Thursday, April 28, 2005

Meet Me In Malverne

If you take the Long Island Rail Road out of Penn Station in Manhattan you can be in Nassau County in less than an hour, even with the train change in Jamaica. My recommendation is you go straight to the Village of Malverne and try to do lunch with Mayor Anthony Panzarella. He’s the kind of guy who doesn’t like being lied to and he takes decisive action when he discovers he’s being played for a patsy.

According to the Nassau County Village Officials Association (NCVOA) newsletter Panzarella, who was also serving as President of the association, became “livid” after learning that while Verizon was trying to soft-soak the villages into granting it fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) permits it was simultaneously leading the charge to eliminate franchising authority at both the state and federal level.

I think what really steamed Panzarella was a statement by Verizon spokesman Eric Rabe:

“We don’t think we should be forced to crawl under barbed wire in terms of all the local negotiations we have to go through.”

Panzarella didn’t like being referred to as “barbed wire.” Can’t blame him. And it wasn’t just the forked tongues of the Verizon reps that put Panzarella out of sorts; it was also the aesthetics of the FTTP.

“In addition to being illegally placed, the ugly green boxes are visually blighting.”

So using his ability to communicate in the Village News, Panzarella wrote:

“Folks, we’d better not let Verizon lull us into a false sense of security by promising us the world on the question of cable TV service. Chances are we’ll get nothing, and in the process lose our franchising authority! In a nutshell, we’ve got a fight on our hands!”

Yes, Mayor Panzarella, you do have a fight on your hands and it seems to me you’re doing a pretty good job of it.

In a bold and wonderful move Panzarella issued a “stop work” order to Verizon demanding they remove all FTTP cable and boxes that may have already been installed and he urged every one of the 64 villages in the association to do the same. He even provided a sample letter for them to use. That’s the kind of behavior that makes me want to run up to Malverne this minute and pick up the tab for the lunch! It’s also the kind of thing that makes me wish I were a fly on the wall when Verizon consultant Paul Trane and Director of Community Affairs Janet Jones opened that letter. There’s nothing more satisfying than watching these big important corporate types get a poke in the eye from a guy who runs a village of 9,000 residents.

I have found over the years that often it is the smaller towns and cities that have no compunction about taking on the behemoths. Maybe because they don’t have so many lawyers on staff or maybe it’s because they’re closer to the accountability of the people. It’s tough to go grocery shopping and have somebody nail you in the frozen food section for being the wimpy mayor that cow-towed to Verizon. No matter, it’s just a huge lesson for all villages, townships, cities and counties, if Panzarella can do it, so can you.

I’m trying to think of a way we could all thank Mayor Panzarella. In my opinion he definitely deserves some kind of an award. Maybe we could start just by dropping him a line at and letting him know how swell we think he is.

See the Village News at

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Tuesday, April 26, 2005

April Love

I’ve decided to start a campaign to get Brian Roberts, Comcast chairman and CEO, to marry my daughter. He’s not unattractive and now that she’s twenty-five, I figure it could work. Maybe I’ll invite him over for dinner and let her do most of the cooking so he can be impressed by her culinary skill. Or I’ll arrange a chance meeting at some charity benefit or another. Yeah I know the ticket price will probably be high but it will be worth it. Brian got an 18% raise last year and now he’s pulling down over $21 million a year. At those prices I’d agree to marry him if it weren’t for the fact I kinda like the husband I have.

The Big “B” also got restricted stock awards valued at $3.3 million and stock options for 800,000 shares of Comcast valued at $9.1 million. He’s just the kind of son-in-law I’ve been looking for: family oriented, ambitious, a neat appearance and rich, rich, rich!

A couple years ago I actually contemplated going after one of the Rigas boys, but what a disappointment they have turned out to be. You can never tell with these rich people, one minute you’re cruising the golf course (the one you built on your own estate) and the next minute you’re wearing a government issued orange jumpsuit and staring down some real time. Not the “I sold crack cocaine on the street corner” kind of time, but 215 years worth of time. I mean if I had actually moved on the idea of marrying off my daughter to Timothy Rigas (Little Timmy as he is called) when I first thought of it, we’d be spending all our weekends traipsing up to some federal prison for visitation. That wouldn’t have been fun.

And it’s not like we could have kept this all within the family to avoid the embarrassment of having a criminal for a son-in-law, it’s been all over the papers about what Timmy, Mikey and their daddy did. The Attorney General of the United States himself held a press conference yesterday joined by some heavy government types at which he said:

“The evidence also showed that the defendants systematically looted the corporation’s assets for their own benefit, using the company’s money to buy real estate and other assets for the Rigas family and causing the company to issue hundreds of millions of dollars worth of securities to the Rigas family, for which the company was never paid.”

Now that shows a certain level of ignorance. Pappa John Rigas was a Greek immigrant who worked his tail off to create and build Adelphia. It was the American dream especially when they took the company public and issued stock. Then he and his kids, including Timothy, who by this time is Chief Financial Officer, sit around the kitchen table and come up with wacky schemes to run it into the ground. Not only were they willing to destroy all those years of hard work so they could go on African safaris, move into swanky New York apartments, fly guests for sister Ellen’s wedding in on company planes, but they actually convinced themselves they wouldn’t get caught. Rotten apples don’t fall far from the tree I suppose.

So they are going to prison for stealing billions of dollars from stockholders and the old man has agreed to a deal that obligates all members of the family to forfeit to the federal government over 95% of all the family’s assets. Being able to hang on to less than 5% of your assets doesn’t leave you with much except the clothes on your back and the shoes on your feet. Sure am glad I never figured out a way for the Riedels to become part of the Rigas family but I wouldn’t mind finding out when and where the seizure sales are going to take place. Bet you could find some good stuff up on the auction block.

Yeah, I’m gonna stick to pursuing a lasting partnership between the Riedels and the Roberts. It’ll work on several levels, the Roberts seem a little smarter so they might not mess up the gene pool, as with the Rigas arrangement I won’t have to change the monograms on my towels and I’ll have a son-in-law with the same initials as I have and that’ll be convenient.

I haven’t let my daughter in on this plan yet. There’s a possibility she could object even after I painstakingly lay out the extraordinary financial benefits of owning a cable company. Not to worry, I have a back up strategy that includes one or more of my nieces.

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