On the retail calendar, Christmas follows on the heels of the
wicked month. Which means Vincent "Buddy" Cianci, ex-Mayor of
Providence, Rhode Island will soon depart for federal prison. In
mid Summer, Cianci was convicted of conspiracy racketeering. In
early September, U.S. District Judge Ernest Torres sentenced
Cianci, giving him roughly 5 years. Cianci's date with penal
destiny begins on December 6th. When Cianci was first indicted,
Mayor Jerry Brown of Oakland, California was simpatico, saying
such charges were "just part of being a mayor". But Judge Torres
compared Cianci to Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde: Jekyll being the
revitalizin' wizard who produced a "Providence Renaissance",
while Hyde was a money mad bully, running a criminal organization
from city hall. The Boston Herald however, integrated the two:
"...while downtown thrived, some neighborhoods-- places where
people couldn't pay to play-- did not". The all in one "Buddy",
was running an urban game that too often is "just part of being
a mayor". Urban revitalization, paid for by the public, lifts
the well heeled and well connected, while the last residents
still standing in nabes overrun by drug trade and rotted out
by HUDlords wonder "How low can we go?"
Hopefully, not as low as Phil Giordano, Republican ex-mayor of
Waterbury, Connecticut. In early September, MSNBC carried
a story that Giordano would plead guilty to charges he arranged
for sex with two girls, aged 9 and 11. Allegedly sold to him by
a crack addled hooker. One child her daughter, the other her
niece. But a few days later the Republican American reported that
while the crackitute pled guilty to selling the children to Phil,
Phil's attorney continues to mount a vigorous defense. Requesting
the judge in the case recuse himself cause he once called Phil
a "sexual predator". A request that went nowhere. Meanwhile,
prosecutors have reportedly been gathering DNA samples from the
carpet of the mayor's office. Where Phil allegedly recused
himself. The location of the stains are said to confirm the
victim's stories. Waterbury's new mayor just got around to
removing the chairman of the city housing authority, a Giordano
appointee. Phil's homey was Waterbury's largest landlord. It
may also be time for the new mayor to pull Phil's carpet.
Particularly if it's a shag.
In upstate New York, the capital region also enjoyed late
Summer fun, when Amtrak and the Capital District Transportation
Authority (CDTA) played a game of chicken with the new,
Albany/Rensselaer Train Station. A work in process. The stop is
a busy one. Since Albany is the seat of state government, Amtrak
shuttles armies of pols, lobbyists and lawyers twixt upstate and
down. The stop is also a tourist connection. And since 9/11, the
entire Hudson Valley corridor has seen an influx of New York City
emigres. The current station resembles a giant shed. In 1999,
construction of a palatial new station, up the hill from the old,
was launched under the auspices of CDTA and with support from
major and minor area politicians of both parties. With Amtrak
supposedly on board. To date, $53.1 million taxpayer dollars have
been spent on the upgrade, the source of largesse being both
federal and state. As the projected completion date was pushed
further and further back, the cost grew apace. Byzantine glitches
developed. The biggest occurred when David Gunn, the new
president of financially strapped Amtrak, balked at the rent set
by CDTA. Complaining that CDTA expected Amtrak to foot the cost
of operation. Gunn's balk carried clout because-- surprise
surprise-- CDTA had no lease with Amtrak! The thrill upon the
hill seems to have been built on spec. The snafu has been
a source of much speculation amongst Amtrak's regular riders and
area newspapers have covered the story in admirable depth. But
the $53.1 million dollar question remains: how did this public
project, without a legally binding commitment from the projected
prime tenant, repeatedly get both state and federal funding?
When the pitcher went to the well of New York State legislators
and transportation officials, and in Washington, to the
transportation subcommittee of the House Appropriations
Committee, did anyone ask to see a lease?
By mid September, CDTA & Amtrak had allegedly worked out a deal.
During the process, important specifics were not shared with
the public. By either Amtrak or CDTA. Because doing so might
"affect negotiations". Aspects of the deal could still stand
clarification. For instance, Amtrak will reportedly be providing
building management services, such as cleaning, maintenance and
security. How will these services intersect with those provided
by Omni Management Group, who also have a contract for building
management? Considering events to date, transparency would
be a valuable public relations tool for both CDTA and Amtrak.
Taxpayers have paid through the nose for the station; they're
entitled to disclosure regarding their investment.
Arrogance from those spending public money (as well as actual
misuse) always reminds me of something said by good neighbor
"Mollie" in the Heights section of Jersey City, New Jersey.
Mollie was an ex-school teacher and a good government type.
Unusual to the time and place-- though not unique. There were
others like her, all beamed in from Planet Reformo. Jersey City's
mayor then was Democrat Jerry McCann. Aka "Merry Jerry". Merry
Jerry ran for mayor in anti-machine wear (don't they all) but
left in prison garb. A few little instances of bank fraud. The
S&L thing. Boca Raton. Swimming Pools. Oh. Wait. The last was Jed
Clampett. Anyway, one evening, before Jerry got McCanned, a Dump
McCann meeting was held by the local aliens and eventually talk
turned to the general topic of misuse of public money. Mollie
said something like, while there certainly are hardcore crooks,
many who help themselves to public money don't think they're
doing anything wrong because they don't feel it comes from
Sinclair Lewis, at rest in the ash can of culture, none the less
had his moments. In "Babbitt" he skewers bold entrepreneurs who
want a safety net held under their free enterprises. Preferably
provided by somebody else. Now the net is frequently held by
the taxpayer, who also supplies the investment capital. For a
widening gyre of endeavors, where public and private increasingly
bleed together. "World Con" hammered home that playing fast and
loose with other people's money plus the social disconnect
entailed, is common across the board. Making one ask, what
world will crack next?
But World Con isn't the only world in the world. There's also
the World of Mirth. The World of Mirth was one of the many
circuses that once rode the rails and set up at state fairs.
Every September, at the Vermont State Fair in Rutland, the World
of Mirth spins again in a room behind the fairground bleachers.
Part of a larger creation of one man, who for years, at his
own expense, has been building models and dioramas of Rutland's
circuses and fairs. His tiny midways, tents and circus trains
stretch across many tables. Most of the display is handmade.
Ferris wheels and merry-go-rounds fashioned from toothpicks and
toy building sets revolve and light up. Postage stamp banners
invite you to step up and SEE the harem girls and alligator boys.
Tigers are unloaded at the little train stations with palpable
hustle and bustle. On my visit this year, a boy of about 12 stood
transfixed before the magical little world. He asked if you could
buy it. "You can't buy it" came the reply "But you can build it".
Now, if only CDTA had enough toothpicks...
Carola Von Hoffmannstahl-Solomonoff
Coming Your Way Soon!
An "On The QT" Special Feature: Heads Will Roll-- Mortgage Fraud
Stateside, Mafia Capitalism "Over There" & New Jersey's Wild
and Wooly Political Web World. PEEP 3 will reveal more on the
art of living. Plus news of a QT transformation...
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