PDT Staff Writer
For the first time since I can remember, I found myself intently listening to something I consider very informative and important at a Portsmouth City Council meeting. It came from the voice of someone I have trouble listening to on my recorder because of his quiet approach to everything. This time he was not speaking softly, nor even passively. Portsmouth City Solicitor Mike Jones was speaking loud, forceful, and most of all, from his heart.
To me it seemed like a clip from a classic movie - “Mr. Smith goes to Washington,” or something. To be honest, Mike looked fed up to here with the negativity that is a Portsmouth City Council meeting. People stepped up one by one to the public microphone to complain about everything from weeds on city property to the noise emanating from the Columbia Music Arena. I don’t know if you have ever gotten into the “that’s it. It’s all I can stand,” mode, but I have, and I had great empathy for Jones.
First, let’s be clear. Jones was not making light of the complaints - quite the contrary - he was saying there would be no need for people to complain if the city was doing its job. But he also took the time to go into one of the clearest and most heart-felt dissertations I have heard since covering city government.
“All of these concerns that people brought up are legitimate concerns that we need to address and should have addressed in the past,” Jones said. “But we need to promote the city. We have a great city. We have an absolute beautiful riverfront that we should be promoting.”
He then dealt with everything from the use of local labor on the multi-million dollar expansion of King’s Daughters Medical Center, the new $5 million medical facility on the former McKinley School property, the Portsmouth City Schools educational and athletic facilities, the growth at Shawnee State University into the downtown area and the Elite Institute of Cosmetology addition to the community. He touched on the points of growth and progress, and said the city has not done its job of promoting the positive things that have taken place.
Jones, at times showed signs of anger - but make no mistake - this was righteous anger, and absolutely no one could fault him for that.
I can tell you if it affected no one else, it certainly affected me. All of us who find nothing but negative things in this community need to answer one question - “what are we still doing here?” and the answer resounds back, if we are honest with ourselves, “we love it here and know its a much better place to live than we give it credit for.”
Several years ago when a major TV network came calling offering a job doing voice-overs for network breaks, I listened to their offer, and then took all of about ten seconds to make a decision. Did I really want to raise my children in a major city, or here? It didn’t take long to decide to pass on the offer. I simply declined. There is a great boot-strap quality to the people here. I believe we are one break or two breaks away from recovery. I see business people opening their wallets to attempt to help an industry locate here. I see a university with state-of-the-art facilities, and a university president with a heart for the community. I believe our children are as intelligent as children from any other city, and given the opportunity to succeed, will do so.
Are we down? You bet. Do things at times seem hopeless? Of course they do. But we have assets, and with the upcoming Intermodal Conference at Shawnee State University, many more people will learn that we are blessed with the river, rail, and even some fairly decent highways. Oh sure, no big interstate, but two out of three ain’t bad.
We recently lost one of our great visionaries, Bob Walton, Sr., and no one will fill his shoes. But we have several other people who are attempting to step up and move the area forward. The most underrated of these is Stan Jennings at Scioto County Career Technical Center who knows that with any industry comes a full range of labor requirements, and he has made it his mission to make sure we have a whole team of trained workers ready to be employed. Steve Wells in the county and Steve Hamilton in the village of New Boston, work tirelessly to get the most out of very little funds available. We have business people such as Jeff Albrecht, Andy Glockner, Chris Lute, Rick Morgan, and numerous others, working selflessly. And do not forget our labor unions, and Shawnee Labor Council. Most people don’t know what all they have put on the line in the process of locating the New Steel facility in our community, but make no mistake about it, they have put a lot on the line. I am proud of our labor force.
I want to personally thank Mike Jones for giving the community a wake-up call. Are there still problems in the community? Yes, and I will continue to bring them to light. That is an important part of the job of a community newspaper. But at the same time, It is nice sometimes to hear someone stand up for our community in an open forum. I appreciate what he said and have taken it all to heart. I hope those who only complain will also see some good in the city, and start being a part of the solution instead of the problem. It is absolutely amazing what can be accomplished when everyone begins to pull in the same direction.
Frank Lewis may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 232, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.