Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Unexpected Winners and Losers in Cleveland Mayoral Forum

Posted By on Tue, Jun 27, 2017 at 12:17 AM

From L-R: Robert Kilo, Jeff Johnson, Tony Madalone, Eric Brewer, Zack Reed, (standing) Brandon Chrostowski - SAM ALLARD /  SCENE
  • Sam Allard / Scene
  • From L-R: Robert Kilo, Jeff Johnson, Tony Madalone, Eric Brewer, Zack Reed, (standing) Brandon Chrostowski
Three days before signatures must be filed with the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections, six mayoral challengers met at VFW Post 2850 in Cleveland's Clark-Fulton neighborhood to introduce themselves to voters and to answer a thorny bouquet of their questions.

Mayor Frank Jackson declined an invitation by the Cuyahoga County Progressive Caucus and the Ward 14 Democratic Club, the event's co-hosts. This was by no means unexpected, as the CCPC is planning to protest outside the Mayor's Gates Mills fundraiser Wednesday.

But in his absence, the Mayor was repeatedly skewered: by the hosts — "Anybody seen Frank?" — and by the challengers. While divergent in their pet priorities, the candidates were unanimous in their frustration with the current leadership at City Hall, which they described as stale, complacent, and out-of-touch. More than anything, the clearest and loudest message from the Monday forum was that Jackson had to go.

Tony Madalone even gave him a new nickname: "Reaction Jackson," to signify that Cleveland had become a reactionary city under his leadership, and that it ought to take pro-active measures to solve the city's problems.

Cleveland City Councilman Jeff Johnson, EDWINS Leadership and Restaurant Institute Founder Brandon Chrostowski, Fresh Brewed Tees founder Tony Madalone, Ohio City businessman and community relations consultant Robert Kilo and former East Cleveland Mayor Eric Brewer were all in attendance. Councilman Zack Reed arrived about halfway through, having dashed from a public safety meeting on the southeast side.

The two-hour forum suffered from a few organizational issues, chiefly related to formatting. But it was, on the whole, the best presentation of the candidates yet. They are much easier to compare and contrast when they're literally answering the same questions in sequence. For various reasons, some of the candidates fared better than others. The event was not framed as a "debate," so there were no official winners or losers, but points were nevertheless scored and lost. Here's how we'd rate the performances:

WINNER: Jeff Johnson
Jeff Johnson, Mayoral Candidate Forum, Clark-Fulton VFW (6/26/17) - SAM ALLARD / SCENE
  • Sam Allard / Scene
  • Jeff Johnson, Mayoral Candidate Forum, Clark-Fulton VFW (6/26/17)
Johnson was by and large smooth and forceful in his delivery. His introduction outlined his qualifications and his experience. He stated that he wanted to "open the windows and doors" of City Hall, airing out the stale leadership, and point Cleveland in a new direction. He said he wanted to close the income inequality gap, break the cycle of violence, and — most importantly — redirect downtown development money back toward the neighborhoods.

Johnson never rambled and only grasped for the right words once or twice. He successfully presented himself as a capable politician who'd been fighting in the trenches of the legislative branch against a stubborn executive (which he has). When asked about the relationship between the police and the black community, Johnson said that under his leadership, both Michael McGrath and Martin Flask would be gone. He characterized the Q Deal as "yet another example" of the Mayor and City Council leadership (Kevin Kelley) advancing a flawed agenda of trickle-down economics. He seemed, more than anyone, like a man who knew where he stood. He didn't waffle and didn't retreat to buzzwords.

Perhaps just as crucially, Johnson won on style points. He arrived a few minutes late, but managed to come off as a man in demand. He'd been on an important phone call in the parking lot. He was never disrespectful to the other challengers, and unlike Chrostowski, Kilo and Reed, he answered questions from behind the table, (which was frankly preferred).

He also acknowledged his wife and stepdaughters who were in attendance, and he must know that they are a tremendous asset. Felicia Johnson was radiant and charming as always. She and her two daughters seem like wonderful people. In the mingling before the official program, Robert Kilo introduced himself to Felicia, asking for her consideration. She admitted that she was Jeff Johnson's wife, but didn't embarrass Kilo for not knowing who she was. She wished him luck and took his literature — a real classy move.

LOSER: Zack Reed
Zack Reed, Mayoral Candidate Forum, Clark-Fulton VFW (6/26/17) - SAM ALLARD / SCENE
  • Sam Allard / Scene
  • Zack Reed, Mayoral Candidate Forum, Clark-Fulton VFW (6/26/17)
Reed arrived late, but only missed three questions. His weakness was not that he didn't get enough of an opportunity to make an impression; it was that he returned to his familiar talking points repeatedly.

Reed has run perhaps the most successful early campaign. That's largely because he has carved out a specific message: "Nothing stops a bullet like a job." He's hammered that message home, and his messaging has been coherent and consistent. But leaning on that messaging in a wide-ranging Q&A format worked less well. Reed kept addressing questions of violence and employment, which are critical, but he came off as a one-trick pony.

His most damaging moment came in a question about Tamir Rice. Reed is a die-hard fan of surveillance cameras, and in his advocacy for more police cameras, he said that "we still don't know what happened" in the moments leading up to Tamir Rice's death. (He was suggesting that had a dash cam been in operation, Frank Garmback and Timothy Loehmann would've had even less of an excuse for their actions and wouldn't have been able to escape conviction.) The room read it differently. There were audible objections, but Reed doubled down. "We still don't know," he said. He elaborated on that idea, suggesting that increased training and technology on the police force would be important, but it seemed to leave a bad taste in many voters' mouths.

WINNER: Robert Kilo
Robert Kilo, Mayoral Candidate Forum, Clark-Fulton VFW (6/26/17) - SAM ALLARD / SCENE
  • Sam Allard / Scene
  • Robert Kilo, Mayoral Candidate Forum, Clark-Fulton VFW (6/26/17)
Robert Kilo, (KY-low), a God-fearing conservative businessman, had hands-down the evening's most memorable, and worst, line.

"I know that I will not be judged by the color of my skin," the white man declaimed, "but by the content of my character."

The MLK Jr. quote was a mysterious one, especially in response to a question about relations between the police and the city's black community, but it was in keeping with Kilo's performance all night — aggressive, clipped, almost military in style. Here was a man with a son named Lincoln who loved the hell out of God and gave no shits that nobody had a clue who he was.

His views were in opposition to most of the progressive attendees — Kilo is a Republican — but his tactic, when asked about controversial issues (the Q deal, the dirt bike track, $15 minimum wage) was to insist that these issues were for the voters to decide. He presented himself as a pure and inviolate steward, a vessel, 100-percent a servant of the people. And the shtick appeared to work.

He mentioned God and the community's blessings more times than I was able to tabulate, but that didn't seem to bother the crowd. He came off as a candidate sufficiently outraged at the city's bungling of the lead crisis, and made safety and education his central issues.

The real reason Kilo was a winner? If nobody knew him before the forum got underway, they certainly know him now. And even if they don't like him, they'll probably remember the white guy who un-self-consciously quoted Martin Luther King.

LOSER: Tony Madalone
Mayoral Candidate Forum, Clark-Fulton VFW (6/26/17) - SAM ALLARD / SCENE
  • Sam Allard / Scene
  • Mayoral Candidate Forum, Clark-Fulton VFW (6/26/17)
Sweet Tony. The youngest candidate in attendance, Madalone wore his jeans cuffed and his shoes without socks. He was every bit the hip Ohio Homecoming alum and t-shirt entrepreneur that he's been desperate to tell voters he's more than.

And while his intentions were pure as ever — Madalone genuinely seems like a guy who wants to make changes at City Hall, to make government function more efficiently for everybody — his lack of experience flashed brightly when juxtaposed against the other challengers.

Madalone is all heart, all good intentions. But he just can't articulate, really, what he intends to do once he becomes Mayor. He is in support of what would seem to be the right things — transparency, accountability, efficiency — but had difficulty addressing questions in anything other than the abstract. He did say that Martin Flask should be sent packing (or at least asked why he hadn't been) and said that the "lowest-hanging fruit" a new Mayor could tackle would be getting rid of inefficient department heads. He stressed how open he wanted his administration to be.

In a weak moment, he dodged a question about the $15 minimum wage by suggesting improving adult illiteracy — a pet issue — would be even more valuable, because it would give residents access to even higher paying jobs. It wasn't quite in Kilo's "God and the American Dream" territory, but people tend to see right through that sort of answer. Functionally illiterate senior citizens aren't, as a rule, angling for C-suites. They want a living wage.

The forum was structured (poorly) so that the candidates answered in the same order every time, and Madalone was last. That meant that he was frequently referencing what other candidates had just mentioned, and added little of value himself. He often spoke in rhetorical questions  — "Why couldn't we use more technology?" Why wasn't Flask let go?— and ultimately spoke less than everyone, even Reed.

He may have won over some Ward 14 voters who were justifiably seduced by a young, energetic, good-looking and good-hearted guy with noble intentions. But he may have lost just as many who were, equally justifiably, fearful that despite this dude's hustle and savvy, he just might not have any idea how to run a major city.

WINNER: Eric Brewer
Mayoral Candidate Forum, Clark-Fulton VFW (6/26/17) - SAM ALLARD / SCENE
  • Sam Allard / Scene
  • Mayoral Candidate Forum, Clark-Fulton VFW (6/26/17)
The brash former East Cleveland Mayor was a surprise smash hit, playing the part of intellectual, historian and grumpy old coot all at once.

While questions about the legitimacy of Brewer's candidacy remain, he appealed to voters in his startling (apparent) command of the City Charter and Ohio Revised Code and in his sometimes audacious suggestions. Brewer, it would seem, would prosecute everybody in city government for failing to adhere to this or that obscure ordinance. Applause!

His slam-dunk moment came when he suggested that most city officials, and indeed, most police personnel, hadn't even read the consent decree. (He also characterized city council as a band of lazy, money-grubbing neanderthals.) He said that one "low-hanging fruit" that a new Mayor could tackle would be to write memos to department heads and force those heads to read the memo aloud to their staffs. He said he'd make the department heads sign off that they'd read the memos and then place the signed documents in their personnel files. If they ran afoul of the memos, Brewer said, "I'd fire their ass."

Overall, Brewer countervailed against the lofty language of the other candidates by suggesting that the job was way more technical, way more practical, than was being described. He'd been a mayor, was his pitch, and he knew how to conduct himself in the mayor's boring daily tasks. He could read, for example, a waste-collection bill.

It sounds basic, but Brewer also knew how to answer question. He incorporated his personal history deftly into otherwise complex policy matters. He may have run the risk of being overly technical, but it impressed quite a few folks, not the least of whom was Robert Kilo.

"That's the kind of guy I'd like to have in my administration," Kilo said.

LOSER: Brandon Chrostowski
Chrostowski, Mayoral Candidate Forum, Clark-Fulton VFW (6/26/17) - SAM ALLARD / SCENE
  • Sam Allard / Scene
  • Chrostowski, Mayoral Candidate Forum, Clark-Fulton VFW (6/26/17)
Chrostowski, who started strong, fell victim to the evening's formatting. Like Madalone, who answered last, Chrostowksi found himself in the unenviable position of answering first every time. This meant, obviously, that he had less time to craft his responses. And he suffered for it.

Chrostowski handled this sportingly, to his credit, leaping up from his chair every time a new question was being read, and often playing off the audience. When unhappy rumblings coursed through the crowd as he was asked for his thoughts on the dirt-bike track, he gestured to the aggrieved attendees: "I think that's your answer right there."

Chrostowski actually may have given the cleanest introduction. The remarks were prepared and they ended, prematurely, with an impromptu double high-five with an engaged first-row attendee who shouted that his time was up — a cute moment.

But as the first man out of the gate during the Q&A, he too frequently resorted to hyperbole. The Q Deal was "the worst thing [he'd] ever seen in politics." The dirt bike track was "the most ludicrous thing [he'd] ever seen."

The restaurant-owner seems, like Madalone, to be very well-intentioned and to have quite a bit of emotion and energy behind his convictions. He's even more willing than Madalone to call out the current administration for their misdeeds. But as a political figure, he doesn't inspire a great deal of confidence. He seemed, time and again, like a nice guy who was was out of his depth. It begged the question, though: How would he have fared answering in the middle of the pack?

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Monday, June 26, 2017

Is This the Worst Road in the Cleveland Area?

Posted By on Mon, Jun 26, 2017 at 4:58 PM

  • Colton Faull Photos
  • Terrace Road
You already know Cleveland's reputation for having some the worst roads in the United States. In 2015, TRIP, a national transportation research group, even released a study saying "Cleveland and Akron area roads are among the most deteriorated in the nation, costing area drivers $845 each year in additional vehicle operating costs." But of all the afflicted area streets, East Cleveland's Terrace Road could be the worst.

Your Side Investigators from News 5 Cleveland recently took a look at the road, following up on a three-year investigation. (Watch the whole report here, paying special attention to those TV monitors they sloshed into the potholes for effect).

"It's like a maze trying to get through it," said one of the driver's News 5 interviewed.

In order to get through this "maze" some drivers maneuver around the edges of the pothole-laced street. Others take an even less traditional route, driving on the sidewalk.

The specific piece of Terrace Road in dire need of repair is located in front of the abandoned Huron Place Apts, a slowly decaying 13-story vacant building.
The abandoned Huron Apartments on Terrace Road
  • The abandoned Huron Apartments on Terrace Road
Unfortunately, the stretch of asphalt does not seem to be a concern for East Cleveland's City Hall, as News 5 discovered.

In its current state, check out Scene's own video below, it's probably best to avoid Terrace Road altogether. Unless you're excited about driving on the sidewalk.

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Watch Ohio Highway Patrol Stop Rogue Horse and Buggy

Posted By on Mon, Jun 26, 2017 at 3:48 PM

  • Courtesy of Wooster Police Department
Every Ohioan knows to watch for deer while driving, but what about an escaped horse and buggy?

State Highway Patrol Sergeant C. Otis Smith and his officers had to deal with that exact situation yesterday in Wayne County, after being made aware that a riderless, buggy-pulling horse was galloping westbound down U.S. Route 250, in the wrong lane.

Before the horse could make its way further down the highway and cause a serious traffic accident, Smith took action.

“You have that second when it goes by you and you grab hold [of the buggy] and jump on,” Smith told the Akron Beacon Journal today. “I had to be quick.”

Smith made it safely onto the buggy and promptly stopped the horse by taking hold of its reins. After slowing from 20 to 25 mph, the animal settled onto the ground (see below).

A veterinarian confirmed that all is well with the horse, though it is, in Smith's words, "exhausted." The animal has since been returned to its owner.

“I’m just glad it turned out okay,” Smith told the Wooster Daily Record. “That could have been a bigger incident with a 2,000-pound animal running in the wrong lane.”

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Akron-area Charter School Founder Allegedly Stole Millions to Fund Lavish Vacations, Plastic Surgery

Posted By on Mon, Jun 26, 2017 at 2:44 PM

  • photo via Cambridge Education/Facebook
Charter school founder Marcus May is accused of using millions of dollars from parents and Ohio and Florida taxpayers for personal items and lavish vacations. He is also suspected of using public and private funds designated for students' education to expand his business in Akron, Cleveland, Columbus and Dayton.

As the founder of Newpoint Education Partners and Cambridge Education, which manages about 20 public charter schools in Ohio and 15 more in Florida, May is responsible for supplying schools with necessary services and supplies. He abused this power by more than doubling the cost of school uniforms, desks, computers and website design, the Akron Beacon-Journal reports.

"My co-owners and I asked for and today accepted Mr. May's resignation as managing member of Cambridge. We are now in discussions to remove him completely from ownership in the company because we feel it's in the best interest of our schools," Cambridge Executive Director John Stack told the Beacon.

Topping it all off, May's business partner, Cincinnati businessman Steven Kunkemoeller, was arrested Wednesday in Florida for racketeering and fraud.

A Florida prosecutor claims the two men embellished enrollment, misappropriated public funds, fabricated invoices and created a network of limited liability companies. Reports show millions of dollars unaccounted for, clearly not used for educational purposes.

So where did the money go?

Bank and property records indicate excessive spending, including $11,000 for plastic surgery and a $10,000 jet ski. Both May and Kunkemoeller made hefty mortgage payments, and travel records show trips to Cancun, Iceland and several other countries.

However, state auditor Dave Yost has not confirmed an Ohio investigation into the theft and fraud committed by the business partners.

"Our office is aware of the situation in Florida and it's been on our radar for six months," Yosts' public information officer, Dominic Binkley, told the Beacon. "I can say we are monitoring it but I can't comment that we are taking any actions on it."
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Cleveland Mayoral Forum This Evening in Clark-Fulton

Posted By on Mon, Jun 26, 2017 at 1:21 PM

  • Wikipedia
At 6 p.m. Monday, the Cuyahoga County Progressive Caucus and the Ward 14 Democratic Club will co-host a Cleveland Mayoral Candidate Forum at the VFW on W. 61st Street in Clark-Fulton.

(Post 2850: 3296 W 61st St, Cleveland, Ohio 44102)

"This is not a debate," the event description clarifies. "It is a discussion and an opportunity for residents to ask questions openly or express their concerns."

Each of the candidates in attendance will give brief remarks, followed by an audience Q&A. The event is free and open to the public.

Cleveland.com has been upping its mayoral coverage as well, as the summer campaign season is officially upon us. The filing deadline is June 29.

City Hall reporter Robert Higgs published a piece on Mayor Jackson's youth violence prevention program, complete with criticism from Jackson's opponents, last week. It appeared on the front page of the Sunday Metro section.

Today, Cleveland.com launched a series that purports to examine key issues in the mayoral race. Six of the mayoral challengers — including perennial challenger Bill Patmon and Ohio City Republican Robert Kilo, neither of whom have done any visible campaigning — responded to the city's current street maintenance approach. It'll be an interesting series to follow.
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Paint Primer Has Been Leaking Into Lake Erie Since Saturday at Avon Lake Ford Plant

Posted By on Mon, Jun 26, 2017 at 12:19 PM

Avon Lake city officials and local Ford Motor Co. leaders met Monday morning on the shore of Lake Erie to hash out the latest details in an ongoing chemical spill at the auto company's Ohio Assembly Plant. As the Chronicle Telegram first reported, a stream of "e-coat" paint primer has been leaking into the lake since Saturday.

The leak intersects with the lake at Miller Road Park, just north of the auto plant.

Ford workers began trying to contain and collect the spill on Sunday, once they realized what had happened. (They thought the leak was contained within the plant.) The city's water plant is closely monitoring intake.

There's no immediate health hazard, according to Avon Lake officials, but, like other spills that have garnered headlines, the perception of environmental mismanagement alone is enough to concern and galvanize area residents. The CT quoted fisherman Tracy Johnson, saying, "It’s bad enough, we don’t need this. It’s our lake, we’ve just got to treat her like she's supposed to be treated.”

As Johnson alludes, the lake is in dire straits these days, with a moral and social reckoning on the horizon. 

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Do Not Approach Ohio Bears, Police Warn After Several Sightings

Posted By on Mon, Jun 26, 2017 at 11:58 AM

A black bear who took up temporary residence on Kirtland Chardon Road this weekend. - KIRTLAND POLICE DEPARTMENT
  • Kirtland Police Department
  • A black bear who took up temporary residence on Kirtland Chardon Road this weekend.
Some perks of living in Ohio are its general lack of natural disasters and dangerous wildlife. But the Buckeye State is home to semi-threatening black bears, and at least two of them were spotted in Northeast Ohio this weekend.

This prompted the Kirtland Police Department to issue a firm warning to those who might encounter one: "DO NOT APPROACH THE BEAR."

A black bear was also spotted hanging out in Chardon this weekend, and in addition to the seemingly obvious "do not approach" warning, Chardon Police emphasized another one: "DO NOT FEED THE BEAR."

They're not always dangerous — sometimes all it takes to drive them away is a particularly rude cat. Black bears have killed 61 people in the U.S. since 1900, only one in Ohio, and you're more likely to die from a cow attack than a bear attack during the summer.

But you should still be wary of the animals. While each one may look like "a huge teddy bear," according to the Cleveland Zoo, they can still attack.

If you happen to encounter a black bear, you should stay calm, avoid direct eye contact and flee (but not too quickly — you don't want them to chase you).

You can read more about bear safety here.

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