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 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
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
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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