Creation of the SOGP Frankenstein Monster
The SOGP has been in the news lately. An article appeared in the Portsmouth Daily Times (21 April 2007), in which chairman C.B. Hermann said SOGP members must work “behind the scenes” and “must maintain secrecy at times because of the nature of business they conduct.” Hermann added, the SOGP “worked behind the scenes [emphasis added] to foster the premise that if we could bring jobs to the area, it would help the local economy.” Andy Glockner of Glockner Motors put it less elegantly, “We [SOGP] just want to be recognized as the back office that’s here for economic development to support the chamber, the murals and any other entity in a way to create the financing or be the front person.” Not a lawyer or a PR person, Glockner unintentionally spilled the beans. “Back office” and “front person” says all that needs to be said about how the SOGP operates – in secret and as a front. It is a private corporation, yet from its back room offices in the publicly funded Welcome Center, just one of its pork projects, the SOGP meets in secret and makes decisions that determine what happens in Portsmouth, economically and politically.
The kind of jobs the SOGP are after are not industrial jobs. Herrmann said, “it’s doubtful a Honda or Toyota plant will come to the area. Therefore, SOGP concentrates on attracting smaller businesses.” In response to Hermann’s comment, Robert Madison wrote a letter-to-the-editor, saying, “In reviewing the history of the organization [SOGP], it looks like it started with the best of intentions. But maybe through the years it has lost its mission. Instead of selling water, maybe it’s time to think bigger and go for the Honda or Toyota plant and bring real jobs to Scioto County.” Madison’s letter asks an extremely important question about the Portsmouth area, maybe the single most important question: Why has Portsmouth been in the economic doldrums for so long?
The SOGP ’s Predecessor
Whatever may have been the case with its predecessor, the Portsmouth Area Community Improvement Corporation, the SGOP did not start with the best, but with the worst of intentions. Considering who was behind it, how could it have been otherwise? What Johnson and his crowd created in the SOGP is not just a glorified Chamber of Commerce, it is a transmogrified Chamber of Commerce, a monster that rules Scioto County the way Frankenstein did Transylvania. The SOGP has, working “behind the scenes,” in Hermann’s phrase, debased local government by making a mockery of competition between the two main political parties. You can’t tell the Democratic whores from the Republican whores. Local government has become the preserve of the incompetent, the criminally inclined, the near comatose, and the unemployables (it is the wives of the unemployables who hold down the jobs, in the public sector).
Those in control of the SOGP, like Clayton Johnson and his buddy Neil Hatcher, have made fortunes in Portsmouth not in spite but because of the economic doldrums the city has been in for the last half century. The worse things are in Portsmouth, the better it is for the SOGP, because they control most of the pork that comes into our economically depressed area in the form of government grants and loans. They not only control the pork, they also control local government and are able, with the collusion of politicians who can be bought for the price of a John Street whore, to monopolize and manipulate whatever local business opportunities there are. Because there is no real competition for the Johnsons and the Hatchers, they can’t lose. Imagine a team that has no opponents. They can really rack up the points. Neil Hatcher should have lost his shirt in his dumb plan to build a huge shopping mall on the site of the demolished Selby factory, and he would have lost his shirt if the game he was playing in was not only not just fixed but in which there was no opposing team. The city will bail Hatcher out by buying his virtually worthless mall property at his price, to build a sport’s complex, just as the city bought the worthless Marting’s building, at Clayton Johnson’s price, to convert to a city hall.
From PACIC to SOGP
There are Community Improvement Corporations (CICs) all over Ohio. That other CICs may have turned into the Frankenstein monster that the SOGP has is quite possible. But the few that I have looked into, such as the one in Chillicothe, do not appear to be scam operations. To quote from earlier River Vices postings, “It has happened gradually and unobtrusively, without most people being aware of it, but over the last half century, important functions of Portsmouth local government have been privatized. The result is that we now have a powerful shadow government, the origin of which can be traced back to 1964. In March 1964, the Portsmouth City Council made a momentous decision. In a resolution, numbered unlucky #13, the council turned much of the economic control of the city over to a private ‘non-profit’ corporation named the Portsmouth Area Community Improvement Corporation (PACIC). In Resolution #13, the Portsmouth City Council granted PACIC an extraordinarily broad mandate. The extraordinary mandate of this private corporation, consisting mainly of businessmen, bankers, and lawyers, was no less than ‘To promote the health, safety, morals and general welfare of the inhabitants of the community . . .’ In the following year, 1965, the Ohio state legislature passed a law allowing municipalities to designate community improvement corporations, such as PACIC, as their agent. As if PACIC hadn’t already been granted extraordinary power in Resolution #13, the Portsmouth City Council passed another resolution (#30), designating PACIC as the city’s official agent, or legal representative. PACIC eventually morphed into the SOGP.”
They are trying to stifle and intimidate critics, but over the years a handful of courageous souls have stood up to the SOGP and its predecessor. There was the “Unbribed Trio” of Clausing, Price, and Daub, back in 1980. Prof. Larry Essman told me he first got involved in the reform movement as early as 1974 when he was Asst. Auditor and realized the PACIC was not interested in having Toyota or anyone else build in the Portsmouth area. I have heard the same story from others, such as Rich Noel, who discovered as a result of involvement in area development discussions that the PACIC and SOGP were always more interested in excluding than attracting new businesses. New businesses and industries were the last thing they wanted because that meant competition. Glockner did not want competitors in vehicles, Marting’s did not want competition in retail sales. Councilman Bob Mollette, the only city official in the present government truly representing the citizens, wrote in a letter to city council that this is an unacceptable situation. “I believe the relationship with the SOGP, if considered an authorized agency that represents our city, must be accountable and transparent.”
Through their political puppets, the SOGP is trying its damnedest to drive Mollette from city council as the PACIC drove out Clausing, Price, and Daub back in 1980. Through their political puppets, the SOGP is trying to stop citizens from speaking at city council meetings, labeling them as Domestic Terrorists. As for transparency and accountability, sunshine and democracy, those are not on the Frankenstein SOGP’s agenda.
[This is reposted from April 2007 with the recent Marting shenanigans in mind ]