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Squibs & Sparklers
July 4, 2006: Just when you thought it safe to go back into the halls of government in Bridgeport, Connecticut, Mayor John M. Fabrizi fesses up to having used cocaine (aka making "poor choices") while in office. Fabrizi's predecessor, X Mayor Joseph Ganim, is doing time on cloud 9 (years) and X state Sen. Ernest Newton (a biggie in Bridgeport) is likewise lodged. Albeit for less of a stretch. Pay-2-Play for development deals and public contracts was the name of their game.

Mayor Fabrizi confessed to his drug use only after it was revealed via a federal investigation into narcotics trafficking in Bridgeport and southwest Connecticut. Around Christmas 2004, Fabrizi used his city-issued cell phone to call alleged dealer Shawn Fardy repeatedly. Fardy in turn, conveyed customer urgency to his alleged supplier Juan Marrero. Which suggests Fabrizi had one hungry pair of nostrils. But the mayor claims liquor was his real problem, since it made him crave cocaine. While this might seem an attempt by Fabrizi to downgrade his substance abuse to something more palatable to Joe Six Pack, the mayor's revitalized-- and publicly cited-- religious faith surely renders him incapable of such base political calculation. Though Mayor Fabrizi hasn't been charged with any crime, some want him to resign. He refuses to do so. Duty calls.

According to documents filed in U. S. District Court, big fish Juan Marrero told the FBI that Shawn Fardy had a video tape of Mayor Fabrizi using cocaine. Shawn Fardy was a member of Bridgeport's Democratic Town Committee. (As is Fardy's father. Mom chairs zoning & planning.) A Bridgeport police officer was among those snagged in the investigation which led to the outing of Mayor Fabrizi's X habit. Bridgeport is Connecticut's most populous city, with a high poverty level and significant violent crime. Of late, those making drug money in Bridgeport spent it prominently. Sucking up pricey booze in local watering holes and zipping around in personalized choppers. Wags say Mayor Fabrizi didn't notice the din because he was too busy trying to get Bridgeport named sister city to Nuevo Laredo.

Also in Conn, X Governor John Rowland, a Republican rascal fresh outta prison, just put his cottage on Bantam Lake up for sale. The one renovated by assorted state officials, public contractors and developers. For free. Just cause they liked him. The public will probably never see proceeds from the sale; Rowland's first wife is watching his assets with eyes as avid as Fabrizi's nose.

Among those who either helped rehab Rowland's dockside dacha, or graced him with other gratuities, were public contractor William Tomasso (of the developer family Tomasso) and the governor's X co-chief of staff, Peter Ellef. Ellef was once head of the Connecticut Department of Economic & Community Development. On June 28th, Tomasso and Ellef checked into a minimum security federal prison in Otisville, New York, for a 2 year vacation.

It was during the Rowland years that the plan to use eminent domain on the Fort Trumbull neighborhood in New London, Connecticut was born. To help clear the way for a state-funded redevelopment of waterfront land adjoining the facilities of pharmaceutical giant Pfizer Inc. Peter Ellef, and his good friend, former Connecticut College president Claire Gaudiani, played a big part in pumping up the moribund New London Development Corporation (NLDC). The local, quasi-public agency that in the name of the public good, seized and bulldozed the properties of Fort Trumbull's blue collar residents. Folks forced to sell were compensated. By the public. Hey-- it's all good.

But back to Mayor John Fabrizi of Bridgeport. A fan of eminent domain. Fabrizi is a member of the Executive Committee of the Conference of U.S. Mayors. In February, the exec committee issued an emergency resolution addressed to the U.S. Congress. The emergency being that Congress may limit the power of cities to use eminent domain as a development tool. And do so in the worst possible way-- by cutting off federal money. Last November, a proposal (H.R.4128) was passed by the House, whereby states or local governments receiving federal economic development funds, would be barred from using eminent domain for economic development. The proposal is currently languishing in the Senate. The Conference of U.S. Mayors would like to see it languish forever. Mired in delayed reports and "comprehensive hearings". Hopefully fading from the public's consciousness. Since some eighty percent of the U. S. Public detests the sort of eminent domain the U.S. Mayors favor.

This Spring, the Connecticut State Legislature adjourned after months of palaver about reforming the state's eminent domain laws. The effort was touched off by last year's U.S. Supreme Court decision re Kelo v. New London. The public, including Connecticut residents, responded with overwhelming revulsion to the court's decision that local governments can take private property and turn it over to developers. Governor Jodi Rell and the state legislature declared a temporary, voluntary moratorium on the use of development related eminent domain in Connecticut, during which state laws governing the practice were to be reformed. Months later-- no reform. Now Speaker of the House James Amann is talking about lifting the moratorium. Saying it's unfair to ask municipalities to put off eminent domain based development plans through another legislative session. Projects delayed by the moratorium include ones in Bridgeport and in Milford, where Amann hangs his hat.

In the eyes of public servants who forget their place, timely execution of government plans trumps the unfairness of circumventing democracy via shell games, as well as the injustice of forcing people from their homes to profit large-scale developers. Who are among the most generous political contributors going. And who, along with waste haulers, investment jugglers, property flippers, and drug dealers are often found at the heart of municipal corruption scandals.

Bridgeport Mayor John Fabrizi isn't the only sullied member of the Executive Committee of the U.S. Conference of Mayors. Take Mayor Ron Gonzales of San Jose, California. The feds already have. Mayor Gonzales was arraigned June 26th on 6 felony counts. Including bribery, conspiracy, falsifying public records, and that old fave, misappropriation of public funds. Indicted along with Gonzales were his budget aide and a garbage contractor.

Though emergency resolution signers Mayor John Street of Philadelphia and Mayor Richard Daley of Chicago haven't been indicted, both head administrations in which dozens of officials have been charged and convicted. In both cities federal investigations are ongoing. In Philadelphia, where Mayor Street has set a record for the use of eminent domain, a wire tapped drug dealer's conversations ultimately led to Mayor Street's biggest fund raiser, the city treasurer, and investment bankers doing business with the city. In Chicago, the issue is corrupt machine patronage on a massive level. Rooted in the hoary ward politics of a section of Chicago called Bridgeport.

Then there's the Executive Committee members whose cities are centers of mortgage fraud. The white collar crime du jour. Which decimates inner city neighborhoods and leaves taxpayers, via HUD and the FHA, to pick up the bill. A goodly number of the 19 mayors who signed the eminent domain rescue resolution, and who are so hot not to have their land grabs curtailed, seem unable to police government supported, locally administered, housing opportunity programs. Does this qualify them to take private property and give it to developers, citing revitalization and the public good? Using public money to speed the plow?

They seem to think so.

Of course, some pols who signed the we-heart-eminent-domain resolution issued by the Executive Committee of the Conference of U.S. Mayors are AOK. They only have reps for being multi-term machine autocrats, or new urban totalitarians.

Meanwhile, in California, one million citizens have signed a petition (the Protect Our Homes Initiative) to place an eminent domain abuse reform measure on the ballot come November. On the 4th of July, it's nice to know that so many people put their John Hancocks on a document defending an essential freedom. As opposed to scrawling their "X" on a resolution pushing the opposite.

Carola Von Hoffmannstahl-Solomonoff

"Get rid of the nose candy"

Advice given John Fabrizi in 1998 by a political insider when Fabrizi was thinking of becoming mayor of Bridgeport, Connecticut. "Mayor's Drug Admission puts Rumors In The Open, Edmund H. Mahony," Hartford Courant, 06/21/06

"Home is where you get your first kiss and make your last stand."

Christopher Kimball, "Home On The Range, Summer Grilling," Cooks Illustrated, Summer 2006

Sources include but are not limited to:

"Snicker if you like, but it won't stop feds," John Kass, Chicago Tribune, 06/28/06

"Ellef, Tomasso report to New York prison camp," Associated Press, 06/28/06

"San Jose mayor arraigned on bribery, conspiracy charges," May Wong, Associated Press, 06/26/06

"Rowland Cottage For Sale," David Altimari & Jon Lender, Hartford Courant, 06/24/06

"Cell Phones link Fabrizi to suspect," Marian Gail Brown and Bill Cummings, Connecticut Post Online, 06/18/06

"Lots of road ahead in fed's City Hall probe," Michael J. Daly, Connecticut Post Online, 06/18/06

"Alleged Participants in Bridgeport Drug Ring Indicted," Press Release, U. S. Attorney's Office District of Connecticut, 06/06/06

"Eminent Domain," The United States Conference of Mayors, Adopted by the Executive Committee 01/26/06

"Bridgeport neighborhood cradle of political clout in Chicago," Sarah Schulte, WLS-TV Chicago, 07/19/05,

"Three found guilty in Philadelphia corruption case," Associated Press/USA Today, 05/09/05

"Six More Participants in Bridgeport Drug Ring Indicted, Arrested," Press Release, U. S. Attorney's Office District of Connecticut, 03/18/05

"Participants in Bridgeport Drug Ring Indicted," Press Release, U. S. Attorney's Office District of Connecticut, 03/11/05

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Copyright (c) 2006 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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