Tuesday, December 07, 2004


Thomas Gainsborough, "Girl with Pigs"

In a poem he wrote in 1854, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow dubbed Cincinnati the “Queen City,” and the nickname stuck. But because of the importance of pigs in Cincinnati’s economy, the "Queen City" city in the 1800s was also sometimes derogatorily called "Porkopolis."

There is another kind of pork. On an interesting Cincinnati website, Porkopolis.com, this other kind of “pork” is defined as “a government project, appropriation or appointment that yields jobs or other benefits to a specific locale and patronage opportunities to its political representative.” The process of funneling government money into local pockets is called “porkbarreling.”

The most notorious example of porkbarreling in Portsmouth’s recent history is the City Council’s expenditure of $2,000,000 of public funds to purchase the Marting’s empty white-elephant department store. But $2,000,000 is no big deal by Portsmouth's standards. The City Council and former mayors have granted over $27,000,000 in property abatements, which is a considerable perk.

The most recent instance of “porkbarreling” was when Republican Representative Rob Portman traveled from Cincinnati to Portsmouth, just before November’s election, bringing a check for $300,000 made out to Portsmouth Murals, Inc. Portman’s delivery of pork was timely because Portsmouth Murals, Inc. had previously spent $350,000 to purchase another empty department store from retired portly Portsmouth businessman George Clayton. Should Clayton thank Rob Portman or Rob Porkman?

The biggest dispenser of pork in Portsmouth is the S.O.G.P., the Southern Ohio Growth Partnership, alias Southern Ohio Great Porkroll. The Sentinel claims the SOGP was supplied with nearly $300,000,000 of pork, and the Sentinel further contends that under the government formula that guides these disbursements, the worse conditions got in Portsmouth, the more pork the SOGP received. So it was in the interest of Portsmouth's overprivileged to run the city down. A real estate developer, Neal Hatcher, makes millions out of trashing neighborhoods. To help him run down the city, the city of Portsmouth has given him over $3,700,000 in pork-abatements.

Considering the importance of “pork” in Portsmouth’s economy, shouldn't its nickname be Porksmouth?