DEFAULT 30 YEARS AGO - FORBES, BUSINESS, PD vs. KUCINICH

Submitted by Roldo on Sat, 12/13/2008 - 16:39.

Has it been 30 years already?

Cleveland’s default, I was reminded by a call from WCPN, has an anniversary tomorrow - 30 years since the city was taken over the brink by Mayor Dennis Kucinich, Council President George Forbes, the Cleveland corporate community and the Plain Dealer.

A call from WCPN program host Rick Jackson sent me to check some old articles on the news of those days in Point of View, the newsletter I wrote to try and counter the propaganda of the Pee Dee and its corporate string-pullers. WCPN will have a report on the default Monday morning.

Tensions at City Hall were high throughout that day.
My greatest fear wasn’t that the city would go into default.

It was a fear that someone in the heat of that night would shoot either Dennis or George. Security was as lapse as it could possibly be – especially compared to today’s severe safety precautions. Anyone could have carried a handgun into City Hall without detection and have had opportunity to use it.

City Hall chambers were packed with people, some backing Dennis, some George. The issue was whether the city would pay $14 million in notes (loans) held by six Cleveland banks. The notes, by the way, had been routinely “rolled over” – that is renewed as debt – by the same banks during Ralph Perk’s administration.

There was really no threat that the city was going bankrupt.

There were many unrecognized reporters from around the nation there at that night’s meeting. Reporters roamed unattended inside the boundaries where Council members, the Mayor, his staff and Council President reside without protection. Anyone who posed as a reporter could have gotten within a few feet of Forbes or Kucinich.

With tensions so high and time running out as the clock neared midnight, security was essentially absent.

As I remember it, when the clock struck midnight, a stern Kucinich and staff hurriedly made their way across the Council chamber floors and through the press room (now gone) to his offices on the northeast side of City Hall.

The city was not bankrupt; the myth was attached to a default.
As early as September 1978 the message from the business community and the Pee Dee to Mayor Kucinich was real clear – they wanted Dennis to sell the municipal light system to the Cleveland Electric Illuminating Co.

The reason wasn’t about profits or business for CEI. It was strictly ideological. CEI’s corporate chiefs simply couldn’t stand a government-operated entity in their territory. This was THEIR business. No government should be competing with a private business.

In September, I wrote how the business community attempted to topple the Kucinich administration with help from the Plain Dealer by a recall vote.

Here’s what I wrote after the unsuccessful recall, a preliminary battle to default, led by the PD:

“Nothing proves the case against the PD more than its Friday Aug. 11the edition, two days before the (recall) election.

“Newspapers usually guard against politicians’ last minute attacks and charges. On this day, the PD didn’t guard against such assaults, it launched one.

“There were four major page one articles. All were anti-Kucinich. They appeared calculated to enhance a recall vote. Each had a message: Kucinich couldn’t save Muny Light, his major commitment; the city would run out of money; services had declined; and an alternative was waiting in the wings, Ed Feighan. (By the way, Feighan’s friend Tim Hagan helped the corporate bosses then, as he does today.)

“Across the top of page one in bold headlines: ‘Sell Muny Light or risk takeover, Cleveland advisor says.’

“This was a manufactured story.

“Written by business editor Fred Freeman and Joe Wagner, the story was simply untrue and didn’t hold for 12 hours. The PD had to know how flimsy their information was.

“In the first edition there appeared the following paragraph:

“’A city official attending the meeting between Forbes, (Finance Director Joe) Tegreene, and (consultant John) Carhuff and other city financial aides said Forbes pressed Carhuff for an explanation of this statement. Carhuff said it meant Muny Light must be sold and the city must push for a favorable settlement of the water system lawsuit.

So the PD was depending upon Forbes as its source.

The PD had to admit shortly thereafter that the unnamed “city official” was George Forbes, Kucinich’s prime enemy.
I wrote, “That’s hardly the kind of back-up information that a reasonable editor would allow as the basis of a news story to dominate page one of a pre-election edition of a newspaper during a bitter political battle.”

“The PD had to retract the story the next day,” I wrote.

The PD retraction was: ‘Yesterday, John Carhuff, First Boston managing partner, denied telling Forbes that Muny Light should be sold.’ The retraction didn’t really offset the previous day’s major page one headline.

That headline was the same as the message to Kucinich on Dec. 15, 1978: Sell Muny Light or we take you down.

And nearly a year later, they took him down.

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Real NEO Memory Project

With all the dishonest sources of information about our history in the unreal NEO of our sick forefathers, we are so fortunate to have you here to inform us about our past, as well as present, Roldo. You deserve the Pulitzer Prize.

What do you know about Jones Day and Dick Pogue's roles in all of this?

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