Monday, July 28, 2014

Derek Allen's Cock-and-Bull Open Letter

Cock and Bull, Matt Sesow

We have  come full circle. As a result of the familiar fraud of musical chairs made possible by four-year terms, one of the most incompetent and dishonest mayors in Portsmouth history,  Jim Kalb, is mayor again, at least in name. Because of the current crisis in Portsmouth’s city government, concerned citizens should read City Manager Derek Allen’s “Open Letter to the City Council,”  which is bundled with  his July 14, 2014 city manager’s report, located on the city’s website. (See link in Appendix A, below or click here  for the report and then scroll down seventeen pages.) Allen’s Open Letter confirms  the suspicion that instead of being part of the solution, Allen, as city manager, is part of the problem. He is very ambitious, but as city manager he has, statutorily, virtually no power.  As city manager, Allen has  lots of responsibilities but very little authority. His primary responsibility, as city manager,  is to carry out the policies and directives of the city council. If Allen is worn to a frazzle after only six months, it may in part be because in addition to his many responsibilities he is also a commuting city manager who still makes his home in Piqua, Ohio, some two and half hour drive  from Portsmouth. He doesn't commute every day of course, but even weekend commuting would be tiring.

The city manager form of  government is a misleading misnomer; it should be called the city council form of government. But Allen appears to think that as city manager he has quite a bit of power.   As he writes in his Open Letter, "I stated that there was a methodical plan to be installed and that I knew the steps to ensure success. I intended to implement changes to turn Portsmouth around and cease people laughing at this community." One of the steps that would "cease people laughing" at Portsmouth was having a city manager form of government and hiring a leader like himself to be city manager. "The city," he wrote, "had no other choice but to turn the operations over to a professional [himself] in order to reverse the present course or face failure and financial collapse." Instead of being the servant of the city council, he often sounds in his letter like its master. "On February 4, 2014," we read in his letter,  "each council member received a list of my 2014 goals and objectives . . ." They received his goals and objectives?

Allen is sure he knows how to stop people laughing at Portsmouth because he recently was a village administrator in Delta, a small  community of about three thousand people in the northeast corner of Ohio, a community, he claims, people used to laugh at until he turned it around.  What is odd about his claim is that Delta had and still has a mayoral, not a city manager form of government, and what is odder still is that  he was not the mayor of Delta but  only the village administrator, who worked for the mayor.  If there was a dramatic turnaround in Delta, shouldn't  Dan. D. Miller,  who was and still is mayor,  get at least some of the credit? But credit for what? I have made a cursory examination of  the per capita income and population data for Delta and it does not appear that any dramatic turnaround has taken place  in the last five years or so. The most newsworthy thing that's happened in Delta in the last year  was the breakup of a big cockfighting ring that was operating in the area. As many as fifty people were arrested and as many as seventy roosters were confiscated. It was a big story in Fulton County.  Google "Delta and cockfighting" and see for yourself. I suspect that the turnaround that Allen allegedly  single-handedly brought about in Delta may be a cock-and-bull story.

I predicted when the city manager form of government was proposed several years ago that it would not, because it could not, succeed. But I did not think it would implode so fast. I think Allen's days (including as many extemporaneous vacation days he can squeeze in) are numbered, and no matter the circumstances under which he leaves, it is going to cost the city money that it cannot afford, anymore than it could afford to expend the money it did for the costly  job search that led to Allen's hiring, and for that we have our officious, underhanded First Ward councilman Kevin W. Johnson to thank. Johnson is the begetter of the cockamamie idea of returning to the city manager form of government that proved such a failure in the past.

Allen was not very open in his Open Letter about his experience as the Assistant City Manager in Pequa, Ohio, where he was fired, arrested, convicted, fined, and given a suspended 90-day suspended jail sentence for dereliction of duty in public office. Allen had problems in other jobs, but Portsmouth residents were kept in the dark about them by the city council and by the underhanded chair of the search committee, Kevin W. Johnson. My recollection is that we learned only after he was hired that Allen had a criminal record.  Johnson was like the crooked conductor who doesn't announce the true destination of the train until after it has left the station. In reverting to the city manager form of government, as I pointed out in an earlier post (see "The Crooked Conductor" below), we are historically going in the wrong direction. According to a relatively recent scholarly study of the subject, cited in that post, the misnamed city manager system is giving up the ghost. If  Johnson is the crooked conductor in my train metaphor, Allen is the fast and loose engineer who writes five-page cock-and-bull open letters when he should have both hands on the throttle.

Kevin W. Johnson says, "All aboard!"

Appendix A

Previous River Vices posts on the subject of city manager

Barry Feldman (click here)
Gerlach Against City Manager (click here)
City Manager: Repeating the Same Mistake (click here)
Vote No on City Manager (click here)
City Manager Search (click here)
Snuffy Smith on City Manager (click here)
Kevin W. Johnson: The Crooked Conductor (click here)
City Manager Valentine (click here)
Kalb: The Dopiest Councilman of All (click here)

                                                                    Appendix B            

Allen's Open Letter to Portsmouth City Council

Thursday, July 17, 2014

The Deification of Derek Jeter

The amount of hype preceding  every  All-Star Game is heavy, but  this year the hype was  horrendous. It was horrendous because it was accompanied by the  idolization of Derek Jeter, who is retiring at the end of the current season.  Not even the Great Bambino, the Sultan of Swat,  Babe Ruth, was idolized anywhere near the degree that Jeter has been.  The  idolization of Jeter spills over to deification. For some Americans,  he’s  Derek Jesus. He did not hit with the power of Ruth and dozens of other legendary sluggers. He did not play shortstop with the range and skill of a dozen others who have played that position. He did not run the bases with the speed of the fastest. He was good, very good, but what he was great at was being good for so long. For example,  he was a good base stealer for  so long that he holds the record for most steals in Yankee history. There were lots of Yankees who were faster than he was, but nobody ran longer. Except for an off-, injury-plagued year in his mid-thirties, he was always at the top of his game. It was his longevity that enabled him to compile the very impressive statistics that he has. Lou Gherig was known as the Iron Horse because of  his durability. Gehrig  played a record seventeen seasons for the Yankees, but Jeter broke that record and at  the end of the 2014 season will have played for twenty years, three years longer than Gehrig.

Jeter began playing for the Yankees in 1995, about when chemical cheating began. It was as prevalent as it was because it was profitable. Baseball was slipping into the doldrums in the latter part of the twentieth century. It needed a jolt and  steroids juiced it up. It became much more profitable for the players, especially for the juiced stars, but also for the complicit team owners. Then the pervasiveness of the chemical cheating was revealed in news reports and in tell-all books like Jose Canseco’s Juiced (2005), the subtitle of which was Wild Times, Rampant ‘Roids, Smash Hits & How Baseball Got Big. Baseball defended itself by transforming  baseball’s Mr. Clean, Derek Jeter, from the Anti A-Rod into the Shining Knight of Abstinence in baseball’s scandalous, dark night of steroids. His final transformation  was from the Shining Knight to The Captain, making him the god of  baseball. Jeter has been the well-paid poster boy for the most monopolistic team in American sports, a team located in the financial capital of America, where the dress code once called for pinstripes. George Steinbrenner was a stereotypical unscrupulous capitalist, but Jeter's deification has helped rehabilitate The Boss's reputation. The reason for Jeter’s deification was  not just his longevity but also his reputed integrity.  He has put up very impressive numbers in his long career without apparently committing the cardinal sin of modern baseball, without using  performance enhancing drugs (PED’s). He apparently achieved greatness without the chemical cheating that was so prevalent in major league baseball in the last quarter century.

Almost everyone involved in and connected to baseball has helped glorify Jeter—the fans, the complicit owners, the obliging commissioners; the adulatory New York sportswriters; and even the professional arbiters of the sport, the umpires. As reported recently in the New York Times (7 July 2014),  a statistical  study revealed that umpires, in calling of balls and strikes in regular games, favor pitchers  who have been selected for All-Star Games over those who have not by a margin of 17 percent. Based on my observation of the electronic balls and strikes tracking  available to me as a subscriber to MLB.TV, I suspect a study would show umpires in the calling of balls and strikes similarly favor All-Star hitters.  And at no time would umpires be more inclined to favor the All-Star Jeter than in his farewell year and in his final All Star Game. But umpires were  not the only ones on the field at the All-Star Game who favored him. The National League starting All-Star pitcher Adam Wainwright revealed how much even an opposing player  could get  caught up in the delirium of deifying Jeter.  After returning to the dugout, the somewhat giddy Wainwright  admitted to reporters that he had deliberately grooved a pitch to Jeter in the first inning of the All-Star Game. Wainwright  wanted   “The Captain” to live up to the very high expectations baseball fans have for him.  Wainwright subsequently tried to downplay if not retract his admission, but truth will out.  To vary the  famous Latin quotation in vino veritas (in wine there is truth), I would say in delirare veritas  (in delirium  there is truth), as the Oracle at Delphi was believed to have demonstrated.


Jeter is not only the anti-A-Rod, he is, at a subliminal level of  our national psyche, the anti-Obama. This does not mean Jeter is anti-Obama or even a  Republican.  As  close to his black father as he appears to be, Jeter is not anti-Obama. On the contrary, he admitted voting for Obama in 2012. Typical of remarks online to this revelation of Jeter’s vote for Obama were the following three comments on Free Republic, a conservative chat room: (1)“Normally a guy who plays it close to the vest and shuns controversy like the plague, Jeter blasts out his presidential choice. This Yankee fan feels confused, as a hero becomes just another dumb athlete.” (2) “A great baseball player, an economic moron. Life goes on.” (3) “Derek Jeter proves he’s on dope.” But contrary to the claim that Jeter “blasted out” his presidential choice, Jeter usually plays it close to the vest when it comes to politics and does avoid controversy like the plague.  He’s no dope. He knows it would be bad for his lucrative endorsement business and Jeter clothing line to offend either conservatives or liberals.

In the minds of many conservative white baseball fans Jeter  apparently represents the triumph of American values and the realization of  the American Dream. With no more than a high school education, Jeter mastered his physical craft and became, if not  one of the one percent,   at least extremely wealthy, with a large ocean-front mansion in Florida. In a poll conducted by Fortune Magazine of who the World’s 50 Greatest Leaders were,  Jeter came  in at Number 11. President Obama didn’t crack the top 50. Jeter is  not, like Obama,  a liberal Harvard law school graduate and former community organizer whom  many conservatives feel is, as president, leading the country down the road to socialized medicine, same sex marriage,  and Islam. If Jeter looked more like his black father maybe  there would be less idolization of him, and perhaps if Obama looked more like his white mother there might be less fear and hatred of him. But as it stands, the bi-racial Jeter and the bi-racial Obama occupy important if antithetical niches in the American imagination,  the one being deified, the other demonized. A central figure in the BALCO steroid scandal, Victor Conte, said there was no way in the world Jeter could have become the  ageless athlete he did without PED’s. The same has been said of David Ortiz the Red Sox slugger whose lackluster, injury-plagued career took off only after he was released by the Twins after no team was interested in trading  for him. After his release, he was signed  by the Red Sox. That may have been  when he began taking a PED, which not only improves a player's performance on the field but speeds up his recovery from injuries and slows down the process of aging off the field  Ortiz is widely believed to have been among those players who tested positive for PEDs in a test in which players were guaranteed anonymity. Was Jeter one of those who tested positive? It seems very unlikely but who knows for sure?

Jeter has been accused not only using PED’s but also of being gay or at least a switch hitter. He was featured in a cover story, “Jeter’s Swinging Years,”  in GQ (April 2011), a magazine that has been suspected from its inception of catering to gay readers. The photos of him in that issue are not only humorous but in light of its reputation, suggestive.

Jeter in GQ. Size does matter.

Good sport that he is, Jeter also appeared in drag as a player’s wife in a sketch when he hosted Saturday Night Live in 2001. 

Did Jeter discuss drag bunting on Saturday Night Live?

If it should turn out that Jeter is one of those who used some form of PED to achieve his longevity as a baseball player, and if it should turn out that he is not quite as heterosexual as all his gorgeous scantily clad white girlfriends would suggest, and if it is publicized that he voted for that devil Obama for president, his deification might grind to a halt. It might, in other words, be a whole new ballgame.

(For an earlier post on the subject of Viagra and baseball click here.)

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Snuffy Says Sitty Manager Virgin' on Nervus Brakedown

Zounds! It sez hear the sitty man’ger  Allen aftur ownly six moons on the job writ a scaything five-page litter denuncing everbuddy. Allen sez,  “The level of dysfunction is far greater than I could have ever imagined when I accepted the position of city manager.” It sounds as if Allens virgin' on a nervus brakedown for witch he’s gonna soo the sitty, shure as shootin’.

Becaws wee gut a new city man'ger,  First Weardoe  concilman Kevin W. Johnson cawlled  for a new sitty seal befittin' the dingity of Porchmouth. The won above contributed by sitty man'ger Allen was knot a contender. This was bee four Allen fowned owt just how dissfunctional  owr sitty govinment is.

Heres the entree  of yours trewly to the sitty seel contest,
in witch I aimed to put the fun back in dissfunctional.

The winner of the sitty seel contest feeturing 
First Weardoe concilman Johnson

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Just Say Nay to Kay the Slumlord

1416 1/2 Park Ave.

In 2011 the controversial Portsmouth businesswoman Kay (AKA Klara) Reynolds was reappointed by Governor Kasich to the Shawnee State University  Board of Trustees, where she will serve on the three-member presidential search committee. More recently, she was sworn in as the Vice-Chair of the Ohio Republican Party (ORP). In view of her reputation, as least among the faculty at SSU and among Tea Partiers, I'm surprised  she was chosen for  either of these two prominent positions. Reynolds  was and still is the owner of, among other businesses,  Scioto Rental Management. In her first term as a member of the Shawnee State University Board of Trustees (1999-2008), she was suspected  of a conflict of interest when she reportedly tried to interest the university in  one of her  troubled properties, an apartment complex  at 115 Boundary Street. At that time SSU president Clive Veri was pushing hard for football at the university, and the argument was made that 115 Boundary Street, overlooking historic Spartan Stadium,  would make  a convenient dormitory  for the team. But  Veri resigned under pressure in 1998, and he was replaced by James Chapman, who decided football was not financially feasible for the university, dashing whatever hopes Reynolds may have had of selling  or leasing 115 Boundary to SSU. She was stuck with the property and the headaches that went with it, not selling it until 2012.

A past president of the Shawnee Education Association, the faculty union, told me that Reynolds back in the late 1990s had voted against a collective bargaining agreement the union and the administration negotiators had worked out, saying that the SSU faculty were like children, and “even though you would like to give them what they want, you must sometimes say NO!” That apparently was also her attitude toward tenants, whom she was accustomed to saying no to, as for example, when they asked for their security deposits back. I was told by one of her former tenants at 115 Boundary that Kay, or Klara,  to use her business name, refused to refund his deposit even though his mother told me she had thoroughly cleaned his apartment after he moved out.

Kay  Boynton  Reynold's maiden name was Klara Rapp, but having been married twice, she uses a bewildering combination of first names, initials, and last names,  making it difficult to track her down in public records.  But generally, Klara is the name she uses in business and Kay the name she uses as a social and political figure. The mercenary Klara makes the money and  does the dirty work, so to speak, and  the high-minded public-figure Kay takes the credit and gets the kudos.  Klara takes the low road and Kay the high road. Read the statement she released when she was reappointed to the board and you would think she was a miracle worker and not the most divisive and obstructive member of that board. "I’m honored to be able to serve again," she wrote.  "My previous term we accomplished a great deal and made a number of decisions that I feel were critical in helping Shawnee State grow. It makes me proud.”

Is she also proud of what she has done as a landlord in Portsmouth? In the last fourteen years, for allegedly failing to meet their financial obligations, her tenants have been taken to court by Kay, or more specifically by Klara,  about 180 times,  including tenants from 115 Boundary Street. It appears she failed to meet her obligations as a landlord to keep up her properties.  I recently learned she owns a house, at 1416 ½ Park Avenue,  that is not  fit  for human habitation.  Actually, the house is not located on Park Avenue  but on the alley that runs behind it, and it is not officially numbered 1416 1/2, but rather as 1416, creating confusion.  The County Auditor's Office clarified things for me when they pointed out that  the parcel of land at 1416 Park contains two different residences, front and back, separated by a fence. How did this confusing arrangement of two 1416s come about? Perhaps only Klara knows. Kay took tenants of 1416 into court, but of the front or the back 1416 is not clear.

I made a visit to the back 1416, to  what I'll call 1416 1/2, one muggy morning with my friend Austin Leedom, editor of the Shawnee Sentinel.  When we arrived at the alley, a deranged-looking  man was poking through overflowing trash barrels. Barking dogs snarled at us from behind rusting link fences. The front door of the unnumbered 1416½ was boarded up with plywood, so we went to the backyard, which was strewn with debris, including a large, ratty sofa. Through the open  back door, I could see the gutted kitchen which had a large mattress on the floor. (See the photos above.) 

If some residents of Portsmouth think of  Kay Reynolds as a slumlord, some Tea-Party Republicans think of her as a RINO,  a Republican-In-Name-Only. Tea Partiers consider RINOs  as  unprincipled opportunists who are as big-government as Democrats. From a Tea Party perspective, Reynolds was being unprincipled when she  resorted to Section 8, which  is a New Deal piece of legislation passed by the Democratic-dominated U.S. Congress during the Great Depression. Under Section 8, the government  pays up to  two-thirds of  poor tenants' rent. To conservative Republicans, the government  paying rent for poor people smacks of socialism, if not fiscal insanity. But the clever RINO created a corporation called Choice Housing to take advantage of  Section 8. The corporation was described as a charitable organization, as if she was a philanthropist.   With the government paying two-thirds of the rent, there was less need for Klara to take tenants to court because they needed to pay only one third of what she charged for rent with the government paying the rest.  Here is the rundown on Kay's Choice Housing  that  I found online:
KayCharitable Organization

Voters are not children anymore than the faculty at SSU or her tenants are children. As a retired faculty member, I have an interest in the future of SSU, and I don’t think Reynolds should be on the presidential search committee or even on the Board of Trustees. If the Ohio Republican Party wants her as their Vice-Chair, that is their business, but what does that say about the Ohio Republican Party? As a presumptive candidate in the 2016 presidential race, Kasich is trying to move to the center politically to appeal to independent voters. But people like Kay Reynolds  may be just what Kasich and the Ohio Republican Party don’t need if they hope to win back the White House. They may end up getting more independents to vote Republican  but by abandoning sacrosanct Republican principles they may lose the votes of conservative Republicans.

From public records available on the internet (Appendix B), I have culled some two hundred names (Appendix A) from among those Kay brought into Portsmouth Municipal Court on one charge or another. Many of the names date back to the 1990s and at least some of them may have moved on and a few sadly passed away. With one exception, none of them challenged her in court, which they probably could not afford to do, but I am offering them the opportunity to set the record straight for posterity, if they can, to show they were not the deadbeats the official records suggest they were but rather Reynold's victims.   I invite any of them that might read this blog, if they are so inclined,  now that she occupies the number two position on the central committee of  the Ohio Republican Party, to Just Say Nay to Kay.

Another decrepit Reynolds property, this one in the Sixth Ward

Appendix A

Adams, Harold
Adams, Martha
Adkins, Craig
Allard, Robert
Allie, Anwar
Anderson, Vincent
Applegate, Lisa
Artressia, Jeff
Arwood, Melissa
Ashley, Harold
Atkins, Ronald
Bach, Kimberly
Bailey, David
Bailey, Diane
Barnes, James
Barrett, Marvin
Bender, Greg
Bender, Jodi
Bennington, Cynthia
Bertram, Donald, Jr.
Bihl, Andrew
Bihl, James
Bishop, James
Blackburn, Shawna
Blenkenship, Kim
Blevins, Linda
Blevins, Marcella
Booker, Doreene
Brammar, Carolyn
Brewer, Tom
Brickey, Arnold
Brickey, Pauline
Brightwell, Robin
Brown, Debra
Brown, Eva
Brown, Scott
Burchett, Dawn
Campbell, Angel
Campbell, Lois
Cantrell, Peggy
Caudill, Gary
Caudill, Shannon
Chaffin, Charlene
Chamberlin, Jason
Chan, Boe
Clare, James
Clark, Brenda
Clark, Sharon
Clark, Thomas
Clay, Melannie
Cline, Tracy
Cochran, Brenda
Collier, Edward
Collier, Rhonda
Conkel, Patty
Conley, Stephanie
Cooper, Kathy
Cooper, Roger
Craft, Cheryl
Cremeans, Jon
Cummins, Michael
Darnell, Paul
Dill, Gary
Dill, Sharon
Duckett, Fred
Duckett, Helen
Dugan, Roger
Emmons, Jack
Erhler, Liburn
Erhler, Tawyna
Evans, Jaime
Evans, John
Evans, Judy
Evans, Julie
Evans, Kathy
Evans, Rebecca
Farmer, Carolyn
Fitch, Michael
Glenn, Tommy
Graham, Angelia
Gribble, Rev. Steven
Grumman, Arthur
Hall, Bruce
Hall, Jennifer
Hall, Norman
Hall, Sonya
Hamrick, Julius
Harr, Donald
Harr, Linda
Hoard, Henrietta
Hoard, Ronald
Holcomb, Randy
Holsinger, Ruth
Hopkins, Debbie
Howard, Ernest
Howard, Pegy
Howard, Sheree
Hughes, Bob
Hughes, Karen
Hutte, Beverly
Jewett, Ronald
Johnson, Rebecca
Johnson, Walter
Jordan, Janice
Journey, Mark
Karzee, Gregory
Kennedy, Bonnie
King, Ray
Kinsler, Jean
Krekeler, Charles
Lennex, Ron
Lester, Christina
Logan, Dewayne
Logan, Marta
Maguire, Stephanie
Matiz, Erika
Mccarty, Bessie
McGraw, Joni
McKinley, Diane
McKinley, Rachel
Messer, Jessica
Messer, Rocky
Miller, Brandi
Miller, Nancy
Miller, Ronald
Monde, Tanya
Mullins, Joyce
Mullins, Tammy
Nathan, John
Nelson, Amanda
Nelson, Marcella
Nickel, Sandra
Nickel, Thomas
Parker, Diana
Phillips, Alan
Phillips, Denise
Piquet, William
Pollitt, Lara
Ratcliff, Jesse
Ratcliff, Shannon
Reed, Mish
Reeder, Mark
Reideinger, Amy
Rice, Russell
Riley, Brenda
Robosson, Lisa
Roe, Tammy
Rose, Kenneth
Rose, Phyllis
Roush, Michael
Roush, Paul
Ruggles, Angela
Ruggles, Jesse
Salyers, Michelle
Scherer, Letitia
Schwartz, Barbara
Scott, Dennis
Scott, Roger
Shaffer, John
Shepherd, Jennifer
Sherree, Howard
Silvia, Barbara
Silvia, Ed
Smith, Danny
Smith, Debra
Smith, Pauline
Soard, Marcella
Soard, Tim
Sorrell, Debra
Sparks, Melissa
Spears, Danny
Spradlin, Tina
Sprague, Clara
Sprague, Clara Bell
Spriegel, Melissa
Stacy, Harold
Stacy, Joyce
Storts, Jean
Swords, Al
Swords, Traci
Tackett, Rebecca
Thompson, John
Vega, Joe
Wagner, Nikki
Wallace-Hill, Cuba
Weaver, Georgetta
Weddington, Wallace
Whisman, Charles
Whisman, Margaret
Whitaker, Bill, Jr.
Wikoff, Doug
Wilcoxan, Anne
Wilcoxan, Heather
Wilson, Deborah
Young, Carrie
Young, Scott
Young, Stacy
Zickafoose, Danny

Appendix B