Wednesday, April 11, 2007

The Castrati

City Solicitor sitting on his ass, as usual

H. L. Mencken was an acerbic newspaper reporter (he wrote for the Baltimore Sun); a lexicographer (he created a dictionary); and a neologist (he made up words, as I just did with neologist). Baltimore not being too far from Washington, D.C., Mencken occasionally turned his wit and wisdom on the boobs in Washington.

Recent posts by John Welton on David “I get no respect” Malone and on Mike “I’m addicted to pussy” Mearan reminded me what a collection of characters we have in the Portsmouth city government and how much like a Mencken Welton has been in exposing not only the corruption but also the comic opera quality of local politics. Imagine, if you will, that one of the television networks creates a new series called The Castrati, now that The Sopranos is about call it quits, and imagine it being stocked with the kind of boobs we are all too familiar with in Portsmouth.

The big cheese on The Castrati would be an unelected official, the Chief of Police, whose War on Drugs would be such a flop that his own son would be dealing drugs in a restaurant directly across the street from the police station. And a chop-shop about a half mile away from the police station would be dealing oxycontin on the side without the Chief having a clue. Since the Chief’s War on Drugs is not going well, the Chief, following the lead from higher ups in the federal government, would declare war on domestic terrorists, by which he means local citizen activists, many of them elderly, who wage successful campaigns to recall incompetent and corrupt city officials, and who write blogs critical of those incompetent and corrupt city officials.

The City Solicitor

Giving the city a black eye

Abetting the Chief, and anyone else in city government who wants to pull a fast one, is the City Solicitor, the city slicker on The Castrati. If some ex-felon or unemployed dummy wants to run for city council, even though he doesn’t live in the ward he wants to run in, and even though he wants to run as a write-in and skip the bother of running a campaign, the City Solicitor will be there to offer one of his off-the-wall interpretations of the city charter. The motto that sits on his desk, which he is seldom behind, is not “The Buck Stops Here” but rather “Anything is Possible.” When the city faces legal action, the City Solicitor hires a real lawyer from Cincinnati or Columbus, because being city solicitor is only a part-time job, paying only $50,000 a year, and he has other more important things to attend to, like his digs in sacred Indian burial sites, or like his sitting on his ass in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade. Sitting on his ass is something he gets a lot of practice at the other 364 days of the year. In fact, there is no other character on The Castrati who is better at sitting on his ass than the City Solicitor, though there are those who would argue that the City Auditor is not far behind when it comes to sitting on his behind.

The Philandering Preacher

The City Clerk

The City Clerk is a lifer, having found employment in city government as a young virgin, and has been at it ever since, doing everything she can to frustrate those citizens looking for answers to questions and mutilating petitions that would put people and issues on the ballot that her employers don’t approve of. It is like she practices the clitoral circumcision of democracy. Her aversion to the Sunshine Laws is so strong that she often sits in her office in the dark, except when the city council gets together before city council meetings to conduct important business. She is all work and no play, except on Halloween when she puts on a white hood and goes trick or treating.

The Good Samaritan


Of those characters on The Castrati, perhaps the most colorful is the lawyer who represents the First Ward and who is known as The Good Samaritan. Among drug-addicted prostitutes in Portsmouth, The Good Samaritan is viewed as a saint. He is always there to give a gal a lift in his stretch limousine and find them a place to sleep or rent them a sub-compact in a family emergency. If the mother of a drug-addicted prostitute gets ill, you can be sure the Good Samaritan will be there with a rented Aveo with unlimited mileage and enough oxycontin to see her through her ordeal. But his good works for addicted prostitutes don’t stop there. On Thanksgiving he distributes Papa John Street Pizza, with all the toppings, to all the poor prostitutes in Portsmouth.

President of City Council

Council President entering 2300-year-old dept. store

The President of the city council on The Castrati, who, when he is not committing campaign violations, warns unwelcome visitors to council meetings that they must not criticize any city official by name or they will be ejected from the chambers by the Chief of Police. Having flunked out of college, the President of the City Council has more education than anyone else on the council and he is determined to maintain draconian decorum and parliamentary order, being unaware (because he watches American Idol, not PBS) that members of the British House of Commons call each other names and boo and hiss loudly when they don’t like what someone who has the floor might be saying. “A little learning is a dangerous thing” is what needs to remembered where the President of Council is concerned. He is like the future El Presidente in some banana republic, a furniture salesman who dreams of being the Top Banana some day.

The President’s right-hand man, the Vice President of City Council, is the Hired Goon of City Government. His role is to try to create a riot at council meetings so the Chief of Police can declare a state of emergency and arrest everybody who comes to council meetings as domestic terrorists.

His Honor the Clueless Mayor

The clueless Mayor in Kentucky

The Top Banana on The Castrati is the clueless Mayor. Like the Philandering Preacher from Ward Two, the Mayor is concerned above all that he is not shown proper respect. He spends much of his time brooding over not driving the kind of prestigious city vehicle and not being paid the kind of salary a man in his position should be rewarded with. The Mayor suffered from this same lack of respect for years when he worked as a clerk at a local supermarket. Restocking shelves and punching a cash register was as much responsibility as the supermarket ever dared entrust him with. The supermarket, of course, being in the private sector, is prejudiced against employees of limited intelligence and ability. Since those same prejudices do not exist in city government, the Mayor is understandably miffed about being discrminated against.

The 2300-Year-Old Department Store


The ongoing plot line of The Castrati is to get the city government to move its offices to an empty department store that is estimated to be 2300 years old and that has been empty for about 130 years. The City Solicitor, an expert on pre-Columbian civilizations, believes the department store was originally a temple where young virgins were sacrificed to the God of Lotteries, a god the Mayor reportedly worships in Kentucky. The City Solicitor speculates that the ancient civilization disappeared after it ran out of virgins. The City Solicitor assures critics of the building that neither menstrual blood nor asbestos is any longer a problem in the building.

The two men who run Portsmouth and control the City Council, The Lawyer and The Developer, sold the ancient structure to the city for 2$ million. When that sale was declared illegal by the courts, The Lawyer refused to give the $2 million he had cheated the city out of, saying he would not give the money back because he didn’t trust the city government do the right thing with it. The only right thing to do with the money, The Laywer said, was use it to convert the 2300-year-old department store to a city hall. The Sopranos is about to go off the air, but The Castrati has a long run ahead of it, if only we can get the city government to allow it to be televised so we can see what is going to happen to The 2300-Year-Old Department Store.