Sunday, October 24, 1999

Answerman knows it all

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        “Look, in the sky — it's a bird, it's a cast-iron blimp... It's Answerman!” Faster than a light-rail study, more powerful than a weak mayor, he leaps to conclusions at a single bound.

        Question: So what's the election about?

        Answerman: It's about two weeks too long. It's about 20 people running for nine Cincinnati Council seats — and that's about 18 too many.

        Q. Why?

        A. Because voters always threaten to “throw da bums out” — then throw da bums back in. That leaves two seats open. (Thank-you, term limits).

        Q. What about Paul Booth, who was accused of living outside the city?

        A. Answerman says that if Paul Booth can be disqualified for living in Amberley Village, then certain other council members should be disqualified for owning real estate on Mars.

        Q. Who's the next mayor?

        A. Answerman predicts Anchorman. Charlie Luken, the mayor who became a congressman who became a TV talking head, will go back three spaces to mayor, thanks to a lunatic elections system designed by — Charlie Luken.

        Q. But what if we get one of the human hand-grenades for mayor by accident?

        A. Don't panic. We have managed to get by for two years with virtually no mayor at all, while Roxanne Qualls ran for Congress, then ran for the airport at every opportunity. As she discovered, coalitions can form without the mayor, making leadership irrelevant.

        Q. Then what happens?

        A. Everyone will wait for two more years to be rescued by Strongmayor. Two years of indecision and apathy are the second worst thing that could happen to Cincinnati.

        Q. What's the worst?

        A. Council members roll up their sleeves and do what they do best: hand out pork, pad the payroll and fight like Albanians over paper clips.

        Q. What should they do, wiseguy?

        A. The same thing they do every time council makes a fool of itself: Hire a new city manager.

        Q. Don't we already have one?

        A. Yes, but most candidates say John Shirey should start packing — and the rest offered to buy him luggage. So let's hire someone local, who can clean up City Hall and tell council members to get stuffed. We need a superhero retired CEO to answer the Batsignal, then go back to being Bruce Wayne. It's the Cincinnatus tradition.

        Q. Any other suggestions?

        A. Next time, the organizers of Tall Stacks should set a boat on fire and shoot at some tourists. Maybe then the city will provide police and fire security at no charge and Answerman won't have to pay $2.40 for a coke.

        Q. That sounds insane.

        A. Hey, it worked for the Ujima/Jazz Festival. To “prevent violence,” council members gave Ujima $450,000 in subsidies and services. Tall Stacks had to pay the city $359,000 for police and fire protection.

        Or maybe Tall Stacks should threaten to leave like Lazarus and Mike Brown.

        Q. What's up with #*&@! Mike Brown?

        A. Take it easy, you're beginning to sound like a Pittsburgh Steelers fan. Contrary to popular opinion, Mike is not the Arch Enemy of Cincinnati. If Mike had decided in 1996 to take the money and run to Baltimore, there would be no stadiums, no Fort Washington Way construction, no plans for housing and entertainment on a new riverfront. We'd all be whining about how much we miss professional football in Cincinnati.

        Q. We're doing that now. What are you suggesting — Mike Brown for city manager?

        A. He does have a lot of experience dealing with extra-large egos, extravagant spending, flamboyant crybabies and humiliating defeats. And imagine how it could help the Bengals.

        Q. Anything else?

        A. Yes, Chuck Gentile, the Cleveland photographer sued by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for taking a picture of their building at sunset, finally won. He lost his marriage and a lot of money, but his court victory will keep corporate trademarks off the sun and the sky.

        Q. Where was the ACLU during his fight for artistic free expression?

        A. Busy in Brooklyn, defending scam artists who think elephant dung is “art.”

        Q. Where is Answerman going now?

        A. To ask for a few million of Ohio's $10 billion tobacco jackpot to buy cigars.

        Q. Why should they give you money?

        A. Somebody has to keep smoking, or there will be no tobacco money. And Answerman has learned something from listening to all those politicians. All you need is a few magic words: “It's for the children.”

        Peter Bronson is editorial page editor of The Enquirer. If you have questions or com ments, call 768-8301, or write to 312 Elm Street, Cincinnati, Ohio 45202.


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