ssǝɹddns ɹou ɹɐǝɟ ɹǝɥʇıǝu plnoʍ ʎʇǝıɔos ǝǝɹɟ ʎlnɹʇ ɐ ʇɐɥʇ ƃuıʇnɔolɯnɔɹıɔ suıɐʇuoɔ ǝʇıs sıɥʇ



Saturday, June 13, 2009

The Mayor of Home Rule

"Incidents like this make us step back and realize how difficult the job of a law enforcement officer is...more difficult than any other job out there. Trooper Miller set an example for others."--Governor Ed Rendell

After my mom passed away and I finally found the strength to sift through her most personal of archived things, I found an intact, yellowed newspaper dated December 8, 1941. And I found another, wrapped in plastic, dated November 23, 1963.

It was obvious that the seminal moment for my mom’s generation was the shocking assassination of president John Fitzgerald Kennedy, while that of her mother’s before her was the attack on Pearl Harbor. And after the attacks of September 11, 2001, I remember thinking that those in my age group had not one, but two newspapers stuffed away somewhere to be found only in the event of our deaths.

I still have the newspaper from the day after the space shuttle Challenger exploded on it’s way skyward. An event my then four-year-old son and I watched together. I also still possess the various and sundry papers from September 12, 2001. And after yesterday, I’ll have yet another newspaper to be filed away due to the inescapably remarkable, unique, once-in-a-lifetime nature of what I witnessed early yesterday afternoon. Not a seminal moment perhaps, but an unforgettably somber and awe-inspiring scene.

I think we all know what became of Pennsylvania state trooper Joshua D. Miller--Valiant Trooper Miller honored by thousands--this past Sunday. We all know of his recent heroic death. Well, after listening to his gut-wrenching tearjerker of a funeral on WILK radio yesterday, I felt compelled to saunter on down the hill from where I was working and take in the procession of his fellow law enforcement officers escorting him to his final resting place. And what I encountered down there on Main Street in Pittston is something I will never, ever forget.




If the president were to be killed, the funeral procession would not nearly be as long as this one was. Not even close. And if another shuttle were to explode upon liftoff, or if we were to be surprise attacked once more, any corresponding procession to come about as a result could not nearly be as well-attended or as astonishingly long as this one was. What I spied from my sidewalk perch yesterday was moving in that so many would come from so near and so far to honor the fallen trooper who lost his life in a hail of gunfire while selflessly saving a nine-year-old boy. No matter which direction you looked, there were police vehicles as far as the eye could see.

WILK reported later on in the afternoon that law enforcement officials from all of the 48 continental states participated in that touching tribute, and I was not surprised to learn as much. Because I came away thinking: name a city, name a county, name a state, and they were there. Pittsburgh PD, Scranton PD, NYPD, Rochester PD, New York SP, Maryland SP, New Jersey SP, PA park rangers, PA Department of Corrections, Mayfield, New Rochelle, Harveys Lake, Jessup, Wilkes-Barre, etc., etc., etc.




Not usually easily moved or driven anywhere near tears, this here hated author of yours got nailed with more than his fair share of goose bumps. And this annoyingly persistent lump in the throat.





Damndest thing I ever saw.

There seems to be some confusion regarding the public “meetings” of the Luzerne County Government Study Commission.

A meeting constitutes a gathering of study commissioners with a quorum, a meeting agenda and perhaps a vote or two riding on that agenda. And all of those meetings should be open to the public. All of them.

A hearing is an information gathering session wherein a person or persons would appear before the study commission for the purposes of being interviewed, grilled, or interrogated, depending on how open and forthright they choose to be. For obvious reasons, they need not be open to the public.

So, while the Times Leader’s Mark Guydish, commission member Walter Griffith and myself are all on the record saying that all meetings should be advertised and open to the public, never did I say that hearings should be open to the public.

So, just to clarify things for you e-mailing imbeciles, I understand the distinction. And my call for erring on the side of transparency is not only necessary, it should be demanded of the study commission.

But, after only one meeting, supposedly an introductory organizational meeting no less, it’s becoming obvious that any requests or demands from the taxpaying public will have to be forwarded directly to the self-anointed, his-way-or-the-highway Mayor of Home Rule…Jim Haggerty.

Agenda Item: Vote for previously agreed upon officers.

Agenda Item: How to limit transparency.

Agenda Item: How to limit public input at meetings.

Agenda Item: P.O. Box, or all correspondence goes to the Mayor of Home Rule, thereby assuring no further leaks of information to the press.

Does that sound all-inclusive to you? Does that sound like a recipe for an improved system of governing? Or does it sound eerily familiar?

But why shouldn’t the only attorney in the bunch be put in charge by way of executive fiat? He’s an attorney, see? And if there’s one thing we’ve learned in this dispirited county over the course of the past few scandal-ridden, indictment-filled months is that attorneys know how to get things done.

They’re not like us ignorant, average fools who stubbornly believe tiny pebbles grow to be large rocks. They’re all ejamuckated and whatnot. They say clever-sounding things such as, “The law is vacant on that.”

Translation: There’s no precedent, so we can do whatever the funk we want.

Gee, that sounds like the perfect starting point, the correct basis, the most awesome of cornerstones while endeavoring to devise a new, much-improved system of government, don’t it? The law is vacant on that? What, we’re going to replace one set of purposely crafted gray areas with newer, sleeker, sexier gray areas from which to govern? Vacancy? When presented with an issue, we’ll run for the cover of vacancy?

Ah, cripes! I knew better. I really, really did. Against my normally astute judgment, I voted “Yes” on that Home Rule question. And that “Yes” garnered me a panel of felons, drunk drivers, defrocked school board members, the nickname-dependant and the haplessly easily-led doing what they’re told by an ambitious politician hailing from Podunk, Pennsylvania. Sadly enough, that apt description of our study commission closely resembles the makeup and goings-on of our county government.

As for myself, I need not any clock-watching study commission members trying to restrict my public comments to two, three, or four minutes--whatever the hell they decided upon. As for myself, I can relay my rather pointed comments to the fledgling study commission in two words or less…Go away. Funk off. Disband.

I tell you, the next blockhead who calls for Home Rule needs to be hog-collared, packed in Styrofoam peanuts and FedExed directly to Pakistan, and with an affixed packing label that reads: Hello, I am from America, my name is Blockhead and Allah sucks donkey genitalia.
Do any legal vacancies apply to that? Or, not apply to that?

Oh, I’m terribly sorry, Mr. Mayor. Was that too long? Did I exceed my horribly foreshortened allotted time?

Too bad.

Long story short, I knew better. I freaking knew better. When I called in to the Sue Henry show on election day morning and gave my report from my precinct, Sue asked me if I voted for or against Home Rule. And when I applied in the affirmative, she sounded so surprised, I wouldn’t be shocked to learn that she jumped right out of her imported moccasin type thingies.

But, unfortunately, I did vote for the formation of the study commission. And now I’ve got the vacancy-clinging, the legalese speaking politician leading the newfound quasi celebrities, the previously unknown, the suddenly subservient blind. And if we actually believe, if we’re fool enough to think that’s going to translate into anything resembling government for and by the people, we deserve the disappointing folly that will be the likely outcome of all of this.

The vacant leading the blind.

Wonderful.

As a result of Trooper Miller’s untimely death, I’ve heard quite a few callers to WILK this past week suggesting that all of this was for not, and only because police officers should not engage in risky high-speed pursuits.

You’ve heard the threadbare arguments against chasing fleeing vehicles with criminals contained within. There’s no need to repeat them here.

But one caller in particular piqued my interest when she suggested that if Troopers Miller and Lombardo had not chased down that fleeing vehicle with the gun-toting dad and the kidnapped 9-year-old boy on board, the police could have simply investigated things a tad and found the child somewhere or other later on.

The thing is, I am living proof that snatched children do not necessarily turn up a day or two later. And I honestly believe that I am living proof that, when kids are plucked from their lives by angered, distraught or vindictive parents, perhaps a robust police pursuit would save them from being separated from their true nurturers for not only weeks or months, but for years.

Anywho, even though I know the guy hates me, I sent the following e-mail along to WILK’s Steve Corbett during the height of the “high-speed pursuit” debate.

Steve,

Allow me to share with you what can happen when the police choose not to pursue.

My father smashed his way into my grandparent's Wyoming Street, Wilkes-Barre home in 1961, and fled the scene with myself in tow. He assaulted my teenaged uncle and my grandfather, and my grandpop suffered a massive heart attack as a result. He damn near died. I was barely 2-1/2-years-old at the time.

For reasons that escape me now, my grandmother begged the police to high-tail it to the airport (which one I'm not sure), but they declined. They told her, "He'll show up eventually."

Well, I did show up. Almost two years later, I showed up in a Pinellas County, Florida courtroom in the custody of my father's lawyer. My father was jailed some months earlier and steadfastly refused to divulge my whereabouts. Turns out, I was living with his new girlfriend in Clearwater.



During those two years, both my mom and her mom were beyond frantic to find me. They barely ate, slept or thought of anything but finding me. My grandmother spent ten of thousands trying to locate me. And during this drawn-out nightmare for my mom, she lost her baby, which would have been my only sister.

With all of that said, my grandma went to her grave swearing that all of it could have been avoided if only the police had listened to her when first they arrived on the scene.

As for this state trooper's death--a hero--the police pursued, something horrible happened as a result, but there's a 9-year-old boy still safe and sound with his mom.

The point is, there's no telling what could happen to, or where some little kid might end up if the police do not pursue.

Markie in Nord End

I know firsthand what the residual after-effects of such a traumatic event can do to a close-knit family, unwanted after-effects that can last for years, and for some, decades on end. And in my heart of hearts, I truely wish that, back in the day, there was this responding police officer who was aggressive in nature whenever toddlers were being illegally whisked away from their lives. If only.

It all reminds me of when my first step-father would lash my bared back and bottom with a fake diamond-encrusted leather belt to the point of dripping blood onto the floor beneath me. When I screamed out not only in horror, but in the utmost of shocked defiance. When my defenseless 3-year-old step-sister was punched in the face and sent spinning like a top into the wall behind her. When I wondered how and why all of this was happening to me. When my battered and obviously bruised and bloodied mother would seek out police assistance only to be told, "He's drunk. Put him to bed." Where were the Trooper Millers of the world on those most darkest of our usual days?

Different time, different mindset, I suppose.


I know Trooper Miller made the ultimate in sacrifices, and I'm heartsick about that. And it's beyond regrettable that things had to be culminated the way they did. But I'm thinking there's a 9-year-old boy out there that will never, ever forget him no matter what.

For what it’s worth, them’s my scattered thoughts on all of that.

Later

Editor's shout out: Hey, Norton...good luck with the upcoming judicial review. I sure hope they don't permanently disbar you.

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