Monday, July 14, 2008

City For Sale

FOR SALE: Wonderful northeastern city conveniently located within a few hours flying distance of 80% of the country’s major metropolitan areas. Many updates but still needs a little TLC. Sold in whole for the right price, but strong preference is for parcel-by-parcel conveyance.

OPPORTUNITIES INCLUDED: Land at a fraction of its market value, no-bid government contracts, permits issued anywhere for anything, preferential allocation of city services, job placement for felons and wife-beaters, tax breaks for qualified businesses (*), appointments to boards and authorities whereby you can create your own excellent business opportunities and much, much more.

TERMS: Cash contributions from 3rd parties preferred, but all other means of payment including in-kind, trade and barter will be seriously considered.

The Mayor’s Hot Line: 412-255-CITY

(*) Businesses must show a strong balance sheet, a healthy operating margin, and otherwise be in a financial position whereby a tax break is not needed.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

In My Opinion: Dowd And That Damn Sign

Process and following the letter of the law are very important things. And ironically enough, they are at the very core of the maddening Lamar sign fiasco.

Respect for process and abiding our laws are pretty much the basis of keeping our civilization civilized. Process and laws do exist to maintain a semblance of order, but not just for a semblance of order. They also exist for the pursuit and attainment of justice.

Since life is often a complicated, messy affair, following the letter of the law does not always mean justice will be served. Lawyers and judges come upon this conundrum in their daily work because our world is not a computer program. It is complex and messy and human. If it were a computer program, we would have no need for the judgment our human judges, juries and legislators bring to the equation. And hence, we would have no need for them either. We would just feed the particular situation/infraction into the computer and the proper course of action would be spit out for us to implement.

What do human lawyers and judges do when they come upon such a conundrum? A situation whereby following the strict letter of the law allows for something unlawful to persist? Or worse, when an obvious injustice would be dealt? Do they break the law hoping to achieve a just end? Well, maybe they do so some of the time, and that is unfortunate. Because the end rarely, if ever, does justify the means.

But mostly these human beings get creative by referencing other laws which might serve as a modifying force to steer the end result closer to what everyone recognizes as rightful and just. Sometimes they even pass new laws so that a similar miscarriage of justice does not happen in the future.

And so this is exactly the juncture where I fault Dowd. Yes, he is and has been technically correct on all of his positions. Every computer would verify that. He is obviously bright and therefore must obviously know that exactly following correct process and the letter of the law in the Lamar sign case would lead to obvious injustice. First, the will of council was clear …… a majority of council wanted to hire McGough and file an appeal. Second, had Dowd’s technically correct method been followed, Lamar would have prevailed in their illegal activities.

Dowd needs to acknowledge that his role as a councilman and public servant should be something greater than a well-written computer program. He needs to interject some human judgment when he sees that A x B = Injustice. He needs to work with council to find a legal way whereby the clear will of council can be implemented and see the light of day. This is something that can be done, but something Dowd, for a variety of technical and esoteric reasons, refuses to do.

Dowd the “straw man” for Lamar? Dowd the “straw man” for the mayor? I’m not sure either is the case and I’m also not sure it matters. What does matter is Dowd has demonstrated he will stand on the letter of the law to the detriment of justice. He will choose recognition of his own technical correctness over stopping a clear, obvious, glaring, 1200 sq ft LED illegality. And worse yet, he will not lift a finger to help or collaborate with those who are trying to find a solution which is both legal and just and implements the clear will of the majority of council.

THAT is what troubles me with Councilman Dowd in this situation.