Thursday, March 22, 2012

Albrecht's Etch A Sketch

News item: "Romney campaigns on Etch A Sketch platform . . ."

Meanwhile, Jeff Albrecht  . . .

. . . shakes his Etch A Sketch and Presto!  

 The Marting building is replaced by the Fifth Third building
 as the best place to move city government.

Footnote: Bryan, the home of Ohio Art, Inc., makers of Etch A Sketch, is in the very northeast corner of Ohio. Since 1960, more than a hundred million of the buggers have been sold, but since 2000 manufacture of them has been outsourced and off-shored to China! Of course, that number is far short of the number of Oxycontin prescriptions that have been written in southern Ohio, so Bryan is not equal  to Portsmouth when it comes to the numbers game. But Bryan does happen to be the home of Horace G. Prettyman, the first Ohioan to play football for the University of Michigan. I happen to have bought at an auction in Athens, Ohio, a cap worn by Prettyman, but it was stolen when my car was broken into several years ago in Portsmouth. Below is a photo of the cap. I have heard from a private detective I hired that a cap of that same description has since been sold at an another auction in Athens, Ohio, an auction that was reportedly rigged, but I have been unable to confirm that rumor. 

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 . . .  

Thursday, March 08, 2012

SOGP: "It's Alive. It's Alive!"

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.


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 ]

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Marting's: The Bilking Committee

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 Martings.)

The Marx brothers would be right at home at Martings, along with Kevin Johnson, co-chair of Bilking Committee

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 millionairess 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 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 Ockermans 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 Martings, 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 hes 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