Friday, October 23, 2009

Sixteen Years and What Do You Get?

We’ve done our civic duty this past week and have now sat through two long public forums for candidates for mayor, city council, and municipal judge. We came out to listen, or try to listen. In the case of the forum held in the meeting hall of the Welcome Center, a faulty mike stole the show. By faulty mike I don’t mean the shyster “What-you-see-is-what-you-get Mike Mearan” (shown in photo above with Mayor Kalb). I mean the microphone provided by the Welcome Center, i.e., the Southern Ohio Growth Partnership. That microphone was about as dysfunctional as our city government. The acoustics in the Welcome Center are not good to begin with. With that screwy mike, unless you sat up front, you missed a lot of what the candidates were saying, or, in the case of candidate Kalb, what he was mumbling. I was sitting near the back next to a feisty elderly woman who fidgeted and strained to hear what Kalb was saying. Finally, her patience exhausted, she blurted out, “Stop mumbling!”

The League of Women Voters advertised the Welcome Center forum as a one-hour meeting. I knew there was no way nine candidates could be accommodated in an hour, and when the microphone malfunctioned, through no fault of the League of Women Voters, the meeting lasted two hours. It seemed like four.

The day following the League of Women Voters forum, Frank Lewis wrote a column praising the display of civility by the candidates. Civility? Is that what that was? Civility is a commendable virtue, but not when it is a cloak for incompetence, corruption and criminality. Where an editorializing reporter for the Prostitute Daily Times sees civility, I see something else. I see not civility but collusion, collusion in which Republicans and Democrats in a bipartisan spirit work together to deceive the citizens and insure that nothing changes in Portsmouth, that drugs and prostitution prevail, and that a complicit and corrupt city government stays in office.

At the mayoral forum at Shawnee State University on Thursday night, the two candidates who had the ambition and resourcefulness to go on to college, Jane Murray and Jerry Skiver, were articulate and informed. The incumbent Kalb, whose education stopped with vocational school, was an embarrassment, as usual. He is a poor public speaker and a worse public servant. Where Murray and Skiver have records of achievement in education and government, and degrees and resumés to prove it, Kalb displays in the mayor’s office trophies he has won competing in senior citizen motorcycle competitions.

Kalb claims handling irate customers at Kroger's qualifies him to be mayor

In his desperate attempt at finding something in his work experience to qualify him as mayor, Kalb cited handling irate customers at Kroger’s Supermarket, where he worked for thirty years. He continues to work part-time, on Thursday mornings, when he should be in the mayor’s office. He spent some thirty years at Kroger's punching a cash register and stocking shelves. If punching a cash register is a good way to learn how to balance a budget, he’s got the equivalent of a Masters in Business Administration. If stocking shelves is a good way to learn how to allocate resources, he’s got a Ph.D. in Resource Management. But if he is no better as a grocery clerk than he is as mayor of Portsmouth, you can understand why he was never promoted.

When asked in the final round at the university what qualified him to be mayor, the best Kalb could come up with was he’s been in city government for sixteen years. Think of the scandals of those sixteen years: the giveaway of the viaduct property, the Marting swindle, the Adelphia building scam; the recalls of Bauer, Sydnor and Caudill; the resignations of Mohr and Baughman; the backup of sewage on Grandview; the three-hour lunches and the three-day weekends; the driving over to Kentucky for cigarettes and lottery tickets in a city owned vehicle; the bungled attempt to railroad Harold Daub; the bungled attempt to fire Chief Horner; the national embarrassment of the theft of Indian Head rock and the international embarrassment of his infamous middle-of-the-night email; and above all the looming budget deficit. After sixteen years of Kalb in office, Portsmouth is on the verge of bankruptcy in more than one sense.

Sixteen years and what do you get?

Another day older and deeper in debt.

Saint Peter don’t you call me ‘cause I can’t go,

The city of Portsmouth has run out of dough.