July 4, 2006: Just when you thought it safe to go back into the halls of
government in Bridgeport, Connecticut, Mayor John M. Fabrizi
fesses up to having used cocaine (aka making "poor choices")
while in office. Fabrizi's predecessor, X Mayor Joseph Ganim,
is doing time on cloud 9 (years) and X state Sen. Ernest Newton
(a biggie in Bridgeport) is likewise lodged. Albeit for less of
a stretch. Pay-2-Play for development deals and public contracts
was the name of their game.
Mayor Fabrizi confessed to his drug use only after it was
revealed via a federal investigation into narcotics trafficking
in Bridgeport and southwest Connecticut. Around Christmas 2004,
Fabrizi used his city-issued cell phone to call alleged dealer
Shawn Fardy repeatedly. Fardy in turn, conveyed customer urgency
to his alleged supplier Juan Marrero. Which suggests Fabrizi had
one hungry pair of nostrils. But the mayor claims liquor was his
real problem, since it made him crave cocaine. While this might
seem an attempt by Fabrizi to downgrade his substance abuse
to something more palatable to Joe Six Pack, the mayor's
revitalized-- and publicly cited-- religious faith surely renders
him incapable of such base political calculation. Though Mayor
Fabrizi hasn't been charged with any crime, some want him to
resign. He refuses to do so. Duty calls.
According to documents filed in U. S. District Court, big fish
Juan Marrero told the FBI that Shawn Fardy had a video tape of
Mayor Fabrizi using cocaine. Shawn Fardy was a member of
Bridgeport's Democratic Town Committee. (As is Fardy's father.
Mom chairs zoning & planning.) A Bridgeport police officer was
among those snagged in the investigation which led to the outing
of Mayor Fabrizi's X habit. Bridgeport is Connecticut's most
populous city, with a high poverty level and significant violent
crime. Of late, those making drug money in Bridgeport spent it
prominently. Sucking up pricey booze in local watering holes and
zipping around in personalized choppers. Wags say Mayor Fabrizi
didn't notice the din because he was too busy trying to get
Bridgeport named sister city to Nuevo Laredo.
Also in Conn, X Governor John Rowland, a Republican rascal fresh
outta prison, just put his cottage on Bantam Lake up for sale.
The one renovated by assorted state officials, public contractors
and developers. For free. Just cause they liked him. The public
will probably never see proceeds from the sale; Rowland's first
wife is watching his assets with eyes as avid as Fabrizi's nose.
Among those who either helped rehab Rowland's dockside dacha,
or graced him with other gratuities, were public contractor
William Tomasso (of the developer family Tomasso) and the
governor's X co-chief of staff, Peter Ellef. Ellef was once
head of the Connecticut Department of Economic & Community
Development. On June 28th, Tomasso and Ellef checked into a
minimum security federal prison in Otisville, New York, for a
2 ½ year vacation.
It was during the Rowland years that the plan to use eminent
domain on the Fort Trumbull neighborhood in New London,
Connecticut was born. To help clear the way for a state-funded
redevelopment of waterfront land adjoining the facilities of
pharmaceutical giant Pfizer Inc. Peter Ellef, and his good
friend, former Connecticut College president Claire Gaudiani,
played a big part in pumping up the moribund New London
Development Corporation (NLDC). The local, quasi-public agency
that in the name of the public good, seized and bulldozed the
properties of Fort Trumbull's blue collar residents. Folks
forced to sell were compensated. By the public. Hey-- it's all good.
But back to Mayor John Fabrizi of Bridgeport. A fan of eminent
domain. Fabrizi is a member of the Executive Committee of the
Conference of U.S. Mayors. In February, the exec committee issued
an emergency resolution addressed to the U.S. Congress. The
emergency being that Congress may limit the power of cities to
use eminent domain as a development tool. And do so in the worst
possible way-- by cutting off federal money. Last November, a
proposal (H.R.4128) was passed by the House, whereby states or
local governments receiving federal economic development funds,
would be barred from using eminent domain for economic
development. The proposal is currently languishing in the Senate.
The Conference of U.S. Mayors would like to see it languish
forever. Mired in delayed reports and "comprehensive hearings".
Hopefully fading from the public's consciousness. Since some
eighty percent of the U. S. Public detests the sort of eminent
domain the U.S. Mayors favor.
This Spring, the Connecticut State Legislature adjourned after
months of palaver about reforming the state's eminent domain
laws. The effort was touched off by last year's U.S. Supreme
Court decision re Kelo v. New London. The public, including
Connecticut residents, responded with overwhelming revulsion
to the court's decision that local governments can take private
property and turn it over to developers. Governor Jodi Rell and
the state legislature declared a temporary, voluntary moratorium
on the use of development related eminent domain in Connecticut,
during which state laws governing the practice were to be
reformed. Months later-- no reform. Now Speaker of the House
James Amann is talking about lifting the moratorium. Saying it's
unfair to ask municipalities to put off eminent domain based
development plans through another legislative session. Projects
delayed by the moratorium include ones in Bridgeport and in
Milford, where Amann hangs his hat.
In the eyes of public servants who forget their place, timely
execution of government plans trumps the unfairness of
circumventing democracy via shell games, as well as the injustice
of forcing people from their homes to profit large-scale
developers. Who are among the most generous political
contributors going. And who, along with waste haulers, investment
jugglers, property flippers, and drug dealers are often found
at the heart of municipal corruption scandals.
Bridgeport Mayor John Fabrizi isn't the only sullied member of
the Executive Committee of the U.S. Conference of Mayors. Take
Mayor Ron Gonzales of San Jose, California. The feds already
have. Mayor Gonzales was arraigned June 26th on 6 felony counts.
Including bribery, conspiracy, falsifying public records, and
that old fave, misappropriation of public funds. Indicted along
with Gonzales were his budget aide and a garbage contractor.
Though emergency resolution signers Mayor John Street of
Philadelphia and Mayor Richard Daley of Chicago haven't been
indicted, both head administrations in which dozens of officials
have been charged and convicted. In both cities federal
investigations are ongoing. In Philadelphia, where Mayor Street
has set a record for the use of eminent domain, a wire tapped
drug dealer's conversations ultimately led to Mayor Street's
biggest fund raiser, the city treasurer, and investment bankers
doing business with the city. In Chicago, the issue is corrupt
machine patronage on a massive level. Rooted in the hoary ward
politics of a section of Chicago called Bridgeport.
Then there's the Executive Committee members whose cities are
centers of mortgage fraud. The white collar crime du jour. Which
decimates inner city neighborhoods and leaves taxpayers, via HUD
and the FHA, to pick up the bill. A goodly number of the 19
mayors who signed the eminent domain rescue resolution, and who
are so hot not to have their land grabs curtailed, seem unable
to police government supported, locally administered, housing
opportunity programs. Does this qualify them to take private
property and give it to developers, citing revitalization and
the public good? Using public money to speed the plow?
They seem to think so.
Of course, some pols who signed the we-heart-eminent-domain
resolution issued by the Executive Committee of the Conference
of U.S. Mayors are AOK. They only have reps for being multi-term
machine autocrats, or new urban totalitarians.
Meanwhile, in California, one million citizens have signed
a petition (the Protect Our Homes Initiative) to place an eminent
domain abuse reform measure on the ballot come November. On the
4th of July, it's nice to know that so many people put their John
Hancocks on a document defending an essential freedom. As opposed
to scrawling their "X" on a resolution pushing the opposite.
Carola Von Hoffmannstahl-Solomonoff
"Get rid of the nose candy"
Advice given John Fabrizi in 1998 by a political insider
when Fabrizi was thinking of becoming mayor of Bridgeport,
Connecticut. "Mayor's Drug Admission puts Rumors In The Open,
Edmund H. Mahony," Hartford Courant, 06/21/06
"Home is where you get your first kiss and make your last stand."
Christopher Kimball, "Home On The Range, Summer Grilling," Cooks Illustrated, Summer 2006
Sources include but are not limited to:
"Snicker if you like, but it won't stop feds," John Kass, Chicago Tribune, 06/28/06
"Ellef, Tomasso report to New York prison camp," Associated Press, 06/28/06
"San Jose mayor arraigned on bribery, conspiracy charges," May Wong, Associated Press, 06/26/06
"Rowland Cottage For Sale," David Altimari & Jon Lender, Hartford Courant, 06/24/06
"Cell Phones link Fabrizi to suspect," Marian Gail Brown and Bill Cummings, Connecticut Post Online, 06/18/06
"Lots of road ahead in fed's City Hall probe," Michael J. Daly, Connecticut Post Online, 06/18/06
"Alleged Participants in Bridgeport Drug Ring Indicted," Press Release, U. S. Attorney's Office District of Connecticut, 06/06/06
"Eminent Domain," The United States Conference of Mayors, Adopted by the Executive Committee 01/26/06
"Bridgeport neighborhood cradle of political clout in Chicago," Sarah Schulte, WLS-TV Chicago, 07/19/05,
"Three found guilty in Philadelphia corruption case," Associated Press/USA Today, 05/09/05
"Six More Participants in Bridgeport Drug Ring Indicted, Arrested," Press Release, U. S. Attorney's Office District of Connecticut, 03/18/05
"Participants in Bridgeport Drug Ring Indicted," Press Release, U. S. Attorney's Office District of Connecticut, 03/11/05
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