Saturday, December 27, 2008

Miracle in Porksmouth

Mayor Kalb being sworn into office by Ted Strickland

Listen, America, and the world, an economic miracle is occurring right here in, Portsmouth, Ohio, on the banks of the polluted Ohio River, if you will only pay attention. Though it is portrayed by the outside media and by a few local naysayers as a hotbed of drugs, prostitution, and political corruption, Portsmouth, in the midst of the greatest financial crisis since the Great Depression, is forging ahead with expensive new projects, including an extensive new high school athletic complex in the heart of the city, with new privately owned dormitories for the local state university, and with a new city hall and police station, and a new red hook and ladder truck for the fire department to go along with the new red fire truck the city council recently passed a tax increase for. And did I mention the new red Dodge Charger the mayor, who buys his cigarettes across the river in Kentucky, has ordered for himself to replace the Ford Victoria that runs fine but has cigarette holes in the front seat and a threadbare carpet?

“What me worry?” is Kalb’s slogan and why it isn’t the slogan of the rest of the world is hard for any of us in Portsmouth to understand. Get with the program, world! Kalb is also planning a multi-million dollar convention center that will be built on the site of the present city hall, right next to the recently completed $38 million dollar bridge over the Ohio, which the naysayers have called “The Bridge to Nowhere.” The Portsmouth Convention Center, a shovel ready project, will be begun just as soon as the city hall can be torn down, because you see our visionary mayor wants to be ready for gambling when it is legalized. State Senator Sherrod Brown was recently in Portsmouth for a public meeting, and our mayor reportedly had one word for him. Not "plastics," not "bailout," but "gambling!"

This morning’s Washington Post (27 Dec. 2008) published a grim story about the economic crisis in Ohio. The Post reported, “In Ohio, which has shed 100,000 jobs in the past year, Gov. Ted Strickland (D) and his budget team spend a lot of time delivering bad news to constituents and plotting ways to wring money from the federal government. He announced $640 million in cuts for the budget year ending June 30, for a total of $1.9 billion since the economic crisis began.”

Gov. Strickland should know better. He is, after all, a local boy, born and bred. Which is all the more surprising, because he has completely capitulated to the doom and gloom that is permeating the rest of the country and globe. As reported in The Post, “‘We’re not crying wolf. This is real,’ Strickland said in an interview in his statehouse office, pointing to charts that project the most serious erosion of state income in 40 years and a two-year budget deficit of $7.3 billion. Revenue shortfalls in the upcoming two-year budget could amount to about 25 percent of the state's discretionary spending.” The Post went on to report that “Strickland recently picked up the telephone and called Rham Emanuel, the incoming White House chief of staff. When he heard the recorded voice of his former congressional colleague, he left a message: ‘Rahm, it’s Ted. You’ve never failed me and I need $5 billion.’” Strickland called Emanuel, when he could have called Mayor Kalb, whom Strickland did the honor of swearing into office? How quickly they forget! This I suppose is what happens when somebody starts reading liberal newspapers, such as the Washington Post and New York Times, and stops reading the ever-forward-looking Portsmouth Daily Times.

Along with many other Ohioans, I recently received a Christmas card from Gov. Strickland and his wife, with whom I have a slight acquaintance. I appreciate the card and wish the governor and his wife and the rest of the residents of the Buckeye state well, but I am saddened to realize how much this son of Scioto County has forgotten or perhaps never learned. Has he, in this holiest of holiday seasons, lost faith in miracles?

A Season for Miracles?

Has he been influenced by the neighing of the naysayers, of our local bloggers, of our domestic terrorists, who have nearly driven our poor chief of police crazy? I say pick up the phone, Ted, call Mayor Kalb and ask him how at the end of this financially calamitous calendar year, in this time of state $1.9 billion budget cuts and $7.3 budget deficits, Portsmouth still manages to have a million dollar balance in the city coffers. And if you can’t reach the mayor, who likes to spend as much time as he can on his motorcycle in the Carolinas or other venues, on well-deserved breaks from his stressful job in the city hall, then call City Auditor Trent Williams, who is always on the job and who follows the advice of his mother: “Count your pork chops and the pigs will take care of themselves.” Yes, I know Rahm Emmanuel made $15 million in the financial sector during his three-year hiatus from public service, and I know that since he left office Bill Clinton has made a bundle that could choke a stable of interns, but neither they nor Lawrence Summers nor Robert Rubin accomplished any lasting financial miracles, as Mayor Kalb has by following Porksmouth’s miracle recipe of pork, rebates, foundation money provided by doddering dowagers, and the prospect of legalized gambling. It’s that simple, Ted. That’s it in a nutshell. That’s our miracle.