Thursday, April 17, 2008

April 14: "Packing" the Meeting




O, Portsmouth, to what depths of corruption and ignominy will the Clayton Johnsons, the Neal Hatchers, the Jim Kalbs and, yes, the Ted Stricklands not drag you?

The meeting of Portsmouth City Council on 14 April 2008 illustrates what can be done when Democrats and Republicans put their heads together to screw the taxpayers of Portsmouth. The corruption in Portsmouth is as deep and pervasive as it is because it is bi-partisan. Governor Strickland is as responsible as any Republican for the shameless subversion of democracy that is taking place in Portsmouth and especially in the chambers of the Portsmouth City Council. No one knows the corruption of Portsmouth better than Strickland, because he was active in Portsmouth politics for many years and because he had his office in Portsmouth before the city was gerrymandered out of his congressional district. No one knows the corruption of Portsmouth better than Strickland and no one could do more, since he is governor, to help stop it.

A person whose truthfulness I have come to rely on told me that Strickland was asked as he was about to leave a local restaurant, back when he was still in congress, what he thought the trouble with Portsmouth was. Noticing a copy of a newspaper with a front page story about the Marting building lying on the table, Strickland pointed to the story on Marting’s and said, more or less, “There’s Portsmouth’s biggest problem, right there.” Now, I assume Strickland meant not that the Marting building by itself was Portsmouth’s biggest problem but rather that the systemic political corruption that made the Marting scam possible was the biggest problem. I think he was right on target.

On 2 May 2006, the voters of Portsmouth, by a nearly three to one margin, passed a referendum demanding the city not proceed with the renovation of the Marting building. The city has ignored the referendum, by proceeding with plans to renovate the Marting building as if the referendum never happened. Even before passing an ordinance to resume the renovations, on the morning of 14 April, 2008, a tall crane pulled up next to the Marting Annex to begin replacing its roof.

At the Times too Long

Sam Piatt wrote about this event in the 15 April 2008 PDT. The title of a Depression era song goes, “Sam, you made the pants too long.” On the basis of Piatt’s reporting at the Portsmouth Daily Times, maybe the title should be changed to, “Sam you’ve been at the Times too long.” If he had integrity, would Piatt be back for a second tour of duty at the PDT? Two experienced reporters with experience and integrity, Jeff Barron and Mike Deaterla, no longer work at the PDT. They were fired. Deaterla was fired after the Times bought the Community Common.

They were fired by the Managing Editor of the PDT, Arthur F. Kuhn, who presumably hired Piatt. Kuhn must have come to the PDT thinking he was hired to write homey columns about the ups and downs of living out in the woods. It was as if he thought he was on a sabbatical or Neiman Fellowship. He seemed unaware that the Nature-boy niche has already been taken by Portsmouth’s sixtyish hardcore adolescent Steve Hayes. Kuhn started out with the same nature shtick as Hayes. As late as last September 9th, he wrote one whole Sunday column about how cold it was out there in the woods. “I never got acclimated to the cold last winter,” he wrote, “so even though I love the four seasons and the winter, I still may corner the market on thermal undies.” The cold wasn’t the only thing he wasn’t acclimated to. He wasn’t yet acclimated to the dirty politics of Portsmouth or to his role as managing editor of the Prostitute Daily Times. He did not appear to understand he wasn’t hired to write about how cold it could get out in the boonies. He was hired to do journalistic dirty work in downtown Porksmouth, like a long line of managing editors before him. He was hired to promote the interests of the Chamber of Commerce and the Southern Ohio Growth Partnership, which the PDT so subserviently serves. He was hired to criticize concerned citizens as naysayers and gadflies. It was not the woodsman’s axe he was expected to wield but the hired tool’s hatchet. If a managing editor should corner the market on anything, it should be journalistic integrity, not thermal undies. A managing editor who wasn’t a journalistic prostitute would hire, not fire, reporters like Barron and Deaterla.

Cover up Reporting

In the Tuesday 15 April 2008 PDT, Piatt reported that early the previous morning a tall crane (shown here) appeared next to the Marting Annex, starting a project to replace the roof. Piatt reported how tall the crane was (100 feet) and what the under-estimated cost of the job was ($49,550) but not a word about the 2 May 2006 referendum that enjoined the city from doing any renovation of the Marting building. The city action to replace the roof of the Marting Annex was a contemptuous violation of the will of the voters, but Piatt didn't come close to mentioning it. On 12 September 2007, Jeff Barron had written a front page PDT story, “Referendum Talk Angers City Leaders.” In the course of that story, Barron pointed out, “Voters two years ago decided not to renovate the former Marting’s Department Store.” If Piatt were to report as simple a fact as that, he might have been fired by Managing Editor Kuhn, as Jeff Barron and Mike Deaterla had been for not being cover-up reporters. All Jeff Barron had to report was that a man arrested for dealing drugs was employed as a mechanic at Glockner Motors. That’s all it took to get him fired. Of course, if Andy Glockner wasn’t a member of the SOGP, Barron might still have his job. Maybe. It has been my observation over the years that reporters at the Times, if they are not forced out or fired, just leave out of shame.

In the same 15 April 2008 PDT, Piatt reported on the the City Council meeting the night before. The subhead on the story was “Strong Support Shown for Establishing City Center.” In the story, Piatt wrote, “judging from the applause from the 100 or so people who filled the chamber and spilled out into the hall, the nays must have been outnumbered about 80 to 20.” Piatt does not point out that most of the 80 were union members who were there because their unions told them to be there, and most of them were not from Scioto County, and therefore not taxpayers who would have to foot the bill for the renovation of the 125-year-old Marting building. For most of the union members, they were at their first and probably last Portsmouth City Council meeting of their lives. I asked a number of them where they were from, and the answer was Ashland, Maysville, Ironton and Columbus, Ohio. Those from the Portsmouth area were in the minority. The Shawnee Labor Council had packed the council chamber with the aim of leaving little room for regular council goers. They had packed the chambers to give a distorted picture of public support for the Marting project, a distortion Piatt was only to willing to report. Many of union members were still in or hardly out of their teens. Some of these young people said they were in apprentice programs and they were given class credit for attending the council meeting. Unfortunately, what they got a lesson in was how to subvert the democratic process by packing a meeting. They were recruited for the council meeting the way Portsmouth school children reportedly were recruited to march in the infamous 1980 KKK-like parade in favor of the Shopping Mall Scam. Hell, anything's better than going to class.

Up and Coming Con Artist?

I talked to Jim, a union man from Columbus, who told me he had come down to Portsmouth to support the City Center. I asked him a few questions, and it was obvious he had no idea of why the Marting building was controversial. I asked him if he knew the building was 125 years old and had a leaking roof that would have to be replaced. He had no idea what I was talking about, as I’m sure most of his fellow unionists did not. He wandered off in the direction of Austin Keyser, of the Shawnee Labor Council, who had organized the packing of the council chamber by non-local, out-of-state union members. I have sometimes wondered where the next generation of Republican and Democratic con-artists and scoundrels were going to come from. Is Keyser a leading young Democratic contender for one of those roles? I snapped a photo of him (shown here) at a recent council meeting. Just above his head, fittingly, is the leaking corner of the council chamber that Mayor Kalb loves to call attention to, like a beggar does his sores in appealing for alms.

Perhaps some excuses can be made for Kalb, even though he is the best-lapdog-in-show. He may not be nearly intelligent or sensitive enough to realize what a painful embarrassment he is not only to Portsmouth residents but also to members of his own sex. Jim Kalb is not only a poor excuse for a mayor, he is a poor excuse for a man. I will go even further and say Kalb is not only an embarrassment to his city and to his sex, he is an embarrassment to our species. Kalb could be expected to be a strong union supporter since on at least two occasions in his failed "career" at Kroger’s, where he did not rise higher than a grocery clerk, the union reportedly saved him from being fired. I am a strong supporter of unions, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen a better argument against them than Kalb. If the union helped Kalb save his job, Chief Horner had to save his job on his own initiative by helping to get Mayor Bauer recalled. Mayor Bauer reportedly would have fired Horner if he had not been recalled.

Big Brother is Watching

Meanwhile, at the April 14th council meeting, Horner had his camera aimed in the direction of the visitors gallery in the council chamber. Having labeled concerned citizens “domestic terrorists,” he is obviously continuing to try to intimidate and harass critics of city government and of his own police state tactics. Where did Horner find the money for his hi-tech surveillance equipment? From funds made available to police departments by federal agencies for the war on domestic terrorists? If only Horner had such equipment a few years ago, he might have been able to focus it directly across the street from the Portsmouth Police Dept., at the Ramada Inn, where his son was dealing drugs.

A lot of the competition for seats at the April 14th meeting would have been reduced if council sessions were televised. But the City Council has for years been dragging its feet on televising council meetings. The last thing it wants is for the public tuned in to what it does. Just as citizens were not able to find seats at the April 14th meeting, they were not able to watch it on TV either.

Let’s count our blessings, whether we can see them or not. We have Bob Mollette, an incredibly well organized and courageous council member, and we have the veteran steel worker and union officer Rich Noel, whom the lowlifes in city government are currently doing everything they can to drive from the city council. If only those young apprentices at the meeting knew it, Rich Noel is the union man to emulate, not Austin Keyser.