Julia Marlowe

Filed under: Guest Writer — tkm September 1, 2009 @ 19:0 pm

Guest Writer

Dear Ms. Mollette,

I was writing to ask if I might submit the following letter to your website? I attempted to have it published in the Times but have heard no reply from them.

Thank You,

Lance Kirby

——
Recently I visited the Cincinnati Museum of Art where I saw an exhibit of sculpture by Bessie Potter Vonnoh. Among the statues, I came upon a small bronze of our own Julia Marlowe. It reminded me of the current display at the 1810 House, of an assortment of Marlowe’s costumes and props from many of her productions. It was explained to me, when last I saw them, that they are in a state of rapid decay due to the hostile atmosphere of the un-air conditioned old building. It was also explained to me that these costumes were offered to the Southern Ohio Museum, only to be rebuffed. I can only account for this as some form of snobbery, since I recall not too long ago they had installed a collection of drift wood and assorted river garbage under the title of “art”. Surely, the historical, and certainly more colorful, garments of no less than a floodwall luminary would serve as a better advertisement for Portsmouth’s sense of culture and heritage than a congeries of river debris. Meanwhile, Portsmouth’s oldest residence with all of its historic contents sits on corroding foundations to await the dust bit and the bulldozer. As Julia was an actor of tragedies, we may imagine she would sneer at this farce.

The Truth – Charter Amendment

Filed under: ELECTION,Guest Writer,Uncategorized — tkm February 16, 2009 @ 15:0 pm

From the desk of Larry Essman, CPA

Three false statements:

1. The amendment will require every purchase of $100,000 or more be approved by a vote of the citizens.

Truth: Major purchases may continue to be made from the Capital Improvement Fund [Number 301], the Water Works Capital Improvement Fund [Number 605], the Sanitation Capital Improvement Fund [Number 632], and any designated grant funds such as the Community Development Fund without approval of the voters. The city income tax provided over $1,400,000 in 2008 for capital improvements and major asset acquisitions. These funds were not used to purchase the new fire trucks (as they should have been), but instead additional taxes were imposed on the property owners to fund the fire truck purchases.

Questions to the City:
If additional capital money is needed, why was an increase in the city income tax not submitted to the voters for additional needed funds? How were monies provided in 2008 for major purchases?

2. The amendment will require a majority of the “registered” voters [electors] to approve the issuance of bonds.

Truth: The terms “voter” and “elector” are considered synonymous. A simple majority of those voting will approve the issuance of bonds. No court has held or would ever uphold that a majority of the registered voters would be necessary.

3. The amendment will impair the bond rating of the City.

Truth: Bonds are used to raise large amounts of funds. They are normally paid over 15-25 years. They impose taxes on future generations. Such major decisions should be made by approval of the citizens. Bonds are normally not used for short term financing such as the City used them (one year for a fire truck). Even the County Auditor questioned why the repayment issued to purchase the fire truck was not made over several years.

Contempt/Threats

Filed under: ELECTION,Guest Writer — tkm October 19, 2008 @ 17:0 pm

In this morning’s Portsmouth Daily Times you will find, on page D-1, an article by Arthur F. Kuhn, Managing Editor, entitled “City auditor clarifies City Center financing.” This is not on the PDT website so I’m unable to share it herein. This clarification provided by City Auditor Trent Williams actually is the letter he provided to the Ohio Elections Board, via Austin Keyser, in defense of Progress Portsmouth claims that “your vote (for the Justice and City Center will) not (increase) your taxes.”

Even with this letter, the author of which is described by Mr. Kuhn as “a man with a talent for making clear and meaningful the financial morass that leaves most of us scratching our heads,” the Ohio Elections Board was unimpressed as it voted unanimously to forward Harald Daub’s complaint of “misleading campaign advertising” to the full board.

Contempt

When the Portsmouth Daily Times reported upon the Ohio Elections Board initial finding regarding Mr. Daub’s complaint on October 17 (see link), City Auditor Trent Williams was asked for a response. http://www.portsmouth-dailytimes.com/articles/2008/10/17/news/3news_commission.txt

Mr. Williams curt response was, “Consider the source.”

How may one consider this response other than that of contempt for a fellow citizen, voter, taxpayer… and one who is supported by a number of people who have asked the same question now being asked of the Secretary of State – is Progress Portsmouth utilizing false and misleading political advertising in support of the new (though not improved) Marting’s bailout?

One of the issues noted by A Better Government Coalition in its formation was how certain of our leaders demean those who oppose their initiative to raise taxes. In a press release it was noted that: “This committee will operate,” notes (Paul) Johnson, “just as we wish our City government to operate – openly, transparently, ethically, honestly… We will not be operating in the shadows, we will not hide the source of our funds, we will not hide behind curtains of secrecy and we will not demean, threaten or otherwise intimidate those with whom we might disagree. Our community is “family” – and within any family there are bound to be disagreements. These are our principles.” (My emphasis.)

Contempt for the public and their opinion(s) is exactly why our city government does not, has not and cannot operate openly, transparently, ethically or honestly.

Threats

Attached you will find a demeaning, contemptuous and threatening letter we received yesterday by mail. Written anonymously, of course, it included two Portsmouth Daily Times clippings – one titled “America needs John McCain as its next president” written by Kevin L. Zornes of Lucasville and the other a guest commentary by Steve Hayes titled “If we’re going to be a city, let’s act like one.”

This anonymous and threatening letter says more about our current political process and the nature of this current Marting’s campaign than I possibly can. I’ll leave it to you, dear reader, to draw your own conclusions.

Sincerely,
Kevin Johnson

 

 

What Good is Their Word?

Filed under: ELECTION,Guest Writer,Uncategorized — tkm October 8, 2008 @ 21:0 pm

By: Kevin Johnson

Many Portsmouth residents received a mailing today from the Chamber of Commerce group, Progress Portsmouth, mailed from Kentucky.

See below for a copy.

Though it does not explain how $12 million in new property taxes won’t increase our taxes, it does claim that a mixed commercial use would be a revenue source for the city… if only people would shop in Portsmouth.

Does Progress Portsmouth shop in Portsmouth?

Obviously NOT.

Permit No. 83 is owned by Russell Printing, located at 400 Belfonte Street in Russell, KY.

So the Chamber of Commerce’s Progress Portsmouth couldn’t use one of our local printing companies here in Portsmouth to print this mailer?

And they had to go out of state to buy campaign materials to convince voters in Portsmouth to vote for $12 million in new property taxes?

And they’ll take local contributions to spend out of state?

So much for supporting local businesses.

I can tell you this much… A Better Government Coalition, soon to distribute its first campaign materials, is having ALL its campaign items PRINTED HERE IN PORTSMOUTH to keep our local economy strong.

Actions say far more than words.

Progress Portsmouth wants local people to pay out hard-earned money in more taxes to somehow use the Marting’s Building (defeated 70% to 30% before) and build another new building as well.

But Progress Portsmouth won’t spend their money locally.

What good is their word?

Errors, Omissions and Costly Decisions

Filed under: ELECTION,Guest Writer,Uncategorized — tkm October 5, 2008 @ 11:0 am

By: Kevin Johnson

While Congress recently approved the most costly infusion ever of (borrowed) tax dollars into our economy and pundits debate the actions and inaction that lead to the demise of numerous financial institutions and the bailout of others, many in Portsmouth refuse to, or are incapable of, drawing a comparison between these two critical bailout issues. (Note: For the most incisive explanation of our financial markets I’ve ever seen, click http://www.brasschecktv.com/page/187.html).  

On the one hand, Congress has approved $700 billion in additional debt to ameliorate and hopefully staunch a critical financial mess. To do this, the Bush administration developed a plan. Then Congress, the press and the public debated its merits. Finally, Congress met through midnight sessions to develop a bailout plan amenable to a majority of its members and a very skeptical public.

On the other hand, certain Portsmouth leaders are blithely pushing and moving forward with $12 million in property tax indebtedness, on top of a $1.8 million Marting’s bailout, that provides no plans and for which there has been little critical analysis in the press. Do they not think that the public in Portsmouth is just as skeptical of this proposal as they are of the bank and mortgage industry bailout at the federal level? It is hard to tell as, unlike major newspapers, the Portsmouth Daily Times doesn’t allow for nor do they seek other opinions as they write the numerous pro-City Center / Justice Center fluff pieces. It is one thing to continually write editorials in support of this $12 million tax increase, but quite another to allow such to influence their “news” reporting.

One might think, at first glance, that the magnitudes of the federal and our local issues are like comparing apples and oranges. Let’s take a look.

The $12 million debt that City Council, Chamber of Commerce, Progress Portsmouth, Main Street Portsmouth and the Portsmouth Daily Times want to impose on us is the equivalent of adding $181.96 billion in national debt.

How so? Well, Portsmouth has a population of some 20,133. This proposed additional debt of $12 million equals $596.04 per man, woman and child. Multiply this amount by America’s population and that equals $181.96 billion. That indicates the magnitude of the proposed debt on such a small population when compared our total population.

But that is not even apples and oranges. The per capita personal income of Americans is $38,611. In Scioto County the per capita personal income is $24,275. (Current figures for Portsmouth are not available, though Portsmouth’s per capita income is normally significantly lower than for Scioto County.) Translation: The rest of America has a per capita personal income 1.59 times larger than ours in Scioto County. As a consequence, our ability to pay for debt is 1.59 times less than the average American’s. Thus, instead of this $12 million debt equaling a federal debt of $181.96 billion, it is like adding $289.32 billion in real debt compared to our income and ability to pay.

Now that we understand the magnitude let us look at some of the unanswered questions that face us. While Congress, the public and the press debate real questions concerning our national financial crisis, how are we addressing real questions about this $12 million property tax increase? Quite honestly, we aren’t. The local press has practically embargoed all criticism of the $12 million ballot initiative.

There are many questions to be asked concerning the Marting’s City Center / Justice Center proposal. But, for the purpose of this current discussion, I’ll limit them to three interesting questions that we need to ask.

1) Who is responsible for this $12 million proposal,
2) Who will manage the business of renting space in the Marting’s Building and,
3) How will the City pay for operational maintenance?

This first question is not hard but there seems to be three answers.

Answer #1: After rejecting the public City Building Committee’s formal report, the Mayor created the Advisory Building Committee comprised of himself, City Solicitor Mike Jones, City Auditor Trent Williams and Councilman Mike Mearan. It is this committee that, after meeting in secret, verbally advised Council to proceed with a two building, $12 million plan. Then one of the Advisory Building Committee concocted a (one year) 3.1 mill, 440% property tax increase to pay for a fire truck. This was done so that they and the Chamber of Commerce’s Progress Portsmouth could claim the 3.1 mill (30 year) property tax to pay for the two buildings is not really a property tax increase. That claim has, fortunately, been debunked by the Portsmouth Daily Times but is still claimed on the Chamber of Commerce’s Progress Portsmouth website and a recent flyer.

Answer #2: The Portsmouth Daily Times reported, on September 21, that:
“City Solicitor Michael Jones, who took office Jan. 8, isn’t a member of the group (Progress Portsmouth), but explained in the statement how the Justice and City Center proposal came to fruition.
“‘When I took office,’ he said, ‘I quickly realized that the city was facing many roadblocks, including determining the future of the city building. Of utmost concern was the fact the city was quickly running out of time to benefit from the $1.4 million grant offered by the Richard D. Marting Foundation.
“‘I felt it was essential to reach out to local citizens and business leaders who understood the city’s needs and offered realistic ideas. I was fortunate to hear from some very knowledgeable people who are now showing they care enough about Portsmouth to devote untold hours connecting with literally dozens of people in an effort to build a consensus in our community to move forward.’
“Austin Keyser, secretary and treasurer of the Shawnee Labor Council and a member of the new ballot committee, said Jones was responsible for making the organizers of Progress Portsmouth ‘realize positive change can’t happen without the type of positive effort he has put forward.'”

Answer #3: The Portsmouth Daily Times then reported, on September 24, that:
“‘This project did not originate with city government,’ said Mike Gampp, president of the Portsmouth Area Chamber of Commerce. ‘This project was originated as a grassroots effort by citizens from the bottom up as truly a community effort to move forward into positive change to develop some sort of a glimmer of hope – something this community can believe in.'”

Does all this answer our first question? I have a feeling that it makes just as much sense to you as it does to me.

The second question is: Who will manage the business of renting space in the Marting’s Building?

In the case of the Congressional bailout of our financial industry, they realized that expert help would be required to manage the process. Thus, embedded in the legislation is a management and oversight provision.

Where is the management and oversight provision in the Marting’s “City Center / Justice Center” plan? Exactly who will be managing the promised Marting’s building space rentals and all the issues associated with this business? Could it be that City Council plans to manage this enterprise? Perhaps our Mayor or City Solicitor, or one of the Chamber of Commerce/ Progress Portsmouth members such as local labor kingpin Austin Keyser or developer Terry Ockerman? Or perhaps another secret committee appointed by the Mayor? Who knows? Given our City government’s track record one thing is for certain: we the public probably won’t know. And hiring a Property Management firm, one that specializes in property rentals, costs money. Has this cost been accounted for? The answer is no. There has been no thought given to this particular question.

Finally the last question: How will the City pay for operational maintenance?

The Chamber of Commerce’s Progress Portsmouth website and flyer indicate that: “Dedicated revenue generated from leasing additional floor space will be used for maintenance.” I’ve scoured City Council minutes to find if this issue had ever been discussed. I’ve not yet found such a discussion. So where did this answer arise? Could it be that they are making it up as they go?

Operational maintenance is a critical issue. The current City budget cannot support such a maintenance tab and the City definitely does not have a history of maintaining its buildings.

Operational maintenance is estimated to be 10% per annum of the initial investment in a structure. That includes gas, electric and all maintenance issues. As the total investment in the two buildings is $13.4 million (including the hoped for infusion of Marting’s Foundation funds), let us assume the Marting’s building portion is half: or $6.7 million. That translates into some $670,000 in operational maintenance per year. Being, though, a much older building, the Marting’s building will actually require much more than the proposed, and new, Justice Center.

Mike Gampp, president of the Portsmouth Area Chamber of Commerce and treasurer of their Progress Portsmouth group, was asked by the Portsmouth Daily Times if “there already were commitments from entities interested in leasing the facilities.”

How can I best describe his answer without scatologically defaming a male bovine?

I cannot.

Herewith is Mr. Gampp’s answer to this very specific and financially critical question – “Are there commitments from entities interested in leasing the facilities”:

“This isn’t an ending point. It’s a starting point. We can carry it forward to show the rest of the state and the rest of our region that we can do positive things here in Portsmouth, Ohio. I speak as a member of the chamber, as a member of the business community, but much higher than that, I am a member of this community. This is where I was born. This is where I was raised and this is where I choose to live. I choose to live here – I’m not stuck here, and I would like to make this a place that other people would feel the same about.”

Mr. Gampp should run for Congress. I don’t wish to be impertinent, but – this is a non-answer by any objective evaluation.

So who would rent space in the Marting’s building and thereby pay for an estimated $670,000 in operational maintenance costs?

It is safe to say that businesses are not clamoring for space in downtown Portsmouth. One need only tour the office buildings along Chillicothe Street (Masonic Building, Fifth Third, National City, Charter One) to see they all have a problem in renting space. Then there are the numerous empty store fronts all along Chillicothe Street and Boneyfiddle’s Second Street.

So where are we to find businesses to rent space in the Marting’s building, especially given our deteriorating national and state economy, Ohio’s budget cuts, loss of jobs, tight credit and declining retail sales?

The answer: The City will have to rent to businesses or associations currently located elsewhere in Portsmouth. So, essentially, the City – with taxpayer help – would be subsidizing rents in the Marting’s building to steal business away from private entrepreneurs.

Now – this really makes sense.

Actually, the entirety of the Marting’s City Center / Justice Center makes no sense whatsoever when you analyze the details.

There is NO documentation! There is NO plan!

Finally: My business and personal bank supports the Marting’s City Center / Justice Center proposal. Quite honestly – if I approached them for a loan with the same kind of documentation and plan they would laugh out loud and escort me to the door. But, since the taxpayers of Portsmouth are expected to pay the tab and bear all the risk, I guess that’s different.

Ora pro nobis. (Look it up.)
____________________________________________
Oddz & Endz

SWEET IRONY

Radio and television commercials for Congressional candidate Dr. Victoria Wulsin are excoriating Congresswoman Jean Schmidt for having voted, while a State Senator in 2003, for a 27% increase in the state gas tax – an increase of $0.06 per gallon. Now a local labor union is making phone calls to voters in Portsmouth encouraging them to vote for Dr. Wulsin and the Marting’s City Center / Justice Center. Dr. Wulsin has endorsed the $12 million, 440% increase in property taxes. Congresswoman Schmidt has not and will not.

How can a candidate complain about a 27%, $0.06 gasoline tax increase on one hand and support a 440%, $12 million property tax increase on the other?

Politics as usual?

THE PUBLIC BE DAMNED

More sweet irony. The local media bemoaned the fact that the Marting’s building was found to be unsafe for public entry, thus canceling the scheduled Phantom Art Gallery sponsored by the Portsmouth Area Arts Council (as a means for showcasing the Marting’s building and encouraging people to vote for the $12 million ballot initiative). The media, not mentioning at all that the building is simply unsafe, clamored about an anonymous tip to the State Fire Marshall as allegedly being retaliation.

What?

A little fact check here. Numerous Main Street Portsmouth volunteers indicated they would NOT work at the Phantom Art Gallery because of the unsafe conditions (including mold, which was not mentioned). Very few artists had signed up for the art showing because of the unsafe conditions and other issues. There were other buildings in which the event could have been held, but The Phantom Art Gallery was canceled because of LACK OF INTEREST.

By the way, I am not the anonymous tipster. A reporter for the Portsmouth Daily Times and Terry Ockerman indicated they “heard” I was the source of this tip. Give me a break. For one, I don’t operate that way. For another, there are many people who know the condition of the Marting’s building is unsafe. Unlike the City, the Portsmouth Area Arts Council and others intent upon foisting $12 million in debt upon taxpayers, this anonymous tipster evidently was intent upon protecting the public – because no one else was bothering to do so.

I will admit to taking action on another front, however. On October 1, I filed a complaint with the Ohio Secretary of State concerning the $1,500 to $1,800 being spent by the City (taxpayers) for Marting’s “City Center / Justice Center” campaign signs. As these 60 signs (pictures) were not printed until after the ballot initiative was approved by Council, they are NOT educational – they are campaign materials which cost $25 to $30 EACH. According to Ohio Revised Elections Code, they must be identified as such and a disclaimer must be present to indicate who paid for the campaign materials. Also, they are NOT being distributed by the City but, instead, are being distributed by members of the Chamber of Commerce’s Progress Portsmouth… a political action committee.

Our City government is incredible. They can find $1,500-$1,800 for campaign signs, they can find over $50,000 to repair the Marting’s Annex roof and they will approve spending bills even when the City Auditor cannot certify that funds are available – but they could not seem to find $50,000 to have the McKinley Pool open during the summer for the children of Portsmouth.

Pathetic!

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