Politicians and Tragedies: A Few Thoughts

It would be my guess that many actions will probably be taken in the coming months to improve the fire codes in the wake of the Station tragedy. Good. We all should agree that these things should probably have been addressed prior to the tragic lose of life at the Station club in West Warwick. However, let us not forget that many past improvements have come in the wake of similar tragedies. That is just a fact of life in North America, and maybe the whole world.

A part of this whole equation exist that must be addressed. It exists every time a tragedy has occurred. Certain things always seem to fall through the cracks in past post-tragedy scenarios. Calls will come for stricter forms of this and tough versions of that. Mandates will go forth demand the installation of improved forms of protection. Good I say. That is how it should be.

However, when things begin to get tough (read that expensive) there will always be those vested interests that reach out to touch someone, someone with a little political swag. These people will cry great crocodile tears upon the shoulders of their political friends in the world of government.

All of these measures are good, they will say. We all believe in safety, they will say. These new measures are the best things we have ever seen, since sliced bread was invented. However, we should be exempted from these new requirements because we are existing construction, and we are staunch political buddies.

Usually, it is at this point where the ghost of construction past will rear its ugly head, and the magic word, "grandfather", will be uttered. It is all right to be tough on the future, these political hangers-on will cry, but let us take care of everybody who is already in business.

I saw evidence in a local New Jersey paper last week, when a state politician who owns a nightclub said that the state should mention those clubs that are obeying the law, rather than concentrating on those that are violating the law. What a load of manure? Look at me! I obey the law! I am cool!

With regard to grand-fathering, I have never been a proponent of this dirty little way to sneak people through the doorway of some particular new legal requirement. Just because a person has done something for years is no guarantee that they are doing it right. However, the use of grand-fathering provides a truly great way for politicians to seem like crusading advocates for a terrible tragedy without trodding on the toes of their true friends, the people who put up the money.

How can you call for tougher rules and improved automatic sprinkler protection without angering the people who put up the money to get you elected? I can speak with some authority on this topic, since New Jersey seems to be the capitol of the "pay-to-play" political game.

Every time there is an election, people who stand to gain something from backing the candidates begin showering them with money. The greatest example of this came to light on the front page of the Asbury Park Press not too many weeks ago. It seems that the state senate Co-President (yes folks, co-president) is also the municipal attorney for his hometown.

I would like you to understand that his salary involves a sum that you and I would have to work a lot of years to earn. Upon further examination by the Press, it seems that his law firm is one of the major contributors to the candidates for office in that town which employs him. Go figure. Those people win and they keep hiring the powerful senator from their own community as their municipal attorney. Can you spell INFLUENCE?

It might all be legal, but it sure seems a bit smelly to me. I harkens back to the days of yesteryear in Newark when employees of the city were expected to buy tickets to all of the political events, both major and minor. I think that was yesterday, as a matter of fact. Did I participate in this sordid show? Of course I did. My mom and dad did not raise any idiots. Rule number one was simple: Always pay by check! This led to rule number two. Do not touch cash. Checks can be followed and proven. Cash cannot.

Sad to say, the system was flawed. The politicians got the gold mine and the contributors usually got the shaft. Politicians appear to have attention spans and memories that can be measures in fractions of a second. At least that is how it seemed to us.

In the great Garden State, our Governor James (don