Thursday, December 26, 2013

Bird of Paradise

Professor Smith glanced out the window of his second floor study, staring at the bleak and icy landscape, where birds, usually  smaller starlings,    infrequently scrambled through the air like they were  desperately looking for a hole in time to escape from the cold.  In spite of global warming, the  winter had been very cold. He was used to the cold, because of the clunker of a furnace. But the  cold this winter was  record breaking. The curtainless window he looked out was a little frosted, and the outside storm window would not come all the way down. His landlord Charley had said he would fix it months ago but there it was,  still stuck six inches from closing, as if it had been  welded there by some malicious prankster. He  was wearing the same  old Mackinaw he had worn when he lived in New Hampshire, and he wore gloves too, with the tips of the fingers cut off to enable him to type. If he hadn’t finally stopped drinking ten years ago, he would have drunk a whiskey to warm him up.
He was sitting at his computer on Christmas Day typing up a lecture on the philosophical implications of  relativity that he would deliver on the first class of  his philosophy 302  course next semester. He wanted to help students come to terms with the grand illusions of time and space instead of falling between them and getting  ground down in despair. It would be  the first and last lecture he would ever give on the subject. Christmas was Professor Smith’s unfavorite holiday. He had spent the first eight years  of his life in a Catholic orphanage where he was teased about his dark complexion, especially after he was cast in a Christmas pageant as one of the Three Wise Men, Baltasar, who was supposed to be from Africa.
He was teaching at the bottom of the academic food chain in a black college in Tennessee. Many years before, he had started out teaching in an exclusive women’s college in New Hampshire, then moved on to a state university in  California. Next he went to a private university in Minnesota, and then spent  then several years in Florida, finally ending up in the  hard-scrabble black college in Appalachia. But  he had never gained tenure in any of them, in spite of having an Ivy League Ph.D. because he had made no effort to hide his atheism or refrain from lecturing and speaking  out on controversial issues like abortion, communism, climate warming, same sex marriage, and the “n” and “c” words, nigger and cunt, on which he had devoted a whole class in the woman’s college in New England to at the beginning of his checkered career because he wanted them to understand the provisional role of meaning in language and  that they didn’t have to be trapped in the hateful stigma that somebody else attached to a word.
He had explained to the well-bred young women that the word   nigger was derived from “niggra,” which was the way Southern whites pronounced Negro, and niggra  had morphed into the racist epithet “nigger.”  But  all  of these words were  derived ultimately and innocently from niger, the Latin word for the color black. The Latin niger was also the root for the names of the African countries Niger and Nigeria and for the river Niger,  and the word cunt was derived from another perfectly respectable Latin noun cuneus, meaning a wedge, or a wedge shaped stone, the kind of stone that was used as a writing instrument on the of clay tablet writing known as cuneiform, one of the earliest of written languages. “There’s nothing  embarrassing  about having an etymological link to one of the earliest written languages; in fact, there is  something ennobling about it,”  he had explained to the young women, trying to raise their consciousness  about language, “just as there is something majestic about the mighty Niger River, whose relatively clear water  flows 2600 miles through western Africa.”
But before he was through with his lecture,  the only  black girl in  the class, a bright inner city scholarship student,  picked up her books and said, “I’m not a nigger and I’m not a cunt,” and walked out of the class straight down to the office of the dean of students, who was herself a black female.That was at the beginning of his career and now he was approaching the end.  He  had moved on from etymology to physics, and was tackling relativity, and explaining the difference between the way Newton and Einstein understood space and time.
“The Newtonian world we live in,  the world of space and time, is  an illusion,”  he would explain to them, without getting into the math of it, which was Greek to him anyway. But imagination was more important than math in understanding relativity—that was what Einstein had said. Einstein  admitted he wasn’t the greatest genius with numbers but he had imagination.  Einstein was “out of it,”  both professionally and personally, a daydreamer, an also-ran, working at a dull job at the patent office, which turned out to be the best place for him, better than any Oxford or Cambridge.  Just as a whaling ship had been for Melville, the patent office was Einstein’s Harvard and Yale.  It was precisely because he was out of it, that he had a different perspective on  things, on  telescopes and clocks, on  the trains and schedules. The Swiss made the trains run on time, even if they didn’t know where they were going, relatively speaking. Without the blinders of conventional wisdom, out of the publish and perish rut of academic life, Einstein  was able to take out a patent on relativity, leaving reality to Newtonians.
Just as  Einstein had glanced out the window of the patent office in Switzerland, the professor sat at his computer in Tennessee, stopping for a  moment of reflection, taking a break from the curvature of the universe.  He thought of Africa and the mighty Niger rolling on  tropically and topically through the green jungle until it spilled into the Niger Delta, as massive as eternity, with its many millions of birds of every color and  description.  He had saved enough money to take a trip to Africa, which he had never been to before.
 Thinking of Africa reminded him of his African-American neighbors, a couple of older strange birds,  the odd black couple and their two dogs who lived in the drab shingled house down the road with the smoke curling out of their  old chimney, as if the record cold was not letting the smoke amount to anything more than  a wisp before it dissolved almost immediately into the freezing gray day, without a trace. It was quite a contrast to the summer,  when Buddy, the nosey one of the pair,  sat in the rocker on their  front porch with binoculars in his lap, as if he was waiting for something  strange and beautiful to appear in the distant Smokey Mountains.
Professor Smith got back to relativity and the challenge of living without absolutes, without god and the other consoling illusions, without words indissolubly fixed  to what they stood for, without the need of faith in anything but himself. He stared at what he had so far written.  His lecture  was getting so  abstract that he could see his students yawning and stealing glances at the clock on the wall over his head. In spite of  the incredible speed of light, there was always a gap. The time they would see on the clock was an infinitesimal fraction of a second after the fact,  just as the faintest star in the sky is millions of light years in the past, and might not be there now at all.   He imagined his black students wondering, “Is  that what they teach white students in the Ivy League?”
Suddenly, there was the sound of wings flapping furiously, startling him. He looked at the top of the window, where a starling was trapped between the regular window and the storm window.  It had entered through the six inch space at the bottom and didn’t know enough to just go  down and exit the same way it had entered. Being a bird its instinct was to go up not down, and a hundred and sixty millions years of  escaping  by flying upwards was not going to get reversed. To escape, it  was programmed to fly up.   He stood  up and approached the window, which panicked the pootr bird even more. How was he going to help it escape? What would Einstein do in a situation like this? Or Newton? An idea occurred to him. If he got above the bird  maybe he could frighten it downward. He took the chair he had been sitting in and dragged it to the window. Standing on it, he held his arms out as if he was huge predatory bird, and made faces like Frankenstein, producing  groaning sounds.  He frightened the bird so much that it crapped on the window, but instead of going down, it tried even  more frantically to go up. He began rapping on the window as if he was trying to hit it, but the bird would not go down. He got off the chair and tried raising the storm window, as he had tried many times before, but it wouldn’t  budge. If he was bigger and stronger, maybe he could have raised it, but he was short and slight, weighing only 140 pounds. He decided to stay still, because the bird might injure itself and be unable to fly. A flightless starling was like a horse with a broken life. Without being aware of it, he was completely identified with the trapped bird. He shared its predicament and its panic. He felt he would be haunted if the bird died. He had an impulse to smash the window but the bird might be fatally wounded  by flying glass while his study would be as cold as Alaska.  
The phone in his bedroom rang. He wondered who that  could be. Somebody calling to wish him merry Christmas? The few acquaintances  he had would know  better than that. He went in the bedroom answered the phone.
 “Professor Smith?”
“Uh-huh,” he replied, not recognizing the voice.
“This is Buddy.”
“Buddy Bailey.” Buddy was always sticking his nose in other people’s business, which is why he got the nickname “Butt-in Bailey.”
“Oh, hi. What can I do for you?” he asked, wondering why he of all people would be calling. He could  not recall him ever calling before.
“Are you all right?” Buddy asked.
“What do you mean?”
“Well, I saw you in the window waving your arms, like you was maybe trying to attract someone’s attention. Or somethin’.”
“You could see me?”
“Of course. With my binoculars,” he said. 
“Oh, right,” he said. “I wasn’t trying to attract attention. There’s a bird trapped inside  my storm window and I was trying to get it out.”
“A bird trapped in your window?” There was a touch of skepticism in his voice.
“That’s right,” he said
“A bird you said?”
“A bird? You’re sure it’s a bird?
“What color is it?”
“Black?” he repeated.
“You’re sure it’s not a bat.”
“It’s not a bat. It’s a small bird. I think it’s a starling.”
 “Franklin,” he called. “The professor’s got a bird trapped in his window.” The professor heard Franklin answer,  but he couldn’t make out what he said.
“No, he’s sure it’s not a bat,” Buddy answered  Franklin, who was probably in another room.  “You see, professor,” Buddy  said, “we once had a bat in the house. Franklin opened the door to shoo him out, but before he shooed  he bit Franklin on the ear. He had to have a rabid shot.” He could not make out what Franklin was saying from the other room.
 “Franklin says he’ll come over, if you wants help.”
“OK,” the professor said. “I would appreciate it.”
“ Franklin says he’ll be over as soon as he gets some clothes on.”
While the professor waited for Franklin to ring the doorbell downstairs,  he tiptoed to the doorway of his study and leaned his head in. The bird, clinging somehow to the top of the storm window,  was motionless, except for its heaving  little breast.  Edging in further, the professor was surprised  to see another starling standing on the window ledge, looking up with a cocked head  at his trapped counterpart. They looked so much alike, they could have been twins. The professor wondered just how they  might be related to each other.
When  he opened the front door fifteen minutes later to let the burly, bundled up good Samaritan in, he was  carrying a small red metal toolbox. By way of a greeting, he asked the professor  with a wink, “Cold enough for you?”
They went upstairs, where Franklin  took a can of WD-40 out of his tool box and sprayed  the storm window where it needed  lubrication, sending the starling into another tizzy. “Let’s let that soak in for a couple of minutes,” he said, though he really meant for a couple seconds, just long enough for him to remark,  “This stuff works miracles.”  
 Then with his large hairy hands, he forcefully lifted up the lower storm window just high enough so that he could pull down the top storm window about six inches.
Within seconds, the starling was out the window and winging its way upwards with astonishing speed, considering the energy it must have already used up trying to escape.
“Like a bat out of hell,” Franklin said.
To the astonished professor, whose heart was beating fast, the starling seemed  more like a bird of paradise than a bat.
In a matter of seconds it was just a black dot disappearing into the gray sky. The professor was not sure there wasn’t another little dot just behind  the first one.
Snapping shut his little toolbox, Franklin asked “Where do you suppose it’s off to?”
“Maybe the  Niger Delta,” the professor  answered.
“Where’s that,” Franklin asked.
“It’s in my imagination,” he answered.
“I bet this  is a Christmas it’ll never forget,” Franklin said.
“And it’s one I won’t either,” the professor said, shaking Franklin’s extended  hand while glancing at the clock on the wall,  wondering how many minutes or maybe hours, or even longer, it would be before he would  be in the frame of mind to tackle relativity again. From the window,  not thinking about gaps in time or the curvature of space but about the good deed he, Franklin, and the WD-40 had accomplished, he watched the Good Samaritan trudge back through the snow to the old house with wisps of smoke coming out of the chimney.

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

The Beautiful Cover-up: Black Fridays and Dreamland

“Needless to say the Wade-Ins are not depicted on the Floodwall, which excludes unflattering events in the city’s history as strictly as the whites once excluded blacks from Dreamland.”

I have already made the point in a previous posting on River Vices (click here) that one of the unspoken purposes of the beautiful Floodwall Murals is to cover up the blots on the image of the city of Portsmouth, especially the blot of racism, including the infamous “Black Friday” of January 21, 1830, which took place in the middle of the winter, when “all the colored people in Portsmouth were forcibly deported from the town,” as Nelson W. Evans wrote in The History of Scioto County (1903). Evans called the expulsion of blacks from Portsmouth a “relic of barbarism” (p. 612), but very few people in Portsmouth now know about Black Friday, including my colleague and friend Professor John Lorentz, the distinguished historian who grew up in Portsmouth, went on to earn a Ph.D. from Princeton, and whose documentary about the Floodwall Murals, Beyond These Walls, has just been released. 

Since Black Friday happened almost two hundred years ago, in the first half of the nineteenth century, it is not surprising that such a blot might have faded from Portsmouth’s collective memory, but it is surprising that another racist blot, which occurred in the second half of the twentieth century, in 1964, within living memory of many seniors in the city, is unknown to most young people. Within another generation or two that blot may be as forgotten as Black Friday. I refer to racial discrimination at the pool Dreamland. Incorporated in 1929 as a private for-profit swim club, Dreamland was a kind of dream land, but only for white kids. It included three acres of surrounding landscaped grounds, but it was surrounded by a sturdy chain link fence to keep out undesirables, which included African-Americans. If Dreamland had allowed blacks in to swim, many whites would have chosen not to be members, which would have been bad for business. Not just swimming in the same pool but drinking from the same water fountain was something racist whites found repugnant. 

But there was something even worse for business than blacks in the pool which was the stock market in the red. After the stock market crash of 1929 and the Depression that followed, Dreamland fell on hard times, and the owner offered to sell the pool to the city for much less than what it had cost to build. But strong opposition arose against the city acquiring the pool. The Portsmouth Daily Times in its typical cover-up fashion did not say much about the opposition, but it probably had something to do with the fear of racist whites that blacks could not legally be excluded from a publicly owned pool. So Dreamland remained in private hands and the discrimination continued until the 1960s.

The discrimination at Dreamland led to the so-called “Wade-Ins” that some of Portsmouth’s black citizens took part in during the summer of 1964, when sit-ins and other peaceful demonstrations were taking place throughout the country. One of the nostalgic Floodwall Murals, in the form of photograph album, includes a snapshot of Dreamland (shown above). That mural may bring back fond memories for older white folks but not for older black folks, who can remember when they were excluded from the pool because of the color of their skin. Needless to say the Wade-Ins are not depicted on the Floodwall, which excludes unflattering events in the city’s history as strictly as the whites once excluded blacks from Dreamland. That the Dreamland discrimination is not even hinted at in Beyond These Walls is ironic because Professor Lorentz and his son Nathan, the creators of the documentary, have a close personal, family connection to Dreamland. 

What precipitated the Wade-Ins, as Blaine S. Bierley pointed out in “Swimming Pool Integration in Portsmouth” in his book Charles Street Tales was the Civil Rights Act of July, 1964, which prohibited racial discrimination in places of public accommodation. (Bierley’s self-published book is in the Local History Room at the Portsmouth Public Library.) A graduate of Portsmouth High School (class of 1955), Bierley grew up in Portsmouth on Charles Street in the 1940s and 1950s, and fondly remembers swimming at the Terrace Club, as Dreamland was then called. He also remembers fondly two Portsmouth high school teachers who worked as lifeguards and directors at the pool. To white boys like Bierley, those lifeguards were like “bronze gods,” and one of them was Charles Lorentz, the father of John Lorentz. While no one who knew Charles Lorentz would ever have accused him of racism, he was nevertheless one of those otherwise decent whites of his generation who tolerated the policy of racial exclusion until demonstrating blacks pressured the Terrace Club with Wade-Ins to end its discrimination, which the club did the following summer of 1965, when it changed its name back to Dreamland. 

Today whites and blacks swim in the McKinley Pool on Findlay Street. The pool is named after a 14-year-old black boy Eugene McKinley who had drowned in June 1961 in the sand and gravel pit west of the Scioto River flood levee at 12th and Chillicothe Street, one of the few places black kids had to swim, since Dreamland was off bounds for them. But even if someone had written such a ballad it is unlikely his untimely death would have been depicted on the Floodwall mural because of his death’s racial overtones. 

Portsmouth’s Rick Ferrell has written a wonderful ballad “Dreamland Pool,” about the unforgettable experience it was for a white boy like himself swimming and socializing at the Dreamland pool. It is available on a YouTube video. (Click here.) If only someone had written a “Ballad for Eugene,” about a black boy drowning in a Portsmouth sand pit. The day of Eugene’s drowning was a Friday, another Black Friday, and Black Fridays are excluded from the Floodwall murals.

Posters in Portsmouth announcing runaway slaves,
 bore this familiar figure according to Evans

Kevin W. Johnson: The Crooked Conductor

The crooked conductor on the Twentieth Century Ltd. 
As the January 2014 transition deadline approaches for the change in city government (click here), I want to call your attention to an article that appeared in the Yale Law Journal in 2006 on the subject of the mayoral versus the city manager form of government (click   here to read the article). Written by “Richard C. Schragger, a professor at the University of Virginia Law School, the article seeks to answer the question posed by its title: “Can Strong Mayors Empower Weak Cities?” By “strong mayors” Schragger refers not to Schwarzenmayors but to males and females who have strong executive powers by reason of the city charter and/or the state law in the area where they hold office. By “weak cities” Schragger means, well,  cities like Portsmouth, which are the stepchild of  the states in which they are located. In the four levels of government—federal, state, county,  and local—cities are at the bottom of the political food chain,  and generally have to subsist on scraps thrown to them from the federal, state, and county levels above them.  The top to bottom structure is dominated from the top by the federal government, which shares power with the states, as is provided for in the U.S. Constitution, but state constitutions usually do not follow suit, providing little recognition and power to city governments. “This arrangement,” Schragger writes, “in which cities are formally subservient to states, has significant consequences for local political actors.” The particular local actor who suffers most in this arrangement is the mayor, because she is the chief executive government in city government, but  she has relatively little authority to carry out her responsibilities.
Because their powers are limited, too many mayors have historically resorted to underhanded methods to make up for their lack of clout. Corruption became synonymous with city government in the late 1800s, with mayors and council members (or aldermen) competing with each other for graft. Early in the 1900s (that is to say, the twentieth century), in the decade and a half known as the Progressive Era, reformers, especially in urban cities, cracked down on corruption and helped promote the change to the city manager form of government. Many mid-size and smaller cities followed the example of the larger cities. The aim of the reform movement was to take politics out of city government by replacing mayors with professional (appointed-as-opposed-to-elected) city managers, who had the educational qualifications and training to run a city after the fashion of a business. Or at least that was the hope. 
                           Century of the City Manager
The twentieth century can be said to be the century of the city manager, but well before the century was over a number of cities grew dissatisfied with that form of government and began switching back to the mayoral form of government. Portsmouth was one of those cities, switching back in 1988. The twenty-first century is shaping up to be the century of the strong mayoral form of city government, according to Schragger. At least that’s the way things are trending, possibly because chronically depressed cities like Portsmouth cannot afford to have city managers as chief executive officers. City managers have no political power—they’re not supposed to have political power—but  cities cannot get by with politically impotent chief executive officers. Former Portsmouth city manager Barry Feldman, whose whole city manager career was marked by controversy, offered advice for aspiring city managers in the doctoral dissertation he later wrote at the University of Connecticut: be as political as you can get away with,  because without political influence a city manager is a cross between a punching bag and a doormat, even if he she has more education and a higher salary than city council, whom the city managers have to answer to. I’ve been told by a former city council member that Feldman serves as Kevin W. Johnson’s guru when it comes to questions of governance. Heaven help Portsmouth if  that’s true, because somebody should write a dissertation on Feldman’s career, which illustrates the futility of the city manager form of government. Johnson gives every sign of being as underhanded and dishonest as Feldman, which qualifies him to be Portsmouth’s next city manager. 
                                Progress, Portsmouth Style 
            Switching back to city manager is the most important (and deleterious) thing that has happened in city government in  Portsmouth in the last thirty years, but with Johnson’s connivance the measure was put on an off-year ballot without many voters knowing what was happening. Something that important deserved more time for consideration, and a vote in a general election, which was apparently what supporters of the switch back did not want. In homosexual hating Appalachia, Johnson, whose career took him from West Virginia, to San Francisco, to Portsmouth,  would queer any project he was identified with, so they knew better than to allow more time for consideration and discussion. That Johnson  is also underhanded, as he has frequently  shown himself to be, as on the so-called “building committee,” makes him a favorite target for the homophobes on Topix, who denounce him as not only queer but corrupt. From a drug-dealing pimp to this. That’s progress, Portsmouth style.
Frank Gerlach, who may be the  only person in Portsmouth’s history to serve as both city manager and mayor, strongly advised against switching back.  But what does he know, a successful lawyer and seasoned leader? Granted that the terrible trio of Greg Bauer, Jim Kalb, and David Malone are the best argument against the mayoral system that anyone might possibly make, but removing the mayor, except as a ceremonial figure, from the city government, will be worse because at least the office of the mayor serves a check and a balance to the city council and leaves open the possibility that somebody who is not a pawn may occupy the office. But without the  checks and balances the mayoral form of government potentially allows, we will have Kevin W. Johnson as the crooked conductor on the train the apt name for which is the Twentieth Century Limited, which will take  Portsmouth back to the previous, or possibly even to the nineteenth century. “All Aboard!”  Will Portsmouth never live down the curse of Barry Feldman? All aboard! Will it ever it stop being a weak city? All aboard! Will it ever have a mayor again, a strong mayor, who will not be railroaded out of office by the usual suspects for whom most of the failures occupying public office are nothing but puppets. All aboard! The painful irony is that this form of business-like governance will be run by chronic losers whose own business ventures, like the Emporium (that historic landmark!) have ended in failure, if not bankruptcy.

Portsmouth's railroad terminal building was razed to make way for the county jail.
(Click here)

Friday, November 01, 2013

Financial Black Mold

      “We have all been wondering what the heck to do with this building.” KWJ

At a meeting of the City Building Committee (20 Nov 2006),  Portsmouth Police Chief Charles Horner told committee chairman Mike Mearan that when Dr. Singer  signed  the Adelphia building over to city it was infested with black mold. In speaking to Mearan, Horner might as well have been speaking  to a stone(d) wall.  In chairing the  City Building Committee,  Mearan was in a flagrant conflict of interest because he was Dr. Singer’s shyster lawyer. (To read “Mearan's Conflict of Interest,” click here.) As an absentee landlord living in Los Angeles,  Dr. Singer  had long neglected keeping up the Adelphia building, or so  a longtime Adelphia employee told me. The city never should have accepted Singer’s “gift,”  which came not only with strings but  with toxic mold spores attached, or so Horner claimed. Horner also claimed mold in the Municipal Building had made him ill. Naturally, he didn’t want the police department relocated to another moldy old building, especially if it was black mold. “Depending on the length of exposure and volume of spores inhaled or ingested,” the entry on black mold in Wikipedia states, “symptoms [of toxic black mold] can manifest as chronic fatigue or headaches, fever, irritation to the eyes, mucous membranes of the mouth, nose and throat, sneezing, rashes, and chronic coughing. In severe cases of exposure or cases exacerbated by allergic reaction, symptoms can be extreme including nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and bleeding in the lungs, and nose.”

At that same City Building Committee meeting (20 Nov 2006), another committee member said that if the Adelphia Street building had black mold, “that building’s no good anymore,” adding that it “had to go.” The committee member who said it had to go was current duplicitous First Ward council member Kevin W. Johnson.  Contrast Johnson’s negative statement above about the Adelphia building back in 2006 with the positive one he made at a recent city council meeting (9 Nov 13) where the council voted to authorize legislation to fund the rehabilitation of that controversial building. “We have all been wondering what the heck to do with that building,” Johnson is quoted by Frank Lewis in the online  Portsmouth Daily Times (10 Oct 13). Speaking at that council meeting to the City Waterworks Director Sam Sutherland, Johnson said, “This solves the need you have had for a long time since you lost your property (pipeyard) to King’s Daughters.” Sutherland is one of three incompetent city employees Jane Murray fired not long after she took office. (To read more about those firings, click here.)    King’s Daughters is the Ashland based hospital that had  been portrayed as an outsider corporation that took local  jobs and property away in the process of opening a Portsmouth branch clinic. That is what Johnson implies when he says Sutherland “lost” his property to King’s Daughters.

There is $700,000 in the Capital Improvements budget (CIP) that Sutherland wants used to rehabilitate the Adelphia building. It was Mayor Jane Murray who opposed the city illegally using CIP money to provide salary increases for city employees,  but I think she would have opposed putting one nickel of CIP funds to rehabilitate the Adelphia building. The final cost for its  ill-conceived rehabilitation will be closer to a million dollars before it is done,  and that may not be all the city will pay if Waterworks employees eventually claim they developed health problems as a result of working in the rehabilitated building.

Kevin W. Johnson said he had wondered what the heck to do about Adelphia building. I’m wondering what the heck we’re going to do about Kevin W. Johnson.  Since he arrived in Portsmouth. Johnson has never  failed to suck-up to the politicians, developers, lawyers, and bankers  who control the city economically and politically. He is yet another Portsmouth failure  who  turned  to politics when his own mismanaged business failed. Johnson, of all people, is chair of the city council’s Economic Development Committee.  His idea for the city’s economic development is to go upscale  and spend money the city  doesn’t have. Why he even wants to upscale the city seal! Look at how he mishandled the city manager search. The public was not told the candidate the search committee had selected had trouble with the law until after the candidate was offered the job at a salary of $105,000 plus generous benefits and a nice severance package should he not work out, which (count on it) he will not work out. If Johnson is allowed to mishandle  the finances of the city the way he mishandled the finances of his upscale antique shop, the state is going to have to take over Portsmouth’s finances.

Whether or not there is black mold in the Adelphia building,  there is financial black mold in Portsmouth city government, and Johnson is the one who is spreading it, like the plague. If the other members of council continue to go along with the  crazy proposal to spend  nearly a million dollars rehabilitating a worthless building that its owner unloaded on the city, Portsmouth citizens should unite as they did against rehabilitating  the Marting building, a leaking, moldy, asbestos death trap that should have been torn down a decade ago.

Upscale City Seal

Thursday, October 10, 2013

The First Commandment

Because councilmen Kevin W. Johnson and Rich Saddler are reportedly trying to get the city to convert the Marting building into a city hall, I am  reposting "The First Commandment" from 2006 to remind readers that when it comes to unloading property off on taxpayers, some things never change.


The First Commandment of Portsmouth’s over-privileged is “Local government shall not construct a new public building when a doctor, lawyer or businessman has a worthless old building that can be turned into a public building at great public expense.

Here are five recent examples of the First Commandment at work:

Thatcher House 

Thatcher house

(1) First Ward councilman John Thatcher and his wife, a former trustee of Shawnee State U., owned an unoccupied old house on Franklin Blvd that they had trouble selling in Portsmouth’s sluggish real estate market. The solution? They sold it, for much more than market value, to SSU as a “temporary” house for the SSU president. When the temporary president’s house was later sold, to a doctor, SSU and the tax-payers of Ohio took a $50,000 loss, not counting the furnishings and redecoration and the loss of taxes for the years the house was off the tax rolls.

Camelot Drive


(2) A doctor had an unoccupied aging Camelot Drive house, with serious structural problems, which he was having trouble selling in Portsmouth’s chronically sluggish real estate market. The solution? He sold it to Shawnee State U. at an inflated price as the permanent home for the president of SSU, even though the house is far from campus, has inadequate parking space, requires large expenditures for repairs and refurbishing, and is unstably situated on the side of a hill down which it is inclined slowly to slip. The sale was “negotiated” by the chair of the SSU board of trustees, George Clayton.

Adelphia Building


(3) Herbert Singer, an absentee landlord, living in Los Angeles, had an unoccupied building on Washington St., the former Adelphia building, on which he owed back taxes. The prospects of any business wanting to rent or buy that property were very remote. The solution? He got the city to accept the worthless Washington St. building as the next headquarters for the Portsmouth Police Dept. That way the absentee landlord in L.A. would not be responsible for real estate taxes, past and future, and he could claim a tax write off. Neil Hatcher, the absentee landlord’s agent, would get his cut. Chief Horner, always willing to play ball in a crooked game, readily agreed to this arrangement.

Welcome Center


(4) George Clayton’s Kenrick’s catalogue store on Second St. went belly up when the Grant Bridge went down, and he was stuck with an old, empty building that he had no hope of renting or selling but still had to pay taxes on. The solution? With his political connections, he unloaded it on the county, which obtained it with pork provided by Rep. Rob Porkman and the Dept. of Agriculture. The building, on which millions have now been spent, is named The Welcome Center, but tourists complain it is seldom open and when it is it is unwelcoming. What it really is is the headquarters for the Southern Ohio Growth Partnership and the illegitimate and ugly architectural offspring of the marriage of pork and political corruption.

Marting Building


(5) The Marting Foundation, a speciously philanthropic front for Portsmouth’s boss, Clayton Johnson, a cousin of George Clayton, had a large white elephant on its hand: the empty Marting building, a former department store, at the corner of Sixth and Chillicothe St. The problem is a familiar one in Portsmouth: the property is unsellable and unrentable but the taxes on it still have to be paid. “It ain’t worth anything,” as councilman Mohr told a reporter for the Columbus Dispatch. The solution? Get the city to buy it for nearly $2 million and convert the now 124-year-old department store into a municipal building. The city bought it, at the inflated price, but the sale was ruled invalid by the courts. Then the Marting Foundation arranged a fall-back deal whereby the city would keep possession of the building, provided the city met certain conditions laid down by the Foundation. Imagine a con artist dictating the terms under which he will return the money he has fraudulently obtained. Like the Old Maid in the card game, the Marting building is last thing the Foundation wanted to end up in its hands. If it gets approval in a special referendum that will take place on May 2, our corrupt city government plans to go ahead and convert the former department store to a municipal building.

What these five examples demonstrate is how Portsmouth’s over-privileged classes faithfully adhere to the First Commandment: “Local government shall not construct a new public building when a doctor, lawyer or businessman has a worthless old building that can be turned into a public building at great public expense.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Snuffy's Sugjestonions for New Sitty Seal

                 Official Portsmouth City Seal
     which our officious First Ward councilman
            Kevin W. Johnson wants to change


        Kevin, how do you feel
        About this new sitty seal?
        Do you think it duz the trick,
        Or am I just a redneck hick
        Who really duzn’t know
        His ass from Ohio?

  What Porchmuth needs is more class,
  More wine tastin’ and less grass,
  More Scarlit Tan’gers,
  Less fly-by-night shitty man’gers.
  In short, less sons-off-guns
  And many more Kev’n Johnsons.

“The devil is running Scioto County.”
              Ohio Governor John Kasich

         While we’re at it, Kevin,
        Talkin’ ‘bout Porchmuth as heaven,
        Lets keep things on the levil
        And not furget the devil
        Witch Kasick & Co. feel
        Should be on our sitty seal.

A sitty seal should have a hero,
But on that score we’s come up zero.
Greeks had Hurlculies, Romuns Ceesar,
Persha had Irksies, Russya the Zar.
‘stead of Promeeth’us, the fire bring’r,
We got the guy who gives us the fing’r.

A pritty flour don’t need no gildin’
But a sitty seal should have a bildin’.
I mean what’s a seal wif out an edifuss?
Its like a hernia wif out a truss.
I’m nom’natin’ Martings, I am,
Our sitty’s greatist hystorical scam.

Heers D’rek, folks, Mr. Kleen Gov’ment.
Who was surely heaven-sent.
But his resyoumay left out somethin’:
His crime and suspendered sentencin’
‘bout witch the search commitease
Sed knot a word—what a sitty!

The best and brite-test should be on the seal,
Like Kalb who closed the Ameresco deal.
With Kalb and Malone to help with math,
The sitty wont have to take a bath,
And D’rek Allen, if he’s not to dense,
Wont get ‘nother suspendered sent’nce.

‘bove all The Mall must be on the seal
‘cuz we believe The Mall wuz the reel deal.
Youse knows yur from Porchmuth if youse b’lieve
In The Mall, for who’s death we greeve
Even tho’ it finely came a cropp’r
In the mind of owr fingerin’ d’velop’r.

Speekin’ of suspendered sent’nces
And crooks who didnt do penences
And who us’n wants on the sitty seal,
I’m gonna nom’nate Tom Bihl
‘cuz wen alls sed and done
Toms a real crooked sun-of-a-gun.

Jes’ like we furget the drawers and hewers,
So we furget the sitty’s overflowin’ sewers
And the local awffall that flows threw ‘em.
Oh, how we wish we never knew ‘em!
Shure, we want sewers on our seal
‘long with the afourmenshunned Tom Bihl.

Iff’n you turn back the old clock
Shure, Plimuths got its hysterical rock
But thay says every dogs got its bone
And we’ve got a rock of our own.
Shure Jim Kob stole it from Kentucky,
Frum where’s it wuz a layin’ in the mucky.

Dont think we got sumpin’ to hide.
Shure we got our Bonnie ‘n Clyde,
As soon as plug some won as steal.
We’s proud to have ‘em on are seal.
There mobs the infumus S.O.G.P.
Bin robbin’ us since 1963.

Friday, September 06, 2013

Snuffy Smith Chooses Chaw Over City Manager

Deer Reeders,

Thay’se toll me thays dont allow chaw so's I seys no thank ya pleeze pollightly I dont want the shitty man'ger job that bad cuz I got more 'portant things too doo than takin' ordures from those ded beets an loosers an dui's an adullterators an faled antic deelers on that shitty clowncil so let won of those disparate final lists make a fool of thererself by taking ordures frum the likes of that con kob  feller whose bin milkin' the cash cow that's all ways grazn' outside the shitty bilding sins he qwit steelin' dimes frum the til at Croakers. Them fire peeples the wons runnin' that place. Jus take a sqwint at this  Porksmuth Times clippin' I foun' in the owthous that warn't never used sins 1987 wen them fire peeple went roun’ Porksmuth in thare admirable younifoms (everone of thems an admirable from the cheef on down) scarin’ the bejeesus out a old fokes haf to death buy fires so's they cood get a fore present tax increase "the proceeds of which are to be used exclusively  (I'm qwoting the Times heer now witch is why it maybe hard to unnerstan’) are to be used exclusively for the salaries of police and firefighters." Say dint thay pass anuther so-called saftee tax increese again just a cupull of yeers ago to finenance the same fire and please?  An that’s not awl they got passed bak in ‘87 cuz they changed the shitty charter to (let me qwote agin) mandate (that’s the word in the Times) a staff of 44 for each of the departments." Aint that a kicker? Pritty soon they’ll bee man dating same sex benefits jus you weight and sea. I’m gonna send the clippin’ to the three final lists for them to reed how long this changin’ bak and fourth from mare to shitty man’ger’s been goin’ so they no how much insecuritease cums with the terrortory. I’m also gonna send  a cupple of lynx to River Vices by this furry fellow witch they ken reed more ‘bout this shitty man’ger busyness.

Yourse trewly,


Clik on Reedin' List fur Candydates

from the front page of the Portsmouth Daily Times, Nov. 3, 1987

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

From Pill Mills to Counseling Centers

For a new post, "Doctors and Drug Dealers Battle for Addicts," click here.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Seventh Heaven, Seventy Virgins

For the latest post, switch to River Vices 2  (click here).

Friday, July 05, 2013

Shit Happens

For the shitty way the city council is treating
our unelected Mayor,  click here

Thursday, June 13, 2013

All Aboard the Twentieth Century Limited!

To read a new post on Kevin W. Johnson and city government, click here.

Sunday, June 02, 2013

Kevin W. Johnson: Selling Out

"Kevin W. Johnson: Selling Out": click here to switch to River Vices 2.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Duncan's Brain

I am in the process of changing the layout of River Vices. Until those changes are finished, I have created River Vices 2 for new postings. To see "Duncan's Brain,"  the first posting on River Vices 2, click here.

Monday, May 20, 2013

City Council Appointees: Portsmouth’s Perennial Problem

Mark Twain showed river towns have more than their share of vices. RIVER VICES shows Portsmouth, located at the confluence of the Ohio and Scioto Rivers, is no exception.

Mike Mearan: the Most Notorious Appointee

The Portsmouth  Daily Times reported (18 May 2013) that a second candidate, Lance L. Richardson,  is going to throw his hat in the ring for the Third Ward council seat being vacated by Nick Basham. Does that mean he wants to be appointed by the council or that he wants to be a write-in candidate in the regular election? As far as I know, Richardson has previously shown no interest in becoming a member of city government the old-fashioned way, by running for office. That is often the case with appointees. They run for office the way Rosie Ruiz ran the 1980 Boston Marathon, by skipping the grueling race but showing up at the finish line. The “ring” Richardson threw his hat into consists not of Portsmouth voters but the remaining five Portsmouth city council members whom the city charter authorizes to appoint replacements to the city council. Back on 26 June 2006, Richard Noel, president of the Concerned Citizens Group, wrote a letter to the Portsmouth City Council requesting that a measure be placed on the ballot calling for the term for city council members be reduced from four to two years. Up until 1985, Portsmouth City Council members served two-year terms, but then that provision was changed in that year by charter amendment. The council rejected Noel's proposal and declined to allow the voters decide whether to go back to two-year terms. 

       City Council = House of Representatives

The Founding Fathers intended that the U.S. House of Representatives be “the people’s house,” the body of the federal government that would be directly elected by, and therefore most accountable to, the people. It was to be the most representative and the most held-accountable body of the federal government. In the Federalist Papers, Hamilton and Madison wrote, “As it is essential to liberty that the government in general should have a common interest with the people, so it is particularly essential that the branch of it under consideration [the House of Representatives] should have an immediate dependence on, and an intimate sympathy with, the people.” The best way they could think of to insure that the House of Representatives would remain “the people’s house,” was frequent elections. “Frequent elections are unquestionably the only policy by which this dependence and sympathy can be effectually secured” [emphasis added], they wrote in number 52 of the Federalist Papers. In regard to frequent elections, they quoted, in number 53, the proverb “that where annual elections end, tyranny begins.” But that proverb was an old one, and conditions had changed since ancient Greece. Elections every year were impractical when many voters were spread over large areas. Somewhat reluctantly, because they preferred annual elections, the Founding Fathers decided that the maximum term for a representative should be biennial, that is, two years.

                               Local Government in Ohio

When Ohio designed its state government, it closely followed the federal model, with a General Assembly that consisted of a House of Representatives and a Senate. Following the federal model, terms for the Ohio House, the “people’s house,” were two years. Most local governments in Ohio usually followed the state model. In local governments, the legislative body, the counterpart to a House of Representatives, is the city council. Following the example of the House of Representatives, two-year terms were the general rule for city councils. But a number of cities and towns have shifted to a mixture of two-year terms for ward representatives and four-year terms for at-large council members; other communities have shifted to a four-year term for all council members. The Columbus City Council has four-year terms, but the city councils of Cleveland and Cincinnati retain two-year terms. While there are exceptions, generally smaller communities are more likely to have four-year terms for city council, the larger ones two-year terms. Why the difference?

Possibly because larger urban areas with a history of municipal corruption and machine politics see two-year terms as a way of removing those council members who turn out to be bad apples before they spoil all the apples in the barrel. Cities and towns that have been plagued by corruption and that distrust politicians as a class want city councils to be on the short leash that two-year terms represent. A political machine or, in the case of Portsmouth, a 
clique, would more likely arise and persist in a city where members of city council had four rather than two years in which to scheme, collude, and corrupt. Communities that don’t have a history of crooked politics don’t want to go through the trouble and expense of having elections every two years. But large cities like Cleveland and Cincinnati may have learned that biennial elections are worth the trouble because they make the city council more accountable. They learned from experience, as we have bitterly in Portsmouth, that at least some politicians are not to be trusted. The same thing that makes four-year terms seem sensible in some communities makes them seem unwise in others. The Concerned Citizens believed four-year city council terms is asking for trouble, which is what Portsmouth got when it changed to four-year terms in  1985.

                                     Checks and Balances

The late Howard Baughman entering Marting Building
during an open-house for the public

The three branches of government that the Founding Fathers established—the legislative, the executive, and the judicial—were intended  to serve as checks and balances on each other. The counterparts of those three branches of government are discernible in local government in the mayor or city manager (executive), the city council (legislative), and the city solicitor and city courts (judiciary). Unfortunately, too often at the local level, the three branches of government, rather than checking and balancing each other, are in cahoots, forming a tyranny that, with the connivance of the local media, represses and exploits the public they are supposed to be serving. If you want to see a cornpone version of the kind of tyranny our Founding Fathers were concerned about, Portsmouth provides a textbook example.  The Portsmouth city council, the mayor, the city solicitor, the auditor, with the collusion of long-time city clerk Jo Ann Aeh,  would regularly meet illegally in her office just before council meetings like a gang of safe-crackers planning a job. 
It was at one of these illegal backroom meetings that Marty Mohr orchestrated the appointment of Jerrold Albrecht to the city council as Austin Leedom reported online  in The Sentinel, dated 6 May 2007 (click here).  (For other Mohr antics, clear here.) While attending one of these closed-door illegal meetings, then councilman Marty Mohr was photographed through the city clerk's open door Joe Ferguson. The mugging Mohr responded defiantly by clenching his teeth for the camera. 

Marty Mohr mugging for camera

Just as Mayor Bauer predicted chaos would reign if he was recalled from office, and just as council president Carol Caudill said, “God help the city of Portsmouth” after she was recalled, the president of the city council in 2006, Howard Baughman, who was facing a recall, warned of the consequences if the  city council returned to two-year terms. Baughman remarked at the 25 June 2006  city council meeting, “Theres a learning curve when you become a city councilman.”  He did not think council members could possibly come to understand budgets in only two years. The real reason Baughman and others opposed two-year terms was not learning curves. Two-year terms were unacceptable because they might have  helped loosen the grip of the clique of lawyers and developers who controlled  the city through their puppets on the city council.  

The only other defense beside “learning curves” Baughman offered against two-year terms was that, “It would just be constant turmoil and turnover every two years.” Though all council members would run for election at the same time, it is unlikely that they would all be defeated. And if they were, that might be the best thing for the city. If biennial elections bring constant turmoil, how have the U.S. House of Representatives, the Ohio House of Representatives, and the city councils of many cities in Ohio managed to survive for as long as they have with two-year terms? Where is the turmoil in the following two-year term Ohio cities: Alliance, Amherst, Athens, Blue Ash, Chillicothe, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Cuyahoga Falls, Lorrain, North Royalton, Norwood, Parma, Silverton, Warren, Wilmington, Wyoming, etc? There has been a lot of turmoil in the Portsmouth City Council since 1985  and much of it has been the result, directly and indirectly, of four-year terms and the recalls that would not likely have taken place if council members had faced the electorate every two years.     

Honest capable people in public office have no reason to object to two-year terms, because they can be assured of reelection if they do a good job. It’s the dishonest council members, and especially those who began their careers by being appointed rather than elected, who want the four-year terms to continue. Four-year terms for city council members helped perpetuate the political clique that controlled Portsmouth on behalf of the now discredited Southern Ohio Growth Partnership (SOGP).  I don’t know whether  Lance  Richardson  would turn out to be a good or bad councilman, but why did  he throw his hat in the ring only now, as a potential appointee, rather than run in a regular election, as I would think anyone not trying to cut corners  and short-change democracy would prefer to do? Let us hope Richardson, a self-proclaimed tax expert, is not another of those shipwrecked characters who save themselves from drowning in a sea of insignificance by clambering aboard the raft of city government that is already crowded with other failures, dreaming no doubt that the game of musical chairs might result someday in their becoming mayor, as Malone did when he won the booby prize as a result of Mayor Murrays recall.

When you consider the council members who began their careers as appointees, the list is not encouraging.  Baughman was originally an appointee, when his friend and his next-door neighbor John Thatcher, conveniently resigned as Fifth Ward councilman. And then Baughman himself resigned before he could be recalled, making the appointment of John Haas possible in the endless appointee game of musical chairs that is orchestrated by Portsmouth’s powerful, unelected clique. Jerrold Albrecht first got on the council by appointment, and so did the notorious shyster Mike Mearan. James R. Saddler is the most recent appointment. Saddler had not shown any interest in city government previously, except when he had to appear in court for numerous speeding violations, including a DUI for which his license was suspended. For all those who prefer to begin their political careers by applying to the council for a vacated position rather than run in an election, we should have buttons that say not “I Voted,” but rather “I Applied.” But in any campaign to reduce the terms on city council to two years, Mearan should be the poster boy and he should be proudly wearing an “I Applied” button. 

Current First Ward councilman Kevin W. Johnson tried to begin his political career in Portsmouth when he applied to council to replace Tim Loper after Loper was forced to resign his seat when it was proved he was not living in the First Ward, the ward he represented, in violation of the city charter. To replace Loper, the city council appointed Mearan, arguably the most scandalous appointee in the history of the city,  rather than Kevin W. Johnson. 

I find the political jockeying to become council president that takes place among those council members, some of  whom were originally appointees, unseemly. When Jane Murray was recalled, David Malone, as president of the council, replaced her in spite of the fact he had finished fourth behind her in the previous mayoral election. Malone had been elected to the presidency and next in line to be mayor, by appointees such as the lawyer John Haas, his fellow bankrupt, who is yet another council member who was appointed  after  failing to succeed in his chosen field. It is almost as if there is an unwritten requirement that candidates must be failures, if not bankrupts,  before they will be considered as appointees. Who with any self respect would want to owe their presence on the council to an appointment by such a council? To revise the famous quote by Groucho Marx, I don't want to belong to any city council  that would accept me as a member.

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Prostitution Culture

[In response to Non-Profits Ruining Neighborhoods, an important posting on Jane Murrays blog (click here), I am reposting (below) a 2005 River Vices article Prostitution Culture.]


Naked Truths

    Perhaps reacting to criticism that it does not do investigative reporting, that it leaves that to the Shawnee Sentinel while it masters the art of cover-up journalism, the Portsmouth Daily Times ran a four-part series on prostitution in Portsmouth by staff writer Phyllis Noah. The title of the series was “Naked Truths: the Story Behind Portsmouth’s Prostitution Culture.” Wow!

    Let the hooker who is without sin write the first 4-part series on Portsmouth’s prostitution culture. For a reporter on the Daily Times to write an expose of Portsmouth’s prostitution culture is like Winona Ryder writing on the sins of shoplifting or Monica Lewinsky on the evils of oral sex.

   There is a limited definition of prostitution, which is selling one’s body for money, and a general meaning, which is selling one’s soul for an unworthy cause or corrupt group. The phrase “prostitution culture” suggests something more than hookers on John St. It suggests the more general definition of prostitution. Given its notoriety and conspicuousness, prostitution is the best metaphor for the political culture of Portsmouth, and I have used that metaphor a number of times in this blog.

   Perhaps to bolster flagging circulation, the Daily Times marketed the 4-part series by calling it in a touch of tabloid titillation “The Naked Truth.” It sounds like the front page not of the Portsmouth Daily Times but of the New York Daily News. Naked? You would no more want to see the prostitutes of Portsmouth naked than you would want to see former councilwoman Carol Caudill, the Sassy Lassie of the Internet, as the centerfold in Playboy Magazine. Truth? The Daily Times will do everything it can to increase its sclerotic circulation except tell the truth about Portsmouth’s “prostitution culture.” The prostitute culture of Portsmouth consists of far more than the hookers of John St. TheDaily Times fears the truth the way Dracula does the cross because telling the truth about Portsmouth’s prostitute culture would mean ending its role as the prostitute to the over-privileged Johns who control the city. The over-privileged of Portsmouth turn as many tricks as the prostitutes on John St., but they do it in the name of philanthropy and public service.

The Master Plan: The Worse the Better

    The way the master plan for Portsmouth works, the worse things get in the city and the more blighted it becomes, the better it is for the over-privileged who profit from the pork that the city becomes eligible for. As shown on 3rd St., where Hatcher’s abated student dormitories were built, the temptation to declare healthy streets and neighborhoods blighted is too hard to resist when millions of dollars of pork and profits can be accumulated. One of the economic side benefits of prostitution in Portsmouth is that it provides public sector employment for those whose jobs are to deal with the many streetwalkers. It is another illustration of the rule that where Portsmouth is concerned, the worse things get the more public funds will be pumped into the city. The economy of Portsmouth relies heavily on the public funds that can be appropriated to incarcerate criminals, house addicted prostitutes and their children, house the aged and college students, and welcome tourists and, possibly, gamblers.

    There is precious little about prostitutes in the series “The Naked Truth” and a lot about drugs and drug counselors and drug authorities. The message of the series is that Portsmouth’s prostitution problem is really a drug problem. Of the dozen people Noah interviewed, few of them were prostitutes, and those few were discussed in relation to drugs. Honesty in advertising requires that if you are going to run a 4-part series on drugs that you call it a four-part series on drugs, and not try to pruriently imply it has anything to do with nakedness.

Going in Circles

    If you explain the prevalence of prostitution in Portsmouth by drugs, how do you explain the prevalence of drugs in Portsmouth? Noah’s explanation is that prostitution is a serious problem because of drugs. What Noah offers is not an explanation but an excuse of why there is so much prostitution in Portsmouth. But as Municipal Judge Schisler told Noah, the drug problem is no worse in Portsmouth than elsewhere. If that’s the case, then why is there so much more prostitution in Portsmouth? Drugs do not explain why Portsmouth is, per capita, the prostitution capital of Ohio. To explain Portsmouth prostitution by drugs and Portsmouth drugs by prostitution is to go in circles.

   Prostitution is called the world’s oldest profession because it has been around for thousands of years, thousands of years before there was a drug culture. The economic, social and psychological reasons for prostitution – the sexist attitude toward women, the chronic lack of employment in this area, the failures of the public education system, the breakdown of the family, the salaciousness of popular culture – theDaily Times does not consider these among the causes of prostitution. Everything is attributed to drugs, a neat and simple explanation that implies drug dealers are the cause of prostitution.

   Are there no other culprits than shadowy drug dealers? What about real estate developers? Prostitutes play an important role in Portsmouth “redevelopment.” They accelerate the deterioration of declining neighborhoods. Along with eminent domain, they spell doom for neighborhoods in which they are allowed to exercise their constitutional rights. They are already beginning to drift away from the bulldozed John St., which no longer offers much cover for johns or prostitutes. A lonely tree is all that is left for them for soliciting. How many hookers can one tree provide shade for? Hookers are drifting further and further into surrounding neighborhoods, neighborhoods where their constitutional rights are not likely to be as protected as they were on John St. About all that’s left standing on John St. is that tree under which smoking prostitutes wait for Johns. Tobacco dwarfs all other drug problems in the U.S., but because it is legal and highly profitable the news media focus on other drugs.

    I first began talking to people in the John St. area several years ago. They were reluctant to talk to a stranger, because they feared that they would be targeted for retaliation by the police and the powers-that-be. Many residents had moved out of the area by that time because prostitutes and drug-dealers had moved in, making life impossible for ordinary families. Count on it, there will be near zero tolerance for prostitution and zero support for constitutional rights in the John St. area once ground is broken there for Neal Hatcher’s shopping mall.

    One resident of John St. told me several years ago that it appeared to him the police and city officials were turning a blind eye to the prostitution and drug-dealing in that neighborhood because it served developer Neal Hatcher’s purposes. Drugs and prostitutes were being ignored, this resident suspected, because their activities supported Hatcher by driving down property values and driving out residents. If this resident had expressed his views to a Daily Times reporter, I doubt they would have gotten into its pages. When it comes to these kinds of “naked truths” about the over-privileged of Portsmouth, or about the shenanigans of the SOGP, or SSU, or the SOMC, or its other clients, the Daily Times prefers a cover-up, or at best one side of the story.

Exploiting Prostitutes by Protecting Them

  The respect that law enforcement officials have for the constitutional rights of the prostitutes of Portsmouth, as reported in the 4-part series, is nothing short of astonishing. Who would have thought that the Portsmouth police department and the local courts were such hotbeds of civil libertarians? If only the police and city officials were as determined to protect the constitutional rights of those who attempt to exercise the right of free speech at city council meetings where citizens are ejected by the dictatorial president of the city council if they so much as mention the name of a particular councilman or a particular developer or a particular lawyer. If only they were as determined to protect the rights of those who attempt to exercise their right to recall elected officials, and of those who offer themselves as candidates in recall elections, as they do to felons who are advised of their right to run for and hold public office by the city clerk and the city solicitor, even when those rights are reportedly misrepresented and misinterpreted.

    If there were a Pulitzer prize for cover-up journalism, for not unearthing local corruption and incompetence, for not exposing Portsmouth's prostitution culture, the Daily Times should have won one by now for reporting like that in “Naked Truth.”