Our Buddy
by Bob Fitrakis

While most people in Ohio were suffering from scarlet and gray fever last Saturday, 1,000 mourners from all over the state marched in Cincinnati to honor the memory of homeless activist Buddy Gray.

Buddy was the co-founder of the Drop-In Center homeless shelter in Cincinnati. But he was more than that. Buddy was no mere advocate, who sold his people out for 30 pieces of silver from the town’s elite.

Back in 1991, when Governor George “I am your shepherd” Voinovich got a politically motivated inspiration to abolish General Assistance (G.A.) and wage war on the poor in the name of Christian virtue, Buddy brought a dozen people from the Drop-In Center to a Statehouse protest. Buddy and his mostly homeless co-conspirators posted an eviction notice at the governor’s office, moved his furniture into the hall, and sat down.

The state police were not amused. They took the brunt of their frustration out on Buddy, I suspect because he looked like an aging hippie. They stuck fingers up his nose, they choked him, they beat him, kicked him and twisted his neck by pulling on his ponytail.

When I photographed the assault on Buddy and told the police to quit brutalizing him, they obliged by choking me. In the last speech I heard Buddy give, he predicted that the governor’s vicious cuts and documented lies that “able-bodied men” were the ones being cut off of G.A. would come back to haunt our society. Buddy foresaw that it wasn’t simply the money, but the medical benefits that went to the homeless-many of them under visible stress and some de-institutionalized mental patients-that would lead to social disruption.

On November 15, 1996, Buddy was shot to death in his office at the Drop-In Center by a homeless man with a history of behavioral problems. Just the sort that was kicked to the curb by our pious governor.

Buddy looked and acted like an Old Testament prophet. He knew that you could not serve two masters: either you stood with the poor and oppressed, or you bowed to the wishes of the rich and powerful. Buddy died unbowed, unbent, and an unrepentant advocate for “the least of his brethren.”

Family affair
Well, well. The Sunday Dispatch almost broke a story on the mayoral investigation of the Columbus Police Department. Their coverage had been so careful it bordered on conspiracy. There’s plenty more for the Daily Monopoly to dig up if they suddenly decide to give a damn. The Big D seems to have figured out the Chief Jackson/Commander Burns prostitution connection, now let’s try once again to teach the old dog a new trick.

Sit. Roll over. Speak. Say the name “Commander Curtis Marcum.” Good dog! More than a few officers have seen the thousand-or-so-page report on the murder of retired police Sergeant Mt. Vernon Johnson. James Moss, also a retired police sergeant and the director of Police Officers for Equal Rights, commented on my radio show Sunday that he has been to Washington D.C. three times in the last year to inform the Justice Department of patterns of discrimination in Columbus and the peculiar circumstances surrounding Johnson’s death. Moss, who claims to have read the investigative report, says former Supervisor in the Police Intelligence Bureau Commander Marcum and several members of his family were involved in the sordid tragedy of Mt. Vernon’s murder.

A law-enforcement source confirms Moss’s allegation. Reportedly, the story goes like this: Commander Marcum’s mother kept the kitchen at Mt. Vernon’s high-stakes west side gambling house. She also was in Mt. Vernon’s gambling book well over 200 times in less than two years. Curt’s sister gambled there as well.

But, still more curious, are questions surrounding Curt’s younger brother, a regular player and loser in Mt. Vernon’s game that should have made him a prime suspect, yet he was never questioned. Law-enforcement sources allege that he was a cocaine user and small-time drug dealer who used to sell drugs from a house in the 2400 block of Indianola. The investigation team knows that there’s no way in hell that Curt was unaware of Mt. Vernon’s gambling operation and suspect that Commander Marcum was using his position in the Police Intelligence Bureau to protect his family.

The Drexel East, 2254 E. Main St. in Bexley

Floods, drought, climate change, even war are all directly related to the way we are treating dirt.

DIRT! The Movie–directed and produced by Bill Benenson and Gene Rosow–takes you inside the wonders of the soil. It tells the story of Earth’s most valuable and underappreciated source of fertility–from its miraculous beginning to its crippling degradation.
The opening scenes of the film dive into the wonderment of the soil. Made from the same elements as the stars, plants and animals, and us, “dirt is very much alive.” In modern industrial pursuits and clamor for both profit and natural resources, our human connection to and respect for soil has been disrupted.
DIRT! the Movie–narrated by Jaime Lee Curtis–brings to life the environmental, economic, social and political impact that the soil has. It shares the stories of experts from all over the world who study and are able to harness the beauty and power of a respectful and mutually beneficial relationship with soil. The real change lies in our notion of what dirt is. When humans arrived 2 million years ago, everything changed for dirt. And from that moment on, the fate of dirt and humans has been intimately linked.
But more than the film and the lessons that it teaches, DIRT the Movie is a call to action. The only remedy for disconnecting people from the natural world is connecting them to it again. What we’ve destroyed, we can heal.
This event is sponsored by the Central Ohio Sierra Club, Simply Living, the Columbus International Film and Video Festival, the Free Press, and the Central Ohio Green Education Fund. The movie is free and open to the public. Donations will be accepted. 253-2571. truth@freepress.org

With friends like these…
by Bob Fitrakis

Vincent Carbone, or was it Vito, called Tommy Banks an “exquisite gentleman” when asked about Tommy’s controversial building project with the Governor’s former Chief of Staff Paul Mifsud. This is understandable since the Carbone family and Banks are in the construction business together.

What is equally clear is that Mayor Greg Lashutka’s investigation of Police Chief James Jackson will involve his self-proclaimed “cousin” Tommy, and here’s why. In the spring of 1995 or thereabouts, Tommy allegedly was facing possible rape charges involving an incident at his newly built home in Gahanna. Law-enforcement sources say that Banks invited a teenager working at his property into his big new house for a tour, and it turned ugly. Allegedly, Tommy sexually assaulted the teenager, at least that’s what she told her employers and others. Sources report that Tommy “stuck real close” to Chief Jackson during this period. Reportedly, pressure was put on the victim, as well as insinuation that nothing would come of her complaint. Maybe that’s why the alleged victim never filed a formal charge.

Hard to believe? Not hardly, if you know Tommy’s track record. For example, while Columbus Alive was investigating the above incident, another report turned up on Banks. The Gahanna Police Department filed an Ohio Uniform Incident Report on April 29, 1996. The report, #96-00916, contains allegations from a Gahanna resident who claimed that Tommy Banks stalked her for over two months from February 15 to April 28, 1996. The victim, according to the report, stated that Banks “continually harassed and threatened” her. Allegedly, the married Banks repeatedly asked her out and harassed her by phone. He appeared at her place of employment and “damaged her vehicle when she tried to leave,” according to the report. Banks, the file notes, “threatened to harm her or her family.”

And then it gets even more interesting. The victim stated “that Mr. Banks had told her he has connections with the Mafia and is extremely wealthy and powerful; and that if she refuses him he’ll have her killed.” The complainant told police that she simply wanted to document the threats in case Banks took the action, the report states.

This is typical Banks, according to those who have worked with him. Upper Arlington architect Dennis Green, currently involved in a civil suit with Banks, has stated under oath that Banks threatened him as well. “Tommy Banks was flashing around a Teamster ring, it looked like a Masonic ring, saying he didn’t think I’d show for the meeting and he might have to have some of the boys from Cleveland ‘pick me up,'” Green said.

A former Banks employee who worked with Tommy at his Huntington office, which features double-paned glass and where visitors have to be buzzed in, told Alive that Tommy’s office manager and close personal friend Nancy Rogers, who keeps many of Tommy’s business secrets, “…could never leave here because they’d find her at the bottom of the river.”

“He [Banks] always carries a gun,” the employee stated, “As a joke he likes to take it halfway out of the holster and threaten to shoot you.”

Some sense of humor; no wonder the Chief likes to run with him. Banks, a former employee of the Franklin County Sheriff’s Department, was fired by Sheriff Earl Smith. As part of a legal settlement, Banks is still allowed to play cop on “special duty” directing funeral traffic. Smith recalls that the settlement limits Banks to carrying his gun while on-duty only. The Gahanna Police report lists Banks as a “Franklin County Sheriff’s Officer-Reserve.” It also lists Banks’ pager number. When I paged Banks for comment, he left a brief message on my answering machine. A call from his lawyer, Ritchey Hollenbaugh, soon followed. Banks’ paid counsel demanded to know how I got Tommy’s pager number. When I told him about Tommy’s “menacing by stalking” file, Hollenbaugh pleaded ignorance. But still, he wanted to know “Why are you hounding my client?”

Seems Hollenbaugh regards my columns and the news stories in the Columbus Alive as inappropriate, particularly a recent one that dared point out that Banks’s construction application to The Ohio State University for the $75 million Schottenstein arena management job contained two obvious factual errors. One, Tommy had neither the bachelor’s degree he claimed to have been awarded-by OSU-in business administration; and two, he doesn’t really have the OSU master’s degree in engineering he listed. But Ritchey was able to clarify that for me. “It’s not a misrepresentation, it’s a mistake. Misrepresentation would be a falsification. A mistake is inadvertent, like a typo,” he explained.

Now I understand. I have Tommy all wrong. He’s made a few mistakes. And so has the Chief for allegedly protecting him. Inadvertently. I should have known, with my double Ph.D’s in Astrophysics and Brain Surgery. Oops! Typo. And I really appreciate Ritchey’s parting counsel, or was it a threat? “Be careful out there,” he said.

Fitrakis has a Ph.D. in Political Science. Honest.

June 16, 2010

The BP Gulf Coast Fiasco Part 2 with Harvey Wasserman & Dr

Fight Back July 9th, Social Forum Audio Via WCRS

Join us for the
Free Press Second Saturday Salon
Saturday, July 10, 2010

Progressive networking, art, music by Cafe le Spritz, and refreshments.

1021 E. Broad St., side door, parking in rear