Cleveland's supply of free government money is all but exhausted, so the Ratner family has taken its show on the road ("Gravy Train," December 3). This month's target: The ever-more-bountiful trough of New York City.
Last month, Bruce Ratner, head of Forest City's New York branch, announced plans to buy the New Jersey Nets and move them to Brooklyn. He promised that his new arena, surrounded by a retail and condo development, "will be almost exclusively privately financed." It appears that "almost" was the operative word.
When the Nets agreed to Ratner's $300 million bid last week, Ratner immediately performed an exquisite about face, suddenly asking the city to kick in $150 million. He now says he needs the money to help move rail lines and build new roads and sewers. Obviously, such expenses couldn't have been foreseen a month ago.
But NYC isn't exactly flush these days. It recently endured a brutal budget fight to overcome a $7 billion deficit. And even if Ratner does succeed in picking the city's pocket, he still needs to convince the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to allow him to build his arena over a rail yard -- free of charge, of course. Then he'll need to beat back the inevitable lawsuits that come from forcing 864 people to move from a neighborhood they now call home.
But there's a bright side here: At least Cleveland's biggest welfare queens are no longer asking us to get in on their "exclusively privately financed" deals.
Money can't buy love
Back in October, Scene brought you the tale of Haybrie Ross, a 27-year-old South African woman who had a child with Warren Anderson, 52, a Solon millionaire who made his fortune as a McDonald's distributor ("From Capetown to Cleveland," October 15). The story detailed how Ross had raised her seven-year-old son till August 2002, when a Cuyahoga County court inexplicably granted emergency custody to Anderson, even though Ross was never allowed to defend herself.
Unfortunately for Anderson, the story caught the eye of Rebecca Nelson, a Cleveland State University student and mother of Anderson's two-year-old daughter. Ross's tale sounded strikingly similar to her own: Young woman falls for older millionaire. Young woman has baby. Older millionaire loses romantic interest. Young woman gets the feeling that older millionaire would rather take custody of said baby than make huge child-support payments.
He was "pulling the same stuff on me that he pulled on Haybrie," says Nelson. And she doesn't want to find herself walking in Ross's shoes.
So Nelson filed suit to take permanent custody of her child. Now Anderson's fighting on two fronts. On the day The Plain Dealer ran a story on Nelson's suit, he was headed to court with Ross, who will finally be able to present her side, more than 17 months after her son was taken from her. (She was allowed only supervised visits during that period.)
Nor does the second suit help Anderson's PR blitz. His lawyer and public-relations firm had managed to scare other media out of covering his made-for-mature-audiences past, which boasts a laundry list of lawsuits and police reports involving various girlfriends. (The weirdest of these had Anderson, naked from the waist down, knocking on a neighbor's door in his gated subdivision, looking for his hotel room.)
Sadly, it seems that money can't buy love -- or good PR -- the way it used to.
This week's shout out goes to the exuberant fan who electrified an otherwise dormant Gund crowd Saturday night with a Jumbotron dance worthy of an Espy.
At the end of the third quarter, with the LeBronless Cavs beating up the road-weary 76ers, the Gund's "fan cam" spotted a goateed man in the upper deck. Seeing himself on the big screen, the man went ape shit, unleashing the kind of white-boy gyrations that win dance contests held in Parma and rural Wyoming.
The crowd loved it so much that the camera returned to him. With this, the man whipped his baseball cap into the lower deck. More cheers. Then came his T-shirt, which he swung around his head before tossing it to the crowd.
By the time the fan cam returned for a third time, the man had the audience completely under his spell. He turned around to shake his ass. Then he fingered his belt seductively, took it off, and bent over to whip himself.
Just before he could drop his pants, a security guard grabbed his arm. The fans booed, but the exhibitionist waved to his adoring legions as the guard led him out of the arena.
Punch called the Cavs to see what horrifying fate befell the Upper Deck Dancer. Were his season tickets revoked? Did a pack of security goons go Nathaniel Jones on his ass?
Alas, none of the above. "He was one of our staff members, and we planted him there to be part of the festivities," says Phyllis Salem, Cavaliers director of public relations. "The security people were part of the fun too."
You may remember William Isaac ("Broken Record," January 7). After he was found innocent on two felony drug charges, the court agreed to expunge all records of the matter. Yet somewhere along the line, those who keep government records -- and the private companies that provide background checks -- didn't get the memo.
The result: Isaac kept showing up on databases as a very bad man. And neither bureaucrats nor background services showed the least bit of interest in helping him correct the problem.
But the story only gets worse. While Isaac was awaiting trial, the city mistakenly junked his '91 Cadillac, which had been impounded after his arrest.
He was recently awarded $2,850 in reparations -- the Blue Book value on the Caddy, plus interest. It's not likely to be enough to land another Caddy, but at least he'll have a roller to get to work. "I'm just glad something in the system worked out in my favor," he says.