Clevelanders are well versed in the language of austerity. Be it "offshoring" or "reengineering," it all translates to "Hope you bring a crossword puzzle to the soup line."
But it appears that some Cleveland companies need a refresher course. Among the 30 largest public companies ranked recently by Crain's Cleveland Business, six experienced double-digit profit declines from 2001 to 2002, the latest year for which numbers were available. Meanwhile, each company's CEO received a handsome raise.
Christopher Connor, CEO of Sherwin-Williams, got a half-million-dollar raise the same year his company's profits fell $135 million. Over at Parker Hannifin, profits dropped by $210 million, while CEO Donald Washkewicz's pay rose almost 20 percent, to $1.17 million. And David Pugh, CEO of Applied Industrial Technologies, received a 21 percent raise as his company's profits plummeted 90 percent.
The only company where the CEO's pay reflected his performance was, strangely enough, FirstEnergy. The year that a football-sized hole was discovered in the reactor lid of the company's Davis-Besse nuclear power plant, FirstEnergy's profits fell 1.8 percent. CEO H. Peter Burg paid a price, losing 3.9 percent of his salary. Even after successfully gouging Northeast Ohioans with electricity rates 42 percent above the national average, Burg had to struggle through the year on a meager $1.39 million salary.
Outwit, outlast, outlay
Porn is big. Reality shows are big. So it was only a matter of time before someone thought of combining the two. Hence Can You Be a Porn Star?, a new series too raunchy even for Fox.
Imagine The Real World meets Survivor, with the "plot" revolving entirely around people having way more sex than you. The eight-part series, airing on InDemand pay-per-view starting January 8, features 28 women competing for a $100,000 prize and a contract to perform in such epics as Mary Does Mansfield. They'll shed clothing and inhibitions for "challenges, interviews, a specific liaison, and a mental health assessment," according to a press release.
Northeast Ohioans will have a hometown hero to cheer for: Dusty (no last names, please), from Akron. She's put a lot of thought into her chosen profession. Asked why she thinks she's suited for the small screen, Dusty replied: "Because it looks very fun and full of kinky sex!" Can't argue with that.
Read more about Dusty and her esteemed colleagues at canyoubeapornstar.com. Or just wait for the inevitable profiles on whichever local TV newscast reads this first.
Shakeup on the square
Mayor Jane Campbell rejoiced last week when KeyBank took control of Shaker Square. Campbell and others believe that the landmark shopping center, renovated with taxpayer help at a cost of more than $20 million, had been mismanaged by its majority owner, Florida-based Rosen Associates. Campbell said the square "deserves ownership by a local company that understands its value and potential."
Of course, when the property changed hands in 1999, it was hailed as a sale to "local real-estate investors." CenterPoint Properties of Beachwood managed the redevelopment, appearing before City Council and shuffling the tenant base.
At the time, CenterPoint principals Randy Ruttenberg and Adam Fishman declined to identify their investors. A Sun Press reporter eventually followed the paper trail to Miami. Confronted with the documents, Fishman insisted that he and Ruttenberg were responsible for daily activities.
Now, with Shaker Square's failings exposed, CenterPoint is in full disavowal mode. "I legally cannot speak on behalf of Shaker Square," Fishman said in November, as things turned ugly. "I cannot answer a single question."
A few weeks ago, Punch sought comment from Fishman after listening to a complaint that CenterPoint, erstwhile developer of the West End project, had also turned its back on Lakewood property owners after voters said no to on-demand eminent domain. Fishman didn't return the call. Last week, his voicemail said he was out of the office.
The downscale solution
As for the mayor's renewed optimism in Shaker Square, Campbell might heed the words of Clifford Rosen of Rosen Associates. In a release announcing his ceding of ownership, Rosen blamed, among other things, suburban flight and the convenient highways and parking offered by the likes of Legacy Village.
Gregory Stoup, associate director of the Center for Regional Economic Issues at Case Western, says Rosen makes some valid points: People and money are pulling to the 'burbs. Traffic flow is constricted. Beachwood and Lyndhurst beckon shoppers.
But Stoup thinks Shaker Square can succeed, if it backs away from its lofty pretensions. CenterPoint chased away the more downscale tenants. "The square should certainly not abandon that more boutique market, but also not pursue it to the exclusion of retail targeted to the more routine needs of neighborhood residents," he says. In other words, just because earthy-crunchy Wild Oats pulled out, it doesn't mean a more peasant-friendly grocery wouldn't succeed.
The boy punch line
Newsweek has found a new whipping boy, and his name is Dennis Kucinich.
The January 5th edition contains two jabs against Ohio's preening congressman. In the Conventional Wisdom column, the magazine used Kucinich as the punch line for a quip about Queer Eye for the Straight Guy: "Fab Five's challenge for 2004: Makeovers for Howard Dean and Dick Cheney. Kucinich is a lost cause."
And a profile of comedian Jon Stewart begins with the funnyman saying: "I heard Dennis Kucinich in the last Democratic debate say, 'When I'm president . . .,' and I just want to stop him and say, 'Dude.'"
Much has been said about how the country is more politically divided than ever, but Newsweek seems to suggest that Dennis may be the one candidate who can unite everyone . . . in laughter.
The futures market
Speaking of the Boy Mayor, psychic Shirley Fahey-Obbish claims that she predicted in 1977 that fiscal mishaps would lead to Kucinich's undoing. So Punch asked for her visions on what will happen to Cleveland's biggest names in 2004:
Lebron James: "This is a young man who works well under pressure. Could be very wealthy, depending on who guards his money. Sagittariuses are naturally athletic. He needs to watch his knees. Sags are prone to injury. His knees are weak."
Jane Campbell: "Tauruses don't like to change, but she'll have to. There is an eclipse coming in April. Big change. I see a cycle similar to that of Kucinich in 1977. A default for the city."
John Lanigan: "This is a man who will not take no for an answer. Will not retire anytime soon. About to make a really good business investment. He will have an offer at the end of the year for a new job."
Dick Goddard: "Probably will never retire. Workaholic. Will be wealthy from investments. I see him relocating this year. This will be his coming-out year. Very happy. This man might have a taste for younger women."
Kucinich: "He needs to stay put where he is. His visions of grandeur will not connect for at least 10 years. However, he will marry within the year."
Browns whine; Pats rise
Browns coach Butch Davis blamed the twin evils of injuries and turnovers for many of his 5-11 team's woes. Indeed, winning is difficult when your quarterbacks telegraph throws by homing in on receivers the way guys fix on cleavage.
As for the injuries, a recent online column by Sports Illustrated's Peter King observed that the Browns were among four clubs to start at least 40 players and play at least 60 after week 16. Two others -- Oakland and Atlanta -- had similarly crappy seasons.
But the fourth was New England, which went a league-best 14-2.
King named Scott Pioli, the Pats' VP of player personnel, executive of the year for his ability to build a roster that survived a rash of injuries. "They win because the lowest of their 64 players and 42 starters are real contributors, not dregs," King wrote.
Pioli, incidentally, began his NFL career in Cleveland, where he was hired as a personnel assistant in 1992, under Bill Belichick. One can only dream of Pioli occupying the office that presently houses Carmen Policy, where excuses and the ceremonial beheading of the annual fall guy -- Mr. Arians, the guillotine operator will see you now -- have played to sold-out crowds for the last five years.
Benefit for Dave
When we last left Dave Thomas ["Nigger Dave," October 15], he was out of work after being fired by the Elyria Wal-Mart. It looked suspiciously as if the company were trying to bury a problem, since Thomas had complained to management about co-workers who repeatedly called him "nigger."
After being out of work for months, Thomas finally landed a new job. But the married father of two is still looking at a mountain of debt. On Saturday, January 10, the music world will attempt to relieve his pain.
Low in the Sky, Saj Supreme, JJ Flux, Abdullah, and Amentia will throw a benefit for Thomas at Ghoulardi's, 770 Broadway Avenue in Lorain. That's five bands for a measly four bucks; the show begins at 8 p.m.
"Dave Thomas is your typical honest, hard-working, blue-collar man, who got the shaft by the root of all evil known as Wal-Mart," says Mark Fletcher, who's organizing the benefit. But don't expect an appearance by Wal-Mart supervisors. When Fletcher recently tried to hand out fliers for the benefit in the Elyria Wal-Mart parking lot, he was promptly asked to leave.