Wednesday, April 25, 2012

La Cucaracha

Late night infrared photo of a bipedal fiendishly grinning half-human/half-roach La Cucaracha, who is stalking the Crispie Creme Donut Shop.

An online report (click here) in the Daily Times (24-4-12) suggests  that City Solicitor Mike Jones has been getting away with health violations at his Crispie Creme Donut Shop on the corner of Gallia and Waller Streets in Portsmouth. It looks like  Jones has been shown favoritism by the Portsmouth City Health Department. He claims the only issue with his donut shop is infrastructure problems, like the ceiling. Do I understand right? A ceiling falling on you is not a health risk? A dirty floor is not a health risk? But the report in the PDT makes clear infrastructure is not the only problem. The PDT says infestation by “insects” has been persistent. Is insect a euphemism for something?  What are we talking about? Ants, or praying mantises, or what? I doubt it’s ants. A study done at San Jose State College in 1992 determined that ants know better than to eat in donut shops—they know it’s bad for their health. When’s the last time you saw an obese ant? Ants apparently have a much higher DIQ (Donut Intelligence Quotient) than roaches, who get addicted at the drop of a jelly donut. Roaches are apparently unmentionables at the Health Department, and even the PDT story didnt break the taboo by mentioning them.

And we know how desperate donut-addicted roaches  are. In 1939, in Squareton, Indiana, a donut shop owner Walter Jones (no relation to Mike) was reportedly tied up and tortured  by swarming  roaches who had become infuriated when Jones placed Roach Motels (roach traps) throughout his  donut shop. How they tortured him is too gruesome to detail but it involves all those feelers. As hard as that story is to believe, how about the rumor that, because conditions are  so terribly unhealthy at Crispie Creme, a roach mutated  into a huge donut gorging half-roach/half-human creature, La Cucaracha,  that stalks unaccompanied overweight females who buy donuts late at night to bring back to the dorms in Hatcherville. If ants know  what’s good for them, shouldn’t Shawnee State students, especially liberal arts majors?

Is City Solicitor Jones getting away with health violations?
And what has Jones done about cleaning up his shop? Very little judging by the story in the PDT. He is apparently no better as a donut dealer than he is as city solicitor. He gives the phrase out to lunch  new meaning.

You can help fight Portsmouth’s obesity epidemic and roach infestation by not patronizing Crispie Creme, especially if you are an overweight female with a late night yen for donuts.

 Remember the motto of Crispie Creme: Keep your eye upon the donut and not upon the roaches.

For an earlier posting on Crispie Creme, click here.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Marting Foundation

The Marting Foundation: The Scamarting of Portsmouth

Statement of purpose of the Marting Foundation on its first filing with the IRS for the year 2002

The death of the crooked SOGP (the Southern Ohio Growth Partnership) is a blessed event  in the history of Portsmouth, just as May 29th, 2002, the day the Marting Scam was perpetrated, was “a day that should  live in infamy,” as Andrew Feight put it in “‘Follow the Money’: A History of the Marting’s Scandal.” The SOGP is dead, but its partner-in-crime, the philanthropic front entity known as the Marting Foundation, continues to feebly live on, further tarnishing the once respected, even beloved, Marting name. According to official documents filed with the Internal Revenue Service, the Foundation was established as a charitable organization: “For the purpose of promoting and advancing economic betterment in Portsmouth and Scioto County on a not for profit basis.” That’s what the official statement says, but I believe the Foundation was established  for the economic betterment of the corrupt clique that controls the city on a for-profit basis. I believe the  Foundation was established by the nearly bankrupt Marting Brothers Company with the aim of  liquidating that company and paying  off its local stockholders, especially the largest shareholder (26%), Richard D. Marting, by laundering  the $2 million dollars the company acquired in 2002 from  its  illegal sale to the city of the decrepit and scandalously over-appraised Marting department store building.
The Foundation worked closely with the Marting Company  to deceive the public. Working closely was not hard to do since the trustees of the Foundation were also the trustees of the Marting Company, and for all we know they were also trustees of the short-lived front, the Marting Brothers Acquisition Company, also created in 1996. The overall scheme was so incredibly complicated and convoluted it  was like a distorting mirror in a fun house. It was not just a conflict of interest; it was shameless collusion. From 1996, when the Foundation was created,  to 2010,  Wisnieswski, Johnson, Arnett, Jenkins, and Payne  were also trustees of the SOGP, making it a trifecta: The Marting Company, the Marting Foundation, and the SOGP.   Julia S. Wisniewski, the chairperson of the Foundation, is the owner of Smith’s Drugs, in downtown Portsmouth. Randal M. Arnett is the CEO of the Southern Ohio Medical Center (SOMC). Gerald R. Jenkins is the former president and member of the board of the American Savings Bank. Roy Payne, now deceased, was the first dean of the College of Business at Shawnee State U. Clayton Johnson, was the lawyer who represented the Marting Company and masterminded the  sale of the Marting building to the city. Together, Julia Smith, as Chairperson and Johnson, as ringleader, were the Bonnie and Clyde of the Foundation, only they didn’t rob banks: they borrowed money from them, which was not hard since Johnson was on the board of directors of two of the banks involved: Bank One and the Oak Hill Bank.

The money that the Foundation dispensed from 2002 to 2010 went principally to two organizations. (1)The primary recipient, the Portsmouth city government,  received a $200,000 “kickback,” as Feight called it. Those who follow the machinations of the city council more closely than I do tell me that exactly where and to whom in the city government the $200,000 went is something of a mystery. When asked in a city council meeting, neither Mayor Kalb nor City Auditor Williams could say just where the money went or how it was used. (2)The next highest amount granted was a total of $65,000 to the  Southern Ohio Museum, a pet project of Johnson’s wife, who was its executive director. The Foundation’s 2003  filing with the I.R.S. (below) shows the first down payments, of $100,000 and $5,000, to these favored recipients. Note that the highlighted second column asks if the recipient of a grant is an individual, has he or she any relationship to  any manager of the foundation. The museum is an organization, of course, not an individual, so “NONE” is listed, but it still appears to be a conflict of interest, if not nepotism.

What gets publicized are the smaller grants the Foundation makes to other groups and organizations, such as those that make shelter available to homeless pets and people. The Foundation’s more public-relations-minded, smaller grants get publicized while the much larger grants to the pet organization of Johnson’s wife and to the crooks in city government are not considered front page news. Conceived in scandal, dedicated to the laundering of the illegal money from the sale of the Marting building, the Marting Foundation should give back the money it robbed back to the city and dissolve so the Marting scandle can finally be put behind us. The Marting name is now mud and Wisniewski and the others will be too as long they are associated with the Foundation.

Julia Wisniewski ( right) giving Marting Foundation check to Sierra Haven Animal Rescue Center, in 2011.

To read Andrew Feight's outstanding article on the Marting Scam, "Follow the Money," visit his Lower Scioto Valley website : click here

To read Clayton Johnson's testimony before Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation on Teresa Mollette's terrific website, click here

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Front Street: Unsafe at Any Speed

Front Street: Unsafe at any Speed

Council member Kevin Johnson is trying to get the city to do something about a dangerous intersection. He should  also make an issue of Front Street, in his ward, where Portsmouth’s traffic problems literally begin. Because of its mixed and incompatible uses, and its lack of a traffic light; and with only one stop sign, which happens to be hazardous; and above all because of the speeding,   Front Street functions as the Portsmouth Raceway Annex. As they enter Portsmouth on the West Side, on Route 104, drivers coming over the  Scioto River continue at harebrained speeds on to Second Street, without being slowed down by the posted 35 mile hour speed limit. Maybe the presence of the Speedway, which they pass as they enter the city, makes  them feel like they’re in the last lap of the Indianapolis 500.  The wild ones entering Portsmouth on Route 104 know that there’s an even faster way to speed through Portsmouth than Second Street. Just dogleg right on to Front Street, and you’ve got only one stop sign to bother with. That’s it. There’s not another stop sign on Front  Street from Scioto Street to Shawnee State. 

Mural watchers, two in wheelchairs, one in stroller, maneuvering around two of the  ugly fifteen planters on Front Street

What follows is a list of users on Front Street

·   There is first the mural traffic, which is naturally slow with frequent stops and starts.
·   Then there is the morning late-for-work and afternoon early-getaway-traffic, which pays no attention to the 25 mile per hour speed limit, partly because the only speed limit sign is at the other end of Front Street facing traffic coming west.
·  Next there are the motorcyclists who are attracted by the marvelous motorcycle mural, which is a magnet, the single most visited and photographed  mural on the floodwall. 
·   In addition to the vehicular traffic, there are the pedestrians, most of whom walk on the sidewalk on the northern side of Front Street. But some pedestrians, often especially those accompanied by children, prefer to view the murals by walking along the eleven-foot-wide strolling area next to the flood wall. Those in motorized wheelchairs also prefer to view the murals by traveling along this strip, as do classes of school children. One morning recently  I saw  preschoolers being shepherded along the strip by two adults, with cars speeding by a few feet away on the road.  
·  In addition to all the pedestrian traffic, joggers have in the last couple of years become a conspicuous part of the passing parade on Front Street. Many of the joggers are Shawnee State students, sometimes as many as twenty  in a phys-ed  class or  in clusters of four or five jogging to stay fit.  Joggers run on  both the road itself and the eleven foot wide strip next to the wall. Several organizations sponsor races that use Front Street as part of the course.

Joggers on Front Street running past moveable staging used to clean and touch up murals.

From the beginning, the 11-foot-wide strip had five large planters, holding  plants and flowers. One of the  original purposes of the big planters may have been  to serve as obstructions to any driver who might dare to pass a pokey tourist. No impatient driver would want to tangle with a heavy duty planter. Several years ago some group  placed a  dozen or so smaller planters on the strip with the aim of beautifying Front Street, as if the murals were not beautiful enough. Perhaps the plants and flowers are appreciated but the planters are not:  they are unattractive hazards and  obstacles for pedestrians and joggers, as well as for the two employees on movable staging who touch up and clean the murals year round.  The planters are made of a relatively light synthetic simulated  stone material that the wind and vandals occasionally knock over. There might be a proper place for the planters, in the cemetery perhaps, but not on a street that is as crowded as Front Street.
     Something has got to be done or there could be a serious accident, in which children or disabled people might be injured or killed. Now that J. Edgar Horner is history, maybe the Traffic Committee can be more constructive and less obstructive. But I doubt it. I am told anyone who doesnt comply with the do-nothing policy of the traffic committee is removed by one means or another. 

 Suggestions for the Traffic Committee 

·   Insist that the police enforce the 25 mile speed limit. Police cruisers frequently go well over  the 25 mile limit in driving from the Municipal Building at one end of Front Street to the police clubhouse near the other end, so they will have to turn over a new leaf before they begin enforcing the limit for others. Now that Horner is no longer chief of police, maybe officers will  not be quite so eager to get away from the police station.
·  Put several stop signs along Front Street. The one sign that now exists at the end of the floodwall is obviously not enough.
·   Consider lowering  the speed limit from 25 to 20 or even 15 miles an hour. When Front Street reaches Shawnee State University, the posted limited becomes 10 miles an hour, and speed bumps help remind drivers to observe the limit. I am told speed bumps were tried on Front Street back when Frank Gerlach was mayor, but  trucks going too fast over the bumps caused dishes in the Biggs House to rattle. Of course nothing will help—not speed bumps or stop signs—if speed limits are not displayed and enforced.
·  Request that whatever group put them there find a  safer, more appropriate place than Front Street for  their simulated stone planters.
·   Repaint the faded traffic lines on Front Street, which are now almost invisible.
·  Repaint the now invisible yellow line along the edge of the  eleven foot strip to make it clear cars and motorcycles should not park or drive on it.

One or more of these suggestions might be worth following. The more popular the murals and the heavier the traffic becomes, the greater the chances of serious injury. Drivers should be discouraged from thinking they are on the Portsmouth Speedway, where there are no speed limits, and  made to understand they are on Front Street, where there are limits that are strictly enforced.

The one stop sign on Front Street is a hazard because it stops only vehicles going east. The other side of the sign is blank, so those driving west do not have to stop, even though just ten yards ahead is a hidden opening where vehicles exit to Front Street from the river side of the flood wall.

Let the city stand on notice that an accident at this spot could cost taxpayers much more than putting another  stop sign on the blank side would.
In summary: Not only is drug trafficking a serious problem in Portsmouth, so is traffic per se. Between the potholes, the faded lane markers, the eliminated traffic lights, and the wannabe Marlon Brandos, driving in Portsmouth is unsafe at any speed. People tend to drive as they live. People who flout laws regarding money, and go bankrupt, as  Kalb, Malone, and Haas have done, also tend to flout laws regarding driving. They don’t observe speed limits because those limits are not enforced as much as they should be. I think people who can’t get ahead in life, want to get ahead on roads and highways by ignoring posted speed limits. I’ve never lived in a town that observes speed limits less than Portsmouth. Maybe the lawlessness of Portsmouth can not begin to be turned around until traffic laws are enforced, and a good place to start enforcing them would be on Front Street, where the police frequently speed between the police station and their clubhouse. Instead of setting a bad example, they should be ticketing.

The Wild Ones
 Jim Kalb is a prime example of a wannabe Brando. He’s been breaking traffic laws since he was knee high to a pill popper. He rides two wheelers but doesn’t have the brains of a three wheeler. As mayor he  crusaded to reduce the number of traffic lights in the city.  We are still living with the consequences of his traffic light foolishness. And how about the  wild wannabe,  city auditor Trent Williams, on his motorcycle?  And dont forget our serial speeder, councilman Saddler. I suppose city council president Haas is willing to pay much more for high powered foreign cars than he is for child support because he can pass everyone on the highway.  I’ve never lived in a town that observes speed limits less than Portsmouth. Maybe the lawlessness of Portsmouth will not be turned around until, as a first step,  traffic laws are taken more seriously and all the wannabe Brandos stop speeding on Front Street.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

SOGP: "It's dead! It's dead!"

The SOGP: Its dead! Its dead!

The headline of a story in Monday’s Portsmouth Daily Times (2 April 2012) was “Gampp: SOGP to Fade Away.” Mike  Gampp, president of American Savings Bank, who just recently replaced the disgraced Bob Huff as president of the SOGP,  told the PDT, “I believe you are going to see the SOGP fade away. It’s not going to exist anymore.”  Yes,  Gampp, Portsmouth's most politically active banker, and the rest of the SOGP gang wish the corrupt Southern Ohio Growth Partnership, of which they were an integral part, would just fade away and never be heard from again. But from a public relations point of view, the demise of the SOGP is not what Gampp should have been trumpeting and not what Frank Lewis, if he had been doing his job at public relations correctly, should have used as his lead in Monday’s PDT.
Bob Huff was recently fired after it was discovered he was using Portsmouth Murals Inc. (PMI) monies to pay operating expenses for the SOGP. But that’s really old news—at least a week old. The negative impression Gampp’s inept attempt at a whitewash  made on Monday had to be corrected on Tuesday. The day after the “Gampp: SOGP to Fade Away” story appeared in the PDT,  another more upbeat story appeared the next day, Tuesday, with the headline, “Community Action to Buy Welcome Center,” the opening sentence of which was, “The future of the Scioto County Welcome Center is brighter after Community Action of Scioto County announced Monday it was purchasing the building for $300,000.”  Instead of negative words and phrases like “fade away,” “discrepancy,” “defunct,” “concerned,”  “SOGP’s time had probably come and gone,” tell-tale words in  Monday’s story, Tuesday’s story had words and phrases such as, “This is a win win,” or even better,  this is a “win win win,” “it’s an opportunity that came along that we couldn’t pass up,”  “brighter,” “collaborative effort,”  “asset to the community,” come to “fruition,”  “excited” [twice], “relieved,” “complete reorganization,”  “great thing,” “something to celebrate,” and last but not least “bingo.”
Yes, providing bingo is one of Community Action’s public services, and it is considering moving that most boring of all addictions for the elderly to the Welcome Center. But won’t  that interfere with the questionable  coin  auctions that occasionally take place at the Welcome Center? Perhaps those two things—bingo and coins—could   be combined into a more “exciting” game, which might be called bunko instead of bingo. In case you forgot, bunko is a swindle perpetrated by two or more con artists on a na├»ve victim.  Portsmouth may be not only the Oxycontin but also the bunko capital of Ohio. Bunko-games, as they are sometimes called,  are usually accompanied by a lot of bunkum, or hot air,  which appears to be Gampp’s speciality. Incidentally, Gampp’s nickname among CAVE people is “Double Pee,” in keeping with the CAVE people’s nickname for the SOGP—the “Soggy Pee.”

American Savings Bank, where Double-Pee is president

 I and other CAVE people were shocked-shocked when we learned Huff had been  dipping into PMI funds to pay SOGP operating expenses, and we were shocked-shocked that businessman Chris Lute, who thinks the minimum wage is un-American,  and former city council member Ann Sydnor, who has been feeding at the public trough since the Stone Age, had no idea that squarepants Bob was sponging on PMI, even though Lute and Sydnor are  vice presidents of PMI.  You would think Sydnor in particular, after all her years in public service, at city government, at PMI, and at Community Action, would have been a better financial watchdog since she knows as well as anybody that the city has been illegally using funds intended for capital projects to pay operating expenses, such as salaries and benefits  of city officials and employees, for a long time, letting the Municipal Building fall into disrepair in the process. Why pay for the upkeep of the Municipal Building when salaries and benefits for the mayor, the auditor, the city solicitor, members of city council, and all city employees can be persistently increased, even when the city is operating at a deficit?
The SOGP has been a bad influence in Portsmouth for a long time, as far back as the 1960s (under another name), but it could not have done so without the money provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture,  millions of dollars  that the SOGP then loaned out  to favored parties as a form of political patronage, including reportedly to members of the SOGP inner circle. The SOGP was a private organization doling out public money without being obligated to disclose what they were doing since open records laws don’t apply to private organizations. The SOGP was the main means by which greedy lawyers and developers in Portsmouth evaded the bothersome constraints of democracy.

The Scioto County Welcome Center: Another Portsmouth Pork Project

On Tuesday Lewis recovered his PR stance and made the bad news sound like good news. Nothing had happened between Monday and Tuesday as far as the Welcome Center was concerned. The sale of the Welcome Center to Community Action was mentioned Monday, but it was not spun the way Gampp and the rest of the SOGP gang would have liked. Frank Lewis had got carried away on Monday and apparently forgot that his primary job at the PDT is public relations, not reporting news. Jeff Barron lost his job at PDT for reporting that somebody arrested for dealing drugs was employed as a mechanic at Glockner’s. That’s when angry Andy called the PDT and Barron was fired. I wonder if someone contacted the PDT after the Monday story “SOGP Fading Away” appeared?Lewis better watch his step. Even somebody as adept at spin, and as eager as he is to be a tool, can anger the SOGP gang, or should they  now be called the Public Spirited Citizens, or the  PSC:  Gammp, Thacker, Morton, Walton, Lute, Sydnor, etc.? Lewis better remember the cardinal rule of public relations: he  can’t be frank; he can’t be critical—not of the people who control Portsmouth, not  if he wants to keep his job.

Rob “Porkman Portman, godfather of Welcome Center

 I once compared the Welcome Center to one of those “social clubs” in lower Manhattan that are fronts for Mafia families. Huff will fade away, possibly right into jail, but the other usual suspects will still be at the Welcome Center. The bipartisan corruption for which Portsmouth  is notorious, the same lack of competition, the same toothlessness at the Portsmouth Daily Times, will continue. The SOGP is gone but the Chamber of Commerce, which fathered it, will be up to its old tricks, and Senator Rob Porkman, the godfather of the Welcome Center, and the Attorney General, Mike DeWine, whom I once photographed in the gutter outside of Clayton Johnson’s office, may turn the usual blind eye and the SOGP will, as Double-Pee predicts, fade away and be forgotten.

Mike DeWine in gutter outside office of Clayton Johnson

Earlier postings on SOGP: