Saturday, April 30, 2011

Portsmouth's Copout

A copy of the ballot Portsmouth voters will be handed next Tuesday, May 3rd

      There is a primary election in the city of Marion, Ohio, on Tuesday, May 3rd, as there is in Portsmouth, but there is no measure on the Marion ballot to increase the city income tax, as there is on the Portsmouth ballot (shown above, with Police Chief Horner's face). Marion has managed to make cost-cutting  savings and still stave off  layoffs in the police department without resorting to a “safety levy,”  and without scaring senior citizens into voting for it. Marion accomplished a compromise with real collective bargaining, not with collusion between the public employee unions and corrupt Portsmouth politicians who push for a  “safety levy” rather than bargaining seriously with public employees.
According to John Jarvis of the Marion Star, on April 29th, at a special meeting, the Marion City Council gave a first reading to an agreement negotiated by Mayor Schurtzer and the three unions representing Marion’s police officers.  If finally approved,  that agreement is expected to  save the city’s general fund about $274,404 in 2011. The savings would be achieved, for the most part, by increasing furlough days of the police; reducing the number  of  their sick leave sell-back days; reducing the city’s share of their pensions; reducing  the city’s share of their health insurance; and suspending their holiday overtime pay for the rest of 2011. These negotiated cost cutting measures are expected to save the jobs of the five members of the police force who were scheduled to be laid off.
In Portsmouth, instead of negotiations  between the city and the police, we have a “safety levy”; instead of cutbacks we have copouts; instead of cooperation, we have capitulation on the part of city officials; instead of layoffs, or the possibility thereof, we have talk of renovating the Marting building (again!) as the new home for  the police department. What the Portsmouth Police Department needs more than a new police station is a new police chief. Marion has Chief Tom Bell, who helped resolve their budget crisis, while Portsmouth has  Chief  Horner, a loose cannon who is always looking out for number one and undermining whoever the mayor is. Horner has recently been interviewed by the New York Times and on National Public Radio as if he was a knowledgeable  authority on and leader of the fight against drugs in Portsmouth. In fact, Horner with his bumbling incompetence and paranoid management style worsened  Portsmouth’s drug problems.  The group that Horner has targeted as Enemy Number One are not the drug dealers but the Concerned Citizens, a senior citizens group that has criticized him and that he in turn has denounced as “domestic terrorists.”
Demoralized and divided, members of the Portsmouth police force deserve some special compensation for the stress of having to perform a very difficult job under Horner, but the “safety levy” will not provide that compensation. The “safety levy” will perpetuate the problems in the police department and in the city, not solve them. For that reason  residents of the city, including those  police who reside here, should vote against the levy. Milking the taxpayers and exploiting the fears of senior citizens about crime by pushing a “safety levy”  is not the way Mayor Schurtzer and the police unions are reducing the costs associated with Marion’s police department, and it shouldn’t be Portsmouth’s way either. The Portsmouth “safety levy” is not a solution, it is a copout.
The language of the “safety levy” states that it would be used for “the operations of the Police and Fire forces of the City of Portsmouth and for no other purpose whatsoever.” That sounds to me as if the levy money can be used to renovate at a cost of millions  the infamous Marting Annex building (shown below) for use as a police station. Councilman Albrecht, who always does just what the Marting Foundation wants him to do, recently proposed renovating the Marting Annex for just such a purpose.

 Will the Safety Levy provide the money to renovate the infamous Marting Annex into the new Portsmouth police station? 

Meanwhile, the even more  infamous toxic Adelphia Building (shown below) sits and rots, waiting until the financially strapped city can come up with money to tear it down. Horner and the city council were in favor of renovating it for use by the Portsmouth police department, just as they will probably be in favor of renovating the Marting Annex. 

The toxic Adelphia building, formerly scheduled to be renovated as new home of Portsmouth police department