed. It was frankly a delight to see Jackson amused by an amusing moment. The conversation between these two men is often so fraught with tension and vitriol, and Jackson is always so dour and sleepy anyway, that it was refreshing to see him smile.

Another small thing: Before answering his first question, Reed thanked the City Club for hosting the debate and thanked the gathered guests for attending. He did the same thing before he answered his first question before the PD editorial board. It's a common courtesy, but it's something that Jackson overlooked on both occasions. This is not a serious issue, but it's worth pointing out, an edge for Reed in the "style points" category.

In an opening answer, Jackson re-hashed the same key talking points that he has been making for the past five years: He has built an environment, he said, whereby in the next term, Cleveland will begin to witness the completion of projects now underway. He said he wanted to measure his success by how the city treats the "least of us." He said Cleveland has a bright future.

Reed's response, then, rang true. "We can't go through four more years of the same rhetoric," he said. "...you know his famous saying: It is what it is."

Jackson's ultimate response was more or less that he was a consistent and reliable leader, where Reed was malleable and shallow. And to Jackson's credit, he is famously consistent. Although many don't view the trait favorably. Some refer to it as intractability; stubbornness, if you like. And while Jackson has counseled Reed that leadership means taking a stand, and making a decision and doing something, he has not addressed what it means to be leader when the things you do and the stands you take are in open defiance of your constituents. What must a mayor do then?

If you ask either candidate, both will surely tell you they have a plan.

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Veteran Punk Act Anti-Flag to Play the Grog Shop in February

Posted By on Thu, Oct 19, 2017 at 1:20 PM

  • Jake Stark
Given the political nature of the band's music, it’s likely that American Fall, the forthcoming effort from Pittsburgh's Anti-Flag will address the outcome of the recent presidential election.

Good Charlotte's Benji Madden produced the disc, due out Nov. 3.

Earlier today, the band announced a co-headline U.S. tour with Stray From the Path and openers the White Noise and Sharptooth. Dubbed Silence=Violence, the tour will kick off in January. It includes a Feb. 8 date at the Grog Shop.

“The mission of the Trump regime has been clear from day one, the normalization of bigotry,” reads a statement the band issued in announcing the tour. “Dangerous rhetoric has become dangerous policy that has put countless in harm’s way. It is the responsibility of all to be on the side of the marginalized and scapegoated and that is the goal of the aim of the Silence=Violence Tour. No longer can we allow people to sit on the sidelines in the fight for social and economic justice. Inaction makes you complicit. If oppressed people demanding space and dignity in our society is what is making you uncomfortable, perhaps it is because you are a bigot or fascist? We must spread empathy, not apathy."

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CSU Students Call for President Berkman's Ouster, Urge Open Conversations About Speech Policies

Posted By on Thu, Oct 19, 2017 at 1:19 PM

Molly Stachnik speaks at the CSU rally on Thursday. - ERIC SANDY / SCENE
  • Molly Stachnik speaks at the CSU rally on Thursday.

CSU students and community members decried the administration's response to an anti-LGBTQ poster that appeared on campus last week. During the rally and subsequent march to President Ron Berkman's office, students repeatedly insisted that the minority populations at CSU feel less safe than they had just a week ago. They expressed concern that university leadership was looking the other way under what many viewed as a legal guise.

"The law should not be and cannot be our moral compass," event organizer Molly Stachnik said. "Regardless of whether or not this speech is legal, we need to stand up to it."

She was referring to Berkman's rather opaque invocation of Brandenburg v. Ohio, which presents public agencies with a responsibility to protect speech that doesn't directly incite or produce "imminent lawless action." In a public statement on the poster, Berkman had written, "CSU also is committed to upholding the First Amendment, even with regard to controversial issues where opinion is divided."

About 200 people gathered in the main courtyard off of Euclid Avenue to hear Stachnik and another 20 or so students speak. Most of the comments were aimed at Berkman's statements; "When I read the second email, it broke my heart," one student said.

While there was a brief reference to demands for more all-gender restrooms (and a crackdown on vandalism thereof), the general plea among students was for a more nuanced and sensitive conversation around hate speech and what the university can do to ensure students' safety. One student suggested that the university should craft more specific speech policies that go above and beyond state law — much like CSU and other schools regulate possession of weapons in a different way than the state might.

Students speak with administration officials outside President Ron Berkman's office. - EMANUEL WALLACE / SCENE
  • Students speak with administration officials outside President Ron Berkman's office.
Students also urged their classmates to tune in and join the conversation — even if they themselves haven't felt threatened by the poster.

"It's pretty scary," one transgender woman told the crowd. "A lot of us are scared. I've heard a lot worse than what was on that poster." She pointed out that many people were simply walking by the rally, and said that a lot of students don't have the opportunity to ignore this situation.

A smaller group of students marched to Berkman's office, though he was not available to meet. An office spokesman did, however, promise more formal conversations in the future to augment campus protests — "which we support," he said.

Berkman addressed students during a forum on Wednesday.

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