Political InQueery: When Local Politicians Do Bad Things
Sure, it's hard to live in the spotlight, even if it's a local spotlight, like the one we shine on mayors. I can't think of many other jobs as thankless as being mayor, because the people who fancy themselves watchdogs are really, really into it and there's not much that escapes public scrutiny, even if "public" is limited to fewer than 500,000 folks. The current mayor of Washington, DC, Adrian Fenty, was raked over the coals of the local media for keeping his personal garage unlocked while his daughters' bikes were stolen. Of course he should know to lock the garage, but sheesh. I haven't heard that many disparaging radio show callers since Rush Limbaugh promised to move to Costa Rica if the health care bill passed. (Note to Rush: We're still waiting.)
I'm not saying mayors never do anything wrong, and I'm no personal fan of Fenty, though I will admit I voted for him in the last mayoral election. Mayors make a lot of mistakes, let's call them. Take a look at the following:
James West, Republican mayor of Spokane—not only was he caught sending sexy gay messages on Gay.com as Cobra82 (it's where everyone can be gay!), he was also friends with an accused pedophile, a friendship he'd had since they'd both served as police officers. While I won't extrapolate from what looks like a choice, perfect opportunity—the local newspaper set up a "sting" on the mayor using Gay.com—I'll point out that the FBI dropped its investigation on West, whom the paper had said was also a molester. West died soon after being voted out of office, from pancreatic cancer.
Shiela Dixon, Democratic mayor of Baltimore—everyone knows we live in a consumer culture, Ms. Dixon, but that doesn't mean you can go around stealing gift cards for the poor. And wow, what a way to send your mayoral career into the toilet a scant 18 months after it started. I suppose it was also really humiliating to see the Baltimore Sun gleefully posting whatever the prosecuters were putting up on eBay that they'd procured under warrant from your house. Not only were you embarassed to be in the middle of a $500 scandal, but we all know you bought an XBox with stolen funds. That's kind of pathetic.
Gavin Newsom, Democratic mayor of San Francisco—I'm sure LGBT folks appreciated his efforts to legalize same-sex marriage and grant marriage licenses in his city hall, but it's pretty amazingly ass clowned to sleep with one's best friend's wife. Especially when that best friend is one's chief of staff. So Newsom, in one swoop, disrespects his friend, his office, and the residents of the city, who I presume were not well served while he was searching for a new right-arm person. No, don't make any jokes about right arms, that's tasteless.
Kwame Kilpatrick, Democratic mayor of Detroit—here's a good lesson for everyone: you can't keep text messages private forever. Hear that, John Edwards? No sexting! Bigger in consequence than his seekrit affair, however, were the allegations of corruption and embezzlement that came on the heels of his election as Detroit's youngest-ever mayor. Credit accounts meant for official use instead financed limo rentals, spa massages, and expensive wine. So far Kilpatrick has paid back $9,000 of the $210,000 he charged, leading me to wonder why the spigot was on for so long. Kilpatrick is currently prisoner number 702408 at Oaks Correctional Facility.
Wilson Goode, Democratic mayor of Philadelphia—I used to have one of those sarcastic motivational posters in my cube when I worked for the Federal government, that read: MEETINGS: None of Us Is as Dumb as All of Us. How many people were in on the meeting when Goode decided that literally bombing a house was a good law enforcement tactic? In the world where people with bullhorns motivate the police to create their own Improvised Explosive Device (in this case, C4 and underwater mining explosives), not much makes sense. The bomb set the house on fire and started a blaze that destroyed most of a city block, killing 11 people, 5 of them children. Goode was reelected after this "incident," and went on to run the city to the brink of insolvency. That's a Goode job, not good job, see.
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