The LuLac Edition #264, July 13th, 2007
PHOTO INDEX: THE PARTIAL SIGHT OF THE NOW RAZED BUILDING WHERE "MR. PEANUT" GOT HIS START IN 1906, THE LUZERNE COUNTY COURTHOUSE AND CONGRESSMAN CHRIS CARNEY AND HIS FAMILY IN A 2006 ELECTION PHOTO.
HEROES AND VILLAINS
We're back for another edition of "Heroes and Villains".
MR. PEANUT'S HONOR
A formal idea to honor the American icon, Mr. Peanut was proposed at Thursday night’s council meeting, before members unanimously approved the placement of a historical marker at 632 S. Main St., where the Planters Peanuts corporate headquarters stood. The marker will honor founder Amedeo Obici.
The lot where Planters headquarters was located and where the historical marker will be placed is now vacant. Marvin Slomowitz of Mark Realty is planning to develop it into a retail mall. The marker would be placed in front of the old Planters office building, the only remaining structure once used by Obici.
PITTSTON DUST UP
In Pittston, the ramifications of a past election are coming home to roost.
Former city administrator, Wilfrid Toole, started a defamation lawsuit last year against Philip Campenni, Kenneth Bangs, Donna McFadden Connors, Chris Latona, and Joseph Valenti.
Phillips on Friday said he needs Valenti’s deposition to form the complaint. Valenti is “supposed to be” the chairman of the Committee for Progress, Phillips said.
His court papers filed Friday say Valenti was given a notice to appear for a deposition on July 9. But Valenti “knowingly and willfully failed to appear” for that deposition, the court papers say.
That led to Phillips asking a Luzerne County Court of Common Pleas judge to order Valenti to appear at a deposition. Judge Hugh F. Mundy on Friday approved that order, and said he would sanction Valenti if he did not appear.
OUR OTHER PAL, AL
Even though I'd be in the gutter without Mrs. LuLac, I've always found the notion of an older man and much younger woman socially acceptable and even a natural order of things. (Yeah, Mrs. LuLac hasn't read this thing in months!) Anyway, news from New York comes about former Senator Alphonse D'Amato. He is looking forward to a couple of big milestones: his 70th birthday and a new baby. "If you had told me this prior to getting married, I would have said you're out of your mind," D'Amato joked on Friday as he confirmed that his wife, Katuria D'Amato, 41, is expecting a baby sometime next February.
The D'Amatos celebrate their third anniversary next week; his birthday is Aug. 1. "We're tremendously blessed. God has given us this wonderful news and we're very excited about it," D'Amato told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.
Katuria D'Amato, an attorney, is also a member of the Town of Hempstead Zoning Appeals Board on Long Island. The baby business isn't exactly new to D'Amato. The three-term senator, who now runs a consulting firm, has four adult children from his previous marriage and get this, 10 grandchildren. At least the kid will have some people to play with. In my novel, "A Radio Story", the main character takes up with a woman 20 years younger than he. D'Amato's age difference is 29. My friend Jim from Colorado says, once your past that twenty year mark, the age difference becomes a whole person, another generation. Indeed. You go Al!
So they say there is an investigation into corruption at the Luzerne County Courthouse regarding our local judges. Ann Lokuta, under fire herself, for being bad tempered and a bit disheveled but not corrupt might release some info in her own case regarding the boys in black. Go Ann go. But anything they find, pales in comparison with this story out of Newark, New Jersey. It is forty years this summer since Newark burned and the Mayor credited with bringing the town back is under investigation.
James, 71, also was accused of selling off parcels of city land to one of his girlfriends at cut-rate prices so she could flip them to developers at huge profits.
"The allegations in this indictment are stark examples of the greed and arrogance of unchecked power," said U.S. Attorney Christopher Christie. "Sharpe James' long history in this city is forever scarred."
The indictment alleged a brazen James ran up $58,000 in charges on the struggling city's credit cards for a series of jaunts - from the Caribbean to Daytona Beach to Martha's Vineyard - for himself and eight different "companions."
He charged everything from extravagant resort suites to poolside daiquiris to movie tickets in Secaucus, N.J. James, a married father of three sons, spent five days of his final week in office last July living it up at a four-star resort in Rio de Janeiro, costing taxpayers about $10,000 in hotel bills and nightclub fees.
Perhaps the most audacious expense paid by the city is $8,776 to Norwegian Cruise Line to secure a penthouse cabin on a boat that didn't sail until six weeks after James left office. Other charges were for trips to Maryland and Florida to test-drive a yacht and a Rolls-Royce.
The indictment, the result of a lengthy FBI probe, seriously tarnishes the legacy of the flamboyant, old-school Democratic pol who dominated Newark for a quarter century and led the city's slow recovery from the 1967 riots whose 40th anniversary happened to be marked yesterday.
Outside the courthouse after posting his $250,000 bail, James - who is still a state senator - told reporters, "I'm innocent of all these charges and look forward to my day in court."
Also charged was James' sometime girlfriend and travel companion, Tamika Riley, 38, who was arrested in a low-cut top, black slacks and animal-print pumps.
She was charged with conspiring with James to sell off city land. Although she was a clothes shop owner with no background in real estate, Riley bought nine parcels of land from the city from 2001 to 2005 for the cut-rate price of $46,000 and resold them - sometimes within days - for a total profit of more than $500,000. James' successor, reformist Mayor Corey Booker, has tried to reclaim some of the land from developers. Though he ran one of the nation's poorest cities, James made more than $200,000 a year as mayor, more than any other mayor or even governor.
Not that James was necessarily being Fabulous Mr. Generous to the women and aides who accompanied him on the 32 vacations to five countries and 11 states.
The indictment says that in one case, he charged the city to fly a companion to join him in Puerto Rico and asked her for $700 to reimburse the city - but then kept her cash.
According to the indictment, James invented laughable pretexts for his junkets. For one 2006 winter getaway at a luxury beachfront resort in the Dominican Republic, James said he wanted to investigate the resort's tropical gardens to see "if they could be replicated near Penn Station in Newark."
A charismatic, sharp-elbowed mayor who never stopped cheerleading for his often-maligned city, James oversaw the revival of Newark and remains a hero to many. In his 12 elections for councilman, mayor and state senator, James stood unbeaten. His enemies fell by the wayside, one by one.
But as the once-bankrupt city got richer, so did James. He bought the yacht. And the Rolls. And a house at the shore. And an office building. "This indictment is about as surprising as the sun rising in the morning," said New Jersey Republican State Chairman Tom Wilson.
CARNEY UNDER FIRE
Congressman Chris Carney is under fire for voting with the Republicans in the recent House action on Iraq. The Congressman is playing to his GOP base, the problem is he's a Democrat. There are many who feel Carney has to straddle the political landscape of the 10th district in order to win a new term. That's a smart strategy. But the war in Iraq is so personal an issue, that many Democrats as well as my friend and fellow blogger Gort are disappointed with Carney's actions so far. Time and the next election will tell on this one.