Last week, we brought you “Burning Down the House”
, the tragic story of an abandoned house gutted by fire in East Cleveland.
It wasn’t tragic for the house, so much, but for residents, who, based on the city’s response to the fire, feel like they can’t depend on their leaders to be anything more than chaotic, corrupt, and comically inept. The man who called 911 said it took more than half an hour for the fire department to show up. When they did, the hydrants weren’t working. Neither was their ladder truck. In the end, East Cleveland needed help from two other cities to conquer the blaze.
This all could have been averted, we think, if Mayor Eric Brewer had followed one simple rule: firefighters do one thing, and it doesn’t rhyme with “cut grass.”
Brewer somehow disagrees. Despite being one of the region’ s busiest fire departments – battling up to 50 full-blown blazes a year – he thinks his crew’s kicking back like a Frank Jackson speechwriter. So he assigned them to landscaping duty in the city’s parks. He’s expected to announce soon a plan for the city’s three remaining cops to man a bakery.
The lovable shit-disturber that I am, I sent our story to Brewer and asked for his reaction. His reaction was just the sort of blather you’d expect from the East Cleveland mayor, a position that apparently requires a certain amount of crazy. (The last mayor killed a dude
; the one before that is in federal prison.)
“I read that crap you called a story,” Brewer wrote in an e-mail response. “There wasn’t a shred of truth in it.”
He claimed the fire department was on the scene “within five minutes.” Then he cited a 60-year-old city ordinance that gives him the power to turn his firefighters into deputy groundskeepers. “They should get out of their $400 La-Z Boy chairs and stay away from the barbeque grill long enough to review the [city charter] they swore to uphold,” he wrote, likely from a much cheaper brand of recliner. “Do you really think I care about the concerns of overtime and sick-time abusers who’ve manipulated the work rules to enrich their own pockets at the expense of the residents of East Cleveland?”
This from the guy who flew four people – including his secretary – to Vegas for four nights, trying to sell retailers on a city run so incompetently its own water can’t put out a fire.
“Go ahead and retaliate by launching another barrage of crappy misinformation about my administration,” wrote Brewer. “Your antics are childish, and grown folk don’t have time to play with you children. Consider this to be our final communication … ever.” -- Jason Nedley