Monday, November 14, 2011

Comedian Mike Polk mocks Ohio redistricting

"Hey, everybody! Are you ready to party? Are you ready to talk about about Ohio congressional redistricting? I know I am!"

With that, Cleveland comedian Mike Polk kicks off his three-minute, profanity-laced mockery of the Republicans' redistricting plan for Ohio. "Shady maneuvering," he calls it. He says the snake-y lakeshore district linking Toledo to Cleveland is so skinny, you pretty much have to live in an I-90 rest stop or a lighthouse to be a resident of it.

"Stop HB 319," flashes a message at the end. That means Cleveland's YouTube funnyman (whose recent Browns rant eerily foreshadowed yesterday's game, right down to the Pontbriand jersey) is endorsing the petition drive against the Republicans' map.

The GOP has introduced a revised map since passing HB 319, but a nonpartisan good-government group says it's almost as unfair as the old one. The Democrats' petition drive has given them some leverage, so the legislature may try to come up with a compromise map this week.

Drawing a map that gets bipartisan support would seem like a monumental accomplishment to everyone in Columbus. But the real question isn't whether both parties like a map. It's whether the map is fair to voters -- whether it leads to competitive elections and creates compact districts instead of stringing faraway towns together. (Like the one on the right here, not the one on the left.)

In other words, the real test is whether that lizard-like lakeshore district gets wiped off the map.

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.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Kucinich & Forbes' redistricting moves, Election Day preview on WCPN's Roundtable

I just appeared on WCPN's Reporters' Roundtable, where we talked about two Cleveland personalities' reactions to the latest twists in Ohio's redistricting battle.

Republicans have drawn a new map, in a failed attempt to please black Democrats. Dennis Kucinich is trying to kill the map, which revises the peculiar lakeshore district he wants to run in to favor Marcy Kaptur -- it throws in much more of Toledo and subtracts a piece of Lorain County. George Forbes, who tried to broker a deal, can't believe the black caucus didn't go for the new map. But most other Democrats hate the new map and the old map. They're using the threat of a referendum as leverage to shut down the whole process and try to get something better.

Roundtable host Rick Jackson ad libbed a question about Issue 2, Tuesday's referendum on SB 5, which prompted the usual torrent of anti-SB5 calls. (No one in favor of SB5 ever calls in to WCPN.) Polls predict a big defeat for Issue 2.

We also talked a bit about local school levies and a few mayor's races, especially Lorain's and Euclid's.

Bill Cervenik, Euclid's mayor, is facing challenger Charlene Mancuso in a race that revives the conflict I've written about between the town's pro-Cervenik and anti-Cervenik factions. Cervenik has survived past battles over whether he was right to let a black church move into town and settle a voting-rights suit with the Justice Department.

To listen to the podcast, click here.