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



Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Yes, Bridgeport has come to town

This one caught my eye, a blog post from a local.

The link: We're Becoming An Inner City

The excerpt: If you’ve been reading the local papers lately before heading to work, or like some of the subjects in the stories, after getting up at noon to check the mail for their welfare checks, you’d have to ask yourself, what’s happening to the Wyoming Valley?

Even though I happily call Wilkes-Barre my home, I grew up (not really) 465 miles away from here in an idyllic Western Connecticut community not quite out of NYC’s long shadow.

And being that my mom and my step-dad separated about as often as Con Edison subjected us to rolling blackouts back in the day, even as a struggling young sprat, I could easily navigate those 465 miles like none of my childhood peers. Case in point: Thanks to the marital battles, I watched Route 84, segment by segment, being built.

As a kid living those carefree days during the 1960s, I visited Goshen, White Plains, Chester, Nyack, Suffern, Middletown, Newburgh, Port Jervis, Stewart Air Force base and points in between the Wyoming Valley and the Derby Valley. And I’m here to tell you that all of those aforementioned places were quaint, slow-paced hamlets begging out for their own Norman Rockwell paintings.

Thanks to the continuing legal after-effects of the long, bitter divorce, I made the road trip from here to there many times, but not with the same frequency as I did during the ‘60s. Basically, not much had changed. A couple of new highways and byways. But the places along the way basically looked and felt the same.

During the 1980s, I packed my kids in the back of a station wagon and set off to tour the places I had made reference to so many times over they years, the places that Wifey had never visited. While things had changed and while some landmarks were gone, these local ‘burghs still had that small town feel to them.

But during the mid to latter half of the 1990s, when I was a CDL truck driver and driving through these same areas once so familiar to me, the out-migration from New York City and New Jersey slapped me upside the head. I admit, I didn’t immediately realize at that time why these once sleepy towns such as Goshen then resembled the places I dared not walk as a parent-escorted kid visiting NYC some thirty years previous, but the reverse-gentrification was obvious, if not completely shocking.

The point is, yes, we are in fact becoming an “Inner City,” because the poorest of the folks from the big cities in the Northeastern United States have been beating it out of the big cities for decades on end.

And while I’ll not get into the changing demographics, or the racially-charged apologist politics and such, I’ll repeat this now thoroughly blurred rule of thumb…

The brown kids grow it, the black kids sell it and the white kids buy it.

The point being, when damn near everybody needs to be under the influence of legal, illegal or prescription mind-altering drugs so as to just get through another unemployed day, yep, the big city resettlement, the out-migration has clearly arrived on our doorsteps. We are an ‘Inner City.’

And it’s time to deal with that fact rather than blaming the slow-moving but now fast-arriving reverse-gentrification storm on the elected locals.

Going forward, we should be demonstrative and demanding on all things drug-interdiction. We should be outwardly and nosily protective of property values. And we should finally, finally hold our local politicians, our local chambers, our Good Old Boy network of corrupt do-nothings currently gone bed-wetters, our local congressmen and our local senators seriously, seriously accountable whereas the 50-year-long drought of new job creation is concerned.

No family-sustaining jobs in appreciable numbers? Abnormally low property values? Smallish to deleted police departments? Millions, maybe billions of local tax dollars gone the way of political corruption?

Sorry, but we were sitting ducks all along. We just didn’t know it. We were set up and sold out. The long-approaching societal storm has finally arrived, so shut up and pay your taxes!!!

Sez me.

Later

Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day: Religious zealotry fills graves

I did this.

I wish I didn't do it, but I somehow felt the need to.




Fighting and killing in the name of a religion is a fool's errand. Unfortunately, the fools desperately fighting for a return to the dark ages keep on keeping on.

You could rightly call it ignorance. But in this country, which is still packing our young off to war, one of our political parties wrongly points to it as proof of our need to embrace diversity outreach. And diversity is fine and all provided that one of the divergent sides isn't ultimately committed to killing the other.

See that? We are 'dumb all over.'

Later

Sunday, May 29, 2011

3-day weekend: Jeremy Nate

As some of you know, I've been writing on the Internet since December of 2000.

And if you've been checking in and cursing my existence since those days, you have been treated to many a post that in part or total featured some or all of my five grandchildren. Many of you have met or know Gage, Taylor and Zach. Actually, during the Wilkes-Barre Online days, Gage had himself quite the following.

Avery, the youngest of the three brothers who reside right here in Wilkes-Barre, is now three-years-old, so he'll be setting off in search of adventure with Pop Pop as early as this Summer. Jeremy, the middle brother, is 5-years-old and he's a battle-tested veteran whereas Pop Pop's constant penchant for adventure is concerned. But he's rarely garnered a mention here because he's been dealing with speech apraxia since birth.

That said, his speaking skills have improved exponentially. Two years ago, I could barely follow a single word he tried to say. These days, I can carry on a conversation with him. He's been coached by visiting therapists, he's been poked and prodded by the folks at John Heinz, but none of that seemed to help. The real breakthrough occurred when he started getting bussed off to Head Start, or Pre-K, or whatever the heck they call that program.

Once he was forced to interact with other kids on a daily basis, he started talking more slowly, and most importantly, more clearly. As far as I'm concerned, his progress has been nothing short of remarkable. And a couple of days ago, he registered to attend kindergarten in the fall, something that I previously thought would not happen within the normally expected time frame.

His preschool classmates say he has the best sneakers in the place, and that he talks funny. The key point being...he talks.

Jeremy Nate, May 28, 2011
Anyway, while those 535-plus two jackasses in Washington are looking to shave some of the obvious excess off of the gargantuan Fedrule budget, funding for things like speech therapy and preschool may seem to be unimportant in the grand scheme of largess things. But Jeremy is living proof that some little people somewhere out there in the vast wasteland that still somehow passes as America do indeed need help.

That said, I cannot justify cutting programs that can and do change lives while we continue to drop neutron bombs all over the world. Depleted uranium shells are a nice toy to have in the seemingly limitless arsenal, but I ain't seen many tank divisions being formed lately.

And judging by what I see on a very, very regular basis in the retail stores, young people with the latest clothes, the latest sneakers, the latest tattoos, the latest electronic gadgets and the latest body piercings all have the latest Access Cards.

You want to cut back? Start with the young, the able-bodied. There are still plenty of ditches that need to be dug, lawns that need to be mowed, burgers that need to be flipped and dirty dishes that need to be washed. Sorry, but the free ride of the fully capable needs to come to an abrupt halt.

As for Jeremy, of my five grand kids, he might be the one that most closely resembles his sanity-deprived grandfather. As his daredevil bicycling capabilities clearly suggest, and as the emergency room folks at Geisinger can attest to, he is fearless bordering on reckless.

And the way I see things, fearlessness makes all things possible.

Later

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Dragons on the Susquehanna @ W-B

Uh, okay. Whatever. I suppose. I guess. Why not?

Zachary Cour, our miniaturized 3-time RiverFest 'river rodent' is afraid of dragonflies. But I seriously doubt that full-blown dragons cutting through the mighty armada of kayaks will bother him all that much. Yeah, and dragons can fly!

The link: Dragons will race at Riverfest

The excerpted stuff: WILKES-BARRE – Every year on the weekend of Wyoming Valley Riverfest, the typically austere riverscape of the Susquehanna is transformed by the appearance of a few hundred colorful kayaks and canoes traveling en masse.

This year, visitors to Riverfront Park will see something new cutting through the murky waters: the heads of dragons.

While paddlers participating in the Susquehanna Sojourn will again be among the river’s travelers on the weekend of June 17-19, dragon boat racing is a new addition to the Riverfest activities.

“The attraction is the spectacle of it,” said John Maday, a Riverfront Park Committee member who organized the dragon boat racing exhibition.

Dragon boats, about 40 feet long, seat 20 paddlers, two-abreast, plus a drummer seated near the bow and a steersman who stands at the stern. The drummer sets the rhythm to keep the rowing synchronized.


G'nite

3-day weekend journal: Happy Meals

I know the sniveling control freaks on the wrong side--the left side of the political divide--want to reduce McDonald's to serving alfalfa sprout burgers and rice cake shakes via oppressive and mostly unconstitutional regulation. And I know they need to make villains of someone or some corporate entity for the fast-growing outbreak of morbid obesity that Entitlement America provides our poorer people with.

The thing is, the tyrannical cannot gain a foothold and then go on to full-blown suppression without first scapegoating the innocent.

But, truth be told, me and mine like hitting the local Mickey D's. And not a single one of us even remotely qualifies as being morbidly obese.


Go figure.

Methinks some folks need to get a life and stop interfering in the lives of others.
Later

Feeling disenfranchised yet?

Here it is, point blank...

How is a county executive different from a county manager?


A county executive is an elected representative who ultimately answers to the public and commits himself or herself to the terms of an elected representative, which cannot change without public approval. The county executive is afforded direct control over county policy, particularly budgets, and works cooperatively with the county council or legislature.

A county manager is an official appointed or hired by a county council or legislature on terms outlined in a hiring contract or other agreement suitable to the parties involved. The terms apply only for the duration of the contract, after which the terms may be renegotiated by either party. Often, the county manager acts as a full-time administrative officer for the council or legislature and is responsible for day to day activities within the county government. The county manager does not have veto authority. In most governments, the public does not have any voting rights over choosing county managers.

I just looove that last part.

ONE...MORE...TIME...

In most governments, the public does not have any voting rights over choosing county managers.

Oh, and this one is good...

The terms apply only for the duration of the contract, after which the terms may be renegotiated by either party.

Ah, smells of...back room politics. Just what we need more of.


Getting nervous yet? Any buyer's remorse creeping in? Filled with trepidation? Still a big proponent of Haggerty Rule? Can a movement to discorporate be very far off?

Later

Rules to live by

I ain't had any time for this electronic tomfoolery of late.

You see, termites have occupied far too much of my time. I haven't had any appreciable time off for a long, long stretch. So while a three-day weekend sounds like a plan, Icy/Hot will be in the holiday mix.

I bought one of those official American Legion poppies from a veteran posted up outside of Schiel's. Funny thing it is, doing the right thing by dropping a five spot on this tiny trinket of a thing. Millions upon millions upon untold millions have donated their lives for our freedoms. Me? I donated five bucks.

I have to tell you, when the local televisions stations go wall-to-wall covering the approaching killer storms, I giggle at the ridiculous spectacle. Likewise, when local talk radio is dominated for hours on end by talk of the approaching killer storms and all things emergency preparedness, I have to reach out and touch 102.3...The Mountain. Sorry, but I can only take so much useless hysteria somehow passing as a public service.

I don't need any help from any source preparing for the onrushing death clouds, save for the local beer distributorship. When the lightning got to the point where it seemed dangerous outside, when the rain was blowing flat-out sideways, when the neighbor's tree was bending about as far as I've seen it bend, I cracked me a beer and headed on out to the front porch to take in all of nature's free entertainment.

All I can say is, if you grabbed the emergency supplies and holed up in the basement tightly clutching that book containing all of your ancient rules of ancient date, you freaking missed one helluva kick-ass storm.

And since the temperatures are supposed to climb to levels that the alert-mongers claim can be dangerous to your well-being, you might as well stay in your well-stocked subbasements. As for those of us not prone to bouts of effeminate hysteria, we'll be out there bicycling these abandoned streets sans the girlie sunscreen.

And with all of that circumlocution having been suffered through, Markie's rules to live by...

1. Work hard

2. Play even harder

3. Try not to look or sound like a big pussy

Later

Monday, May 23, 2011

ForgottenPA

Many of you who know me know that I'm always up for a good adventure.

The river is expected to crest at 100 feet? Of course I'm up for some paddling.

As if trying to blog a mayor out of office wasn't adventure enough, I'm always ready for the next. I've done three police ride-alongs, 2 in Wilkes-Barre and 1 with the Plains Township PD. I once toured the old Wilkes-Barre Steam Heat Authority complex. Um, two weeks before it collapsed.

I also took it upon myself to tour the Hotel Sterling. I also took a stroll through the now-demolished Perry Block building only to find the center of the roof collapsed and a thriving forest on the first floor. I stuck my head in a mine before chickening out. And I have always posted pictures from my many adventures. A few, that is.

But if you want to see picture after picture after picture taken from within a hulking but fading local landmark, check out ForgottenPA's Ashley Coal Breaker tour.

And f you're interested in helping to preserve that historic local landmark, give the following a visit...

Huber Breaker Preservation Society

Later

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Yorkies from Muckadonia

Long story short, Wifey wants a Yorkie. Preferably, a puppy.
We recently pedaled to a pet shop here in Wilkes-Barre only to learn that these glorified rats start at $700. While I usually relent to her rare whims, I am not paying piles of cash for an overly nervous ewok smaller than my work boot.

Just this past Sunday, the following classified ad appeared on the printed pages of the Times Leader…

YORKIE PUPPIES: Two puppies. Free to good home. Contact: tiltonmichaeel81@yahoo.com

So I sent an email to that email address telling somebody or other that we were very, very interested in the puppies. Well, that Wifey was interested.

Now, I’m sure most of you have received email pulses very similar to this…

Hi, my name is Zaphod Mamuckia Tooterhonk and my father--the deposed foreign minister--is imprisoned in South Muckadonia, Africa.

I need your help in transferring our net wealth estimated at $3 billion U.S. dollars to a bank in your country. And if you would kindly provide me with your name, address, social security number, bank routing number and favorite color, I will pay you 10% of our fortune.

Er, something like that.

Anyway, check out my email reply from the person who placed the classified ad in the Times Leader…

Hello,


Thank you very much and am sorry for the late reply,I'm very very happy to read from you about your response on taking good care of the babies.They are 14weeks old and both home trained and outdoor trained also playful with other animals and kids. The male named (Adam) weigh 2lbs and the female named (Eve) weigh 2.5lbs and will weigh big when fully grown. they are both A K C registered and shots are given up to date and both home trained. both of them are my darling sweetheart and super spoiled! They both have a sweet personality and loves to play and be carried around.


But i'm very sorry to tell you that it is too late for you to get the babies now. What really happened was that i just left the state for Africa in some few days ago after i posted the the ad the 2 Yorkshire Terrier Puppies on the newspaper and before i left, i did not get any response from anybody that could take very good care of them for me. So i got a missionary call from our missionary head quaters in Africa,then i have to bring the babies along with me here in Africa since i couldn't find someone to adopt them before i left the state.


I'm still willing to give the babies out to someone who can take very good care of them for me forever. All papers will accompany the puppies when shipped to you, Due to our long staying over here in Africa, and the bad weather my Wife and I have concluded to get good home and care for our babies. We are not charging or selling them to you for money but to save their lifes saved and care for them so this means that, you and i will be paying for the shipment of the puppies to you. they are VET checked, but right now we are in Africa on a Christian mission with my wife and 3 kids together with Eve and Adam,we have the puppies right here with us.


We are going to ship to you via a Dispatch Courier Service Company with Express Delivery on next day delivery,If you are really interested in having my little babies, i will like you to get back to me with the Below information i can find out shipping cost to your Nearest Airport and we both responsible for the shipping


Your Full Name :
Your Mailing Address:
Your Tel #:
Your Cell Phone #:
The Nearest Airport To You:


I've attached pictures of Adam and Eve.


Please if you know that you are not capable of taking very good care of my babies, do not reply me because i am giving them out because of bad condition and we're spending months for the Christian mission and i don't want Eve and Adam to die in this bad weather. And because we don't have time to take care of them due to the missionary work before us here.They are priceless to me,therefore i am giving both for free.


Thank you and God bless you and your family.
Yours In Christ,
Rev.Michael

So let me think this through.

You’re on a do-gooder mission in some deep, dark, remote jungle in Africa. You’re probably surrounded by lions, tigers, rhinos, elephants, giraffes, hyenas and AK-toting Marxist revolutionaries competing against the upstart Islamic terrorists. But the local zoning ordinances do not allow for Yorkie Puppies?

Whatever.

Enjoy the Rapture, Rev. Michael. And please tell God this has been long, long overdue.

But just in case it's postponed due to inclement weather, I am going to contact the Times Leader on Monday morning. And if the Leader folks are smart, they will in turn contact the district attorney's office.
Later

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Firehouse? Oh, yeah, that firehouse

After all of this ego-fueled back-and-forth further fed by depraved stubbornness, in the end, who was the ultimate winner? Er, the loser?

The link: Mayor, W-B ordered to pay up

The excerpt: A federal judge on Thursday ordered Wilkes-Barre and Mayor Tom Leighton to pay nearly $196,000 in costs and fees to the attorney of a woman who waged a five-and-a-half-year legal fight against the city.

U.S. District Judge Sylvia Rambo reduced the original amount of more than $240,000 sought by attorney Cynthia L. Pollick, who represented Denise Carey in her civil rights case.

Rambo determined Pollick, of Pittston, is entitled to $187,547 in fees and an additional $8,163 in costs.

Less than 48 hours ago, I wrote the following...

"But, yes, we've seen it time and again and again in this city, how quickly heartfelt activism morphs into being overzealousness. When you fight the good fight and somehow lose, you should be content with your efforts. But not in this city. In this city, when the activists don't get their way, they press on until things end either badly or stupidly."

So the ill-advised, ill-fated "Save the Firehouse" marathon led us to this: The firehouse was not saved. Plenty of taxpayer dollars were frittered away. And in the end, bad feelings still abound.

And to this very day, the Heights has still not burned to the ground as the activists warned us it would.

Again, when you fight the good fight and somehow lose...

G'nite

W-B Republicans facing an uphill battle

No matter what, come November we will have a new controller in Wilkes-Barre. And at the very least, we'll have 3 new people ascending to City Council seats.

The surviving candidates are as follows, with their primary vote totals following their names...

CONTROLLER
Karen Ceppa (R) - 817
Kathy Kane (D) – 3,157

CITY COUNCIL

District A
Claire M. Wert (R) - 145
George C. Brown (D) - 508

District B
Vincent Guarneri (R) - 107
Tony George (D) - 609

District C
Stephen J. Urban (R) - 138
Maureen Lavelle (D) - 332

District D
Linda J. Urban (R) - 150
Bill Barrett (D) - 752

District E
Virgil Argenta (R) - 128
Mike Merritt (D) - 464

The voter turnout on the Democrat side easily dwarfed the Republican numbers. And the numbers listed above suggest a wide disparity in popularity between the candidates listed in each race.

What that clearly suggests is for the Republican party here in Wilkes-Barre to capture any of those seats, some people are going to have to run some really spirited campaigns. They are going to have to utilize the far-reaching free forum that is WILK, they are going to have to make much better use of the Internet and they are going to have to go door-to-door with reckless abandon.

Anything less, and the Democrats are going to be partying like it's 1999 after the polls close in November.

Honestly, I do hope the Republicans make it interesting. But at this point it seems like a major challenge.

Later

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Vote for anybody (except the guy who defeated me)

Did anybody else catch this?

The link: Leighton poised for third term

The excerpt: While Leighton, who raised more than $105,000 this year, celebrated in the trendy Uptown bar, Raup gathered with her supporters in a small neighborhood tavern befitting of her grassroots campaign that had just $27 on hand as of May 2.
There at the North End Tavern, Raup took solace in running a clean campaign, while offering her support to Cope - who mingled with the many Democrats at the bar. Cope, a friend of Raup's and another political newcomer, said she hopes to round up the support of disenchanted city Democrats in her quest to unseat Leighton.


"It's not over," Raup said.

Whatever happened to being gracious in the face of defeat?

It's not over? What, the campaign has now segued into a full-blown vendetta? Is it now personal? Revenge, perhaps? The Facebook coalition revolution is on?!?

Cut me a fu>king break already!

First we were told we needed a new direction. But now we're being told we need any new direction, from any old newcomer, any direction but the one we have now. Sounds kind of reckless. And petty, too.

But, yes, we've seen it time and again and again in this city, how quickly heartfelt activism morphs into being overzealousness. When you fight the good fight and somehow lose, you should be content with your efforts. But not in this city. In this city, when the activists don't get their way, they press on until things end either badly or stupidly.

So, according to what we're currently being told, it seems that it doesn't matter who replaces Tom Leighton, so long as any Johnny-come-lately replaces him.

How's that for leadership?

How's that for vision?

Later

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Cope versus Leighton

Come November, it's Democrat Wilkes-Barre City Mayor Tom Leighton squaring off against Republican challenger Lisa Cope.

Here's the final vote tally from the Republicans:

Lisa Cope . . . . . . . . . . 357
Frank R. Sorick . . . . . . . . 283
Karen Ceppa. . . . . . . . . . 260

Write-ins. . . . . . . . . . . 132

Now the Democrat numbers...

Tom Leighton . . . . . . . . . 2,603
Charlotte B. Raup. . . . . . . . 1,810
Nick Punko . . . . . . . . . . 242

Write-ins. . . . . . . . . . 21

Whew! Somebody has their work cut out for them.

G'nite

Surprise in W-B District C

Maureen Lavelle wins the District C City Council race on the Democrat side of the evening.

I'll admit to being somewhat surprised with this result. That said, she's a smart lady, and in many respects, a pretty neat lady.

I'm kind of jazzed about this one.

Later

Cronauer wins both sides

Rick Cronuauer wins both the Democrat and Republican nod in Magisterial District 11-1-01.

This guy is a flat-out vote magnet.

Continuing...

New Wilkes-Barre City Council folk nominees...

District A: George Brown

District B: Tony George

Later

Tom Leighton wins!

These are unofficial numbers, but they came direct from Wilkes-Barre's 20 voting wards:

Tom Leighton 2,607

Charlotte Raup 1,818

Nick Punko 243

Stay tuned

Voter #2

Earlier today, even though it was raining, I done went and did my civic duty.

I was in Dan Flood Elementary by 7 A.M. and was officially listed as Voter #2.

Drat! I should have cut the line. That Luzerne County Sheriff spying the affair didn't look that big.


There, Gort. I voted for your buddy

I haven't seen that many poll workers on scene that early in the morning since the Obama-Hillary electoral showdown back in early 2008. Cards, cards and more cards they leapt at me with; not a one of which made a damn bit of difference.

Our District E City Councilman, Mike Merritt, was already shaking hands when I pulled up. So, yes, he is still around and wants another term.

Luzerne County Judge: Being that the county has been all but ruined by the network of "good old boys," I purposely went with three seemingly qualified women, Lesa Gelb, Paula Radick and Jennifer Rogers. And I also voted for Mike Blazick, Vito DeLuca and Mark Bufalino.

Luzerne County Council: The picture almost says it all, but I also voted for Eugene Kelleher. So, while I was supposed to choose 11 from the list of 16 hopefuls, I ended up voting for only 6. Oh well.

Wilkes-Barre Mayor: As a registered Republican, I chose to write in the name of the Democrat incumbent...Tom Leighton. Sorry, but I vote candidate, not party. And this one was a complete no-brainer.

Wilkes-Barre City Council: As a registered Republican, I had only 1 candidate from which to pick, so I chose to skip that one.

District Attorney: I didn't realize it until later, but somehow I managed to bypass this one. Since I absolutely abhor seeing anyone running unopposed, I had planned to write in Stefanie Salavantis' name. Oops.

Wilkes-Barre Area School Board: I voted for Coach Quinn, and that's it.

And that's the recap. That's all I got.

Later

Monday, May 16, 2011

Election eve musings

While retracing and retracing my path through the Times Leader's preview of the 16 republicans seeking a seat on our first ever Luzerne county Council yesterday, it occurred to me that I do not know enough about the great majority of these candidates to dare vote for them.

I've met and know enough about Harry Haas to vote for him with enthusiasm. I met yet another hopeful and, quite frankly, he reminded me of Monty Python's old "Spot the Loony" bit. I cannot vote for either of the Urbans. I will never vote for anyone employed by the Wyoming Valley Sanitary Authority. And as for the rest of the candidates, we might as well be voting for Facebook "friends," i.e., other groups of people we know next to nothing about.

I see the C.O.P.S. endorsements as a negative for 6 of the candidates. I like what I've heard from Eugene Kelleher on WILK. Rick Morelli, having been involved in this Home Rule movement from beginning to near end makes sense I guess. William James has some name recognition.

Uh, check back with me tomorrow. I'll grab me a clothespin and have at it.

I was shopping at the neighborhood mainstay, Oh Yes, earlier this afternoon when some elderly gentlemen said over the meat counter, "I hear Mike has a challenger. Who is he?" By Mike, he meant sitting District E city councilman Mike Merritt.

And in my opinion, therein lies the biggest single reason Luzerne County has become a political den of thieving snakes--all of the clueless party line voters. It's the day before the primary election, but you don't even know the names of both candidates? I know, I know. All that you need to know is the name of the incumbent Democrat.

All of which makes me wonder if this Home Rule experiment can really change the political culture for the better.


I heard a Wilkes-Barre mayoral candidate on WILK's Sue Henry Show this morning. And not to single him out, but he went on and on about "the neighborhoods," which every hopeful in this city has used as a major plank in their platforms since first our downtown starting showing signs of life in 2006.

Every time I hear a candidate for elected office in this city go off on the neighborhoods tangent on WILK, I yell at the radio with "Ask them what they'll do for the neighborhoods!" Sadly, the talk show hosts never challenge that tired neighborhoods riff.

And I can just imagine how threadbare the fumbled response would be. Um, street sweepers. And, um, increase the police patrols. And, well, we'd plant flowers and, uh, police the playgrounds. And we'll make like frightened white people and keep a close eye on those, ahem, those "outsiders." And, uh, uh, um...

Never once have I heard any specifics accompanying the well-worn neighborhoods spiel.

Getting back to my voting district, it's as if the 3 candidates running for city council have been running stealth campaigns. I haven't heard as much as a peep out of the lot of them. Then again, I don't think Councilman Mike Merritt has uttered a single word in public since he first garnered a council seat. Mike, you still there?

Anyway, as a registered Republican (for now), I'll have to take a big ole pass on this yawner of a non-race. But come the general election fray, I'm voting for Mr. Darren Snyder. The way I figure it, since the older folks have turned this grassed-over culm bank into Corruption City, USA, I might as well go with the youth vote.

On a brief aside, you know you're getting old when you call a 35-year-old a youth.

As for the judicial candidates in Luzerne County, I personally feel that the more attractive candidates are on the Democrat side of the ledger. So I figure I'll catch up to some of them with a vote in the fall. Best I can do.

As for the mayoral vote here in Wilkes-Barre, I don't think I need to announce who I wholeheartedly support---Mayor Tom Leighton.

For the sake of full disclosure, I should point out that Tom Leighton has given me numerous city-themed hat pins, a couple of free city-themed T-shirts and many an ear to fill.

The way I see it, he brought us back from the depths of despair, and he'll take us the rest of the way. Meanwhile, his would-be replacements offer the same tired stereotypical and platitudinous campaign laziness.

Consider the inept campaign of his chief Democrat primary challenger: The obligatory neighborhoods bit. They stole some of my election signs. They tried to embarrass me by way of poll calls. And "they are trying to bully me." And there we have it.

When you consider how little actually remained of Wilkes-Barre when he took office in January of 2004, it defies belief that he accomplished as much as he has in just 7 short years. And if the voters of this city do not reward him for his efforts tomorrow, Wilkes-Barre will have taken two major steps forward over 7 years and then a giant step backwards in one fell swoop.

I'm out of here.

Later

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Pics of Wilkes-Barre since 2004 #4

See that?

That picture of our amazing new riverfront was taken last June while Zach and I were walking to the launch point of RiverFest 2010.


$25 million in state and Fedrule aid does not come to town unless the folks sending the money steadfastly believe in the leadership abilities of the locals in charge.

Try this: "Governor Corbett, Mayor Leighton on line 2."

Guv: "Thank you, Celine. Hold my other calls."

Or try this on for size: "Governor Corbett, Mayor Newbie on line 2."

Guv: "Who?"

Later

Pics of Wilkes-Barre since 2004 #3

They had been talking about this promised amenity---an intermodel center---since I was knee high to a culm bank. Er, something like that.

Anywho, when this thing long-delayed by construction issues loaded with cost overruns was finally completed, 752 parking spaces were added to the downtown mix. Follow me here, 752 additional parking spots. Yowza!

No more buses or taxicabs precluding us from parking on Public Square. Even the Martz buses will be routed under the massive complex that, at first glance, reminded me of New York's Port Authority. The point being, this facility has a noticeably big city feel to it.


By comparison, the City of Hazleton recently cut the ribbon on it's new intermodel complex, but it's a glorified snack bar that brought with it no additional parking options. None.

Say it with me...752.

Later

Pics of Wilkes-Barre since 2004 #2

As many of you know, I'm the guy who frequently heads out on bicycle rides with multiple grandchildren in tow. And very often, in fact. For lack of a better, more descriptive word over these many years, I've always called them bikeabouts.

Being that I've been towing grandchildren from one end of the valley to the other for these past ten years, I've become somewhat of an expert on where to snag kick-ass hoddogs (ketchup only), the best places to skip time-flattened stones across the Susquehanna River and the very best of the playgrounds, bar none.

So, where is the best playground these days?

Coal Street Park.


I know the place is far from being completed. Sure, I know there's much to do. But the fact is, it's the best playground going, even better than Kingston's main playground at it's recreational complex just west of the dike.

The Coal Street playground is flanked by the Heights, as well as by East End. And from both vantage points, it's easily, easily accessible by foot.

Still, they say the neighborhoods are being ignored, which makes me think that Coal Street Park is too far to walk for those doing most of the baseless grumbling.

Thanks to our lovely model, Taylor Kate, for the pic.

Later

Pics of Wilkes-Barre since 2004

Yeah, Movies 14.

Damn near everybody and their pregnant uncles told me that a movie theater of any stripe located in downtown Wilkes-Barre would not work. So much for the local experts who continually scoff at the very notion of being positive about much of anything.


What is it with Wilkes-Barre? What sort of carcinogens are in our water supply? What's up with the abject negativity for negativity's sake?

It won't work! It won't work! It won't work! So said the legions of  negative ninnies.

With that having been said, all 5 of my grandchildren absolutely love going to Movies 14. And going to Januzzi's. And going to the toy department at Boscov's. Oh, and Musical Energi.

All of which reminds of my numerous jaunts through our now long-lost downtown, the downtown that had my grandmother happily playing tour guide.

Later

"Cupcake" or: disrespect begets disrespect

This is fun.

According to the CV's Politics Blog on May 4 mayoral challenger Charlotte Raup scheduled a "mystery press conference" for Thursday, May 5, only to cancel it later in the day. According to her, it was to be an "important" press conference. The only hint she floated was when she said “they’re trying to bully me.” Ah, we're playing the chick card, are we? Oh, and the "important" press conference has yet to be rescheduled.

Allow me to venture a wild guess.

Uh, perhaps she put too much hope and too much stock in this fledgling but soon-to-be short-lived Internet assassin who portends to know and who promises he'll prove that Mayor Tom Leighton is a thief.

Honestly, I know full-well that Charlotte Raup is deep-down, a caring, outgoing and engaged person. She deeply cares about Wilkes-Barre and she has proven as much over the years. I even volunteered to help her when she sought a seat on City Council. At the time, I thought she deserved a shot at Wilkes-Barre's managerial lower tier.

But the thing is, by running for mayor armed with her resume and experience, she is seriously overreaching. And with the country teetering on the 'hope & change' abyss, with funding sources drying up, with the state and the Feds both flirting with insolvency, now is not the time to elect a newbie to lead this city into a very uncertain future.

The way I see it, we've already got a guy who led us into an uncertain future and passed with flying colors, Tom Leighton.

Now, before you go repeating that well-worn bit about how someone has ignored the neighborhoods, know that neighborhoods do not generate income. In actuality, neighborhoods consume a great majority of  a given municipality's income, assuming said municipalities actually generate any income to speak of.

So, if you're elected mayor in a town that has millions of dollars in unpaid, overdue debts, a bond rating in the dumpster and your primary producer of income--your downtown--vacant, what should you do?

Well, to listen to Charlotte as well as the rest of the mayor's vacuous critics tell the tired tale, he should have focused his efforts on the neighborhoods. More specifically, on their neighborhoods. The only problem is, neighborhoods cannot hope to match the income potential of a thriving downtown. Payroll taxes. Mercantile taxes. Transfer taxes. Parking receipts. Neighborhoods offer next to none of these much-needed proceeds.

So, if you hope to take back the streets, if you want to purchase new apparatus, if you need to make infrastructure upgrades, you need to be filling the city's coffers to make all of the above and much, much more possible.

Note the history of the city since it was rebuilt following the Agnes flooding. The downtown went belly up, the city's financial wheels came off, and everything deemed to have slipped slipped because of a lack of financial wherewithal.

And the quickest way to reverse the slide? Fill the city's long-empty coffers. Namely, get that downtown producing all over again. And we did. Or, the mayor did. And where once the downtown caused the whole shebang to slip all around it, now it will  prove to be the catalyst for better times to all that surround it.

It's simple economics, folks. Library branches, civic centers and police substations do not generate income, booming downtowns in small cities do. And if your small city is broke when you take office, where would you start? Rather, where should you start?

Anyway, Charlotte Raup is, in my opinion, good people.

It's just that she's not mayoral material.

As for Bob Kadluboski's high-profile assertion that the salaries and pensions of our elected officials in the city are bankrupting us, I respectfully disagree. Well, a little bit.

I have no problem with the salaries of our mayor, our 5 city council folk and our controller. Off the top of my blockhead, these salaries amount to far less than $200,000 a year. That's $200,000 culled from an operating budget of $43.8 million in 2011. Do the math. Figure the percentage.

What I do take serious issue with is any elected official in this city drawing a generous pension after only 20 years as an elected official. The previous mayor served 12 years as a part-time councilman, 8 years as mayor, and now he's drawing a $40,000 yearly pension? Sorry, but that's a rip-off no matter which way you spin it. And our current mayor is also going to partake of this overly-generous pension.

A pension built primarily on part-time work? And they don't even belong to a union? Sorry and all, but that's highway robbery. That has to change. And in that, Bob and I are allies.

Bob recently approached me and said we need to get together and discuss why I've been giving him a hard time on this here forum of mine. In my mind, I have not given him a hard time. It's just that, showing up at every council meeting and starting the same confrontation with the same city officials is redundant to the point of being annoying. I applaud his tenacity. But I don't see the point in the continuing dust-ups.

But I also need to point out that while his redundancy is apparent, that is no reason for city officials to feel free to publicly insult him by way of the "cupcake" comments. Give him his 5 minutes of fame all over again. And again and again and again. Gavel him away as soon as his clock expires. Then make like a class act and thank him for his concerns.

Thing is, if I called a customer a "cupcake," I'm absolutely certain that my boss would have a big, big, big problem with that. And as a resident, one of many of the elected officials' bosses, I demand that they too abide by the accepted rules of decorum.

Anyway, enough with the public show of disrespect.

Perhaps Bob and I should work together on a public referendum question concerning the pensions of our elected officials. Up or down? Yes or no?

Do short-term, part-time employees deserve handsome pensions?

Later

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Pics of Wilkes-Barre #16

At the time I took this picture in 2001, I thought our mayor was doing exactly what was long-since needed...adding more parking options to the downtown. Wasn't that always the standard refrain? That there was nowhere to park in our downtown?

So, we added a couple of decks to the north parking garage and called it "Progress as Promised."


 One problem, though.

Not long after I captured this image, I took possession of a copy of the Parking Authority receipts for the ten years prior. And what those records clearly showed was that the authority's income had been declining for years, and that the decline had only steepened during the McGroarty administrations run (1996-2001).

Confused?

In an empty downtown, we needed more parking? Well, yes, somebody did. Or, should I say, somebody needed, wanted and demanded more convenient parking. You know, like, the Westmoreland Club crowd.

So, public monies were spent to greatly expand the capacity of the garage. And as soon as it was completed, the Chamber of Commerce folks, newly located next door at the rehabilitated Pomeroy's building took control of their assigned spots within the garage. And so did the DEP folks who were and still are located in the Pomeroy's building. And so did the Blue Cross folks located just across North Main Street from the garage.

"Progress as Promised" for the taxpaying public?

How soon they forget.

Pics of Wilkes-Barre #15

I remember being somewhat excited when I took this picture back in 2001.

Being that the Pomeroy's building was being brought back to life, very many of us were reminiscing, not just me. When my grandma wanted the struggling young sprat that once was me to look good for whatever formal occasion, off to Pomeroy's we went. When I was but weeks away from starting college at her insistent behest, she marched me down there to buy some preppie-looking attire. Clothes, by the way, that I never wore on campus.

Meanwhile, while continuing to grow well beyond her control, I was frequently off to scour the vinyl LPs in Pomeroy's record section.

The first time I ever laid eyes on the band KISS, it was on a poster in Pomeroy's music department. I laughed out loud at anyone who would dare to look so dumb. Some months later, they blew me away, live and in person on the opposite side of Public Square.


The reclaiming of the dormant Pomeroy's building was hailed as some sort of beginning of the rebirth of Wilkes-Barre. But as we all know, that rebirth would not begin in earnest until some four years later.

How soon they forget.

Pics of Wilkes-Barre #14

I used to wonder aloud about this sign that was attached to the front of the vacant Woolworth's store, right next door to the Wendy's restaurant that was shuttered in August of 2002.

The thing is, with a few notable exceptions, our downtown was practically vacant when I took this picture on June 24, 2001. Yet, there stood that stupid billboard welcoming the few people who actually came to a place that used to be hustling and bustling, but was no more.

Welcome to Downtown Wilkes-Barre: What's left of it.

You tell me man, I just live and work here.

How soon they forget.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Pics of Wilkes-Barre #13

I never gave them a second thought, but those red street lights that were erected after the '72 flood really were unsightly. Then again, the entirety of the then remodeled downtown was red. Red street lights. Red benches. Red steel garbage cans. Red canopies. Later on, women of questionable moral character wearing red in the wee hours of the morning. And, of course, those horribly uneven red paver bricks in lieu of concrete sidewalks.

As we all know, those unsightly poles and lights stood tall until Tom McGroarty became mayor, when they started unexpectedly collapsing down onto the streets and sidewalks below. His response was to rent gas-powered spotlights as replacements, and to have a political ally refuel those gas powered rental spotlights. If you recall, they were blinding as well as ungodly loud. And there they stayed until his eventual electoral defeat.

Pic taken during 2002

But as we all know by now, all of those lights in the downtown area were to be replaced by stronger, more aesthetically pleasing and brighter period lights. Replaced by whom?

How soon they forget.

Pics of Wilkes-Barre #12

How could we saunter on back into our recent ignoble past without mentioning Wilkes-Barre's biggest financial albatross at the time--The Call Center?

This move was so outrageously fraught with liability--using primarily the general fund to build a facility as a way of attracting a significant employer to the downtown--it would be criminal if stupidity qualified as a crime.

When the employer went bust and snuck back out of town, we, the taxpayers were on the hook for the $1.1 million debt service payment per fiscal year. Yes, I said...$1.1 million per year, right out of the general fund. We were bleeding red ink faster than the new employer could beat it out of here.

Pic taken on June 17, 2001

But, again, after a changing of the guard at City Hall, the flow of red ink was stopped by the then-new administration.

How soon they forget

Pics of Wilkes-Barre #11

This here picture says all that you need to know about the deplorable and depressing state of downtown Wilkes-Barre on June 17, 2001.

Here's the scoop: This picture was taken at high noon on gloriously sunny Saturday. This was supposed to be the ground zero of retail activity in the downtown. Yet, at high noon on a beautiful Saturday, you can count the people captured in this shot with one protruded finger. Yes, that finger.

Plus, this picture provides a pretty good memory of living with the canopy system. Oh, and ignore that clock since it was stuck on that time for many years.

Pic taken on June 17, 2001

Now, since our mayor's opponents are mostly bereft of ideas, they babble in unison about how he ignores our neighborhoods for the sake of the downtown. For the sake of argument, let's pretend that is absolutely true.

Based on this picture, I'd say it was long overdue that someone employed by the City of Wilkes-Barre paid some attention to our long-flailing and borderline vacant downtown.

How soon they forget

Pics of Wilkes-Barre #10

Remember when visitors to the city would drive our main thoroughfare only to run smack dab into a 5-acre railroad graveyard? Remember that?


Picture from 2002

I know our first responders remember, because they spent plenty of time there. The police rounded up many of the drunken homeless people calling those rotted trains home.

And the fire department extinguished a few fires either intentionally or accidentally set by the drunks who can't understand why they're homeless.

So after the City eventually forced the clearing of this eyesore, the owner of said eyesore was ultimately rewarded when the County purchased what little was left of it for $5 million. Go figure.

How soon they forget

Monday, May 9, 2011

Pics of Wilkes-Barre #9

Ah, yes. The grassy knoll where a new firehouse was supposed to have been built. The grassy knoll remains, but the promised firehouse never happened.


Picture was taken in early 2002.

Interestingly, a new firehouse was in fact built just a few hundred yards away, but not until a changing of the guard came about in Wilkes-Barre. As part of the transition from 5 locations to three, the decrepit firehouse in the Heights was closed. The glorified lean-to in Parsons was shuttered. And the "Rain Forest," Northeast Station, was also put out of it's rain-soaked misery.

How soon they forget.

Pics of Wilkes-Barre #8

Okay, not to belabor the figure to the point of absurdity, but we spent $5.5 million dollars we obviously didn't have and all that remains of the Holeplex site are these washers and bolts I snagged from the site before it was cleared when the adults finally assumed control.

Just in case you're not overly familiar with the old landscape versus the new downtown landscape, the Labor & Industry building now sits on the muddy hole of a site where the ill-fated theater was supposed to have been constructed.


Picture from February of 2005.

As for those anchor bolts that were supposed to attach the steel to the footers, I suppose I could donate them to the historical society or something. Or sell 'em on Ebay. Or whip 'em at the next rotten sumbitch who touches my stuff. I dunno

How soon they forget.

Pics of Wilkes-Barre #7

For this rendition of time traveling, I need to make a correction.

I was incorrect by claiming that the previous administration of Wilkes-Barre spent $5.5 million and got nothing but a muddy hole at the Holeplex site. The fact is, we did get 4 large footers for that hefty sum that was never paid to Newcrete, the company that made the preformed pieces for what would have been a parking garage on top of a movie theater (?).

And since those footers were encroaching on adjoining private property, an injunction was filed to halt the construction and the rest is now history. An expensive snippet of history, but history nonetheless.



This picture was taken in December of 2004.

By the way, that brick apartment building in the background, The Radnor, was the site of my very first apartment. I moved in there when I was 17.

How soon they forget.

Pics of Wilkes-Barre #6

Lest we forget the monsterous fire at the Murray Complex on Courtright Street.

This site need not be measured in linear feet or square footage. No, this particular eyesore was measured in acres. And the calamitous fire that engulfed it was not the beginning of the end for this troubled site long fought over while in receivership. No, despite the fact that some businesses occupied parts of it of late, this site has been floundering for at least a decade. Yeah, if not more.

The date stamp sez it.

But now, a little more than three years removed from the fire that was seen from every far-flung corner of the Wyoming Valley, now new homes, new townhouses and new streets are being built on those formerly abandoned acres.

How soon they forget

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Pics of Wilkes-Barre #5

I would be remiss if I failed to include a picture of Coal Street Park in this series.

After divorce #2, we settled in Wilkes-Barre when I was 12-years-old. And by the time I turned 14, we were living at the Interfaith complex on Coal Street.

A bit of history needs to be included at this juncture. At that time, after the great flood of 1972, Coal Street Park was a shiny, new amenity in this city. It was, in a word, a pearl. Back in the day, it was a place I frittered many an hour away with my future wife.

But, as the years passed, it was virtually ignored by each successive administration of this town. And by 2002, it was a broken, battered, graffiti-spoiled, little-used idiot magnet. It was no longer a pearl. It was no longer listed as an asset. Instead, it was yet another albatross Wilkes-Barre needed to free itself from.


Picture taken on October 10, 2008

But, in October of 2008, the City of Wilkes-Barre began a complete makeover and restoration of the park. In other words, it was an asset gone liability but an asset yet again. Once again, it's a pearl.

How soon they forget

Pics of Wilkes-Barre #4

Ah, yes, who could forget the Holeplex?

The previous administration of this city ripped down almost an entire city block to build a theater complex designed on a 3X5 file card, and then constructed nothing more than a muddy hole. A muddy hole that cost us $5.5 million, but was never paid for until the next administration--our current administration--retired that debt with it's first official act in 2004.


Photo taken on June 17, 2001

How soon they forget

Pics of Wilkes-Barre #3

I was pleased when I downloaded this one from my memory card. I took this from the very top of the Citizen's Bank building. My thinking was, who else delivered a picture looking down at one of the city's tallest buildings. Answer...moi.


The date stamp speaks for itself.

And to the easily-led conspiracy theorists who wondered aloud about where the $6 million CityVest once had it's disposal went, uh, I dunno. How much does it cost to demolish a hulking beast such as that?

How soon they forget.

Pics of Wilkes-Barre #2

In this photo we are looking at the back side of Blue Chip Gourmet, Beefy King and all. When I snapped this picture, I was standing on the site of a 14-screen movie complex that was yet to be built. Actually, as far as this exact spot is concerned, that theater complex was yet to be conceptualized when this was taken. 


Photo taken on June 17, 2001.

How soon they forget.

Pics of Wilkes-Barre

This is a good one. I was standing in front of what is now the Blue Chip Gourmet on S. Main St. looking north towards Public Square when I took this picture.


It was taken on February 18, 2005.

How soon they forget.

Mother's Day photo flashback

Family stuff: Peace and Gage Andrew.


Happy Mother's Day, kiddo.

Oh my god! or: The David vs Goliath angle ain't gonna cut it

Today is May 8, Mother's Day.

My mother passed on when I was 29, so while it's yet another day when I remember her, it's also a day that brings with it much sadness. No, I do not visit her grave as all that it provides me with is a synergistic aspect to add to the sadness.

While that may sound kind of wussy on my part, I still feel cheated and I still miss her in the worst way.

Whatever.

Perhaps this election season is heating up after all. Somebody went and stuck the following piece of election literature behind my mailbox just yesterday.



I read with stunned bemusement yesterday's Times Leader story in which Tom Leighton's Democrat primary opponent was somehow shocked to learn that he has some $65,000 in his campaign war chest.

Oh my god!

Oh my god? Really? Perhaps some of us should hearken back to late 2003, when Wilkes-Barre had an empty, boarded-up downtown, a dangerously depleted police department, crumbling infrastructure as far as the eye could see, finances dripping with an endless supply of red ink and a thoroughly dispirited populace. Some of us might need to recall where we were versus where we are.


Oh my god, people actually believe in Leighton's stewardship, and many have donated money to his campaign? What, is that some sort of negative? That some people do want him to secure a third term as mayor?

If Leighton's record as mayor only served as an indictment of sorts, wouldn't the big money be going the other way...to his opponents?

Seriously, this is sophistry already. All I'm getting from the would-be leader is that the neighborhoods will be significantly improved by way of some still yet-to-be-seen magic wand. That somebody out there stole an election sign. And that some phone poll included some supposedly mean-spirited, leading questions. That's it?

On one hand, you have a candidate that hired two new platoons of police officers. On the other hand, you have someone who fancies themselves as Wilkes-Barre's foremost law enforcement expert. Someone who squarely points the finger of blame for the fast-accelerating societal decay on an elected official in a third-class city in Pennsylvania.

As far as lawlessness and an anemic response to it is concerned, try taking that suggested trip back to late 2003, when 3 police officers patrolled the city on a typically lazy Sunday morning...three! Lazy, that is, until someone acted out and Wilkes-Barre's police department was reduced to keeping track of the backlog of calls to 911. I've been there and seen that while out and about on the bicycles armed with portable police scanners.

Sorry, but an enhanced crime watch contingent will not keep our neighborhoods under control, only boots on the ground can achieve that. Only dedicated, well-trained, well-armed police officers in sufficient numbers will ever come close to returning us to the days when we can leave the front screen door unlocked. And to that end, one candidate has seized upon every possible opportunity to bolster the ranks of our police department, while the other has prowled around at night, praising our police officers' performance, but constantly carping on and on about their leadership.

Well, the way I see it, if the coach sucks, then the team probably sucks, too. So which is it already? Is Chief Dessoye a capable leader, or should he be unceremoniously replaced by a member of the crime watch, too? Is the mayor inattentive to our policing needs? Should he too be replaced by those who would patrol rather than do what they were originally chartered to do...watch?

You know the answers to those overdue questions. And so do the majority of the voters of Wilkes-Barre.

$65,000? That's it?

Oh my god!

Later

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Stuff

As our society continues to devolve into something that our ancestors would neither recognize nor respect, you have to keep your head up and try to enjoy the descent.

From the Times Leader: 5 hurt as stabbings erupt in W-B

Now, the excerpt: "At Coal Street, a man who would not identify himself said the people involved in the altercation were drinking beer to celebrate their deceased mothers in honor of Mother’s Day."

What better way to honor dear ole mom than to get boozed up and assault somebody? Miss ya mom. This backhand's for you.

I marked the 4th anniversary of my brother's death a couple of days back by putting on the AM/FM headphones, working too hard and wallowing in my reflective solitude. Maybe next time I should try me some of those bath salts.

It must be me. It must be.

Hey, one of our mayoral candidates actually knocked on the door yesterday, none other than Republican hopeful Lisa Cope. But, of course, I was at work and missed her. Drat!
I don't get much of that, candidates going door-to-door. I've actually watched candidates go door-to-door on this street, but skip this here modest adobe. And since the various & sundry candidates pounding the sidewalks usually have a printout of the names and addresses of registered voters, I'm left to assume that they just didn't want to interact with me. As for yesterday's visit, Wifey said Lisa asked for me by name, so I'm assuming she did want to meet the pajama blogger. Oh, wait. The boxer shorts blogger.

Even if I wholeheartedly disagree with a reasonable candidate, I'm always available to chew the fat with them. We may not cure cancer, eliminate the national debt or invent a better way to calculate the square footage of a circle, but face-to-face always beats the impersonal text-to-text.

Plus, it seems as if the race for the Republican mayoral nomination is as wide open as they come. It's been quiet as all get-out, but with 10 days remaining before election day, hopefully it'll heat up and soon. Some controversy or something. Or an accusation. Something.

Then again, she could request to be added to the official Beer Summit list, but she'd be listed after a former city administrator, a tower and one of her opponents. Perhaps we could have the first ever Beer Debate, the five of us.

Debate rules: No moderator, no knives, no bath salts, no Bay City Rollers and clothing is always optional. Something or other.

Anyway, sorry to have missed you, Lisa.

Now that the big, bad terrorist is all but fish food, and now that the pretend president has spent the better part of a week 'spiking the football' on the campaign trail, can he get back to telling us how all of these green jobs that have yet to be created will turn this moribund economy around? You know, how windmills will retire our outstanding debts and make Razzles fall from the sky. Or how high-speed trains will replace the automobile almost overnight. All of that sort of abject cluelessness.

Remember? Jobs, industry, fuel prices, commodity prices, health care? Remember all of that?

Sorry, what was I thinking. It's the weekend. Time for another 36 holes of golf. That's the conservative estimate.

America's myriad of increasingly compounding problems will have to wait. And wait and wait and wait.

Until 2012, that is.

Meanwhile, enjoy that coming rate increase from Pennsylvania American Water.

Did you ever figure on the herding of rainwater becoming so frightfully expensive? Huh.

Probably doesn't matter, though. With the Marcellus Boys writing their own rules by claiming proprietary rights over the injecting of  laundry lists of toxic chemicals with no half-lives into our watersheds, PAWC might one day be in possession of a mostly spoiled product.

Bad for them, but worse for us.

Later

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Tim Mullen Q&A

Today we have Tim Mullen, yet another candidate for Luzerne County Council, taking a whack at the very same questions I previously offered to two other candidates for that same newly-created body.

I'm not going to give him a big, big build-up, except to say that I first met him at last Summer's GasStock protest and informational event, I spoke at length with him and I was duly impressed by him.

Anyway, here are his responses to my proddings...

1. Why you? Why now? What differentiates you from the rest of the crowded field?

1. I follow the Libertarian principles of economic and individual freedoms for all. I am a man of unwavering principles. If something is going to take away that freedom, I am not going to vote for it plain and simple. The new Home Rule Charter is our last best chance to turn Luzerne County around, so it is crucial that those elected to the council are of the highest moral fiber and have the fortitude and vision to lead.


I am disgusted with the happenings of government at all levels from the courthouse to the White House. Nothing is as pitiful as the state of affairs here in Luzerne County. When I ran for state representative in the 120th district last year, I gave up every spare minute of my time for a year to knock on 12,000 doors, write to papers, and talk on radio about my message and of fiscal sanity. I and many of supporters do not want my message to fade away. The present situation within Luzerne County and the transition to the 11 member council is a next logical endeavor.


While other candidates are touting credentials and connections, I tell of my integrity and fortitude. Where other candidates tell you everything you want to hear, I'm the one that will tell you everything you don't want to hear. I do not owe anything to anybody. I will keep it that way.


2. What motivation is there to want to serve on a legislative body for very little pay and no benefits?

2. I have accomplished most of the things I've set out to do in my life. I have served my community as a registered nurse, and my country in the Army, although truthfully I always just looked at them both as jobs. I have made some good investments with my hard earned money and have the good fortune to be able to not have to work anywhere near as hard or as long as I have in the past. Last year I decided I wanted to do more for my community and wanted the most challenging task I could think of. I decided to run for state representative at that time in a large part out of concern for the taxpayer due to the mounting problems with state finances. The opportunity to serve our beleaguered county presented itself this year and I felt like I had to step up to the plate. Unlike the ploy others use in not accepting the pay, I will accept it. I will also give up my full-time status at my present employer to concentrate on the monumental task of transitioning to our new form of government. I do not expect it to be a part-time job. There is also much I need to learn about county government. I feel anything less on my behalf would be shortchanging the taxpayers of this county.


3. Last I knew, the debt service payment was 17.2% of the yearly budget. Any ideas on how we can significantly reduce our outstanding debts?

3. With a debt load well over three times the annual budget, I feel we are beyond the point of no return and bankruptcy would be the way to go. Remember that we now have record low interest rates, Rates have no where else to go but up from here. Could this county possibly function with an even greater percentage of revenues going to pay interest? I don't think so. Could the taxpayers take on an even greater burden? I won't let it happen in all my power. From what I understand about bankruptcy proceedings, union contracts could be voided and / or renegotiated, and layoffs could commence. Outside of bankruptcy I would like to see reductions in the county workforce through attrition ideally, at first. With a workforce one third larger than similar sized counties, there is a lot of dead weight to be removed. More than likely we will need layoffs to bring the situation quickly under control. There will be cuts in services no doubt. I would see to it that it is done in the most humane way possible.


4. How can our newly-created council help to restore the public’s shattered faith in our county government?

4. From what I have seen from most of the other candidates, there seems to be a genuine concern to do right by the people of Luzerne County. Being a part- time position with minimal pay is one of the plusses of this charter I feel. The term limits are a positive also, in that the candidates will know at some point in the near future their time is up. This will eliminate a lot of the wheeling and dealing career politicians do to remain in office. These reasons in and of themselves should give faith to the public. Transparency, and an anti-nepotism / code of ethics policy could go a long way to help restore the public's faith.


5. In your opinion, does a nationwide search for a county executive make more sense than electing a local person?

5. I would advocate a nationwide search for the county executive. We will need someone without bias to make decisions on a daily basis, especially when it comes to hiring and firing. I will not rule out local talent, but only if it can be proven beyond a shadow of doubt there is no conflict of interest.


6. Should public sector unions be allowed to strike?
7. What are your thoughts on the collecting bargaining rights of said unions?

6 &7. Franklin D. Roosevelt arguably one of the most pro-labor presidents in our country's history warned of the scourge public sector unions could become. Even he was appalled by the thought of any strike against the taxpayer. Do not misread me. Labor unions have done tremendous things over the years. If not for them we may be all working eighty hour work weeks starting at age thirteen. I have nothing at all against organizing the working man in the private sector. In such an environment both labor and management have something to gain, The unions work for a decent wage and benefits for the worker, and a content workforce is more productive for management. Should unions become too greedy, the company's bottom line could suffer, the company could fold, and everyone would become a loser. There is a self-correcting balance.


There is no place for public service unions because those that represent management (the taxpayer) have little or no skin in the game. For example, I know of school boards loaded with ex-teachers or relatives of teachers. Who's representing the taxpayers? No one, in fact, quite the opposite. Many political campaigns are bankrolled by the public sector unions. Who are those politicians going to represent? Not the taxpayer. I ran against an incumbent in my state representative race last year that received contributions from the PSEA. Who is she going to represent when push comes to shove? Not me. Taxpayers are viewed as something that needs to be fleeced regularly. Even those politicians that have no ties to the unions are subject to what I call the " spread the pain, concentrate the wealth effect". Taxpayers are taxed in small but ever increasing increments analogous to a frog in a pot of water. He feels nothing as the water is slowly heated to boiling. If the frog were simply tossed into the pot of boiling water, he would instinctively just jump out. When someone down the street loses their home to the property tax, you might not notice. When your neighbor loses their home to taxes you still may not care. When you lose your home it is too late. The concentrated wealth that is received by the public service unions and their members motivates a small but extremely powerful and vocal group, you need look no farther than the present situation in Wisconsin.

Ironically their rallying cry is " were for the working family". Nothing makes me more madder than a hornet in jar when I hear this. Just who do these so-called servants think is paying their usually overly lavish salaries and benefits? It's not the people that are not working. Taxpayer beware of any group touting themselves as being for the working man in this county council race. Its more of the same old same old. Since I am not going to eliminate public service unions single handedly any time soon, I will do everything I can to ensure that they bargain in good faith. If necessary I will escort a legion of public servants to the unemployment line before I see another taxpayer lose their home to property taxes in this county.

8. Would you be in favor of a clear-cut anti-nepotism policy?

8. I believe an anti- nepotism policy may help, but it will be hard to draw up and enforce. For example it could help in cases such as close relatives and business associations that are easy to discern. Who is to say that a county employee's second cousin twice removed is disqualified from a certain position?. What constitutes a friendship? I tell people nepotism is not an issue with me personally because I only have three relatives in the county, none of which are interested in working for the county, and I have no friends. The voter has the best solution by electing people of the highest moral fiber. I will go one step farther in advocating a third party candidate like myself or an Independent like Charlie Hatchko to keep tabs on the political shenanigans of the two establishment machines.


9. Since austerity seems to be the way of the world for the foreseeable future, would you be in favor of an across the board budget cut by a fixed percentage?

9. No, I would not approve across the board cuts by fixed percentages. I would approve of cuts as a percentage of the whole budget, but I would like to have the ability to remain flexible to fund departments or services that might be deemed too vital.


10. What should become of the Valley Crest property as well as the former juvenile detention facility? Moon Lake Park?

10. Just like in investing, sometimes you have to take your losses to see another day. The Valley Crest and juvenile detention facilities should be moth-balled to prevent a Hotel Sterling type of fiasco. Then the properties should be put up for sale to the highest bidder ASAP regardless of the price received. The revenue for a projected sale of Valley Crest should never have been included in any realistic budget. I will use of all my power to ensure budgets have no pie-in -sky revenue projections that leave the taxpayers on the hook for shortfalls.


As a Libertarian I don't like the idea of the county owning a park. As an environmentalist the last thing I would want is Moon Lake Park sold off to drillers or developers. I am concerned if the park is a drain on the county coffers. I have no problems with a user (ie. admission) fee, or an increase in the pool or camping fees to bring in park revenue. I would look into partnerships with civic groups such as the Sierra Club, Boy Scouts, etc. to help with the maintenance and / or staffing of the park. Those that need to do community service could also be used to staff or maintain the park.

11. If the makeup of the county council were to be dominated by one area of the county, do you think that the funding of capital projects could become provincial in nature?

11. There is a possibility that capital projects could become provincial in nature. First off in these cash strapped times I would advocate only those projects of the utmost urgency be funded. The voter once again will have to be responsible for making sure that their vote does not favor one geographic area of the county over another. The at-large elections were one reason that I had opposed this charter. This is another reason why voter selection of the right mix of candidates is crucial.


12. If you could fund one major project by executive fiat, what would it be?

12. I wouldn't. We can't afford to spend a nickel more . Given no choice and a reasonable amount of financing, I would like to see our history preserved at the old Huber Breaker / Ashley Planes site. A viable plan would have to be developed to ensure it would never become a burden to the county.


13. What’s your favorite color (trick question)?

13. This one is easy. Gold. I am a believer in the Austrian School of economics and a constitutionalist. I believe in a gold backed currency and have put my money where my mouth is. Prospecting is one of my hobbies and I don't travel anywhere without my gold pan and sluice box.

Wanna shake things up in a county know known for wholesale corruption?

Vote for the guy who is neither a Democrat, nor a Republican.

Thanks, Tim.

I'll be following your numbers on election night. Good Luck

Later