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The Vorpal Blades
November 10, 2005: In Albany, New York the big grey is on the way. The November wind whips merrily around corners. Mayor Jerry Jennings has won another term in office, empty coat tails flapping behind him. The Albany Times Union continues to cover local pols & players as thoroughly as Lil Kim does her booty. In the midtown section of the city, another citizens' watch group has stepped up to the crime plate in response to muggings of college students and a double homicide stemming from a burglary. The victims were an elderly couple. Life long Albany residents. Their death particularly violent. The most recent FBI stats show Albany's overall crime rate to be almost twice the national average. Violent crime more than double the average. Since national arson data doesn't exist, torch jobs don't figure into FBI stats. If they did, Albany property crime might have made an even more impressive showing.

During the mayoral race Jennings refused to debate challengers Alice Green and Joe Sullivan. Neither of whom stood a chance because neither represents a broad enough swath of the Albany body politic. Green being rad lib and Sullivan ultra conservative. Both made crime an issue in their campaign. If Jennings had debated Green and Sullivan his failure re crime would have been front burner material. He'd have been forced to explain why his policies to date have failed and exactly how he plans to do better. Lucky for Jennings serving the people kept him too busy to debate improving his service. Besides, New York State Senator Hillary Clinton and Attorney General Eliot Spitzer praised him in posh campaign commercials. What more did voters need to hear?

Back when Mayor Jennings launched his first campaign he came on strong about crime. Taking the position that redevelopment efforts in Albany were bound to fail unless the city was a safe place to live. Twelve years later the Burgermeister is peddling real estate in neighborhoods he's proved incapable of protecting. Offering a full menu of home ownership programs along with a side of free BBQ.*

Allegedly Speaking

In Springfield, Massachusetts the feds are moving on up. Reaching into the top levels of X Mayor Mike Albano's X administration. Shaking out X chief of staff Anthony Ardolino. Along with his brother, X cop Chester Ardolino. Charges include tax fraud related to the Ardolinos' alleged hidden interest in various bars. Ones in the downtown entertainment district** Mayor Mike jacked with public money. Being on the city payroll made bar ownership a no-no for the Ardolinos. They allegedly hid not only their ownership but their income. One of their alleged bars was sold by an alleged front man to alleged Gambino loansharks. In order to cover the alleged major gambling debts of yet another hidden--and still unnamed-- owner. As for X Mayor Mike Albano, some allege his famous red sauce is simmering. Others say hizzonor couldn't help it if alleged crooks clustered to him like moths to a flame. The real sad case is X cop Chet. He just wrapped up 6 months of house arrest on a mortgage fraud beef. Only to be served a super sized sack of new allegations.

Who in Springfield said: "We always move up the food chain in corruption cases."
Answer: FBI supervisory agent Michael O' Reilly.

Who said: "We eagerly await a trial based on the merits of the indictment."
Answer: Anthony Ardolino's attorney.***

When public servants are busted for corruption their attorneys almost always say something about how their clients look forward to the trial. What's puzzling is that these same folks often plead out before the anticipated big day. A recent example being Peter Ellef and William Tomasso in Connecticut. Ellef was X Governor John Rowland's co-chief of staff and Tomasso a preferred developer of public projects. Both pled guilty to corruption charges last month. After a year of trumpeting their eagerness to stand trial and daring the feds to bring it on. Go figure.

Springfield has obviously been cursed with more than its share of crooked pols. But the area is also blessed with many good government types who never cease to lay out their opposite in assorted public forums. Including the alt press and Internet. Say yay such outlets exist. Because according to former Springfield Mayor Robert Markel (in office 1992 to 1996) some of the blame for the rot which flourished during the Albano reign lies with the area's mainstream newsmedia. Including its primary newspaper, The Republican. In early October, as part of a public discussion by a number of civic leaders on how to address the city's problems, former Mayor Markel raised the issue of why Springfield had to wait for the feds to clean house. Asking where was local law enforcement-- and local newsmedia.

According to Markel, The Republican was off publishing puff pieces lauding the revitalizing powers of Mayor Mike Albano. While David Starr, the publisher (now president) of The Republican, was busy meddling in city policy via Springfield Central, an economic development council. Markel claimed The Republican essentially turned a blind eye to political sleaze as practiced by officials who supported and/or belonged to Springfield Central, or who favored the same economic development policies as did publisher David Starr.

For his part, David Starr claims Markel's comments are rooted in bitterness-- since The Republican didn't endorse Markel for a second term. And in its rebuttal the newspaper cites coverage and investigative reporting of municipal corruption dating back over 4 years. While it's true that some of that coverage has been excellent, nitpickers might point out that Mike Albano was elected in 1995. And that The Republican only began hitting on local corruption when the subject reached critical mass; with a federal investigation of local mob activities expanding into public corruption. Furthermore, Robert Markel's critique of David Starr and The Republican are echoed by some of the same good government types who detailed corruption in Springfield for far longer than 4 years.

The observation that local mainstream newsmedia may soften local political scrutiny because of corporate development interests is not unique to Springfield. Its ubiquity causes countless vorpal blades to whir in cyberspace.

Though X Mayor Mike Albano was once seen as a revitalizing ball o' fire, the city's renewal proved to rest not on rock but a sandbox. After Albano left office a state-run finance board was put in charge of municipal spending. Mayor Charles Ryan had to enact a lot of tough cost-cutting measures. Which took a toll on public employees. Despite this, Ryan handily beat back Thomas Ashe in the November 9th mayoral race. Ashe was widely believed to be a Trojan horse for the Albano gang. You go Springfield.

Other Races Other Places

In New London, Connecticut two city council seats were wrested from the old parties by members of a third party. Aka One New London. Born from the revolt against eminent domain as practiced by the New London Development Corporation (NLDC) in the neighborhood of Fort Trumbull. Another council seat may also fall their way via recount. One New London's platform focuses not only on misuse of eminent domain but on rising property taxes and botched redevelopment. The City Council is New London's top governing body, making One New London's coup even more meaty.

In New Jersey aka the Garden State, plutocrat and newly elected Governor Jon Corzine will get to show just what kind of a reformer he can be. For the sake of all the good people in Jersey who feel like regurgitating when they look at their government here's hoping Jon isn't Jim. And when Corzine pops a refill into his senate seat may it be someone less slippery than Robert Menendez from corruption drenched Hudson County. Here's also hoping that boosting rebates isn't the only way Corzine plans to cut property taxes. Though it's nice to get money in the mail why should homeowners give government no-interest loans?

Speaking of Hudson County, have you heard the one about a quasi- public development agency, a Catholic high school in a city chock full of Catholic cronies, and a bar owned by a Chinese guy? Seems the Jersey City Redevelopment Agency (JCRA) walks into a bar called the Golden Cicada and sez to the Chinese owner we're taking your land with eminent domain in order to extend a football field for our good buddies at St. Peter's Prep. Because they measured the damn field too short. The Chinese guy, whose name is Cheng Tan, says so sorry that Sam cut the pants wrong but I have other plans for my land. To make a long story as short as the football field, Cheng Tan summons forth the ACLU. Who don't like government power being used to boost holy recreation facilities. Though the city has backed off a bit due to bad publicity the final punchline won't be delivered till after a few court dates. Expect the usual Hudson County snicker-snack.

From Prague came a note from a friend saying Transparency International (a stellar if selective corruption watchdog group) had named the Czech Republic number 3 on the corrupt country hit parade. "We are the champions!" bragged Antiquated Tory. Then added it was too bad TI didn't rate states not just countries. But why stop there? Counties and cities need outside eyeballs too. Because as former Mayor Robert Markel of Springfield pointed out, local watchdogs have been known to develop a stake in the steak.

Carola Von Hoffmannstahl-Solomonoff

"One, two! One, two! And through and through/The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!"

Jabberwocky, Lewis Carroll, 1872

*"Mayor Jerry Jennings Kicks Off Midtown Home-Buying Program With Community Barbecue: CDTA announced as new partner," SBA News, Sawchuck Brown Associates, 09/05

**Or, as the Valley Advocate often puts it, the "so-called" downtown entertainment district.

***Both quotes from: "Springfield corruption case hits highest levels of City Hall," Adam Gorlick, AP/Portsmouth Herald, 11/01/05

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Copyright (c) 2005 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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