Wednesday, March 28, 2007

The Goon and the Good Samaritan

The Goon

Last night’s City Council meeting was one for the books. A resident of the Sixth Ward reportedly told councilman Marty Mohr afterwards that he was an embarrassment to the ward. Mohr is not only an embarrassment to the Sixth Ward, he is an embarrassment to the city. He is not only an embarrassment to the Sixth Ward and the city, he is an embarrassment, or should be, to his family. He is not only an embarrassment to the Sixth Ward, to the city, and to his family, he is an embarrassment to our species. He is downright pre-hominid. He is a goon. The primary meaning of goon is “a stupid person.” But it is the secondary meaning of goon that particularly applies: “a man hired to terrorize or intimidate opponents.” That is Mohr’s role on the city council: to intimidate opponents by accusing them of being terrorists, to snarl and sneer at them, to call them crap. At the close of last night’s meeting, he tried his best to insult, intimidate, and humiliate Bob Mollette, who represents a higher form of hominid, a civilized, respectful male who doesn’t need to prove his manhood by snarling and gnashing his teeth or having sex with some woman other than his wife. In terms of evolution, Mollette is about 250,000 years beyond Mohr. When the minutes of last night’s meeting are printed, Mollette’s report to the council – informed, respectful, and conciliatory – should be compared with Mohr’s attempt to provoke Mollette and the citizens in attendance into getting down to his grunt level and exchanging insults and provoking physical violence. He might have succeeded in inciting the audience, which was furious at his provocative performance, but fortunately Mollette set an example of civilized behavior. Had Mollette blown his top, I think some citizens might have too. And then chief Horner would have been like a pig in shit, dealing with these “domestic terrorists.” He would like nothing better than throw some of them in the hoosegow.

Up until Mohr’s failed effort to start a riot, the meeting had been unusually peaceful and collegial. It seemed people were determined to avoid the animosity of the previous meeting. Compliments and sweetness flowed like sugar at John Simon’s Sorghum Festival. The most touching moment was when an elderly gentleman addressed the council and said that in the forty-six years he and his wife had lived in the Third Ward he had never known a councilman as helpful, decent, and considerate as Bob Mollette. But it was not only Bob Mollette who was praised. Praise was heaped by others on Kevin Johnson, on the Portsmouth Daily Times, and especially on First Ward councilman Mike Mearan, who has earned a reputation as Portsmouth’s Good Samaritan. When there are some underprivileged kids in need of the price of admission or some attractive young ladies needing a sub-compact to visit their sick mothers, know that Mike is there to lend a helping hand. A rumor is circulating about Mearan being pulled over by police in Knoxville, who found drugs in his car. Mike handled that rumor well at the meeting by pointing out, if I heard him correctly, without his ever mentioning drugs, that he had not been in Tennessee since the state fair last year. Instead of wrapping himself in the flag, as those cornered politicians in Washington are doing, Mike wore a bright red Ohio State tee shirt to the meeting. Go Bucks!


Mike Mearan: Good Samaritan

Unfortunately for Mearan, Marty Mohr came to his defense in his tirade at the end of the meeting, and if anybody in the council chamber or listening on the radio hadn’t known that it was Mearan who was the councilman rumored to have been found with drugs in Tennessee, then they sure did after Mohr got through defending him. By publicly defending, or fingering, Mearan as the councilman who is subject of the drug rumors, Mohr was raising the stakes. Prove it! That was Mohr’s sneering challenge to those who are spreading the rumor about Mearan being stopped for drugs. Now there are those who may take up Mohr’s challenge and prove Mearan was found in possession of drugs, all because Mohr had publicized the rumor. But to revise Claude Raines’ famous line in the movie Casablanca, “I am shocked, shocked to hear Mike Mearan’s name associated with drugs!” Recall that this is the same Mike Mearan who hired Heather Hren to be the stenographer for the Building Committee, the same Mike Mearan who rented a subcompact in which Heather Wren was arrested for transporting Oxycontin from Columbus to Portsmouth, the same Mike Mearan who said he was sure Heather Wren did not take drugs after she had been busted for possession of drugs, the same Mike Mearan who was photographed with Heather Wren at their outing to the Fair in Lucasville after she had been busted, the same Mike Mearan who acted shocked shocked after Heather Hren was arrested for purse snatching and admitted that she was a drug addict. To hear the Good Samaritan Mearan’s side of the story, Heather Hren was just another one of the many young women he has helped out over the years, but one who proved unworthy of his trust and kindness.

The Goon and the Good Samaritan are just two of the cast of characters who make up our incredibly colorful city government. If only we had a Damon Runyon or Meredith Wilson to create a Portsmouth version of Guys and Dolls or The Music Man, if only someone would write a play or musical featuring our Keystone Cop, our Doofus Mayor, our Smarmy Council President, our Sleazy City Solicitor, our Ku Klux City Clerk. The only other city that could possibly compete with us for crooked and incompetent politicians is Washington D.C. How is the Bush Administration ever going to make it through another year and a half? Hell, how is the City Council going to make it through to next November? If somebody doesn’t muzzle the goon, or put a damper on the Good Samaritan, there’s going to be a lot more trouble in our drug-ridden River City.


"I am shocked, shocked to hear Mearans name associated with drugs."

Friday, March 23, 2007

Monday Night Fights

Painting by George Bellows

“It may have been Monday,” Jeff Barron wrote in the Daily Times (3-13-07), “but Portsmouth City Council staged its version of Friday Night Fights last night.” For those of you who might not be fight fans, ESPN2 televises Tuesday Night, Wednesday Night, and Friday Night Fights. In Portsmouth, it’s a little different: the Fights, billed as City Council meetings, take place the second and fourth Monday of each month, and they don’t get televised. In addressing the council members about their unprofessional behavior at the 3-12-07 meeting, Eileen Perry told them an unpleasant truth, which is that the reason council meetings are not on television is that the council probably does not want them on television.

Why doesn’t the Portsmouth city government want the council meetings on television? Why does the city government continue to drag its feet when many cities in Ohio, some much smaller than Portsmouth, have been uninterruptedly televising city council meetings for years? Waverly, with a population of only 4,433, has been televising their council meetings for so long that somebody I spoke to in the Waverly mayor’s office said she had lost track of the years. Ironton, with half of Portsmouth’s population, televises their council meetings. Chillicothe, a city with a population about the same as Portsmouth’s, televises their council meetings on two channels. Two to Portsmouth’s none!

So how come Portsmouth does not televise its council meetings? Older citizens claim they were televised way back when. But why no longer? How come Waverly, Ironton, Chillicothe and hundreds of other Ohio communities can televise their council meetings but Portsmouth can’t? A Time-Warner official in northern Ohio told me it’s not hard to televise meetings and it’s done all the time. There is an exception – Portsmouth.

Eileen Perry’s explanation of why they are not televised is one I would agree with: the meetings are probably not televised because the city government does not want them televised. The Portsmouth city government prefers to operate in the dark, out of the public’s eye. The council meetings are broadcast on a local radio station, but listeners know how difficult it sometime is to hear on that transmission. For example, during the 3-12-07 meeting, I am told, technical difficulties rendered the first part of the broadcast unintelligible.

One of the things the Portsmouth city government does not want the public to hear or see is how five or six members of city government gang up on the one city council member who has no strings attached to him, the one city council member who is not a puppet: I refer, of course, to Bob Mollette, who represents the Third Ward. Mollette is ganged up on because, among other reasons, he has waged a tireless campaign for openness in government. As part of that campaign, he has called more than once for televised council meetings. In a letter to the City Council (2-27-06), Mollette urged the city to televise council meetings to citizens on a tape-delay. The Council Minutes (1-10-05) state that Councilman Mollette had “reported having spoken with Mr. Gangly with Adelphia and was told by him that as far as getting Council meetings on cable that could be done if he is supplied with a VHS tape and would play it as many times Council deems. He said he felt this to be an idea for consideration in order to reach more people.”

I talked recently to Mollette, who told me Adelphia Cable had been ready and willing to participate in this exercise of open government, at no cost to the city, but the city found ways to make it not happen. On one occasion, Adelphia was fifteen minutes away from broadcasting a taped meeting when it was canceled. Mollette suspected Adelphia got a call from the powers-that-be to cancel the telecast. Time-Warner has since replaced Adelphia, and Time-Warner is willing and able to televise the meetings, but Time-Warner will discover, if it hasn’t already, that Portsmouth is not like other Ohio cities. Portsmouth discourages, not facilitates, televised council meetings. Mollette told me a modest sum was appropriated for television taping in last year’s budget, but that nothing has been done about it.

The city must televise the council hearings so that the citizens of Portsmouth can see for themselves who the temperate, hardworking, and honest people in city government are, and who the foul-mouthed, devious, and lazy ones are, who the watchdogs are and who the lapdawgs are. They will also see who the citizens are who faithfully attend these meetings, and who avail themselves of the right to speak to the council, a right that was nearly abridged last year at the urging of Councilman Marty Mohr. If council meetings are really Monday Night Fights, the public has a right to watch them in the safety of their own living rooms, instead of being insulted live by the mayor and others, or being frisked by police before entering.

In a recent letter to council president Howard Baughman, dated March 20, 2007, Mollette called again for transparency in local government, saying, “I still believe the best opportunity to inform the public exists with replaying City Council meetings on Time Warner Cable Television.” If the Monday Night Fights are going to continue at city council meetings, they should be telecast. The public has a right to see one man who is fighting for good government and who is taking on a tag-team of palookas who know the fight is fixed and want to keep it that way.

Monday, March 19, 2007

A Comedy of Terrors

Drug Busters in Action

Back in 1992, the Daily Times ran a story on a botched drug bust at the home of an elderly couple, Mary and Joe Warren, 68 and 73 years old, of 1805 Harrisonville Ave., in Portsmouth. Reporter Jennifer Moorhead did so good a job of reporting telling details that we can relive the experience fifteen years later. Perhaps that’s because the more things change in Portsmouth, the more they stay the same. What happened fifteen years ago, could have happened yesterday or could happen tomorrow. Austin Leedom has done a public service by reproducing that story in the online Shawnee Sentinel.

If Deputy Sheriff Barney Fife, Inspector Clouzot, Inspector Lastrade, and Maxwell Smart had been involved in the botched bust, it could not have been more half-assed. First of all, the Warrens were not only elderly, they were god-fearing, patriotic Americans living in a small neat house behind a white picket fence. They had just returned from a meeting at their church – there were and still are two churches almost directly across the street. Mrs. Warren was perhaps a little apprehensive when she locked the front door when they came home from church, because earlier that evening, around 8 PM, she had noticed a man in a car across the street looking through binoculars. Who was that in the car? Barney Fife, Inspector Clouzot, or perhaps Sergeant Horner himself?

Mrs. Warren later learned that Horner and others had been staking out the house for several days. Which house? Hers or the real drug house a couple of doors down? Who knows? I’m not even sure the Emergency Response Team knew. I don’t know if there were miniature American flags flying on the fence in front of the Warrens neat, small house, but there are now. It is not likely flags would have stopped the Emergency Response Team from mistaking the Warrens’ house for a drug house anyway. Horner and his team had already obtained a search warrant for 1721 Harrisonville Ave., but the address of the Warrens’ house is 1805. Those numbers, 1805, are displayed prominently above the mail box, just next to the front door of the Warrens’ house. If Horner and his men had a warrant for 1721 Harrisonville Ave., and the prominently displayed 1805 numbers on the Warrens’ house did not stop them from breaking in the door, it is not likely flags on the fence would have given them pause.

Sergeant Horner didn't sleep here

The arthritic Joe Warren, who walked with a cane, was in the bedroom. His wife Mary had come out to get his medication. It was while she was in the living room that she heard someone on the other side of the door shout, “We’re coming in!” Whoever he was, he began breaking the door in. Mary rushed to the phone. She knew she would not have time to call the seven numbers of the police department, never dreaming that it was the police who were breaking in her door. She dialed the operator instead, but before she could complete the call, the three members of the ERT were inside and demanding that she drop the phone. They were in plain clothes, or so it was reported, so she had no way of knowing who they were. The ERT team continued to act as if they were dealing with some low-life drug-dealing couple when what they were doing was frightening to death a couple who had a combined age of 141 years. In an effort to protect his wife from the intruders, Joe Warren came out of the bedroom swinging his cane. One of the men twisted Joe’s arm behind his back and forced him face down on the living room sofa. According to the Daily Times story, Mrs. Warren “begged them not to hurt her husband and kept telling them they had the wrong house.” Finally, it dawned on them. It was the wrong house! Maybe somebody went out and looked at the number 1805 next to the door. Mrs. Warren said the commotion ceased only when “they finally realized they had the wrong house.”

Sergeant Horner was supposed to be in charge of this bust. Where was he? His explanation of the mix-up only adds to the Keystone Cops character of the caper. Apologetically, he later explained to Mrs. Warren how the thing got botched. “They were told to go one house past Little Nick’s,” a small eatery on the other side of the street. The Daily Times reported that “Horner had been part of the stake out, which lasted more than two days, and while doing this he was to the north of the house.” Ah, Horner was to the north of the house. Now, we’re getting somewhere. But when the drug raid took place, “they came from the opposite direction,” Sergeant Horner explained. You see, “They” were at fault. They came from the opposite direction. Who told them to come from the opposite direction? Who told them to go one house past Little Nick’s? Who gave them such hare-brained directions in the first place? Was it Maxwell Smart, Inspector Clouzot, or was it the guy in the car, the one with the binoculars? Was it Sergeant Horner?

Obviously worried that the couple would sue the city’s ass off, and that he might lose his job, Sergeant Horner was practically on his knees. As the Daily Times reporter put it, “apologies flooded their household.” The old couple almost drowned in Sergeant Horner’s solicitude. He stayed for at least an hour, sweeping the floor and nailing back the door frame, as if he were auditioning for a spot on This Old House. He even offered to stay the night, as if he were a Rent-A-Cop or a live-in-maid. “What would you like for breakfast, Mrs. Warren? Eggs? Oatmeal? How about breakfast in bed, Joe?” Where would Sergeant Horner have slept if he did stay over? On the floor? Or on the couch they had pinned Mr. Warren down on. Imagine Sergeant Horner’s call to his own house if he did stay over. “Hello, Dear. I won’t be home tonight. I’ll be staying over at the Warrens. Who are they? Well, we just broke into their house by mistake. I just thought I’d sleep over to comfort them.” Mrs. Warren politely declined Sergeant Horner’s kind offer. “No, Sergeant, thank you. It’s been rather a hectic day and Joe and I would like to hit the hay. It’s way past our bedtime.”

As it was, Mrs. Warren didn’t get to sleep until 3 AM “because she kept hearing the sound of the glass and men breaking into her home,” to quote the Daily Times. Would it have comforted Mrs. Warren to know that the man responsible for this trauma was sleeping out on her couch? I don’t think so. However little sleep Horner may have gotten, he was back in the morning. Mrs. Warren told the Daily Times, he “returned again Thursday morning to ask forgiveness.” The Warrens were good Christians, but they were also human. They explained to the Daily Times that they could forgive, but they could never forget.

Horner told the Daily Times that he took “sole responsibility” for the mix-up, but he took responsibility the way Attorney General Gonzales is taking sole responsibility in Washington for firing those regional attorney generals, by implying it was somebody else’s fault. Yes, mistakes were made, but Sergeant Horner implied it was somebody else who made the mistakes, somebody who couldn’t follow directions. “One house past Little Nick’s!” What could be simpler than that, even if Little Nick’s is on the other side of the street and even if he failed to point out which direction on the other side of Little Nick’s the drug house was. Those were the days before MapQuest, so Sergeant Horner and the Emergency Response Team were operating under the technological limitations of the time. Sure, anyone now can easily print out directions so clear that even present Mayor Kalb would be able to get from the Portsmouth Police Station, or wherever the team started out from, to 1721 Harrisonville Ave. With MapQuest, Sergeant Horner would not have had to use Little Nick’s as a landmark, or to be concerned about which way was north and which south.

MapQuest to the Rescue


Sergeant Horner defended himself by saying it was the result of “plain human error.” Plain human error? A cynic might protest, “Nay, nay, Sergeant Horner! This was no plain human error. These were errors worthy of a Shakespeare comedy, like The Comedy of Errors.”If one of the Warrens had died of a heart attack, it would have been a tragedy. As it was, they suffered from post-traumatic stress for a time but they got relief from the crack staff at Scioto Memorial Hospital.

The story, as is true of comedies generally, has a happy ending. I’ve been told that the Warrens got more than just $350 to replace their door, and while Sergeant Horner got a letter of reprimand placed in his file, he went on the become Chief of Police and Mayor Kalb’s brain. There was a trying period before that, however, when it was rumored that Mayor Bauer was about to fire Chief Horner for incompetence, but the Chief blew the whistle on Bauer’s alleged violations of the law in the Marting’s deal and Bauer was history.

With all the high tech equipment and expensive fleet of high powered vehicles acquired by the police department in the wake of 9/11, Chief Horner is focusing on a group of “domestic terrorists,” posing as senior citizens with poor vision and hearing, carrying canes and portable oxygen supplies, and who are resorting to a weapon of mass distraction, the computer, to write blogs that are slandering the upright leaders of the community. “They are trying to pull a Warren on me,” the Chief is rumored to have said, meaning these alleged senior citizens are trying to act as if they are the victims of his incompetence and crazy ambition, as the Warrens of Harrisonville Ave. were on that December night in 1992. Chief Horner has already blown the whistle on the one member of the city council who stands in his way, Bob Mollette, aiming to get rid of him as he got rid of Mayor Bauer.

Writing of Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors, a critic pointed out that before the comic resolution of the end can occur, “violence and disorder . . . rise to a pitch that is both funny and frightening.” The sound of breaking glass and police breaking into homes. Both funny and frightening. That is something to keep in mind as our local comedy of terrors continues to unfold.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Long Live the Blogosphere!


By working for responsible, open government, by being the publics watchdog, Third Ward councilman Bob Mollette has made himself a target for some city officials. He is as about as welcome in city government as a nun would be in a whorehouse. The campaign against Mollette was ratcheted up at the 3-12-07 council meeting when our imperious chief of police Charles Horner urged the City Council to “investigate Mollette’s conduct in and out of office,” according to the Daily Times. The source of Horner’s anger are the websites that the Mollettes, yours truly, and other local citizens maintain. Displaying the growing dictatorial tendencies that should give everyone cause for concern, Horner has in the past denounced websites as destructive and called those involved in the reform movement, “domestic terrorists.” The alleged “terrorists” are supposedly concentrated in the Concerned Citizens Group, a non-partisan group of mostly older citizens devoted to improving government in Portsmouth. The CCG has a website and a forum. Those sites too are on Horner’s hit list. And Moes Forum is probably near the top of Horner’s list.

Horner is trying to smear bloggers like the Mollettes and the CCG as a menace to the community. Like certain unscrupulous politicians in Washington, Horner is playing the terrorist card for everything it’s worth. Just as the Chinese government wants to crack down on dissent by controlling the blogosphere, Horner wants local courts to investigate and prosecute local bloggers. In an informative report by Jeff Barron in the Portsmouth Daily Times (3-14-07), Horner is quoted as saying “it’s up to the municipal court or the Scioto County Common Pleas Court to bring charges against anyone affiliated with the [web]sites.” If Horner was half as determined to shut down drug dealers as he is to shut down bloggers, Portsmouth would be a lot better off.

Bob Mollette’s website for the Third Ward could serve as a model for city and town council members throughout the state. The $50 a month the city pays Mollette for serving on city council has got to be one of the best bargains in Ohio. His wife Teresa’s website is an extraordinarily thorough and revealing repository of documents, reports and letters. When it comes to making local government transparent and opening up city council meetings to citizen scrutiny, as provided for under the provisions of Ohio’s Sunshine laws, the Mollettes are the Mr. and Mrs. Sunshine of Scioto County. One of the risks of living in a corrupt political environment like Portsmouth is losing faith in democracy. The Mollettes help me to maintain that faith.

I have before on River Vices expressed my opinion on why Horner is enraged and now appears to have a screw loose on the subject of local websites. It is because Doug Deepe (John Welton) revealed on his website a few years back that Horner’s son was arrested for drug activities and that any trace of that arrest was later expunged from court records. Horner has complained about his family being “crucified” by local websites, which I assume is a reference to Welton’s outing of his son’s drug history. In addition to that, Horner is infuriated by local websites criticizing him for exploiting the legitimate concern over crime and terrorism for his own political purposes.


Has he gone over the edge on Websites?

Even when one website links to another one, Horner takes this as proof of unethical, if not terrorist, activity. Of course our computer savvy chief of police and our MySpace disk jockey Steve Hayes know that anyone can put a link to another website, but they claim this is unethical internet behavior. What they are basically after, what all this website brouhaha is about can be stated simply: it is to remove Bob Mollette from the city council and replace him with a lapdawg, as is the custom in Portsmouth. Three council members were removed back in 1980, when the press and the local radio stations tightly controlled local news. Those days are over. Bloggers have broken up that monopoly. As long as the government doesn’t control the blogosphere, it can not control the news. As long as there are blogging watchdogs, the lapdawgs will whine. As long as there are websites that don't follow the SOGP party line, the sunshine can get through those clouds of lies. Long live the blogosphere!

Friday, March 09, 2007

Remembering Scooter

Aspen leaves

Scooter, Germ Man, forgetful fellow, fall guy—
You are on my mind, always and always.
Try to remember, Scooter, try to remember
The things a veep’s creep contemplates
At 3 AM in the dark night of the jail.
Operation Iraqi Freedom, Shock and Awe,
Flowers blooming in the hands of children.
You went into jail in the summer. It is fall now,
And the aspen leaves are turning, turning.
You have lies to disseminate, asses to cover for,
More novels to write, of bestiality and pedophilia,
Of children choking on genitalia.
You went into jail in the summer. It is fall now,
And the aspen leaves are turning, turning.
In Najaf, where pilgrims congregate, the cluster bombs
Bursting in air, gave proof to the night
That WMDs still were not there.
They gather in clusters, the children of Iraq,
Their thin stems disconnected from the tree of life.
You went into jail in the summer. It is fall now,
And the aspen leaves are turning, turning.
You still have stories to cover, cover stories to create,
The Iranian nuclear threat to authenticate –
Iraqi elections and suicide bombers, biological threats –
And the aspen leaves will be turning, turning.
Remember always those leaves that are turning.
Try to remember them when you
Get up in the middle of the night to defecate,
Straining to remember what it was you ate,
Remember that we have not forgotten you.
You went into jail in the summer. It is fall now,
And the aspen leaves are turning, turning.
Try to remember the kind of September
When Libby was a likable fellow.
Try to remember the kind of September
When life was, oh, so yellow-cake mellow.
Come back to work, Scooter, and to life.
Until then, and please don’t forget,
You will remain in our thoughts and prayers.
You went into jail in the summer. It is fall now,
And the aspen leaves are turning, turning,
And holy cities are burning, burning, burning.

Robert Forrey (3-9-07)

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Born to Rise


Christine Jennings

As reported in national news media last November, a female candidate came within less than 400 votes of winning the contest for the 13th Congressional seat vacated by disgraced pedophile congressman Mark Foley. The candidate who nearly won was Christine Jennings, a native of New Boston. Jennings is not just a local girl who made good. She is an all-American success story. She went to work as a bank teller in Portsmouth immediately after graduating from high school. She spent fourteen years with Ohio’s Huntington National Bank, and in 1984 she became vice president of commercial real estate for Southeast Bank of Sarasota. In 1987, she was chief lending officer at the Liberty National Bank, in Bradenton, a bank she helped charter. Then she was a key figure in the founding of Sarasota Bank, where she made a concerted effort to attract women customers. Knowing that women did not feel comfortable at many banks, she made sure they felt at home at Sarasota Bank. “They just need to feel they are wanted, and welcomed, and appreciated,” she told a reporter. As President, CEO, Chairwoman of the Board, and Director of the Sarasota Bank, she made her mark in Florida banking. “Her determination built Sarasota into a success that sold for $40.5 million in 2003 and made Jennings a millionaire,” the Sarasota Herald Tribune reported in a feature story on her.

How many millionaire bankers are Democrats? Very few, and yet Christine Jennings, though she may have flirted with Republicanism, is a New Boston-born-and-bred Democrat. She has not forgotten her New Boston roots or her parents, who were deeply involved in the Democratic Party of New Boston. Her father was a steel worker and union leader and her mother was president of the New Boston Democratic Club. “I think you have to pattern the traits and qualities, the things that you see in people you admire,” she once said. Presumably, her parents were her first role models.

Still going strong after all these years, Richard Noel, a candidate for Portsmouth City Council, worked with Jennings’ father and uncle in the steel mill, and knew them well. Noel told me he thinks Christine would have taken after her mother and father no matter where she was. Her father, who is listed as the Rev. Kenneth Jennings on his death certificate, was a man of conviction and her mother, who is still living, was deeply involved in activities to better the community. No daughter of the Jennings would have sold out, Noel claims.

Jennings homestead in New Boston

The New Boston house where she grew up still stands, humbly but proudly, on Gallia St. I talked to relatives and neighbors, who are proud of her success. Instead of retiring and counting her money, as we expect some of our Portsmouth millionaires to do when they retire to Hilton Head, Jennings jumped into politics, running in 2004 for the 13th House seat and again in 2006. Sarasota has not had a Democrat in Congress for thirty years, so it was something for her to have come as close to winning the disputed contest as she did. Her opponent outspent her by a three to one margin in the campaign but won by less than 400 votes. In yet another botched-up Florida election, 18,000 ballots in the 13 District were not counted. Jennings charged the voting machines were at fault, but they were never examined.

I suppose those votes would not have mattered if Jennings had outspent her opponent by three to one, instead of the other way around. Ironically, Jennings attributed her success in business in part to being very frugal. “Through it all,” the Herald Tribune reported, “Jennings followed a penny-pinching, conservative style that has been her trademark since starting as a teller four decades ago in Ohio.” She told a reporter, “If my staff wanted Post-it notes, they had to buy them. . . . If a napkin was under a glass or cup of coffee, we collected those, turned them over and used them again.”

How times have changed! I recall going into a recently renovated Portsmouth bank about ten years ago to open an account. Which bank? Who can keep straight which bank is which anymore, or what its name was ten years ago? Anyway, I looked at the lavish interior and the preening personnel, who were obviously proud to be working in such a plush place, especially since the rest of downtown Chillicothe St. was so grungy. I asked myself, “Why should I subsidize such airs?” I suppose all the fancy appointments were supposed to overawe the locals into thinking they were lucky to have their money in such an imposing bank, just as some locals will probably drink coffee in the new Starbucks even if they can’t afford to. Was it the same bank that not too long ago was reportedly trying to get out of Portsmouth, providing it could unload the building off on the public as a new city hall? Who knows?

I doubt any of them are reusing napkins. Republicans were once the frugal ones. Now they run up budgets as high as the Aspen mountains they go skiing on and with ethics as low as the Hilton Head sea-bottom they scuba-dive down to. What would have happened to Jennings if she had not ventured out into the competitive world beyond our pork-fed, government-subsidized, abatement-batty, eminent-domained-to-death Portsmouth, engaging not just in the customary back-scratching but in the kind of financial mutual grooming our non-competitive local primate plutocrats engage in? Would she have maintained her frugal values? Would she have risen higher than a bank teller? If she had become the president of one of Portsmouth’s banks, would she have become one of the corrupt crowd who play an important role in helping the Southern Ohio Growth Partnership keeping the pork in Porksmouth and keeping real competition out? Would she have become skilled at the art of sponging off local, state, and federal treasuries, and profitably unloading worthless properties off on the public? These are not people who recycle napkins; these are people who recycle useless department stores as city halls and visitor centers, at great profit to themselves, and who unload at scandalously high prices white elephant residences like the Thatcher house on Franklin Boulevard and Dr. Rooney’s house on Camelot Drive as houses for the president of SSU, however unsuited and poorly located they may be for the purpose. What does that matter, as long as the over-privileged of Portsmouth are bailed out at public expense?