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Walking in a Winter Wonderland
Once upon a time Lawrence Alibozek was Connecticut Governor John Rowland's deputy chief of staff. While serving, "Larry" was steering state contracts in return for graft. As the year 2000 approached, Larry had millennium fears of computer driven banking chaos and preferred bid rigs paid in gold. Contractors made like magic dwarves and spit gold coins. Alibozek buried the booty in his New Bridgeport backyard. But the gold bug came back to haunt him when the feds, in the process of digging into Connecticut's public contract practices, disinterred his cache. At first, speculation the federal investigation would reach out and touch Governor Rowland was greeted with cries of no way Jose. But after months of revelations even fellow Republicans are urging Rowland to resign. And the specter of impeachment looms.

Around Christmas, the Governor's wife Patty did a Lucy Ricardo and set out to "help" her husband. She rewrote "The Night Before Christmas" and read her version to the Middlesex Chamber of Commerce. In it, Santa is simpatico with the misunderstood Rowlands and agrees the newsmedia, particularly the "boys and girls" at Connecticut's Hartford Courant, deserve coal in their stockings. Patty chimes in: "Oh Santa, that's sad I agree. They've acted like Grinches who've stolen our tree". Proving himself inferior in judgement to Ricky Ricardo, Rowland didn't say "OhbuhPatty" but instead encouraged his wife. Saying something like-- Go ahead Honey, they can't do anything else to us. In early January, Governor Rowland received a federal subpoena for his personal financial records. A historic first for a Connecticut governor. Rowland's status in the federal probe has been upgraded from "witness" to "subject" and on January 14th, the Connecticut legislature announced it will form a bipartisan committee to consider impeachment.

Until recently, Rowland didn't have to depend on the kindness of Santa. His many friends, most of whom are public contractors, state employees and political cronies were free with their time and money. They swarmed over Governor Rowland's summer cottage like elves on a caffeine jag. One had a hot tub installed in the backyard. Another got the ceiling repaired. Some fixed the gutters and drainage. Larry Alibozeck chipped in for heating improvements and a water heater. A highway contractor popped in a patio. Peter Ellef, Governor Rowland's co-chief of staff, provided a stepping stone for the stoop. Ellef, who was Larry Alibozek's boss and personal friend, at one time served as chairman of the state's trash authority. But Ellef toppled from that pinnacle when the agency lost 200 million in an Enron deal. Ellef is now under federal investigation. As are the assorted state contracts of the Tomasso Group, prominent Connecticut contractors active in a number of northeast states. The Tomassos not only helped with the Rowland cottage rehab, but gave the governor dirt cheap rates at their luxo Vermont resort. Then there are the boats. And the vintage Mustang presented to Rowland during his birthday fete at a Tomasso owned golf course. The boats and Mustang have tangled sales records leading to another Rowland friend-- Vincent J. DeRosa, Connecticut's homeland security director and Rowland's former state police driver.

After the feds and newsmedia started poisoning the well of his friendships, Governor Rowland clarified matters. Saying his friends had no expectations of quid pro quo. He also denied some gifts were gifts, claiming he'd paid for them. A lie revealed by reporters who fact checked financial records. Apres lie, public sentiment in Connecticut started running against Rowland. Other Rowland transactions (see development deals and fund raising) are looking soiled. A number of Connecticut state agencies are awash with subpoenas. Those rousted from the Rowland administration under a dark cloud held major positions. Along with Alibozek and Ellef there was Paul Silvester, the X state treasurer convicted of taking kickbacks for placing state pension funds. A top dog can only say underlings betrayed him for so long. Ask X-Mayor Joseph Ganim of Bridgeport. Now doing 9 at Dix. Speaking of Ganim Da Greedy, the clamor for Rowland's resignation comes from a public who've recently seen a bi partisan parade of corruptoids. More may come down the pike. If the move to impeach the Governor continues to gain support from Connecticut's political representatives, Rowland is allegedly threatening to tell the newsmedia about other folk's "gifts". The very same reporters slated for coal at Christmas now might get Valentines! One last word about Santa. Earth to John and Patty: Santa doesn't do payback for pols. And he doesn't clean cottages either.

Talking strange notions, it's amazing how little job performance affects political careers. Consider former Mayor Al Jurczynski of Schenectady, New York. As the New Year dawns, Mayor Al is leaving office but not public service. After 2 terms of Jurczynski's fiscal management, Schenectady's bond rating has received Moody's kiss of death. Only 11 other municipalities in the entire country are equally basement. In 2002 the NY State Comptroller audited Schenectady and found the Jurczynski administration was tossing all the city's funds, regardless of earmarked purpose, into a bucket for day to day operating expenses. During the Jurczynski years, Schenectady's police department was the target of a federal corruption investigation. 4 officers were convicted. Jurczynski stood behind his police chief all the way. Meanwhile, drug trade decimated decent neighborhoods and the murder rate climbed. Schenectady, a city with few jobs, limited public transportation, a small police force and a shrinking yet majorly gouged tax base, absorbed an influx of New York City's most troubled social service clients. How and why this relocation of an underclass occurred has never been examined.

Schenectady is a small city with some 60,000 residents. Its architecture speaks of the high times of American cities. Schenectady's overall decline is certainly connected to the larger issue of industrial withdrawal. General Electric was once the major employer: when GE sent thousands of jobs elsewhere it ripped the rug out from under Schenectady. But GE wasn't in charge of the city budget for the last 8 years. Nor was it responsible for public safety. When Mayor Al Jurczynski left office at the end of 2003, his own assessment of his performance was that he did a good job "considering what I had to work with".

Apparently Governor George Pataki agrees since he just nominated Al Jurczynski as Deputy Chief of the Governor's Office of Small Cities (GOSC). GOSC is New York State's administrative agency for the federally funded Small Cities Community Development Program. A HUD baby authorized by Title 1 of the Housing and Community Development Act of 1974. Jurczynski will be collecting a salary of 90,000 federal dollars a year, plus state benefits worth roughly $30,000. Mayor Al will be using his fiscal expertise to help dispense (from a bucket perhaps?) $50 million annually in federal funds across New York State-- to cities, towns and villages with populations of less than 50,000 or counties with unincorporated populations of under 200,000. Many (though not all) of the eligible areas are essentially small town, suburban or rural. Though Jurczynski's urban experience may go underutilized, he'll no doubt do his personal best to help HUD achieve its stated Small Cities national objective of "aiding in the prevention of slums and blight."

Only a few miles from Schenectady lies New York's capital city of Albany. Another beautiful old city. Population roughly 97,000. On New Years eve at 4:30 in the afternoon, in the downtown neighborhood of Center Square, an innocent bystander was shot to death by a police officer in the process of a car chase. Police described the car which sparked the chase as behaving erratically and as having plates that didn't match the vehicle. The chase took place mainly in a neighborhood akin to a miniature Greenwich Village. First Night events had already begun. A marathon race meant certain streets were blocked. Streets in the area are narrow. When events draw crowds, they spill off the sidewalks. The car chase came to a halt at the neighborhood's central intersection of Lark and State Street, when the driver became boxed in by a number of police cars. Pushed up on the sidewalk, the driver threw his car in reverse. By then several pursuing officers had jumped out of their patrol cars. At least one was behind the reversing car. Two officers opened fire. At first there was talk the driver had a gun. Later it emerged the officers believed the driver was trying to run one of them over. Using his car as a "deadly weapon". Eight bullets were fired by the officers. Some as the car reversed and some as it pulled away. The car eluded pursuit and was later found deserted. The driver, who had a DWI record, was traced and arrested the next day without incident. But at the intersection, neighborhood resident David Scaringe, age 24, had been fatally wounded. And Shawn Brozowski, a waiter at a nearby restaurant out sweeping the walk, had been grazed by another bullet.

In the days following the tragedy, official versions of events twisted and turned. Police brass say they tried to call off the chase via radio but heavy signal activity from already responding patrol cars scrambled their message. An internal police investigation is in progress, as is one by the Albany District Attorney's office. A grand jury is expected to review the results of the DA's investigation to determine whether the shooting was justified, negligent or reckless. Albany's civilian review board, which possesses no subpoena powers, employs no investigators and has so far supported few complaints, will also be looking into the matter. A call for an independent investigation and/or prosecutor has been made by newspaper editorials, columnists and citizens. City hall remains in typical bunker mode.

Two nights after the shooting a candlelight vigil for David Scaringe was held at Lark and State Street. It was organized by Shawn Brozowski and his wife Jody. Shawn said Jody did most of the work. Maybe Jody Brozowski knew she could have lost her husband as easily as the fiancÚ of David Scaringe lost her husband to be. Candlelight vigils can be exercises in bathos. This was not. Little was said. Roughly 150 people gathered quietly on the corner beneath a streetlamp still decorated with a Christmas wreath and a banner proclaiming: First Night/Last Run. The foot of the lamp post was heaped with flowers. Candles flickered gently in an almost windless night. Jody Brozowski read a eulogy for David Scaringe, a poem by Christina Rossetti called "Paradise: In a Dream". Though her voice occasionally broke, it carried like a clear sweet bell: "I heard the songs of Paradise/Each bird sat singing in his place/A tender song so full of grace/ It soared like incense to the skies".

On January 5th, when David Scaringe was carried to his burial, mourners in the procession covered a mile of Central Avenue. One of Albany's main arteries.

Carola Von Hoffmannstahl-Solomonoff

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Copyright (c) 2004 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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