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4x4x4 Part Two
May 5, 2005: Imagine it's Autumn, 2011. The tenth anniversary of 9/11. President Condaleeza Clinton is speaking on TV, as part of the national memorial ceremony. After honoring the memory of the victims and acknowledging the still felt sorrow of the families, she looks straight into the camera and says "and I want to assure you that the bones found this week in Tora Bora have been positively identified by Pakistani officials as those of Osama bin Laden."

Across the USA the skeptical raising of eyebrows sends roofs flying.

Tomorrowland

4x4x4 Part One covered the Mondo QT project past & present. Now for the future. Which as Criswell the Psychic used to say, is where we're all going to live. Though we won't be living in Slaugerton, New Jorksacutt. An apocryphal city in an equally imaginary state. I recently began covering the pols & players of New Jorksacutt in "Revitalization, My Lovely". The story will continue in serial form. While extrapolated from life, any similarities to actual persons or places is coincidental.

But if Middle Earth could be mapped, why not New Jorksacutt? So expect a full color guide-- including not only major highway exits, but historic sites of historic corruption. Plus tips on scenic HUD boondoggles and secret environmental get-aways. Tourist memorabilia will also be hawked. Be the first to wear an "I (heart) New Jorksacutt" t-shirt or take a slug from a mug proclaiming the same. On the real estate front, the city of Slaugerton will be marketed as a new urban paradise. As we speak, crime stats are being shuffled. And the Slaugerton Herald-Union has kindly agreed to discontinue its police court column.

ED

Not all at Mondo QT will be fiction. One real life issue slated for continued attention is eminent domain. And its application in various locations. Eminent domain (ED) is the right of government, as implied in the Fifth Amendment, to take private property for "public use". If just compensation is made. ED has reasonable applications. For instance, when an absentee owner lets an empty building decay to the point of public danger. But ED is increasingly being used to clear wide swaths of private property in order to facilitate projects for private developers.

While "fixing blight" serves as justification for ED in some places, the promise of increased tax revenues and public money is enough in others. As example, the city of Long Branch, New Jersey wants to bulldoze a middleclass oceanfront neighborhood in order to make way for luxury homes. One of the designated developers for the project, Applied Companies of Hoboken, is a major developer of subsidized affordable housing in Jersey, often in conjunction with luxury projects. And Applied's Long Branch project will indeed contain a small number of affordable units. Which will be built after the unsubsidized affordable neighborhood is bulldozed.

Via ED, municipalities are essentially redistributing private property. Albeit in the name of revitalization rather than socialism. Though many of the urban planners who dig ED do think of themselves as progressive. And private developers who benefit from obtaining other peoples' property by government decree are often jazzed by state or federal money. Which they in turn, kick back to municipalities. So EDism may in fact, be a form of socialism-- one specific to the United States of Real Estate.

In February, the Supreme Court began considering the constitutionality of eminent domain when used by governments working in concert with private developers, in regard to the case of Kelo v. City of New London. The modest waterfront neighborhood of Fort Trumball in New London, Connecticut has been condemned in order to advance a redevelopment plan linked to pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, Inc. City officials never claimed Fort Trumball was blighted, just that it stood in the way of something bigger and better. A number of residents resisted, including Susette and Tim Kelo. Legal assistance was provided by the Institute for Justice, a property rights group. The Supreme Court decision is expected in June.

Last summer, the Michigan Supreme Court unanimously overturned an eminent domain ruling it made 2 decades ago about the Detroit neighborhood of Poletown. After the riots of the 1960's, Poletown was one of the last blue collar neighborhoods left in the city. Poletown was a tightly knit ethnic community. Plus many residents were first time property owners who felt strongly connected to their homes. But in the early 80's Mayor Coleman Young knocked most of Poletown down with eminent domain-- so that General Motors could build a $500 million Cadillac plant. The plant never produced the projected number of jobs, nor did it serve to revitalize Detroit. With much of its population lost, and streets scarred by empty lots, the remaining part of Poletown slid downhill. While Mayor Coleman Young went on to acquire and bulldoze more and more of Detroit. Proving ED can become addictive.

When the Michigan Supreme Court overturned its prior Poletown ruling it cited the need to "vindicate our Constitution (and) protect the people's property rights". For the people whose rights were violated 2 decades ago vindication came a little late. But better late than never.

The tragedy of Poletown is powerfully evoked by writer Loren D. Estleman in his 1985 mystery "Sugartown". Estleman lives in the Detroit area and resided in the city during the period Poletown was being bulldozed. "Sugartown" was recently reissued with a new afterword by Estelman. In it he expands on what eminent domain meant to Poletown - and on the corrupt, bully boy reign of Mayor Coleman Young.

Pols et al

Sullied pols have always been QT fodder and will continue to be so. But less monster-of-the-week and more special feature. Though some cry out for frequent attention. Take X Governor Jim McGreevey of New Jersey. When caught in an embarrassing ethical moment he goes into martyr mode. And cries. His mentor, State Senator Ray Lesniak, who always seems to be on the scene when Jimbo is forced to tender a resignation, never sez "stop your sobbing". In fact, according to a 04/29/05 Star-Ledger story (How law firm forced McGreevey out) Lesniak himself wept when Jimbo had to leave Lesniak's law firm due to a perceived conflict of interest. Now that NJ corrections commissioner Devon Brown has claimed that during the McGreevey administration, patronage jobs at the department were mandatory, will more tears flow? Though no tissue company connection has surfaced (so far) could this be a case of pay-to-spray?

Talking governors, the upcoming New Jersey and New York races will definitely be Mondo material. And by cracky it sure seems Pataki didn't get grilled on the Erie Canal. Other looming stories include the last mad, mortgage flipping days of the housing bubble, why E-Rate fraud matters, consumer issues re the building industry in Texas, assorted mayoral races, a Northeast Internet round-up of swell voices of the people, and continued coverage of hollowed out cities. Plus plenty of art from PEEP.

One last peek at President Condaleeza Clinton and those Tora Bora bones of bin Laden. Though the American public is somewhat skeptical when the announcement is made, most want to give her and our Pakistani allies the benefit of the doubt. But when a sharp eyed blogger notices-- and proves-- that UBL's skull bears an uncanny resemblance to that of a mountain goat, the poop hits the fan. Public trust-wise. On the bright side, Al Qaeda gets laughed off the stage of international terrorism.

Carola Von Hoffmannstahl-Solomonoff

"It became necessary to destroy the town to save it."

Unnamed Major in the United States Army, Bentre, South Vietnam (population 35,000) February 7, 1968. Quotations Vietnam: 1945-1970. Compiled by William G. Effros, Random House, 1970

"The road to hell is smooth as glass."

Loren D. Estleman, Angel Eyes, 1981

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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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