Saturday, April 08, 2006

Let Me Lie in a House

The House by the Side of the Road

On April 5, 2006, responding to a formal challenge I had filed, the Scioto County Board of Elections determined that Timothy Loper had never lived at 519 or 519 ½ Third St. and voted unanimously to remove him from the list of qualified voters of the First Ward. City Solicitor David Kuhn, who appeared as a witness for Loper, had argued that though Loper had moved out of the First Ward, to Pleasant Ave., in the Sixth Ward, he intended to return, which Kuhn in his role as city solicitor had ruled was allowable by state law. Kuhn cited ORC 3503.02 (A), which states “That place shall be considered the residence of a person in which the person’s habitation is fixed and to which, whenever the person is absent, the person has the intention of returning.

What Kuhn failed to understand, or perhaps thought others might fail to understand, was that Loper’s fixed place of habitation in the First Ward was 114 Madison St., where he and his wife had lived for years. When that home was auctioned off by the sheriff on 17 August 2005, Loper and his wife lost their fixed place of habitation in the First Ward. The attempt by Loper to claim 519 or 519 ½ Third St. as his fixed place of habitation to which he intended to return was an obvious attempt to remain qualified to be councilman from the First Ward. But neither 519 or 519 ½ Third St. was ever his fixed place of habitation, so his declaration of his intention to return to it is a legal and logical absurdity. You can not return to live in a place you have never lived in.

519 1:2 3rd St
Loper Doesn't Lie Here Anymore

After the SCBE hearing, Loper announced contritely he would resign from the city council. Portsmouth Daily Times reporter Jeff Barron quoted Loper to that effect the next day, Thursday, 6 April 2005. But then the following day, Friday, 7 April 2005, Barron reported in the Daily Times that Loper had changed his mind and would not resign. Sounding peevish, Loper told Barron, “I'm not going to just walk away and let someone get appointed to Council.” No, not after all the lies and deception Loper had used to get the seat himself.

I believe Loper cannot resign from the city council. Just as he could not return to live in a house he had never lived in, he cannot resign from a city council that he was not legally a member of. The Nov. 2005 election for the First Ward seat was illegal because Loper was not a legal resident of the First Ward.

In those Nov. 2005 elections the state of Ohio gained national notoriety for “voting irregularities,” a euphemism for electoral fraud. We had our own little electoral “irregularities” down here in Portsmouth’s First Ward, where we suffer from constipated democracy. Portsmouth's irregularities can be traced not to Secretary of State Blackwell but to city solicitor Kuhn and to whomever else in city government is responsible for Loper’s name being on the ballot. The Scioto County Board of Elections determines who can vote. Somebody in the city government determines who can run for office. Let's not forget the case of Michael Malone.

The city should hold another election for the First Ward. I may be wrong, but there is not much likelihood of that happening with David Kuhn as city solicitor, for it was Kuhn whose flouting of the law made it possible for Loper to illegally run for and then illegally serve almost six months on the city council. Rather than chance an election, and who that might bring on to the city council, Kuhn will likely rule that the city council has the right to appoint Loper’s successor within thirty days, and if the council does not appoint someone, then Kuhn, city treasurer Williams, and council president Baughman will. The city charter calls for such a procedure, but it calls for it presumably for a legally elected council member. Loper’s residency and therefore his election were without legal foundation. Loper occupies his seat on the council illegally.

Steeped as Portsmouth is in corruption and criminality, who the hell cares whether Loper is on the city council illegally or not? City Solicitor Kuhn, City Clerk Aeh, and Chief Horner have more important things to do, like putting reform candidate Russell Cooper behind bars because (I think I am quoting Horner) of “a series of improprieties.

Members of the city council, who are trying to soak the taxpayers millions for the Marting building, will protest that having a special election for the First Ward will be a financial burden on the taxpayers. Jeff Barron will seek a comment from the adulterous Second Ward praying councilman David Malone, whom Barron regards as the voice of moral authority on the council. If Malone tells Barron we need cleaner streets, that is front-page news. Malone will probably tell Barron we must put an end to all this bickering over Loper and in the name of the Holy Spirit come together for the sake of the city. Perhaps Malone’s felonious brother Michael will make another appearance before the council to urge us not to criticize our city leaders, for without harmony there can be no “Prosperity for Portsmouth,” according to his Deeper Life philosophy.

As reported in the Daily Times on Friday, 7 April 2006, Loper realized, or somebody realized it for him, that his election to office in Nov. 2005 was illegal, so he has called for a new election. That is what Loper said on Friday, but what he might say on Saturday, Sunday, and, especially, on Monday, at the council meeting, may be something else.

I would not be surprised to see someone persuade him to resign so the council can handpick someone to their liking. But I hope Loper continues to call for a new election. I hope Kuhn realizes the political and financial costs of a new election will be less than the political and financial costs of a court case over the election. When Michael Malone came within one vote of becoming the Third Ward councilman, the city avoided a potential costly legal battle. Why had the city come so close to a costly legal battle? Apparently because Kuhn had not made it clear to Malone that as an ex-felon, he would probably not be able serve on the city council, even if he was elected.

Kuhn and those unelected privileged few who control the city will find the prospect of a court case involving Loper’s 2005 election to the city council unappealing. Loper’s landlord, whom Kuhn contacted prior to ruling Loper’s Third St. address legal, is Ted Journey, an ex-convict, who was arrested again a few weeks ago and charged with chopping up vehicles and dealing drugs at West End Auto, on Fourth St., in the First Ward. Imagine a court case in which Ted Journey, as Loper's landlord, might testify for Loper, as Kuhn did at the Board of Elections hearing.

At this point, it looks like it will be the city council who will appoint a new First Ward member. If the council does not act, then Kuhn & Co. will do the honors. They may even wait until November, when they could appoint Ann Sydnor, and we would be back where we were two years ago. The people of the First Ward should be allowed to elect a legal representative to the city council, but in our constipated democracy they will probably be denied that right.

Somebody has been pouring money into
to the Loper-Journey house of ill repute on Third St. in the last couple of weeks, probably in preparation for last Wednesday's Board of Election hearing. Since Loper is broke, where did the money for the installation for new windows come from? Somebody may have been investing in keeping Loper on council.

The Third St. house, or sty, reminds me of the of the poem “The House by Side of the Road,” a framed copy of which I picked up in a Maine antique barn years ago. Even further back than that, I went to an inspiring school in New Hampshire, where the house by the side of the road was located. I consider that school, that house, and that poem important influences on my development. It was perhaps the first and last time in my life that I found Christians who practiced what they preached.

I recall looking in the window of the house Samuel Walter Foss wrote the inspiring poem in, and now I have lived long enough to have looked through the dirty and broken windows (since replaced) of the Journey-Loper house on Third St. Could any two houses be more different! I will try to suggest those differences in the following doggerel:


Let me lie in a house by the side of the road,
When the pimps and the dealers go by;
Let me lie in a house on Third Street,
In the shade of Lute’s Supply;

Let me lie in the Municipal Building,
When political games are played;
Let me lie in the County Courthouse,
When voting challenges are made.

Let me lie in the
Daily Times building
When the journalistic prostitutes work;
Let me lie in the Visitors Center,
When the SOGP cuts up the pork.

Let me claim to live on Third Street,
But sleep each night on Pleasant,
Dreaming I'm First Ward councilman,
Lying to my heart’s content.

“It takes a heap of lying to make a house a home,” if I may misquote another poet, Robert Service.