Thursday, March 30, 2006

Who's Your Mummy?

124-Year-Old Maid

On May 2nd, the people of Portsmouth should VOTE NO on converting Marting’s department store into a city building because almost everything associated with the Marting deal has been fraudulent. The deal was put together secretly and illegally by Portsmouth lawyer and political boss Clayton Johnson. Judge Marshall invalidated the sale of the building to the city on the grounds that the way the sale was “negotiated” violated Ohio’s sunshine laws, but the new corrupt Mayor and city council turned around and apparently secretly worked out another deal with Johnson that made the city the owner of the Marting building once again.

The Marting building is like the Old Maid in the card game. In that game, the player who ends up with the Old Maid card (the last queen) loses the game. The one who ends up with the Marting building loses our game because the Marting building is virtually worthless. Back when he was still capable of being honest on the subject of the Marting building, councilman Marty Mohr told a Columbus Dispatch reporter (a reporter Clayton Johnson would not talk to), “It ain’t worth anything.” Mohr was right. It will take many millions of public dollars, far more than the Mayor is willing to admit, to convert this streetwalker of a building into a city hall, millions of dollars that would be better spent on a new state-of-the-art structure, built from the ground up, which is what taxpayers and those city employees who are honest deserve.

Mayor Kalb and the city council are trying to bail out Johnson and the Marting Foundation at the taxpayers’ expense. Count on it, the Portsmouth Daily Times, the Community Common, and station WNXT, and its SOGP motor-mouth Steve Hayes, will urge citizens to vote for the Marting fraud, just as they urged voters to keep Mayor Bauer in office. Mayor Bauer was thrown out of office because of the Marting fraud, and the Marting building never should have been repurchased by the city. But since the city has repurchased it, it would only be sending good money after bad to try to hide the indisputable fact that the Marting building is approaching its 124th (!) birthday, and that behind the faux-brick curtain wall that was added forty years ago is an Old Maid who should be allowed to die with dignity instead of being preserved, like a living mummy, at the cost of many millions of public funds.

I asked Mayor Kalb at a public meeting how old the Marting's building was, and he said he didn't know. No one is more committed than him to converting the building to a city hall, and he doesn't know, or seem to care, how old it is. Kalb appears to be brainwashed about Marting's, so it would not make any difference how old it is or how many millions the conversion is going to cost. His critics believe he really doesn't have a handle on finances generally, not just the cost of the Marting's deal. He may suffer from what could be called a lottery mentality. He would like to see gambling come to Portsmouth so he wouldn't have to drive over to Kentucky.

The above photo shows the 1883 Marting's building at 515 Chillicothe St. with the 1909 facade. The building at the extreme right became part of Marting's as it expanded. Photo appears to be late 1940s.

The original Marting building was built in 1883. Marting's subsequently expanded by acquiring the buildings north and west of it. I don’t know when those other buildings were erected, but they are about the same vintage as the original Marting’s building and might even be older. A new façade was added to those old buildings in 1909, which gave an appearance of architectural unity to buildings that originally had little in common, architecturally speaking. But that 1909 façade in no way strengthened the buildings: it just made them look a little less older, a little more elegant.

The year 1909 was engraved at the top of the original Marting building when the new façade was added. This led to the erroneous impression that there is only one Marting building and that it was erected in 1909. There were a couple of buildings, which were already a quarter of century old, hiding behind the 1909 façade. Then around 1964 what architects call a curtain wall was erected, covering up the 1909 façade.

So we have a curtain wall covering up a façade covering up a building. A curtain wall can be made of brick, steel, glass, a composite material. A curtain wall is not weight bearing; it does not support the building. Usually a curtain wall is for a decorative or cosmetic purpose, to change the appearance of a building or to hide its age or unattractive and run-down condition.

Marting's 2005: Portsmouth's Bad Dream

Who knows what architectural decay lurks behind the curtain wall of the Marting building? We don’t know what the Marting building looks like anymore than we know what Florida’s Katherine Harris looks like behind her notorious makeup. We don’t know because we can’t peek behind the pancake. Florida’s unhappy Republican Party appears to be stuck with Harris as its candidate for the U.S. Senate, and are Florida Republicans ever regretting it, as we will regret being stuck with the Marting building as our city building.

Phyllis Diller: As Many Facelifts as Marting's

What does the 1909 façade of the Marting building really look like forty years after the curtain wall was applied? The Hollywood star Rita Hayworth used to say that men went to bed with her and were surprised the next morning to wake up with Margarita Carmen Cansino (her real name.) With the Marting building, the city of Portsmouth may think it’s going to bed with Rita Hayworth, but it will wake up not with Margarita Carmen Cansino but with Phyllis Diller. If this latest renovation goes forward, the Marting building will have had as many facelifts as Diller: four, and counting.

The Marting fraud is so emblematic of Portsmouth’s problems: underhanded politicians and unscrupulous SOGP characters putting on a front, pretending to be virtuous and civic-minded, hiding behind the flag and the cross, treating the Marting building as a kind of shrine to Portsmouth’s romanticized past. Long after the last rich white trash has retired to Hilton Head, the people of Portsmouth will have to live with the Marting building, as though being married to a mummy.

We only have to view the Marting building from behind to know who or what we are going to bed with, and if we do end up with Marting’s we should not blame it on the pimps in the Municipal building just because they are the sleazy characters who hustled us. We have a chance on May 2 to VOTE NO to the prostitution of local government by VOTING NO on the Marting referendum.

Marting building from rear: 2006

(For a complete time-line of the Marting's scam, go to Teresa Mollette's excellent website.)