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Tuesday, September 4, 2018

RTA Board of Trustees Will Self-Destruct in Five, Four, Three, Two ...

Posted By on Tue, Sep 4, 2018 at 2:32 PM

ATU President William Nix speaks at CPT rally, (7/23/2018). - SAM ALLARD / SCENE
  • Sam Allard / Scene
  • ATU President William Nix speaks at CPT rally, (7/23/2018).
Westlake Mayor Dennis Clough, the freshly minted president of the 10-member RTA Board of Trustees, currently presides over a body of eight. Due to two recent resignations, and the inability of appointing authorities to do their jobs in a timely manner, the board that theoretically oversees Ohio's largest transit authority may shrink further still.

It's obvious to anyone who has observed a recent RTA board meeting for longer than 90 seconds that Clough is in way over his head.  And that doesn't look like it's going to change any time soon, certainly not after the big news this weekend: Sonny Nardi, a union guy who'd been a board member for 12 years, announced that he was resigning out of frustration with "Senior Advisor" Joe Calabrese and widespread organizational discord.

"At no time, since my first appointment to serve," Nardi wrote in his resignation letter, "have I felt more frustrated with recent management decisions, revelations on internal past practices and ongoing missteps in communications from management to the Board; all of which hinder the progress and forward momentum needed to navigate the current challenges of transit in the State of Ohio."

The straw that broke the camel's (that is, Nardi's) back was Calabrese's six-figure payout to former HR Director Bruce Hampton, who was recently accused by RTA investigators of helping former Board President George Nixon III access his health insurance without paying for it.

The Dixon scandal is what has pushed all the mismanagement into the public eye, though the problems at the organization, which are deep and varied, have been ongoing for decades. "While RTA maintains a clean public face," we wrote in 2016, "it is allegedly dirtied by the same behind-the-scenes muck that has afflicted this region's governmental and quasi-governmental entities for decades: racism, patronage, incompetence."

And so yes. Calabrese authorized the $125,000 Hampton payment without board approval. The payout appeared to be a traditional, if generous, severance package (six months' salary plus benefits), and Calabrese argued that it would save the agency money in the long run because it prevented Hampton from filing suit, but the board felt out of the loop.

"Isn't this exactly the type of issue we asked to know about?" Board member Karen Gabriel Moss asked her colleagues in an email. "We specifically told Joe we did not want to hear about what was going on at RTA in the news." (Moss found out about the Hampton payment, like the rest of us, from a Fox 8 report.)

So now Nardi's out, and that means that His Sluggishness Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish will have to appoint a replacement. But Budish has been negligent in his appointing duties. A county spokeswoman told Scene that she'd try to get some face time with Budish to determine where he stands on the Nardi replacement and whether or not he'll get around to finally replacing Gary Norton, the former East Cleveland Mayor who's been twiddling his thumbs in his board seat ever since his term expired in March.

The last time Scene had the temerity to inquire whether or not replacing Norton was even on Budish's radar — and if he'd considered Clevelanders for Public Transit's repeated calls for the appointment of a regular rider to the RTA board — we were shooed away in the vaguest possible terms. Budish, we were told, was "considering appointments for a few boards, including RTA."

As for the city appointments, Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson made a solid (that is to say, appropriately credentialed) choice with his Dixon replacement: NOACA Senior Planner Kelley Britt. But in August, Britt was forced to step down. The Ohio Ethics Commission ruled that she would not be allowed to keep her position at NOACA while serving on the board. And while Britt did not agree, she did not dispute the ruling. "It is what it is," she did actually say.

Jackson said at the time that he'd be replacing Britt in "the near future." But as of today, city spokespeople had no immediate updates on Jackson's process. We'll update the moment we hear.

As for the rest of the board, they're trying to keep the ship afloat, or at least their heads above water (where "water" = RTA news and internal communiques). The realization that's evidently beginning to dawn is that Calabrese, who's as friendly and approachable as CEOs come in Northeast Ohio, might have been much more aware of, perhaps even more culpable in, the agency's problems than he let on.

"Joe Calabrese should be the one resigning," board member Trevor Elkins told the Plain Dealer after Nardi's announcement. "He has been completely dishonest."

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Just Kidding, No More Iceland Flights From Cleveland This Winter, Icelandair Announces

Posted By on Tue, Sep 4, 2018 at 1:59 PM

PHOTO VIA WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
  • Photo via Wikimedia Commons
Back in July, Icelandair announced plans to extend its recently-added service in Cleveland to the winter months. Now the airline is going back on its original decision, much to the chagrin of passengers who'd already booked flights during those months.

The airline will now only run from Cleveland to Iceland's capital of Reykjavik through Nov. 2 and then start back again March 20, meaning prime Northern Lights watching (seen best in winter) is no longer on the table directly from Cleveland.

"We saw it probably wasn't a good idea to fly those darkest couple of months," Egill Almar Agustsson, Icelandair's director of network planning, told Cleveland.com.

Since May, competing airlines Icelandair and Wow Air have made European travel more affordable than ever for Northeast Ohioans, with cheap direct flights to Reykjavik that could then serve as a springboard in traveling to nearby countries.

The area was one of the popular destinations for Clevelanders this summer, according to local travel agents. However, the company reported recently that its passenger revenue would probably be 5 to 8 percent lower than expected in 2018, leading to the resignation of its CEO.

There's still no official word on what Wow Airlines' flight schedule will be out of Cleveland next year, but travel with them runs through October.

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Owners of the Plum to Open Casual Neighborhood Bar in Battery Park

Posted By on Tue, Sep 4, 2018 at 1:35 PM

DOUGLAS TRATTNER
  • Douglas Trattner
Partners Brett Sawyer, Jonah Oryszak and Vince Thomascik, chef-owner, owner and chef de cuisine of the Plum, respectively, have just signed a lease on the former Vita Urbana space in Battery Park. That short-lived restaurant and retail marketplace, located at the Shoreway Building, closed this past December.

When it opens in the next couple months, Good Company (1200 W. 76th St.) will be a departure from the formula at the Plum (4133 Lorain Ave., 216-938-8711). While everything still will be made from scratch using the best possible ingredients, the finished products will be decidedly more approachable and familiar.

“We love doing food the way we do it here at the Plum; it keeps things fresh,” explains Sawyer. “But we were looking to do something completely different. It’s still food that we love to do, but on the simpler side. We are going back to the basics with simple bar food that’s done very, very well.”

Sawyer describes Good Company as “an updated sports bar” that will appeal to vegans, vegetarians, families and everybody else who likes good-quality but unfussy fare. In addition to the cold beer and flat-screens, there will be Cobb salads, “smash” burgers, fried mushrooms, fried chicken sandwiches, veggie burgers, and hearty mains like chicken parmesan and chicken paprikash. Plum-style items like cured and fried chicken wings and beer-battered celery root with vegan ranch dressing will likely make appearances. Family friendly foods like chicken fingers will also be on hand.

“The idea is to be more of a neighborhood spot, where if you and your kids are coming back from a day at Edgewater Beach you can stop in and there’s something for everybody,” adds Sawyer.

DOUGLAS TRATTNER
  • Douglas Trattner
While the attractive space with an open kitchen is essentially turn-key, the partners will warm up the space and make it more conducive to the concept. Tables will be swapped out for booths and the rear retail section will be turned into semi-private dining space for events and overflow seating. A new catering kitchen in the rear will help service the building’s tenants and the community at large.

A new lot will be set aside for restaurant parking.

Look for Good Company to open in time for the holiday season. When it does, the restaurant will likely be open for happy hour and dinner only plus football Sundays. 

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Lighthearted Survey Reveals Both of Ohio's Gubernatorial Candidates Have No Taste in Hip-Hop or Alcohol

Posted By on Tue, Sep 4, 2018 at 12:10 PM

Ohio Gubernatorial Candidates Richard Cordray D-(Left) and Mike DeWine R-(Right) - OFFICIAL OHIO HEADSHOTS
  • Official Ohio Headshots
  • Ohio Gubernatorial Candidates Richard Cordray D-(Left) and Mike DeWine R-(Right)

Midterm elections are a little over two months away and all eyes are on Ohio's gubernatorial race. Getting to know the candidates via lighthearted surveys are part and parcel of the campaign trail, and this week the Columbus Dispatch released a Q&A with both candidates, in keeping with their tradition dating back to 1998.

Both candidates believe LeBron James is the greatest basketball player of all time, neither have attended a NASCAR race, both agree James Buchanan is the worst president of all time, both love the food of the Ohio State Fair, and both still collect vinyl records, if you were curious.

When it comes to texting, DeWine admits to using smiley emojis while Cordray has been known to throw in an "LOL," much to the chagrin of his children.

DeWine revealed he was a massive Sam Cooke fan, noting that "A Change is Gonna Come" is his favorite song, while Cordray favors “Racing in the Streets” by Bruce Springsteen.

Some of the questions revealed more about each candidate's personality less by what they said and more on how they said it. They were each asked what their wives nagged them about most. DeWine gave a charming beauty pageant answer, saying, "My wife doesn’t nag me, but she does 'strongly suggest' I not eat a second or third piece of her pie in one sitting." Cordray rejected the question entirely: "I have enough respect for my wife and women everywhere not to call her a nag."

Surprising absolutely no one, both of our white, male, Midwestern candidates didn't have an answer for a favorite rap artist. Cordray said he didn't have one, while DeWine said that his kids and grandkids like Hamilton. Welp.

Next up was a query on their favorite beer/wine/alcohol, to which DeWine said "root beer" and Cordray said "grapefruit juice."

COME ON, GUYS.

In what may be the most revealing question on the self-awareness of each candidate, DeWine predicted Michael J. Fox would be the one to play him in a movie about his life, while Cordray leaned fully into his dorky reputation and said Jack McBrayer, more commonly known as "Kenneth the Page" on 30 Rock, would play him.

One of those casting decisions is spot on; the other is wishful thinking.

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Akron Area's EuroGyro to Bring Its Late-Night Pizza Atmosphere to Lakewood

Posted By on Tue, Sep 4, 2018 at 11:12 AM

We can debate the pronunciation of the word "gyro" all day long, but the correct way to say the Akron-area-based pub and pizza spot EuroGyro is "Uro Jyro," rather than "Uro Uro." Any way you say it, the Northeast Ohio restaurant chain is coming to Lakewood, its first in the Cleveland area.

First announced back in March, the new spot on 13427 Madison Ave. — in an office building only a few blocks from Mahall's and not too far from the newly-opened Western Reserve Distillery — is sure to attract those remembering the place from their college days, along with new fans.

With nine locations already known for late-night greasy satisfaction and questionable karaoke renditions, the restaurant's Kent State and University of Akron locations especially bring in hungry college kids and 20-somethings looking for a good time after the 2:30 a.m. last call. Of course, the place offers a more family-friendly environment and take-out options during the day, too.

The new location's opening date has yet to be announced, but will hopefully be sometime this fall. 

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90-Degree Days in Cleveland Have Increased 300 Percent in the Last 50 years

Posted By on Tue, Sep 4, 2018 at 10:37 AM

METROPARKS
  • MetroParks

"Hot in Cleveland" isn't just a cancelled television show or a terrible Tinder bio anymore, it's an apt description of our current climate.

Thanks to a new interactive feature provided by the New York Times, readers can compare how many days, on average, cities across the country could expect to see temperatures of 90 degrees or more in the year you were born compared to today. Checking out the results of Cleveland make climate change a hell of a lot harder to deny.

50 years ago, a Clevelander born in 1968 could expect to experience one day of above 90 degree weather. The New York Times anticipates a 300 percent increase with four above 90 degree days. It's important to note that this estimation of four is an average based on history and climate trends.

The reality is that Cleveland has already experienced nine days above 90 degrees since June. Compared to 1968, that's an increase of 800 percent.

The Times' projections target an average of 15 90-degree days by the 2070s in Cleveland, and that's probably on the low end. By 2050, Cleveland could see as many as 30 per year.

18 Cleveland schools closed today due to the heat as well as the Elyria City Schools and two others in Akron. We're not expected to see a cool-down until the third week of September, meaning our number of 90-degree days is likely to continue growing.

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All Football: Khalil Mack and Official Browns Predictions — The A to Z Podcast With Andre Knott and Zac Jackson

Posted By on Tue, Sep 4, 2018 at 10:36 AM

a-to-z.png

Andre and Zac discuss the Browns' roster, the ceiling, the Khalil Mack trade and offer their official predictions for the season.

Subscribe to A to Z on iTunes here or stream below.

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