Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Seventeen Mohr Resolutions

In a revealing interview in the Portsmouth Daily Times (Nov. 7, 2007), Marty Mohr said a number of foolish things, as he so often has done in the past when he shoots his mouth off, illustrating the point that one of the reasons Portsmouth is in such bad shape is our local politicians are not only dishonest they’re also dumb. What follows are seventeen New Year’s resolutions Mohr might make to make up for his dumb and dishonest mistakes.

1. I will not say Marting’s is “an extremely sound building,” as I did in the Nov. 7, 2007 Daily Times interview, when I had earlier said, in an interview in the Columbus Dispatch in June 2004, that the Marting building “ain’t worth anything.”

2. I will not say “They [the voters] really didn't vote it [the renovation of the Marting building] down,” because every damn fool including one as big as Jim Kalb knows they did.

3. I will not say that the Marting referendum “didn’t have nothing to do with stopping the building or using the building,” when everyone in the city, including my crooked cohorts on the City Council, acknowledge that the referendum did do just that.

4. I will not say that the accomplishment I’m most proud of is that I helped “negotiate a settlement with the Richard D. Marting Foundation to return the building and $1.4 million from the 2002 purchase of the former Marting’s Department Store,” because that “settlement” was in fact the most dishonest and stupidest act of my political career and guarantees that I will be remembered as one of the most crooked nincompoops in Portsmouth’s political history.

5. I will not say that I plan “to be part of the decision making” process, because the man I hoped would enable me to be part of the decision making process was defeated for the Sixth Ward council seat by Rich Noel, who is going to be his own man on the council, not a stooge of Clayton Johnson’s.

6. I will not say that I am getting out of politics for my wife’s sake and then in the same interview announce that I plan “to be part of the decision making,” because how can I be part of the decision making without being involved in politics?

7. I will not make the City Council a forum in which I defend myself against adultery charges because council meetings should be for official business.

8. I will not say “Politics sometimes can be a little cruel to you and your family,” when it has been me who has been cruel to my family by responding to those adultery rumors, directly and indirectly, over and over again, in public, long after those rumors started and long after they would have been forgotten if I had ignored rather than repeatedly denied them.

9. If the shoe fits, I will follow the example of Second Ward Councilman, Rev. David Malone, who admitted he was an adulterer, asked forgiveness from the Lord and from his wife, and right went on speaking in tongues and acting like nothing had happened.

10. I will not “vehemently deny the [adultery] accusation on repeated occasions,” as the Portsmouth Daily Times reported, since vehemently denying it on repeated occasions suggests I have a guilty conscience.

11. Because of those adultery rumors, I will find some smarter way of saying what my wife would do to me if I did not get out of politics than “I will have to find someplace else to sleep.”

12. I will not say that I hope “to have the public comment portion of City Council meetings banned before I leave office” because I don’t want to be remembered as the councilman who put an end to free speech.

13. I will not say again that “Every progressive city in the country has stopped that,” meaning stopped free speech, because that statement, like so many other stupid things I have said, is without proof or foundation.

14. If I ever hold public office again, I will not act like a member of the government in Rome during the reign of Mussolini or in Karachi during the reign of military dictator Pervez Musharaff.

15. I will not butt in if I overhear “people who are interested in doing business with city” talking about the Shawnee Sentinel, telling them, “These [Sentinel] guys are crazy,” because those people who are considering doing business with the city may just decide it is me, not the Sentinel people, who is crazy, and that they would be foolish to do business with a city that has a loudmouth fool like me on the City Council.

16. I will not call citizens who take the time and trouble to attend City Council meetings “crap.”

17. To summarize, I will not in 2008, since so many Portsmouth citizens already find me an embarrassment to the city, continue to bring up the subject of adultery, continue to accuse my critics of being crazy, continue to lie about the Marting building, continue to try to stifle free speech, continue to call people crap, and continue to make a public fool of myself.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Common Sense

It is that time of year again, when the marketing of the Christ child reaches obscenely commercial depths in the annual materialistic Christmas orgy, and when controversies over nativity scenes in public places are ritually reenacted to pump up Christians’ persecution complex and to make the foxy Bill O’Falafel pump up his television ratings.

We have had a local example of the nativity controversy. As reported in the Portsmouth Daily Times (PDT) which has recently fired reporter Jeff Barron for telling some inconvenient truths about the over-privileged of Portsmouth, the manager of the Shawnee State Lodge, Bill Griffin, decided that there would be no nativity display this year. His explanation was that non-Christians had requested permission to put on displays to honor their religions, claiming they had as much right as Christians to do so. The PDT reported (6 Dec. 2007), “Griffin said he received phone calls from ‘pagans’ wishing to erect their own displays, and opted instead to remove the [nativity] display entirely.” Preacher Gary Chaffins of the Voice of Truth Ministry launched a public protest. Chaffins claimed that “He (Griffin) chose against Christianity.”

The controversy was resolved, sort of, when Gov. Strickland ordered that the nativity display be returned to Shawnee State Lodge and other state parks where they had been removed. As reported in the PDT (7 Dec. 2007), a spokesman for the Governor said the state is not obligated to allow other religions to put up displays. “He thinks we need to approach this with as much common sense as we can,” the Governor’s spokesman said. Merriam-Webster defines common sense as “sound and prudent judgment based on a simple perception of the situation or facts.” Strickland is both an ordained Christian minister and governor, so it is possible his decision to allow the nativity display and disallow “pagan,” or non-Christian displays, was based on both religious and political considerations. But whether religion or politics were involved, I do not think common sense, as the dictionary defines it, had much to do with his decision. Nor did truth, unless you accept “truth” as defined by Gary Chaffins of the Voice of Truth Ministry. The “truth” Chaffins promotes is rooted in an ignorance so deep and a prejudice so wide that it dwarfs the Atlantic and the Pacific combined. How can Chaffins or anyone else adrift in that ocean be expected to understand why the original decision of the general manager of the Shawnee to have no religious displays at the Shawnee State Lodge made sense – made not just common sense but historical and philosophical sense.

The revolutionary Founding Fathers did not intend that United States of America would be a Christian nation. They were not atheists, but they were not orthodox Christians either. Most of them, including Washington and Jefferson, were Deists. To return to Merriam-Webster again, Deism is defined as “a movement or system of thought advocating natural religion, emphasizing morality, and in the 18th century denying the interference of the Creator with the laws of the universe.” Some Deists were more revolutionary than others. Thomas Paine (shown above), one of the most radical and influential, wrote works in support of the American Revolution and Deism. His book in support of the Revolution and in favor of the separation of church and state was titled Common Sense. He closed Common Sense by saying to a religious group, “Sincerely wishing, that as men and Christians, ye may always fully and uninterruptedly enjoy every civil and religious right; and be, in your turn, the means of securing it to others; but that the example which ye have unwisely set, of mingling religion with politics, may be disavowed and reprobated by every inhabitant of America.” The setting up of a Christian display in a public place and the disallowing other displays is mingling religion with politics, which Paine had warned against. It is allowing one religion to claim that it speaks “the truth,” a truth which the state must allow it to promote in public displays.

Many Americans do not believe Jesus is the son of God or that he is their savior. There are many Americans who do not believe in Christianity. There are even Americans, a minority but more than you might suspect, who do not believe in God. I do not believe in ghosts, holy or unholy. I believe those who believe in ghosts have the right to worship ghosts within their houses of worship. They also have the right to put up religious displays in those tax exempt houses of worship. But I do not believe they have the right to put up religious displays on public property. That is a violation of the separation clause of the U.S. Constitution. There is no mention of god in our Constitution, and that was not an oversight. There is no mention of Christ in the Declaration of Independence, but there is, in the famous opening lines, mention of “the laws of nature and of nature’s God.” That is not an oversight either. To insist that the US was founded as a Christian nation is untrue. This nation was founded by Deists, who believed not in the Christian God but in “the laws of nature and of nature’s God.” Only a Ministry of Lies, not a Ministry of Truth, would claim otherwise.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

A Tale of Two Fires

Lee Scott Summoned

Here’s a sad coincidence. On Oct. 18, 2007, in the ancient market town of Neath, in Wales, a beloved music theatre, the Gwyn Hall, built in 1887, went up in flames. The roof collapsed and the stage was completely destroyed. The theatre had recently undergone a restoration costing about 8 million in U.S. dollars and was scheduled to reopen shortly as a community cultural and performing center. The Welsh town of about 50,000 inhabitants was extremely proud of the theatre and many people cherished memories of having been in the beautiful old brick building on one occasion or another. The building was insured and local officials promised that they would rebuild, using as much brick from the old building as possible.

A month after the Gwyn Hall fire, as we in Portsmouth know to our sorrow, the Columbia Theater, which had been restored by Lee Scott at a cost of millions of dollars and thousands of hours of labor of love by Lee, his son Eddie, and others, went up in flames about 3 AM, on November 11. The roof collapsed and the stage was completely destroyed, but the damage would be at least partially covered by insurance, and Scott promised to rebuild.

Those are the similarities, but there are important differences between the two theaters and the two fires. The town government of Neath had backed the restoration of Gwyn Hall from the start. Nobody raised objections to the costs of restoration. Almost everyone recognized that the theater was an architectural treasure that would play an important role in the economic revitalization of downtown Neath. In Portsmouth, because Scott was not part of the clique that controls the city economically and politically, the clique that has never served their time, every obstacle was put in the way of the restoration of the Columbia. I interviewed Scott for The Recall of Mayor Bauer, a video essay I put together in the summer of 2005. In that interview, conducted inside the Columbia, he described some of the roadblocks Mayor Bauer and the city government had thrown up to stop the restoration.

Columbia Interior

Wires Crossed

In a recent conversation I had with Scott, he said the city back in the Bauer administration had rejected the plans he had made for rewiring the theater. A city inspector insisted that Scott do the wiring another way, even though Scott believed the plans he had were safer and in closer compliance with state codes. Whether it was more of the same obstructionism he had faced from the start or just the typical incompetence of public employees, many of whom owed their jobs to political connections, the wiring plan Scott had been told he must follow may have been the indirect cause of the fire, which probably started in the electrical control room near the stage. The city government had been determined from the start to stop Scott from restoring the Columbia. A couple of years after Mayor Bauer and other city officials had been recalled from office, thanks in part to Scott’s campaigning, they may have succeeded, in absentia, in achieving their goal. The fire may have resulted from the wiring Scott did not want installed.

The arson verdict was apparently based on trained dogs sniffing some flammable residue in the wreckage. Scott said it’s too bad the dogs couldn’t speak, because maybe they could have said that the inflammable substance residue they were smelling was very old. Like from the age of the Hollywood wonder dog Rin-Tin-Tin. Unless someone confesses, it is hard to believe anybody could be convicted on the basis of the dogs’ noses. Rin-Tin-Tin, who romped across the screen at the Columbia in the 1920s, would no doubt have been able to catch the arsonist in the time it took to run a three-reeler, but Horner and his CSI crew are going to need more time than that, and then maybe no amount of time will be enough. Only 15 percent of arson cases result in an arrest, and the odds are probably less than that for our local constabulary. Remember how long the Journeys were running a chop-shop/oxycontin operation less than a mile from the Portsmouth Police Station. Only when other police in the tri-state area got involved was that operation put out of business.

I dropped by the Columbia around noon, on Tuesday, November 27, to take some photos of the devastated interior. As I walked from the parking lot behind the Columbia, I saw a couple of vintage pickups and a dumpster in back of the theater. About a half dozen men were working to remove debris from the theater and hauling it away in the pickups. Lee Scott and his son Eddie were two of those working hard on the clean-up. During the early stages of the restoration of the Columbia, I had a number of times witnessed the two of them working very hard. Among the things that make the two of them different in Portsmouth is that they are workaholics, a rare disorder among Portsmouth natives, especially among those employed in the public sector. If there was a Workaholics Anonymous chapter in Portsmouth, Scott and Eddie would be charter members. “Hi. My name is Scott and I’m a workaholic.” Of course, Scott is also an ex-convict and suspicions have been raised in the city, if not encouraged, that he is somehow responsible for the fire. In a bizarre rumor, it was even reported Lee’s lawyer wife had been arrested for arson.

In Neath, Wales, after an examination of the burned theatre, fire and police officials said they did not know the exact cause, but said they found nothing to make them believe it might have been set. In a striking contrast, Police Chief Horner was at the rear of the Columbia early Sunday morning gruffly warning people who got too close that they were at a crime scene and had better retreat if they did not want to get arrested. Every fire is a potential crime scene until the cause can be determined, but Horner acted as if he was guarding a crime scene, and that arson was the likely cause. I don’t remember any police guarding Ken Rase’s office after the fire there, a few years back, even though there was reason to think it might be related to the Marting scam. I think Horner’s behavior on the morning following the fire might be a clue to understanding what has transpired since. I am not implying Horner had anything to do with the fire, though there are those who would not put it past him. I think Horner is an even more unlikely suspect than Scott or his wife. What I am suggesting is that when state and federal officials got involved with the investigation, they were dealing with a local police chief who was already inclined, if not hell-bent, on getting this fire ruled arson.

Why would Chief Horner be so inclined? Because Horner, like President Bush and General Musharraf of Pakistan, uses fear and terror as a way of maintaining control politically. A ridiculous instance of this technique was his labeling as “domestic terrorists” those concerned citizens, the majority of them aged 50 to 80, who were active in working for the recall of elected officials. If people think there are terrorists and arsonists in their community, they are going to give presidents, generals, and police chiefs every benefit of the doubt. Recall that one of the things Horner did when Mayor Bauer was rumored to be close to firing him was to accuse Bauer of committing a criminal act in connection with the purchase of the Marting Building. Bauer was recalled as a result of the Marting scam, and Horner kept his job. But since competence is not the basis on which Horner’s tenure as chief rests, he has to keep people worrying about public enemies and playing on paranoia. The cross-dressing director of the FBI, J. Edgar Hoover, was the master at this game, holding on to his job for 48 years, spanning eight different presidencies. He kept files on those politicians who had the authority to fire him.

Lee Scott has been a constant critic of the city government and of Horner in particular. Scott has accused Horner of trying to shake down downtown merchants by requiring them to pay $200 a month for extra protection. Councilman Mearan, who can certainly speak with authority on crime, was quoted in the Daily Times as saying about ten merchants, including himself, were paying $200 per month for an off-duty officer to patrol downtown. There is a name for such a scheme: it is called a protection racket. That a local merchant, Terry Ockerman, is being given credit for coming up with the scheme is no assurance that Horner had nothing to do with it, because that same carpetbagging Ockerman is a sidekick of Mayor Kalb, who generally does what Horner wants him to. And Horner wants to get Lee Scott, and the Columbia fire may provide the terrorist/arsonist angle he needs to work with.

I was inclined to suppose from the start that the fire was an accident. The odds alone favor such a supposition. The FBI report for Portsmouth showed among the many fires in 2005, just one them was ruled arson. The FBI did not publish any crime statistics for Portsmouth for 2006, arson or otherwise. Does that mean whoever is supposed to supply the crime statistics for Portsmouth failed to do so? Is that Horner’s way of cutting down on crime in Portsmouth, by not reporting it? In any event, arson is an uncommon occurrence in our otherwise crime-ridden city. The national arson rate is about half of what it was ten years ago, and over half of arsonists turn out to be juveniles.

Campaign of Harassment

The long campaign of harassment and intimidation against Scott has not stopped just because the Columbia burned down. Scott told me that the city has given him only thirty days to clear up the wreckage of the Columbia or it would be torn down. As much wreckage as there is in the Columbia, it seems it would require a little more than thirty days to clear out. Thirty days is what the city charter allows a property owner to repair a sidewalk, but the city granted Clayton Johnson sixty days to repair his. Johnson took his time in meeting the sixty day deadline, as I reported in a previous blog, but from what I could see on November 27, Lee and his small crew were working feverishly to meet the thirty-day deadline.

When I was leaving the Columbia on November 27, and heading toward my car in the parking lot, I saw a Portsmouth police officer approach Scott. He told Scott that the dumpster in back was in violation of a city ordinance. Scott told the officer he had called the mayor’s office the day before and learned he needed to give the city forty-hour notice before placing a dumpster. Scott said he offered to move the dumpster for forty hours, but he was told he didn’t need to do that. So he thought he had approval for the dumpster, but then the police officer appeared with the summons, which Scott holds in photo at the left. The officer said he was acting under orders from Horner. Whether or not Neal Hatcher notifies the city forty hours in advance for all the dumpsters he places on streets throughout the city, where they sometimes sit for ages, is beside the point, the point being that Scott said the mayor’s office gave the OK to his dumpster.

Meanwhile, over in Wales . . .

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

"Hail, Columbia!"


Columbia Theater, c. 1916

In the first half of the 1900s, movies became the most popular and influential cultural medium in the United States. Thousands of movie theaters were built across the country, many of them as dream palaces, with ornate and lavish interiors. They provided a hardscrabble nation with a dream of glamour, romance, and adventure, and the ideals of success and equality. They were like secular churches where we all worshiped at the shrine of the American Dream.

In the last half the 1900s, restoring old movie theaters became a national cultural movement. To learn more about this preservation movement, look at Cinema Treasures, a non-profit website devoted to saving classic movie theaters. The site includes information about theater restorations, photographs, virtual tours, message boards, a chat room, and a listing of over 9200 hundred historic theaters. Portsmouth’s Columbia Theater should soon find a place on the Cinema Treasures website whose online address is

Americans attended church at most once a week. But even relatively small towns had at least one enchanting movie theater where on average, two or three times a week, and especially on weekends, most of the town turned out to watch the steady stream of movies Hollywood produced. Those films were not considered works of art at the time, but neither were the plays of Shakespeare in Elizabethan England. Elizabethan plays were a popular form of entertainment that appealed to all social classes. But when Shakespeare wanted to write something his contemporaries considered high art, he wrote the long narrative poems about classical subjects – Venus and Adonis, The Rape of Lucrece, and the sonnets. Elizabethan theater was the television of its time: it was a form of popular entertainment, not high art. The English-speaking world eventually recognized the value of Elizabethan plays, and the Hollywood films of the 1930s through the 1960s are now appreciated for their artistic merit.

The restoration of old theaters is partly a recognition of the artistic quality of the entertainment they provided to ordinary Americans, in a sumptuous setting, at relatively low cost. The heart and soul of a community is reflected in its art; it just takes time for a community to recognize what is, or was, art. We usually only really appreciate something valuable after we have lost it. The movies were a glorious art form in which Americans once excelled. In particular, the Hollywood musical of the 30s and 40s and 50s was a celebration of American grace, energy and inventiveness. Think of the teenagers Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland putting together a really great show on a shoestring and a prayer.

In 1908, the Forrest, Nickleton, Orpheum, and Arcana were the first movie theaters built in the Portsmouth area, and the Columbia, Airdome, and Pastime followed in 1910. What’s in a name? Columbia was an early poetic name for the United States. The Brits had “Hail, Britannia!” We borrowed, the tune, added new words, and had “Hail, Columbia!,” our first national anthem. The Columbia is the only old Portsmouth movie theater still standing, and therefore it is one of city’s most important architectural and cultural treasures, Beginning as a music hall, the Columbia featured stage performances and silent movies. Based on the name of the silent film on the marquee, The Prince Chap, the old photograph of the Columbia shown above can be dated to 1916. In the middle of the 1920s the Columbia’s stage was enlarged to accommodate vaudeville acts and larger orchestras. Guy Lombardo and His Royal Canadians orchestra was the second act booked after the mid-twenties expansion. In 1929 the Columbia installed the equipment for sound movies, the first of which was The Jazz Singer, with Al Jolson. An American idiom had come into its own; Americans were considered worthy of making movies about, in contrast to The Prince Chap, which was about upper-class English society.

Notre Dame Cathedral
The difference between seeing a movie in a palatial theater in the past and in a multiplex matchbox in the present is the difference between a sit-down meal in a first-class restaurant and fast food at McDonald’s. In theaters like the Columbia, movie-going was a social and aesthetic experience. In theaters such as the Laroy, which was built on Gay Street in 1926, the dazzling interiors had time to work their magic on the viewer’s imagination, even before the lights went down and the projector started rolling. In a country of immigrants and nativists, the movies were the shared experience that helped forge a national identity. In a recent tour of the Columbia, which is so much larger inside than you would think from its entrance, I experienced feelings similar to those I had over thirty years ago standing in the cavernous Notre Dame cathedral, in Paris. For someone of my generation, especially for those from the working class, movie palaces are like secular churches. This is where we fell in love with the American Dream, with Rita Hayworth, with the future, with life.

By various accounts, the Laroy, built for movie and stage productions, was the most impressive of Portsmouth’s theaters. It was torn down in 1973 to widen Gay Street. Imagine London tearing down the Globe to widen a street, as if progress was defined by the degree a society accommodates itself to vehicular traffic. All the other Portsmouth movie theaters, with the exception of the Columbia, have been demolished. The survival of the Columbia may have been a fluke. Because of the chronically depressed economy, it just didn’t pay to tear it down, even for another parking lot.

About three years ago, Lee Scott, a local entrepreneur, a very rare bird in Portsmouth, decided that he would rescue the Columbia from the wrecking ball and oblivion, but he soon found that he not only would not get any help from the city but that roadblocks would be thrown in his way. When Scott risked so much of his own time and money to restore the theater, the Chamber of Commerce locals must have thought he had a screw loose. How could anyone undertake such a project without a feeding tube connecting it to public funds? Didn’t he realize that the way to succeed in Portsmouth was to find a place for himself at the public trough?

In a letter he sent to all Portsmouth residents, dated June 14, 2004, then-mayor Bauer wrote, Scott “cannot obtain credit, financing or insurance for his renovation project as a result of decisions he made in his past.” Bauer spelled out what he meant by “decisions he made in the past” by calling Scott “a convicted felon who served multiple jail sentences for many crimes in the 1980s.”

The important difference between Scott and Bauer is not that Scott was convicted and Bauer was unindicted, or that Scott served his time and Bauer did not. The important difference between them is that Scott became a legitimate businessman and succeeded while Bauer was a failure, first in business and then politics. The reason Scott could not get credit, financing, or insurance was not that he was an ex-convict but that those who control the economy and city government of Portsmouth were determined that the renovation of the Columbia would fail. Scott is not done yet, and maybe the Columbia will fail, but based on what I’ve seen so far, I would bet the Columbia will rise again because he is extraordinarily persistent, as an entrepreneur should be.

In 2002, J. W. Kelley, a Portsmouth resident, wrote a letter to an online magazine Preservation. The heading of the letter was “An Ohio Town’s ‘Apathy.’” (Click on the link below to read the letter.)

Kelley included photographs of two historic architectural landmarks: one of them was the Columbia. Here is what Kelley wrote about it: “The level of apathy toward historic buildings here is pathetic. We have one of the few surviving Columbia theaters, built in 1911. You would think that one of our wealthy residents would want to preserve this piece of history. Wrong. After it closed in the 1980s, it was empty until a Columbus businessman bought it last year. He is fully restoring it, and plans to use it as a live-music venue, but no one—not the mayor, the city council, or any of the many wealthy residents of our area—is lifting a finger to help.” What to Mr. Kelley a few years ago appeared to be apathy today looks much more like antipathy. But I think we are going to have a Hollywood ending, and the bad guys, the unindicted, are not going to do in the good guy. I hope to see a historic old flick in the restored theater. Hail, Columbia!

(For the words and music of “Hail, Columbia!” click on the following link:

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Election Reflections

  • Why did City Solicitor Kuhn lose to challenger Mike Jones by more than a 2 to 1 margin, in spite of outspending Jones by more than a 2 to 1 margin? Because Kuhn made many enemies in his twelve years in office, and apparently other enemies before that, as an attorney. So deep are feelings against Kuhn that several people I talked to said they voted early by absentee ballot because they wanted to be sure that if they died before the election they would have the satisfaction of knowing their votes would count against him. I heard of a ninety-year-old woman who was wheeled to the polls by her daughter for one reason: to vote against Kuhn. What might her grievance be? Those who united to defeat him worked tirelessly and creatively. For them, this was not a campaign; it was a crusade.
  • Some were not so much voting for Jones as against Kuhn. Jones will have the opportunity to prove he can do a good job as solicitor, but this election voters were taking him on faith because they had so little faith in Kuhn, who was the devil they knew.
  • Jones was surprised at the margin of his victory. What he didn’t realize is how many enemies Kuhn has made, how many people he has deeply offended with his hypocrisy and outraged by his incompetence. Jones said he had no animosity toward Kuhn, but many of those who voted Kuhn out of office did.
  • Now Bob Mollette will not be the lone voice of reason on the City Council, and he will not have to spend so much time trying to get the City Solicitor to do what he is supposed to do. After his defeat, Kuhn had no comment when contacted by the PDT. At least they were able to contact him, which was not always the case before the election.
  • A mild-mannered man who felt he had been wronged by Kuhn told me that if the solicitor were reelected to office he would no longer have any faith in the democratic process. Political campaigns, like marriages, are not made in heaven, and politicians unfortunately too often represent the worst in a community, while claiming to represent the best. It was ever thus, and all we can hope is that there will always be concerned citizens, however few in number, who have not lost all faith in government and who are willing to take on the rich and powerful, who are too often also the greedy and the dictatorial who control government.
  • The absence of Marty Mohr and the presence of Rich Noel, who replaces him as the Sixth Ward councilman, will mean an end to the snarling contentiousness that sometimes erupted into shouting matches and led to Council president Baughman banging his gavel. Noel will never call citizens who show up at council meetings “crap” nor will he be quick to get into testosterone contests with young bucks. When the octogenarian Noel told the PDT he had “been there and done that,” he meant he had more important things to do on city council than flex his muscles. Noel will not try to restrict the rights of citizens to address the council. He will not flip-flop on Marting’s, as Mohr did. Noel is like a redwood, old in years but strong in stature. He’s seen the fire and he’s seen the rain, and he’s still standing. He’s seen them come and he’s seen them go, the successive generations of politicians who have stuck it to the city, the generations of businessmen who were willing to do everything they could for Portsmouth except let in some competition.
  • Bob Mollette will not be alone anymore. We will have fewer five to one votes. But we are not out of the woods yet. Not by a long shot. Kalb is still mayor. Baughman is still president of City Council. The Second and Fifth Wards are still represented by the rubber stamps Malone and Albrecht. (Malone, of course, represents not the Second Ward but Neal Hatcher.) The First Ward still has to bear the ignominy of being represented by “appointee” Mike Mearan, minus his purse-snatching stenographer Heather Hren. Horner is still Chief of Police, denouncing concerned citizens as “domestic terrorists.” Larry Justice is still City Engineer, marking up the sidewalks of those who criticize city government. Mark Kuhn is still County Solicitor, even if he can no longer team up with his uncle to frustrate justice. The local economy is still controlled by the Southern Ohio Growth Partnership. The Portsmouth Daily Times is still the house organ of the Chamber of Commerce. Real estate predator Neal Hatcher is still giving people the finger. And businesses on Chillicothe street are still closing a year after the Bridge to Nowhere was supposed to begin reviving downtown Portsmouth. Council meetings are still not televised because our corrupt politicians don’t want the public to witness American Idle.
  • Ministers who dabble in child pornography are still invited to council to give the benediction. And the leak in the council chamber ceiling is allowed to get worse to justify spending $12 million on a new municipal building in the left armpit of Portsmouth, in the shadow of the Osco factory.
  • But at least this election has made the city government a little less corrupt than it was. They haven’t yet succeeded in shoving the Marting building down the throat of the public, though Kalb is still trying, trying, trying. They can’t get away with what they could fifty years ago, before the internet, blogs, chatrooms, cell phones, texting, and alternative newspapers. Citizens continue to crowd council meetings and ask probing questions, something they had not done before the Marting Scam. Despite disappointments, this is an election to be thankful for, and to be thankful for those few who fought the good fight for a long time, against greater odds. If they are not with us in body, they are with us in spirit, providing us with an example to follow. They survive somewhere in the Blogosphere.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Last Minute Lies

As the hours dwindle down to election day, the river of lies coming from incumbent politicians threatens to overflow the floodwall of truth. The incumbents have the financial backing to buy newspaper space and radio time to make last minute claims that there is not enough time to refute. Teresa Mollette has analyzed a claim by Solicitor Kuhn and shown it to be preposterous. She reports that Kuhn claims to have prosecuted over 13,000 criminals in 2006. That averages out to the prosecution of 54 criminals a day. Of course, Portsmouth does have a high crime rate for a city its size and has lots of criminals, including the un-indicted ones who control the city. But that Kuhn prosecuted 54 criminals each workday is hard to believe, given the limited amount of time his usual workday consists of.

Kuhn is living an elaborate lie right to the conclusion of his campaign, pretending to be someone other than who he really is. His current campaign charade is designed to hide his dishonesty and incompetency and to hide the fact that he puts about as much stock in the oath of office as he does in the marriage vow. A number of Republicans know what he is like in his political and private life and are not going to vote for him. But less sophisticated voters who are being bombarded by billboards, radio ads, and mail flyers may be taken in by his lies. If money buys elections, Kuhn has purchased himself, or his replacement, four more years in office.

Malone Takes the Cake

But it is Second Ward councilman David Malone who takes the cake when it comes to hypocrisy. This so-called man of god stood on the steps of the Municipal Building in June of 2005, denouncing the nameless forces of evil that were hovering over Portsmouth. He didn’t name them, of course, because he is the adulterous tool of the crooks who control Portsmouth and in particular of real-estate predator Neal Hatcher. So why would he name them? I captured on tape Malone’s performance, as well as his wife parading at the foot the stairs talking in tongues in a documentary Recall, which is available at the Portsmouth Public Library and the Shawnee State library.

This hypocritical minister of the gospel was not only betraying the people of Portsmouth on the City Council, he was also carrying on an affair with a female employee of the Portsmouth Municipal Housing Authority, the same public agency where his wife works. Underemployed males who have trouble finding real jobs find it helps to have wives who work for in the public sector. There is an adage “Don’t get involved sexually with people you work with.” It needs to be amended for Rev. Malone: “Don’t get involved sexually with people your wife works with in the public sector, not unless you want to jeopardize your main source of income.” His affair, or affairs, is not only a violation of a Commandment of the religious faith Malone claims to believe in, it is also not good for family values, any more than it is good for family values for a so-called moral crusader and gay-bashing senator like Larry Craig, of Idaho, to go cruising in men’s rooms for sex. Just as the hypocritical Craig, the cruiser of men’s rooms, stood in the Senate and denounced homosexuals, Malone stood on the steps of city hall and denounced the nameless evil-doers of Portsmouth, at the same time that as councilman he was serving the interests of the nameless evil doers.

Malone’s last-minute letter-to-the-editor that appeared in the PDT on 3 Nov. 2007, was another lie because Malone did not write it, any more than Timothy Loper wrote the letters-to-the-editor that have appeared in the PDT in the last year. Loper’s last letter was a lofty pronouncement on the evils of drinking and driving, something he can speak with authority on given his record for drunk driving. The way people write is almost as unique as fingerprints. Malone, like Loper, has an individual style of writing, if “style” is interpreted very loosely. I have read Malone’s writing. Loper is barely literate; Malone is literate, but he writes in tongues. Malone is a tool of those who control the city, and he will vote as they wish. He will also write as they dictate, literally. I know what Malone writes like. Just as most people can tell one voice from another, someone who has taught composition for forty years, fifteen of them in Portsmouth, can tell when someone tries to pass off as their own letters that were written, or dictated by someone else. And the Portsmouth Daily Times will publish them two days before the election, giving them, or the crooks they work for, the last word.

The Predator and the Preacher

Malone is especially useful to Hatcher. Malone signs are visible on Hatcher’s empty lots throughout the city. But Malone alone, of all the incumbents, has the privilege of having his campaign signs on Hatcher’s mansion-office on Gay St. I recall the City Council Meeting at which Hatcher showed up with some smoke-and-mirror architectural designs for the renovation of the so-called Adelphia building. Malone’s wife was there to help Hatcher display the designs, presumably on a volunteer basis, for certainly an employee of the Portsmouth Municipal Housing Authority would not be assigned to help Hatcher promote the Adelphia building scam. Would she?

“How dare he even attempt to question the integrity and legitimacy of my livelihood!” Malone said that about Lee Scott’s disparaging of his professional qualifications to be a minister or his limitations as a breadwinner. If you believe Malone wrote the sentence, “How dare he even attempt to question the integrity and legitimacy of my livelihood!” you probably believe that our dyslexic president actually writes his speeches. The only person I can think of who would sound right uttering that sentence would be the late actress Betty Davis. Look at it once more: “How dare he even attempt to question the integrity and legitimacy of my livelihood!” Oh, the moral outrage, the indignation, and this from our hypocritical adulterous councilman who carried on with a woman who not only worked with his wife at the PMHA but was also a member of his congregation. The truth is Malone’s wife is the breadwinner in the family; Malone is the sinner. If she speaks in tongues, he lies in tongues.

Malone wrote that “Scott’s comment on the idea I would be in favor of an income-tax increase really is not an issue.” It is not an issue that a member of City Council is in favor of raising income taxes and said so at a public forum that was reported on in the Daily Times? That is not an issue? Whoever wrote the letter tries to cover up for Malone by saying it is not relevant. Malone’s statement to the League of Women forum was one of those statements that Malone sometimes makes when he has to speak in public without a prepared script and then tries to deny afterwards.

By far the most biggest lie Malone wrote in his letter, or somebody wrote for him, is in regard to the Marting Scam. After saying he had not been in favor of the purchase of the Marting building, Malone, or his letter writer, wrote: “But the other party involved in the deal came back to the city and said, ‘OK, let us make it right. We will give you another $500,000 for the pain and suffering caused you.’ Believe me, any successful corporation, intelligent businessman or the common citizen would accept that offer.” Doesn’t Malone, or Hatcher or Kuhn or whoever wrote his letter understand there are minutes of the Council meetings and that no one representing “the other party involved,” to use his euphemism, ever came back and said anything about making up for “the pain and suffering we have caused you”? What the so-called “other party,” that is Clayton Johnson, actually did was stick it to the city and the taxpayers a second time and got a full pardon for any crimes the Marting Foundation may have committed the first time around. The “other party,” that is Clayton Johnson, is not giving anybody anything. That money was stolen from the taxpayers, and then when the sale was invalidated by the courts, the other party set up a number of conditions by which the city could get some of the money back. Why didn’t “the other party” simply give back all the money he had stolen? Attorney Bender, representing “the other party,” came before the Council and said one of the reasons the Marting Foundation would not give the money back was because the city government could not be trusted with it. And with councilmen as clueless as David Malone, who is to say Bender was not right. Not having done his homework or attended the rump meeting that takes place prior to the regular meeting, Malone comes to some Council meetings unsure of how he is supposed to vote. He waits to see how Marty Mohr or Howard Baughman vote. And if Hatcher has his way, this is the councilman who will be representing the Second Ward for another four years.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Rudy Kuhniani

City Solicitor's Executive Mansion

The short sentence at the end of Jeff Barron’s article on Portsmouth’s passive-aggressive City Solicitor David W. Kuhn in the 10 Oct. 2007 Portsmouth Daily Times reads as follows: “Kuhn is married to his wife, Betty.” Those seven words are the only words about Betty Kuhn in the article.

It is hardly news that a husband is married to his wife. Was Barron hinting at something more, tacking the brief sentence on the way he did? It comes right after 150 words or more dealing with Wendy Jones, the wife of Kuhn’s opponent in the City Solicitor race. In being interviewed by Barron, Kuhn had dragged in Wendy Jones by questioning the propriety of her working in the mayor’s office, and he accused her of leaking information from the mayor’s office that was detrimental to his campaign. What kind of information? He didn’t say, although he admitted it was not confidential information. If Wendy Jones ever released any detrimental information about Kuhn, some allowances must be made. Any information about Kuhn that is not detrimental is hard to find. Very hard. Kuhn told Barron that he was not questioning Wendy Jones’s right to work. “She ought to be able to support her husband,” Kuhn said snidely. We know from Barron’s interview of Kuhn where Wendy Jones works, but we don’t know where Betty Kuhn works, or if she works at all.

There was a time that the news media did not pry into the personal lives of politicians, when they didn’t ask questions about their wives and girlfriends. Those times have long since passed, at least outside of Portsmouth. Senator Gary Hart defied the news media by carrying on openly with his girlfriend Donna Rice on the yacht Monkey Business. The widely publicized photo of Donna on Hart’s knee on Monkey Business ended Hart’s bid for the 1988 Democratic nomination for president. How times have changed!

Out of the Loop

Take the case of Rudolph Giuliani. Like Kuhn, Giuliani is a Republican running for public office. The similarities don’t end there. Giuliani has had three wives, and he was known to have carried on extramarital affairs with other women. His first wife was Regina Peruggi, who happened to be his second cousin. Being an influential Catholic, Giuliani was able to get this marriage annulled by the Catholic Church, claiming that he had thought Peruggi was his third cousin. (Catholics are not allowed to marry second cousins.) “I didn’t know she was my second cousin.” That is an explanation worthy of David Kuhn. In his 10 Oct. interview with Barron, Kuhn said about the Marting Scam, “No one told me a thing about that. I think they should have brought me into the loop at some point. . . . And then when I found out about it, it was really too late to do anything about it.”

City Solicitor on his ass, out of the loop

Kuhn is so sleazy and lazy that he leaves a trail of slime behind him like a snail. That he dragged his opponent’s wife into the campaign through innuendo and hearsay, that he would try to corrupt the electoral process by gift meals is just what we would expect from someone desperately trying to hold on to the moonlighting, $200,000 per-term job he has held for the last twelve years. Last week, Kuhn was prohibited by the Secretary of State’s office from running any more campaign contests for free meals to voters. “I don't know anything about it,” the passive-aggressive solicitor told the Daily Times when asked about the prohibition. Just like he didn’t know anything about Marting’s.

Giuliani’s second wife was journalist and actress Donna Hanover. When Giuliani and Hanover developed irreconcilable differences, he moved out of Gracie Mansion, the mayor’s official residence, and moved in with a gay couple. As mayor, Rudy was not nearly as homophobic as he is now as a Republican presidential candidate. The photo of him dolled up like a Norma Desmond should help him get the transvestite vote. Donna Hanover in the meanwhile did not become a recluse in Gracie Mansion, crying her eyes out. Instead she took the lead in the controversial Broadway play Vagina Monologues, which has spawned Penis Monologues and Transgender Monologues. I’m writing Portsmouth Monologues, which I hope to see performed at the Columbia Theater.

Rudy taking a break from War on Terror

Giuliani’s third wife is Judith Nathan, a registered nurse who, while she was his girlfriend, served as his media consultant at $150,000 a year. She now prefers to be called Judy, maybe because it rhymes with Rudy. New York reporters have pointed out that Nathan was previously married twice and at the time she met Rudy she and a daughter by a previous marriage were living with yet another man. Judy is the wife who has called Rudy on the cell phone at least forty times when he is at public forums, as if she wanted to make sure he wasn’t cheating on her. Judy is also the wife who planned to sit in on cabinet meetings should Rudy get elected president and the wife whose resume includes the information that she used to be a pharmaceutical salesperson in the predominantly black Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, peddling anti-depressants.

Although you would never know it if you depended on the media in Portsmouth for all your news, and if you believed those campaign photos in which the solicitor is posing with her, candidate David Kuhn is currently separated from his second wife and reportedly romantically involved with yet another woman.

Although she appears with him in campaign photos and goes door-to-door handing out Kuhn campaign flyers, Betty Kuhn is not living with her husband, or so reliable sources tell me. Unlike Giuliani, Kuhn has not moved out of the executive mansion he previously shared with Betty, but Betty herself has. The properties Kuhn owned used to be listed on the County Auditor’s website in Betty Kuhn’s name; now they are listed in David Kuhn’s. Is there another shoe that's going to drop? Is there another divorce in the offing, a divorce that will take place only after the election for City Solicitor is over? Will we then learn what arrangement Kuhn had worked out with his second wife for the current campaign? Did she get free meals at Bob Evans? I will not wait to find out in the Portsmouth Daily Times, anymore than I will wait for a review of The Vagina Monologues, which was staged at Shawnee State many moons ago. Pass me another anti-depressant.

Thursday, October 25, 2007


Figures filed by the Re-Elect Kuhn Solicitor campaign committee show that of the $36,250 the committee has raised, only $950 of that amount was contributed by only four donors. Kuhn himself has either contributed or loaned his campaign committee $35,300. In other words, Kuhn is providing 97% of the money his campaign committee has raised up to this point.

The four donors listed are John R. Stevenson, of West Portsmouth; Kenneth R. Rase, who does not live in Portsmouth; Phyllis Van Quill of Portsmouth; and Julie A. Conley, of Wheelersburg. So only one of the four donors is from Portsmouth. Ken Rase is the appraiser whose name will forever be linked to the Marting swindle. It is fitting that Kuhn's campaign would be connected to Marting's, since Kuhn helped make the swindle possible.

Among the expenditures the Kuhn campaign committee had made up to Oct. 25, when the filing was made, $10,072 went to the Portsmouth Daily Times and the Community Common, which are now owned by the same company. Thousands more will be paid to those newspapers by election day.

Why is Kuhn spending so much money to get himself elected to a job that pays around $50,000? The answer may be that Kuhn is not really spending that much money. When the final financial report is made by his campaign committee, after the election, the names of other donors will likely appear. Kuhn will probably have more than four donors and the amount those yet to be named donors will contribute will be more, maybe far more than $950. The loans he is making to his campaign will be paid back to him. Paid back by whom? That's what he doesn't want the voters to know until after the election.

Why will more money flow into his campaign committee? Because in order for the SOGP circle of friends to continue to maintain their stranglehold on city government and on the economic life of Portsmouth, Kuhn must be the City Solicitor. He is the Enabler. By doing nothing and screwing up the little that he does do, he serves the interest of those who know how to buy elections through the news media and how to make a mockery of the democratic process.

City Solicitor Sitting on His Ass as Usual.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Our Passive-Aggressive City Solicitor

The background of Portsmouth’s gun registry controversy is as follows: In 1975, the Portsmouth City Council passed Ordinance 705.30, which stated “It shall be the duty of any person licensed under this section to keep in a separate book kept for that purpose a record of each sale of any gun, revolver, pistol, firearm or other dangerous weapon, which record shall include a description of the article sold, including the manufacturer’s name and number, the name and address and description to whom sold, and the date and hour on which the sale was made. The holder of such license shall also prepare and deliver each day to the Chief of Police a legible and correct copy written in the English language from such book, containing the description of such articles sold, the hour at which the purchase was made and a description of the person to whom it was sold.” Ordinance 705.30 places a lot of responsibility on the gun-seller and gun-buyer, responsibilities which Federal and Ohio laws since 1975 have to a large extent superseded.

Concerned about what he saw as an infringement of his Constitutional rights under the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, Harold T. Pack, of Rosemont, wrote to City Solicitor David Kuhn on 8 Sept. 2004. (See “Timeline” below.) As chief legal officer of the city, Kuhn had the responsibility to try to promptly resolve the gun registration issue, all the more so since Kuhn is a member of the NRA and of its legal arm the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA). It is hard to believe that Kuhn as a member of the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action could be so ignorant of gun laws, but it is even harder to believe that Kuhn as City Solicitor could be so ignorant of the City Charter, as he too often is. Instead of taking decisive action on the gun issue, Kuhn characteristically dilly-dallied for months. When Pack felt he was getting the run-around from Kuhn and other elected officials, he wrote a letter to members of the City Council on 25 Jan. 05. (See “Timeline” below.) As a result, Councilman Bob Mollette became involved, and so fortunately did David LaCourse, a field representative of the National Rifle Association. I am no fan of the NRA, but it appears that if LaCourse had not become involved, the controversy might still be festering and Kuhn might still be dilly-dallying. LaCourse’s long 16 Feb. 2006 letter is must reading for anyone trying to understand the complex legal issues involved.

“Personality Differences”

In that same 16 Feb. 2006 letter, LaCourse (shown here) expressed the opinion that a good deal of the controversy over gun laws in Portsmouth was the result of “personality differences.” He believed that the controversy was as much the result of psychological as of legal or policy problems. The context of LaCourse’s observation suggests that it was Chief Horner he thought was the problem. Whether or not LaCourse thought City Solicitor Kuhn was also a problem, I believe Portsmouth’s gun registration controversy had more to do with Kuhn’s than to Horner’s or anyone else’s personality. As a concerned voter, I will go even further and say I believe Portsmouth’s gun controversy is a consequence of our city solicitor’s psychological problems, and more specifically a reflection of his passive-aggressive personality. Since Kuhn is the chief legal officer of the city, and running for re-election, I feel I have the right and even the obligation to raise the issue of his fitness for public office not only on ethical but also on psychological grounds.

The Passive-Aggressive Personality Disorder was included in the first (1952) and subsequent editions of the authoritative Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, published by the American Psychiatric Association. The Passive-Aggressive Personality Disorder, or PAPD, was first recognized and named during the Second World War when a number of draftees displayed a cluster of behavioral traits that made it difficult for them to function effectively in a social unit, especially in a social unit as large and complex as the U.S. military. A soldier must be punctual, disciplined, and team-oriented. He or she must have the ability to make quick decisions, especially in combat situations. But being punctual, disciplined, team oriented, and decisive are just the virtues that people with PAPD lack. The Marines have a motto, “Adapt, improvise, overcome.” If passive-aggressives had a motto, it might be, “Delay, screw up, blame somebody else.” That could certainly be Kuhn’s motto.

Indecisiveness is possibly the most conspicuous PAPD trait. Kuhn finds it very hard to make decisions, and does everything he can to try to avoid them. Making even the simplest decisions appears agonizing for him. As City Solicitor, Kuhn’s routine responsibility is to offer legal opinions, but he appears very reluctant to do or decide anything. He tries to get other to do things and make decisions for him. According to the Synopsis of Psychiatry (1997), “People with this disorder [PAPD] expect others to do their errands and to carry out their routine responsibilities.”

NRA to the Rescue

Among those Kuhn expected to do his job for him in connection with the gun controversy was the National Rifle Association. Kuhn did not write the NRA until 25 Aug. 05, almost a year after Pack first wrote him. Since Kuhn is a lawyer and a member of NRA’s lobbying arm, the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA), he should presumably have had a leg up on gun registration legal issues when Harold Pack first wrote him in September 2004. But documentation on Councilman Mollette’s website shows clearly that Kuhn was in a dither from the start and relied heavily on Pack and then on LaCourse to do the research on the legal ABC’s of gun registration. The first thing Kuhn should have done when Pack wrote him was contact the Ohio Attorney General’s office, but I find no evidence that Kuhn ever contacted the Ohio Attorney General about this issue. What he did, after a delay of almost a year, was write to the NRA for assistance.

Kuhn should have been able to explain to Pack within days or a couple of weeks at the most that Ordinance 705.30 was not unconstitutional because under Ohio’s constitution, Portsmouth as a “home rule” city had the right to pass ordinances about gun control. After dilly-dallying, Kuhn did not make a formal decision on the issue until 4 Jan. 2006, sixteen months after Pack had first written him, and not until after LaCourse had effectively already made the decision for him, in a letter to Kuhn dated 1 Jan. 2006. (See “Timeline” below.) Portsmouth taxpayers should be thankful that the NRA did not bill the city for its legal advice as other “outside counsel” that Kuhn consults usually do. Having a city solicitor with passive-aggressive traits can be expensive for the municipality he is supposed to be serving. During Kuhn’s last four years in office, the city has spent more than $175,000 on “outside counsel” fees. What would that bill be for his twelve years in office?

In the documentation Mollette collected on his website, it is striking how much Kuhn resorts to passive-aggressive tactics, especially in the degree to which he delayed doing anything except come up with excuses for why he took so long to render a decision, a decision that was more LaCourse’s than his own. One of Kuhn’s excuses was that the NRA had failed to answer the first letter (dated 25 Aug. 2005) that he had sent them. Is he shifting the blame for his own delay to the NRA? And Kuhn probably would have done nothing if he had not been pressured by Councilman Mollette to write a follow-up letter to the NRA. When Kuhn got no response to his letters to the NRA, he should have telephoned them, which is what Mollette did. Since Kuhn seemed unable to follow through himself, Mollette was in effect doing Kuhn’s job for him. As a result, Kuhn resents Mollette, which is reflected in the snide remarks he made in his testy 18 Sept. 07 letter to the Daily Times about Mollette being a self-appointed “ombudsman” who expresses his “feelings to everyone.” If first Mollette and Pack before him had not applied pressure and expressed their “feelings,” Kuhn might still be putting off making a decision and blaming others for the delay. Kuhn works about as hard at his job as city solicitor and puts in about as many hours as Jim Kalb currently does as a clerk at Kroger’s, where the mayor still punches the cash register a couple of hours on Thursday mornings.

In his 18 Sept. letter to the Daily Times Kuhn also accuses Mollette of making unsubstantiated and undocumented accusations against him. Kuhn accusing Mollette of lacking documentation is laughable because Mollette meticulously documents everything on his website, including Kuhn’s long delay in reaching a decision of the gun registration issue. Accusing Mollette of lacking documentation is like accusing McDonald’s of lacking hamburgers. In contrast to Kuhn, who tries to keep as much information from the public as possible, Mollette believes in openness and accountability in government. When it comes to public records, Mollette is for Sunshine, Kuhn for moonshine.

Kuhn Sitting on his Ass as Usual

In that same 18 Sept. letter to the Daily Times, Kuhn accuses PDT reporter Jeff Barron of presenting only one side of the gun controversy story. Well, how is a reporter going to get Kuhn’s side of the story when he can not reach him? Barron tried to contact Kuhn on Friday when he was writing the gun story, but he was told the City Solicitor was unavailable. Barron was told to try again Monday. The Portsmouth Daily Times, as its name indicates, is a daily publication, not a weekly or a monthly. It is not the Portsmouth Delay Times, although if it was Kuhn would probably be happier with it, because if there is one thing he does more than anything else it is delay, delay, delay. I am told tracking down Kuhn can be about as difficult as tracking down Osama Bin Laden. If Kuhn is not “out to lunch” or on a long weekend, he is otherwise occupied with hobbies or other affairs.

The NRA, Mollette, and others asked Kuhn to help repeal Ord. 705.30. But Kuhn took the position, or made the excuse, that the issue of Ord. 705.30 is a policy, not a legal, matter. In other words, it is an issue for the legislature, i.e., the City Council, not the judiciary, i.e., the Solicitor’s office, to deal with. But isn’t it the Solicitor’s responsibility to advise the Council on controversial issues in which laws or city statutes are direcly involved? If, as LaCourse stated, Ord. 705.30 is duplicative, ineffective, and inefficient, shouldn’t the city solicitor so advise the City Council. (See “Timeline” below, 1 Jan. 06.) To quote Mollette, “I feel the City Solicitor, who is elected by the citizens, would assure and guide the actions or inactions of elected officials to the City of Portsmouth to avoid legal entanglements and taxpayer abuse.” (See “Timeline” below 26 Feb. 07.)

Chief Horner backed away from his claim that the Ord. 705.30 is a valuable tool in fighting crime. It is hard to see how Horner could continue to maintain that it is of any value after LaCourse’s point by point refutation of the case Horner had made for retaining Ord. 705.30. (See “Timeline” below 1 Jan. 06.) Three years after the controversy began, the City Council has finally repealed Ord. 705.30. The “Timeline” below offers a detailed record of the time and effort that has been wasted because City Solicitor Kuhn was unwilling or, because of his passive-aggressive personality, unable to do what the taxpayers are paying him to do. The repeal of Ord. 705.30 has nothing to do with City Solicitor Kuhn and everything to do with Harold T. Pack, Councilman Robert Mollette, and NRA field director David LaCourse.


8 Sept. 04. Claiming Ord. 705.03 was in conflict with two Federal statutes, Harold T. Pack, a member of the National Rifle Association, writes to Solicitor Kuhn, also a member of the NRA, questioning the legality of Ord. 705.30 and requesting prompt action.

15 Sept. 04. Kuhn writes to Pack, asking for more information.

20 Sept. 04. Pack sends Kuhn additional information, including material from the NRA.

1 Oct. 04. Pack forwards information to officials in city government.

29 Nov. 04. Pack mails Kuhn a “synopsis of existing gun laws.” Pack’s letter concludes, “Although this issue may seem trivial, I respectfully submit that a decision needs to be made soon to stop this practice.”

25 Jan. 05. Feeling Kuhn is failing to address issue of Ord. 705.30, Pack writes letter to City Council members, stating “The chief [Horner] and the mayor [Kalb] both stated they need a ruling from the city solicitor. Enough time has transpired since September for the solicitor to have researched this illegality and made a ruling.”

24 Feb. 05. A letter from Pack appears in Portsmouth Daily Times. His letter concludes, “Have either the mayor or the chief of police addressed this issue with the city solicitor and asked him to pursue the question? How concerned are the parties involved in having the city comply with Federal statutes?”

24 Feb. 05. Pack sends a letter to Solicitor Kuhn, Mayor Kalb, Chief Horner, and City Council complaining about inaction on issue of Ord. 705.30. “With Thomas Jefferson in mind,” Pack wrote, “I have contacted the Federal Prosecutor’s office in Cincinnati in regards to filing federal charges against the city of Portsmouth . . . The Federal Prosecutor’s office seemed most helpful and eager to participate in bringing suit. It is my sincerest wish that this issue can be resolved before litigation.”

28 Feb. 05. Councilman Mollette requests ruling from Kuhn on Ord. 705.30.

14 Mar. 05. Pack mails material related to gun registration issue to members of City Council, as he had earlier mailed material to Kuhn.

14 Mar. 05. At City Council meeting, Mollette repeats request for ruling from Kuhn on Ord. 705.30.

22 Aug. 05. At City Council meeting, Mollette again requests for ruling from Kuhn on Ord. 705.30.

26 Aug. 05. Kuhn writes letter to National Rifle Association on Ord. 705.30. “A non-resident of the City had questioned the validity of this ordinance. Portsmouth is a ‘home rule’ city, and under the Ohio constitution may exercise municipal police powers relating to local matters. Please furnish me with any literature or information which is available to assist me in determining the validity of this ordinance.”

17 Nov. 05. Mollette writes Kuhn a letter, which begins, “Please update me on the current status of your actions to resolve this potential conflict with federal law involving the enforcement of the City of Portsmouth Codified Ordinances Section 705.30 Dealers in Firearms and Ammunition; Fee; Records and Reports. . . . This practice was questioned by Mr. Harold T. Pack in September 2004, October 2004, November 2004, January 2005, February 2005, and again in March 2005. I have requested your opinion at the March 14, 2005, May 9, 2005, and August 22, 2005 Council Meetings in an effort to resolve this issue prior to any litigation.”

18 Nov. 05. Kuhn replies to Mollette that he is still waiting for NRA reply to his 26 Aug. letter. At some point after this date, Kuhn writes a second letter to the NRA.

6 Dec. 05. Mollette writes letter to Kuhn forwarding Harold Pack’s suggestion that Kuhn contact Ohio Attorney General’s Office about Ord. 705.30.

1 Jan. 06. Letter from NRA to Mollette, stating that Ord. 705.30 is valid under Portsmouth’s “Home Rule” status, but that the ordinance is “duplicative,” has not been effective in deterring crime, and “ties up valuable time and resources at all levels.” Therefore, the NRA believes, it should be repealed.

1. Jan. 06. Letter from LaCourse of NRA to Kuhn, beginning “Councilman Mollette and I had a good conversation about the legality of the Portsmouth gun registration ordinance, 705.30.” LaCourse repeats what he had written in letter to Mollette about ordinance 705.30 being duplicative, ineffective as crime stopper, and inefficient.

4 Jan. 06. Kuhn writes memo to City Council, with copies to Pack, Mayor Kalb and Chief Horner, “Attached is a copy of correspondence I received from the NRA yesterday, indicating that under the ‘Home Rule’ provisions of our Charter and the Ohio Constitution, the subject ordinance is legally valid.”

6 Jan. 06. Not yet having received 4 Jan. 06 letter from Kuhn, Mollette writes letter to Kuhn, which begins, “I am forwarding to you a response from the National Rifle Association of America . . . concerning the above ordinance (705.30). The correspondence is the direct result of the perseverance of Harold T. Pack at resolving this issue.” Mollette closes the letter by urging Kuhn, in bold face, to support the NRA recommendation. “I am requesting your support to repeal or amend Codified Ordinance 705-30.”

9 Jan. 06. Chief Horner makes written request to City Council not to repeal Ord. 705-30. “Ordinance 705-30 has been and remains an effective resource for law enforcement. The Portsmouth Police Department and I respectfully request Portsmouth City Council not to take any action to repeal or amend Ordinance 705.30.”

11 Jan. 06. Mollette writes NRA. “I applaud your efforts to assure the rights of citizens are protected. I agree with the NRA-ILA concerning consistency in state gun laws, with preemption providing one set of uniform rules for all to follow and easily understand.”

15 Jan. 06. Portsmouth Daily Times publishes article “NRA: City should ease restrictions.” The article begins “Even though the National Rifle Association said that city should scrap an ordinance mandating gun registration, Police Chief Charles Horner said that is a bad idea.”

22 Jan. 06. First Ward Councilman Timothy W. Loper writes barely literate letter to his fellow council members in support of Ord. 705.30.

16 Feb. 06. David LaCourse of the NRA writes a long detailed letter to Solicitor Kuhn. In the letter LaCourse responds point-by-point to the issues involved in the Portsmouth gun registry. He effectively refutes those, and Chief Horner in particular, who want to retain Ord. 705.30. LaCourse said that after talking with Horner, he observed that “It was quickly apparent that there are not just differences on public policy at play, but personality differences greatly affecting this discussion as well.”

8 Mar. 06. Ohio House of Representatives passes with veto-proof majority Sub HB347, which provides for uniform gun laws throughout the state.

26 Feb. 07. Mollette writes a long letter to Kuhn titled “Expectations of our City Solicitor from a Citizen’s Perspective,” in which he says, “I feel the City Solicitor, who is elected by the citizens, would assure and guide the actions or inactions of elected officials to the City of Portsmouth to avoid legal entanglements and taxpayer abuse.”

16 Sept. 07. Portsmouth Daily Times publishes Jeff Barron’s article “Mollette Addresses Gun Laws.” The article includes the information that “According to National Rifle Association field officer Dave La Course, the city is not in compliance with Ohio House Bill 347, which mandates all municipalities follow state gun registration procedures.” Barron pointed out that he tried to reach Kuhn for comment but the City Solicitor was unavailable.

18 Sept. 07. Portsmouth Daily Times publishes Kuhn’s Letter-to-Editor in which he denies Mollette’s claims that Pack had “sent several letters to the city that went unanswered” and that “The City Solicitor’s office wasn’t doing its job. David Kuhn received information about a city ordinance and didn’t respond.” Kuhn claimed that, on the contrary, his records show that he (Kuhn) “verbally responded twice with telephone calls to Mr. Pack regarding his inquiries, as well as responded twice to Mr. Pack and Mr. Mollette, after Mr. Mollette assumed the role of ombudsman in this matter.” Mr. Kuhn also wrote in his Letter-to-the-Editor that it was “unfortunate and irresponsible” that the PDT published “unsubstantiated statements of one person, who not only has no documentation for the statements, but also had exhibited improper political motives as basis for the statements.” Kuhn also criticizes PDT reporter Jeff Barron for not checking the veracity of his sources and for not being “objective enough to print all relevant information pertaining to the subject matter of the article . . .”

24 Sept. 07. In response to Kuhn’s of 18 Sept., Mollette writes a letter to the PDT in answer to Kuhn’s charge that he, Mollette, had made unsubstantiated statements and offered no documentation for his statements. Mollette writes that “My divergence of opinion over the last three years with Solicitor Kuhn is a matter of public record. Expressing my opinion and documenting those views is also a public record.” Mollette reviews the history of the gun controversy, providing dates and citations.

24 Sept. 07. The City Council passes a motion to repeal Ord. 705.30. The first reading on the proposed repeal will occur at the 8 Oct. 2007 meeting.

8 Oct. 07. At request of Councilman Mollette, City Council suspends rule requiring three readings and repeals Ord. 705.30.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Giving the Finger!

In the photo above, Portsmouth’s real estate predator, Neal Hatcher, is shown giving the finger to an onlooker while he oversees the replacement of Clayton Johnson’s sidewalks. The photo says it all, which is even more than you might think, for, ironically, in giving the finger, the helmeted Hatcher on his motor scooter manages to look even dorkier than Dukakis in the tank. Johnson and Hatcher are Portsmouth’s Odd Couple, and Hatcher was obviously very unhappy that Johnson had been pressured by concerned citizens into replacing the hazardous sidewalks outside his walled estate at the corner of Washington and 4th Streets. The rich-as-Croesis Odd Couple are not used to being pressured by anybody to do anything. In Portsmouth money talks, and Mayor Kalb and the City Council are all ears. If Hatcher wants to give the public the finger, who is going to stop him? Incidentally, is it just a coincidence that the name of the restaurant where Hatcher and Johnson used to tĂȘte-a-tĂȘte for lunch was the Fork and Finger? The Hatcher finger photo reveals graphically what the overprivileged have been giving the people of Portsmouth for a long time. If one picture is worth a thousand words, this one is worth a million. Is it too much to hope that someday, when Portsmouth emerges from the Reign of the SOGP, that an artistic rendering of this photo will find a place on the Floodwall murals? We already have a mural depicting the Flood of 1938, but shouldn’t we memorialize Portsmouth’s other calamity. Shouldn’t we have one depicting Hatcher, and in what better pose than on his motor scooter giving the finger?

Hatcher is not the only one among the overprivileged who likes to give the finger. Harold Daub told me that he got the finger from Hatcher’s wife, the pork rind heiress. And some years back when Emily Gulker put up signs in her front yard in support of embattled SSU president James P. Chapman, former chair of the SSU trustees, Frank Waller, reportedly drove by her house and he, or someone in his car, gave Emily the finger. So suave, these city leaders. In contrast to his crude, uneducated sidekick, Johnson and the other overprivileged are more subtle about giving the finger. Unlike Hatcher, Johnson wraps his finger in culture and philanthropy. The public is not likely to suspect they are being given the finger by entities named the Southern Ohio Museum, the Marting Foundation, and the Southern Ohio Growth Partnership. But they are.

The Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines “the bird,” or “the finger,” as “an obscene gesture of contempt made by pointing the middle finger upward while keeping the other fingers down.” What Merriam-Webster squeamishly chose not to point out is that the reason the gesture is obscene is that the finger symbolically substitutes for the penis.

Anthropologists provide more background on the obscene gesture. Giving the finger is, to use the anthropological term, an ancient “phallic aggressive” gesture. According to Wikipedia, the finger gesture is mostly used as a non-verbal way of saying ‘Fuck you.’” Lower primates, not having the capacity for symbolism of homo sapiens, don’t substitute the finger for the penis. In confrontations, they insultingly thrust their penis at their enemies, suggesting not only that they going to defeat them but they are also going to “screw” them. That may be why some primates indicate submissiveness to a more dominant male by turning the rump toward him.

There are two slang meanings for “screw,” according to Merriam-Webster: (1) Screw can either mean “to copulate with,” or (2) “to mistreat or exploit through extortion, trickery, or unfair actions; especially : to deprive or cheat out of something due or expected.” Merriam-Webster provides an example of “to screw” being used in the sense of to mistreat, exploit, or cheat. The example was provided by Nixon White House counsel John Dean III, who is quoted as saying that he and the Nixon White House used “the available Federal machinery to screw our political enemies.” Screwing was apparently very much on Dean’s mind during the Watergate scandal, and not just the figurative kind of screwing.

Fair-haired Boy

The reporter Daniel Shore mentioned on PBS radio back in the Watergate era that one of the reasons that John Dean broke with the Nixon White House was not a sudden religious or ethical conversion but his fear he was being figuratively screwed (in sense # 2) by the older White House crew – Nixon, Haldeman and Ehrlichman; and that he would, if he allowed himself to be the fall guy, end up in a District of Columbia jail, where he could be screwed (in sense # 1) by sexually depraved prisoners, the majority of whom were African-Americans. Dean was sometimes described as “the fair-haired boy of the Nixon White House” and when it came time for Haldeman and Ehrlichman to find a fall guy, they chose Dean as the odd man, or odd boy, out. After females, fair-haired boys are the next to be screwed. In every bureaucracy, if you don’t want to get screwed, you have to follow the first law of survival: Cover Your Ass, known cryptically as “CYA.” Dean was following that law when, turning against those who were trying to screw him, he became the star witness for the prosecution in the Watergate trials. Dean’s career should serve as a warning: Be careful, because the faired-haired boy you try to screw can end up screwing you, as Dean demonstrated by repudiating the Nixon Administration and making a second career of criticizing the current Bush administration, which he calls, in the title of one of his books, Worse than Watergate.

Spilling the Beans

When the Bridge to Nowhere, the new U.S. Grant Bridge, opened in October 2006 to great fanfare, radio coverage was provided by WNXT’s Steve Hayes, who reported from inside the Ramada Inn that Bob Huff (shown here), the head of the Portsmouth Chamber of Commerce, was outside “giving people the finger.” He was kidding, of course. But in slips of the tongue and in quips and jokes, Freud pointed out, we reveal things that we otherwise would not dare express. Hayes is the eternally adolescent chatterbox for the overprivileged who screw the people of Portsmouth, but being the hip nature lover that he is, having to kiss the asses of guys in suits really bugs him. On the morning of the bridge opening, Hayes was like a kid on Halloween letting the cat out of the bag. On that solemn occasion, which was touted as the beginning of Portsmouth’s return to prosperity, Hayes spilled the beans with his quip about Huff. What Hayes was saying, if you understand the language of the unconscious, was that the overprivileged of Portsmouth, concentrated in the SOGP and the Chamber of Commerce, are in fact constantly giving people the finger. But why did Hayes accuse Bob Huff, of all people, of being the one giving people the finger? Because Huff is the fair-haired boy, the “gofer” for the overprivileged. Hayes would not have accused somebody at the top of Portsmouth’s provincial pecker order (such as Johnson or Hatcher) of giving the people the finger. No, if Hayes made jokes about Johnson or Hatcher, his own ass would soon have been in a sling, and he would have had to take his eternal-adolescent nature-boy shtick to some other market.

Royal Screwing

Portsmouth is presently in the process of getting royally screwed. Our complaisant and corrupt city officials, whom the Portsmouth Times in a recent headline flatteringly called “city leaders,” are about to turn the site of the present Municipal Building over to some unnamed real estate developer so that he can build a hotel and convention center. This game of footsie about an unnamed developer has been going on for about ten years. To cater to this mysterious unnamed real estate developer, our corrupt city officials and Mayor Kalb in particular have publicly condemned the Municipal Building as a death-trap and tried to stick the taxpayers with the Marting Building as a replacement. But when the Marting scam produced a political firestorm and was scuttled in a referendum, our corrupt city officials appointed a Building Committee to look for another site. In other words, they were appointed to pull another municipal building scam. The unelected First Ward councilman and self-confessed pussy-addict Mike Mearan was appointed chair of the Building Committee, as he had just previously been appointed First Ward councilman, and he promptly appointed the addicted drug courier and purse-snatching Heather Hren, whom he was dating, as stenographer of the Building Committee. What did this Building Committee, chaired by Mearan, choose as the site for a new municipal building? Wouldn’t you know! They chose the site of the so-called Adelphia building, a property Mearan once owned and made a fast $95,000 on before selling it to Dr. Singer of Los Angeles. In serving on the Building Committee, which chose the site owned by Singer for a proposed new 12 million dollar municipal building, Mearan had a blatant conflict of interest. At the same time he was employed by Singer to help unload his decrepit Adelphia property, Mearan was chairing the committee that recommended Singer’s property as the site for a new municipal building. Where else but in a city in which City Solicitor David Kuhn was the chief legal officer could such a fraud have been perpetrated?

When the time comes for the unknown developer to buy the Municipal Building site, count on the phrase “fair price” being bandied about. Remember the scam in which the 15th Street Viaduct was sold to the developer Mullins for a song because the property was allegedly contaminated and would take millions of dollars to clean up? Well, it turned out, after Mullin acquired the property for a fraction of its potential value, that there was no contamination. What would a fair price for the Municipal Building site be? Under current circumstances, the site is not very valuable. Why would anyone want to build a hotel and convention center directly across the street from the Ramada Inn, known in travel circles as the “Queen of the Rust Belt”? The Ramada has survived by mooching on public funds. If it hadn’t served as a dormitory for SSU students and as a half-way house for wayward, would it still be in business?


Building a hotel and convention center across from the Ramada makes as much sense as building a new department store across from Marting’s. The only justification for calling the Municipal Building site “prime real estate,” as our lapdog mayor has, is if gambling comes to Portsmouth. The only way our Bridge to Nowhere makes sense is if gambling comes to Portsmouth. Then that site, next to the bridge, becomes a goldmine. But will whoever buys it pay what it is potentially worth? Not likely. The purpose of our city government is to enable the developers and dishonest lawyers to screw the public. Mearan made a fast $95,000 on the Adelphia site. The Marting’s Foundation almost got away with $2,000,000. That figure will be chickenfeed compared to the profits that will be made on the Municipal Building and Adelphia sites if and when gambling comes to the city. The new Democratic governor of Massachusetts Deval Patrick is calling for opening three casino resorts in the Commonwealth. The president of a Boston TV channel said, “In the end, a lot of people stand to become very wealthy owning these casinos.”

I grew up in a coastal Boston suburb of Revere, which had been a basket case economically for centuries. Then, in the early 1900s, the town saw a way out. It had a beach front, as Portsmouth has a river front, and it turned that into a kind of New England Coney Island, with lots of rides and games of chance. Then in the middle of the Great Depression, in the 1930s, Revere welcomed big time gambling, specifically pari-mutuel horse and dog tracks. In addition, there was an extensive underground gambling economy. When I was in middle school, a boy in my homeroom took bets on races. He was a precocious bookmaker. Revere became known not only as the Gambling Capital of New England but its Crime Capital as well. It became one of the most notorious cities in Massachusetts.

It was not “a lot of people” who profited from the gambling and vice in Revere. It was relatively few. And you can bet it will be relatively few who will get wealthy if gambling comes to Portsmouth. And you can bet that the public will get screwed, royally, before predatory developers and crooked politicians are through. Talk about getting the finger!