The “Bilking” Committee
To bilk means to defraud, cheat, or swindle. Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water, the sharks have spawned another Marting’s monster. The unannounced goal of the Latest Building Committee, as was the goal of the Previous Building Committee, chaired by the shyster Mike Mearan, was to help the sharks complete the Marting swindle. Some of the members of the Latest Building Committee may have understood that the purpose of the committee was to screw the voters who have turned Marting’s down more than once, but some members apparently didn’t understand or accept their role, resulting in a lot of confusion, like the Marx Brothers movie the Big Store. (Click here to link to earlier post on Marting’s.)
Confusion and chaos reigns. The Latest Building Committee was supposed to allow the public to attend its meetings, but they proceeded like thieves in the night, as if the last thing they wanted was public scrutiny. They wanted to slip in and out of the Municipal Building with a key provided for them by Mowery. They also wanted to keep from the public as long as possible the names of the individuals connected with the non-profit entity that Kevin Johnson said was willing to take possession of the Marting Store, renovate it, and lease offices in it to the city government. The non-profit took the offer off the table today, the 29th, because it could no longer be kept under the table, which is where these characters prefer to operate. Only Kevin Johnson, the go-between in the proposed sell-out, knows who these shadowy individuals are and his lips are sealed. He self-righteously pronounced, already having kissed some millionaires’s behinds, that he would never reveal who made the offer. Johnson plays the role of the holier-than-thou nun in the whorehouse of Portsmouth politics.
The Marx brothers would be right at home at Marting’s, along with Kevin Johnson, co-chair of Bilking Committee
The chair of the Latest Building Committee, Alan G. Barlow, a man of honor, has resigned as of February 29, 2012. In a letter to the unelected mayor of Portsmouth and the City Council, Barlow wrote, “In my opinion the Building Committee has been nothing but a sham and exists merely to give ‘cover’ for certain elected officials and their plan to use the Marting’s building against the wishes of the public.” The Latest Building Committee is nothing but a front for what I am calling the Bilking Committee, the committee that really has the power, in my opinion, and which is operating undercover, or under the table. The only item on the Bilking Committee’s agenda is to move city government out of the Municipal Building and into the renovated Marting building so that the Municipal Building can be torn down and some form of gambling casino can eventually be erected in its place. Gambling casino? Yes, gambling casino, on the theory that if you build it, they will come and gamble. If you think this swindle has gone on for ten years only because of the Marting building, you are missing the point: it is the Municipal Building, not the Marting building, that is the big prize, because the land on which the Municipal Building rests is a potential goldmine if and when gambling comes to Portsmouth.
“Co-Chairs” of Bilking Committee
In my view, the co-chairs of the Bilking Committee are First Ward Councilman Kevin Johnson and Municipal Judge Steve Mowery. When Johnson and his late partner arrived in Portsmouth around 2005 and opened their high-end antiques store on Chillicothe Street, their solution for the economic ills of our depressed city was gambling. Johnson and his partner also backed lapdog Jim Kalb for mayor. Kalb is for anything that serves his multimillionaire masters, which gambling would. We shouldn’t be surprised that Mowery would be co-chair of the Bilking Committee because he announced publicly at the Welcome Center, when running for the judgeship, that he was for renovating the Marting’s building and moving city government offices and the Municipal Court there, even though the voters had soundly rejected that move. The other members of the de facto Bilking Committee are Jim Kalb, David Malone, John Haas, and Nicholas Basham. The Latest Building Committee may be history, but the Bilking Committee will continue to push for moving city offices to the Marting building.
The reason the names of those representing the non-profit organization were being kept secret is not hard to figure out. One of them, the front man, is rumored to be the puppet Terry Ockerman, with Clayton Johnson and possibly Neal Hatcher pulling Ockerman’s strings. If it was revealed that either Clay Johnson or Hatcher had any connection with the non-profit that wanted to take possession of the Marting’s, it would have been the kiss of death as far as the voters are concerned. There is already one Johnson involved, Kevin, and another, Clayton, would have made it two too many. The sharks wanted to keep notorious names out of it as long as possible. The Latest Building Committee emails that were released recently under a public records request indicate that Kevin Johnson threw a hissy fit and vowed he would no longer have anything to do with the Marting scam. Let’s hope he’s a man of his word. And let’s hope, after ten years, that a stake will finally be driven through the heart of the Marting monster and both Johnsons will stop trying to shove it down citizens’ throats.
“Kevin Johnson, co-owner of the Emporium of Portsmouth, said there are a number of reasons he is supporting legalized casino gambling, including the potential for significant economic development.”From the Portsmouth Daily Times, 28 June 2005