PDT Staff Writer
Downtown merchant Terry Ockerman turned his complaint about the noise from the Columbia Music Arena up a notch Monday night at the Portsmouth City Council meeting.
Ockerman said he pulled in to park around 8 p.m. during Saturday night’s concert, and “The first thing I hear is ‘I’m gonna turn this m-f out.’” He said the act performing on the stage made that statement into the microphone, and it was heard all over the area.
“I get a call at 10:30 (p.m.) saying, ‘Terry what’s going on down here? Have you heard this?’ I said, ‘what?’ The first thing when I got out of my truck, I hear ‘m-f’ I heard it at 8 o’clock (p.m.), people going to Port City (Cafe), there’s a church behind there,” Ockerman said. “I just don’t get it. I don’t understand it. If you start at 8 o’clock, and you are there until 10 or 11, why can’t somebody walk to the front and say, ‘that’s not acceptable?’ ownership always says, ‘I wasn’t there.’”
He said it was patrons of the concert who spilled out into the street, and then some — including a boy he described as 15 years old — had a confrontation with patrons from The Royal, a bar next door.
“Then later that night the patrons coming in and out, and then the racial slurs start flying,” Ockerman said. “Want me to tell you what those were?”
“We can imagine,” City Council President John Haas said.
“I would apologize to the Mayor (David Malone) if he was here,” Ockerman said. “‘I hate these m-f…..’ You know where I’m going. That’s embarrassing to our community and to our city, and to our leadership that sits on Council. How can this happen? I don’t understand it, other than (management) saying, ‘I wasn’t there. It wasn’t my fault.’ And then the patrons go out and start harassing the patrons at the Royal, and nobody is policing their own. How many people do you think that were sitting out there that night that heard that? Do you think that’s not going to get back to our main employers - King’s Daughters, SOMC (Southern Ohio Medical Center), Shawnee State (University).”
Ockerman made a reference to a noise ordinance that is in place that does not permit sound from an open venue to travel more than 50-feet, then challenged Fourth Ward Councilman Jim Kalb, the manager of the Columbia Music Arena.
“Me personally, I don’t think we should have any representation on City Council that is putting our city in this position,” Ockerman said. “I would say, either recuse yourself, or step down.”
Ockerman said he had talked with all members of City Council, and that he has tried to be friends, but added - “you’re gonna have to get this together. This isn’t doing us any good at all.” He then asked City Council members to come down to that area during a live concert and see what he says in going on.
“Just a short response to Mr. Ockerman’s comments,” Kalb said during remarks by members of City Council. “First of all I have no intention of recusing myself or removing myself from City Council. I understand what you were saying, and perhaps there was a problem inside, something that we can handle, but when people go outside and they’re slinging vulgarities and everything, are you going to blame that on the Columbia?”
Kalb said to his knowledge there have been no calls to the Portsmouth Police Department, except on the noise issue.
“To my knowledge there is nothing that says we have to stop at 11 (p.m.), but we’ve been trying to get along with everybody, and curbing the concerts at 11 or shortly after,” Kalb said. “We have run over a couple of times. But we have been trying to make things work. As far as removing yourself because of a conflict of interest, I would think being on a couple of different housing boards and having a housing complex in the city, perhaps that’s a conflict of interest.”
Ockerman responded that Kalb was the one who named him to the board.
“I don’t think we’re any farther along toward solving your problem, Terry, than we were on the first day of the report,” Sixth Ward Councilman Steve Sturgill said. “I could be wrong, but I have no way of knowing. The city allowed the Columbia to build an open-air theater, and now we’re trying to backtrack, trying to fix this. I don’t know how you fix that - the paste is already out of the tube. I don’t know how you fix it. It’s not Mr. Kalb’s fault. It’s not (arena owner) Mr. (Lee) Scott’s fault that they were allowed to build that facility the way they were allowed to build it. What we’re going to find out is the same thing. We get ourselves into these things. Over the years we have bought buildings we can’t use. Now we’ve got an open-air theater and there is nothing but controversy. You (Ockerman) have to keep coming to express your frustration, and we sit over here and wonder what’s going on. That’s not a very good working situation.”
First Ward Councilman Kevin Johnson is in the process of proposing an ordinance that carries specific decibel levels, and that would take effect one year after passage by City Council.
Frank Lewis may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 232, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.