27 July 2008

The Polish Connection

File it under misery loves company.  The Post-Dispatch today chronicles the connection in the local impounded car mini-scandal between ChiefJoeMokwa (tm) and the "unyielding spirit" that is William Bialczak, the erstwhile leader of the St. Stanislaus Board.  How Archbishop Burke is to blame for this scheme is beyond me, but we haven't heard from St. Stan's yet.

Read the story.  Why did St. Stan's receive such fawning media coverage in the local press?

From the full article:

Towing firm has old ties with city


St. Louis — When a son of the family that held a lucrative towing contract with police got married last year, Chief Joe Mokwa was there.

He was among hundreds of guests invited to the Kirby-
Bialczak wedding at St. Stanislaus Kostka Church, north of downtown.

The wedding, along with a lavish reception of ice sculptures and Godiva chocolate at the Ritz-Carlton in Clayton, stands in sharp contrast to the
Bialczak family's business, based just a few blocks from the church: a massive towing and vehicle storage operation.

Police-impounded vehicles are spread over acres of broken asphalt. Razor wire-topped fences ring the lots. Guards in elevated towers stand watch. It looks like a prison yard for cars. To get out, it's cash only.

The operation is at the center of a scandal rocking St. Louis police, already forcing Mokwa to retire. 

This is where the chief's daughter and an untold number of officers received the free use of formerly impounded vehicles for years, the city Police Board has admitted.

Now federal investigators are looking into the relationships among police and the
Bialczaks' businesses. There are questions about how the Bialczaks — a parking lot dynasty — engineered a near-takeover of the city's towing and impounding business.

There are also questions about the relationship between the
Bialczaks and the former chief, who ex-workers say regularly visited the private towing operation.

The answers, at least in part, appear to include a former police officer hired by the
Bialczaks to run their towing operation, and a series of decisions by city officials that, in the end, allowed the tow company to flourish.



Mark Scott Abeln said...

The Post-Dispatch is an heir to the Muckraking journalism movement, which got its start a hundred years ago. The muckrakers mainly were middle-class, liberal, mainline Protestants, who wrote articles about the perceived corruption of Catholic politicians in the big cities. Although mainline Protestants are a tiny, dying minority, they still like to think that they own America, and can't stand the fact that Catholics get themselves elected to public office, and run most of the big cities.

The article you mentioned seems to be part of a strategy of divide and conquer. The Saint Stanislaus controversy was the division. Now it is easy to conquer both sides: Archbishop Burke's departure is seen as a victory on one side of the division, while the attack on the President of the board of Saint Stanislaus church is a victory on the other side of the division. If the Archdiocese and the Polish church reconcile, this can be portrayed by the media as an instance of corruption. Certainly the press knew about the parking-lot deal for a long time, but they withheld the information until now, as reconciliation seems likely.

I've seen this often in the priestly sex abuse crisis: a dissident priest is given plenty of positive media exposure, causing a division in the church. They uphold a bold, charismatic, and progressive cleric against a stodgy conservative Bishop. But that is just a set-up: journalists may know all about the sexual misconduct of the priest (they probably go to the same gay bars) but don't mention it, because that is a "private matter". But if eventually if there is a reconciliation between the priest and bishop, then the misconduct is exposed, and the bishop is seen as being friendly to a pedophile priest, who is the fall guy.

Newspapers were granted an exception to the anti-trust laws, which led to our situation of having one-newspaper towns. This led to the decline of newspapers in general, although they still retain great influence in molding stories that are considered newsworthy: broadcast journalists will usually follow the lead of the newspapers. Saint Louis used to have a Catholic newspaper. Nowadays, folks get just get the anti-Catholic viewpoint.

Anonymous said...

My first thought is that the wedding discussed in the opening para's is NOT a valid Roman Catholic marriage if it was conducted at St. Stan's last year.

Anonymous said...

A further thought: Mark's "divide and conquer" anti-Catholic approach of the media notwithstanding, Mr. Bialczak has shown himself to be a man without integrity or character in both the St Stan's episode and the towing company allegations.