Big Mike, Uncle Dan and Me: How I Beat 20th Century New York State's Most Corrupt Political Machine

Big Mike, Uncle Dan and Me: How I Beat 20th Century New York State's Most Corrupt Political Machine

Big Mike, Uncle Dan and Me: How I Beat 20th Century New York State's Most Corrupt Political Machine

Big Mike, Uncle Dan and Me: How I Beat 20th Century New York State's Most Corrupt Political Machine


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As District Attorney, Thomas E. Dewey cracked Tammany Hall, thought to be the United States' most powerful and corrupt political machine. Yet as Governor, despite his state's vast resources, he could not crack the Upper New York State machine. In this modern-day David vs. Goliath tale, a 24-year-old college professor and engineer leads the challenge to liberate and transform his own upstate community from a 40-year reign of political corruption.

In the first half of the 20th century, Michael "Big Mike" Tecumseh Smith founded a political machine which, after aligning with Albany's Democratic powerhouse Dan O'Connell, became impossible to crack. After several generations of inept management, Dr. Paul Van Buskirk rejected his own prominent Republican family's views and publicly called for change. The move, led by Van Buskirk's ruthless, methodical organization, led to the Citizens Party defeating the Democrats in 1963.

In this political memoir, Dr. Van Buskirk details the thrilling events leading up to the Citizens Party's nationally-recognized victory over the political machine. It also recounts how, once in office, the Citizens were inspired by President Johnson's progressive War on Poverty to channel their ingenuity and community spirit into revitalizing their decrepit mill town, steering it to become a federally-designated Model City while also earning Look Magazine's highly-competitive All-America City Award.

With a sharp wit and a careful eye, Dr. Van Buskirk shares shrewd political observations and offers cautionary advice about the stark differences between running a political campaign and running a city. He also discusses the behind-the-scenes intrigue – including an attempt on his life – that eventually led to the Citizens Party's demise. Despite occurring half a century ago, the tales of corruption and political scheming, as well as the people's rise from apathy to action, will resonate in a current era of political upheaval.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781098307981
Publisher: BookBaby
Publication date: 05/31/2020
Pages: 258
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

Dr. Paul Van Buskirk is a licensed engineer, nationally-recognized city planner, and an accomplished educator, political leader, and author, described in Legendary Locals of Cohoes (2013) as "one of the greatest political leaders in the city's history" and recognized by the Albany Times Union (1966) as a "political giant" for his role in overthrowing the Cohoes arm of the Albany Democratic political machine.

At the age of 31, he was selected for the "Distinguished Service Award" by the Albany County Junior Chamber of Commerce for his leading role in many civic projects and for helping his city be recognized as an All-America City. Look Magazine (1967) credited Dr. Van Buskirk for his role in "breaking the grip of an entranced political machine that had used every trick to stay in power." The New York Times (1973) published a piece on Van Buskirk's use of state-of-the-art management techniques to revitalize the city he grew up in..
He is the author of Resurrection of an American City (General Learning Press, (1973), a case study of the Model Cities Program. He is also a contributing author of the book Improving School Board Effectiveness (Harvard Education Press, 2015), about the relationship between school board governance and student performance. His serial essays, "European Nations are Solving Their Urban Problems" (2015), are part of the Baum Digital Collection at George Mason University. He has co-authored several articles for Planning Magazine and several research papers on urban modeling, water resources, and school board governance. He is the recipient of the 2020 Distinguished Alumni Award from Barry University in Miami, Florida. In 2020, he was inducted to the American Institute of Certified Planners College of Fellows.

He studied engineering at Rensselear Polytechnic Institute (RPI) and received his PhD in behavior sciences from Barry University of Miami. He is the recipient of a National Science Foundation Award and the Charles Evens Hughes Award from the American Society for Public Administration for his "courageous and imaginative work" in local government.

He established a consulting firm with clients in the Northeast, the Southeast, and Puerto Rico. He is currently chairman of the board of Metro Forecasting Models, LLC, having developed copyrighted forecasting models for scores of local governments and school boards, primarily across the Southeastern U.S.

Table of Contents

Prologue: Spring 1945 1

Introduction: The "Quiet Riot" of 1963 4

Part 1 Revolution 7

1 Site of the Falling Canoe 8

2 The Political Machine That Uncle Dan and Big Mike Built 14

3 The Inheritor 21

4 Growing Up with "Pete" 25

5 A Night Not to Remember: 1959 31

6 The Initial Challenge: 1960 37

7 David Cometh for Goliath 44

8 Uncivil Service 52

9 A Game of Chess, Mr. Chairman: 1961 55

10 Apathy Becomes Action: 1962 61

11 Declaration of War: 1963 64

12 Rocky Plays Politics 67

13 The Keys to a Successful Campaign 71

14 The Hunt for Candidates 77

15 Go for the Jugular 84

16 Rally and Expose 90

17 Election Day and a Night Never to be Forgotten 96

Part 2 Reform 105

18 The Observer 106

19 1964 Inaugural Headaches 112

20 Another Game of Chess 114

21 In Through the Window 117

22 Calming the Chaos: Delivering on Promises 120

23 Going to See the Pope 125

24 Paid Once, Will be Paid Again 129

25 Who's the Boss? 133

26 A Very Good Year 138

27 Calm before the Storm: 1965 141

28 Our War on Poverty 144

29 Turk's Demise 147

30 Dawson Is Next: 1964-1967 150

31 Sewers, Canals, and Elections: 1965 154

32 The Ins And Outs of Justice: Politics and the Courts: 1966 159

33 All-America City 164

34 Acts of Decency: 1967 168

35 Acts of Harm 172

36 Election Turmoil: 1967 174

37 Battle of the Fliers 177

Part 3 Reversal 183

38 Paul Coughlin Lives Outside of Town 184

39 Getting Cut Out 187

40 Resignation: 1968 189

41 The Transition 193

42 Losing Dr. Jay 195

43 A Cohoesier Reflects on his Life and Lenin's: 1969-1971 198

44 Our Model Cities Program in Jeopardy: 1971-1972 201

45 The Fast Track 203

46 Ominous Signs 209

47 The Storm Breaks: 1973 211

48 A War on All Fronts 216

49 Naïveté and Politics 221

50 Tinker to Evers to Chance 223

51 Pushing Back 227

52 Broken Window Déjà VU 231

53 Meet the Press 233

54 A Farewell to Politics: 1974 237

Postscript 240

Acknowledgments 247

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