Friday, March 16, 2012

Think Tank or Stink Tank?

The headline in today’s online Portsmouth Daily Times reads, “Think Tank Mulls Revitalization Plans.” Think Tank? Who knew? And who dreamed up the  name for this glorified “Bilking Committee”? Given some of the usual suspects who are on it, a more appropriate name for it, somebody suggested to me, would be Stink Tank. Shouldn’t a basic requirement of membership in a think tank be the ability to think? Yes, one of the members, Kevin Johnson, can think but he can’t think straight. And another member, Jeff Albrecht, can think but when it comes to Portsmouth he can’t think of anything except the land on which the Municipal Building sits, the land across the street from his new Holiday Inn. Albrecht may have been hankering for that city owned  land for at least ten years. I’m fairly sure he was  the secret developer whom the mentally challenged Jim Kalb alluded to ten years ago as wanting that land in the worst way. It may have been Albrecht lusting for that land who set in motion the whole chain of events that led to the city’s purchasing of the Marting building. The idea was to have the city government move  out of the Municipal Building and into a renovated Marting’s Building so the Municipal Building could be torn down so that the unnamed developer (guess who?) could build on it. This is like a chess game in which all the pieces cannot be moved and so are worthless, as Albrecht admitted to the PDT that the Marting building, the Adelphia building, and Fifth Third building are. “He,” Frank Lewis wrote, referring to Albrecht, “said none of the buildings, on the surface have any value on the market.”
Now Albrecht or somebody on the Think Tank has come up with a recycled bilking proposal: move city offices out of the Municipal Building and into the Fifth Third Bank building, on the corner of 6th and Chillicothe, catty corner from the Marting building. This proposal is déjà vu all over again, because the shyster lawyer Mike Mearan, no less, made a similar proposal some years back. Under its phony red brick facade, the Fifth Third Bank building is the decrepit twin to the Marting building with its phony yellow brick exterior. It’s half a dozen of one and six of the other. Mearan tried to tout the Fifth Third Bank building as a new home for city offices, but Frank Gerlach told me when I interviewed him in 2004 for the documentary Recall, which is available in the Portsmouth Public Library and the Clark Library at SSU, that behind its faux façade that old building has serious heating and cooling problems that will probably be expensive to fix. Presumably those problems still exist and are probably worse in the unused 78 percent part of the Fifth Third bulding than they were in 2004.

Financial Finagling at Fifth Third

       Now that Fifth Third is being proposed again as a place for city government to move to, the apparent financial finagling about the value of that building should  be remembered. Here is what I wrote about the Fifth Third building in River Vices in 2006: “According to records at the county auditor, available online, Fifth Third paid $231,000 for the property in 1998. Those same online records say that in 2005 the property had increased in value to $2,847,020. How did that happen? That’s a staggering 10-fold increase in value in seven years. If Fifth Third could sell the property at anything approaching $2,847,020, or even half of that, it would still be doing well financially. I learned from a visit to the auditor’s office that just this year [2006] the value of the property had been  'readjusted,’ and dramatically reduced to $1,281,490, or less than half what it was worth last year [2005].” A question I will ask now, in 2012, is this: Did that ten-fold inflated price of $2,847,020, have anything to do with somebody’s dream of unloading that unmarketable property off on the city, as the Marting Foundation had done the Marting building? And even the current valuation the auditor’s office puts on it of $1,281,490 seems like a fantasy concocted to convince the city it would be getting a good deal if it would only take it off the hands of the owner, Fifth Third, who could claim a tax write-off as the absentee owner of the Adelphia building did when Mearan helped him unload that on the city.
       Maybe the solution to the whole problem is to have an auction like the one Albrecht was a party to in Athens, Ohio, an auction which the Ohio Attorney General suspected Albrecht had rigged. In Portsmouth’s incestuous culture, everything is rigged, in my view, because there is  no real competition. Everything is kept in the family,  which is the way the corrupt city government, the Bilking Committee, and now the “Think Tank” aim to keep it. (Click here to read an earlier post on Albrecht.)

Under its phony red brick facade, the Fifth Third Bank building is the decrepit twin to the Marting building . . .