May 5, 2005: Imagine it's Autumn, 2011. The tenth anniversary of 9/11.
President Condaleeza Clinton is speaking on TV, as part of the
national memorial ceremony. After honoring the memory of the
victims and acknowledging the still felt sorrow of the families,
she looks straight into the camera and says "and I want to
assure you that the bones found this week in Tora Bora have
been positively identified by Pakistani officials as those of
Osama bin Laden."
Across the USA the skeptical raising of eyebrows sends
4x4x4 Part One covered the Mondo QT project past & present.
Now for the future. Which as Criswell the Psychic used to say,
is where we're all going to live. Though we won't be living in
Slaugerton, New Jorksacutt. An apocryphal city in an equally
imaginary state. I recently began covering the pols & players
of New Jorksacutt in "Revitalization, My Lovely". The story
will continue in serial form. While extrapolated from life,
any similarities to actual persons or places is coincidental.
But if Middle Earth could be mapped, why not New Jorksacutt? So
expect a full color guide-- including not only major highway
exits, but historic sites of historic corruption. Plus tips
on scenic HUD boondoggles and secret environmental get-aways.
Tourist memorabilia will also be hawked. Be the first to wear an
"I (heart) New Jorksacutt" t-shirt or take a slug from a mug
proclaiming the same. On the real estate front, the city of
Slaugerton will be marketed as a new urban paradise. As we speak,
crime stats are being shuffled. And the Slaugerton Herald-Union
has kindly agreed to discontinue its police court column.
Not all at Mondo QT will be fiction. One real life issue slated
for continued attention is eminent domain. And its application
in various locations. Eminent domain (ED) is the right of
government, as implied in the Fifth Amendment, to take private
property for "public use". If just compensation is made. ED has
reasonable applications. For instance, when an absentee owner
lets an empty building decay to the point of public danger. But
ED is increasingly being used to clear wide swaths of private
property in order to facilitate projects for private developers.
While "fixing blight" serves as justification for ED in some
places, the promise of increased tax revenues and public money is
enough in others. As example, the city of Long Branch, New Jersey
wants to bulldoze a middleclass oceanfront neighborhood in order
to make way for luxury homes. One of the designated developers
for the project, Applied Companies of Hoboken, is a major
developer of subsidized affordable housing in Jersey, often
in conjunction with luxury projects. And Applied's Long Branch
project will indeed contain a small number of affordable units.
Which will be built after the unsubsidized affordable
neighborhood is bulldozed.
Via ED, municipalities are essentially redistributing private
property. Albeit in the name of revitalization rather than
socialism. Though many of the urban planners who dig ED do think
of themselves as progressive. And private developers who benefit
from obtaining other peoples' property by government decree are
often jazzed by state or federal money. Which they in turn, kick
back to municipalities. So EDism may in fact, be a form of
socialism-- one specific to the United States of Real Estate.
In February, the Supreme Court began considering the
constitutionality of eminent domain when used by governments
working in concert with private developers, in regard to the
case of Kelo v. City of New London. The modest waterfront
neighborhood of Fort Trumball in New London, Connecticut has been
condemned in order to advance a redevelopment plan linked to
pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, Inc. City officials never claimed
Fort Trumball was blighted, just that it stood in the way of
something bigger and better. A number of residents resisted,
including Susette and Tim Kelo. Legal assistance was provided
by the Institute for Justice, a property rights group. The
Supreme Court decision is expected in June.
Last summer, the Michigan Supreme Court unanimously overturned
an eminent domain ruling it made 2 decades ago about the Detroit
neighborhood of Poletown. After the riots of the 1960's, Poletown
was one of the last blue collar neighborhoods left in the city.
Poletown was a tightly knit ethnic community. Plus many residents were
first time property owners who felt strongly connected to their
homes. But in the early 80's Mayor Coleman Young knocked most of
Poletown down with eminent domain-- so that General Motors could
build a $500 million Cadillac plant. The plant never produced the
projected number of jobs, nor did it serve to revitalize
Detroit. With much of its population lost, and streets scarred
by empty lots, the remaining part of Poletown slid downhill.
While Mayor Coleman Young went on to acquire and bulldoze more
and more of Detroit. Proving ED can become addictive.
When the Michigan Supreme Court overturned its prior Poletown
ruling it cited the need to "vindicate our Constitution (and)
protect the people's property rights". For the people whose
rights were violated 2 decades ago vindication came a little
late. But better late than never.
The tragedy of Poletown is powerfully evoked by writer Loren D.
Estleman in his 1985 mystery "Sugartown". Estleman lives in the
Detroit area and resided in the city during the period Poletown
was being bulldozed. "Sugartown" was recently reissued with a new
afterword by Estelman. In it he expands on what eminent domain
meant to Poletown - and on the corrupt, bully boy reign of
Mayor Coleman Young.
Pols et al
Sullied pols have always been QT fodder and will continue to
be so. But less monster-of-the-week and more special feature.
Though some cry out for frequent attention. Take X Governor Jim
McGreevey of New Jersey. When caught in an embarrassing ethical
moment he goes into martyr mode. And cries. His mentor, State
Senator Ray Lesniak, who always seems to be on the scene when
Jimbo is forced to tender a resignation, never sez "stop your
sobbing". In fact, according to a 04/29/05 Star-Ledger story
(How law firm forced McGreevey out) Lesniak himself wept when
Jimbo had to leave Lesniak's law firm due to a perceived conflict
of interest. Now that NJ corrections commissioner Devon Brown has
claimed that during the McGreevey administration, patronage jobs
at the department were mandatory, will more tears flow? Though
no tissue company connection has surfaced (so far) could this be
a case of pay-to-spray?
Talking governors, the upcoming New Jersey and New York races
will definitely be Mondo material. And by cracky it sure seems
Pataki didn't get grilled on the Erie Canal. Other looming
stories include the last mad, mortgage flipping days of the
housing bubble, why E-Rate fraud matters, consumer issues re the
building industry in Texas, assorted mayoral races, a Northeast
Internet round-up of swell voices of the people, and continued
coverage of hollowed out cities. Plus plenty of art from PEEP.
One last peek at President Condaleeza Clinton and those Tora Bora
bones of bin Laden. Though the American public is somewhat
skeptical when the announcement is made, most want to give her
and our Pakistani allies the benefit of the doubt. But when a
sharp eyed blogger notices-- and proves-- that UBL's skull bears
an uncanny resemblance to that of a mountain goat, the poop hits
the fan. Public trust-wise. On the bright side, Al Qaeda gets
laughed off the stage of international terrorism.
Carola Von Hoffmannstahl-Solomonoff
"It became necessary to destroy the town to save it."
Unnamed Major in the United States Army, Bentre, South Vietnam
(population 35,000) February 7, 1968. Quotations Vietnam: 1945-1970. Compiled by William G. Effros, Random House, 1970
"The road to hell is smooth as glass."
Loren D. Estleman, Angel Eyes, 1981
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