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ON THE QT

Everything You Always Suspected--
But May Soon Fear To Ask?

Carola Von Hoffmannstahl-Solomonoff
Publisher and Editor

WELCOME

to On The QT #23. Born Free. Like the song says-- as free as the wind blows. But is it a cold wind whipping up clouds of asbestos and carrying heroin into every corner of the country? Or a fresh Spring breeze that lifts curtains in dark and dirty offices and stirs piles of papers on desks littered with ancient styrofoam coffee cups and stubbed out butts of

SMOKING GUNS?

Ultimately, the citizen decides what constitutes freedom. In order to decide information is needed. Which doubles back on itself because a society must decide whether it trusts citizens with knowledge. The USA takes pride in being the kind of society that does. Let's hope we're not just

WHISTLING DIXIE.

Consider Homeland Security measures increasing restrictions on material accessible via the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). And possible requirements that people making FOIA requests be subject to security checks. Some think such steps would only affect potential terrorists, madcap gadflies or an evil media out to "get" the President. But fallout will be felt on Main Street-- in every city, town or village with a political and economic structure. FOIA requests are a tool used heavily by reformers from all points of the political spectrum, who seek accountability from local governments. A restrictive atmosphere surrounding FOIA requests will be welcomed by funny money public officials, rubber stamp consultants, government contractors from environmental hell, tax abated developers, absentee HUDlords and a host of other political crooks.

RUNNING ON CAVEAT EMPTOR

FOIA requests are also used by consumers. Particularly on the housing front. Building department officials have been known to deny access to local housing codes, in order to protect good buddy property owners from informed tenants and home buyers. National Uniform Building and Fire Codes can be found in data bases and libraries but local codes are more esoteric. Though law is the most public thing imaginable, a FOIA request may still be needed. And after buying a house, you and your neighborhood association may need FOIA to find out who owns the one next door. Where a 24/7 stream of edgy people enter, then exit looking like zombies. Property records are supposed to be public, but some municipalities have a habit of shielding drug house landlords. In these and many other situations, only FOIA keeps public information public. Little dictators always try to make obtaining information intimidating. If FOIA requests were to involve security checks imagine the joy in Mudville.

HOT DUMPS OF ASBESTOS, BATMAN!

As to restricting information potentially useful to terrorists, there's no question things like the President's daily schedule and diagrams of nuclear weapons should be off limits. Even so, restrictions need careful thought. Knowledge protects citizens. Terrorists aren't the only ones who see people as expendable. When it comes to dehumanization profit is a motive as powerful as ideology. Consider the massive environmental fraud now being prosecuted by various federal and state law enforcement agencies in upstate New York. A group of linked asbestos abatement companies falsely claimed to have removed or treated asbestos in a huge roster of public buildings including hospitals, grade schools and nursing homes. Plus the historic New York State Capital. The perpetrators dumped raw asbestos on the ground around buildings, or used "rip & skip" treatment techniques. As in: rip open the walls, skip the treatment. Let the cancer dust blow. Various "independent" laboratories backed up the fraud with false bills of health. Timothy Carroll, part owner of one such bogus testing facility, Analytical Laboratories of Albany (ALA), boasted in a 1997 interview that ALA's four largest clients were nuclear power plants. References to a company with the same name as the one Carroll claims secretly owned ALA, do indeed show up in Internet cached minutes of a November, 1996 meeting of the Power Authority of The State of New York. In a section regarding procurement contracts for the Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant. The public certainly has a right to know about all nuclear power plant contracts granted ALA, connected companies and individuals. Plus which sections of the plants were involved, what materials were tested, treated or removed and if removed, exactly where said materials ended up. But information about things "nuclear" or related to electrical power, is now deemed "sensitive".

CZECHS & BALANCES

Jeffrey Rubinoff, a QT correspondent from the Czech Republic describes aspects of corruption in Prague: "Prague City is divided between the Capital City of Prague government..and the ten governments of the various boroughs of Prague, which have their own mayors and more or less identical bureaucratic authority. Meaning most permits have to be stamped by 2 different local governments." And "..the crap pay and zero status, combined paradoxically with tremendous practical power (no one over their heads to appeal to and no detailed book of standards for them to follow in decisions and which might be appealed to by petitioners) of government clerks might have as much to do with their corruption as the fact that corruption became completely normal under Communism..."

BELLS & WHISTLES

sound in the reference to a lack of standards. A great strength of our country has been the trust we place in individuals, in their right to rely on known standards and their ability to make decisions based on shared information. Our record varies from place to place and time to time and citizens sometimes misuse this freedom. But overall it's a breath taking ideal and informs our identity as Americans. If we reduce the perimeter of freedom hastily, in the name of a questionable safety, it won't be easy to reclaim. And we'll have jettisoned a part of ourselves.

DRUMS ALONG THE HUDSON

In the part of New Jersey now called the Gold Coast a rumble is raging. Last year, Hudson County Democratic Executive Robert Janiszewski was nailed in a corruption sting by the Feds. He supposedly rolled over and started taping former cronies. Including a mega developer or two. But oops, news of his hobby got out and Bobby J. pulled a flit. Last seen painting the basement of his ersatz Swiss chalet cum compound in the Catskill Mountains, J-Boy is now rumored to be in the Federal witness protection program. His departure resulted in a major job opening. One in which Hudson County's hoary political players have vested interest. The front runner for the job is Jersey City's ex City Council President Thomas DeGise; buoyed by the support of Hudson County Democratic Chair, Congressman Robert Menendez. DeGise was once the hand picked successor of Jersey City's ex mayor, Republican Bret Schundler, now languishing in the ash can of a failed gubernatorial run. His dawg DeGise, while city council president, signed off on the worst development monstrosities (many of which were later scotched by neighborhood and environmental groups) as well as the kiss kiss tax abatement deals Schundler granted Jersey City's kill kill developers. Small property owners did not share in the love feast. Many loathe the idea of DeGise as County Executive, a position where he can continue to empower the powerful. Jersey City's present mayor, Glen Cunningham, is also not thrilled with the possibility of his defeated rival as County Exec. Cunningham is supporting the current stand in, Bernard Hartnett Jr. and has also called for Menendez to resign as Democratic chair.

WHERE HAVE ALL THE FLOWERS GONE?

What of Hudson County's other mayors? Well, Mayor Dave Thomas of Hoboken, who gained office last year by tapping into anti developer sentiment is backing DeGise/Menendez. Roberts however, does support Cunningham's right to say whatever he wants about Menendez. That and a nickel. Hudson County's other mayors are also backing DeGise/Menendez. Congressman Menendez is the 4th ranking Democrat in the House of Representatives, the Democratic Caucus vice-chairman and among other things, serves on the Transportation and Infrastructure committee. T & I makes developers sit up and bark since their location location location gets a free boost from the taxpayer. In Congressman Menendez's last re-election campaign, Carl Goldberg of Roseland Properties Inc. served as campaign finance chairman. Roseland owns the entire Hudson River waterfront in the city of West New York. Roseland also has plans to stack and pack the Weehawken waterfront. Under Goldberg, developer dollars flowed into the Menendez campaign coffers. Since Menendez has never faced any real political opposition in Hudson County this generosity was no doubt an expression of faith in his social vision.

WHAT NOW MY LOVE?

Will Cunningham cave to realpolitik? Some cite Cunningham's own fish to fry for Hudson County jobs jobs jobs. And indeed, the sighting of Jersey City's felonious ex Mayor Merry Jerry McCann on the steps of City Hall at a Support Hartnett press conference gives one pause. But there are interests and there are interests. Jersey City is the largest city in Hudson County and is bumping Newark to be first in the state. Its voters rejected DeGise and his policies. Now Congressman Robert Menendez is trying to plop him down on top of their heads.

WORDS OF WISDOM FROM JERSEY CITY

"It's always about money....Never who would do a good job and get some value for our tax dollars..."

Mia Scanga, stopbretschundler.com

FROM UGANDA...

"The Inspector General of Government, Jotham Tumwessigye...said some Ugandans enter politics because it is the easiest way to get rich quickly..."

New Visions, (Kampala) March 18, 2002

FROM MOTOWN...

"Stop-- in the name of love!"

Dozier, Holland, Dozier

FUTURE WORLD

Thanks to correspondents whose thoughts and info contributed to this issue. Remember, if it bugs you and/or makes you laugh send it along. QT will scope it out and if it copies pass it on. The next issue of QT will be two weeks later than usual, due to some prior engagements. When next we meet it will be Spring...

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Crumpling HUD bux blowing in the wind.
updated 3/23/2002