Only in New Jersey: Power Corrupts, Allegedly

The guy thought he was a big brain, but he found that you can’t keep sticking your finger in the government’s face and get away with it.

The guy thought he was a big brain, but he found that you can’t keep sticking your finger in the government’s face and get away with it.  On July 12, a 33-count indictment was handed down against former Newark Mayor Sharpe James. The man who ran Newark for twenty years was charged with facilitating and approving the cut-rate sale of city-owned property to Tamika Riley, who has been described as a companion of James. In addition, James was charged with using city hall funds to pay for personal trips to exotic destinations. James could face eight to twenty years in prison if convicted.

Over the years, when reporters (including me) would challenge him on how he could afford at least one Rolls Royce, a yacht, a great house down the Shore, and countless other properties he bought on a public servant’s salary, he’d counter by claiming that white reporters were racist to question his wealth. Sharpe, it’s not a black or white thing, it’s you. You have never made big money in the private sector and ultimately may have ripped off the city—all the while professing your love for Newark and your concern for its residents.


Since this is the Big Brain issue, who is a bigger brain than Sopranos creator David Chase? People are still talking about the enigmatic series ending at Holsten’s in Bloomfield. 

Some—including Dan Grimaldi, who played Patsy Parisi, Tony Soprano’s henchman and potential father-in-law to Tony and Carmela’s daughter, Meadow—still believe a movie could come. 

There have been precious few television series that have generated so much debate—before it aired, during its nine-year run, and after its finale. It takes a pretty big brain to create such a buzz. Chase, the guy from North Caldwell, gets my vote.

I hope there is no movie. I loved the show, but the characters all led such uncertain lives. While an ambiguous conclusion just doesn’t sit well with an audience that’s been conditioned to embrace tidy endings (even bloody ones) in most TV shows, I’m not sure what else can be done to move the story forward that wouldn’t feel like a compromise.

Picture This: Reigning Miss New Jersey Amy Polumbo was smart enough to go on the offensive when she got threatened with blackmail. Apparently, someone who wanted to knock her from her throne tried to use what she deemed embarrassing pictures to push her out in shame.

Ultimately, the pictures painted a pretty tame portrait of a young woman having fun. I say Amy Polumbo has a pretty big brain resting beneath that Miss New Jersey crown.

The Waiting Game: The biggest brain in the New Jersey congressional delegation is probably Rob Andrews (D-Camden). He is articulate and well-versed in international and military affairs. It seems to me he should have graduated to Washington a long time ago. But in the post-Jim Florio era, it’s tough for a South Jersey Democrat to get elected statewide.  Andrews, along with other congressional Democrats, has been waiting forever for 83-year-old U.S. Senator Frank Lautenberg to retire. I am betting Lautenberg runs for another term in 2008. When he retired for the first time in 2000, he was bored to tears. When the guy who thought he was the biggest brain, Bob Torricelli, ran into a little trouble, Lautenberg couldn’t wait to get back on the stump.

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