Lobbyists and attorneys appear to control the universe. No truer words were ever spoken than those that claimed a person's case is only as good as his or her attorney. While the law provides for a more civilized society in many ways, it also allows for chaos.

A perfect example is the current situation with the SEC's new director, Harvey L. Pitt. This is the same gentleman who fought the well-financed legal battle to enact legislation that arguably made possible the corporate fraud that is plaguing our nation today. This is a classic case of the fox watching the hen house, once again.

The Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995 (PSLRA) and the Securities Litigation Uniform Standards Act of 1998 (SLUSA) dramatically reduced the legal threat against corporate wrongdoers and their co-conspirators, especially accountants. Collectively, these two bills make it nearly impossible for investors to sue companies who engage in illegal activity, forcing such cases into federal court, rather than state courts. The two laws also make it much more difficult for victims to recover losses even if they win.

Now the champion of this legislation is the new chief of the Securities & Exchange Commission. The very individual who fought successfully to limit investors' recovery in the event of fraud is now in charge of overseeing corporate America. This is an abomination. Is it any wonder Americans have such little confidence in the stock market? Why should they? We have prisons full of thieves who took a fraction of the value of what Enron and WorldCom's executive management stole, but there are zero consequences for these scumbags, who stole entire livelihoods from thousands of hard-working Americans.

But how is this ethic any worse than Bush appointing two (out of a total of five?the Democrats get to pick two, as well) people to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) who were actually submitted to him by Ken Lay, CEO of Enron? FERC is supposed to watchdog the energy industry, not coddle it. And what about the administration's energy policy, for which we can thank Cheney, that mirrors Lay's memo to Cheney outlining what he thought the energy policy for America should be? These are all cases of the fox watching the hen house. The conflicts of interest are profound in their scope. But where are the American people on these matters? Why aren't we weighing in en masse against such conduct?

The number of Americans affected by Enron's crimes, as well as those of other corporations that we probably have yet to know about, is staggering. If you invested in mutual funds, your portfolio was most likely compromised. It would be interesting to learn how much of the states' pension funds had Enron or WorldCom holdings. These are our neighbors', our parents', our children's financial well-being. So ask yourselves: When is enough enough?

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, another kind of chaos is being perpetrated on Davenport's taxpayers via legalese regarding the zoning of a piece of property on Brady Street, just north of Kimberly. The owners are moving and they want to lease to a heavy equipment dealer, who wants to store its large equipment on the premises. Sound familiar? It should because it is the same old game we went through with another heavy equipment rental company, who wanted the old Buick property where the Animal Shelter is now located, for a similar purpose. Even many of the players are the same, except some are in different roles this time. The attorney who fought against this similar land use last go around is fighting for it in this foray. Said attorney is challenging the city Plan & Zoning department's administrative interpretation of the zoning ordinance, causing the issue to move from the Plan & Zoning Commission to the Zoning Board of Adjustments (ZBA), where there are fewer folks to influence, and where perhaps there are more friends.

The point is that the zoning ordinance is clear about the land use. If an entity desires to put a certain type of equipment, deemed heavy by physical dimensions, on its premises, then the zoning must be M1. Said attorney is arguing that the lessee would be a retail operation, therefore a C2 designation would suffice. In other words, he is focusing on the method of distribution versus what is being distributed. It is a deliberate muddying of the waters to secure zoning that would allow his client to store unsightly equipment of an industrial nature amidst commercial redevelopment that would be negatively impacted by an industrial neighbor. The Plan & Zoning staff sees the ordinance with crystal clarity and will ask the ZBA to support it in its administrative interpretation. The P&Z staff have also strongly recommended that the Plan & Zoning Commission and the City Council adhere to the established ordinance and deny the petition. Ditto!

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