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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

It's dangerous out there
Posted by Jill | 9:48 PM
I would have a lot more sympathy for the teabaggers' claims of living in fear of their own government if they had been as adamant about it when the Secret Service was calling on college kids with anti-Bush posters in their dorms.

I've always had a healthy skepticism about government, but it wasn't until I lived for a while in my current town that I realized just how dangerous it can be when people dare to ask questions. The area in which I live has a local gadfly -- a guy who keeps his ear to the ground about local matters both in the town in which we live and neighboring towns. Asking questions in this town can get you into serious trouble. This gadfly has had numerous run-ins with local officials. Like most gadflies, many people in the area regard him as a crank, but I know him, he's a bright guy who cares deeply about his community and is sick and tired of the secretive one-party rule that has been in place for three decades. While most of us who would like to change things cower in our homes, afraid to do so much as go to a council meeting, lest our homes be reassessed for higher taxes, our improvement permits rescinded after the fact, or other types of harassment, he's out there speaking truth to power.

He's not the only gadfly in the area. And asking questions got one of them killed early this morning:

Authorities are investigating the homicide of a woman at the home of a longtime a community activist who frequently spoke out at Teaneck council meetings and unsuccessfully ran for office three times.

Bergen County Prosecutor John L. Molinelli announced late this afternoon that an autopsy coupled with analysis of the scene indicated the death was the result of a homicide. He stressed that the female body, which was badly damaged by the fire, has not been identified yet and dental records are being sought.

The home belongs to Joan Davis, who lived alone at the house, though authorities would not confirm whether she is the victim.

Molinelli offered no detail on the homicide itself, including whether any weapon was used.

When firefighters arrived around 11 p.m. last night, they found the victim dead in the smoke-filled bedroom but the rest of the house intact.

Davis, 74, ran for council in 1995, 1996 and 1998. She told reporters in the 1990s that she was a former foreign services officer and freelance writer who saw herself as a community activist.

She bickered with members of the Teaneck council repeatedly over the years and told officials how she thought the town should be run. She also wrote long rambling letters to local political leaders and occasionally showed up at their homes unannounced to deliver them. She attended a council meeting as recently as last week, and spoke from the podium at length during the public hearing, as was her usual ritual

Councilwoman Lizette Parker said Davis was passionate about the Fire Department and had signed up for the program that checks up every day with senior citizens to make sure that they are safe.

Later reports confirm that the body found in the house was that of Joan Davis.

Davis' causes were how taxpayer money was being spent and transparency in government. Here in New Jersey, where local governments are all too often cronyism mills for the purpose of handing out no-bid contracts for services to one's friends, asking questions can be dangerous. I hope, though have little confidence, that the investigation will be aggressive and that in death Ms. Davis will at last achieve the local government transparency for which she fought in life.

And to our own gadfly, if you read this: Please be careful out there. There are crazy people around.


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