Thursday, October 29, 2009

Kalb's Chickens

Kalb's Chickens Come Home to Roost

1. Writing infamous middle-of-night email and embarrassing city nationally

2. Concocting bogus public record for playground to cover up incompetence

3. Abetting Marting building scam at behest of Marting Foundation

4. Abetting Adelphia building scam at behest of Mike Mearan

Appointing Mike Mearan, of all people, to chair committee for new city building

6. Bungling attempt to fire police chief

7. Driving to Kentucky in a city vehicle to purchase cigarettes and lottery tickets.

8. Helping make Portsmouth laughing stock in his mishandling of Indian Head Rock controversy

Ignoring Grandview Avenue flooding

10. Taking three-hour lunches and three-day weekends

11. Practically giving away Viaduct property to developer

12. Putting substantial raise for himself in city budget during fiscal crisis

13. Presiding over and trying to hide a looming budget deficit until after election


Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Mearan Files

The notorious Mike Mearan (shown above) is an example of those who in other towns might have ended up behind bars but in Portsmouth ends up being appointed to city council. I am republishing two earlier postings and providing links to other posts (in red) to inform those few voters in the First Ward who might not be aware of it that the jolly looking lawyer on the "I Love Mike" signs he has placed all over the ward is by general reputation, and certainly in my humble opinion, a drug dealing pimp. 
      In an undated letter sent to me in June, 2008, Portsmouth attorney Michael Mearan informed me that, in my blog River Vices, “you make numerous false statements referring to me as ‘Shyster Lawyer.’” Later in the letter, he stated, “I have limited my practice to representation of the ‘little guy.’ As a small town lawyer, my reputation is an integral part of my practice. The term ‘shyster’ is defined in Wikipedia as someone who acts in a disreputable, unethical, or unscrupulous way, especially in the practice of law.” At the end of his letter, he wrote, “The River Vices articles previously referred to have held me out to public embarrassment and ridicule. Unless you can furnish me with specific acts that justify your use of the term shyster, I’m asking you to print a ‘sincere’ correction and apology in River Vices on or before July 1, 2008.”
      Instead of apologizing, I provided Mearan with examples of why I believe he is a shyster lawyer in the following River Vices postings: “Mearan’s Conflict of Interest,” on June 19; “Dirty Deeds,” on July 16; “American Dreams, American Nightmares,” on July 10; and “Loan Shark?” on July 31. These postings provide examples of Mearan’s unethical and unscrupulous actions in connection with his chairmanship of the City Building Committee and in his role as the attorney for Mrs. Karol Craft and her son, Timothy Lyons, who lost their home after Mearan arranged a criminally usurious loan for them with Joe Lester. Instead of representing “the little guy,” as Mearan put it, in my opinion he preys upon “the little guy” and “the little gal.”
Before the July 1 deadline Mearan gave me, he filed suit against me, repeating the charges he had made in his undated June letter and asking the court for $25,000 in compensatory damages and $100,000 in punitive damages. My lawyer, D. Joe Griffith of Dagger, Johnston, Miller, et al, in a letter dated June 25, collegially requested Mearan dismiss the complaint and give himself some “cooling down time.” In a letter dated July 1,  Mearan heatedly declined to dismiss the complaint.
On July 7, 2008, a First Set of Interrogatories, a Request for Production of Documents, and Requests for Admission were served to Mearan via U.S. Mail. Those 7 following Requests for Admissions are as follows:
Requests for Admissions
1. “Admit that it is on record with the Scioto County Recorder’s Office that there are liens filed against Michael H. Mearan for unpaid taxes.”
2. “Admit that Attorney Michael H. Mearan has, in Scioto County or the City of Portsmouth, participated in either the purchase and/or sale of illegal drugs.
3. “Admit that Attorney Michael H. Mearan has in the last 10 years illegally solicited the services of prostitutes and/or received compensation for brokering sexual activities.
4. “Admit that within the past 10 years Attorney Michael H. Mearan has participated in illegal gambling activities.”
5. “Admit that Attorney Michael H. Mearan has, within the [last] 10 to 20 years, within the City of Portsmouth and/or Scioto County earned a reputation for engaging the solicitation of prostitution, the use and/or sale of illegal drugs and/or participation in illegal gambling.”
6. “Admit that the River Vices articles written by defendant constitute statements of opinion.”
7. “Admit that Attorney Michael H. Mearan, in July of 2007 and June of 2008, was a Portsmouth City Council Person.”
These Requests for Admissions were accompanied by a set of Interrogatories, which can be found on under “Mearan.”
By September 12, 2008, Mr. Mearan had failed to deny the Requests for Admissions in the appropriate time frame allowed by law. Therefore, on September 12, through my attorney, I filed a motion for Summary Judgment, that is for the dismissal of the case.

Motion for Summary Judgment

“Now comes the defendant, Robert J. Forrey, by and through counsel, and pursuant to Civil Rule 36(A) moves the Court for Summary Judgment in the instant case as there are no genuine issues of material fact in dispute and Defendant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. The reasons which more fully support Defendant’s Motion are contained in the accompanying Memorandum.”
The Memorandum can be found on under “Mearan.”
Now it is up to Judge Harcha to rule on the motion for Summary Judgment.
* * *

Mearan and Heather, his drug-addicted "secretary"

Stop "SLAPPing"
I mentioned at the end of my last posting that I wanted to say something more about the suit Portsmouth attorney and city councilman Michael Mearan filed against me in which he claimed I had libeled him by calling him a “shyster.” What he is trying to do is SLAPP me down. The emergence of SLAPPing coincides with and is a response to the Blogosphere, where ordinary citizens can document, publicize, and express their disapproval of the misdeeds of public figures, from the president of the United States to a member of the local city council. Expressing an opinion of public figures is every citizen’s constitutional right.
      I will turn to Wikipedia for the definition of SLAPP, an acronym for Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation. These are suits about speech on any public issue, such as those Mearan becomes involved with as a member of city council. To quote Wikipedia, SLAPP “is a lawsuit or a threat of lawsuit that is intended to intimidate and silence critics by burdening them with the costs of a legal defense until they abandon their criticism or opposition. Winning the lawsuit is not necessarily the intent of the person filing the SLAPP. The plaintiff’s goals are accomplished if the defendant succumbs to fear, intimidation, mounting legal costs or simple exhaustion and abandons the criticisms.” 
      Referring to SLAPPs, New York Supreme Court Judge J. Nicholas Colabella wrote, “Short of a gun to the head, a greater threat to the First Amendment expression can scarcely be imagined.” Former New York Times reporter Judith Miller wrote “A SLAPP Against Freedom,” which began, “While authoritarian regimes silence critics by murdering or jailing them, journalists (and other critics) in the United States face gentler, but still effective, intimidation: libel lawsuits.”
Mearan’s suit against me is a glaring example of SLAPP. Anyone who knows him, or of him by reputation, could have figured that out. No way in the world would he go forward with a suit in which he would have to testify under oath, in court, about his reputation for being involved in prostitution and drug trafficking. Nor would he be willing to testify about his role as chairman of the City Building Committee, which recommended that the city “utilize the Adelphia building site to construct a City Hall complex to house all city departments with the exception of the Health Department.” Mearan’s role as chair of the City Building Committee was a direct conflict of interest since a client of his, who owned the Adelphia site, stood to benefit financially if the city utilized the site for public purposes.
Mearan slapped me with a suit to stop me from expressing my opinion about his conflict of interest as chair of the Building Committee and to stop me from expressing my opinion, granted to me under the First Amendment, about his role as the lawyer for Karol Craft and her son Timothy, who were given what a counsel for the Ohio Supreme Court called Mearan’s “disastrous” advice to accept a loan from a “business associate” of Mearan. What the Supreme Court counsel apparently failed to notice was that the loan was not only disastrous for Mrs. Craft, who lost her home as a result of it, but also criminally usurious, which should by law invalidate everything that followed, including Mrs. Craft’s loss of her home. Mrs. Craft’s claims that her signature was forged on the deed by which ownership of her property was passed on to an employee of Mearan. That is another matter Mearan would have to testify to if the suit goes to trial.
But Mearan probably never intended to testify to anything when he SLAPPed his suit against me, and neither do the hundreds of other public officials and public figures across the country who are resorting to SLAPPs to silence and intimidate their critics. SLAPPing has become so widespread that some twenty-five states and one territory, according to Wikipedia, have passed legislation to curb the abuse. California, as far back as 1993, was one of the first states to take action against SLAPPers. California even has a SLAPP-back law that allows victims to recover their legal costs from SLAPPers. Libel suits have since declined in California, presumably as a result of Anti-SLAPP statutes. A public interest group, the California Anti-SLAPP Project, maintains a helpful website. On that site is “A Survival Guide for Slapp Victims.” Another helpful website is the SLAPP Resource Center. Ohio’s neighbors Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Indiana, and Tennessee have anti-SLAPP statutes or case law, but Ohio does not. Perhaps our representative in the Ohio House of Representatives, Assistant House Democratic Leader, Todd Book, can help introduce Anti-SLAPP legislation once he finishes his Indian Head Rock crusade. I would like to see Anti-SLAPP legislation someday listed as an achievement on the Todd Book Wikipedia site.
As dense as he sometimes appears to be, I think Mearan must understand by now that he is not going to get away with SLAPPing. He started to SLAPP Sentinel editor Austin Leedom but has apparently backed off. We Portsmouth bloggers are not going to let ourselves be SLAPPed around by the likes of Mike Mearan. In spite of the adage that a man who serves as his own lawyer has a fool for a client, Mearan is representing himself in his suit against me. Since he does not plan to bring this suit against me to trial, he saves himself the expense of a lawyer. I am not spared that expense, but fortunately that is an expense I can meet. That is not always the case with victims of SLAPP suits, and that is not the case with Mrs. Craft, the seventy-year-old homeless widow, who has been railroaded by Mearan far more cruelly than I have been SLAPPed. Notwithstanding rumors that Mearan’s pandering to the vices of the legal establishment in Portsmouth gains him a peculiar kind of immunity, I will see justice done, sooner or later, or I will die trying.

Mearan at work at the courthouse, as drawn by "Gator," one of his victims. See Loan Shark


Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Mayor, the Mogul, and the Municipal Building

Among the many reasons for those who go to the polls next Tuesday to vote against Mayor Kalb is his long-standing neglect and denigration of Portsmouth’s Municipal Building. Kalb claims the building is in such poor shape because it was built shoddily by the Works Progress Administration, or WPA, during the Great Depression. Ignorant and uneducated as he is, if Kalb had used his computer he could have easily checked on some facts of history and learned that the Works Progress Administration was not created until 1935, a year after the Municipal Building was built. And if he dug deeper into the history of building that houses the mayor’s office that he does his best to avoid (he was not at last night’s city council meeting, for example), he would have learned that the Municipal Building was conceived and designed before the Crash of 1929 and before the Depression, and that it was built not by the government but by a private contractor. It is typical of apologists for unregulated capitalism to denigrate everything associated with government, and the repudiation of the WPA is part of that pattern, but we can be sure that Kalb is incapable of appreciating that the Portsmouth Post Office was the creation of the federal government and that the Clarence Carter murals inside it would not exist if it had not been for the Federal Art Project sponsored by the WPA.

Instead of educating himself about the history and culture of his hometown with the help of his computer, Kalb uses it to write middle-of-the-night emails that embarrass himself and the city, and not just in Ohio but throughout the nation. Judging by the 120,000 hits River Vices got in a couple of days in response to Kalb’s email, I think there will be at least a little curiosity across the country next Tuesday about how the redneck Ohio mayor who wrote the infamous foul-mouthed email fared in his reelection bid.

It is no secret, as Mayor Kalb himself has admitted, that for at least a decade there has been a developer he would not name who wants to acquire the land under the Municipal Building. Kalb would not name the developer, but I would be surprised if Hatcher will not be involved somehow. In Portsmouth, when it comes to developers, no one comes close to owning as much property and having as much political clout as Neal Hatcher, and no developer has as bad a reputation. In addition to being called a worthless piece of shit by the mayor for having criticized his performance as mayor, I have been given the finger by our real estate mogul for the exposés I have posted in River Vices about his real estate rip-offs and sweetheart deals with the city and university. Portsmouth is not a Hooverville but a Hatcherville in which home owners get "Hatchered."

Real estate developer gives me the finger

I find something refreshingly honest in the undisguised contempt Hatcher has for anyone who doesn’t share his obsession with property and money. The matching bookend to our mayor, Hatcher is a redneck Citizen Kane without the sentimentality about a sled. Having been Hatcher’s lapdog for at least a decade, one of Kalb’s goals as president of the city council and as mayor has been to raze the Municipal Building and make the land under it available to a developer.

The land under the Municipal Building is, Kalb has claimed, “prime real estate.” Not only does Kalb not know when the WPA was created, he apparently doesn’t know there is no prime real estate in downtown Portsmouth. Has he failed to notice that the Ramada Inn, right across from the Municipal Building, has been a basket case economically almost from the time it was built? Does Kalb expect anyone to believe that the land right across the street from the Ramada is prime real estate? The Portsmouth Ramada has been dubbed “Queen of the Rust Belt” by one travel writer. Land directly across the street from it could become prime real estate only if and when casino gambling comes to the Portsmouth area. That is what Hatcher or whichever developer acquires that land will be betting on. But making a killing on gambling is now far from being a sure bet. There was a story in the New York Times last week, “Can Atlantic City Raise the Stakes?” about the sorry state of Atlantic City, the first American city, after Las Vegas, to base its economy almost completely on legalized gambling. If Portsmouth manages to get on the gambling bandwagon, it will be doing so just when that bandwagon is driving into a ditch.

To justify razing the Municipal Building, Kalb and his predecessors have deliberately neglected it until it may have reached the point where it is not salvageable, even though it is about the same age and made of similar material and done in a similar style as the Portsmouth U.S. Post Office, which is a municipal architectural treasure, especially with the Clarence Carter murals inside. The Municipal Building is no Taj Mahal, but it is architecturally important, reflecting the Art Nouveau style that had become popular earlier in the twentieth century. But it won’t be long before the building will be demolished by a wrecking ball as so many other architecturally important buildings in Portsmouth were, like the train station, which was the Parthenon of Portsmouth. The city could have bought the station from the railroad for a dollar, but the county bought it instead, razed it, and built a new county jail on the site.

In the New York Times today (27 Oct. 2009) columnist Bob Herbert wrote, "The nation's political leaders and their corporate puppet masters have fouled this nation up to a fare-thee-well. We will not be pulled from the morass without a big effort from an active citizenry, and that means a citizenry fired with a sense of mission and the belief that their actions, in concert with others, can make a profound difference." What Herbert says about our nation's leaders also applies to our local leaders and our local citizenry. Government is too important to be left to the politicians, and to a mayor like Kalb, who is the puppet of the rich and the powerful.

Be sure to go to the polls and vote next Tuesday.


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.


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

10 Reasons Why Not


Frank Lewis, a Portsmouth Daily Times reporter and a minister of the Gospel, on Saturday, October 10, 2009, offered “Reasons Why You Should Buy the Newspaper.” What follows are 10 Reasons Why You Should NOT Buy “the newspaper.”

1. You should not buy the Portsmouth Daily Times because it has steadily shrunk in size and diminished in quality while steadily increasing in price.

2. You should not buy the PDT because it stands in way of progress, truth, and honest government.

3. You should not buy the PDT because then it will go out of business and stop serving the interests of the Southern Ohio Growth Partnership.

4. You should not buy the PDT because it fires reporters who make the mistake of reporting news that is embarrassing to the SOGP, such as when it fired Jeff Barron for reporting that a man arrested for drug dealing was an employee of an influential member of the SOGP.

5. You should not buy the PDT because at the height of the Marting scandal the SOGP reportedly threatened the PDT with a loss in advertising if it dared to do investigative reports on Marting’s.

6. You should not buy the PDT because when it is faced with the decision of serving its readers or kowtowing to the SOGP, it kowtows to the SOGP.

7. You should not buy the PDT because it tries to operate without a managing editor, without grammatical reporters, and without journalistic integrity.

8. You should not buy the PDT because it allows Frank Lewis to attribute to Abraham Lincoln wingnut fabrications that the sixteenth president would never have said in a million years.

9. You should not buy the PDT because then we will not have Lewis, instead of reporting news, writing editorials about why we should buy the PDT.

10. You should not buy the PDT because then Lewis will be free to find another job where he does not have to jeopardize his chances of going to heaven by continuing in the employ of Beelzebub.


Friday, October 16, 2009


Less than two weeks ago, it seemed a million people on both sides of the Atlantic read or heard that mayor James Kalb, in response to my public records request, had called me a piece of shit that he wouldn’t piss on if I were burning, and he was just getting started. But he did turn over the public records, and as I suspected they might, those records suggest that he did something worse than call me names. Because he felt cornered and desperate, he may have acted in an underhanded and unscrupulous way; he may have resorted to a devious trick. In addition to lowering the level of public discourse in America to previously unplumbed depths of profanity and coarseness with his post-midnight email, he may have tried to deceive me and the public by providing a bogus public record. There is an old-fashioned word for what he appears to have done: skullduggery.

Agreement in Principle

The public records Kalb provided me include two letters to him from the president of the Portsmouth Kiwanis club, Robin Hamm-LaValley. The first letter (which can be viewed by clicking on the following
link) is a preliminary agreement, or “agreement in principal [sic],” signed by her and Kalb. It is dated December 19, 2008. I believe that first letter is what it purports to be, an agreement in principle, and that the date December 19, 2008, is accurate. The agreement in principle states, and I will bold it for emphasis, that a “subsequent agreement will be required to clarify all issues relating to the plans, specifications, site allocation, site preparation, liability and any other matters that either party deems appropriate.” In regard to site allocation, the agreement in principle stipulates that the City of Portsmouth “will designate ” an area within Tracy Park where the playground would be constructed.

Subsequent Agreement

I believe that the second letter, the subsequent agreement, is bogus. (To see a copy, click this
link.) I believe it was concocted after the fact, ex post facto, in an attempt to deceive the public. The evidence that has accumulated strongly suggests there was no written subsequent agreement when the construction of the playground began. I believe the written subsequent agreement that Mayor Kalb provided me was written sometime after construction began and possibly after I had asked in a public meeting at Tracy Park on September 18, 2009, whether a written agreement existed between the city and Kiwanis regarding the construction of a playground. I had asked at that public meeting if there was a written agreement because Mayor Kalb had told the Portsmouth Daily Times on the previous Saturday, September 12th, that Kiwanis was not building the playground in the designated area, where they were supposed to. “For some reason,” Kalb told the Daily Times, “when they started digging, they moved from the original location and now the playground is around some trees.” That was why he suspended construction of the playground. To add to the confusion, the September 20th Community Common provided another version of why the site of the playground had been changed, reporting the rumor that the location of the site had changed at the order of the public service director. Without Mayor Kalb knowing about it?

This confusion and the resulting controversy came about, in my view, because there was no subsequent written agreement for the parties involved to be guided by. Imagine trying to build a house without architectural plans or start a voyage without a map or a compass. The controversy over the playground probably arose because there was no written agreement when construction began, even though the agreement in principle required that there be one.

Lost and Found

I was not the first to request public records related to the playground project. Following the public meeting in Tracy Park on September 18th, James Warnock, the first to raise the safety issue about the playground, asked Mayor Kalb for a copy of the written agreement. Kalb told Warnock that the written agreement had been misplaced, promising to call Warnock when it was found. When I contacted Warnock six days later, on September 24th, he told me he was still waiting to hear from the mayor. Because Warnock had not made a formal written request for the records, I doubted Kalb would ever find the “misplaced” records or call Warnock. How could he, when the required subsequent written agreement probably didn’t exist when Warnock requested it? Because Warnock had heard nothing from Kalb, I decided to make my formal written public records request.

The Road to Hell

I believe Kiwanis started the playground project with good intentions, but the road to hell, the proverb says, is paved with good intentions and, I will add, with politicians like Kalb often doing the paving. The root of this whole mess, I believe, is Kalb’s laziness, incompetence, and frequent absences from his office and the state. He was in North Carolina when this crisis came to a head. Kiwanis Portsmouth is now in a hole, along with Kalb, a hole that may only get deeper because it is hard to see how the “subsequent agreement” he provided me, if it is bogus, could have come into existence without the collusion of Kiwanis.

Since both letters, the agreement in principle and the subsequent agreement, were purportedly drawn up by Kiwanis president Hamm-LaValley, I asked her on October 14th if she could tell me when she had signed the undated subsequent agreement. She politely declined to answer, suggesting that I write to the address on the letterhead of the two letters I held in my hand. There is no address on the second letterhead, the subsequent agreement; and the only address on the first letter, the agreement in principle, is a post office box number, 782. I will write Box 782, asking if Kiwanis can provide evidence that the subsequent agreement was signed before construction of the playground. If Kiwanis is able to provide evidence that it was, I will apologize. But I think it will be some time, probably not until after the November 3rd election, and maybe not until hell freezes over, before I hear anything definitive from Box 782.

I still find it hard to believe Kalb and Kiwanis would have resorted to such skullduggery, that they would set such a poor ethical example for the kids they claim to be devoted to. But who would have thought Kalb would write his infamous post-midnight email, but he did. The ACLU of Ohio warned that Kalb in his intemperate email to me may have set a dangerous precedent of intimidation. But with the public records he provided me, Kalb may have done something worse. Mugging a constituent in an email who requested public records is bad enough. Concocting a public record to meet a constituent’s request in order to cover your ass is worse.


Thursday, October 08, 2009

"Dangerous Precedent"



Personal Attacks in Response to Investigations May Suppress Public Interest

PORTSMOUTH, OH- The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio today urged local officials to treat public records requests professionally and courteously, so not to discourage other residents from seeking information about the government. News reports out of Portsmouth claimed that a local blogger named Robert Forrey requested information regarding a local project. His request was fulfilled, but in an email from Mayor Jim Kalb’s official account, the mayor berated Forrey including comments about his family, appearance and age.
“Mayor Kalb’s actions were unprofessional and harmful to the community. By attacking someone for making a public records request, he has set a dangerous precedent that could frighten others from seeking similar information,” said ACLU of Ohio Executive Director Christine Link. “Whether Mayor Kalb personally likes Mr. Forrey should not have any impact on a public records request. It is the duty of government to be open to all people, not just those officials like or who support them. Public records requests should be handled with professionalism and courtesy above the influence of petty political fights,” added Link. After Mr. Forrey received Mayor Kalb’s email, he posted it to his website, where he maintains a blog. In subsequent media reports, Mayor Kalb has acknowledged that he wrote the email, but did not regret writing it. Link concluded, “It is vital that local officials make public records open to all residents equally, without regard to their personal feelings. If residents begin to believe that they may be attacked or scrutinized for requesting information, it may make many reluctant to step forward. While officials are free to have personal opinions on residents or issues, they ought to conduct official government business in a professional and neutral manner.”


The statement above, issued by the Ohio American Civil Liberties Union, appeared on the ACLU website on October 2, 2009. The email from Mayor Kalb that prompted the reaction from Christine Link, Executive Director of the Ohio ACLU, can be found in an earlier River Vices blog, "Burning the Midnight Oil," which can be reached by clicking here. R.F.


Friday, October 02, 2009

The Uses of Adversity

Me, (lower left) and some of my family near Boston Harbor, c. 1936

Jim Kalb may be for a couple of days the most famous, or infamous, mayor in America. Since a few days ago, when the Columbus Dispatch published an account of the dispute between the mayor and me, including the vituperative language the mayor used in response to my public records request, the story has spread from Ohio to the nation via the Huffington Post and now the story has been reported online by the BBC, making it international. I have had 110,000 hits on River Vices in two days. Previously, River Vices got only about 40,000 hits a year, so something about this story has piqued the interest of a lot of people. I’ve got ideas why, but I won’t get analytical here.

I have refrained from writing about myself in the five years or so I have been blogging on
River Vices. I believe community bloggers should focus on the towns and cities where they live, trying to make them better places to live. As a community blogger, I refrained from writing about myself, about my personal life. I didn't twitter. It is my opinions, my convictions, not my personality that I tried to convey on River Vices. But now I am a blip on the 48 hour news cycle. I am in the news as a result of the mayor saying in response to my public records request that I was a “worthless piece of shit" and that he wouldn’t "piss on me" if I were on fire. A certain delicacy, a certain innate Appalachian refinement, led the mayor to use asterisks with p**s and sh*t. He went on to say “you’re no more than the pitiful, broke-down, lizard-looking thing . . .” I can’t get too upset with the mayor over that because there are days I feel like a broke-down lizard, so it wouldn’t surprise me if there were days I looked like one.

Anyway, what I am going to do is provide, on the occasion of my 48-hour celebrity, a little more bio than I provide in the side bar of my blog. I’m also going to use some photos for illustration.

Shakespeare's Birthday

I was born in East Boston, Massachusetts, in 1933, on April 23, Shakespeare’s birthday. I didn’t know April 23 was my birthday until the sixth grade because we had a simple math problem in class that required knowing your correct birthday and I was off by a day. I thought my birthday was April 24. My family was so large and my father was such a heavy drinker that there were times he wasn’t sure what our names were and he certainly didn’t remember our birthdays, but he had a great sense of humor. He knew who we were of course, even when he was drinking. It was just remembering our names he had trouble with when he was drinking. Which he never did before noon, he said proudly all his life, even if some days he kept an eye on the clock from 11:30 AM to noon. My father bootlegged during Prohibition and served a term in jail. My uncle, “KO Mugsy Forrey” was a celebrated featherweight boxer in Boston in the 1920s.

"K.O Mugsy" Forrey on left, my father on right

I was the eighth of fourteen children. I was the first boy in the family to go on to college, which I did on a football scholarship, but I only played for two years, when I was injured and my interests changed from athletics to books. I discovered that I could be a much better student than athlete. I had to study very hard to make up for all the things I hadn’t learned in public school, where I was considered and indeed I acted like a dumb kid from a blue-collar family.

One of the two most important influences on me were my Irish immigrant grandfather, who had a lifelong quarrel with the Catholic Church and with priests in particular. My Irish grandmother was the most pious woman I ever knew and how she and my grandfather ever hooked up I have no idea.

My Irish grandparents, c. 1900

My oldest brother (upper left in the Boston Harbor photo above), a merchant sailor, became radicalized by the Great Depression and went into the Deep South in the late 1940s, a blond northerner, as a labor organizer of blacks. I don’t know how he got out alive.

I graduated from Wesleyan University in Connecticut, and got a Ph.D. from Yale in American Studies, in 1971. I took a few years off from graduate school in the early 60s to go to New York, where I was involved in radical anti-Vietnam War politics. When I went back to Yale, I wrote my dissertation, "The Flesh and the Spirit," on the Indiana writer Theodore Dreiser. My thesis was that, in spite of his hard-boiled naturalistic exterior,
Dreiser was, though he did his best to hide it, a compassionate and religious person, a trait that he inherited not from his stern Catholic father but from his loving Mennonite mother. I placed Dreiser in “the prophetic tradition. "Dreiser and the Prophetic Tradition," was published in 1974 in the journal American Studies. For a link, click here. I aspire to be in that tradition as well, even though I am as opposed to organized religion as much as my grandfather was to Catholicism. But I admire the Old Testament prophets, who felt a deep obligation to stick up for the poor and the underdogs. I also admire their courage in speaking out against the abuse of authority. If I wasn’t going to be cremated, I would have on my tombstone a variation of a line from the poet E. E. Cummings: “There was some shit he would not eat.”

There is so much shit in Portsmouth you wouldn’t believe. My son, whom I’m enormously proud of, has a Ph.D. in Polymer Science and Engineering and is doing research on the genome structure of the DNA and RNA of viruses. He asked me about a year ago, “Dad, now that you’re retired, why don’t you move back to Boston?” I found myself answering, “Portsmouth is like a prison, but I’m deeply bonded with the inmates.” Mayor Kalb is just a figurehead, a lapdog, in that prison, but he is not the worst, unfortunately. Portsmouth has many good points but it has some very bad ones as well. Portsmouth has a reputation as Ohio’s prostitute and drug capital. Check out this You Tube Video by black rappers on Portsmouth. The most notorious drug-dealing pimp in Portsmouth, who is white, was appointed by Kalb & Company to the City Council.
Things like that infuriate me.

The Meetinghouse at Rumney Marsh

I would not like to spend the rest of my life writing River Vices in Portsmouth. What I want most to do with whatever time I have left is finish a book on a three-hundred-year-old church building (shown at left) near Boston that I have over the last twenty-five years tried to make myself an authority on. The building has changed much, but its great oak frame has survived all the changes.

Instead of being a scholar, I am writing a blog about the vices of Portsmouth. If Kalb is defeated next November 3rd (he lost the primary by a 2.5 to 1 margin to a woman), I like to think I will hug all the inmates, wipe away a tear, and take my leave of Portsmouth and the likes of him forever. I've paid my dues. I taught some aspiring Appalachians some grammar and a little Shakespeare. I've done my penance. Penance is the only thing about Catholicism I still believe in.

And, just think, I wouldn’t be writing about myself and River Vices wouldn't have over 100,000 hits in two days if that brainless clown of a mayor,
in response to my open records request, hadn’t called me a broke-down piece of shit he wouldn't piss on. In emailing me at 1:47 AM, he, and I, got the attention of the world, or at least the blogosphere, for 48 hours. Sweet are the uses of adversity.