May 20, 2005: Those who think Antonio Villaraigosa was elected mayor of Los
Angeles because X Mayor Jim Hahn was mixed up with too many
dicey real estate deals, or because it was time for the City
of Angels to elect a Latino are dead wrong. According to an
e-newsletter from the animal protection group, In Defense of
Animals (IDA): "New L. A. Mayor is friend to elephants".
Hopefully that friendship won't segue into cronyism and
unlimited access to other people's peanuts.
New Jersey Mayors Nest
In May tra la la la, Jersey City Mayor Jeremiah Healy held onto
his seat in this year's election. Without even having to strip.
While in nearby Hoboken, Mayor Dave "Reform" Roberts didn't
garner enough votes for a slide into another term: he'll face
challenger Carol Marsh in a run-off. Marsh has the support of
those who won't roll over for developers who hope to roll over
the last bits of Hoboken open space. An unknown factor in the mix
is how those who voted for former councilman Frank "Pupie" Raia
will roll. Some thought Raia a Roberts ringer. For readers not
familiar with machine traditions, a ringer is a bogus candidate
who helps divide the opposition vote. At least Raia didn't make
it into the run-off. A mayor named "Pupie" would have revitalized
Hoboken as late night comic fodder. X Mayor Anthony Russo, who
Mayor Roberts replaced, will be heading off to jail come Summer.
The usual graft thing.
On a more somber note, Paul Byrne, prominent consultant to many
Hudson County pols, died in early May. Till his final hours he
reportedly felt betrayed and bitter that his life long friend,
X Hudson County Executive Robert Janiszewski, turned federal
witness and taped conversations with Byrne. Which ultimately
resulted in Byrne's conviction in a widespread graft case
involving a number of area public servants-- including Robert
Janiszewski. Byrne died the day before Janiszewski went to
prison. Thereby missing an event he'd anticipated with relish.
Byrne and Janiszewski grew up in Jersey City. Where the ghost
of Mayor Frank "I am the law" Hague, a mister machine who held
office for decades, lingered in every political nook and cranny.
When Janiszewski began his career in the 70's he seemed an
anti-Hague. As did a number of area pols who came up during
that period. But when massive amounts of redevelopment money
flowed into the county in the following decades most of the new
breed took up Hague's mantle of corruption. Without his more
traditional sense of social responsibility.
Once upon a time Paul Byrne and Robert Janiszewski were boys
together. Schoolmates and inseparable friends who played on the
much safer streets of a bygone Jersey City. You can dislike what
Paul Byrne and Robert Janiszewski did as adults, and what their
type in general has meant to the urban political landscape, but
it doesn't make their ruined friendship and the twisted tunnel
vision that spoiled their lives any less sad.
Springtime for Jennings-- in Albany
In April, it was great to see Mayor Jerry Jennings of Albany,
New York taking a walking tour (at night!) of the midtown
neighborhood formally called lower Pine Hills. Commonly known
as "the student ghetto". The last time Jennings strode those
mean streets may have been while campaigning for office 2 or
3 terms ago. Most likely in daylight-- because he promised to
address neighborhood conditions. Which meant he had to have
seen the student/Section 8 slums, drug dealers and trash.
On his most recent tour Mayor Jennings was accompanied by Kermit
L. Hall, the new president of the State University of New York
(SUNY) at Albany. Many SUNY undergraduates live in the student
ghetto. A few weeks later at an Albany civic forum, President
Hall voiced his determination to help rid the neighborhood of
drugs, violence and overall blight. It will be interesting to
see if Hall can really dislodge the slumlords (some of whom are
influential-- even institutional) and the drug trade that never
goes away no matter how many nickel and dime dealers get busted.
Or stop student bashes that leave streets paved with beer cans,
baggies and pizza boxes, and neighbors boomed out of their beds.
Hope may be in order: President Hall has already proved himself
a magic man by revitalizing Mayor Jennings. Though it's also
possible that the roughly $400,000 in government grants which
will be funneled through the New York State Division Of Criminal
Justice into a "historic partnership"* between SUNY Albany and
John Jay College of Justice as part of the crime fighting
initiative Operation Impact has also proved inspirational.
As have visions of "The Midtown Strategy" a redevelopment
project the Jennings administration hopes to launch in concert
with SUNY and a few other area colleges.
Whatever. Why ask why Jerry Jennings the neighborhood activist
has been reborn. Or why the student ghetto didn't improve during
his reign. Of course crime in Albany overall is really the fault
of former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani. Who drove criminals
upstate with his aggressive anti-crime campaign in the 90's.
(Once perps arrived the percs closed the deal.) Mayor Jennings
has been pointing out Giuliani's responsibility for crime in
Albany for quite some time. But did anyone listen? Nooooo. Too
bad. If Giuliani had been arrested 10 years ago Albany would be
a far different place.
Eyes On The Prize
Not everyone is short sighted. New York State Attorney General
Eliot Spitzer (maybe soon Governor Spitzer!) has decided not
to bring criminal charges against executives at Staten Island
University Hospital (SIUH). Which defrauded the state's Medicaid
program of $76.5 million.** Instead, Spitzer will make the
hospital return the money over the next 12 years and reform its
practices. Though all the executives (except one) behind the
fraud have left SIUH, bringing a criminal case against them
would somehow translate into bringing a case against the
hospital. Thereby hurting the public. Furthermore, the X execs,
who left SIUH for unstated reasons unrelated to the
investigation, didn't profit from the fraud. And SIUH will no
doubt seek to overturn the long-term real estate contracts forged
with a doctor the FBI describes as an associate of the Gambino
While this is the second time in 7 years SIUH has been caught
defrauding the state Medicaid program, Eliot Spitzer sounds so
stern in his statements you can bet your bippy*** they've learned
their lesson. As for those X execs who left SIUH for unstated
reasons unrelated to the investigation-- rumor has it they were
last seen canoeing west on the Erie Canal.
Break Out The Bubbly--
CDBG funding has been saved! The U.S. Conference of Mayors won't
have to march on Dee Cee after all. Thanks to a low key move in
Congress the popular HUD corruption bucket will keep pouring its
almost-impossible-to-monitor Community Development Block Grant
funds into upscale maws and paws everywhere. Not only will the
program not be transferred into the U.S. Commerce Department,
but any cuts or reforms at all appear unlikely. Even though HUD
itself admitted in February that "some" communities get grants
they might not need or deserve. Who saved CDBG? Free spending
donkeys? No no Nanette. Free market elephants! Republicans in
Congress, led by the former mayors among them, restored the block
grant money in the budget both Senate and Congress passed in
late April. Proving that when it comes to an appetite for other
people's peanuts, partisan differences fade like life long
friendships in the face of a federal rap.
Carola Von Hoffmannstahl-Solomonoff
"The monkey he got drunk/And sat on the elephant's trunk/The
elephant sneezed & fell on his knees/And what became of the
monk? The monk?
I Went To The Animal Fair, anonymous
"Money costs too much."
Ross MacDonald, The Goodbye Look, 1969
* Governor Pataki Announces Historic Partnerships with UAlbany
and John Jay College To Develop Enhanced Crime Fighting
Initiatives Impact, Office of the Governor Press Release,
**Hospital Agrees to Repay State $76.5 Million, Michael Luo,
New York Times 05/18/05
***Bippy: an non specific body part referenced frequently on
"Laugh-In" a television show popular in the latter half of
the 20th century.
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