As I approach my twentieth year of living in Portsmouth, I thought I had outlived the capacity to be shocked by what those who control this city politically will do to hold on to power, but the story that appeared in the Portsmouth Daily Times (PDT), on primary election day (May 8) about Wayne Nichols, proved I still have something to learn. Wayne Nichols is a candidate for Portsmouth City Council from the Fourth Ward. He is also a recycler, or what used to be called a junk man. His alleged offense is that he has too much recyclable material on his premises, at 2018 8th St. The PDT reports that “The city first received a complaint of trash and vermin on Nichols’ property at 2018 Eighth St., beside Star Cleaners on March 6.”
The PDT article continues, “Inspectors visited Nichols’ house six days later and found recyclables [emphasis added], scrap wood, scrap metal, etc., in Nichols’s yard and on his porch.” Now notice, “the trash and vermin” someone complained to the city has morphed into recyclable material. The point is, one man’s trash is another man’s recyclable material. The Portsmouth Health Dept. subsequently gave Nichols a final deadline for cleaning up his premises. The deadline was May 8, which just happened to be the day of the primary election in which Nichols was a candidate. Is it just coincidental that Nichols had announced his candidacy for the council seat before March 6, when the complaint against him was made? Is it just a coincidence that the PDT published this story on election day, even though it had not reached Nichols to get his side of the story? Is it unfair to suspect that the PDT published this story on election day because it knows if it is going to continue good relations with the Chamber of Commerce and the Southern Ohio Growth Partnership it better continue to find ways to show it is grateful? (Remember what the Chamber of Commerce did when Rick Greene, a former editor of the PDT, did not toe the line?) What better way to show gratefulness than sabotaging whatever chance Nichols might have had of being elected than portraying him as the “White Trash Candidate.” Is it just a coincidence that, in unusual display of judicial activism, city health official Peggy Burton determined that Nichols’s last request for more time was an act of defiance? Is it unfair to suspect that a city official, such as a health inspector, especially in Portsmouth, might be acting politically in carrying out his or her responsibilities? Is it just a coincidence that the elderly councilman Nichols is running against is Jerrold Albrecht, who was appointed, not elected, to Portsmouth City Council, and who has been a cat's-paw for those who control the city, the same people who will do anything to see that he stays on the council?
Like Mayor Kalb, councilman Albrecht appears at times to take catnaps during council meetings. So, it is not surprising that Albrecht, waking up, occasionally appears confused about which way to vote, but his buddy councilman Mohr helpfully reminds him of how he is supposed to vote on any given issue. Because Albrecht is of advanced age, his chances of finishing a four-year term on council are probably less than fifty-fifty, although health experts say taking naps during the day is a good way to achieve longevity, so maybe the odds of him finishing a term are better than fifty-fifty. While no one would wish Mr. Albrecht to become incapacitated, the powers-that-be will be quite ready with another candidate for the city council to appoint as his replacement.
I am not taking a position on whether Nichols should or should not be on city council. I am not saying I would like to have him as a neighbor. I am saying he has every right to run for city council, but it appears the city and the PDT are working together to see that he doesn’t get elected. Nichols’ most serious offense, I believe, is not his procrastination in cleaning up his premises but rather his attending city council meetings and speaking up in those periods set aside for citizens to address the city council, periods that councilman Mohr has tried to restrict and do away with. Though he is disabled, a veteran, a homeowner, and someone concerned about the city, Nichols, in addition to being cast as “The White Trash Candidate,” probably qualifies as one of those “domestic terrorists” Police Chief Horner has warned against. And what is the fine for Nichols’ offense, which was serious enough to make the front page of the PDT? $25! That’s less than City Council President Howard Baughman was fined by the state for election violations. (Baughman, it should be remembered, like Albrecht, and like our First Ward councilman Mike Mearan, was originally appointed to the city council. That’s how some of our worst council members first get their foot in city council chambers, by being appointed by the rest of the city council, some of whom themselves were originally appointees. Appointed public officials are very prolific and reproduce like cockroaches. It’s a vicious cycle and it will probably continue until the current four-year term for council members is reduced to two.
Why was Nichols cited when Portsmouth has so many much worse houses that could be cited by the Health Dept. Most of the property Neal Hatcher acquires becomes condemnable if it already isn’t when he acquires it, and it just sits for years getting worse. It makes you wonder why Nichols gets a deadline of election day to clean up his property while those violators Bob Mollette has called the city’s attention to are ignored.
I think what this whole Nichols’ business amounts to is no more than Rich White Trash Talk on the part of the city and PDT.