Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Its only a story

I bring you a Bed Time story of
“Arson for Fun and Profit”
By Nick Markowitz Jr.
Fire Investigator

Real Estate Development is like a big Chess Game there are winners and losers and downright criminal activities sometimes involved. Arson being the Checkmate plays in some cases by those who have no conscious or scruples when it comes to developing.
For it is these individuals who give a bad name to honest and hard working developers.

Our fictional story begins in the 1950’s in the back room of an exclusive men’s club in a big city along a winding river valley filled with industrial factory’s and steel mills all going great guns in this room are the heads of government, business and organized crime they are there to hatch a plan to split up this valleys territory into sections for when the day that casino gambling comes to town so that not only will everyone get a cut but that they will all get very rich including there family’s and there children’s children with the taxpayer footing the bill .They make sure every one involved gets cut into the plan one way or another including judges ,lawyers and legislators if needed to make sure that no outside competition even has a chance to bid on the property.
Their plan is to slowly, quietly and completely buy up complete acreage around riverfronts were the land is flat and easily developable and they would have complete control of all development. They would do it buy having straw buyers buy portfolios of property who would then sell it to the developer it got to the point
No one knew for sure who owned exactly what And thru the 50’, 60’ and 70’s this is exactly what they do with most people paying no attention as to who owns what as companys and community’s come and go ,and every one is employed and happy .But still no gambling has come thru because the economy is still to good and there would be strong opposition to gambling in the strong church going towns.
But this was not to be in the late 1970’s the steel industry started declining and with it the entire manufacturing base and thousands were out of work and governments could not afford essential services like police and fire. Many people picked up and left for other states leaving behind many abandoned property’s which fell into a state of disrepair Fast forward to late 80s were long decaying steel and manufacturing facilities now line the river and railroad towns and homes and business are mostly boarded up and gone.
Except for the mystical town called River Stone This town is one of the few survivors
Of the rust belt. Its clean streets and friendly shopkeepers and well kept homes gives you that old town feel this is an old money town.
Compared to its neighbor town Broken Stone
Which still had many little shops but whose population was older and on the decline
Times have been much harder here boarded up buildings have deteriorated to the point they fall into the street. It is a no mans land down in the flats compared to the up town side, which still has most of its residents.
And once again the cry goes out from local governments and citizens we need riverboat gambling like other states to help with our tax base. The time is now right for our developers to strike and start buying up the final parcels they need to complete their plans .River boat gambling is not far off or so they thought . But they know they will never be able to buy up the property they need in River Stone and besides the educated and well to do of River Stone would never allow it.
But this does not stop the developers plans they’re plenty of ripe land right over in broken stone and other depressed towns. Plus the bonus is the blue-collar population is exactly who they want to target these are the people who will gamble and not ask questions , not like the majority in River Stone who would not. The problem is though how to acquire those properties cheaply because even thou many were eager to sell to the straw buyers and take the money and run the original families and others were just not going to leave. Plus what politician in his right mind would commit suicide recommending taking peoples property
By eminent domain for a casino.
And so the developers put forth a brilliant yet devious plan to get the property’s they wanted and get paid by the government the whole time there dirty deeds were done.
It would take several years but by then people would become so desperate gambling would be seen as a way to rescue the community’s from crushing property and other taxes. With all the tax revenue and jobs they would create.
So they set forth there plans with there straw buyers buying from the surviving children the homes of those whose parents have died the kids no longer want the homes they live out of town and the fast cash they make is tempting because the property values have slid on the flats. So with the homes they have bought the plan now comes full circle as these straw buyers do the minimal repairs needed and turn them into section 8 housing with now absentee landlords and the section 8 tenants and there reputation for trouble is quickly exploited as even more elderly people and families move out .the plan is succeeding as they slowly take over the flats and with the section 8 housing comes the crimes the burglary’s the hold ups, assaults and the vandalism which drives even more out of the town. But as they make there play for the flats they make sure some other developer does not come in and scoop them by giving parcels of land to town planning and state officials even the state governor who will all get rich when the land is sold to the right gambling group. There plan is going like clock work But yet there are the hold outs this is were the plan for “Arson for fun and Profit is hatched” the villains in our story find the perfect patsy to work there plan as they get a young mentally disturbed man to do there bidding when they fill his head with the thoughts that every one in the town is trying to get him. So late one evening the fires start. First in abandoned buildings and homes .As the young man exacts his revenge on imaginary enemies. And besides he is insane who would believe him even if he does talk. Every week it seems the fire dept is putting out a suspicious fire. No one has gotten hurt so far but then one evening a local business goes up a lumberyard and a night watchman is seriously hurt.
Then more unoccupied homes till finally occupied homes start catching fire along with other business. The town folks begin to panic and set up a block watch but the fires continue and get bolder even a church is set a blaze Up to this point most of the fires are hardly investigated there’s no insurance so those involved do not have to worry private insurance investigators showing up and in fact a couple of the business that went up were deliberately set by the owners. Trying to cover their tracks by making it look like the unknown serial arsonist did it. The town Fire Marshal is old and ready to retire so he is in no position to track down the criminal so he calls in outside help from the county, state and feds,who have there own man power and jurisdictional issues along with investigators and detectives from hired political hacks to true professionals. But the fires continue as the various agencies’ point fingers at each other.
The young man who was having his fun is caught and convicted but not before over 75 fires in the town and surrounding area have occurred .All during the rampage some try to get to the bottom of what is going on an try to get the investigators and town officials o listen to them but they are ignored or driven to nervous break down because they are constantly ignored .The damage now done and so many people have now left town with complete blocks burned down there is little hope for the town. Some companys come and propose factories and jobs but their plans are always foiled by constant union demands and town demands for taxes, permits etc. they pull out of their proposals and build elsewhere. But then a shiny knight arrives a casino gaming group wants to build a new magnificent shopping and gaming complex complete with hotels, and restaurants and other forms of entertainment. The town approves it with out problem and gives them all kind of tax breaks because the towns so desperate for funds have finally got gambling legalized in the state all those involved in owning the property are well paid off
In the end .
A nice neat little package for all involved in the dirty deeds. They have there Casino and there control .
There is no happy ending just a lot of graft and corruption continuing as the casinos are shaken down property values continue to decline ,crime and prostitution is rampart as is embezzlement the promised development and jobs the casino was to bring never happens
Just another sad little river town in a dying valley.

Now not that I hate gambling and think it should not be If you want to gamble or you want casinos so be it.. But my little story has more painful truth to it than many of us want to admit.
Just keep repeating to your self “this is just a fictional story” this is just a fictional story.

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