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The Good, The Bad & The Plug Ugly
In early September, Peter Weiss, one of the best political columnists ever, stepped off the face of the earth. Prior to heading upward, Peter Weiss wrote for the Jersey Journal, in Jersey City, New Jersey. His beat was Hudson County, a place long choked by political chicanery. Mr. Weiss wrote for decades about its Byzantine patterns. He did so with great clarity. Though Weiss often waxed cynical, corruption never ceased to bother him. His memory was remarkable: he had a database grasp of his subject. Weiss remembered which city council candidate was back stabbed in some long ago race in some town on the outer edges of the county in '78-- and who grafted who on the waterfront 10 years later. And could expand on how the political repercussions played out over the years.

Because Peter Weiss publicly detailed the inner world of local political power, Hudson County's citizens got a chance to deal with the real. Weiss brought the concept of transparency to the bedrock local level where it's most needed and is most often lacking. Reform movements in Hudson County owed him much. Weiss also set the standard for local political journalism, making it tougher for others to shovel received bull. I've often thought that if every local newspaper across the USA had a Peter Weiss, we'd be surfing waves of urban reform.

Speaking of reform, an initial QT topic in the Spring of 2001 was a series of political corruption cases unfolding in the urban northeast USA. In and around second tier cities; ones most typically struggling with post industrial decline. A number of prominent area pols from both parties, some with considerable national clout, had been indicted. The litany of federal charges revolved around pay for play public contract practices, dirty development deals, misuse of federal funds, tax evasion, witness tampering and money laundering. Organized crime connections were a frequent sub text.

Originally, many thought these cases would dry up and blow away. Mayor Jerry Brown of Oakland, California, while in attendance at the 2001 National Mayors Conference, pooh poohed the federal indictments facing Mayor "Buddy" Cianci of Providence, Rhode Island: "These kinds of indictments are just part of being a mayor." X Mayor Cianci is now doing time at Fort Dix. "Dix" an ex-military base in Jersey seems to have become the place to stash X pols. X Mayor Joseph Ganim of Bridgeport, Connecticut will call it home for the next 9 years. Meanwhile back in his old city hall office, Ganim's secret staircase for grafters has been nailed shut. His successor has hung up a sign, "You don't have to pay to play in Bridgeport." Let's hope it sticks.

A word about the term "X Mayor". A former mayor is someone who did the job honestly and left. An X Mayor is someone who shat where they slept and got hauled off in shackles. But while shackles are the gold standard, departing in a big ugly cloud also qualifies. And not only mayors can get an "X". Any public official is eligible. But the higher you go the less likely the shackles. Which is why the cloud standard comes in handy.

But back to Mayor Jerry Brown and his comments on X Mayor "Buddy" Cianci. The lengthy Cianci administration was consistently hit with corruption charges. Toward the end of the 80's, Cianci was forced to take a brief hiatus after attacking his wife's boyfriend with a fireplace log. Both pre and post log, numerous underlings at city hall bit the legal dust. Cianci used them as a wall between himself and prosecution. Cianci's violent and corrupt rep was covered by the national news media, though often in full Gotti glamour. Pols are a gossipy bunch. Cianci was prominent at national mayoral hustings. As is Jerry Brown. Brown has always ridden an ethical high horse. So why so tone deaf on Cianci's indictments? Recently I saw a piece in the Berkeley Daily Planet which made me wonder if Brown has other perception problems. About blight for instance. The author, J. Douglas Allen-Taylor, said Brown was now living with a girlfriend in a rough section of Oakland. Since moving in, Brown's been all over the hitherto neglected neighborhood. Pressuring the police and building department. Tote that dealer! Lift that trash! Allen- Taylor suggested other nabes might see similar improvements if Oakland instituted a Rent-The-Mayor program. Brown could camp in constituent spare rooms at night and hit the streets by day.

In 2002, mayoral candidate and political newcomer Corey Booker in Newark, New Jersey garnered much popular support by living in a camper parked outside the city's crime ridden housing projects. Though he ultimately lost, Booker ran a surprisingly competitive race against entrenched Mayor Sharpe James. Many cities sign on to myriad federal crime fighting programs. None of which reliably restore round the clock, plentiful walking beat cops. Which is what residents of crime blighted nabes across the nation say they want. Some programs however, do encourage city residents to become the eyes and ears for cops back at the station. Without weapons or real authority. Without wages. Hence without making mayors raise property taxes and/or challenge police unions. And federal crime fighting funds can be redirected to plug holes in municipal budgets.

Mayor Jerry Brown was recently on TV. Saying money spent in Iraq would be better spent in cities like Oakland. I agree. Iraq is a money pit. More money is needed in cities like Oakland. Camp beds and running shoes for all those mayors won't come cheap.

On September 26th, one time Mayor Anthony Russo of Hoboken, New Jersey went X. Frog stepping in shackles to multi corruption grooves laid down by U.S. Attorney Christopher J. Christie. And ain't it grand to see X Mayor Gerald McCann of Jersey City, who did time for S&L bank fraud committed while OUT of office, running for the seat vacated by X Hudson County Freeholder Nidia Davila-Colon, recently convicted of relaying bribes while IN office?

In deep qt 14 I made an error about upstate New York asbestos scamster and public contractor Joseph P. Thorn. I said Thorn's attorney appealed his client's sentence. In fact, it was the federal prosecutors who filed the appeal, asking for a stiffer sentence. Citing Thorn's egregious disregard for worker safety. The U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals granted the appeal and tossed the case back. Thorn then received 14 years from the same U.S. District Court judge who initially gave him 5.

Thorn is one part of a much larger picture: during the 90's, hundreds of private & public buildings across upstate New York, including schools, hospitals and the New York State Capital Building itself, were supposedly swept clean of asbestos by various interconnected abatement companies. As legally required the results were verified by independent labs. But the labs were secretly owned by some of the same people who owned the companies. When removal actually occurred, it was frequently done "snow storm" style. As in, clouds of cancer dust. Along with the ensuing environmental and worker safety related charges, went ones of conspiracy. And racketeering re bid rigging, money laundering, obstruction of justice and mail and wire fraud. Over the last few years a string of perps have pled guilty or been convicted. Now, according to the Albany Times Union, the last man standing, Alexander Salvagno "owner of now defunct AAR Contractor.." goes on trial in October. Salvagno incidentally, is also the alleged secret owner of similarly defunct Analytical Laboratories of Albany, present owner of seemingly still breathing AAR Environmental Services and is listed on the current website of the Environmental Business Association of New York State (EBA/NYS) as chair of the Members Technology Committee.

The final stages of United States v. Salvagno will no doubt prove interesting. A number of legal twists have already taken place. In May, Salvagno's attorneys had a number of subpoenas quashed by the United States District Court. Essentially, the subpoenas were deemed too broad and the info they sought not proven relevant to the case. Amongst the 5 subpoenas the Salvagno attorneys filed were two for the City of Albany, including one for the Custodian of Records for records dating back to 1990. A third went to the Custodian of Records at the Veteran's Administration Hospital at Albany. In the latter case, records regarding not only asbestos but lead removal were sought.

On a smaller, but no less compelling legal front, George Beam, that majorly pissed off homeowner in Mentor, Ohio, has been deposing & being deposed. Plus hosting a house tour for legal parties. Showing off damage done by Mentor's HUD bucked home reno squad. In Norman, Oklahoma, Michael Wright has a deeply researched piece on his website about the Norman connections of Zacarias Moussaoui, sometimes called the 20th hijacker. A link appears below. You may not accept Wright's thesis, but he certainly provides an unsettling picture of what creepy crawly things can be found in your own back yard.

Paging Peter Weiss..

Carola Von Hoffmannstahl-Solomonoff

"There's been a collapse of confidence in the integrity of the contract bidding process of state authorities across the state..."

Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, D-Westchester, New York State "Sole Bidder wins canal rights". Syracuse Post-Standard 9/14/03

"I found my mind in a brown paper bag and then I followed it in.."

The First Edition, I Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)


Michael Phillip Wright: Investigations into the 9/11 Attack -- Was a Botched Sting Operation Part of the Picture? http://journals.aol.com/mpwright9/michael

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Copyright (c) 2003 by Carola Von Hoffmannstahl-Solomonoff. This material may be freely distributed subject to the terms and conditions set forth in the Open Publication License. This license relieves the author of any liability or implication of warranty, grants others permission to use the Content in whole or in part, and insures that the original author will be properly credited when Content is used. It also grants others permission to modify and redistribute the Content if they clearly mark what changes have been made, when they were made, and who made them. Finally, the license insures that if someone else bases a work on this Content, that the resultant work will be made available under the Open Publication License as well.

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