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Thursday, March 1, 2012

Here We Go 'Round the Martings Mulberry Bush Again

Here we go 'round the mulberry bush,
The mulberry bush,
The mulberry bush.
Here we go 'round the mulberry bush
So early in the morning.

This is the way we run our town,
Run our town,
Run our town
This is the way we run our town.
Let's all begin the fighting.

This is the way we lie and accuse,
Lie and accuse,
Lie and accuse.
This is the way we lie and accuse.
Let's backbite till we're bleeding.

This is another fiasco we've caused,
Fiasco we've caused,
Fiasco we've caused.
This is another fiasco we've caused.
Let's clown around in circles.

What's in the news in P Town? Old news is the news. Here we go again -- city council is stoking up the old Martings Building debate. What are we going to do with the property the city owns on Chillicothe Street? How much is the property worth? Who made the initial profit on the sale? Why did the city pay so much for the building? What does the city logically plan to do with building? Who is privately dealing the property now? Who is going to make a gain by re-selling the empty piece of real estate? Who is the mysterious unidentified southern Ohio non-profit organization that had offered to purchase the Martings building? Why did they back out of the so-called "deal"?

This Martings craziness has been going on since 2002 -- a decade! Under questionable circumstances, the City of Portsmouth purchased the property. Basically, all of the continual wrangle boils down to three statements:

1) City council does not know what to do with the property they purchased for (debatable figure) two million dollars.

(2) Portsmouth voters twice soundly rejected the renovation of the Marting’s building for use as a city building.

(3) The city council has been sporting the Martings albatross around their neck for a decade since no one wants to purchase the property or even use the space.

Meanwhile the public is treated to the colorful mixture of facts, rumors, and lies that comprise the Saga of the City-Owned Department Store. Far from being an attractive, user-friendly landmark in the heart of town, the building, constructed for the purpose of retail sales, is a Goliath empty shell symbolizing the folly of city government while presently being utilized as a storage area for old files and dust-covered, outdated city refuse. In brief, it's a city dump.

And for the last ten years, despite the public cry of "We didn't want to purchase the damned thing in the first place!" council continues to argue and connive about the "secret plans" to utilize the building by entering into half-baked deals. Stop this, please, gentlemen. Your track record of dissonance is only exceeded by the individuals in your body who insist upon making personal media scandals the true business of Portsmouth Council.

This isn't rocket science or high-level economic improvement. Walk Chillicothe Street and witness the sad demise of downtown American business. No amount of wishful thinking or simple action will bring prosperity to these streets in the near future. Look at the vacant buildings and long for the "good old days" if you wish, but those times are gone forever. Until urban shift and a break from Walmart dependence occur, few businesses that require large spaces will occupy old structures.

The Martings Building? What is it worth and how should it be sold or utilized by the city? The truth is that the building is becoming more of an eyesore every day. I have no idea what the property value is in its present location and in this market. I really have lost interest in the whole mess. Considering the cost of remodeling and upkeep, I think the wise decision would be to level the structure, clean the lot, and put the site on the market for a reasonable price or build a new city building at the location.

Oh, I know this will mean a huge loss of investment. But, demolishing the old structure will solve the fighting over whatever risky scheme the city devises to make use of the structure. I loved Martings Department Store; I am not in love with the old Martings Building. It's time to cut the losses, take the sentimental photos of the Old Lady falling to the ground, and move on.

If council can't agree on an appropriate course of action, then they, at least, should admit purchasing the property was a huge mistake, vow to never foolishly spend money on mistakes again, and put the damned thing on ebay. You think I'm laughing? Well, at least following the bidding would be exciting for the citizens of P Town. And, from the current news concerning the worth of the property, a $0.01 bid may make the Martings Building someone else's headache.

OK, then, in all seriousness, let the thing deteriorate until it falls and ban forever the mention of its name from city council business. That way, it will be a constant reminder of the need to conduct any and all city business with full disclosure and full approval of the taxpayers. Right now, people have heard enough scandalous news and speculation. The Martings Building is merely another empty structure in a relatively unoccupied downtown. Woe is me! Case closed. Move on.

* Postscript: The Martings controversy reminds me of one of my favorite Loggins and Messina album cuts. Of course, most everything reminds me of a popular song.

"Same Old Wine" (excerpts)

"Well we give them the election
They keep filling our heads full of lies.
Can we trust in new directions
When their promises are in disguise?
Well someday the truth will catch up.
I just hope it don't catch us all by surprise..."

"Then we ask ourselves the question
What in the hell are we fighting for?
If you suddenly find a reason
Well don't be afraid to open the door.
Well don't be afraid. (Don't be afraid to open the door.)


"It's the same old wine
From a brand new bottle
It's the same old wine
From a brand new bottle
The same old wine
From a brand new bottle."
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