As the prehistoric scholar Grog once remarked upon encountering a hungry Brontosaurus in the forest, "We're so &%$#@*."
His words are perhaps apropos for the situation we now confront in Cleveland.
Two weeks ago, we elected Frank Jackson as mayor. With the linguistic skills of the president and a record of achievement rivaled only by a fan belt in a late-model Taurus, he's the one guy who makes Jane Campbell look like FDR. And just to ensure that we're thoroughly screwed, we decided to crush all four anti-corruption initiatives on the ballot.
Which means that the next four years will be like a Belfast bar on St. Paddy's Day, with free liquor, ammo, and Protestants.
Theater people might call it a "very dark comedy." The less mirthful may recall the fate of Grog. (He was gummed to death that day by a very large vegetarian.)
So, to offer a preview of the jocularity to come -- or so you can take your pain all at once -- Scene provides the headlines from the next four years:
January 1, 2006 -- New Mayor Frank Jackson was inaugurated at a City Hall ceremony today. In his first speech, Jackson alluded to bold plans for Cleveland, which entail redecorating his office. He also mumbled the word "leadership" 547 times, guiding analysts to believe that "leadership" may be a cornerstone of his administration.
State Invests in Happy Meal Toys!
February 12, 2006 -- Attention, parents: The ubiquitous toys your children receive in McDonald's Happy Meals will someday send them to college. So claims Governor Bob Taft, who announced today that Ohio was investing $50 million in the "lucrative plastic collectibles market."
Taft has been assured that the state's investment will double in 30 days. Within two years, he expects it to fund Ohio's entire educational system.
Bob Spivey, a major GOP contributor and frequent Taft golf partner, will oversee the fund. He owns Bob's Toy Shack & Appliance Repair in Findlay and says the bulk of the $50 million will be invested in vintage Aladdin figures, with the remainder to be spent on "internet-porn subscriptions."
White, Miller Indicted
March 13, 2006 -- In a shocking yet expected move, U.S. Attorney Greg White filed indictments yesterday against former Mayor Mike White and leading executive Sam Miller. The two were charged with 19,438 counts of public corruption, alleging that Miller had bribed the ex-mayor in exchange for ownership of the city.
At a press conference, prosecutors distributed copies of a deed signed by the two men shortly after White took office. It indicates that White agreed to "sell my ass, and the City of Cleveland, for $16 and a New York strip at Johnny's." The document also provides White with an undisclosed allowance, "if I keep my room clean."
When reached for comment, White uttered a string of expletives before slamming down the phone. Miller, a top executive at Forest City, denied all charges of paying White an allowance, noting that "the sonovabitch left his toys everywhere."
Byrd-Bennett Renamed CEO
April 6, 2006 -- In a stunning turnabout, Mayor Frank Jackson has rehired Cleveland schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett after 6,472 other candidates declined the post. Byrd-Bennett resigned last year after polls showed her approval ratings had fallen lower than those of Hank Beltrame, a registered sex offender who lives on 34th Street.
The mayor defended the reappointment, noting that Byrd-Bennett has learned from her previous mistakes. "I think she finally understands that when she fabricates numbers, they have to look believable. They can't be like, 'Whoa, no way,'" said Jackson.
Democratic Party Disbands
May 23, 2006 -- Though Ohio has long seemed like a one-party state, it's now official: The state Democratic Party has disbanded.
A reporter visiting the party's Columbus headquarters yesterday found them abandoned. When reached by phone, Chairman Denny White said that Democrats had actually called it quits two years ago, "but no one noticed."
For the previous decade, the party had done little more than e-mail press releases criticizing Republican initiatives, but "even that got old," said White. "Sometimes my computer would crash, and it would take like 15 minutes to reboot."
White has since been working at the layaway counter at a Springfield Wal-Mart. "I believe this job allows me to make a much greater difference," he said.
'White Guys' Bill Approved!
July 18, 2006 -- City Council has approved its much anticipated Just Give It to the White Guys ordinance, effectively killing the city's minority-contract program.
The program had been riddled with corruption. Black construction companies that served as fronts for white contractors were forced to bribe city officials in exchange for public contracts. The minority companies were then paid by Whitey to do no work.
The new ordinance allows the city to award contracts directly to the white guys. By cutting out the middlemen, Mayor Frank Jackson believes, it will reduce the cost of doing business in the city -- and save more money for bribes.
"I campaigned on the issue of leadership," said Jackson. "This means more money for leadership."
Cleveland Convention Center Approved!
July 21, 2006 -- The Cleveland City Council has approved construction for a new $1.5 billion convention center on the side of a hill next to Tower City. Mayor Frank Jackson said the facility would cost $300 million, with the remaining $1.2 billion going to purchase the land from Forest City.
When questioned why a steep embankment would fetch such a sum, Jackson assured reporters that Forest City's own appraisers had originally priced the land at $18 billion, but the company was willing to sell for the "low, low price of $1.2 billion, and even throw in a $15 gift certificate at the Tower City food court. I think we got a great deal."
August 1, 2006 -- Ken Blackwell all but named himself governor today when he ruled that none of his opponents had legally qualified for the election.
The secretary of state, who constitutionally oversees Ohio elections, said he has yet to decide why rivals Betty Montgomery and Jim Petro are ineligible to run. "But I'll think of something."
Joking with reporters, Blackwell said he learned a tough lesson from his attempt to invalidate voter registration forms that weren't submitted on the proper paper. "That didn't work very well, did it?" he laughed.
This time, he plans to cite "spelling mistakes on their application forms, or maybe something about grammar. I think you'll see us getting much more creative."
Campbell Runs for President!
August 24, 2006 -- Cleveland represents! That's the word from former Mayor Jane Campbell, who told supporters in a packed City Hall cloakroom that she would run a vanity campaign for president.
Campbell's announcement makes her the second Clevelander to seek the vanity nomination. Congressman Dennis Kucinich, who ran in 2004, said he would again be seeking the presidency in 2008.
According to the latest Harris Poll, Campbell may receive upwards of 34 votes, since she has a rather large extended family. That would more than double Kucinich's performance in 2004, when he received 11 votes, all cast by a religious cult in Berkeley.
Huge Gains in Tourism Touted!
August 27, 2006 -- Cleveland's summer tourism figures have doubled since last year, according to the visitors bureau. The rise was attributed to a family of five from Shreveport, who came to Cleveland for a relative's funeral, but ended up visiting the Rock Hall when they received bad directions to the wake.
"I think that technically makes them tourists," said Dennis Roche, head of the visitors bureau.
The family nearly doubles the number of tourists who visited last year, when three people from Youngstown were trying to get to Pittsburgh, but got on the wrong entrance to the turnpike. They didn't realize their mistake until they arrived in Cleveland, so they slept in a dumpster near the airport.
"Clearly our clean, safe, airport-vicinity dumpsters are among the many exciting attractions drawing people to Cleveland," said Roche.
Blackwell Wins Narrow Victory
November 4, 2006 -- Ken Blackwell was elected Ohio's next governor Tuesday by the narrowest of margins. Though running unopposed, Blackwell managed to win by just three votes.
Exit polls indicate that most residents declined to vote in the governor's race. Blackwell, meanwhile, won support from his wife, his mother, and his secret male lover.
At a packed victory party in the backseat of a Buick last night, the governor-elect said the margin "provides a clear mandate for me to . . ." At which point he stopped speaking, apparently having lost his train of thought.
White Not Guilty
January 10, 2007 -- Mike White, charged with 19,438 felonies in a widespread corruption case, was found not guilty by a jury yesterday. The verdict stunned legal observers, who believed there was overwhelming evidence against the former mayor.
During the trial, prosecutors played damning tapes of White discussing illicit transactions with Forest City executive Sam Miller. On one, White could be heard telling Miller, "I've just stolen $1 million from the city and deposited it in your account. Can I get my allowance now?"
Convicted co-conspirator Nate Gray testified that White was so subservient to Miller, the mayor would often wear a dog collar and a leash to their weekly dinners at the Ritz, just in case Miller wanted to go for a walk.
But defense lawyers argued that White was not guilty by reason of insanity. They presented reports from psychologists concluding that White suffered from a severe Napoleon complex. At one point in the trial, a defense attorney simply pointed to his client and stated, "Just look at the guy. He's Mike White, for chrissakes."
That was enough for juror Larry Bischelski. "That lawyer had a point. He's Mike White. Of course he's insane."
City Worker Fired for Helpfulness
February 14, 2007 -- Sanitation Department employee Tashonna Robinson was fired Monday after being caught helping a resident. Charges are expected.
According to police reports, new resident Beverly Sands called the city to ask when garbage pickup was scheduled for her Collinwood street. Not only did Robinson answer her phone, police allege, but she courteously provided Sands with accurate information.
She's also accused of asking if she could be of further help before politely saying goodbye.
City prosecutors say Robinson will soon be indicted, though they have yet to settle on specific charges. "This has never happened in Cleveland before," admitted new Law Director Marc Babin, recently named to the post after being disbarred in Georgia, Mississippi, and Arkansas.
Blackwell Abolishes Taxes!
April 23, 2007 -- In his first act as governor, Ken Blackwell said he'd immediately seek to abolish all taxes. Noting that taxes are "bad" and also "suck," the governor said they were no longer needed due to the state's lucrative investment in Happy Meal toys.
The fund, overseen by a guy named Bob from Findlay, now contains $679 billion, a figure that multiplies by the day, according to state records. By year's end, Blackwell expects the investment to be worth "kajillions, maybe more."
District Reports Stunning Turnaround!
June 13, 2007 -- The word "failure" should no longer be included in dictionaries at Cleveland Public Schools. So suggests a new report, which shows stunning improvement in student achievement.
CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett released figures showing that a whopping 148 percent of students had passed the proficiency tests. The figure sets a national record.
"The data obviously shows that we're the best school district in the country, so people should stop being mean to me," said Byrd-Bennett.
Yet the CEO became defensive when a reporter noted that 148 percent was statistically impossible. "I did the math myself," Byrd-Bennett snapped. "But if there's an error, I'm prepared to blame it on computers or my underlings. I haven't decided yet."
Supreme Court: Show Us the Money!
July 7, 2007 -- The Ohio Supreme Court said today it would radically change the way it administers justice.
The move comes in the wake of a case involving a three-year-old girl who was mangled by a pit bull. The girl's insurer refused to cover her medical bills, contending it "just didn't feel like it," according to court documents.
Under previous law, the court would have been forced to rule in the girl's favor. However, "That seemed so unfair," said Chief Justice Thomas Moyer. He argued that the insurer had donated $113,000 to the justices' campaigns, while the girl "hasn't given us shit."
Under the new rules, the court will simply rule in favor of whoever donates the most. "It's much less subjective and open to interpretation," said Moyer.
City Council Has Idea
August 4, 2007 -- In a shocking development, Cleveland City Council announced Wednesday that it has a fresh idea. However, members refused to disclose the thought, saying they first wished to copyright it.
They defended their secrecy by pointing to the council's last idea, in 1958, when members voted to methodically usher in decades of urban decay. Though Cleveland pioneered the concept, "Detroit always gets the credit," complained Council President Martin Sweeney. "We're not gonna let that happen again."
September 12, 2007 -- In a stunning move yesterday, the Cavaliers traded star forward LeBron James to the Los Angeles Lakers. The move comes only one season after the exciting young Cavs rose to the Eastern Conference Finals.
Yet General Manager Danny Ferry believed James was unworthy of a long-term contract. So Ferry traded his rights for little-known prospect Uri Braska, a backup point guard in a Ukrainian CYO league.
Though Ferry conceded that the Cavs would have to endure another rebuilding period, which could last "between 6 and 24 years," he believes Braska will be "the cornerstone of a championship franchise, if we can just teach him how to dribble."
Kucinich's Wife Files for Divorce
September 14, 2007 -- The third wife of Congressman Dennis Kucinich has filed for divorce, citing her husband's irreconcilable neediness.
Her lawyers asked for a restraining order, which would bar the congressman from "endlessly talking about himself" in her presence. They also petitioned the State Department to investigate whether being married to Kucinich violated international laws regarding torture.
FirstEnergy Gets $50 Billion Bailout!
October 8, 2007 -- A month after its Davis-Besse nuclear plant exploded, killing everything within a 50-mile radius of Toledo, FirstEnergy is flush again.
The Ohio Consumers' Counsel announced yesterday that the company would receive a $50 billion state bailout. Most of the money would come from another surcharge on electricity rates. The rest would be taken from orphans and widows.
Critics immediately cried foul, arguing that FirstEnergy should pay for its own mistakes. They pointed to the $12 billion bailout the company already receives and cited its history of Nuclear Regulatory Commission violations.
But FirstEnergy CEO Anthony Alexander defended the latest round of welfare. "So we blew up Northwest Ohio. Big deal. No one ever used that part of the state anyways."
New Official State Language
November 21, 2007 -- Governor Ken Blackwell announced today that speaking in tongues will be the new official state language.
Though details of the law have yet to be worked out, he expects all state business to be conducted incomprehensibly immediately. Analysts believe the new rule will involve only minor changes in the way Ohio presently does business.
January 6, 2008 -- The tense, nine-month trial of Forest City executive Sam Miller came to an abrupt halt yesterday when a federal judge dismissed all but one charge against him.
The surprise ruling came after Miller delivered large suitcases full of unmarked bills to everyone in the courtroom. Reading a prepared statement, he said that he would plead guilty to one felony count of Being a Really Weird-Looking Old Dude in exchange for dismissal of 19,437 other charges.
When he asked whether anyone objected, Judge Harry Celebrezze was met by silence. The judge subsequently ordered the court to reconvene at Christie's Cabaret, ruling that the "beers and lap dances are on me."
Senate Leader Deposed
February 19, 2008 -- In a surprise development, Ohio Senate President Bill Harris (R-Ashland) was ousted yesterday by fellow Republicans, who claimed that he no longer shared their values.
Only a day before, Harris had been widely praised for leading the state to ruin. But his own party turned against him during a caucus meeting, when the leader allegedly made an offhand remark about "doing something for the people of Ohio."
Harris quickly apologized, saying it was intended as a joke, but colleagues weren't satisfied. "Even if it was a joke, that's just sick," said Senator Jeff Jacobson (R-Dayton).
Witnesses said the caucus had first voted to kill Harris and drink his blood, but decided to oust him instead, since they weren't very thirsty.
Council Lowers Bribery Rates
April 1, 2008 -- In an attempt to stimulate business, the Cleveland City Council announced lower bribery rates. The new fee schedule:
· $20 to get a phone call returned.
· $50 to remove a council member's obstruction of a zoning permit.
· $80 to make a council member "your bitch."
Automatic Plea Bill Approved
May 14, 2008 -- In a move to restore fiscal responsibility, the Ohio House passed a measure yesterday requiring elected officials to plead guilty to corruption upon leaving office. The law is intended to get the state's financial house in order.
Ohio presently spends 96 percent of its budget on corruption investigations. Costs are rising so fast that financial analysts believe they may soon drain the state's mammoth Happy Meal Fund.
Under the new statute, legislators would simply plead guilty upon leaving office, pay a $17 fine, then receive an automatic pardon from the governor. The law would also make them eligible for up to six additional pardons upon leaving office.
Idea Apparently Not Fresh
June 25, 2008 -- After launching its Fresh Idea Initiative with much fanfare last year, City Council has apparently scrapped the plan, citing insurmountable labor difficulties.
For months, members have kept the subject of the initiative a secret, hoping to copyright the idea before announcing it. But the plan stalled when no one volunteered to do the paperwork. "Christ, you should see the forms you gotta fill out," said one councilman, who asked to remain anonymous. "It was like four pages, and you couldn't use crayon."
Kucinich Plans to Marry Himself
July 8, 2008 -- After announcing that "I'm the only one I've ever truly loved," Congressman Dennis Kucinich said today that he plans to marry himself. It will be his fourth marriage.
First, however, Kucinich must pass legislation overthrowing laws barring same-sex marriages. Though the statutes were intended to ban homosexual weddings, they appear to also preclude men from marrying themselves.
Kucinich described "self-marriage" as the "next great frontier of civil rights. We must stop the widespread discrimination against the genetically self-centered."
Yet few expect Kucinich's bill to pass. Since being elected to Congress in 1996, his greatest achievement has been getting the House cafeteria to stock hummus.
Mayor Touts New Business
July 21, 2008 -- Mayor Frank Jackson arrived for a ribbon-cutting ceremony in Old Brooklyn to announce the opening of Cleveland's first new business in three years. Milan Krakicz, 86, plans to operate a tomato stand from his porch.
"My wife, she says too much tomatoes. No more," said Krakicz. "So I decide I sell."
Krakicz, who grows the tomatoes in a small backyard garden, said he would open for business between 9 a.m. and noon on most Saturdays, except when his feet hurt. "Then I no sell tomatoes," he said.
Byrd-Bennett Cited for Believability
September 21, 2008 -- At a joyous news conference today, schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett was awarded the prestigious Believability Award by the National Association of Discredited School Executives. The honor is bestowed annually on educators who excel at making achievement figures appear as though they may actually be real.
Judges noted that Byrd-Bennett claimed an attendance rate of just 103 percent this year, a dramatic improvement over last year's claim of 247 percent.
The CEO also asserted that only half of all graduating students had been admitted to MIT. In previous years, she contended that the entire senior class at East Tech had been invited to join the Princeton faculty.
Channel 19 to Air Human Sacrifice
October 18, 2008 -- Get ready to burn, Cleveland, because Channel 19 is about to make television history.
Station officials say they set fire to an intern named Melvin last week, allowing WOIO to become the first station to air footage of a human sacrifice.
Rival stations quickly denounced the programming move, calling it dated and unoriginal. "We thought of burning interns, like, four years ago," huffed Channel 5 anchor Ted Henry, "but we prefer our news to be a little more high-concept."
Convention Center Opens
November 3, 2008 -- Mayor Frank Jackson declared a new era in Cleveland Friday with the opening of the Sam Miller Convention Center. Officials believe the $1.5 billion structure will attract millions of visitors to Cleveland.
Jackson was on hand to welcome guests to the center's first convention, the Cavelli Family Reunion, which consisted of four elderly couples playing bridge. Officials anticipate as many as three additional conventioneers by Sunday.
"Downtown will be hopping!" said elated visitors-bureau chief Dennis Roche.
Convention Center Obsolete
November 6, 2008 -- Cleveland can't compete.
That's the verdict of city tourism officials, who contend that if Cleveland wants its share of the nation's convention business, a new center must be built immediately.
Though the Sam Miller Center opened just three days ago, it is already obsolete. Convention chief Dennis Roche pointed to the recent Cavelli Family Reunion, which attracted only nine people. Roche argued that a newer, "way more expensive" facility might have drawn "13, maybe even 14 guests."
Roche said a state-of-the-art center would likely cost residents another $2.5 billion, though he had yet to consider possible sites. "We'll just have to see what Sam wants to do," he said.
Blackwell to Attack Cleveland
February 28, 2009 -- Governor Ken Blackwell has declared war on Cleveland in hopes of ridding Ohio of "Negroes, sodomites, and trial lawyers."
At a news conference today, the governor called upon the Army of Ohio to attack the city at once. But upon learning that Ohio has no army, he said he would raise a volunteer force from the American Bankers Association.
The governor said he got the idea on a recent fact-finding mission to Iraq, where the ruling Shiite government is waging a genocidal rampage against the Sunni minority. "I never knew democracy could be so cool," said Blackwell.
Jackson Pleads for Canadian Rescue
March 3, 2009 -- Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson said today that he would ask Canadian authorities to immediately annex the city, in hopes of staving off an impending attack by the American Bankers Association.
Jackson, a Vietnam veteran, said he was all too familiar with the savagery of war and wanted to spare Cleveland's 142 remaining residents from having to endure atrocities. Though the North Vietnamese were a merciless foe, the mayor called bankers "even more ruthless. They'll charge you 19 percent interest just to bleed."
Canadian Rescue Aborted
March 4, 2009 -- Only a day after saying he would seek to have Cleveland annexed by Canada, Mayor Frank Jackson reversed course, announcing that it "would be a lot easier just to die."
The rescue plan was foiled when city officials were unable to contact Canadian authorities. "We couldn't figure out how to dial overseas," said Jackson, "and nobody could speak Canadian."
White Announces Candidacy
August 11, 2009 -- Former Cleveland Mayor Mike White is coming out of retirement -- and not a moment too soon.
White announced Thursday that he would run for governor on an anti-amateur graft platform. Though perfectly happy living on the fruits of his corruption in Cleveland, White said his "conscience" calls him to duty. "I watch these amateurs steal, and it just makes me want to puke," said White.
Speaking under a large banner that read, "Trust Corruption to the Guy With Experience," White said he would restore voters' faith in government and ensure that money was stolen in "a sophisticated and respectable manner, so we can all be proud of Ohio once more."
Happy Meal Fund Bankrupt
November 16, 2009 -- Though Ohio's latest financial reports indicate it has $589 bazillion dollars in reserve, the state is bankrupt.
That shocking news was delivered to the Senate Finance Committee yesterday, where accountants said the state's Happy Meal Fund has a current balance of $12.63.
For years, state officials have boasted that the fund was doubling every 30 days. But officials never bothered to audit records submitted by fund manager Bob Spivey, a top GOP contributor.
Spivey was supposed to invest Ohio's $50 million in a balanced portfolio of vintage Aladdin figures and internet-porn subscriptions. Yet he apparently purchased only 72 Princess Jasmine figures, spending the remainder on a site known as "Naughty Housewives of Nebraska."
After the hearing, state officials quickly sought to distance themselves from Spivey. Governor Ken Blackwell, who had previously stated that he wanted "to have Bob Spivey's baby," said he was "shocked, outraged, disappointed, angry, and perhaps even infuriated, if I may be so bold," by his friend's betrayal. "I will no longer be having his baby," said the governor. "You can be sure of that."