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Pat Buchanan, Susan Molinari, Bill Bradley -- Jimmy Griffin.

All right, we're stretching things a bit. The small-time former mayor of a medium-sized city can't be compared with players on the national stage.

But they do have one thing in common. They've all taken a spin through the revolving door, the one that leads from politics to journalism and back again.

Leave it to Jimmy to be the only one to get stuck.

With the gnashing of teeth over the blurred line between the two, most politicians learn to step out of the door on one side or the other. They take up commentary only after leaving office, and they give it up again when re-entering a campaign.

But not Buffalo's muse. Despite deciding he wants to be mayor until he gets it right, the former 16-year incumbent is continuing his column in the weekly Metro Community News. No ethical dilemmas for him (some things never change).

Not content to expound at beer blasts -- and certainly not trusting the rest of the media -- fate's gift to Buffalo wants to give it to us straight. He wants his message to get out unfiltered.

All of which makes one appreciate a good screening device. Who'd want to swallow unfiltered water or unfiltered coffee? Filters catch too much.

But Buffalonians have strong stomachs, so maybe they can swallow a little unfiltered Griffin -- if anyone even cares.

After all, Griffin fancies himself a fighter, and old fighters -- more than any other professionals -- never know when to quit. Witness his silly run in last year's presidential primary in New Hampshire.

Now the former mayor apparently thinks Buffalonians are more gullible than the people in New England. Or maybe he just thinks we can't read between his lines. For those who can, the unfiltered Griffin is a hoot.

Hardly a week goes by that the former mayor doesn't find some way to jump in front of the anti-garbage-tax bandwagon. He conveniently forgets that his administration first proposed the idea as "a fair way to spread the cost of these services to all who use them." Now he says it was discussed only as an option.

As dissembling goes, that ranks right up there with Al Gore's "no controlling legal authority" and Bill Clinton's "I didn't inhale."

But Griffin has other concerns, too, as befits a candidate of vision. One is the future of downtown. Unfortunately, it says a lot that his first choices for a committee to enact a downtown shopping program would be former executives of Kleinhans and L.L. Berger's.

Both department stores went out of business years ago -- even before Griffin did.

Another week, he's criticizing efforts to privatize the city water system, calling water our "most treasured resource." Surely he misquotes himself. Or maybe he's had a change of heart since that time when workers admitted his Parks Department tried to sabotage the water in Delaware Park Lake with chemicals.

And he criticizes Mayor Masiello's "all-white, all-male, all-rich and all-powerful advisers." This from a guy whose only nod to diversity was to play Hispanics against blacks. In fact, my enduring memory of shadowing Griffin for a week during the 1985 race was that he never set foot in the black community. His explanation at the time: No one invited me.

OK, fair enough. But as soon as O.J. finishes tracking down the real killer, we should have him track down whoever invited Griffin to run this time so we can end this crime against the city.

Of course, listening to Griffin complain about crime is like listening to Russian engineers complain that the Mir space station doesn't work right. During his four terms, he designed a Police Department that outside experts called poorly organized, poorly managed and poorly trained.

But you won't find any of that in the Griffin columns, where he uses journalistic license to speed right past his record.

Maybe some of it will come out in debates among him, the incumbent and Council President Jim Pitts. Of course, unless they have very strict rules and Mills Lane as moderator, poor Tony Masiello may never get a word in between the voluble Pitts and the irascible Griffin.

Come to think of it, Lane might not be a bad choice. The guy who refereed the infamous Tyson-Holyfield fight also happens to be a district court judge back in Nevada. That could come in handy, considering all of the law-breaking that went on under Griffin's nose.

You won't read about any of that in Griffin's columns, either. In fact, after scanning the former mayor's prose, it becomes clear why he really is so upset about the garbage tax.

If he'd take a little time to read the Constitution, he'd see that he needn't get so exercised about it. The First Amendment guarantees that he won't have to pay more garbage tax no matter how much he writes.

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