Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Local corruption: I want to believe* vs. reality

(* "I want to believe" was one of the taglines for the tv show "The X-Files.")
book cover, Corrupt Cities: A Practical Guide to Cure and Prevention by Robert Klitgaard, H. Lindsey Parris
I tend to not let relationships cloud my objective analysis, so that puts me at odds in politics and other arenas, because I analyze something for what it is.

So it's easy to laugh heartily at the headline of Courtland Milloy's column, "Jack Johnson's actions continue to puzzle Prince George's," yesterday about the sad story of the Johnsons in Prince George's County--the former County Executive and his wife, a former administrative law judge--being found guilty of corruption in relation to government activities in the county there.

It's a funny and ridiculous column because it is completely ignores the whys of how people ignore misdeeds and illegal activity out of personal relationships and a misguided sense of loyalty.

You just have to look at quotes in articles in the Washington Post concerning the debacle that DC Councilman Harry Thomas Jr. is in--federal investigators spent 8 hours at his house on Friday, seizing records concerning allegations that he converted government funds intended for children and youth programs to support his lifestyle and household--to see how personal relationships allow for "trust" to be abused.

WRT that point see these past blog entries:
This is from "FBI, IRS raid D.C. councilmember's home" (Post):

But several of Thomas’s friends and neighbors showed up in support, underscoring the weight his name carries in parts of the city.

Two longtime political activists and friends of the Thomas family, Jeanette and Pierpont Mobley, arrived after noon but were not allowed inside the residence.

Jeanette Mobley said they came “just to show support, empathy” for Thomas and his wife, Diane Romo Thomas. “They are still human beings, right?” she said.

This follow up story, "After raid, D.C.'s Thomas can still count on support," has more of the same. From the article:

But what happened in the hours after the raid left little doubt that Thomas, 50, retains a base of support among longtime backers and D.C. residents in general. And city law and custom mean that he is unlikely to depart quickly or quietly as he fights allegations that he diverted more than $300,000 of public funds to his private use. ...

As Thomas continues to fight, he can rely on a deep well of goodwill among Ward 5 residents, including many who watched him grow up, the son of Harry Thomas Sr., the former occupant of the council seat that the son now holds, and Romaine Thomas, a political activist and former public school principal.

The FBI raid did little to dim his luster, for instance, among many golfers at the Langston Golf Course in Northeast Washington, where Thomas has hosted fundraisers and used to show up almost daily to play a round. ... Some of the men playing golf on a sunny, December day scoffed at the FBI investigation and predicted that it will not undermine the efforts of Team Thomas, the nonprofit foundation founded and controlled by the council member.

“Team Thomas and Harry Thomas have done so much good for so many people,” said James Powell, 66, a Ward 7 resident heading to his car after a weekend game. Of the raid, he said: “People know it’s political. It’s racial. We know what the Thomas family has done in the District of Columbia.” ...

Supporters gathered Friday at Romaine Thomas’s home in the Michigan Park neighborhood. Her son came to the house that evening, a few hours after agents left his home, according to two people who were there.

“I think he is 100 percent happy to see that people are there just for him,” said Cherita Whiting, a political activist and family friend who visited with Thomas on Friday night. “Nobody’s asking about the situation. Everybody was concerned with his mom and his children and him and his wife.”

And Courtland Milloy wonders why corruption happens, why "good people" are hoodwinked?

Because the environment supports corruption, by failing to hold people accountable for their actions (cf. "finding God"). People hoodwink themselves.

The only people who are puzzled are those who refuse to look at things the way they really are, rather than how they want them to be.

As long as you ignore the "situation" more "situations" will continue to happen.

cf. the documentary "The Nine Lives of Marion Barry" and the great new Starz tv series, "The Boss," about local politics and municipal corruption, set in Chicago.

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