by Frank Lewis
Cleveland Councilman Brian Cummins, whose Old Brooklyn ward was shattered into four pieces when Council President Marty Sweeney redistricted away two of his toughest critics, isn’t letting little things like losing most of his voting block get in the way of bigger things like winning a second term.
On Tuesday, Cummins became the eighth candidate to pull primary petitions to run in the newly formed Ward 14, which incorporates a small part of his old ward but is primarily the Hispanic-heavy stomping grounds of regularly embattled Councilman Joe Santiago (pictured) — who narrowly survived a recall effort last year at the hands of his predecessor, the hot-headed Nelson Cintron. Get ready for a showdown.
Santiago and Cintron have been duking it out ever since Santiago came aboard in 2006, lobbing grenades at each others’ camps. Santiago narrowly defeated Cintron in a recall effort in 2007.
But there is a lot to be answered for over in Clark-Metro — like Santiago’s tendency to manhandle hard-working CDCs but bend over for the bar owners. And why does Santiago have a grand nude statue in his backyard that used to welcome visitors at Moda, huh? The shuttered West 25th Street bar was owned by Emad Simli, convicted in 2006 of money laundering and drug charges. Simli was using Moda to launder his money and provide a base of operations.
Santiago vociferously supported another bar, La Copa, to the point of looking more like the first blind Councilman in Cleveland and not the first openly gay Councilman. We’re not saying this former Naval aide at the Pentagon and V.P. at Tremont West Development Corp. doesn’t know what he’s doing. We’re just saying …
Now Santiago is wrapped up tight in the ongoing federal corruption sting. His campaign manager was Rosemary Vinci, whose still-young heart just gave out after being exposed as a former strip club manager hired by sting-targeted county Auditor Frank Russo and Commissioner Jimmy Dimora as a “liaison” to City Hal. The feds wanted to know all about Vinci and her friendships within the city’s power establishment.
And of course, the first indictment to come out of the corruption probe is building inspector Richard Huberty, who says he’ll plead guilty to bribery and extortion involving deals he cut around town, including at — you guessed it! — La Copa.
It looks like his former colleagues might have abandoned him too, after whole-hearted support during the recall effort. Even though Santiago has benefited in the past from the Sweeney-controlled Council Leadership Fund to thwart the recall, we wonder if Cummins might just sneak a sucker-punch in, what with Santiago and Cintron all hating on each other like they have been.
“Clearly,” says Cummins, “the negatives have gone against them. It’s been a lot of years these two have been going at it, with so many people going for that seat — and for whatever reason, getting things accomplished there has been tough.”
Aaaaaand they’re off. — Dan Harkins