Tuesday, September 27, 2011

American Garden

American Garden

Is it necessary to cultivate our American garden,
Even as American arteries harden?
Biblical nation of  salt, sugar and fat—
What on earth hath ye begat?
Your idea of natural is Snapple?
For god's sake eat an apple!

                                            Robert Forrey 2011 

"American Garden" is from my blog (click to link)  Poems Old and New.


Friday, September 23, 2011

Jane Murray's Letter to State Auditor

 M. Jane Murray    1920 Dorman Drive   Portsmouth   Ohio   45662    U.S.A.

September 21, 2011

The Honorable Dave Yost
Ohio Auditor of State
88 East Broad Street, 10th Floor
Columbus, OH 43215

Dear Auditor Yost:

 It is my understanding that legally the City of Portsmouth has been and is now in a state of fiscal emergency. With the experiences I had as mayor, it is my opinion that the only way that financial stability for the city can be restored is through intervention by your office. Having worked with Auditors Barga and Thompson, I know they are fully aware that I inherited a $1.2 M. deficit at the beginning of 2010 and that the city council refused to enact my balanced budget but instead enacted a planned deficit budget in 2010 and have done so for 2011 as well. This is unheard of.

 At my request, your office conducted the city’s 2010. It confirms that the city auditor, city council, and previous mayors have violated state statutes by consistently using restricted enterprise and special revenue funds to pay for general government operations. Water, Sewer, Sanitation and State gasoline funds have been diverted to pay for salaries and benefits and general fund operations and services. As an example, in the 2011 city budget, over $1 million of water (enterprise) revenues are being used to pay part of the salaries and benefits of fire department employees. Yet water lines continue to break over and over. A plan for replacing aged lines doesn’t even exist. The disruption and cost of these breaks to residences and businesses continue. The destruction to the streets likewise get no or insufficient attention.

 Further bad public policy move is afoot. At the September 12 council meeting and as a way to partially address the city’s budgetary crisis, City Solicitor Michael Jones suggested the city petition the Scioto County Court of Common Pleas for permission to transfer capital monies into the operating budget to help offset the deficit. The city should not be allowed to raid capital funds to pay for operating expenses. There are desperate capital projects for which these funds should be expended. The voters approved these capital funds and mandated in the city’s charter they be spent for capital projects, not general operations. The city previously petitioned the Court of Common Pleas in 2003 for use of the capital monies and Judge Harcha approved the transfer, but warned the city not to make the request again.

 To date, there has been no discussion and no planning at all undertaken to address the deficits. The council put an income tax increase on the May primary ballot and it failed. There is another on the November ballot. Even if the tax increase passes, the funds will be insufficient to address the depth of the financial well dug by this government these past 10 years. The salaries are not the problem. It’s the benefits.

 It is my opinion that, because they benefitted too, the elected officials contributed to the financial disaster by approving union contracts such that the city pays all pension contributions – the employees contribute $0; employees contribute a mere $25/individual and $50/family monthly for insurance premiums and this only began in 2009; the council gave themselves the same health insurance benefits in the late 90s – though this action was challenged in court and rejected – the benefit continues to this day; 3 weeks of vacation leave after one year employment, 4 after five years, 5 after ten years and 6 after fifteen years (a month and a half); generous sick, holiday, funeral, etc., etc. leave, and the list of benefits go on.

 Though the 2010 Audit warns the city not to expend enterprise and restricted funds for other purposes, the city intends to continue this process. At the last council meeting and by emergency action (also contrary to law), the council approved a proposal by the city auditor to spend $8,000 for a consultant to devise sufficient rationale for the city to continue to raid these funds as they have in the past.

 Having been a local government professional for many years, I can attest to the desperate situation of the city’s infrastructure, the myriad problems facing our neighborhoods, sewage backing up in dozens of people’s homes, crime, drugs, prostitution…and the list goes on. Yet none of these issues have been nor will be addressed fiscally should the city continue down the same financially disastrous road.

 I join others and respectfully request that you: 1) take over the financial responsibilities of the city similar to your actions for Scioto County; and, 2) do whatever you can in your capacity as Auditor of State to stop the city government from using capital funds for the intent and purposes described above, and urge you to take legal action if necessary. Unless the community can get help from outside, from your office, I have no doubt things will deteriorate rapidly and dramatically. The residents, the citizens will be the big losers.


M. Jane Murray

Cc: Charles F. Barga, David B. Thompson

Tuesday, September 13, 2011


Portsmouth's Trashy Municipal Building

Portsmouth is in the news again! Not for drugs but for trash.

When Janice Shanks recently hauled  two bags of  trash to mayor Malone’s  office in the Municipal Building, a local newspaper reporter, Frank Lewis, happened to be in the Municipal Building and wrote a story about it. The trash story went viral  even in the virile Lone Star State. The story appeared in newspapers in  Dallas, Ft. Worth, Houston, San Antonio,  etc.  A friend of Janice Shanks in Texas read about it on Yahoo. It has possibly been reported in every state in the union, by one means or other. It was even reported in Idaho and Maine. How do you like them  potatoes?

The trash story  has appeared in the Huffington Post, as redneck Portsmouth Mayor Jim Kalb’s trash-talking midnight email to me did in September, 2009. (Click here for that story.)

Reports of it  have appeared in thousands of  newspapers, television stations, web sites and emails across the country and around the world.  Malone got himself and the city a million dollars of publicity,  bad publicity, by the way he mishandled the trash. And of course buck passer that he is, Malone’s  blaming the mess on Bill Beaumont, the City Service Director. That was one of Kalb’s tricks, to blame Beaumont, and Malone is following suit. Miscommunication is the word Malone used to describe what happened. It’s not miscommunication, it’s mismanagement, his mismanagement. 

Janice Shanks is a sweet woman with a sense of humor and she’s taking it in stride. When I asked her about it, she replied with tongue in cheek, “It must have been a slow news day.”

Portsmouth Poster Boy for Dysfunctional Government

As  this trash mix-up illustrates, Malone has become the national poster boy for dysfunctional government. Janice Shanks’s trash had not been picked up because our financially  strapped city did not have the money to pay sanitation workers on the day it was scheduled to be picked up. Besides that, a truck had broken down and another was being repaired out of town because there was no one qualified in Portsmouth to work on it.  The   trash pick up on Monday, Labor Day, was canceled and then on Tuesday the sanitation workers picked up the trash for the homeowners whose trash should have been picked up on Monday.  Are you still with me?

The homeowners  whose trash pick-up day was Monday got their trash picked up on Tuesday, but those whose  trash pick-up day was Tuesday never did get their trash picked up all week.

More Trash Than Meets the Eye

There is more trash in this story than meets the eye. Reporters for the Portsmouth Daily Times do not write stories that might offend  or embarrass the rich and influential. Yes, we have a number of rich and influential people in Portsmouth, even though the city is too poor to pay for trash collections on Labor Day. PDT reporters do not write stories that might reflect poorly on the rich and influential nor on the  politicians who serve their interests.

Although he was groomed by one of the  rich and influential to be mayor-in-waiting, Malone has apparently fallen out of favor, probably partly because he doesn’t know how to serve their interests and partly because he likes to take off on junkets, as Kalb liked to take off for long geezer biker race weekends in the South.  Now a lawyer, John Haas,  is president of city council, and therefore next in line to be mayor.  The rich and  influential would probably like to elevate Haas to the mayor’s office because a lawyer in the mayor’s office, even a deadbeat one, is worth ten philandering  preachers in the bush.  It’s true that Haas’s personal life would shock voters  almost as much as Malone’s would,  but the PDT doesn’t report on the scandalous lives of Portsmouth politicians and public employees. For example, when former public employee Tom Bihl was leading the campaign to recall Jane Murray, the PDT never reported on his  shenanigans when he was police chief and auditor. If any reporter had revealed Bihl’s record during the recall campaign against Murray, he would have probably  been out of a job like previous reporters who had written something that embarrassed the rich and influential.

Trashing and SLAPPing Mayor Murray

Jane Murray was our deficit hawk mayor. Unlike our clueless city auditor, Trent Williams, she made it her business to know where the money was coming from and where it was going.  Because of her zeroing in on the budget, they  first clipped her wings and then they  SLAPPed  her silly. SLAPP stands for Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation.  City councilor Mike Mearan SLAPPed me for calling him a shyster in River Vices,  so I had to pay  a lawyer to defend myself. Murray had at least three such nuisance suits filed against her, the aim of which, I believe, was to drive her out of office and into bankruptcy as a result of her legal expenses.

Malone’s attempt to save money by cutting back on trash collecting is ironic because he contributed $1000 to the Committee in Support of Police and Fire, a political action committee that is supporting the measure on November’s ballot that will increase the city income tax. Note that the committee is in support of police and fire fighters, not city sanitation workers. The passage of the income tax measure  will not improve the trash situation or Malone’s chances in the election.

Mayor Malone Contributes to Tax Increase 

Mayor Malone contributes $1000 to campaign to increase city income tax

Why is Malone supporting the increase in the city income tax? Because  he wants the support of the police and fire department when he runs in the next mayoral election. Does he need the support of the police and fire personnel  more than he needs the support of the homeowners and registered voters of Portsmouth? A number of the police and fire personnel do not live in Portsmouth and therefore are not voters, but even if they aren’t,  they are good at  campaigning and will be going door to door, in Portsmouth, in uniform,  in support of the income tax increase. But will they support Malone in the next mayoral election? With Horner as police chief,  I doubt it. It will cost Malone a lot more than a thousand dollars to get their support.
If Malone had personally paid for the overtime portion of the sanitation workers’s  Labor Day pay, instead of contributing to the Committee in Support of  Police and Fire,  he would have done far more to help his chances in the next mayoral election. But I predict Malone will lose the next mayoral election by a wide margin, as he has twice in the past. Malone has a trash problem all right. A rich white trash problem. 

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Drunk on Celebrity

Lisa Roberts and Chief Charles Horner as Annie Oakley and Marshall Matt Dillon

Portsmouth Police Chief Charles Horner and Lisa Roberts, R.N., of the Portsmouth City Health Department,  are apparently drunk on the celebrity they have gained as a result of the national and international coverage of  the notorious drug problems in Portsmouth and Scioto County. But just like  the big hats in the photo above, fame appears to have  gone to their heads. Horner and Roberts  were dubbed the Matt Dillon and Annie Oakley of Portsmouth by Marianne Skolek, a blogger who lives in South Carolina but writes about Portsmouth on a website in Oregon. Skolek has done a great job exposing Purdue Pharma, the manufacturer of OxyContin, the drug that caused the death of her daughter and many thousands of others.  But even if Skolek  is an expert on  pills,  I would say she doesn’t know beans about the politics of Portsmouth. If she did, she would not have mistaken  Horner for a Matt Dillon and Roberts for an Annie Oakley.

Yet, to her credit, Skolek was not willing to let the celebrities she had helped create get away with  mugging. When she saw the photo above, which was posted on a public website, Skolek gingerly chided Horner and Roberts for behaving unprofessionally. Skolek’s point, which was well taken, was that there is nothing funny about the addiction epidemic, no matter how you look at it. If Horner and Roberts were looking for laughs, they should have looked elsewhere. Roberts took umbrage at Skolek’s criticism  and shot back, “We have paved new paths. We are ‘Trailblazers.’ People need leaders and Hero’s [sic] today more than ever.” Yes, we do need leaders and heroes more than ever, but we should be the one to choose them. We don’t want them choosing  themselves. We don’t want our public officials getting drunk on celebrity.

Those of us who  do not just blog about but also live in Portsmouth  would never choose Horner as a hero.  Austin Leedom,  on The Sentinel, Teresa Mollette, on her website, and I on River Vices  (click on the links below), have been exposing Horner as a fraud for a long time. Horner is, in the Texas expression, all hat and no cattle. He is, at best, the Barney Fife; at worst, the J. Edgar Hoover of Portsmouth—lying, prying, spying,  and conniving. As Leedom wrote, “Horner has a long record of refusing to prosecute law violators and a sorry record of making errors of the worst kind in his bumbling attempts as leader of the Police Department and as commander of the Drug Task Force.” Teresa Mollette wrote, “Chief Horner infringes on the fundamental rights of all citizens of Portsmouth, Ohio. Through intimidation, coercion, and threatening tactics, he continues in a pattern or practice of conduct that deprives persons of rights, privileges and immunities secured or protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States and the city of Portsmouth, Ohio.” I wrote just recently on River Vices,  “Each of the last four mayors wanted to fire Horner. They understood he was not to be trusted. They understood he is incompetent, disloyal to the bone, and insubordinate to boot.”

As for Ms. Roberts, she is proving herself more the Nurse Betty than the Annie Oakley of Portsmouth. According to the Portsmouth Health Department website, she works in the Office of Injury Prevention (OOIP), where she serves as coordinator. The kind of injuries and deaths the OOIP seeks to prevent are those related not to drugs, at least not directly, but to vehicles, of all kinds, from  kids’ tricycles to semi-trailer trucks. How then did she become the unofficial  spokesperson for the city government on the drug epidemic? By attaching herself to and becoming a spokesperson for SOLACE, the support group founded by Jo Anna Krohn in the spring of 2010. Krohn has tended to stay in the background, with others, especially Roberts, becoming the public face of SOLACE, which she has helped transform into a virtual Political Action Committee for Horner.

Do you get the picture? Horner is no joke. He is a serious impediment to the fight against drugs and crime, and no real progress can be made as long as “Matt Dillon”  has his hand around the throat of  Dodge City and as long as “Annie Oakley” is taking aim at, and feeling the muscle of,  the dopey looking chef. The above photo, taken outside of the Fork and Finger Restaurant may become as infamous as the one of Neil Hatcher giving the finger in front of Clayton Johnson’s Fourth Street estate. One picture is worth a thousand words.