Thursday, January 31, 2013

Marting Brick

“. . . the Albrecht-Gampp combination appear to be clowns by comparison.

                                                            Marting Brick is falling down,
                                                            Falling down, falling down,
                                                           Marting Brick is falling down,
                                                           My fair lady.

On January 26, 2013, a report appeared in the Portsmouth  Daily (except Monday) Times on bricks falling from the Marting building onto the property of the American Savings Bank (ASB). The anthropologist and linguist Levi Strauss   hypothesized that one of the reasons humans developed language was to deceive.  Deception is important  in human activities, especially politics and business.  The  Portsmouth Daily Times (PDT) is a business and practices deception, especially since it is a failing business whose days are numbered.
“Portsmouth boy” reporter  Frank Lewis has spun quite a deceptive tale about Marting bricks. It is deceptive, at least in regard to intentions, as much in  what he  left out as  what he put in. The following sentence appears near the end of Lewis’s tale:  “The city purchased the building in May of 2002, and has done nothing with the building, allowing it to fall into deep disrepair.” This clearly makes it sound as if the city is the culprit where the Marting building is concerned.   The city is not guiltless but is far less guilty than the Marting Foundation and the mastermind behind the Foundation, Clayton Johnson.
What Lewis left out of his tale was that the “purchase”  of the Marting building was a swindle made possible by the conniving of two willing tools—then-mayor Greg Bauer and then-city council president Jim Kalb. But the perpetrator and the orchestrator  of the Marting swindle was Clayton Johnson,  the brains of the Marting Foundation. Having wrung every dollar it could from the crumbling bricks of the Marting building, the Marting Foundation  then foisted the building  off on the taxpayers of Portsmouth who paid about five times more for the bricks than they were worth. In fact, the bricks were not worth anything. They were worst than worthless: they were a tax liability  and a potentially large expense since the leaking asbestos building would need to be torn down at the Foundation’s expense.  
Is Clayton Johnson  mentioned even once by Lewis? No. Not one PDT reporter or editor has ever  criticized Johnson, and if anyone  had he or she would have been out of a job pronto. But the Johnson era is definitely now over. He’s retired and spending most of his time in the scalawag heaven of Hilton Head. And now that  Hatcher has turned into a public benefactor, with a public athletic complex named after him, could his rapacious career as a developer be drawing to a close?
What  Lewis reveals in his Falling Bricks tale is that  we are now living in  the beginning of the Gampp-Albrecht  era. Gampp is portrayed in Lewis’s tale as the good guy, concerned not only about the well-being of  bank property  but also of  the good citizens of Portsmouth who might  he clobbered by a falling brick. “Yes I know it’s a once in a million chance that someone could be walking down the alley and a brick could fall and hit them in the head,” Gampp told Lewis, “but it is there.”  He explained further, “So we want to make sure that we don’t have damage caused to our structure, and we want to be appropriately compensated if something does happen. But, beyond that, our concern was then, and still is, we don’t want to risk the safety or health of anyone, and our concern is, that as bricks start falling out of that building, we don’t want to see anyone get hurt.” Is it possible that Gampp, a banker, is more concerned about  people than profits? Or is Lewis’s tale confirmation of Levi Strauss’s suspicion that language evolved to deceive?
Lewis’s tale is not really about  bricks. You have been deceived if you think it is. His tale is not about the Marting building, either, not really. It is about the Municipal Building, or more specifically the land on which the Municipal Building rests. The last paragraph of Lewiss tale drags in the the Municipal Building by the eaves. “Meanwhile, the city remains in a building on property considered by some as the most valuable piece of property in downtown Portsmouth with no solid plans for where they will house government offices in the future. All the while, bricks continue to fall from the Marting’s Fifth Street building, a brick at a time, with still no remedy in sight.”
  The developer Jeff Albrecht has been lusting for  the land under the Municipal Building for at least fifteen years. What  Albrecht wants to do is tear down the Municipal Building, and Gampp is abetting him by hyping the danger of falling Marting bricks,  suggesting by analogy that the Municipal Building is falling down and should be bulldozed as soon as possible, if not sooner. Intelligent people will not be fooled by the stupid deception. If Marting brick is falling down,  so is the IQ of the crooks in  control of the city.  I could never have imagined I would one day look back nostalgically on the Johnson-Hatcher era, but  the Albrecht-Gampp combination appear to be clowns by comparison.