Tuesday, February 06, 2007 | Does anyone else remember the old soaps and serials that began with a breathless “In today’s episode…”? 

Well, in today’s episode of “Fear and Loathing at City Hall,”  news reporters are calling each other and their best sources to try to confirm the newest rumor that Dick Murphy is under pressure to resign as mayor.

And that Alan Bersin would be a candidate to succeed Murphy. In a perverse way, it does make sense. Bersin used to hold the job held now by U.S. Attorney Carol Lam, who currently ponders the guilt or innocence of some at City Hall and in municipal employee unions. Bersin was a hugely successful prosecutor. (Ask the teachers who feel he extended that manner into his role as superintendent of schools.)  

The current rumors say the mayor’s former downtown supporters, Malin Burnham, maybe Doug Manchester and John Moores (and any What’s His Name on the Chamber of Commerce board of directors) have gone to Murphy to say that they’ve committed the half million dollars that a recall would cost the taxpayers but that Murphy should resign and save their money and his face and let us get along with civic reform.

Their idea, if any of this is true, is merciful and makes sense. City business lurches on from day to day within an ominous zone of apprehension. “You always wonder,” one City Hall veteran told me yesterday, “if this is the day when the other shoe will fall.”

It is difficult to be visionary about city business when you are wondering whether the next person to enter your office will bring a rumor or a subpoena. When will U.S. Attorney Carol Lam convene a federal grand jury to consider indictments? Will they be civil or criminal? How high (or how low) will they reach? City attorney Mike Aguirre predicts both civil and criminal indictments will come. (Aguirre would be more effective if his tongue took tranquilizers. But from a citizen’s point of view, he is in the right place at the right time.)

My hunch, based only on a review of U.S. attorney patterns, is that an offer of settlement has been or will soon be made to the mayor, City Council and other high city officials. The long refusal of Mayor Murphy to admit problems has underlined the city’s lack of cooperation with the SEC and the Department of Justice.

If there is indeed guilt at City Hall, that reluctance will cost both the eventual victims and, more importantly, all the rest of us within the city. It will delay our financial recovery and the city’s ability to borrow. Where, after all, is that tardy city audit that was due two years ago? Is someone hiding something?

. He refused to accept a friend’s contention that the creation of words is limited by the size of our alphabet. So he sought help from his nephew Sam Kaplan, a linguist at the University of North Carolina, and won resounding confirmation. To summarize a detailed conclusion, Kaplan computes the total possible English words at 1.6 trillion.

. — News item from Karen Bowling

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