Tuesday, March 17, 2009
When I was a kid our older relatives used to have a saying for when someone got too full of themselves, or got too arrogant, or when someone was constantly pushing the limits too far. They would say that this person was 'too big for his britches', an analogy relating to someone who got so big they were about to burst out of their pants. This would often be followed by an admonition that the person was going to 'get what they had coming to them' one of these days when the 'chickens come home to roost'. Well, the far-too-big-for-his-britches Vince Fumo finally welcomed home the chickens yesterday. After decades of shady backroom politics, the former State Senator and political giant was found guilty yesterday on 137 counts including fraud, obstruction of justice, tax offenses, and conspiracy. When the time comes for sentencing, prosecutors will be seeking to send the now 65-year old Fumo away to prison for more than a decade, meaning that the once mighty kingpin could spend the rest of his life behind bars. Just a day earlier, with the jury holding its deliberations, his typically slimy but skilled defense lawyers attempted one final bit of legal tap-dancing in an effort to free their client. They tried to have a juror thrown off the case and possibly a mistrial declared that would at least temporarily free their client. The reasoning? One of the jurors potentially posted on Facebook that there would be a "big announcement on Monday" in regards to the case. Oh no, the entirety of a lengthy criminal court case with numerous witnesses and mountains of evidence tossed out because one juror made an innocuous comment on a social networking website! The horror of this violation of prudential conduct! Why perhaps because of this simple remark which revealed nothing more than the possible day on which some unknown announcement might be made that possibly involves some event in the juror's life which may or may not involve the trial the justice system should come grinding to a halt? The court should not only halt the deliberations, remove the juror, ignore the evidence, and free the defendant, but perhaps even publicly disgrace the juror, and maybe even fine them or toss them behind bars for contempt? Yet another ridiculous move by the defense team in an effort to toss some 11th-hour Hail Mary in a desperate attempt to delay the inevitable. And boy was this verdict ever inevitable. When interviewed afterwards the comments from the jurors signified that they tried to find a way to acquit Fumo, but that "The evidence was so clear", and that like many disgraced politicians before him that "greed" was his motivation. To list the length and breadth and depth of Vince Fumo's political power and influence would take a full-length book, which someone will inevitably one day write. Suffice it to say, however, that this power did not come from honest political work over the decades. It came from the accumulation of power that itself came from the sale of his office and from political patronage. Vince Fumo is the poster boy for everything that is wrong with Philadelphia politics. The only thing that the vast majority of politicians in the city care about is retaining their power at the cost of service to their constituents and what began as conscience in their dealings. Philadelphia's one-party system invites corruption as politicians feel they must be registered and run as a Democrat or have little to no chance of election. This then causes them to become dependent on the Democratic election machine and money in order to retain their elected positions. This dependency comes at the cost of thier voting for liberal causes that perpetuate the tax-and-spend policies that have driven residents and businesses from the city by the hundreds of thousands over the past few decades. The power that Fumo wielded was from or near the very top of the political power pyramid of this Democratic Party domination process. The FBI may have been concerned with illegalities, misappropriations of funds, and abuse of office, but there is a bigger fish to fry here. The City of Philadelphia is in desperate need of a true conservative political power presence, and I believe that many of Philly's people and pols actually share those tendencies at heart. With a competitive political system that forced elected officials to truly be accountable to the people, the city would be far better off than it is currently under the system which holds it hostage to the Democratic Party alone. It will take a group of political, social, community, and business people to have courage and to organize and drive this effort, but it is an effort that must be made if Philadelphia is to reverse course and again become a world-class city. Fumo is certainly not the only politician at the state or local levels using his power and influence in these ways, and perhaps there are more who are under investigation right now without even knowing it. Shaking ourselves free of political corruption, greed, and scandal is a good beginning. Vince Fumo got too big for his britches a long, long time ago. With the chickens now home to roost, he will finally get what he has coming to him. Hopefully it doesn't result simply in someone else stepping in to fill a power vacuum, but instead marks the beginning of major changes in Philadelphia politics which are necessary and long overdue.