Saturday, May 13, 2006

The Missing Link


In a report in the Daily Times on May 12, 2006, Timothy Loper was quoted as saying about being mayor of Portsmouth, “There’s a lot of businessmen who wanted to back me this time for it. But I didn't think I had the education for it, and I didn't have the knowledge. But after seeing the ones that are running the city, I think I'm just as knowledgeable as anyone else.”

After years of frustration and failure, after years of working off and on at menial jobs, most recently pumping gas for minimum wage levels, after enough DUI’s to earn him a jail sentence, Timothy Loper discovered the key to success, at least in Portsmouth. He learned from the examples of past mayor Greg Bauer and current mayor Jim Kalb, as well as from his own futile career, that when you fail at your calling, whether it be in graphics (Bauer Graphics), groceries (Kroger’s), or pumping gas (Bi-Lo), there is one last chance for insignificant failures willing to sell their soul: get into politics.

And what is the prize jewel, the gold ring, the top of heap of local politics? What in Portsmouth is worth a chronic failure selling his soul for? It is not acquiring absolute knowledge, as it was for Faust. It is not beating the New York Yankees, as it was for Joe Hardy in Damn Yankees. No, for Loper, the impossible dream, the summit of success, the Mt. Everest of Scioto County, was none of these. His dream is being mayor of Portsmouth.

Loper doesn’t need talent, intelligence, or education to be mayor of Portsmouth. He just needed to learn how the system worked, and as a member of the city council he learned that. “I think I'm just as knowledgeable as anyone else,” he told the Daily Times, and he is. He learned how to betray the Concerned Citizens who had made his election to the city council possible. With the advice of the solicitous City Solicitor, he learned how to lie about in which ward he was really living. From the boorish councilman Marty Mohr, he learned how to skip those council meetings where he might have to answer to the public for his lies and his deceit.

As a councilman, Loper learned, above all, just who controls Portsmouth economically and politically. He learned who on the Chamber of Commerce and the Southern Ohio Growth Partnership calls the shots. He learned who the businessmen and lawyers who control the city are, and he made it clear he was prepared to do their bidding. And they led him to believe that if he continued to do what they wanted, he might someday be mayor. “There's a lot of businessmen who wanted to back me this time for it,” he told the Daily Times.

Supplying the Lute

Among the businessmen who are backing Loper is Chris Lute, who owns Lute Plumbing Supply, located within yards from where Loper pumps gas at Bi-Lo and not far from Ted Journey’s chop-shop, on Fourth Street. An internet site reports that in “June 1992, the Department of Labor (DOL) came down hard on Chris Lute, president of Portsmouth, Ohio-based Lute Plumbing Supply Inc. A DOL investigation found the wholesaler in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (FLSA), which, among other things, requires employers to pay hourly employees minimum wage plus time and a half for overtime.” The DOL fined Lute $40,000 for back wages. Lute complained, “Having to pay our salespeople an hourly wage keeps us from being creative. It prevents us from doing things to motivate our employees.” In Lute’s view, a mimimum wage was not only uncreative – it was unAmerican. What workers need is more incentive, not a mimimum wage. But a mimimum wage is just what unskilled workers like Loper need to provide them a subsistence living. And Lute was opposed to it.

When Loper became a city councilman, Lute (I have been told) became far more solicitous about Loper’s wellbeing. Just who among Portsmouth’s philanthropic citizens is helping Loper remodel the Journeys’ 519 Third St. house is a trade secret now, but it would not surprise me if Lute was among those who supplied Loper with, if not the loot, at least the materials for the renovations.

Our local businessmen preach initiative and enterprise for workers, but when it comes to getting millions of dollars in various forms of assistance from all levels of government these businessmen do not practice what they preach. For them, there is no stigma attached to welfare provided it is corporate welfare. Pork is bad for minimum-wage underdogs but just fine for fat cats.

And when it comes to financially assisting local politicians, and mayors in particular, local businessmen can be very creative. Whether the mayor is a Republican or Democrat failure doesn’t make much difference. Local developer Neal Hatcher is willing to support a Republican or a Democratic mayor, just as long as the mayor allows Hatcher to raze hell. If Loper ever is elected, he will not forget those businessmen who urged him to run for mayor and without whose financial support he would have had about as much chance of becoming mayor as a minimum wage-earner would have of becoming as rich as Chris Lute.

Most people in elected office in city government are indirectly employed by the businessmen of Portsmouth. They are not paid by the hour and there is no minimum wage. There is nothing, to rework Lute’s language, that prevents the employers of Portsmouth from doing things to motivate their employees, the public officials they helped get elected. The over-privileged of Portsmouth who did not give a rat’s ass about Tim Loper when he was an unemployed unskilled laborer, who would have thought him a lazy drunken lout undeserving of welfare or food stamps, now want him to be mayor, if we can believe what Loper is now claiming, which is a big if.

As a politician, Loper is the missing link between Portsmouth’s encarcerated and unencarcerated businessmen, between Portsmouth’s indicted and unindicted entrepreneurs. The Journeys are, like the Hatchers and the Claytons (Johnson and George), businessmen. But they are more than that: they are entrepreneurs. They are following their American dream. They are not satisfied with working for wages, minimum or otherwise. The Journeys differ from the “respectable” businessmen of Portsmouth only in this respect: the Journeys lack the education, contacts, and skills that would enable them as businessmen to control those who make and enforce the laws. The Journeys lack the clout and the millions that would enable them to operate unethically as businessmen within the law. The Journeys don’t have the pull that would enable them to get millions of dollars of pork from the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture the way the SOGP does. The Journeys have to bring home the bacon the old-fashion way: they have to steal it. They don’t have politicians and lawyers doing it for them.

So the Journeys chose to conduct their business outside the law, dealing in stolen vehicles and drugs. And when they were busted, it was not the Portsmouth police department who took the initiative, because Chief Horner’s chief concern is with “domestic terrorists” represented by the Concerned Citizens of Portsmouth and Scioto County, which I admit to being a member of.

Loper accused the Concerned Citizens of driving him from the city council. He said the Concerned Citizens were opposed to him because he would not vote against the purchase of the Marting’s building. Loper said the Concerned Citizens’ pressure on him was the same as if he was being bribed. Loper also claimed that not being allowed to vote in the First Ward in the May 2nd primary was like “being raped.” When and if Loper is raped or bribed, it will not be by the Concerned Citizens.

When it comes to murder, rape, bribery, and lying, no one has anything to teach the Lopers. If the SOGP ever succeeds in getting Loper elected mayor, they will have finally got the politician equal to their own perfidy. Pumping gas at Bi-Lo, Loper is within a minute’s walk of Lute’s Plumbing, Journey’s chopshop, and the SOGP headquarters, in the Welcome Center.

If Loper is ever mayor, we will have the missing link between the indicted and the unindicted criminals of Portsmouth, between the Journeys and the gents in the SOGP. Loper is living proof of the link between the criminals at the chopshop and the criminals in the Municipal building and the Welcome Center.