Political payoff or campaign contribution? In the casebook on campaign finance reform, this was a kinky new chapter. It started in a City Hall john with three councilmen and a wad of cash. It ended in court eight months later. In between, Akron Councilman Ernie Tarle was investigated, indicted, called "a bagman," booted from office, and, last week, acquitted of funneling one bribe and offering another. Now he's running to reclaim the Ward 7 seat he lost in a November 3 recall election. His opponent? David Reymann, who started the recall campaign and testified that Tarle offered him money to quit the '97 primary. Ain't modern democracy fun?
Tarle's trial served up more punchlines than the average sitcom. One assistant prosecutor called the 33-year-old Tarle "the first ten-year-old elected to Akron City Council." The other tagged him "a cheerleader for the oil and gas interests." An oil company cash contributor defended him by saying, "It wasn't a criminal act. It was stupidity." At the end, Summit County Prosecutor (and Lieutenant Governor-elect) Maureen O'Connor said, "His defense was stupidity. And the jury bought it." Oh yeah, the jury. While en route to a look at the crapper crime scene, they got stuck between floors in an elevator.
Councilman Mike Parsons, who got the cash envelope from Tarle, said he'd "look like a loon" if someone else squawked to police before he did. Councilman Bruce Kilby, who watched the transaction, testified that Tarle even checked the stalls for eavesdroppers before pulling out the envelope. Then Kilby dragged Council Prez John Valle and Councilman Marco Sommerville into the pissing match, saying they were "bagmen," too.
Heh-heh, this slippery sitcom saga may have a few funny episodes still in the can. Sommerville called Kilby "a kook," and Marco and Valle are looking into slander suits. Natch, Mayor Don Plusquellic joined in, encouraging them to sue Kilby. But hey, before Tarle, Kilby, and Parsons became "The Toilet Trio," the Mayor Don named them "The Rat Pack," since the threesome usually voted against his corporate welfare proposals. Look for the Mayor Don to help finance some flunky to run against Tarle and Reymann in the January 5 Ward 7 primary.
Mouth endorsed Tarle's election last year, and after all this fun, we're hoping like hell to see him back in office. Hey, give him a chance. Ern told The Akron Leakin' Urinal that from now on, "If people want to give a contribution, they'll have to give it themselves." And don't forget, he's a former rock singer. With a new campaign in the offing, he still may pull out his old leopardskin pants with the mesh cutouts for a fund-raising concert. Let's see the Mayor Don's candidate try that.
John Glenn ain't the only politico who's ventured into outer space while on the job. It looks like Cuyahoga County Commissioner Tim Hagan has squeezed in a few trips to the Delta Quadrant. (Better check his mileage reimbursement reports.)
Hagan plans to wed actress Kate Mulgrew in the spring. Eons back, she used to chase down crooks as Mrs. Columbo. For now, she's stuck in the twenty-fourth century playing Captain Janeway on the UPN series Star Trek: Voyager. Mouth heard Hagan had no problem winning over the Voyager crew. Just check out this transmission we picked up . . .
Security Officer Tuvok: "Klingon,Borg, human? Identify your race."
Hagan: "No more races for me. I'm taking a cushy job with a foundation."
Tuvok: "Ah, the species known as 'politician.' Have you heard of The Caretaker?"
Hagan: "You mean the mayor's caretaker, Sam Miller? Sure, he's sent me on a few voyages."
Tuvok: "No, but even we know of Miller's strange power. Will he be at the wedding? We may have uses for this bloodless takeover technique you politicians call 'eminent domain.'"
What, No Gun Turrets?
See those plans for the new Plain Feeler building? The city's Design Review Committee gave conceptual approval, but suggested revisions so it didn't look so "old-fashioned." Judging from that front-page pic, it looks like something from a 1959 industrial park. Or maybe an old fortress, minus the moat. Okay, so they wanted to emulate nearby warehouse buildings. But red-orange brick? Well, at least there's no tax abatement involved in this $38 million fort.
City Planning Director Hunter Morrison said he's "quite comfortable" with the design, so his Clevo Planning Commission readily approved it. Mayor Mike White chimed in, saying it "sets a high standard for any projects that follow" in the area. Hmm, could that be an early warning shot in the stalemated Battle of the Davenport Bluffs?
The top chuckle for Mouth came from Feeler Publisher Alex Machaskee. He blathered that "keeping our 1,000 employees in our current location is a major boost to the city." This from a guy who moved the paper's production and distribution to suburban Brooklyn in '94. Yo, Alex! If ya really wanna help the city, find space in that new building for a bar with a few cigarette machines.
Give 'em Steel
What's up with the Tribe's new Class A farm team in Niles? The outer walls are up at privately funded Cafaro Field, and construction's on schedule for the June 16 opener. Plus, the papooses finally have a name--the Mahoning Valley Scrappers. But what the hell's a scrapper?
In baseball lingo, it means a hard-working journeyman banjo hitter. As in, "That Casey Candaele's a real scrapper." In this case, the Scrappers are a salute to the valley's hard-pressed steel industry. As in "scrap metal." Hell, with all the cut-rate "foreign steel-dumping" lately, Ohio steel mills may have nothing left but scrap metal.