ON THE QT
Everything You Always Suspected--
Carola Von Hoffmannstahl-Solomonoff
But May Soon Fear To Ask?
Publisher and Editor
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
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
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
"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
"Stop-- in the name of love!"
Dozier, Holland, Dozier
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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