The freshest scandal in the never-ending saga of Parma -- cue the Looney Tunes music -- involves a fund-raiser held by mayoral candidate Deborah Lime at the Blue Moose Saloon. Owner Patrick Potopsky claims that he wined and dined Lime's supporters on roast beef and all the liquor they could pound last October, only to have them dash out ahead of the bill, which he says came to about five grand.
Potopsky says Lime offered to pay just $300. "Christ, the shrimp cocktail cost $300 alone," he says. "I couldn't fucking believe it."
Predictably, Lime says it's all B.S. There was no shrimp cocktail, she asserts, and no roast beef. In response to Potopsky's lawsuit, she's prepared to trot out witnesses who will testify to the food served.
Even more predictably, Lime sees a conspiracy. "This is being done to embarrass me," she says, pointing out that rival candidate Dean DePiero is a frequent flyer at the Blue Moose. He could have told his friend Potopsky not to give Lime the bill, then sue her -- making her look fiscally irresponsible before the coming election. This, says Lime, "will not be a distraction for her campaign." Reality check: It already is.
The tax man cometh
Cuyahoga County Auditor Frank Russo is the process of notifying homeowners how much their property values will rise. Countywide, homes are worth 9.31 percent more than they were three years ago.
The new scores are based on recent home sales. But county officials are letting it be known that the state, which approves the adjustments, pushed for larger hikes. In Cleveland Heights, for example, Russo's office proposed an 11.5 percent increase. But after the Department of Taxation took a gander, a 14.5 percent jump was accepted.
In other words, cranky property taxpayers shouldn't blame their local leaders. "This isn't something that is happening in just Cuyahoga County," says Destin Ramsey, Russo's assistant. "This is something that is happening throughout the state."
Department of Taxation spokesman Gary Gundmundson says the state is responsible for making sure that all property is valued in the same manner and at market value. Corrections, it seems, were in order.
Homeowners in Cleveland have enjoyed especially low appraisals. Gundmundson says the state looked at 4,531 home sales in the city and found that, on average, properties were assessed at only 70 percent of their value.
Originally, the county proposed hiking Cleveland property values by an average 9.3 percent. The state wanted to see a number more like 16 percent. The county came back with 11 percent. "We accepted that," Gundmundson says.
And, oh, run-down Lakewood, the dying suburb that needs the West End Development to survive? Shacks and hovels there are now worth an additional 14.5 percent, outpacing Westlake (9 percent), Rocky River (9.5 percent), and Bay Village (9.5 percent).
How not to lie
There's an important rule for lying on one's résumé: Only fudge what can't be easily refuted.
Witness Free Times editor David Eden's column in last week's issue. While ostensibly about Ohio State football stars getting a free pass in the classroom, the column ended up being all about Eden.
He waxed poetic about his mid-'80s tenure as sports editor of the "legendary" Dallas Times Herald -- specifically, his staff's investigation of problems at Southern Methodist University, Texas A&M, and other schools. "Each story was met by disbelief and alumni moans and groans; some by death threats," Eden boasted. "The A&M series was a Pulitzer finalist."
The Pulitzer mention raised Punch's suspicions. After all, Eden's better known for his Denise Dufala eyewear coverage than work worthy of journalism's top prize.
The folks over at Columbia University, who hand out the honors, keep a handy database of both winners and finalists. A search by name (Eden), key word (Texas A&M), and decade (the 1980s) turned up no hits. The Times Herald did earn two Pulitzers and was named a finalist 11 times before it folded in 1991, but not for the series Eden described.
Still, Punch couldn't believe Eden would lie about something so easily refutable. So we called the Pulitzer people. Couldn't one be a finalist without making the list? "They might have entered themselves in the contest," the spokesman suggested. But been named a finalist? "No."
Eden, surprisingly, did not return calls for comment.
A dubious Doby story
Larry Doby's body has barely gone cold, and already he's the subject of urban legend.
An e-mail making the rounds offers the story of how a white player helped Doby -- the first black to play in the American League -- fit in on the day of his debut. According to the tale, Doby struck out during his first at-bat in 1947. Next up was Joe Gordon, who "went up to the plate and missed three pitches in a row -- each of them by at least two feet."
The story concludes with this thought: "Did Joe Gordon strike out that day deliberately? We will never know. However, it is interesting to note that every time Larry Doby went out to the field from that day on, he first picked up Joe Gordon's glove and tossed it to him."
It's a heartwarming story, the kind that suggests that some day, through small actions like Gordon's, we'll surmount our legacy of racism and live together in peace and harmony. (Cue up "We Shall Overcome.")
Problem is, the story isn't true.
The urban legend snoops at Snopes.com went back and checked the box scores. They show that Doby batted ninth in the batting order that day, while Gordon hit sixth. Furthermore, after Doby struck out during his first bat in the seventh inning (he was pinch-hitting for the pitcher), no other Indian struck out for the rest of the game.
Nevertheless, there is a good story of Gordon showing kindness to Doby on his first day, albeit one less dramatic.
As Chicago Tribune sports columnist Skip Myslenski recounts, Doby's teammates weren't willing to play catch with him. Gordon rescued him by saying, "Hey, kid, let's warm up."
Perhaps we shall overcome after all.
For the second year in a row, Scene has been named the state's best weekly by the Ohio Society of Professional Journalists. The organization also named staff writer David Martin Best Reporter in Ohio; he tied for the honor with The Plain Dealer's Jennifer Scott Cimperman. Clevescene.com was judged Ohio's best website.
In other self-congratulatory news, Scene's Thomas Francis was named a first-place winner for business writing in the National Association of Black Journalists' annual awards competition. Francis was also recently honored with national awards by the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies -- one for news coverage, the other for media reporting.