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
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.*
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
Answer: FBI supervisory agent Michael O' Reilly.
Who said: "We eagerly await a trial based on the merits of
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
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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