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The World Spins/QT catches the dishes.
May 20, 2005: Those who think Antonio Villaraigosa was elected mayor of Los Angeles because X Mayor Jim Hahn was mixed up with too many dicey real estate deals, or because it was time for the City of Angels to elect a Latino are dead wrong. According to an e-newsletter from the animal protection group, In Defense of Animals (IDA): "New L. A. Mayor is friend to elephants". Hopefully that friendship won't segue into cronyism and unlimited access to other people's peanuts.

New Jersey Mayors Nest

In May tra la la la, Jersey City Mayor Jeremiah Healy held onto his seat in this year's election. Without even having to strip. While in nearby Hoboken, Mayor Dave "Reform" Roberts didn't garner enough votes for a slide into another term: he'll face challenger Carol Marsh in a run-off. Marsh has the support of those who won't roll over for developers who hope to roll over the last bits of Hoboken open space. An unknown factor in the mix is how those who voted for former councilman Frank "Pupie" Raia will roll. Some thought Raia a Roberts ringer. For readers not familiar with machine traditions, a ringer is a bogus candidate who helps divide the opposition vote. At least Raia didn't make it into the run-off. A mayor named "Pupie" would have revitalized Hoboken as late night comic fodder. X Mayor Anthony Russo, who Mayor Roberts replaced, will be heading off to jail come Summer. The usual graft thing.

On a more somber note, Paul Byrne, prominent consultant to many Hudson County pols, died in early May. Till his final hours he reportedly felt betrayed and bitter that his life long friend, X Hudson County Executive Robert Janiszewski, turned federal witness and taped conversations with Byrne. Which ultimately resulted in Byrne's conviction in a widespread graft case involving a number of area public servants-- including Robert Janiszewski. Byrne died the day before Janiszewski went to prison. Thereby missing an event he'd anticipated with relish.

Byrne and Janiszewski grew up in Jersey City. Where the ghost of Mayor Frank "I am the law" Hague, a mister machine who held office for decades, lingered in every political nook and cranny. When Janiszewski began his career in the 70's he seemed an anti-Hague. As did a number of area pols who came up during that period. But when massive amounts of redevelopment money flowed into the county in the following decades most of the new breed took up Hague's mantle of corruption. Without his more traditional sense of social responsibility.

Once upon a time Paul Byrne and Robert Janiszewski were boys together. Schoolmates and inseparable friends who played on the much safer streets of a bygone Jersey City. You can dislike what Paul Byrne and Robert Janiszewski did as adults, and what their type in general has meant to the urban political landscape, but it doesn't make their ruined friendship and the twisted tunnel vision that spoiled their lives any less sad.

Springtime for Jennings-- in Albany

In April, it was great to see Mayor Jerry Jennings of Albany, New York taking a walking tour (at night!) of the midtown neighborhood formally called lower Pine Hills. Commonly known as "the student ghetto". The last time Jennings strode those mean streets may have been while campaigning for office 2 or 3 terms ago. Most likely in daylight-- because he promised to address neighborhood conditions. Which meant he had to have seen the student/Section 8 slums, drug dealers and trash.

On his most recent tour Mayor Jennings was accompanied by Kermit L. Hall, the new president of the State University of New York (SUNY) at Albany. Many SUNY undergraduates live in the student ghetto. A few weeks later at an Albany civic forum, President Hall voiced his determination to help rid the neighborhood of drugs, violence and overall blight. It will be interesting to see if Hall can really dislodge the slumlords (some of whom are influential-- even institutional) and the drug trade that never goes away no matter how many nickel and dime dealers get busted. Or stop student bashes that leave streets paved with beer cans, baggies and pizza boxes, and neighbors boomed out of their beds.

Hope may be in order: President Hall has already proved himself a magic man by revitalizing Mayor Jennings. Though it's also possible that the roughly $400,000 in government grants which will be funneled through the New York State Division Of Criminal Justice into a "historic partnership"* between SUNY Albany and John Jay College of Justice as part of the crime fighting initiative Operation Impact has also proved inspirational. As have visions of "The Midtown Strategy" a redevelopment project the Jennings administration hopes to launch in concert with SUNY and a few other area colleges.

Whatever. Why ask why Jerry Jennings the neighborhood activist has been reborn. Or why the student ghetto didn't improve during his reign. Of course crime in Albany overall is really the fault of former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani. Who drove criminals upstate with his aggressive anti-crime campaign in the 90's. (Once perps arrived the percs closed the deal.) Mayor Jennings has been pointing out Giuliani's responsibility for crime in Albany for quite some time. But did anyone listen? Nooooo. Too bad. If Giuliani had been arrested 10 years ago Albany would be a far different place.

Eyes On The Prize

Not everyone is short sighted. New York State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer (maybe soon Governor Spitzer!) has decided not to bring criminal charges against executives at Staten Island University Hospital (SIUH). Which defrauded the state's Medicaid program of $76.5 million.** Instead, Spitzer will make the hospital return the money over the next 12 years and reform its practices. Though all the executives (except one) behind the fraud have left SIUH, bringing a criminal case against them would somehow translate into bringing a case against the hospital. Thereby hurting the public. Furthermore, the X execs, who left SIUH for unstated reasons unrelated to the investigation, didn't profit from the fraud. And SIUH will no doubt seek to overturn the long-term real estate contracts forged with a doctor the FBI describes as an associate of the Gambino crime family.

While this is the second time in 7 years SIUH has been caught defrauding the state Medicaid program, Eliot Spitzer sounds so stern in his statements you can bet your bippy*** they've learned their lesson. As for those X execs who left SIUH for unstated reasons unrelated to the investigation-- rumor has it they were last seen canoeing west on the Erie Canal.

Break Out The Bubbly--

CDBG funding has been saved! The U.S. Conference of Mayors won't have to march on Dee Cee after all. Thanks to a low key move in Congress the popular HUD corruption bucket will keep pouring its almost-impossible-to-monitor Community Development Block Grant funds into upscale maws and paws everywhere. Not only will the program not be transferred into the U.S. Commerce Department, but any cuts or reforms at all appear unlikely. Even though HUD itself admitted in February that "some" communities get grants they might not need or deserve. Who saved CDBG? Free spending donkeys? No no Nanette. Free market elephants! Republicans in Congress, led by the former mayors among them, restored the block grant money in the budget both Senate and Congress passed in late April. Proving that when it comes to an appetite for other people's peanuts, partisan differences fade like life long friendships in the face of a federal rap.

Carola Von Hoffmannstahl-Solomonoff

"The monkey he got drunk/And sat on the elephant's trunk/The elephant sneezed & fell on his knees/And what became of the monk? The monk?

I Went To The Animal Fair, anonymous

"Money costs too much."

Ross MacDonald, The Goodbye Look, 1969

* Governor Pataki Announces Historic Partnerships with UAlbany and John Jay College To Develop Enhanced Crime Fighting Initiatives Impact, Office of the Governor Press Release, 04/04/05

**Hospital Agrees to Repay State $76.5 Million, Michael Luo, New York Times 05/18/05

***Bippy: an non specific body part referenced frequently on "Laugh-In" a television show popular in the latter half of the 20th century.

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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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