by Peter Freyne
Went downtown after 11 this morning. To read a New York Times held in my own two hands - the old-fashioned way. Brought along the paycheck just in case the bank was open. A slim chance, indeed, thought I. Big religious holiday weekend. The banks probably closed by 3 p.m. Friday afternoon?
I was delightfully wrong. The Merchants' on College Street was open. In fact, business had been a little slow, Teller Mark said. A lot of folks may have thought they were closed for Easter.
In my younger days, growing up in the 1950s and 1960s, I swear the banks would have been shut tight. A lot was different back then: we did not eat meat on Fridays, fasted during Lent and the Roman Catholic priesthood was not the synonym for pedophilia it is today. Heck, I'd have been in church all week doing my altar-boy thing from Holy Thursday evening's "Last Supper," through Friday afternoon's Good Friday "Crucifixion" and on to Sunday morning's "Resurrection."
Pretty powerful stuff for a kid. Kids today, needless to say, follow a different script, eh?
For the hometown folk, the big chatter this Holy Saturday morning was about what was across the top of the Freeps' front page. City Attorney Joe McNeil, a 62-year-old hometown, married Irish Catholic lad, had admitted a couple months back to John Briggs, the Freeps city hall scribe (and no spring chicken himself), that he had had an "excessively close" relationship with a very attractive female attorney half-his-age.
Here's how Briggsie wrote it in today's edition:
Mayor Bob Kiss accepted the resignation "with regret," but said it was "in the best interests of the city."
In a letter to Kiss, McNeil faulted himself for developing a relationship with zoning consultant Owiso Makuku as they worked together since late 2004 to rewrite the city's comprehensive zoning ordinance. During most of that period, McNeil, who hired Makuku, approved her hourly pay vouchers.
The relationship, he said in his resignation letter, "created concerns over the appearance of a conflict and caused the necessity for an independent audit."
"I very much regret that my lapse in judgment caused problems for the city," his letter said. "I recognize that I am solely responsible for this and I do apologize."
I hadn't "jumped" on it because it seemed to the old Irish-Catholic boy in me like a case of another old Irish-Catholic boy, determined to publicly transmit a very up close and personal message to the wife of all these years:
"Hey, Honey, I'm getting some!!!"
Certainly McNeil, a St, Mike's and Notre Dame Law graduate, had a financial interest in keeping the City of Burlap's city-attorney contract all these years (37) .
BUT, history cannot overlook the very special contribution Big Joe made to his beloved hometown of Burlington, Vermont by being the diplomatic bridge between Mayor Bernie Sanders and the smug, Old Guard Burlington establishment, whose ass Ol' Bernardo had just kicked in the March 1981 mayoral election. Those were tense times and McNeil's shuttle diplomacy was invaluable.
Joyceman wanted to know why I haven't written about the latest Arbitron TV news ratings which are out and naturally, he said, have Ch. 3 in the No. 1 spot.
True enough, I used to mention the ratings in "Inside Track" all the time. But when the local TV news scene shriveled down from three local TV news operations to two, with one headquartered in Vermont (WCAX) and one headquartered in Plattsburgh, New York (WPTZ), I lost interest.
It'd be like covering Major League Baseball if there were just two teams: the New York Yankees and the Los Angeles Dodgers.
WCAX-TV News, by the way, still hasn't filled Montpelier bureau-chief Anson Tebbetts's spot.