Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Rich White Trash


City of Portsmouth Ordinance 941.04, dealing with the “DISPOSAL OF REFUSE AND GARBAGE GENERALLY,states that “(a) No person, firm or corporation other than the Director of Service or his authorized
agent, who holds a lawful contract with this City shall collect, remove, transport or dispose of residential garbage and refuse within this City.
(b) It shall be unlawful for any person to dump or cause to be dumped any garbage, refuse, litter, junk, appliances, equipment, cans, bottles, paper, lumber, trees, limbs, brush, or parts thereof anywhere in the incorporated area of the City except as may be permitted by City ordinance or at the solid waste transfer station owned by the City.”

Portsmouth real estate developer and SOGP member Neal Hatcher has sunk, or dug, to a new low. His workmen were recently caught trying to bury trash at the corner of Fourth and Waller St. The trash, which was trucked in from some other location, didn’t look like poor trash. It looked like rich white trash, with discarded children’s toys – a cart, a bike, a football – and mystery trash in black plastic bags.

Fourth and Waller is the site of one of the many Shawnee State University dormitories Hatcher is building in what is called sarcastically “Hatcherville” by those residents who have not yet been driven out of the neighborhood. Those who have been driven out are said to have been “Hatchered.”

Joe Perry: Refuses to
be “Hatchered


One of those residents of Hatcherville who has refused to be Hatchered is Joe Perry,
a young African-American property owner who refused to let Hatcher intimidate him. Perry’s aunt is the celebrated soprano Kathleen Battle, who has publicly come to his defense in his struggle against Hatcher’s bullying and bulldozing tactics. I chronicled her support of her nephew in a blog “Battle in the Fray.”

Hatcher has an ongoing risk-free sweetheart dormitory deal with Shawnee State University in which the state of Ohio takes most of the risk and Hatcher most of the profits. The public knew very little about the details of these sweetheart deals until I dug up public documents through the so-called Sunshine laws. I have written several blogs on Hatcher’s most-favored-developer status in our city.


Don’t expect Portsmouth’s daily newspaper the Daily Times to dig up anything because it is the lap dog for the Southern Ohio Growth Partnership (SOGP). When it comes to writing dirt about Portsmouth’s rich white trash, the lips of Daily Times’ reporters are sealed. Its publisher is a member of the SOGP, which is a private corporation and therefore not subject to Sunshine laws. SOGP members are reportedly sworn to secrecy, like the Skull and Bones society at Yale, to which two rich boys, George H. W. Bush and John Kerry, belonged. Bush Jr. had to settle for Skull and Bonehead.
Speaking of which, if you drive through hollows in southern Ohio you will see that some of the poor whites who live in them have a simple solution about what to do with trash. They dump it into the nearest gully and when that fills up they move on to the next gully. Hatcher apparently thought his most-favored-developer status gave him the right to bury trash at the sites of his dormitories. He didn’t get away with burying trash on the corner of Fourth and Waller, however, because somebody in the neighborhood is reported to have made a phone call. Rather than risk prosecution and bad publicity (not in the Portsmouth Daily Times but in the Shawnee Sentinel), Hatcher is said to have come and ordered the trash removed.

The Hatcher trash incident can serve as a metaphor, because too much of local, state, and national government consists of covering up the illegal and unethical connections between business people and politicians, both of whom like to take cover behind flags and crosses. At the national level we have the widespread corruption resulting from the collusion between politicians and business lobbyists like Jack Abramof. At the state level, in Ohio, we have Representative Bob Ney facing indictment as the taker of Abramof’s bribes, and we have the exposure by the Toledo Blade of the coin-investment fraud perpetrated by a Republican fund-raiser with ties to Gov. Taft. In Portsmouth we have city government functioning as the tool of the SOGP, and we have venal university trustees and crooked city council members bailing out with public funds owners of distressed residential and commercial properties. A doctor’s house on Camelot Drive, far from the campus, with little parking space and with serious structural problems, was purchased as the official home of Shawnee State’s president. An empty department store on Second Street owned by one of Portsmouth’s over-privileged was converted with pork funds into a Welcome Center and a headquarters for the SOGP. And the empty 114 year-old Marting’s building will be converted at great public expense into Portsmouth’s “new” city hall unless the voters in May say no to a referendum that would give a go-ahead to the project.


One valuable tool the public uses to expose these real estate shenanigans are the so-called Sunshine laws, which enable private citizens to dig up documents that public officials would otherwise prefer never saw the light of day. Nobody dug deeper into the dirt than John Welton, aka Doug Deepe, who used the Sunshine laws to uncover levels of corruption and scandal that no one had plumbed before.

A nationwide Sunshine Week was held March 12-18. A Sunshine forum was held at Shawnee State University on March 13. Martin Susec, a representative from the state attorney general’s office, as well as state representative Todd Book, were part of the program. Councilman Bob Mollette and his wife Teresa were among those who were in attendance, because they have become leading proponents and users of the Sunshine laws. The Mollettes’ websites are devoted to making government transparent by making public documents available to researchers and bloggers.

It was Teresa Mollette who provided me with one of the photos Joe Perry took of Hatcher’s trash at the corner of Fourth and Waller. I decided to turn Perry's photo into Trash Art, which is a school of modern art that transforms refuse into something artistic. I turned Perry’s photograph of Hatcher’s trash into a semi-abstract composition that I named “Rich White Trash by Moonglow.” Since much of the covering up and the skullduggery takes place in the dark, I felt moonlight was appropriate.

Hatcher Trash
Rich White Trash by Moonglow

Police chief Horner, Mayor Kalb, and the city council are doing their best to keep the public in the dark, which means returning to conducting public business in secret meetings. It was a series of secret meetings that led Judge Marshall to rule invalid the sale of the Marting building to the city. But with chutzpah that you have to be impressed with, Mayor Kalb, the city council , and Chief Horner are insisting that they have a right to conduct the secretive style of government that Judge Marshall ruled illegal.

Horner was snapping photos at the Sunshine forum at SSU and he has taken to snapping pictures of those who attend city council meetings, some of whom he accuses of being “domestic terrorists.” While Chief Horner’s campaign against drug dealers appears to be ineffective, his campaign of intimidation of concerned citizens who might request public documents from his department is chillingly effective. Like the record of his son’s drug convictions, which have been expunged from public records, and like the disbursements from a drug-funded police bank account, which he won’t give a public accounting of, there are some items he wants to cover up, like the trash at Fourth and Waller.

The attempt by Portsmouth politicians to make recalls more difficult, government more secretive, and pork more plentiful is being done on behalf of the rich white trash of the SOGP, which controls the city. No matter how you slice it, and where you bury it, that’s what it comes down to. If and when the voters cannot recall crooked public officials and do not have access to public documents, that will be a dark night indeed.
Rich White Trash: Paris Hilton