Sunday, November 13, 2005

Post-election Reflections

Councilman Mollette

Councilman Mohr

In the recent elections, Marty Mohr, the councilman of Ward 6, came very close to losing to Richard Noel, a 78-year-old soft-spoken senior citizen who was fed up with Mohr’s abuse of ordinary citizens and his subservience to the over-privileged of Portsmouth. In fact, Noel got more Yes votes (358) in the election than Mohr did (354), but not all those who voted Yes for Noel also voted Yes on the recall. To recall Mohr, they had to vote Yes for the recall as well as Yes for Noel. Confused? Well, so apparently were some voters, and that confusion, combined with the screwup of the vendors of new voting machines, is the reason Mohr will continue to misrepresent Ward 6 on the Portsmouth City Council. If it's a voting screwup, and it isn't Florida, it must be Ohio.

Mohr might have been removed from office in the 2004 recalls that swept Ann Sydnor and Carole Caudill out of the Municipal building. But because he claimed to be outraged by Mayor’s Bauer underhandedness, and because he denounced Bauer for the city’s purchase of the Marting’s building to a Columbus Dispatch reporter (20 June 2004), Mohr shielded himself from the wrath of the voters. In the the Dispatch, interview Mohr accused Bauer of “a pattern of deceit,” claiming that Bauer “misled council on the value and condition of the building. It ain’t worth anything. . . . ” Mohr finished by saying, “At first I didn’t think [the recall election] was a good idea. Now, after several months of continuing lies and deceit, yeah, it needs to be done. It needs to be done in the worst way.”

Marty Mohr on Marting building: "It ain't worth anything."

I was told that when Mohr was first thinking of running for city council, he was motivated by a sincere desire to clean up the corruption in city government. But he subsequently and somewhat suddenly turned around 180 degrees. He got very impatient with reformers and democracy, and he called for the end of that part of council meetings that permitted citizens to speak on items not on the agenda. At another council meeting, he angrily denounced some of those who sat in the front rows of the meeting as “crap” because he held them responsible for a rumor circulating on a local internet chat room that he was involved in an adulterous relationship. Becoming increasingly arrogant, belligerent, and anti-democratic at council meetings, Mohr began looking and acting like the Italian dictator Benito Mussolini. Instead of the reformer he appeared to have been in 2004, he emerged instead in 2005 as the buffoonish, hotheaded right-hand man of Howard Baughman, the smarmy council president who is a relative of Clayton Johnson. Mohr’s boorish behavior caused a new word to enter the Portsmouth political slang: Mohronic.

Why did Mohr do a 180 degree turn? Could one of the reasons have been because Neal Hatcher was in the process of purchasing property from the Mohr family, building a dormitory on it, and naming that dormitory Mohr Hall? Why name a dormitory after the Mohrs? They had once lived on the site, but so had other families. The Mohrs are a respectable Portsmouth family, but no Mohr has ever been a candidate for Portsmouth’s Wall of Fame. Mohr himself is the proprietor of Automania, a business that specializes in noise pollution, a business that appeals to the mania among young males to turn their automobiles into earsplitting thumping boom boxes. Automania is an appropriate name for his business. I think it must help to be a maniac, or at least stoned, to appreciate such brainless noise. When I am wakened late at night by the sound of some deep dumb-ass bass sound in a passing automobile, I think “Mohronic.” There are reports that Automania was well represented at the now notorious Cruisefest.

So it was certainly not for noise pollution specialist Marty Mohr that a college dormitory was named Mohr Hall by Neal Hatcher. Then for whom? A plaque on the Mohr dorm explains that Ann Mohr, who I'm told is Marty Mohr's aunt, had graduated from the Portsmouth branch of Ohio University in 1971. So are we to believe the reason why one of Neal Hatcher’s dormitories is named Mohr Hall is that somebody who once lived on the site graduated from the Portsmouth branch of Ohio U. thirty-five years ago? Is that a historical event worthy of commemoration? But the honor, or flattery, of having a Neal Hatcher dormitory named after his family can not alone account for Mohr morphing from a reformer into a political tool of the over-privileged of Portsmouth.

“Follow the money” was the advice Deep Throat gave to Woodward and Bernstein, and I tried following it. Hatcher not only named a dormitory after the Mohrs, he paid them money for part of the land on which the dorm is located. How much money did Hatcher pay the Mohrs for their property? I was unable to find out because in the very knotty real estate relationship between Hatcher and the Mohr family, in which the city and Shawnee State acted not just as intermediaries but as pimps, the sale price was kept from public view. In inquiries I made at the Scioto County Courthouse, I learned that one of the advantages of the tax-free arrangement that Hatcher works out with the city in deals like the one he arranged with the Mohr family is that the sale price does not get recorded at the Scioto County auditor’s office. Hatcher can generously pay off or buy-off favored parties without publicly revealing how much he pays them. Hatcher cheats most people in what he ends up paying them for their property, but there are a selected few he pays very well. Harry Kyle pointed out at a 2002 city council meeting that Hatcher would pay $5000 for one lot and for a lot right next to it he would pay someone who was well-connected “six or seven or eight times that much.”

What would Hatcher have paid for the Mohr property if Marty Mohr had not been on the city council and therefore was not in a position to do his political bidding? Probably what he pays others who are not one of the Portsmouth’s over-privileged: as little as possible. So the M emblazoned above the entrance of the Mohr Hall dormitory could stand not only for Mohr but also for Money.

Mohr Hall, a student dormitory in Hatcherville

As quoted in the Community Common, Mohr interpreted his slim margin of victory in last Tuesday’s recall election as an endorsement to continue doing just what he has been doing. Lord, help us! The first thing Mohr says he is going to pursue is changing the rules for recalling public officials. “If you remove someone, there has to be a good reason,” Mohr told the Community Common (9 Nov. 2005). “Not just because you don’t like the way he ties his shoes.” There are those who are not convinced that Mohr knows how to tie his shoes, but it is not tying shoes but being buffoonish and contemptuous of concerned citizens who dare to come to council meetings that led a majority of voters in Ward 6 to recall him from office. It is not because of the way he ties his shoes that Mohr was censured and fined but for his Marty Mussolini-like behavior at council meetings.

Mohr had previously tried to change the rules that permitted citizens to speak before the council on items not on the agenda. That attempt to stifle free speech failed, and so should any attempt to change the rules on recall. As for the necessity of recall elections, especially for politicians like Bauer and Mohr, I will quote Marty Mohr himself, only substitute “years” for “several months.” “Now, after several months of continuing lies and deceit, yeah, it needs to be done. It needs to be done in the worst way.” In no way should a volatile individual of such limited moral and intellectual capacity as a Marty Mohr be allowed to serve for four years on the city council without the possibility of being recalled.

If anything should be changed, it is the four-year term for members of city council. Four years can be an eternity when those in public office are as incompetent as they are corrupt, as we are now discovering at the state and national level. At least at the national and state level, there are two parties to choose between in any given election. In Portsmouth, political differences are insignificant. Never mind Democrat and Republican, in Portsmouth there is just the party of the corrupt and incompetent and the party of the honest and competent, and Democrats and Republicans can be in either. Unfortunately, there aren’t many in the party of the honest and the competent. Fortunately – I will even go far as to say miraculously – there is somebody from the party of the honest and competent on the city council and his name is Robert Mollette. I say “miraculously” because a felon with a record as long as Randy Johnson’s arm was permitted, and perhaps even encouraged and abetted by city officials, to run against Mollette in 2004.

No one, not even those crack investigative reporters on the Prostitute Daily Times pointed out the criminal background of Mollette’s felonious opponent, Michael Malone, brother of city councilman David Malone. Mollette won the race against Michael Malone 693 to 692: 1385 votes were cast but one vote was all that separated them. I don’t believe in divine intervention, but that one vote that put Mollette ahead makes me wonder. They put up another recall candidate to run against Mollette in last Tuesday’s election. Mollette rolled over him by getting about 80% of votes cast, though those figures have not yet been certified. In the local race that mattered most, the race in Ward 3, which was even more important than the mayoral race, the people won, and they won by a huge margin.

So many "M"s: Mohr, Malone, Mussolini, Mollete. Maybe some day there will be a dormitory or public building in Portsmouth with an M that deserves to be on it, an M that stands for Mollette, a Portsmouth councilman who, wonder of wonders, is not in the pocket of the over-privileged.