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HBO miniseries ‘Show Me a Hero’ hits close to home

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Rob Martinelli

Rob Martinelli

“Show Me a Hero,” a six-part miniseries that recently aired on HBO (available now through On Demand), documents a tumultuous period in the history of the city of Yonkers, New York, in the mid-1980s.    

The series resonates with me for various reasons, mainly because my father, Angelo Martinelli, served as mayor of Yonkers when the federal government filed a housing segregation lawsuit against the city. The government claimed that the city built all of the low-income housing on the western part of the city.  Jim Belushi plays my dad in the series, which was written by David Simon, who also created “The Wire” and “Treme” for HBO.

Dad was running for his seventh term as mayor when Yonkers was sued. He believed the city should settle the lawsuit and build the 200 scattered low-income housing units the federal court was mandating on the predominately “white” side of the city. A 26-year-old first-term councilman ran against Dad and won the election, promising to fight the case to the Supreme Court if need be.

Dad lost the election for doing what he inherently knew was right.  We all know the phrase about politics and popularity going hand-in-hand.  It’s all too often about saying what the people want to hear.

Jim Belushi

Jim Belushi portrays Angelo R. Martinelli, who served six terms as mayor of Yonkers, N.Y.

My father was a leader.  He was a businessman who was not beholden to special interests.  He learned to say what he honestly believed was right.  He made that pledge and adhered to it.  It cost him the election but preserved his honor and integrity.  Our family could not be more proud of him.

David Simon said the piece is as relevant today as it was back then.  We haven’t solved these problems of hyper-segregation. If we don’t solve this we don’t solve the American city.

Simon was quoted by some reviewers as saying, “The most dysfunctional part of the government is Congress, the most loathed institution in America (with approval ratings of 7 percent), but they are unrepentant about that. The reason to do this project is that it speaks exactly to what is wrong with our country. It happens that this story is about 200 houses that needed to be built, but substitute any other issue “¦ immigration, budgetary issues, almost any foreign policy or environmental issue that requires any systematic action, or thought, and you see it. This is a country that can get nothing done.”

In Delaware we are facing serious challenges in race, education, budget and quality-of-life issues.

The recently released Business Roundtable study has some sobering economic warnings, crime continues to be a huge problem, our public education shows little improvement from its mediocrity and the NAACP is looking into the treatment of minority workers in the state and a shooting in Dover.

We used to be known for the “Delaware way” of getting things done.  Now, considering Simon’s view of a dysfunctional America, I wonder if we have become a state that can get nothing done.  

Rob Martinelli is CEO/President, Today Media, and publisher of Delaware Business Times.

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