Monday, November 7, 2011

Sen. Patton takes on Linndale, inspired by Cleveland Magazine article

State Sen. Tom Patton has had it with Linndale, Cuyahoga County’s tiniest town and biggest speed trap. He says he’ll introduce a bill next week to ban towns with less than 201 people from operating mayor’s courts.

Patton, who tried to shut down the Linndale speed trap earlier this year, says Cleveland Magazine’s August story “Greetings from Linndale” prompted him to try again.

“Your article inspired me,” he says.

My story, co-written with former Fox 8 investigator Mark DeMarino, revealed serious questions about the microvillage’s population count in the 2010 U.S. Census. Officially, the census counted 179 Linndalers, a 53 percent jump from 117 in 2000.

But the census results include one block that’s not really in Linndale, one block where nine phantom residents supposedly moved into an industrial zone, and a block that officially doubled in population but doesn’t have nearly that many people a year later.

We also reported that Linndale police officers personally encouraged residents to answer the census. The Census Bureau says that interferes with the census’s confidentiality and could intimidate people.

A low population count could threaten Linndale’s very existence. Current state law only allows mayor’s courts in towns with 101 people or more. The village, which includes 422 yards of I-71 but no freeway exit, raises about 80 percent of its million-dollar budget from court fines generated by traffic enforcement.

“I’m going to quote you quite liberally in my testimony,” Patton told me this morning. “The salient facts that show what length and breadth they went to. … I can’t help but think they acted dishonestly, to be very frank.”

To read Cleveland Magazine’s article, “Greetings from Linndale,” click here. Patton also spoke to Mike McIntyre for the Tipoff column in today's Plain Dealer, which you can read here.

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