October 14, 2005: Mea culpa. Like Sir Mix-A-Lot, I have a confession. I like
libertarians. Though I'll never be one. Or at least-- not to
the max. For one thing, I think Sally Rand made a greater
contribution to humanity than Ayn Rand. And as a believing if
insufficiently practicing Catholic, I can't get behind how most
libertarians feel re God's moral authority: they hates the idea
my precious. As do many on the left. Though the latter seem more
willing to fudge the issue if God seems sufficiently progressive.
Whereas many conservatives think God's authority is embodied by
pols who know where the WMD is buried. And where corporate
shepherds can find flocks of cheap labor.
R Libertarians a Stiff Necked People?
Of late I've been following the Life, Liberty & Property (LLP)
listserv & forum monitored by blogger Eric Cowperthwaite. Of
Eric's Grumbles Before the Grave. A blog name to die for.
The overall tone of LLP is sharp and focused. Sniping and one
upmanship blessedly minimal. Economic issues are a popular
topic, often from a speculative libertarian perspective. Some
discussions spin off of news events. How to rebuild New Orleans
was big for awhile. Eminent domain is a perennial favorite. LLP
participants are pretty savvy re the relation of big government
and public corruption. Some sneer about taxpayer supported free
enterprise. Naturally I find this endearing.
Less endearing is the occasional note of disengagement from
actual reality as lived by real human beings-- as opposed
to economic abstractions. A note also found in prog places.
And all political haunts. Ideological purity has a crystalline
beauty. When embraced it freezes the heart.
Some of the most interesting LLP discourses are when people
define their own personal philosophy. Many LLP-ites represent
a new wave of libertarians who've found each other via the
Internet. They're enthusiastic and idealistic, with a genuine
desire to lead honorable and meaningful lives. Even if I don't
buy the whole libertarian vision, I find that desire admirable.
And even more proof that God moves in mysterious ways. Speaking
Elk Grove, California was only formally declared a city in 2000.
Hitherto Sacramento ruled the roost. But Elk Grove's citizens and
public servants already enjoy the rancorous relationship found
in more eldritch cities. One bone of contention being a citizen
based move to recall two law enforcement officials based on
charges of conflict of interest. Eyes of Argus is one of the
local blogs dishing the recall, as well as the overall political
culture of Elk Grove. One Argus entry describes how the city
council treats citizens who appear at meetings to voice concerns
during the public comment period. If not ignored, or treated
like a bother "expect to be stared at like you're a space alien."
When not Roswelling constituents who raise unwelcome issues, city
council members are said to squirm, twitch, examine nearby walls
and whisper among themselves. When one citizen spoke at the
September 28th meeting, "they all began to lean to one another
and started talking to each other in hushed tones. It was like
they were posing for Last Supper of the Elk Grove City Council."
In New Jersey, gubernatorial hopefuls Jon Corzine (D.) and Doug
Forrester (R.) have been squabbling over the possible use of
eminent domain in the Camden area. Though to my mind neither
plutocrat is a credible reformer, it's nice to see Doug the Dawg
hold Corzine's feet to the flame on the topic. Calling a plan
involving Petty's Island, near Camden, an "unholy alliance of
political bosses, pay-to-play and eminent domain."* One of the
bosses is George E. Norcross III. One possible future for Petty's
Island is as a wildlife preserve. But Norcross favors it being
turned into a golf course and luxo housing enclave, claiming this
version of Petty's Island would enhance a redevelopment project
in the low income neighborhood of Cramer Hill in Camden. Both
projects require the use of eminent domain and both are the baby
of the same developer, Cherokee Investment Partners. The local
officials who designated Cherokee as preferred developer are
closely allied with George Norcross.
Norcross hails from upscale, suburban Cherry Hill. Where for
years many of Camden's most prominent political and financial
stakeholders have hung their hats. Not only is Norcross (who
has never held elected office) one of Jersey's most powerful
political bosses, he's also the head of Commerce National
Insurance Services; a member of the Commerce Bancorp family.
Over the past year the Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) has
been looking into campaign contributions made by Commerce Bancorp
to public officials in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. The interest
springs from federal investigations into pay-to-play corruption
in Philadelphia-- where two execs and a bank board advisor from
Commerce Bank/Philadelphia have figured among the payers and
players. Commerce Bank is a member of the Commerce Bancorp
family. Commerce Bank is based in Cherry Hill, as is Commerce
National Insurance Services.
Commerce National, along with Cherokee and its subsidiaries, are
among the firms with development interests in Camden that have
donated heavily to pols, primarily Democrat, who've advanced the
Petty's Island and Cramer Hill plan. The latter requires the use
of eminent domain on a large number of low and middle income
property owners and will displace a mainly minority community.
Talking Garden State reform, acting Governor Richard Codey
(successor to McGreevey the X) has been taking out the trash at
the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ).
The nation's largest health care university. The UMDNJ has been
beset by revelations of corruption and misspending resulting
from hiring and contracting practices guided by political
influence. If the state and federal probes weren't enough UMDNJ
has also suffered a rash of mysterious break-ins. Where little
except documents disappeared. But thankfully Governor Codey has
appointed two clean-up guys to the UMDNJ board. One of whom is a
former president and CEO of First Fidelity Bancorp. A member of
the Commerce Bancorp family.
Meanwhile, nothing from nothing means nothing in New London,
Connecticut. Eminent domain aficionados Michael Joplin and David
Goebel are still hunkered down in the New London Development
Corporation (NLDC) bunker. Dodging the loss of their top jobs.
The state mediator is still mediating, the city council is still
dithering and citizens are still fuming. Though some, along with
the Federation of Connecticut Taxpayers Organizations (FCTO) are
looking into the quasi-public NLDC. Utilizing the Freedom of
Information Act. As Halloween draws nigh in what's left of the
New London neighborhood of Fort Trumbull, perhaps Susette Kelo
and her few remaining neighbors are placing jack-o-lanterns on
their doorsteps. Or hanging effigies from trees in their yards.
In late September Hillary O. Shelton, director of the NAACP
Washington Bureau testified before the House Judiciary Committee,
Subcommittee on the Constitution re the Supreme Court's Kelo
Decision. Expressing concerns that "by allowing pure economic
development motives to constitute public use for eminent domain
purposes, state and local governments will now infringe on the
property rights of those with less economic and political power
with more regularity".** Among the NAACP examples of places where
eminent domain threatens African-Americans was the Park South
neighborhood in Albany, New York.
In Albany, the Morris and Dorothy Silverman Foundation has
been a long time financial backer of the University Heights
Association (UHA). A non-profit consortium of medical and legal
colleges and facilities. The UHA in turn, has been a major force
behind the Park South Redevelopment Plan. Which entails the use
of eminent domain. In early October the Silverman Foundation
filed a lawsuit against the UHA over unpaid real estate loans.
Just how will the lawsuit impact the Park South Plan?
In Broome County, New York, does Endicott Interconnect
Technologies (EIT or EI) really plan to launch a federal appeal
of their recent (and second) defeat before the National Labor
Relations Board? If so, they must really want Communications
Workers of America (CWA) organizer Rick White off the premises!
In Franklin County, Ohio, will the assets of Republican mega
fundraiser Tom Noe and wife Bernadette (the bi-partisan couple
known as the Arnold and Maria of Toledo) be put under the control
of county Judge David Cain while state Attorney General Jim Petro
checks on whether Tom Noe stole from the Ohio Bureau of Workers'
Compensation investments he mismanaged?
In Dee Cee, check that crazy report the House Energy and
Commerce Committee's Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee
(a real government mouthful) is about to deliver re E-rate fraud.
The result of a year long probe into institutional and corporate
misuse and waste of funds meant to subsidize telecommunications
in low income areas. The report on the 2.25 billion dollar
program (funded by a tax tacked onto consumer phone bills) is due
in late October. Though it's said the committee will deliver a
blast, the focus will be on reform rather than cancellation.
After a few rounds of contrite, E-rate is off to do 96 million
dollars worth of good in post Katrina Louisiana, Mississippi and
Alabama. Where the gold rush is already raging.
Also Dee Cee: HUD head Alphonso Jackson recently announced that
taxpayers will be donating $41.7 million in grants to some 362
state and local housing agencies who'll council low income
homebuyers how to avoid pitfalls like unreasonably high interest
rates, inflated appraisals and unaffordable repayment terms.
Unfortunately, nobody will be counseling HUD or Alphonso Jackson
on which state and local housing agencies are colluding in the
mortgage frauds signified by unreasonably high interest rates,
inflated appraisals and unaffordable repayment terms.
Too bad. Even libertarians might pay a dollar for that!
Carola Von Hoffmannstahl-Solomonoff
*Corzine plays defense over Petty Island development, Gregory
J. Volpe, Courier News, c-n.com, 10/12/05
**Statement of Hilary O. Shelton, Director NAACP Washington
Bureau Before The House Judiciary Committee Subcommittee Of The
Constitution, "The Supreme Court's Kelo Decision and Potential
Congressional Response", 09/22/05
"Panel Report Critical of E-Rate," David Hatch, National Journal's
Insider Update: The Telecom Act, 10/11/05
"Judge wants Noe records from Petro," T.C. Brown, The Plain
"Residents Investigating New London Development Corporation," Tina
Detelj, WTNH.com, 10/07/05
"Rick White and CWA Win Big in Fight for Rights," Candice Johnson,
CWA News, 10/05
"HUD awards $41.7M for housing counseling," Inman News, 10/05/05
"Silverman Foundation sues University Heights Association," Richard
A. D'Errico, The Business Review (Albany), 10/03/05
"Codey taps 2 for board of medical university," Patricia Alex,
"Jury Verdict Hammers Commerce Bancorp," Matthew Goldstein,
"Firms in 2 Projects Tied To Campaigns," Frank Kumer & Elisa Ung,
Philadelphia Inquirer, 04/17/05
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