Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Mohr Automania


The May 22nd Portsmouth City Council meeting indicates that the most serious problem in city government may not be corruption but stupidity. What else can we
conclude from the moronic statements of Mayor Jim Kalb and vice president of the Portsmouth City Council Marty Mohr? Kalb is still employed part-time by Kroger’s supermarket. Mohr is proprietor of Auto Mania, “Tunes, Tints, Stripes,” and specializes in visual and sound pollution. The volatile Mohr could serve as a poster boy for Road Rage.

With an arrogance that has made his head bigger than Barry Bonds’ (after all he is vice president of the Portsmouth City Council), Mohr has reached new depths of stupidity. He said Mayor Kalb driving a new Ford Expedition was good for the image of the city, like the new schools that have been built. I am not exaggerating. As Jeff Barron reported in the PDT, “He [Mohr] compared the SUV to city voters approving new school buildings three years ago. Mohr said the buildings have improved the academic standing and image of the Portsmouth City School system. He said the SUV would do the same for the city's image.” Perhaps Mohr could paint some sizzling stripes on the Kalb’s SUV to further enhance Portsmouth’s image.

Speaking of the kind of car the mayor drives enhancing Portsmouth’s image, what about the red Corvette former swinging mayor Greg Bauer drove? At least Bauer, who was recalled from office by the voters, did not tap into public money to pay for the Corvette. He is rumored to have gotten a very good deal from a local car dealer, but he is also rumored to have had trouble keeping up with the payments, which was not good for Portsmouth’s image.

Municipal Building

What is bad for Portsmouth’s image is not Mayor Kalb driving a 1999 car. What is bad for Portsmouth’s image, apart from the stupid utterances of Mohr and Kalb, is the way in which the city government is allowing the architecturally and historically important Municipal Building to fall into disrepair. Kalb and Mohr were willing to spend $9 million dollars to renovate a 124 year-old department store, but they would not spend half that to renovate the 72-year-old home of local government, the Municipal Building. Uncultured clodhoppers that they are, Kalb and Mohr are embarrassed by the Municipal Building, as Kalb is by his 1999 car. Oh, the ignominy of it! A man who had risen to the heights of being mayor of southern Ohio’s drug capital having to drive a car that old.

U.S. Post Office

The U.S. Post Office is built of the same material and in the same architectural style as the Municipal Building. The U.S. Post Office, which was built in 1935, one year after the Municipal Building, is one of the architectural treasures of Portsmouth. So is the Municipal Building, although neglect had made it hard to see. The Mayor and others are determined to tear down the Municipal Building because some developer reportedly wants the land to build a casino on. When and if gambling comes to the city, the developer wants that spot ready for slots. In Portsmouth, what developers want, developers get.

The way in which the Municipal Building has been labeled dilapidated and a deathtrap is not unlike the way in which the 15th Street viaduct land was declared toxic, sharply reducing its value. Then a developer, with Mayor Bauer’s connivance, bought the allegedly toxic 15th St. Viaduct land for a song, and has made a million on it. That same developer could be the one who will build a casino on the site of the Municipal Building and make millions.

The Federal government was willing to spend the money to maintain the Portsmouth U.S. Post Office. The city government does not want to spend a dime on the Municipal Building. The mayor wants the city to buy him a new SUV so that he can take visitors up the hill where the water tower is located, but he won’t fix up the home of city government for the visitors who come there. A restored Municipal Building is an infinitely better way to improve the city’s image than providing Mayor Kalb with a new SUV so that he can drive visitors up the water tower hill.

Leaky Chambers

Speaking of water, what about the water that is leaking into the Municipal Building from the roof that the mayor won’t repair? What about the leaking corner of the otherwise graceful council chambers. The city government loves to display that leaky corner of the council chambers to visitors for the same reason a beggar likes to display his sores. The beggar should get his sores treated and get back to work instead of looking for handouts. The Mayor should get to work and have the leaky roof repaired and stop fretting about the humiliation of driving a 1999 car.

As for those new schools that Mohr likened to a SUV, let us hope that the generations of students who graduate from them will not seek to impress others by the jazzy cars they drive or the deafening music exploding from them. Let us hope they have higher ambitions in life than turning their cars into mobile boom boxes and their minds into empty receptacles for stimulants and status symbols. And let us hope that when those students are on their death beds, they can look back and take satisfaction in having been more than automaniacs at Cruisefests. Let us hope that they have higher ambitions than to become vice president of the city council or mayor of one of the most drug-ridden and corrupt cities in Ohio. Let us hope those students will climb to greater heights than can be reached by an SUV. Let us hope.
"Vrroomm-vroomm" (Pixar Studios)