When Republican leaders tapped Lou Blessing as chairman of the Ohio House Judiciary Committee, he probably believed he'd be spearheading thought-provoking discussions on eminent domain and how to launder a briefcase full of $20s from an insurance lobbyist. But this is Ohio, which means he recently found himself overseeing Bring a Stripper to the Legislature Day.
"Oh. My. God," Blessing (R-Cincinnati) told Punch last week, a day after hearing six-plus hours of testimony on a bill that aims to put strip clubs out of business. "It was informative," he added, chuckling deeply. "And strange. We had one girl coming in talking about how she worked her way through school and graduated cum laude. I don't even know what to say to you about all this."
Ohio lawmakers have been trying to dodge the bill -- which would ban lap dances and force clubs to shut down at midnight -- for years. But downstate conservatives won't go away, and the bill is now dangerously close to passing. Blessing will hold one more hearing this week before sending it for a vote. And since lawmakers are scared of being labeled perverts by the Missionary Position Lobby, it will almost surely pass and end up in court, he says.
He just wants it off his desk. "We should be dealing with the budget. One way or the other, we need to get rid of this and move on. My guess is they'll get rid of it by passing it."
Hope for clean elections
New Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner harbors a dark secret: She seems to believe we're actually capable of good government.
First she used her power to whack the entire Cuyahoga County Board of Elections. (Motto: "Taking incompetence to such heights, you need the Hubbell telescope to see it.") But instead of appointing the next party hack who's owed a favor, Brunner's done the unthinkable: She chose someone with cojones.
Inajo Davis Chappell is a respected lawyer who sits on all the requisite do-gooder committees. But she proved her mettle five years ago when she was hired to investigate Mayor Frank Jackson's brother, Nick, who'd left a path of ruin at patronage posts across the city. Instead of delivering the usual whitewash, Chappell laid bare Nick's trail of spectacular blunders.
Though one woman can't turn a swirling pool of feces into cotton candy (OK, so that image is a bit overwrought, but you get the picture), we can at least be assured that someone will try.
See me! Feel me!
After that shockingly optimistic development, we now return to our regularly scheduled programming . . .
Congressman Creepy Elf -- a.k.a. Dennis Kucinich -- had a rough go last week. No matter how desperately he seeks attention, he keeps coming off like the Tower City bum who won't go away till you give him a dollar.
First he announced he was filing articles of impeachment against Vice President Dick Cheney. The decision was quickly greeted as a triumph by his eight friends on MySpace, seven of whom are actually Kucinich under assumed names.
But since everyone in Washington knows Standard Kucinich Operating Procedure -- hold a press conference, shake your little cat paw for the TV cameras, then forget about it -- not a single member of his own party signed on.
There was, however, universal support for a bout between the Elf and Cheney on Celebrity Deathmatch. The Democratic caucus voted to supply both men with real weapons in hope of solving two problems at once.
Kucinich also tried to glom onto the Virginia Tech shootings. As he's fond of saying, "One person's tragedy is another's rank opportunity!" So he used the occasion to announce a new bill banning handguns.
Asked to respond, the National Rifle Association actually seemed measured by comparison. "This is a time to grieve and to heal," came the reply. "This is not the time for political discussions and public-policy debates or to advance a political agenda."
The spokesman added, however, that Kucinich looked like an enticingly plump squirrel and might taste good in a stew the next time he goes camping in Kentucky.
Plain Dealer Reader Representative Ted Diadiun invited a dozen lucky people to go behind the curtain last week.
The morning talk, sponsored by the Press Club of Cleveland, helped dispel some of the myths surrounding ombudsmaning. Ted Diadiun, believe it or not, is a real person -- not an escaped laboratory experiment on the effect of superhuman intelligence and sexual stamina on the mating habits of Brazilian women.
Other than that, however, we can't tell you what happened there. Ted Diadiun said it was off the record because of an "immature" article we published under his byline ["Quiet Please," May 24, 2006]. (Punch dramatically stomped out, only to return after no one followed to comfort us.)
We can tell you that we paid $20 for the Ted Diadiun Experience, the best value we've gotten since E-Z Widers went on sale at Speedway for 10 packs for a buck. And the coffee was steaming, aromatic, and rich, much like the man we were all there to honor and learn from.
Trust us when we tell you that representing almost a million readers is no small task, especially when you have to tell every single one of them why they're wrong.
Planning for next year's Ted Diadiun Experience is already under way, with a possible IMAX movie planned at the Great Lakes Science Center. Visitors will be given 3-D glasses while Ted Diadiun berates them on the ethics of altering photos.