Thursday, October 23, 2008

Westchester Guardian/In Our Opinion/Our Readers Respond.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

In Our Opinion...

Not Even A President

They say ‘those who ignore the lessons of history are doomed to repeat its mistakes’. In the summer of 1974, President Richard Milhaus Nixon was locked in a fierce struggle with Congress with respect to what came to be known as the Watergate Tapes. Not quite two years earlier, he had been re-elected to a second four-year term, winning every single state but Massachusetts.

With Nixon, it was really about image vs. reality. He was an essentially cold individual, in hindsight a very self-destructive control freak, constantly seeking admiration and approval. Unfortunately, he had surrounded himself with a very obedient, ethnically-homogeneous Cabinet, with few exceptions, who marched, for the most part, in lockstep behind him, carefully avoiding the cracks.

With the single exception of Transportation Secretary Volpe, virtually every other close Cabinet advisor was of Teutonic extraction; Haldemann, Erlichmann, Colson; even Henry Kissinger was Dutch. And, so, when the Watergate operation, an unnecessary clandestine bugging of the Democratic National Campaign Headquarters at the Watergate Hotel in Washington, D.C., gradually continued to come to light under relentless pressure from the media and, ultimately, Congress, it was natural for Nixon, and his
advisors, to adopt a “Fuehrerbunker” strategy.

What could have been dealt with effectively, early on, by the dismissal of several low-level operatives, with perhaps a million dollars in hush money, and damage control, would, instead, become a worsening dilemma as Nixon was sucked ever more deeply into the coverup. Ultimately, 70 members of his Administration, including the Nation’s top law enforcer, Attorney General John Mitchell, would be compromised and sent to prison.

By August of 1974, despite so many recent great achievements in foreign affairs: The opening of Communist China; the successful Arms Limitation Summits with the Soviet Union; the negotiation of peace in Vietnam; Richard Nixon was standing on the verge of resignation, having failed to convince Congress, the Supreme Court, and, most importantly, the American People, that he could invoke Executive Privilege and legally withhold the ultimate evidence, proof of his active, hands-on involvement in the Watergate Coverup.

With his unprecedented resignation on August 9, 1974, Richard Nixon reaffirmed the Constitutional reality, “Not even a president may withhold evidence in a criminal trial.” One would have thought, from that day forward, the concept would be a settled matter. It is important to understand that the concept applies both to inculpatory, and exculpatory, evidence, information which, when put before a trier of fact, would tend to establish either one’s guilt or one’s innocence.

So, who granted Jeanine Pirro and Janet DiFiore the power to violate the Constitution as even a president, at the height of his popularity, could not get away with? By what Divine Right have they, and do they continue to, deny innocent citizens the protections laid into law by our forefathers’ and mothers’ blood and tears?

In 1974, Pirro and DiFiore were young adults, either in, or about to enter, law school. Neither of them have any legitimate excuse for failing to have grasped Richard Nixon’s hard-learned lesson. Neither of them had the right to withhold and/or continue to withhold, relevant evidence in even a single criminal trial, much less scores of them, sending innocent individuals to prison and then keeping them there.

Every right-thinking, and thoughtful, resident of Westchester knows the Richard DiGuglielmo and Anthony DiSimone cases are but the ‘tip of the iceberg’. When will the People of Westchester and the Defense Bar come forward and demand that federal authorities bring the operations of the Westchester County District Attorney’s Office, for the past 15 years, under investigation for human and civil rights violations?


Our Readers Respond...

Former Chair Of Yonkers Board Of Assessment Urges City Officials To Protect Interests Of the People

Dear Editor:

On Thursday, Oct. 16th, a public hearing was held by the YIDA to consider a request by Brooks Shopping Centers, LLC and another entity for sales and use tax exemption, mortgage recording tax exemption and a partial real property tax abatement.

First, it is gratifying to know that the City is in such a strong financial position in spite of Mayor Amicone and his oft-repeated warnings of bad times next year (2009).

The Cross County S/C, 71.1 acres, 1,250,000 square feet of prime real estate is one of the two top taxpayers in the City, I believe. And Yonkers has been very good to this business. But has the Marx and Brooks organizations appreciated that?

As a member and Chair of the Yonkers Board of Assessment Review from 1975 to 2006, I believe that every year the CCSC filed protests to have their assessments reduced. Absent necessary information their requests were denied, so they would sue the City. And they never lost, receiving millions in returned property tax payments.

Though not legally bound not to protect their assessments, I urged for almost the entire time I sat on the Board that a prospective client and the IDA try to negotiate from the “client” an agreement, a “gentlemen’s agreement” that they would abide by the assessment they consummate the deal with for a fixed period. This is something other municipalities have successfully done. To my knowledge this was never considered or acted on by our IDA Board.

Since most IDA Board “Public Hearings” are held at times where public participation is difficult and the nature of this IDA Board’s meeting is pro forma, rarely is it covered by the press or is the public aware of the decisions. These decisions almost always favor the applicant, whether a small local business looking
for help to expand, or an international multi-million dollar chain with million/billion dollar bottom lines.

Not all “deals” arranged by the YIDA succeed and rarely, if ever, do we hear of those that failed. And some have failed with extensive losses to the taxpayers. And don’t be taken in by the old refrain that “It is not Yonkers taxpayer money”.

I do not know how anyone can characterize federal/state loans, federal/state grants for instance as anything but taxpayer money. From someplace in the USA.

It seems to me as anxious as this administration is for development and granted, it is worthy in some instances, this time and this economic cycle warrants prudence in the decisions regarding such business decisions as granting partial or full real property tax abatements.

I urge the Board of the Yonkers Industrial Development Agency to consider very carefully what they are about to do. Although “independent” they do have a duty to the taxpayers of this City. And the Chair of the IDA, especially wearing two hats, must take the total picture into consideration.

Sid Sloves, Yonkers

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