Saturday, March 29, 2008


CBS News Photo of Indian Rock

       Christians have the Rock of the Ages; Plymouth has Plymouth Rock; the Deadheads have Acid Rock; and Portsmouth has Indian Head Rock, or at least it does until such time as the courts force the city of Portsmouth to give it back to its rightful owner, the commonwealth of Kentucky. We already knew how intellectually challenged Mayor Jim Kalb is. Perhaps allowances should be made for him. Perhaps at some time Kalb may have been in a serious motorcycle accident without his helmet. To be fair, having rocks in your head does not necessarily mean you are stoned all the time. We areembarrassed at having this also-ran in the race of life as mayor. So we are not surprised to learn he probably had something to do with the theft of Indian Head Rock. There is the Grinch who stole Christmas. What we have is the mayor who stole Indian Head Rock. We look forward to his day in court.
         Why was Kalb involved in the theft? The short answer is that Jim Kalb has no more sense than an Indian Head Nickel. Whether the theft was done by divers in darkness or broad daylight, if booze and drugs were not involved in the hare-brained escapade, I am going to be surprised. Would teetotalingOhioans have pulled such a stupid trick? Would sober Buckeyes have been dumb enough to steal a rock to restore the honor of Ohio? What honor is involved anyway? A lot of past generations of no-doubt beery and eternally adolescent white males paddled or swam over to Kentucky when the river was shallower than it is now and scratched initials and numbers on the rock, making it sacred to their hero-worshipping pot-smoking descendants. Here is what one hero-worshipping ancestor wrote in aletter to the Portsmouth Daily Times about Indian Head Rock. “Each name, date and set of initials represents someone who was part of a workplace, a family and a history here.” How genealogically touching. “Those scratches on the rock are the shadows and echoes of the families who built Portsmouth, and made it flourish.” I have read a lot of history, including histories of Portsmouth. This blather about the rock and its alleged connection with those who made Portsmouth flourish is not history. What we are talking about is not hieroglyphics but graffiti, not history but hokum.
       “The accumulated jumble of letters and numbers on the rock are a DNA map of the city of Portsmouth,” the letter writer continued, not knowing when to leave well enough alone. I disagree. The jumble of letters and numbers on the rock say more about Portsmouth’s IQ, than it does about Porsmouth’s DNA, and the numbers are not encouraging. If the IQs of everybody in LakeWoebegone are above average, in Portsmouth they seem well below average. Clayton Johnson is reputed to be the smartest lawyer in Portsmouth, which is probably true, but we should keep in mind the proverb, “In the country of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.” Just as Johnson has done withthe Marting building, the letter writer to the editor is trying to tie Indian Head Rock to Portsmouth’s prosperous past. Preserve Marting’s! Preserve Indian Head Rock! Preserve the prosperous past! The scams are essentially alike and equally dishonorable. How can men without honor claim to be restoring it? How can the morally bankrupt speak in the name of a spiritual legacy?
       Kalb has already carved his name in local politics and his name is mud. He has destroyed all hope that the level of local politics might be lifted above the scummy level we are all too familiar with. As the lapdog of the developer Neal Hatcher, he has helped hatch the Hotel/Convention Center scheme, and as the patsy for lawyer Clayton Johnson, he helped the Marting Foundation steal $2 million dollars of public funds, which is what the Foundation was paid by the city government for a much bigger, much more worthless rock, the 125-year-old Marting Building, which Johnson succeeded in unloading on the city as a historic landmark. Historic? Yes, think of all the hats and shoes, all the girdles and men’s garters, all the outerwear and underwear, that were sold in the Marting building during Portsmouth’s golden age of prosperity. How can we let this shrine to shopping be torn down? The sale of the Marting building to the city was ruled illegal by the courts, because the sale had been negotiated in the dark, in violation of Ohio’s Sunshine laws, just as Indian Head Rock had been stolen by undercover thieves and will probably be ordered by the courts to be restored to its rightful owner, the Bluegrass state.
       Former Mayor Bauer and council women Sydnor and Caudill were recalled from office as a direct result of their role in the city’s fraudulent purchase of the Marting building for $2 million dollars. The Marting sale was invalidated by the courts. But Kalb turned right around and allowed Johnson to snooker him into giving the Marting Foundation back the $2 million while the city got stuck with the worthless Marting building again. (Actually, the figure was $1.4 not $2 million because the Marting Foundation had already lost $600,000 in unwise stock market speculations.) Just as Kalb, Todd Book, and others proceeded with plans to move the stolen Indian Head Rock to the Welcome Center in Portsmouth, in spite of the protests of irate citizens in Kentucky and Scioto County, Kalb and the corrupt members of City Council are proceeding with plans to turn the 125-year-old Marting building into the home for city office buildings, and let the voters be damned!

Judging a Book by the Company He Keeps

       It is bad enough that the mayor of Portsmouth has embarrassed the city not only locally but now nationally, on the CBS nightly news, but Kalb has been joined by Democratic Assistant Minority leader of the Ohio House of Representatives, Todd Book, who, in defending the theft of the rock, has shot Portsmouth in the other foot. Book has proceeded as if any kind of publicity about the theft is good for Portsmouth and apparently good for his political career. As long as his name is spelled right, he doesn’t seem to object. “There’s been so much talk about it,” Book said, referring to the rock, “and so much exposure both locally and nationally, that we want to actually get it out of the garage and let people see it.” The rock was stored in the city garage, making the city an accessory after the fact. Book was all for moving the rock to the Welcome Center, thereby calling the historic heist to the attention of tourists and Portsmouth residents. Book went so far as to suggest the rock could be used to educate the children of Scioto County about the history of the area. What local history is he talking about? The Marting Scam? Stone stealing? Rock robbery? Book extolled an essay contest for fourth graders on the rock. Fourth graders! Mr. Book, have you gone out of your political mind? To rephrase the famous remark of a distraught boy to Shoeless Joe Jackson for his role in throwing the World Series, “Say it ain’t so, Todd.” Say you were really not going to use fourth graders as a cover for the theft of Indian Head Rock.

Putting the Legal Stuff Aside

       “Let’s put the legal stuff aside,” Book said. “We have something that has attained some national recognition and people are interested now.” Put the legal stuff aside? That, Mr. Book, is just what makes Portsmouth the politically corrupt place that it is. That is why a notorious figure like Mike Mearan gets appointed to City Council and why Mearan chairs a building committee that ignores the votes of Portsmouth’s citizens who have, through recalls and a referendum, overwhelmingly rejected plans for the 125-year-old Marting building to be converted to city offices at a cost of many millions of taxpayer dollars. The only lesson Indian Head Rock holds for local children should be the one The Shadow used to preach on the radio: “Crime does not pay!” Instead of being exposed to the Indian Head Rock, and the thievery it represents, children should be protected from it and what it says about Porksmouth’s corrupt unAmerican culture, where competition is eliminated and a form of socialism for the rich prevails, where abatements and pork and city and country acquisition of distressed property, makes multimillionaires of unscrupulous lawyers and developers.
       Book claims Portsmouth has “attained” national recognition in the media. What Portsmouth has attained is national notoriety, not national recognition. Portsmouth is being exploited by the media as a hick lawless city. On Friday, March 28, the rock caper provided comic relief on the CBS nightlynewscast, which had some very serious stories to report, including the recession and renewed fighting in Iraq. Something amusing was needed to balance the grim news. The rest of the country may be amused by the gang that stole the rock, led by a furniture upholsterer, but many of us who live in Portsmouth are appalled, not amused, by these shenanigans. A Kentucky legislator introduced legislation that condemned the theft of the rock and stated “it shows disrespect for this country’s Native American heritage.” A character in a Union Civil War uniform stood guard over the rock during the rally at the Portsmouth city garage, just in case visitors needed to be reminded of the political and racial roots of the rally.
       An anonymous post on the Daily Bellwether blog dealing with the rock wrote, “Someone should lynch that nigger from Kentucky who started this dispute with Indian Head rock. If it was just some boulder in the river they wouldn’t care. He’s nothing but a stupid shine and should be wasted.” This is the level of discourse the stupid controversy can sink to. Voters should remember the role of Kalb, Book, & Co. in keeping the controversy in the news. Organizing rallies, doing a full court press in the local media, inflaming regional and racial conflicts, this is what stealing the rock has spawned. And it has also spawned a video, “We will Rock U” (Indian Rock Edition), possibly the product ofthe cool adolescent going on sixty who works for WNXT and shills for the SOGP.

                                                      Same Old Same Old Strickland

       The same-old-same-old goes on in Portsmouth and our governor, Ted Strickland, preoccupied with Hillary Clinton’s increasingly low-road campaign for the White House, does not seem to give a damn about Scioto County. In his own campaign for governor, he spoke without apparent embarrassment in front the Democratic Party headquarters, which had been provided to Scioto County Democrats by none other than Neal Hatcher. Strickland swore Mayor Kalb into office when he should have been swearing at him. The sad truth is that it appears that Strickland does not dare tamper with the government by SOGP that prevails in Scioto County, the county that he is a product of and that is now informally named after him. At Bill Clinton’s campaign appearance in Portsmouth, it may have been Todd Book who proposed that we change the unofficial name of Scioto County from Riffe Country to Strickland Country. Leading up to the Ohio primary, Strickland stood behind Hillary all the way, but at what moral cost? The way Clinton won in Ohio and by the margin she did was partly the result of sleazy tactics that Strickland may some day have to answer for. What might the blue collar Ohio voters have thought if they could have seen Clinton’s tax returns and seen what fat cats had contributed big bucks to Bill Clinton’s presidential library? At Clinton campaign appearances in Ohio, Strickland looked not so much like the deer in the headlights as the deer tied to the fender of the Clinton campaign. When he has fulfilled his political obligations to the Clintons, there will still be time for Strickland, an ordained minister, to put God and honor above party and personal loyalty. At a crucial point in Strickland’s career, he owed his political survival to the Clintons, but he will presumably have paid off his political debts to them once the Democratic presidential primary is over and Clinton is not the choice of the Democratic Party. Then he might become his own man, and do great things for Ohio, but even then I think Portsmouth will be the last place he will try to bring about any changes in. He may have political debts and personal obligations in Portsmouth that he can never pay off.

Profile in Political Cowardice

       Strickland’s public statements on the Indian Head Rock controversy should be enshrined as the classically mealy-mouthed political fence straddling that they are. “I am interested to see how this plays out,” he is quoted in the Community Common. “I have found this to be interesting, certainly to see the intensity of the feelings that seem to be surrounding this.” Oh, really? He summed up his profile in political cowardice with the statement, “I think it’s important not take this too seriously.” He had the effrontery to criticize the Iowa caucuses as being undemocratic, on behalf of Hillary Clinton (who must have been appalled by his lack of political judgment), and yet he can turn a blind eye to the most undemocratic and lawless actions right in his former bailiwick, right in the heart of Strickland Country. He is waiting to see how "this plays out"! And we are waiting to see how the remainder of his political career plays out after the dust settles from the Democratic primaries. I think we will find it interesting. Strickland may have great influence elsewhere in Ohio but he appears to have little in Portsmouth, his old stamping grounds, or little that he is willing to exert. I doubt that he is the rock that the Ohio Democratic Party can rebuild on.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Selling Out: Kevin W. Johnson

The Emporium: A Historic Landmark?

      Portsmouth businessman Kevin Johnson is playing an important role in helping the city’s corrupt politicians recycle the Marting Scam, which has morphed into the “City Center Scam.” The City Center Scam is a scheme to turn the 124-year-old decrepit Marting building into a home for city offices, with mom and pop kiosks on the ground floor to sell notions and newspapers. You can bet on the featured newspaper being the Portsmouth Daily Times, which fires reporters who even accidentally happen to report news embarrassing to the over-privileged who run the city. But why did Richard’s News close shop if there’s money in selling newspapers and magazines in downtown Portsmouth?

      The citizens of Portsmouth rejected the Marting Scam by more than 2 to 1 in a referendum in May 2006, but the crooks are back again in 2008, recycling what they failed to sell the first time, repackaging it as the City Center, with Kevin W. Johnson up to his neck in the lies and “petitions” being circulated to fool the public into thinking that the old, unoccupied, leaking Marting building, with its ugly phony-brick 1950's façade, is the key to the revival of downtown Portsmouth. After my legal challenge to First Ward councilman Tim Loper resulted in his removal from office, Johnson harbored political ambitions of being appointed to replace him. But the city chose Mike Mearan over Johnson, perhaps with the philosophy of “better the devil you know.” Now Johnson, as a member of the City Building Committee, has shown he is a team player who follows the rules by which the crooked game is played.
Nefarious Building Committee, with Johnson in center

The Emporium

      Kevin W. Johnson, or Kevin Warren as he is listed on the Scioto County Auditor’s website, is the co-owner of the Emporium antique shop, at 607 Chillicothe St. His partner is Paul  E. Johnson, whose last name he has apparently taken. The irony is that Kevin W. Johnson, or Kevin Warren, this crusader for the revival of downtown Portsmouth, is reportedly trying to sell the Emporium. He’s going to sell out, after about five years in business, if he can find a buyer as foolish as himself and his partner to sell to. He’s going to sell out and move out, although a case could be made that he had already sold out when he became a member of the nefarious City Building Committee, chaired by Mike Mearan. His sellout may in the end help him unload the Emporium.

      What a poster boy Johnson is for downtown renewal! What in the world were he and his partner thinking when they opened another antique shop in Portsmouth? The Emporium is all the evidence you need that downtown Portsmouth died forty years ago but nobody buried the corpse, of which the Marting building is the stinking head. The people in our down-at-the-heels-crime-ridden-community needed another antique shop like they needed another dozen prostitutes on John St., or more doped-up drug dealers on Waller St., or like they needed another chop shop/oxycontin dealership like West End Auto. Who among us needs a Marting Shoe Polisher can, a life-sized cut-out of Marilyn Monroe having her skirt blown up over a subway grate; or a copy of a 33 1/3 Velvet Underground vinyl record (shown left); or a Black Forest Cuckoo Clock? Yes, a Black Forest Cuckoo Clock! Doesn’t Kevin W. Johnson realize that the local rednecks don’t even know, according to Clayton Johnson, how to set an alarm clock? Would potential customers who don’t know how to set an alarm clock pay $125 for an antique cuckoo clock? Antique cuckoo clocks? How about antique VCRs, the kind that used to drive everybody but children nuts fifteen or twenty years ago when they tried to program them. We really need to get some of those VCRs in the hands of senior citizens to bring back the good old days. Maybe Hill View could bus seniors down to the Emporium to shop for antique VCRs, the way they may be bussed down to the Hotel/Convention Center if gambling ever comes to Portsmouth.

      All those little downtown stores that useful businesses had long ago moved out of were like empty shells for hermit-crab antique dealers to move in and out of every six months. The Emporium had moved into the empty building that had previously been occupied by Stapleton Office Supplies, which had held on as long as it could before heading for greener pastures, heading for anywhere, that is, other than downtown Portsmouth, just as Sears Roebuck had previously moved out of that same building. Ah, where are the Sears Roebucks and Montgomery Wards of yesteryear? Why did Kevin W. Johnson think there would be any more customers for antiques than there had been for office supplies, or for pet grooming, or for Speedo bathing suits, or quilts, to name some of the businesses that have come and gone in the last twenty years on Chillicothe Street? Portsmouth was already the antique/junk shop capital of south-central Ohio before the pair of Johnsons arrived. Having another antique shop was like bringing coke to New Boston or Oxycontin to Portsmouth. We’ve already got enough of that stuff.

      I was in Stapleton’s the week before it closed, and talked to employees. It was a sad occasion, but the folks there understood the time had come to get out, something that proponents of reviving downtown refuse to recognize. The Marting Foundation is trying to con everyone into believing downtown can be revived, as it once was, as if dinosaurs can be replicated by DNA, as in Jurassic Park. The dream of recreating the bustling downtown Portsmouth of 60 years ago is a myth that Clayton Johnson and others perpetrate and exploit, just as unscrupulous evangelists exploit the hope of everlasting life. Unfortunately, the only thing that is likely to revive downtown Portsmouth is casino gambling, and that is what Neal Hatcher is banking on, not the return of Sears or Marting’s or even Stapleton’s. No, Hatcher knows better, which is why he’s betting on the Hotel/Convention Center that will replace the Municipal Building.

      That’s probably what Kevin W. Johnson was betting on too when he opened the Emporium. As I reported in an earlier River Vices blog, “Sluts and Slots,” the Portsmouth Daily Times (28 June 2005) ran a front-page story with the headline “Gambling Draws Local Support.” What did this local support consist of? Two people, the pair of Johnsons. The PDT reported Kevin W. Johnson was in favor of legalized land-based gambling in Portsmouth. Johnson pointed to unspecified cities in Colorado and South Dakota as places where legalized gambling has been a good thing, and what’s good for cities in Colorado and South Dakota, he implied, will be good for Portsmouth. Kevin W., the PDT reported, “said casinos could mean turning around the local economy.” Maybe gambling would eventually turn around the local economy, with serious moral and social consequences, but not soon enough, as it turned out, to turn the Emporium into marketable real estate.

      Will someone buy the Emporium or will it remain on the market for a long time? If the City Center becomes a reality, maybe Kevin W. can attract buyers for the Emporium by claiming, falsely I believe, that things are looking up downtown. As somebody with a lot of white elephants on his hands, he has a vested interest in the proposed City Center, which may explain why he has ended up being a strong proponent of the city investing millions of dollars in the Marting building, though many citizens are adamantly opposed to it. Kevin W.'s  hopes for gambling in Portsmouth did not bail him out, but maybe the City Center will. Beware of businessmen in Portsmouth who have property they want to unload. If they can’t unload it on some private party, then the public better beware because the city or county might come to the rescue with tax dollars. Remember Clayton Johnson and the Marting building? Remember George Clayton and Kendrick’s retail store? Kevin W. is trying to make the case  that the building the Emporium is located in has architectural and historical importance. In other words, a similar case is being made for the Emporium building that has been made for the Marting building. “In recognition of our [restoration] efforts,” the pair of Johnsons tell us on their Emporium website, “the City of Portsmouth designated our building as a historic site in late 2002, and plans are to restore the exterior of the building in the near future.”

Caveat Emptor

     The city has done everything to physically and verbally tear down the Municipal Building, which has historic value, which is 50 years younger than the Marting building, and which has housed the city government for 75 years. By contrast, the city has declared the Emporium building a “historic site.” What malarkey! There is nothing historic or artistically significant about the Marting and Emporium buildings. Perhaps we should be thankful that the pair of Johnsons have not restored the exterior of the building, as they planned to do, because that might have consisted of nothing more than a façade to cover up its undistinguished exterior, a la the Marting building.

      So Kevin W. is part of the crew of underhanded types, in and out of government, who are trying to stir up the populace as they did back in 1980, when three City Councilmen were accused of sabotaging a new mall, a mall that has gone down in Portsmouth mythology as the city’s last lost great opportunity. That mall was a scam and so is the City Center. Fortunately, we have one of those councilmen from 1980, Harald Daub, with us still, and he along with thousands of other Portsmouth residents are still opposing scams like the City Center. There’s one thing you can say for Harold Daub. Unlike Kevin W.  he never sold out.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Prostitute Daily Times


Screwing the people since 1852

“Labor Council Endorses City Center.” That’s the title of the article that appeared on the front page of the 15 March 2008 Portsmouth Daily Times. Reading the article makes me realize why that newspaper deserves the nickname the Prostitute Daily Times. What is the message I take away from the article? That the Shawnee Labor Council is now in bed with the likes of Clayton Johnson, Neal Hatcher, and Mike Mearan.

The byline of the article does not name anyone in particular. It was put together by the “PDT Staff Report.” Why is nobody’s name listed? Is it shame? Did nobody want to take credit, or I should say blame, for this shameless piece of promotion for Neal Hatcher and Clayton Johnson? The "PDT Staff" tells us the Shawnee Labor Council is behind converting the now infamous Marting building into a “City Center.” That is the new euphemism for municipal building: City Center. The voters already decided in a referendum in May 2006 by a better than two to one margin that they don’t want city offices in the Marting building. So our politicians declare they are moving city offices into the “City Center.” A toilet bowl is a toilet bowl even if you change the name of the toilet bowl to the Fountain of Youth.

Where are experienced and honest reporters when you need them, reporters willing to present both sides of a story, reporters willing to put their byline on a story, as Art Kuhn and Sam Piatt are apparently not willing to?

The two most experienced and respected reporters in Portsmouth, Mike Deaterla and Jeff Barron, were both fired by the Prostitute Times not too long ago. The last thing the SOGP wants are reporters who might present both sides of a controversial issue like the Marting building. Do you know what Jeff Barron got fired for? He dared to report that somebody who was arrested for dealing drugs worked at Glockner Motors. A call from one of the Glockners to the Prostitute Times was all it took to get Barron fired. How dare he mention Glockner Motors in an unflattering light. That’s the kind of control the Chamber of Commerce and the SOGP have over the Prostitute Times. That’s the kind of control they have over what news is fit to print in Portsmouth.

Deaterla was fired for no known reason. He probably knows where too many bodies are buried. It’s not safe having somebody with that kind of knowledge as a reporter, even if he has been the most professional and respected reporter in Portsmouth for over thirty years. He began as the Entertainment Editor of the Times back in 1978, helping the paper win awards from the Ohio Arts Council. PDT Editor Don R. Smith praised Deaterla back in the 1980s, saying “Mike is vital to our coverage. Few small newspapers have someone of his experience and ability.” Deaterla went on to become the best reporter on the Times and then the Community Common, covering every facet of the local community. But being a reporter for the Prostitute Daily Times is a hazardous occupation, as Jeff Barron discovered. As a Times reporter you can get fired for mentioning where someone dealing in drugs is employed, if that employer is part of the Portsmouth Mafia, which goes by the name SOGP. Or you can get fired for no apparent reason, as Deaterla was by the Prostitute Daily Times.

Here are a dozen important angles that were not covered in the PDT March 15 story, Labor Council Endorses City Center.”

1. The main Marting building is
125 years old. Mentioning that fact could get a reporter fired faster than saying a drug dealer worked at Glockner Motors


The above photo shows the main Marting's building, built in 1883, at 515 Chillicothe St. The building at the extreme right became part of Marting's as it expanded. Photo appears to be from the 1940s.

2. The Marting Building is actually three very old buildings that are hidden behind
a 1950’s façade.

3. The Marting building has had more facelifts than Phyllis Diller, but the city is trying to pass the City Center"off as the architectural equivalent of Miss Portsmouth of 2008.

4. The Municipal Building, which politicians have been trying to get condemned for a quarter of a century, is actually only 75 years old, which is about the same age as the U.S. Post Office.

5. The sale of the Marting building to the city for $2 million dollars was ruled invalid by the courts for the underhanded illegal way in which the secret negotiations of the sale of the building were conducted by Clayton Johnson.

6. Outraged Portsmouth voters recalled Mayor Bauer and two members of the city council for their roles in the sale of the Marting building to the city for a wildly inflated price.

7. In a referendum in May 2006, the voters soundly rejected the city’s plans to move city offices into the Marting by better than a 2 to 1 margin.

8. In a glaring conflict of interest, Mike Mearan, the chairman of the Building Committee, is the lawyer for the absentee landlord who owns the so-called Adelphia property, which the Building Committee advised the city to buy as a site for either or both city offices and the police station.


9. Mike Mearan once owned the “Adelphia property” and made a quick $95,000 by selling it to Dr. Singer. As Dr. Singer’s lawyer, he stands to make more on the property

10. The Ramada Inn has barely been able to survive economically, and yet we are supposed to believe that a new Hotel and Convention Center right across the street will be a fabulous success.

11. The real reason Hatcher is interested in the site of the Municipal Building is the possibility that gambling will come to Portsmouth.

12. If gambling does not come to Portsmouth and the Hotel/Convention Center turns out to be a failure, Hatcher will not lose a dime, for he will work out a sweetheart deal with the city and the university, the same kind he worked out on the dormitories, a deal which guarantees that the taxpayers, not him, will be left holding the bag.

As usual, Hatcher, who tears down much more than he builds up, will be giving the public the finger in the Hotel/Convention Center Scam.

They tore down the N&W, a treasure of rail,
To make way for a county jail!

Why, they’d tear down the Taj Mahal
For Hatcher to hatch a new mall.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Marting's: They-re B-a-a-a-ck!

125-Year-Old Marting Maid

They are at it again, in spite of having a mayor and two council members recalled from office; in spite of the lawsuit by the Mollettes that led to the invalidation of the sale of the Marting building by the city in violation of state Sunshine laws; in spite of a 2006 referendum in which voters overwhelming rejected converting Marting’s into a city municipal building. In spite of repeated public resistance to the Marting scam, the mendacious Mayor Kalb, with the assistance of the salacious Mike Mearan, a criminal lawyer who has been appointed, not elected, to public office, the City Council is once again trying to revive the Marting’s Scam. On the City Council’s agenda tonight (March 10, 2008) item 4 of the Conference Session reads, “City Council is requested to authorize the preparation of legislation to authorize the Mayor to proceed with the recommendation of the Advisory Committee to construct/refurbish buildings to house various Portsmouth City Government Offices.” Marting’s is one of the buildings Kalb & Co. plan to refurbish, as they have made clear in recent weeks. Slipping Marting’s in with other “various” buildings is their most recent attempt to flim-flam the public and revive the scam.

Marting's: Portsmouth's Bad Dream

Prime Real Estate

Any history and analysis of the Marting Building scam has to start with this fact: for at least a decade a developer has coveted the land on which the Municipal Building sits. I have heard Mayor Kalb and City Councilman Mike Mearan characterize that land as “prime real estate.” What they mean is that that land is too valuable to waste on a public building. It reflects the contempt they have for local government and for democracy that they think using it as seat of government is a waste of money. They believe the land should be sold to a private developer. Who the private developer is who covets this land has never been made public. If the undercover developer is either Neal Hatcher or Elmer Mullins, it is understandable why their names have not been made public, because they are both crooks whose names alone would alert citizens that our local politicians are once again trying to pull a fast one.

To assist the developer acquire the land, the city government has neglected the upkeep of the Municipal Building, which has been deliberately allowed to deteriorate, as Neal Hatcher notoriously allowed property to deteriorate to hasten the day it would be torn down so that he could pursue schemes for a mall development.

Sue the Bastards!

The Municipal Building was built at the same time and of the same materials and in the same architectural style as the Portsmouth U.S. Post Office. There has never been any talk about tearing the Post Office down because the federal government is not in cahoots with local developers and the federal government has not allowed the Post Office building to deteriorate. Jeff Barron reported in the Portsmouth Daily Times (June 5, 2007) that Marting Foundation Attorney John Berry “said any attempt to renovate the former Marting's building for use as a city building probably would result in a lawsuit against the city.” Berry was right.

The Concerned Citizens Group, of which I am president, will bring a lawsuit against the city of Portsmouth if the City Council passes another ordinance to renovate Marting's for city offices. The voters of Portsmouth in May 2006 passed by a wide majority a referendum rejecting the city's plans to renovate the former Marting department store for city offices. That has not stopped Mayor Kalb, the corrupt City Council, and the criminal lawyer Mike Mearan, who has been appointed to City Council and appointed to chair the Building Committee.

Flim-Flam Man

Mearan & stenographer at work

Marting’s is not one building; it is three very old buildings, which are now more than 125 years old. The façade around the Marting building hides the aged asbestos-laden, roof-leaking structures behind it, just like the ceremonies that precede the City Council meetings – the prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance – is a façade behind which a crew of immoral, unpatriotic individuals serve as a rubber stamp for the overprivileged lawyers and developers of Portsmouth. Just as Mearan attempted to pass off his protégé, an addicted, drug-dealing, purse-snatching 23-year-old woman, as the Building Committee stenographer, he is trying to pass off the 125-year-old Old Maid Marting building as the sexy “new” site for city offices.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Strickland Country


Playing the Gender Card

As I begin to write this, it is early Sunday morning, March 2, the weekend before the presidential primary, which is on Tuesday, November 4. I now know where Hillary disappeared to yesterday, Saturday, interrupting her campaign schedule without explanation. She was on her way to Manhattan to make an unannounced guest appearance on Saturday Night Live, a program that was very funny twenty-five to thirty-five years ago but in the decades since is too often embarrassingly unfunny. The John Stewart Show is where political comedy is at. But Hillary had already indicated how much political importance she attached to SNL when she referred to it in her debate with Obama in Cleveland on February 26. In a skit on SNL on February 23, the press had been portrayed as pampering Obama, which was music to Hillary’s ears, because that is just one of many things she has been complaining about for months – that Obama is getting a free ride from the press. That is called playing the gender card.

Unfortunately for her, Hillary had to share the SNL stage last night with Rudy Giuliani, which really screws up the gender lines. Rudy’s failed campaign for the Republican nomination has achieved a well deserved notoriety for ineptness and knuckleheadedness. Sharing the stage with Giuliani was unfortunate because that is what the Clinton campaign has been accused of in the last several weeks – of being a bunch of knuckleheads who in the last year blew millions and millions of dollars and a 20 point lead in the polls. Hillary’s co-appearance with Giuliani was embarrassing for another reason: in an effort to create a macho commander-in-chief image during the campaign, Hillary has worn a dress only reluctantly, while Giuliani, some of whose best friends are gay, was willing to wear not just a dress but a gown, in a previous appearance on SNL. Hillary has a closet full of pants suits and Giuliani has a closet-full of gay acquaintances, two of whom he shared an apartment with when his then wife had kicked him out of the mayor’s mansion in New York.

Hillary was willing to put up with sharing the stage with a laughing-stock Republican presidential failure who once appeared in drag before millions of television viewers because she is desperate, and may be on the verge of losing the Democratic presidential nomination that once seemed hers for the taking. Apparently believing SNL was one of her last opportunities to reach younger voters, Obama’s most loyal constituency, she jumped at the opportunity to appear as a hip candidate to twenty-something and thirty-something viewers. The hip Hillary is just one of a number of Hillarys who have been turning up in the last couple of months, along with the tear-jerking, victim-complaining, race-baiting, fear-mongering, and Obama-honoring Hillary. (She had admitted in the February 21 debate in Texas that she was “honored” to be running against Obama, but less than a week later she was shame-on-you-ing him in the Cleveland debate.) Many Americans were not sure which of the various Hillarys was going to show up at a debate or rally, or whether she was going to show up at all. How many people were disappointed not to see her when she took off for her appearance at SNL?

“Mere Anarchy”

Presidential primary elections are won 7/24 on the ground in Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, and smaller Texas towns like Port Arthur; and in Columbus, Cleveland, Cincinnati, and smaller Ohio towns like Portsmouth, and not on Saturday night in Manhattan. When it began in 1975, the cast of SNL was billed as “the not-ready-for-prime-time-players,” and that’s what Hillary unwittingly appears to be rehearsing for, judging by the way her campaign has been mismanaged. Hillary’s non-appearance in Portsmouth would not have been such a disappointment for her admirers if Bill’s appearance had not been such a disappointment. In his infamous appearance on SNL, Rudy had been in drag. Though he didn't wear a dress in his appearance in Portsmouth, Bill was a drag.

Rudy Giuliani on SNL

I did not mention the apparent Clinton campaign disorganization in my last blog, “Go Bucks!” because I was not sure my experiences were enough to draw conclusions from. But I had tried for weeks without much success to find out who in the Clinton campaign was coming to Portsmouth and when. I assumed Hillary and Ted Strickland would make an appearance, since local Democrats are now calling Scioto County “Strickland Country,” as an older generation – and a traffic sign on Route 23 – has for decades called it “Riffe Country.” How could Hillary not make at least a token appearance in Portsmouth, the capital of Strickland Country. I heard a rumor Hillary would be in Portsmouth February 23, from someone who was rehearsing to sing the “Star Spangled Banner” at Hillary’s appearance, but I saw and read nothing to confirm she was coming on that date. When I inquired of well placed Democrats just who was coming when, I was told that the exact date and time was being withheld for security reasons. I thought at the time this was bs and an excuse for the disorganization in the campaign. (Somebody told me security was in fact very lax at the Athletic Center during Bill’s appearance.) Eleven straight primary defeats had reportedly left the Clinton campaign reeling and feuding, not sure what to do next.

As I wrote in a recent blog, “Hillary, Ted, and Neal,” I thought Hillary and Ted appearing in Portsmouth posed political risks for the Clinton campaign, given the corrupt character of local government and the two-bit behavior of Portsmouth’s Democratic mayor, Jim Kalb, in particular. But I doubt that the Clinton campaign had considered those risks in its political calculations about Portsmouth. Hillary’s non-appearance in Strickland Country was more likely a reflection of the disorganization of the Clinton campaign, the kind of disorganization it has shown in other parts of the country, and especially in caucus states, where, when the Clinton campaign was not insulting the intelligence of African-Americans, it was insulting the intelligence of young voters. I won’t extrapolate and say other Democratic party organizations elsewhere in Ohio might be as dysfunctional as our local organization, but if things are this bad in the heart of Strickland Country, what might they be like in other counties?

No Country for Young Men

A recent editorial in the Portsmouth Daily Times by a young reporter, Ryan Scott Ottney, tends to support the impression that the Clinton campaign is guilty of at least generational insensitivity, and tends to give credence as well to my suspicion that the disorganized Clinton campaign, where Portsmouth was concerned, didn’t know what it was doing until very late in the game, and even then appeared to drop the ball. One Democratic insider claimed to know what time of day Clinton would appear, 11:30 AM, but not which day, and another was sure of the day he would appear, February 25, but not the hour. Everyone seemed confused including the Daily Times reporter, who wrote, “I spent more than a week, along with other reporters in the Daily Times newsroom trying to get official confirmation of his visit. I was looking forward to meeting with him, as a member of the press. But as the day approached, the entire event began to fall apart.” Ottney couldn’t get anyone representing the campaign to tell him who was coming when until very late Thursday night, February 21. “That really gave us only one day before the weekend to contact people and write our stories,” Ottney complained. “I really felt marginalized,” he wrote. “I felt like we [the press] were an afterthought.” When the young reporter went to the rally, he found himself and other reporters were being seated well away from Bill Clinton, presumably to avoid the risk of somebody asking him questions that might elicit answers or cause an incident that the campaign would be trying to explain away for the next couple of news cycles. Frustrated, if not disgusted, Ottney went home and watched the rally on closed circuit TV. I who had to stand for almost three hours outside and inside the SSU Athletic Center wish I had done the same. I was standing, along with about a hundred other people, not because it was a standing room only rally but because somebody had decided not to unfold the bleachers behind us, which could have easily accommodated a hundred people or more. Maybe somebody wanted to make it look like a standing-room-only meeting. Or more likely, somebody was not thinking at all. Oh, and I don’t recall hearing the “Star Spangled Banner,” which a group had been practicing for weeks.

It did not help ease my aches when I was later told that the reason Bill Clinton was late was that he was giving a private audience, like the Pope, to about forty admirers, reportedly at a local American Legion post, though he is not a veteran. The press and the general public were not invited to the private audience; no, the general public were kept cooling their heels for an hour at the Athletic Center while Bill socialized and gave photo ops. Is this any way to run a campaign?

“The Centre Will Not Hold”

The Bill Clinton rally in the Athletic Center might be described by rephrasing lines from a famous poem of William Butler Yeats, “Slouching toward Bethlehem”: “Things fall apart; the Athletic Center will not hold;/ Mere anarchy is loosed upon Portsmouth.” If you multiply such screw ups by the hundreds or thousands, nationally, you can begin to understand why the Clinton campaign, with all its political and financial advantages, blew a humungous lead and bank balance. I attended, as an observer, the initial meeting of the local Obama campaign, on February 19, and was impressed as much by the organizational skills of Jennifer Austin, the young woman in charge, as I was by the diversity of people in attendance, in terms of sex, race, and age. There was no confusion about whether Obama was coming to Portsmouth. He wasn’t. Jennifer was clear about that. His schedule was not a coded message that had to be deciphered. But those in attendance were still eager to contribute to the campaign in a variety of ways. Obama’s success in Ohio rests on shoulders of Ground Troops,” a CNN headline read on Sunday, March 2, and that is apparently even true in the heart of Strickland Country.

The young Daily Times reporter Ottney reflected a regional as well as a generational grievance when he wrote about the February 25 rally that “I really feel like the campaign played us for yokels, trotting out a former big-city U.S. president so ‘us hillfolk’ could take a break from our pig farms to say ‘Golly, I reckon we oughta vote fer that nice lady.’” He concluded his PDT editorial by saying he still had admiration for Bill Clinton, in spite of his performance at the rally. “I’m still a big fan of Bill Clinton. But I’m also saddened to feel the campaign was pandering to small towns, hoping to impress them with a brief and uninspiring visit from a former president.” From the viewpoint of the Clinton campaign, the rally in Portsmouth, as far as Ottney was concerned, was a bust. Ottney made it clear he was not going to vote for Hillary. Leaving behind a disgruntled voter is one thing; leaving behind a disgruntled reporter is another, especially if she wins the nomination. There are enough Hillary Haters in the press corps, Hillary has implied, so why increase their numbers?

Ottney is not the only young man with complaints. An angry Shawnee State student, whom I’ll call Jason, attempted to organize other students for the Clinton campaign but found himself frustrated every step of the way by the local Democratic organization. “They treated us like crap,” was what Jason told me. He said the experience left him disgusted with politics and he vowed he would not get involved again. I don’t know what those Shawnee students who showed up at the Obama organizational meeting might finally feel about their involvement in his campaign, but I would be surprised, based on that organizational meeting, if they became as bitter and disillusioned as Jason.

Playing the Race Card

After the Bill Clinton rally, I ran into a sixtyish male acquaintance, whom I’ll call John, who put the primary campaign in disturbing perspective for me. I asked him if he had been at the rally. He said he had wanted to go but had other commitments. He told me he had been uncertain about whether to vote for Clinton or Obama, but he was positive he would not vote for another Republican. I think he may have voted for George W. Bush at least once. But he had seen the photo of Obama in native African dress that had been circulating on the internet, which had convinced him that Obama was a Muslim. I told him politicians visiting other countries in the world often put on some article of local clothing and nobody thinks anything about it. “Well, what about his name?” John asked, as if that was the clincher. “What about Hussein?” I told him it’s a common name, like Smith and Jones are, and it doesn’t mean Obama is a Muslim. John is not a betting man, from what I know of him, but he wanted to bet me a thousand dollars that Obama was a Muslim. In ten years, I had never seen John so agitated. He mentioned something about his minister agreeing Obama was a Muslim. A Protestant, John is a regular church goer, and I know ministers in Appalachia, like mullahs in Muslim countries, have a great deal of influence over their congregations. In the Ohio gubernatorial campaign, Rev. Scott Rawlings was doing what he could to spread the rumor that Ted Strickland and his wife Frances were homosexuals, so it would not be unusual for at least one local minister to be spreading the rumor that Obama was a Muslim. That does not surprise me, but what does surprise is that John would so readily believe it.

One other thing John said flabbergasted me. He said, “They will never let him become president. They’ll do what they did to Martin Luther King.” That reminded me of something I heard recently on the radio. When Obama volunteers were going from door to door in Iowa, one white man, obviously not an Obama supporter, told the Obama canvassers, “So you are the people who want to put a nigger in the White House.” This was Iowa, not Mississippi. It is widely reported that Clinton’s most reliable base in Ohio includes uneducated, blue-collar whites, a group that has more racist tendencies than other whites want to admit. That’s something, I’m sure, that those in the Clinton campaign would not want to admit. Though Matt Drudge reported that he got the photo of Obama in native garb from someone in the Clinton campaign, I would believe an unequivocal denial from the Clinton campaign’s before I would believe Drudge’s avowal, but has the Clinton campaign made an unequivocal denial? I have no doubt that Hillary is going to benefit at least some from racial prejudice in Ohio, so she is going to have to repudiate racist remarks by others more strongly than she has so far if she wants to avoid a racially tainted victory in the Buckeye state. Let us hope that Ohio does not prove to be “No country for young folk or for black folk either.”