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God's Little Acres
October 14, 2005: Mea culpa. Like Sir Mix-A-Lot, I have a confession. I like libertarians. Though I'll never be one. Or at least-- not to the max. For one thing, I think Sally Rand made a greater contribution to humanity than Ayn Rand. And as a believing if insufficiently practicing Catholic, I can't get behind how most libertarians feel re God's moral authority: they hates the idea my precious. As do many on the left. Though the latter seem more willing to fudge the issue if God seems sufficiently progressive. Whereas many conservatives think God's authority is embodied by pols who know where the WMD is buried. And where corporate shepherds can find flocks of cheap labor.

R Libertarians a Stiff Necked People?

Of late I've been following the Life, Liberty & Property (LLP) listserv & forum monitored by blogger Eric Cowperthwaite. Of Eric's Grumbles Before the Grave. A blog name to die for. The overall tone of LLP is sharp and focused. Sniping and one upmanship blessedly minimal. Economic issues are a popular topic, often from a speculative libertarian perspective. Some discussions spin off of news events. How to rebuild New Orleans was big for awhile. Eminent domain is a perennial favorite. LLP participants are pretty savvy re the relation of big government and public corruption. Some sneer about taxpayer supported free enterprise. Naturally I find this endearing.

Less endearing is the occasional note of disengagement from actual reality as lived by real human beings-- as opposed to economic abstractions. A note also found in prog places. And all political haunts. Ideological purity has a crystalline beauty. When embraced it freezes the heart.

Some of the most interesting LLP discourses are when people define their own personal philosophy. Many LLP-ites represent a new wave of libertarians who've found each other via the Internet. They're enthusiastic and idealistic, with a genuine desire to lead honorable and meaningful lives. Even if I don't buy the whole libertarian vision, I find that desire admirable. And even more proof that God moves in mysterious ways. Speaking of which--

Elk Grove, California was only formally declared a city in 2000. Hitherto Sacramento ruled the roost. But Elk Grove's citizens and public servants already enjoy the rancorous relationship found in more eldritch cities. One bone of contention being a citizen based move to recall two law enforcement officials based on charges of conflict of interest. Eyes of Argus is one of the local blogs dishing the recall, as well as the overall political culture of Elk Grove. One Argus entry describes how the city council treats citizens who appear at meetings to voice concerns during the public comment period. If not ignored, or treated like a bother "expect to be stared at like you're a space alien."

When not Roswelling constituents who raise unwelcome issues, city council members are said to squirm, twitch, examine nearby walls and whisper among themselves. When one citizen spoke at the September 28th meeting, "they all began to lean to one another and started talking to each other in hushed tones. It was like they were posing for Last Supper of the Elk Grove City Council."

Family Plots

In New Jersey, gubernatorial hopefuls Jon Corzine (D.) and Doug Forrester (R.) have been squabbling over the possible use of eminent domain in the Camden area. Though to my mind neither plutocrat is a credible reformer, it's nice to see Doug the Dawg hold Corzine's feet to the flame on the topic. Calling a plan involving Petty's Island, near Camden, an "unholy alliance of political bosses, pay-to-play and eminent domain."* One of the bosses is George E. Norcross III. One possible future for Petty's Island is as a wildlife preserve. But Norcross favors it being turned into a golf course and luxo housing enclave, claiming this version of Petty's Island would enhance a redevelopment project in the low income neighborhood of Cramer Hill in Camden. Both projects require the use of eminent domain and both are the baby of the same developer, Cherokee Investment Partners. The local officials who designated Cherokee as preferred developer are closely allied with George Norcross.

Norcross hails from upscale, suburban Cherry Hill. Where for years many of Camden's most prominent political and financial stakeholders have hung their hats. Not only is Norcross (who has never held elected office) one of Jersey's most powerful political bosses, he's also the head of Commerce National Insurance Services; a member of the Commerce Bancorp family. Over the past year the Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) has been looking into campaign contributions made by Commerce Bancorp to public officials in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. The interest springs from federal investigations into pay-to-play corruption in Philadelphia-- where two execs and a bank board advisor from Commerce Bank/Philadelphia have figured among the payers and players. Commerce Bank is a member of the Commerce Bancorp family. Commerce Bank is based in Cherry Hill, as is Commerce National Insurance Services.

Commerce National, along with Cherokee and its subsidiaries, are among the firms with development interests in Camden that have donated heavily to pols, primarily Democrat, who've advanced the Petty's Island and Cramer Hill plan. The latter requires the use of eminent domain on a large number of low and middle income property owners and will displace a mainly minority community.

Talking Garden State reform, acting Governor Richard Codey (successor to McGreevey the X) has been taking out the trash at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ). The nation's largest health care university. The UMDNJ has been beset by revelations of corruption and misspending resulting from hiring and contracting practices guided by political influence. If the state and federal probes weren't enough UMDNJ has also suffered a rash of mysterious break-ins. Where little except documents disappeared. But thankfully Governor Codey has appointed two clean-up guys to the UMDNJ board. One of whom is a former president and CEO of First Fidelity Bancorp. A member of the Commerce Bancorp family.

Meanwhile, nothing from nothing means nothing in New London, Connecticut. Eminent domain aficionados Michael Joplin and David Goebel are still hunkered down in the New London Development Corporation (NLDC) bunker. Dodging the loss of their top jobs. The state mediator is still mediating, the city council is still dithering and citizens are still fuming. Though some, along with the Federation of Connecticut Taxpayers Organizations (FCTO) are looking into the quasi-public NLDC. Utilizing the Freedom of Information Act. As Halloween draws nigh in what's left of the New London neighborhood of Fort Trumbull, perhaps Susette Kelo and her few remaining neighbors are placing jack-o-lanterns on their doorsteps. Or hanging effigies from trees in their yards.

In late September Hillary O. Shelton, director of the NAACP Washington Bureau testified before the House Judiciary Committee, Subcommittee on the Constitution re the Supreme Court's Kelo Decision. Expressing concerns that "by allowing pure economic development motives to constitute public use for eminent domain purposes, state and local governments will now infringe on the property rights of those with less economic and political power with more regularity".** Among the NAACP examples of places where eminent domain threatens African-Americans was the Park South neighborhood in Albany, New York.

Parcels

In Albany, the Morris and Dorothy Silverman Foundation has been a long time financial backer of the University Heights Association (UHA). A non-profit consortium of medical and legal colleges and facilities. The UHA in turn, has been a major force behind the Park South Redevelopment Plan. Which entails the use of eminent domain. In early October the Silverman Foundation filed a lawsuit against the UHA over unpaid real estate loans. Just how will the lawsuit impact the Park South Plan?

In Broome County, New York, does Endicott Interconnect Technologies (EIT or EI) really plan to launch a federal appeal of their recent (and second) defeat before the National Labor Relations Board? If so, they must really want Communications Workers of America (CWA) organizer Rick White off the premises!

In Franklin County, Ohio, will the assets of Republican mega fundraiser Tom Noe and wife Bernadette (the bi-partisan couple known as the Arnold and Maria of Toledo) be put under the control of county Judge David Cain while state Attorney General Jim Petro checks on whether Tom Noe stole from the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation investments he mismanaged?

In Dee Cee, check that crazy report the House Energy and Commerce Committee's Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee (a real government mouthful) is about to deliver re E-rate fraud. The result of a year long probe into institutional and corporate misuse and waste of funds meant to subsidize telecommunications in low income areas. The report on the 2.25 billion dollar program (funded by a tax tacked onto consumer phone bills) is due in late October. Though it's said the committee will deliver a blast, the focus will be on reform rather than cancellation. After a few rounds of contrite, E-rate is off to do 96 million dollars worth of good in post Katrina Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. Where the gold rush is already raging.

Also Dee Cee: HUD head Alphonso Jackson recently announced that taxpayers will be donating $41.7 million in grants to some 362 state and local housing agencies who'll council low income homebuyers how to avoid pitfalls like unreasonably high interest rates, inflated appraisals and unaffordable repayment terms. Unfortunately, nobody will be counseling HUD or Alphonso Jackson on which state and local housing agencies are colluding in the mortgage frauds signified by unreasonably high interest rates, inflated appraisals and unaffordable repayment terms.

Too bad. Even libertarians might pay a dollar for that!

Carola Von Hoffmannstahl-Solomonoff

*Corzine plays defense over Petty Island development, Gregory J. Volpe, Courier News, c-n.com, 10/12/05

**Statement of Hilary O. Shelton, Director NAACP Washington Bureau Before The House Judiciary Committee Subcommittee Of The Constitution, "The Supreme Court's Kelo Decision and Potential Congressional Response", 09/22/05

Sources include:

"Panel Report Critical of E-Rate," David Hatch, National Journal's Insider Update: The Telecom Act, 10/11/05

"Judge wants Noe records from Petro," T.C. Brown, The Plain Dealer, 10/08/05

"Residents Investigating New London Development Corporation," Tina Detelj, WTNH.com, 10/07/05

"Rick White and CWA Win Big in Fight for Rights," Candice Johnson, CWA News, 10/05

"HUD awards $41.7M for housing counseling," Inman News, 10/05/05

"Silverman Foundation sues University Heights Association," Richard A. D'Errico, The Business Review (Albany), 10/03/05

"Codey taps 2 for board of medical university," Patricia Alex, NorthJersey.Com, 09/27/05

"Jury Verdict Hammers Commerce Bancorp," Matthew Goldstein, TheStreet.com, 05/09/05

"Firms in 2 Projects Tied To Campaigns," Frank Kumer & Elisa Ung, Philadelphia Inquirer, 04/17/05

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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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