Saturday, September 30, 2006

How bad is the N.O. Police Department?

I was reading the New Orleans Times Picayune the other day, and on the third page of the metro section there was an article about a cop who had been arrested. A tipster had alerted authorities that he might be driving a stolen truck. Sure enough, they investigated and he was driving a truck that had been stolen a year ago. In addition, they found marijuana and cocaine in his house.

AND THIS ONLY MADE THE THIRD PAGE OF THE METRO SECTION!!!

This is where in Boston you get articles about the city council looking into defibulators, or the town of Boxford looking into school uniforms!

Many of you may have heard about the police officers who stole a bunch of new Cadillacs during the aftermath of Katrina. Well, at least that incident led to one of the great billboards of all time. The dealership that was robbed put up a billboard on route I-10,I believe, which said something to the effect of "Seawell Cadillac: Preferred by New Orleans Finest!"

A stolen car and drug deal gone awry was left behind our home on West Springfield Street a couple days ago. The cop who arrived on the scene had been on the force for almost 15 years and he told my wife about the great history of drug use and crime at 218 West Springfield when the Curry family was living there.

Monday, September 25, 2006

You're Talking Loud, but Saying Nothing

Dateline: September 25, 2006

Location: Flying to New Orleans

A couple weeks ago, I was hanging at Vaughan’s with contractors, congressional lawyers, and the hoi polloi when Kermit Ruffins started the strains of James Brown's “talking Loud, but saying nothing”. I was possessed by the spirit and made my way to the front of the dance floor so as to be closer to the radiance of the vibe, and started moving my feet in cohesion with the sister to my right, doing my best imitation of a jazzed funeral march. A nod from the master trumpeter assured me I was not out of place, not that anyone is ever out of place in the Bywater as long as the Crescent City motto of “Be Nice, or Leave” is obeyed.

As I got lost in the soulful music which said so much without lyrics at all, I was slowly recharged as the music built to crescendo….my thoughts ranged from what I was doing in NOLA, to what made me want to speak Truth to Power. As Dr. King postulated, it is always the Right time to do the Right thing, which makes it always the right time to stand up to dishonesty, corruption, collusion, cronyism. This holy spirit of righteous feeling was not available to those who had been co-opted, to those who are seeking power just for power’s sake. Yes, they could hear notes and melodies, and could probably even concoct a quick quote on the spot “of what a really, really great artist Kermit is who exemplifies all that is wonderful about New Orleans but they could not feel, not understand and certainly not absorb the energy. In fact, if they really watched and listened, their hearts may start to shrink, and their brains start to fear this vibe of truth, harmony, exuberance that has not a whisk of time for their ill gotten structures, just as a hurricane blows over without hindrance corruptly built levees.



Yes, that was Kermit playing the National Anthem before the Saints/Falcons game on MNF tonight.

New 35 story tower in Back bay/fenway?

I hear that Berklee School of Music is thinking of putting a 35 story tower on the corner of Mass Ave and Boylston where the old bank building now sits.

Allegedly, the Mayor is already interested in the idea.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Tale of Two (Corrupt) Cities




My New Orleans project is the pink one in the center, the Jefferson house is the pink one on the left.










Tale of Two Corrupt Cities

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. September 2005, two completely Democratic Catholic Cities, both with long histories of Byzantine, machine politics. Boston seemed at the top of its game, with a strong housing market, a glow from being the World Series Defending Champion, recent spruce up of downtown for the national Democratic convention, completion of the biggest public works project in American history. New Orleans was at the bottom, its infrastructure, both physical and political, exposed for the fa├žade it was. People dead in the streets, the living with no homes, possessions or hope from the government institutions they had paid tribute money to all their years. Not local, not state, not federal could be counted on.

When I decided to run for office in Boston, I sat down with one of the heads of the Banner, the African American paper of record in the Hub. When I told him my plans of telling the truth about the state of the City and how big money is siphoning off the assets of the citizens he told me in all seriousness I’d be shot. Strong words coming from a veteran of the civil war battles of the sixties, I politely laughed it off but agreed that there would be reprisals from our vindictive City Hall. I told my wife that for sure they would raise the taxes on the house we live in.

It was a story I told to my campaign workers, many of whom were Boston Public School students. Sure enough, last summer when we were doing campaign preparation the taxman came by to reassess the property. And What an Assessment It Was!!! When the new bills came out for 2007 I found we were now the second highest assessed house in the South End. This despite being on West Springfield Street, which has the sirens of the police and ambulances roaring out back all night long, where drugs can still be bought in the alley, with no fountain or park in the middle of the street, with Northeastern students next door smoking dope and throwing beer cans in our yard during late night parties. Amazingly, no other house on the street was assessed at closer than 60% of the value of ours, despite the identical natures of the strict Victorian facades and layouts. Only one other house on Union Park was assessed for about $50,000 more, despite home prices on Union Park well beyond the 2, 3 and 4 million dollar mark. No house on my street has ever sold for more than 1,250,000 yet somehow our assessment is over 1.9 million!!! All of this without ever going inside the place! (see assessment at http://www.cityofboston.gov/assessing/search/default.asp?mode=value&pid=0900767000)

Teach me for using that First Amendment Right! Clearly that Amendment is not first in the hearts of proper Boston Democrats.

In the by and by, I went down to Louisiana to help out the citizens recover from this greatest natural disaster in US history. I got to see real incompetence, corruption, stonewalling, and flim flamming first hand and the detrimental effect of these actions on its citizens. In the course of my work with private citizens and Habitat for Humanity I was able to get a glimpse of the Big Easy, and to see it is to love it. I decided to make a long term commitment to the city, and buy a building to fix up and provide more housing stock where it was desperately needed. I looked at a number of places before finding an historical double shotgun, on a block of double shotguns in the Irish Channel, and made a contract to purchase it for $200,000.

Louisiana’s laws, unlike most of the rest of the US, are based on Napoleonic law and thus have different monikers, anachronisms, and systems. One of them in New Orleans is the election of seven tax assessors, each with their own fiefdom. As one might imagine this has the potential of, how shall we say, “Skewing” the assessment of certain ‘friends of the assessor’!!! These offices are often held in one family for multiples of decades.

It turns out that the house I bought is next door to a member of the Jefferson political family. The head of the Clan is Richard, the congressman recently found with $90,000 cold hard cash in his freezer, and whose office in Washington was raided by the FBI. His sister, Betty, is our local Tax Assessor. An independent auditor about 4 years ago found that over 80 percent of the properties in her district were incorrectly assessed by more than 50%!!! Imagine if 80 percent of the work you did was off by 50% or more….I guess this is where the expression “close enough for government work” comes from. Sure enough, when I got my New Orleans tax bill, I found out the property I’d purchased was assessed for $20,000.

(I hope no one in New Orleans reads my blog!!!)

So, one doesn’t have to wonder why corruption works. In Boston, where I’m outspoken, talk about having open, transparent, professional government I get penalized with a $19,000 tax bill. In New Orleans, where I, mostly, keep my mouth shut, go along to get along, fix the downspouts of the political family house next door, I pay $73 in taxes. Doesn’t take a genius to see which method is better off for someone personally.

Therein is the problem. If people only do what is best for them personally, we as a society suffer. That is why the city budget in New Orleans, with a similar population to Boston of 600,000 was about 500 million dollars pre-Katrina, while Boston is 2 Billion. That is why the roads are terrible, the police and DA are terrible, the schools are beyond abysmal, etc.

If you are friends with your taxman are you going to give them a political donation and keep your assessment at $20,000 and take the saved money to send your kids to private school, or be altruistic and put a street sign in front of your house for the candidate calling for professional tax assessment and risk paying more of your hard earned dollars in retribution?

This is how corruption works and wins, the tyranny of the majority which can lead to catastrophe for all.

_____________________________________________________________

For fun, check out Tom Menino’s tax assessment. Amazing how the city tax increases which had residential taxes go up about 9% in each of the last two years didn’t reach to his corner of Hyde Park. (http://www.cityofboston.gov/assessing/search/default.asp?mode=value&pid=1812819000)


Parcel ID:

1812819000

Address:

102 CHESTERFIELD ST, Boston, MA, 02136

Property Type:

Residential - One Family

Lot Size (sqft):

3651

Owner Name:

MENINO THOMAS M ETAL

Residential Exemption:

Yes

Owner Address:

102 CHESTERFIELD HYDE PARK MA 02136


FY2007 Preliminary

Attributes

Current
Owner(s)

Value
History


Fiscal Year

Property Type

Assessed Value *

2006

Residential - One Family

307,200

2005

Residential - One Family

290,300

2004

Residential - One Family

290,300

2003

Residential - One Family

218,300

2002

Residential - One Family

204,000

2001

Residential - One Family

192,200




Wednesday, September 06, 2006

lunch with chang diaz, senate candidate

My wife and I had lunch with Ms. Chang Diaz a couple days ago, and we were both very impressed. Most importantly, I don't think she has received accurate press about her positions.

She is prochoice. She is pro gay marriage. She is a policy wonk (self professed) who wants to hold our elected officials to a higher standard. She is running at personal risk, losing her health insurance and putting career on hold to do what she thinks is right. And, unlike losing candidate McCrea, she is running a positive campaign focusing on who she is and what she believes in.

She will get my write in vote, if for no other reason than because she answered a phone call and email, which is more than Senator Wilkerson has done in the last two years for me.

Please check out her website, see her speak, or give her office a call and give democracy a fair shake!

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Menino Intimidation Tactics

Barry Mullin, the lead person in the drive to get more police on the streets of Boston, had a recent visitor to his house in Dorchester.

It was a gentleman from the Menino administration who told him that Menino was going to do to him what Menino did to Peggy Davis Mullen, and drive him out of the city.

Well, isn't that friendly of City Hall to let him know how much they appreciate the democracy we have set up here in America.

In a somewhat related incident, my wife's car was broken into again last night, second time in less than a year.

I wonder if the search committee for the new police commissioner is letting the candidates know that they will be required to say that they have enough officers, despite what the previous superintendent said publicly. It will be interesting to see whether they appoint a new one by the time it comes for us to depose an official from the police department.