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  deep qt: dossier 5: August is the Month Before Christmas
On the retail calendar, Christmas follows on the heels of the wicked month. Which means Vincent "Buddy" Cianci, ex-Mayor of Providence, Rhode Island will soon depart for federal prison. In mid Summer, Cianci was convicted of conspiracy racketeering. In early September, U.S. District Judge Ernest Torres sentenced Cianci, giving him roughly 5 years. Cianci's date with penal destiny begins on December 6th. When Cianci was first indicted, Mayor Jerry Brown of Oakland, California was simpatico, saying such charges were "just part of being a mayor". But Judge Torres compared Cianci to Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde: Jekyll being the revitalizin' wizard who produced a "Providence Renaissance", while Hyde was a money mad bully, running a criminal organization from city hall. The Boston Herald however, integrated the two: "...while downtown thrived, some neighborhoods-- places where people couldn't pay to play-- did not". The all in one "Buddy", was running an urban game that too often is "just part of being a mayor". Urban revitalization, paid for by the public, lifts the well heeled and well connected, while the last residents still standing in nabes overrun by drug trade and rotted out by HUDlords wonder "How low can we go?"

Hopefully, not as low as Phil Giordano, Republican ex-mayor of Waterbury, Connecticut. In early September, MSNBC carried a story that Giordano would plead guilty to charges he arranged for sex with two girls, aged 9 and 11. Allegedly sold to him by a crack addled hooker. One child her daughter, the other her niece. But a few days later the Republican American reported that while the crackitute pled guilty to selling the children to Phil, Phil's attorney continues to mount a vigorous defense. Requesting the judge in the case recuse himself cause he once called Phil a "sexual predator". A request that went nowhere. Meanwhile, prosecutors have reportedly been gathering DNA samples from the carpet of the mayor's office. Where Phil allegedly recused himself. The location of the stains are said to confirm the victim's stories. Waterbury's new mayor just got around to removing the chairman of the city housing authority, a Giordano appointee. Phil's homey was Waterbury's largest landlord. It may also be time for the new mayor to pull Phil's carpet. Particularly if it's a shag.

In upstate New York, the capital region also enjoyed late Summer fun, when Amtrak and the Capital District Transportation Authority (CDTA) played a game of chicken with the new, Albany/Rensselaer Train Station. A work in process. The stop is a busy one. Since Albany is the seat of state government, Amtrak shuttles armies of pols, lobbyists and lawyers twixt upstate and down. The stop is also a tourist connection. And since 9/11, the entire Hudson Valley corridor has seen an influx of New York City emigres. The current station resembles a giant shed. In 1999, construction of a palatial new station, up the hill from the old, was launched under the auspices of CDTA and with support from major and minor area politicians of both parties. With Amtrak supposedly on board. To date, $53.1 million taxpayer dollars have been spent on the upgrade, the source of largesse being both federal and state. As the projected completion date was pushed further and further back, the cost grew apace. Byzantine glitches developed. The biggest occurred when David Gunn, the new president of financially strapped Amtrak, balked at the rent set by CDTA. Complaining that CDTA expected Amtrak to foot the cost of operation. Gunn's balk carried clout because-- surprise surprise-- CDTA had no lease with Amtrak! The thrill upon the hill seems to have been built on spec. The snafu has been a source of much speculation amongst Amtrak's regular riders and area newspapers have covered the story in admirable depth. But the $53.1 million dollar question remains: how did this public project, without a legally binding commitment from the projected prime tenant, repeatedly get both state and federal funding? When the pitcher went to the well of New York State legislators and transportation officials, and in Washington, to the transportation subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee, did anyone ask to see a lease?

By mid September, CDTA & Amtrak had allegedly worked out a deal. During the process, important specifics were not shared with the public. By either Amtrak or CDTA. Because doing so might "affect negotiations". Aspects of the deal could still stand clarification. For instance, Amtrak will reportedly be providing building management services, such as cleaning, maintenance and security. How will these services intersect with those provided by Omni Management Group, who also have a contract for building management? Considering events to date, transparency would be a valuable public relations tool for both CDTA and Amtrak. Taxpayers have paid through the nose for the station; they're entitled to disclosure regarding their investment.

Arrogance from those spending public money (as well as actual misuse) always reminds me of something said by good neighbor "Mollie" in the Heights section of Jersey City, New Jersey. Mollie was an ex-school teacher and a good government type. Unusual to the time and place-- though not unique. There were others like her, all beamed in from Planet Reformo. Jersey City's mayor then was Democrat Jerry McCann. Aka "Merry Jerry". Merry Jerry ran for mayor in anti-machine wear (don't they all) but left in prison garb. A few little instances of bank fraud. The S&L thing. Boca Raton. Swimming Pools. Oh. Wait. The last was Jed Clampett. Anyway, one evening, before Jerry got McCanned, a Dump McCann meeting was held by the local aliens and eventually talk turned to the general topic of misuse of public money. Mollie said something like, while there certainly are hardcore crooks, many who help themselves to public money don't think they're doing anything wrong because they don't feel it comes from real people.

Sinclair Lewis, at rest in the ash can of culture, none the less had his moments. In "Babbitt" he skewers bold entrepreneurs who want a safety net held under their free enterprises. Preferably provided by somebody else. Now the net is frequently held by the taxpayer, who also supplies the investment capital. For a widening gyre of endeavors, where public and private increasingly bleed together. "World Con" hammered home that playing fast and loose with other people's money plus the social disconnect entailed, is common across the board. Making one ask, what world will crack next?

But World Con isn't the only world in the world. There's also the World of Mirth. The World of Mirth was one of the many circuses that once rode the rails and set up at state fairs. Every September, at the Vermont State Fair in Rutland, the World of Mirth spins again in a room behind the fairground bleachers. Part of a larger creation of one man, who for years, at his own expense, has been building models and dioramas of Rutland's circuses and fairs. His tiny midways, tents and circus trains stretch across many tables. Most of the display is handmade. Ferris wheels and merry-go-rounds fashioned from toothpicks and toy building sets revolve and light up. Postage stamp banners invite you to step up and SEE the harem girls and alligator boys. Tigers are unloaded at the little train stations with palpable hustle and bustle. On my visit this year, a boy of about 12 stood transfixed before the magical little world. He asked if you could buy it. "You can't buy it" came the reply "But you can build it".

Now, if only CDTA had enough toothpicks...

Merry Christmas! Carola Von Hoffmannstahl-Solomonoff

Coming Your Way Soon! An "On The QT" Special Feature: Heads Will Roll-- Mortgage Fraud Stateside, Mafia Capitalism "Over There" & New Jersey's Wild and Wooly Political Web World. PEEP 3 will reveal more on the art of living. Plus news of a QT transformation...

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Copyright (c) 2002 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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