Sunday, November 01, 2009

Letter to the Children of Portsmouth

Kiwanis Playground in Tracy Park

Letter to the Children of Portsmouth on the Eve of the Election of November 3rd, 2009

Being children, none of you is likely to read this letter or understand it fully if you do.

This letter will not be published in the Portsmouth Daily Times nor is it likely to be mentioned on WNXT or referred to in sermons that will be preached today in the many churches in the area.

I am writing this letter to you, the children of Portsmouth, not for now, when it is not likely to make any difference in your lives, but for the future, when you are older and have outgrown the playground that was dedicated yesterday in Tracy Park, in the center of Portsmouth. The playground was the project of the Kiwanis Club, an organization that proclaims itself the champion of boys and girls like you, in this country and all over the world.

This letter is not likely to have any influence on you, but I am hoping that if your parents happen to read it they might consider what I say in it. You should listen to your parents, because they love you more than anyone ever will, they love you as I love my son, and as all parents love their sons and daughters.

Your parents want the best for you, but not all those who tell you they want the best for you are one-hundred percent sincere. For example, the Tracy Park playground may have been conceived by Kiwanis with the best of intentions but it probably became enmeshed in the dirty politics of Portsmouth. Because of the mayor’s failure to do his job properly, the playground may have become mired in deceit and dishonesty. It may have been built in poor faith and possibly illegally. In a public records request, I asked the mayor for a copy of the document that authorized the construction of the playground. I asked for a copy of the document that authorized the construction of the playground because I suspected, based on the controversy that arose over the playground, that there was no document authorizing the construction of the playground.

The mayor responded angrily to my request for the document authorizing the construction of the playground. He answered me late Saturday evening, so late it was already early Sunday morning, using language that children do not need to hear and that I won’t repeat. He said he would provide me with the public records that I asked for, but he could not imagine why I wanted those records. I think the mayor knew why I was asking for those records. I think the mayor knew that I suspected there was no such authorizing public document.

Mayor Kalb is Not a Wise Man

I think the mayor knew that I suspected that the record I was asking for didn’t exist, and that was why he was so angry. I suspected the record didn’t exist because he, with his characteristic negligence and incompetence, had failed to make such a record in the first place. The anger the mayor expressed in his email to me was the anger of an unpopular and controversial mayor who had lost the primary in May by a wide margin, and was now being asked by me , in the middle of the mayoral campaign, to produce something he didn’t have but was supposed to have. He had already received a no-confidence vote from the people in the primary, so he gave vent to his anger at me in the late-night email, not heeding the warning in Proverbs that says, “A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control.” Mayor Kalb is not a wise man.

I would have been satisfied if someone in Kiwanis could prove to me that the undated public document the mayor had provided me with had been drawn up and signed before I had requested the document, or at least before the construction of the playground had begun. About a week ago, I asked the president of Kiwanis when she had signed the document. She declined to answer me, suggesting I write to the Kiwanis Club with my question. I wrote to the only address I could find for Kiwanis, a P.O. box number. I sent a special delivery letter to the P.O. number, repeating my question, but as of yesterday, October 31, I had received no answer. If the undated document the mayor provided me was bogus, and somebody in Kiwanis had colluded with him in concocting that document, I knew that I probably would not get an answer from Kiwanis, at least not before the November 3rd election, and maybe not even after the election, not if somebody in Kiwanis had conspired with the mayor in a cover-up.

If and when Kiwanis can prove the undated public document the mayor supplied me is not bogus, I will apologize for my suspicions. But until then I will continue to suspect the undated document, signed by the president of Kiwanis and the mayor, was created after the fact, to deceive me and the public, which is why it is not dated. Until an explanation is put forth, I will continue to suspect that a cover-up has taken place, and that you, the children of Portsmouth, are being used as pawns in a cynical political game, the object of which is to return the mayor to office for another four years so he can continue to serve as a puppet for those who control our drug-ridden city.


A recent statistic, cited in the Scioto Voice, shows that the rate for death by drug overdoses in Scioto County is the second highest in the state of Ohio. As you children of Portsmouth enter adolescence, as you leave the playground behind, you will face pressure from peers and from drug-dealers to be cool by getting high. Whether you are from a blue-collar or white-collar family, you will not be able to escape this pressure, not if you live in the Portsmouth area. The sons and daughters of some of the most prominent local families have succumbed to drugs. To support their addiction, some have gone on to become dealers or prostitutes. Not all the prostitutes we see wandering our streets are from out of town. I talked to one drug-addicted prostitute a few years ago who told me her family made their living in connection with the local criminal justice system and I would recognize the family name if she told me, which I didn’t ask her to.

If you are the son or daughter of a prominent Portsmouth family, you must not think that offers protection from getting in trouble with the law over using and dealing drugs. It is a sign of just how bad the drug problem in the Portsmouth area is that the son of the mayor, the son of chief of police, and the son of the man who is likely to be elected the next Portsmouth municipal judge became addicts and compiled public records of a very different sort.

When I moved to Portsmouth in 1989, my son was already of college age. Had he not been, and had I known about Portsmouth what I now do, I never would have moved to this city. As much credit as I would now like to take for my son not becoming an addict, I know I would not risk raising him in Portsmouth – not in a thousand years. I know that there are many drug-free, stable children who grow up in loving Portsmouth families, children who go on to lead productive, happy lives. But I know that luck is involved in which children and which families escape the hell of addiction and which don’t. I would not want to press my luck by raising children in Portsmouth, not with the widespread drug use that has existed here for a long time and will continue to exist until changes are made.

The problem in Portsmouth is not just the drugs. Political corruption is as pernicious as drugs are. It is no secret that a few wealthy people control this town politically and economically, and they are not going to tolerate anyone getting into public office who might try to get them to release the stranglehold they have on the city. Those who control the city would rather have the incompetent and the criminally inclined in public office than have people who want to improve and renew the city.

Moral Quicksand

I hope you, the children of Portsmouth, will grow up to understand that no progress can be made against drugs and all the vices associated with drugs until something is done about the political corruption in Portsmouth. A playground built on moral quicksand, a playground that may have come into existence on the basis of fraud is, in effect, putting the children of Portsmouth in a hole. A city built on moral quicksand is even more dangerous to children, who tend to learn by example. If the children of every community are the most precious group in that community, their civic and moral development is not fostered by perpetuating political corruption, and is not fostered by reelecting a mayor who has the work ethic of a sloth and whose supporters are anonymously and cowardly slandering other candidates for office in a blog that appropriately calls itself “The Underground.” The lowdown types who have produced this blog are truly part of the underground.

If when you grow up and write something in a chatroom or on a blog, as I am doing here, on River Vices, I hope that you will not do it anonymously, that you will sign your name to whatever you write, especially if you are being critical of elected officials or of those who are running for elective office, and that you will take the responsibility for and be prepared to defend publicly, and in a court of law, if necessary, what you write about them. Have the courage of your convictions.

In closing, I want to say to you, the children of Portsmouth, because you represent the future of the city and of America, that true champions of children are not themselves substance abusers. True champions of children do not collude with corrupt politicians. True champions of children do not anonymously slander candidates in underground blogs and flyers that sprout up like poisonous mushrooms in the final days of the campaign. True champions of children must set a good example for them to follow.

When you are old enough to vote, work hard to insure that honest hardworking people get elected to public office, not the kind of lazy puppets and lapdogs we are all too familiar with. The problem with Mayor Kalb is not that he overdoses but that he overdozes.