Sunday, August 23, 2015

Update on a Cover-up

October 2014: And the Wall Came Tumbling Down

      I published a post on River Vices (29 October 2014) on the  wall that fell on Washington Street, as shown in the photo above (click here for the link to that post). The fallen wall was part of the property belonging to Dr. Alain Asher at 633 4th Street. Today I am posting a follow-up to that post, arguing that a cover-up is taking place of what was revealed when the wall fell, which is shown in the photo above. What was revealed when the wall fell was that the roots on the ground to the east of the towering tree at the corner of 4th and Washington Street were and still are largely above ground. Tree roots are supposed to be below ground, anchoring the tree,  but the roots of this tree, on the wall side of the tree, were not, and still are not,  anchoring the tree. In order to anchor a tree, roots must be in the ground below and must be able to spread laterally in order for the tree to live and grow.

      The roots on the eastern side of the tree are not anchoring the tree because they are above ground. What the roots are trying to do is find ground to grow deeper and farther into the ground, but the wall and the concrete sidewalk prevented the roots from extending in an easterly direction. There was  a conflict between the roots and the wall. A very slow motion sumo wrestling match between the tree and the wall had been going on for many years.  Compared to the humungous towering tree, the brick wall was a 97-pound  weakling, so there was no question about who was going to win this wrestling match.

      The towering tree and its nearby companion tree should have been cut down  some time ago by the previous owner. But that would have been  a considerable expense, and also that would make the property  look somewhat naked. It would certainly look a lot less sylvan and marketable  without those trees.  Perhaps one of the reasons Dr. Asher bought the property is he was captivated by those majestic trees, as anyone who appreciates nature would. But when nature poses a threat to people, as those trees do to pedestrians on the sidewalk and the drivers of vehicles passing along Washington Street, people should come first. But now, in not cutting  down those trees,  Asher in my opinion is not only bricking over, he is  covering up the problem.  The tree with the roots exposed could be toppled by high winds or it might because of gravity fall on Washington Street without warning. The city was lucky when the tree that fell at Tracy Park didn't injure or kill a child or parent (click here for a relevant post). The city had been warned publicly by me and others of the danger of trees in Tracy Park falling because some of their roots had been cut in the construction of the playground. If there  had been deaths or injuries, for ignoring those warnings the city could have been sued for millions.

      Not surprisingly, in  view of the wildly inflated price Asher had paid for 633 4th Street,  he failed to find a buyer when he put it on the market. When the wall fell, a sale became virtually impossible. Asher paid the Johnsons $440, 500 for the property, which was almost twice the $244, 150  the County Auditor's Office valued the property at. So Asher paid the Johnsons almost $200,000 more than  the county auditor's valuation. If the property had been on the Hill, that would have been one thing, but 633 4th is in the heart of the Boneyfiddle district, where the value of property, already low because of the chronically poor Portsmouth housing market,  dropped further because of the presence of the Counseling Center, which has been attracting drug addicts to Boneyfiddle from the tri-state area for decades. Petty crime is rife in the city,  but much of it goes unreported because the victims feel reporting it is pointless.

      I asked the bricklayers who are building the wall if they had a building permit, and one of them said replacing the wall was restoration, and restoration projects do not need building permits. But this is not just a restoration, it is a cover-up that hides a potentially dangerous problem. The city will be liable because it is allowing the cover-up to continue when what it should require is the removal of the two trees because they are a danger to the public. The City Engineering Department reportedly recently sent someone to inspect the project. If the inspector  didn't see the roots, which are the root of the problem,  then just what did he see?

     The  problem  is even worse than I have suggested because the section of the wall that still stands, the section on 4th Street, appears to be unstable because of the pressure from the roots of the companion tree. The sidewalk of 4th Street side of the property was in such bad condition some years back  that I posted an article on River Vices warning that it was hazardous for pedestrians (click here). It was not long afterwards that the sidewalk was repaired by the developer Neal Hatcher's construction company. The infamous photo of Hatcher giving me the finger was taken while his workmen were completing the sidewalk repairs. One of Hatcher's redeeming features is that he is not a hypocrite. Our city government, on the other hand, reeks of hypocrisy. I think it is worse now that we have a carpet-bagging, convicted liar as  city manager. When we had the doofus Jim Kalb as mayor, at least he lived in his own home, in Portsmouth. Allen's home is in Piqua, so he rents an apartment from Neal Hatcher. If one of the trees falls on you, you will be no less crippled or dead whether we have a city manager or a mayor. If you are killed by a falling tree,  at least you will find a place in earth even if those roots don't.

Towering tree with new yet-to-be-painted red brick wall (lower right)

Other Relevant Posts:

"Kiwanis Playground: Deathtrap for Tots?" Click here
                                      "The Hole Truth": click here

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Schlepping Online Around Ohio

Ohio: 88 counties, 251 cities, 35 city managers

      I have been schlepping around Ohio for the last couple of days via the internet. What I was trying to find out was how many of Ohio’s 251 cities had a city manager. Wikipedia facilitated my search because it has a "List of Cities in Ohio" which includes a category called Government. Because some cities didn't state what kind of government they had, I schlepped over to their official on-line websites for the answer. But that information was  sometimes hard to find on official websites, and a couple of cities, smaller ones,  did not have an official website. So I had to do Google searches, which did not always lead me to an answer. As a result I am not a hundred percent sure the final figure for the number of cities with city managers, 35, is exact, but it is very close. Since there are 251 cities in Ohio, that means that about 14 percent of Ohio’s cities have a city manager.
     In  schlepping around Ohio online, I learned more than which cities had city managers. For example I noticed with two exceptions, Hudson and Springboro,  that city managers were invariably males whereas mayors were in a surprising number of instances females. Assistant city managers or their equivalents were occasionally female, but her boss was usually a male, except in Springboro where both the city manager and the assistant were females.
      The populations of manager-council cities tend to be smaller than cities with mayor-council form of government. The half dozen most populous cities in the state are mayor-council.  They may have experimented with the city manager form, but that didn’t last long. The manager-council city with the largest population is Hamilton, which is located in the greater metropolitan Cincinnati area. Hamilton’s population is over 62,000, but most city manager cities are much less populous. Perhaps politics have as much to do with large cities choosing mayor-council as do economics, but I will leave that issue to the experts.

Ohio Bi-political

      As a result of schlepping around Ohio on the internet, I have a better sense of why Ohio is a swing state in national elections, why it might be called bi-political, and why it might go Republican in one presidential election and Democratic in another. Historically, the two major cultural and political influences on Ohio were the Northeast (New England and Connecticut specifically) and Appalachia, and seldom if ever do  the twain meet. What state would not be at least a  little schizophrenic with such a conflicting regional heritage? Midwesterners in general and Ohioans especially have a repressed sense of cultural inferiority that they deal with in part by trying to be number one athletically, especially in that manliest of all sports, football. Most babies are born in Ohio with Buckeye fever. The Notable Persons listed on most city websites  are dominated by athletes, entertainers, and politicians in that order. Does any other state have more Notable People who have played in the National Football League? The best that  one deprived city could come up with for an athletic Notable Person was some guy who had played in the Canadian Football League. How pathetic! Portsmouth, which is proud to be the granddad of the Detroit Lions, has a plethora of baseball players but not much to show culturally except for Kathleen Battle.
      But it could be worse. At least Portsmouth did not suffer the ignominy of Springfield, Ohio, which as recently as 2011 was found in a Gallup Poll to be the “unhappiest city in America.”  Just yesterday a rather sad looking fellow stopped to ask me directions. He looked like he might have hitch-hiked into town. I asked him where he was from. He said Springfield. Springfield may be trying to make up for its unhappiness by having an unusually long list of Notable People, including David Ward King, the inventor of the King Road Drag, which has nothing to do with drag racing. It was a horse drawn implement that smoothed out rough roads but could only be used after a  road had been softened by rain. Imagine a road crew that works only when it rains. What a drag! What we have in Portsmouth is not King Road Drag, but drag racing legends such as the bankrupt perennial  politician Jim Kalb.
      One Ohio city reaffirmed its commitment to culture by naming itself Trotwood,  after a female character in Charles Dickens’ David Copperfield.  Trotwood was way ahead of other Ohio cities in countering sexism and racism. Not only is Trotwood not a manager-council city, it has a mayor who is not only female but black. The first female mayor of Portsmouth, who happened to be white,  proved so uppity to the Portsmouth Boys, as they are known,  that she was promptly recalled from office. Portsmouth has since, with the assistance of the devious International City/County Management Association (ICMA), switched to the manager-council form of government and hired Derek Allen, an ICMA member,  as city manager, even though Allen had been convicted of lying under oath when he was a government official in Piqua, Ohio, which happens to have a mayor-council form of city government. What can you expect from ICMA,  an organization that has been dominated historically and apparently still is by white American males? Though Mr. Allen probably would not be hired as dog-catcher in the mayor-council city of Piqua, he still makes his home there while serving as the perjured, carpet-bagging city manager of Portsmouth. In Portsmouth, to qualify for public office it seems you have to have either been a pimp, a drug dealer, a bankrupt, or a perjurer.
      If there was a Gallup Poll for the most addicted manager-council city in America, Portsmouth would probably  win in a landslide, as would Derek Allen for the slipperiest city manager.  Do Portsmouth residents sleep more soundly knowing that Allen is city manager and that they are one of the 14 percent of Ohio cities that have a manager-council form of government? Gallup should do a poll on that question. There are some rough roads ahead for Portsmouth under a city manager. The problem in Portsmouth may be that we no longer have dirt roads. Every inch of surface of the Hill section of the city is paved so that when it rains Grandview Avenue, at the foot of the Hill,  resembles at best a tributary of the Ohio River and at worst a makeshi(f)t sewer. Where is David Ward King's Split Log Drag when we really need it?