Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Gutter Politics: Update

     Back in June of  2005,   as I was driving past the offices of Johnson and Oliver, I noticed then Senator Mike DeWine standing in the gutter in front of a DeWine for Congress sign. The DeWine running for Congress was his son, Patrick, who was embroiled in scandal and controversy at the time, having left his children and pregnant wife for his girlfriend, a Republican lobbyist. Thanks to his father’s connections,  Patrick DeWine had more campaign funds at his disposal than his three Republican  rivals combined, but he finished a distant fourth in the race for the nomination in the Second Congressional District. Republicans, to their credit,  rejected a gutter candidate. 

     But some Republicans  are still in the gutter.  The desperate handlers of John McCain, as he slips farther behind in the polls,  are waging a nasty, dishonorable,  gutter campaign, playing the race card, as George Bush, Sr. did against Dukakis with the Willie Horton ad, and as George W. Bush  did against John McCain in North Carolina in 2000, spreading the rumor McCain was the father of an illegitimate black baby. The rumors that are being spread now are that  Obama is a Muslim and a pal of terrorists. In Wisconsin, at a McCain-Palin rally, a man said,  “I’m mad. I’m really mad. And what’s gonna surprise ya is not the economy. It’s the socialists takin’ over our country. . . . When you have Obama, Pelosi and the rest of the hooligans up there gonna run this country, we gotta have our head examined.” Joe Klein of Time magazine called the tactics of the McCain campaign, which fanned these kind of reactions,  “a national disgrace.” Even conservative Republican columnists, such as George Will and David Brooks, were disturbed by the red neck fury of the McCain campaign and by his choice of the unseasoned and not too sharp  Sarah Palin as his running mate. 

     Here in Portsmouth, supporters of the City Center (Marting’s) and Justice Center (Adelphia) projects are resorting to gutter politics. Clayton Johnson was reportedly overheard  saying at the now defunct William’s Restaurant, where Mike Mearan owned the liquor license, that maybe it was time for another campaign like the one in 1980, when most of the city was mobilized by Johnson and others, including the  newspapers and radio stations, to harass and intimidate  three  councilmen who wouldn’t play ball on the Downtown Mall Scam. That was the proposed mall that was going to restore prosperity back to downtown Portsmouth, just as the Marting/City Center is supposed to do, and just as the $38 million dollar bridge to nowhere was supposed to do. 

Voice of Ignorance and Prejudice

     Gutter politics are being conducted at the county level as well. A hotheaded ignoramus who is on the payroll of the Scioto County government  has circulated by means of a Scioto County computer  an anonymous email that  claims atheists, homosexuals, and domestic terrorists are trying to take over local government. After forty years of teaching English, I think I can recognize by his  paranoid style and telltale problems with the possessive case,  who the particular emotionally disturbed, substance-abusing  anonymous emailer is. His accusations are the similar to  those at McCain-Palin rallies  where  Obama is denounced as a  “Muslim traitor”  and Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi as a “socialist.” 

     Practicing gutter politics, the Progress for Portsmouth PAC is using dishonest tactics in urging yes votes for the City Center and Justice Center. In a recent mailing, they claimed  that a Vote for the measure “will NOT increase your taxes.”  The “NOT”  is capitalized and underlined. WHY ARE THEY USING CAPITALS AND UNDERLINING?  Because they have something to hide. They are increasing our property taxes, but they are doing it in an underhanded way. On May 27, 2008,  the Portsmouth City Council  passed, on an emergency basis, $680,000 for the fire dept., for a new fire truck and for repair of the central fire station wall.  To pay for the $680,000 for the Fire Dept., the city council increased property taxes for the year 2009 from .70 to 3.1 mills, a 440% increase. What they are going to do, if they can get the voters to approve  the City Center/Justice Center project, is continue that   3.80 mills, or 440% increase,  for thirty years, from 2010 to 2040,  to pay for that project. City Auditor Trent Williams has admitted that property taxes are going to be increased substantially to pay for Marting and Adelphia property projects. “That is correct,” he responded when asked it 440% was the correct figure, according to the Portsmouth Daily Times

     In the face of a dire national and international financial crisis,  and in the throes of the worst economic meltdown since the Great Depression, they are trying  to  stick the property owners of  Portsmouth with a  $12 million dollar tax increase  to renovate the otherwise unmarketable Marting building  and the Adelphia properties. The Tanner Stone pornographic architectural drawings of these “phantom” buildings are in windows in downtown Portsmouth. Some businesses reportedly have put up the drawings reluctantly, under pressure from the “Progress Portsmouth” people, including Neal Hatcher and Terry Ockerman. Who is this character Ockerman? He  is the  Rocky Costellano of the Kalb administration. Costelano was the cigar-smoking Cincinnati fitness expert  with the Mafia shtick who, before he was arrested in Portsmouth for a DUI and dropped out of the local scene, claimed he had plans that would help bring prosperity to Portsmouth. What do we need the Mafia for in Portsmouth when we have the Chamber of Commerce and the SOGP, and now the Progress Portsmouth Committee? 

391% Interest Rates, 440% Tax Increases

     The mailings and radio ads of the  Progress Portsmouth Political Action Committee remind me of the deceptive campaign supporters of payday loans are conducting. The payday loans supporters  never mention in their mailings that they are after  a  391% interest rate on payday loans,  just as the Progress Portsmouth Committee does not admit in their mailings that they are after  a 440% increase in  property taxes. So here we are,  in the worst economic crisis in seventy-five years, and city and state governments all across the country are in desperate  financial straits, including the state of Ohio,  which has one of  the highest unemployment rates in the nation. And we are supposed to believe Portsmouth is an exception, that the city is in pretty good financial shape, that property owners here can afford a 30-year 440% increase in property taxes to pay  $12  million dollars for  the City Center/Justice Center projects. Ironton native  Mike Mearan said at a city council meeting that the 440% increase was really small change, and property owners  who didn’t think they could pay the increase should move out of Portsmouth.

Progress Portsmouth postcard with deceptive claim vote for Justice and City Center "will NOT"  increase  taxes.

Forbes Magazine recently decided Portsmouth was one of the eight worse cities of its size in the U.S. Kalb responded that Portsmouth was a city of progress. Well, maybe it is— for him. He put a 10% raise for himself in the 2008 budget, decided he needed a new city automobile to uphold the dignity of his office, and plans to occupy a corner office suite in the renovated Marting building, if the voters approve the City Center proposal. 

     Just as Republicans in the Second Congressional District did not fall for  gutter politics in 2005 and voted no on   Patrick DeWine, Republicans, Democrats, and Independents  should reject the gutter politics and vote no on the 440%  City Center/Justice Center scam on Nov. 4. Once we get a few more honest people on the city council and get a mayor who is not a puppet of the over-privileged of Portsmouth, as Bauer was and Kalb is, then maybe we can figure out what to do about the Municipal Building, which is really what’s at the heart of, and started, the gutter politics. Gambling is the eight hundred pound gorilla behind the gutter politics of Portsmouth.