The Friday Five North, South, East and West Edition By Peter Herr

What do Rome, The Big Apple, Illinois, Georgia and Erie County have in common? A spot on this week's Friday Five!

1. As we enter the final week of the Papacy of Benedict XVI, the Vatican has released some details of the Pope's upcoming retirement. His Holiness will return to using his given name Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, and will be given the title of Cardinal Emeritus. He will live in a disused convent inside of Vatican City and will receive a pension of $3500 a month for the rest of his life. The Mater Ecclesiae monastery is the former home to the Vatican gardener and in recent times to orders of nuns that lived there in 3-5 year stints. The 4300 square foot building is called a simple, or modest dwelling. The Pope has said that after he has retired, being the first Pope in 600 years to do so, he will dedicate his life to prayer. In case you wondering, I won't be applying for the job.

2. Hizzoner's off his Bloomie rocker again. This time, as the winter cold chills the Big Apple, Mayor Michael Bloomberg was asked about the city's shelter program turning people away during these cold months. Bloomie's response? "No one's sleeping on the streets." Umm, really? In recent months, Bloomberg has been busy banning things in NYC, so perhaps in addition to his trans-fat ban, his Big Gulp ban, his potential Styrofoam ban (which I agree with), Bloomie is banning bums. "No one is sleeping on the streets"? Wake up from your cushy Upper East Side life and smell the coffee, sir. Wait. Is coffee still allowed?

3. Former Illinois Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr. and his wife pleaded guilty this week to misuse of campaign funds. Triple J said "I was living off my campaign," implying he was making ends meet. What did Junior spend those $750,000 worth of campaign donations on? How about a gold Rolex with a price tag over $40K, and a $7000 stuffed Elk head? Everyone needs one of those. And $17000 worth of cigars and other tobacco products? Those aren't living expenses. I am sorry for Jackson's emotional problems, but the State of Illinois is starting to develop emotional problems over their inability to elect non-corrupt officials.

4. In Georgia, State Legislators want to repeal the 17th Amendment to the US Constitution thus returning the decision on who serves as US Senators to the State Legislatures. Their argument: their state's voices will be better heard. Just a quick history lesson. The 17th Amendment was passed in 1913 because of concerns for state level corruption. Well, yes, I am sure that is no longer a problem. Here's the issue: appointments suck. They open the door for patronage and corruption at its highest level. I am sure that no one would ever sell a Senate seat that they had the ability to appoint, right? I understand the concerns, however while putting the appointment into the hands of the State Legislatures would necessarily achieve the desired outcome, it would also open a whole new can of worms. Or, since they saw the problem in 1913 and corrected it with the 17th Amendment, perhaps it is opening a whole old can of worms. This Georgia idea isn't peachy.

5. According to a story in the Buffalo News, the Erie County Fiscal Authority has told Erie County Officials to get their crap together and work with one another to solve the $25 million in budget gaps projected over the next several years. That ought to be fun to watch. The Erie County Legislature created this problem by adopting an out of balance budget in the first place. The budget that County Executive Poloncarz submitted was, in fact, in balance before it was rejected by the Republicans on the Legislature and Democrat Thomas Loughran. I, by the way, have no problems with the Legislature rejecting the County Executive's budget, but then they should have done the adult thing and replaced it with a budget that was in balance. They apparently aren't capable of doing their job. As for the Erie County Comptroller's Office, they seem more interested in reporting on little handpicked tidbits of the financial picture, designed to create outrage, than actually doing anything about the problems.

Work together? I'm thinking no.

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