Opinions need not be feared nor suppressed.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

A GOP Angel in the mix


It seems that the U.S.S. Frack has hit an iceberg a la the New York Times. Get good and comfy, because this is an exhaustive, in-depth story.

Regulation Lax as Gas Wells’ Tainted Water Hits Rivers

Didn't that river sentinel dude warn us about this in advance?

The unthinkable just happened.

Yes, a candidate for elected office just came a knockin’ on my door. As I explained to my unexpected visitor, the folks out looking for hands to shake and homely babies to kiss usually skip this address. Well, as I went on to say, except for the political neophytes.

Being that I’m a registered Republican (something that came as a shock to me at the polls last May), I went and signed one of those petitions the glad-handing types are known to carry. Remember now, when signing these here things, no abbreviations, no abbreviations and no abbreviations. No sense having your signatures challenged and disqualified by one of those more seasoned candidates.

Anyway, being that my visitor (whom I consider to be a friend) and I are both registered republicans, I gladly signed his petition. Actually, my name was right at the top of the ledger…signatory #1. And being that he’s running for Mayor of Wilkes-Barre, I figure that might cause some confusion since I have staunchly supported our current mayor since first he ran for mayor back in 2003. Let’s clear that up.

I do not believe that any candidate for any elected office this side of anywhere should run unopposed. Without an opponent, there can be no serious discussion of the issues that affect us the most. Without an opponent, the incumbents give us sound bytes and platitudes and rhetoric and little else. So, I believe that Mayor Tom Leighton, if he is to win a third term, should have to stave off a spirited challenge.

So as of today, Scott Koppenhofer, the regional (interstate) director of the Guardian Angels, if officially seeking the office of Mayor of Wilkes-Barre.

Near as I can figure it, Scott and I have a four-year history that began soon after the Guardian Angels organized a chapter here in Wilkes-Barre. As a result of their intention to patrol our streets after dark, I said very publicly that they ought not approach me after dark, since a lot of what I do while out on a bikeabout looks suspicious to most observers. Basically, in my typical circumlocutory fashion, I warned them that if what they wanted was a fight, we’d fight.

Next thing I knew, Scott and I were having a Beer Summit, during which he explained that the Guardian Angels are not an in-your-face outfit. They seek no confrontations, they simply mean to act as a deterrent while on the streets sporting their colors. Needless to say, he systematically cleared up all of the misconceptions I had had at that time. In fact, he’s very well-read and he is as street-savvy as he is acutely aware of the most pressing of issues that pertain to public safety.
Personally, I was impressed that he had the stones necessary to seek out a face-to-face dialogue with the then-loudest of the Angels’ detractors when they arrived here in town.

For the sake of disclosure, he attended one of our last block parties held here on our street, at which I demonstrated how to get a city council person in an inescapable head-lock.

And there you have it…a republican challenger to the mayor.

In addition, a quick stop at the Luzerne County Bureau of Elections Web site tells us that a Nord End resident, Karen Ceppa, is carrying nominating petitions for both mayor and controller, and she is also as a card-carrying member of the GOP.

Since I’m dog-sitting for the next week, I’m heading on out there in a couple of minutes armed only with a leash. Walkabout has been declared.


Saturday, February 26, 2011


My grandmother passed away in March of 1980.

I last saw her on Christmas Eve 1979, after I trudged through the steady snowfall to deliver to her and my grandfather a freshly-made banana cream pie from the downtown Franklin’s Family Restaurant I was assigned to at that time.

As soon as the go-box containing the pie was flipped open, my grandfather audibly salivated, while she loudly reminded him of his “sugar.” Before I left them that night, he had devoured a couple of slices topped with whipped cream, while she droned on and on about how he’d have to correct his sugar levels.

And as I was leaving that snowy night, she gave me a Santa-themed music box for her then-4-month-old great-granddaughter, my daughter Peace. A music box that Peace displays during the run-up to Christmas to this very day.

When she was hospitalized that March, I was in total command of a kitchen that was under serious duress. That is, the customers seated from the lengthy waiting line were ordering faster than the patchwork of trainee short-order cooks could pump the food out. If I were to have walked away, the kitchen would have collapsed under the weight, and customers would have been wondering why they bothered to visit downtown Wilkes-Barre’s newest sit-down eatery. Needless to say, I stayed and saw that battle through to it‘s successful conclusion.

When they told me she had passed away, I was as horrified as I was guilt-ridden. But I also knew deep down that the many, many false alarms my grandfather had provided over the years had given me a false sense that she’d be alright. If I had a plug nickel for every time we made the last-second drive from Connecticut to Wilkes-Barre because it looked like “grandpop” was on his last leg, I’d now own most of what passes as valuable real estate.

I was a babbling, sobbing mess at her funeral, and I needed to be restrained at the Slovak Club immediately following her burial. I dunno. I guess it just never occurred to me that the passage of time brought with it the passage of those that meant the most to me. But the truly hard part of her passage was yet to come. What followed seems as inconceivable now as it was then.

Turned out, unbeknownst to all concerned, my grandmother was the glue that held this entire family together. And not long after she was gone, the family just kind of split into small tribes and drifted further and further away. I saw less and less of my aunts and uncles. I saw less and less of those relatives who’s relation to me escaped me, but never mattered in the least. And my 19 first cousins who were once as thick as thieves with me lost contact with me after what seemed like a fortnight or two.

These days, it takes me a second or two to recollect all of their names. These days, we say all of the right things when our meandering paths cross quite un-expectantly. These days, I suspect, we are all little more than footnotes in each others tattered scrapbooks. All of which pains me to some degree when I remember what once was.

During a bitterly-cold workday quite a few months back, the onset of borderline frostbite had me retreating to a local donut shop in search of a ready-made hand warmer…a large coffee. And when the lady behind the counter called me “honey,” I knew in an instant that she did not recognize me in the least.

So I said, “Maryann, it’s Mark. I’m Mark.” Although it took her a few, she smiled widely and seemed generally excited to see me again. After we shared the latest news and shared some niceties and all of that, we promised to “get in touch” after trading phone numbers. And with that, I headed back out into the cold and to this day, neither of us have made use of those now long-forgotten phone numbers.

One of my proudest accomplishments is the fact that my three kids are tight. Despite being reared in the same screwy household, they are three distinctly different individuals, yet three distinctly different individuals that that are practically conjoined. And my five grandkids always yearn to be with each other, if not, with their aunts, with their uncles and with both sets of their far-different grandparents.

And I’m sometimes reduced to wondering about what my grandmother’s iron-fisted influence meant to her extended family, and how her example might or might not apply to my extended family. If I suddenly drop by the wayside, will Wifey keep this family together? Or if something happens to her, will the whole thing splinter into familial nothingness with me at the supposed helm?

While I’m not sure about any of that, I’m quite certain that some of us will find out at some point. And I hope it all plays out far better than it did in the past. With all of that circumlocution having been typed, this completely needless exercise probably hinted at only two things.

1.) I still desperately miss my grandmother and what she meant to my then-family.


2.) You’ve got to be fairly aged and considering your own mortality to have written such an inward-looking, but backward-looking non-tome.

Anyway, if Liquid Nails were ever to be personified, it would surely go by the name of Rebecca “Reb” Kirwan.


A new low: bar confinement

One by one, the 30 or so people caught up in this ongoing Luzerne County corruption scandal have been sentenced to what I would call ‘slap-on-the-wrist’ sentences. Probation. Home confinement. Miniscule fines. With a former commissioner being the notable exception, a few were incarcerated for lengths of time that do not approach the length of an NFL season.

But this latest one, this latest one has me convinced that being an admitted criminal connected to the public corruption scandal really isn’t a big deal when you consider the collective slapping of wrists around here.

Among other doable things, the owner of a bar/restaurant was sentenced to home confinement and will be allowed to work? He was confined to a bar? What do they call that, bar confinement? And if I drop in said establishment with the wife, does that constitute a night out? Or a visitation? I mean, will we be searched at the door for contraband?

I know, I know. The guy is up in years and dealing with some health issues. And I realize he’s not of the violent variety or anything like that. But still. It still seems as if the movers and shakers are cut every possible break, while the hardscrabble unknowns need to be taught harsh lessons after landing in front of a judge.

Public corruption scandal?

Excuse me while I yawn.

Despite the ridiculous noise emanating from The Mines, Wilkes-Barre Mayor Tom Leighton is still seeking a third term. But we’re still waiting on firm word of any potential challengers.

According to the Times Leader, “Lisa Cope, 45, of High Street, confirmed… that she is seriously thinking about seeking the GOP nomination.”

And I’m also hearing of another woman who is considering a run for that very same GOP nomination. A woman from my neck of the Nord End woods, no less.

But what of the Democrats? Aren’t there any soon-to-be former county commissioners in need of a job come 2012?

We shall see.

Of course, Home Rule is coming to Luzerne County in January of 2012. And while I’ve heard all of the pie-in-the-sky arguments for the upcoming change, I’ve still got my fingers crossed in the most pessimistic of ways.

First of all, we’re told that the recruitment of a kick-ass, professional county manager will be the first step on the road to a streamlined and efficient county government. Yeah, an operation that is a 20-spot short of carrying a half billion in outstanding debts. That’s,…A…HALF…BILLION. A near debilitating debt load that now gobbles a hefty 17% of the operating budget.

Assuming our new county manager comes to town short of a magic wand or any magic dusts, where do we suppose they would start? Would they slash a slew of jobs while cutting expenses at a fixed rate across the board? Or, thinking more long-term, would they seek to declare bankruptcy thereby voiding all union contracts?

While I’m not proposing either of those painful approaches, I’m suggesting that things are likely going to get tougher long before they get any better. And perhaps we should advertise in the County Manager Gazette with the following ad: Are you up for a huge challenge?

Think about it, if some import from Timbuktu can come in here and a apply anything resembling a quick fix to this mess of epic proportions, his next rung on the career ladder ought to be President-for-life, Planet Earth.

Scott Spinucci has taken it upon himself to upload video of our city council meetings to Youtube.com.

While I think he deserves nothing but wholesale accolades and support for volunteering to do so, the very first installment begs a fair question or two.

I’ve seen what little became of the meetings in Scranton once the populace realized they could show up, climb on to a rickety soapbox and become a video star in their own minds. Go and take a look at the numerous posted videos from Scranton council meetings, and then ask yourself if any of that looks even remotely productive.

As you can plainly see in our first Wilkes-Barre installment, some people come just to dismay and disrupt. As a matter of fact, some people with personal axes to grind do their level best to dismay and disrupt every month.

So should we have to put up with their all-too-familiar shenanigans simply because they mistakenly think city contracts should be awarded for life? Are we going to be seeing civil and productive city council meetings, or the most recent installments of the new reality show, “Tower vs. The World?”

I’m just wondering.


Sunday, February 20, 2011

He'll still leave the light on

It seems that yet another blogger from NEPA, Tom Carten, has decided to hang up his skivvies. As in, he’s no longer going to be blogging in his underwear from the deepest recesses of his mom’s basement.

The link: Things at King’s

Stereotypes aside, I have regularly visited his site over the years because his was always a calm voice of sanity somehow emanating from the cacophonous shouting of know-it-alls such as myself.

Or as he put it…

“No rants, no politics, no snarkiness either on my part nor yours. Just a nice chat together through the eyes of one who ponders the mysteries of the universe and occasionally posts his findings here.”

Ah, sanity. Something that still escapes me to this very day.

The other thing I really looked forward to were his frequent mentions of the area of Connecticut that I called home during what now seems like a previous life. They would get that yearning, that niggling feeling that I've missed out on finishing something I started all over again.

Thing is, there are those days when I’m not sure where I grew up. I ranged over the rolling hills of the Derby/Ansonia area to the ripe old age of 12 plus darn near 10 months. And then I went and spent my teen years here in Wilkes-Barre. Even though informed sources would tell you I never did grow up, I’ve always hesitated for a nanosecond when asked about where I grew up.

“Grew up” as in playing Buck Buck in gym class, flipping Topps baseball cards at recess and ogling over Penny Robinson‘s cover photo on Tiger Beat? Or “grew up” as in sneaking 7-oz cans of Rolling Rock into high school football games via my bulky Pea coat?

Which is it? The good Markie who got good grades while cohabiting with an abusive dictator, or the bad Markie who did what he wanted and when he wanted after the revolution by divorce decree? The Markie who made mom proud? Or the Markie who made mom gray?

In retrospect, I’m not sure the relocation to Wilkes-Barre was the best move for me. Sure, I desperately wanted to live here with my grandparents and all of my many cousins. But then again, the ground doesn’t open and swallow people in Connecticut. In the Wilkes-Barre of old, people made dresses and lumps of back rock. In Connecticut, people built submarine parts and battle tanks.

Back in Derby, we bowled for duck pins. In these here parts, people were expecting me to heave one of those heavy bowling balls made for full-blown adults. In Colony Park, the dare was to swim across the pond without emerging with leaches attached to one’s body. In that Wilkes-Barre, you needed to attach a clothespin to your nose when encountering bodies of water.

Back in the day, we’d bicycle all the way up to the Sikorsky plant and hope and pray that one of the new prototypes being tested would crash. Or, at least treat us to a hard landing. Did you ever see a Huey go down and go down hard? Nah, you were probably too easily amused while riding pieces of scrap tin down the sides of the culm banks.

Here, you had to stroke and coax the rabbit ears to deliver a demolition derby to you by way of ABC’s Wide World of Sports. There, I would stand at attention and be ready to hand tools to the step-dad as he laid under the jalopies he was prepping for the local, quote/unquote, races.

In those days in CT, we’d jump on a train and arrive in New York City in what seemed like an instant. Yankee Stadium. The Bronx Zoo. The Horn and Hardart Automat, a place that always fascinated me as a struggling sprat. In those days in W-B, the trains would take you to a faraway high school football game if you were ballsy enough and stupid enough to grab a hold of a box car and hang on for dear life. The trains still run in NYC and the surrounding environs. Here, they rot alongside the exact spot where the mines once went and swallowed the river.

In Derby, the Roseland Apizza still packs ‘em in despite being practically hidden from public view. Around here, they flock all the way to Old Forge for an overrated pizza simply because the folks from Old Forge have some serious expertise in marketing. There, we had Duchess. Here, you had Stop ‘n Go burgers. Here, you had Ac-a-me. There, we had the Stop ‘n Go supermarket chain. We had Carvel and International House of Pancakes. You had the Woodlawn Dairy and Percy A. Brown & Company: Foods of Distinction.

You had gridlock, while we had traffic circles. Here they had councilmen, while we had assemblymen, or committeemen, or vickers, or converted red coats, or some such thing that escapes me now.

Did I just digress and then some? Circumlocutory, or what?

Anyway, one of the few voices of sanity here in the fast-fading NEPA blogorama will no longer be there in the electronic ether to be taken for granted. But as Tom said to me at my brother’s viewing in 2007, he’s well on his way to a better place. Here’s to better places, Tom.

While I’m out and about on one of my mountain bikes as I always am, I’ll still expect to see the light on up there on the hill at Franklin Street.


Saturday, February 19, 2011

Not guilty! sez the guilty

After yesterday’s local judicial developments, I just had to Google Sandy Fonzo‘s name, uh, Sandy Fonzo. Needless to say, she has gone viral in a way probably not previously seen in these here demented parts.

I was listening to WILK when they played the audio of Fonzo ripping into our thoroughly disgraced judge. Upon first play, it was kind of hard to follow. But after repeated plays, it became a little easier to understand.

I found myself appalled by that judge’s arrogant defiance, but even more so to hear from someone who is so utterly devastated. To all of those who participated in the conspiracy of silence that allowed our youth to be so blatantly and so easily victimized, you too should take Fonzo’s shrieking fury to heart.

Yeah! That’ll happen.

With so many angered and grieving parents having previously aired their vitriolic complaints with the ‘kids for cash” judge, I was surprised by the apparent lack of concern for the judge’s safety. The lady drove all the way from Kingston at the next to last minute and still managed to poke our defiant judge on the sidewalk? If she had had a loaded handgun in her purse, there would be no forthcoming appeals.

With guilty verdicts having been rendered on 12 of 39 counts, I see no need for no celebrating, something I was hearing coming from callers to WILK yesterday afternoon. Our current form of county government amounts to one expansive gray area to be exploited all over again by those who still dare to exploit it.

And the oversight of our judicial system has all the hallmarks of an inattentive 6-year-old babysitting a mischievous toddler. Yeah, we’ve reached the first waypoint. But there are many more that remain before we can say we’ve captured the flag of corruption.

In addition, we are still devoid of capable leadership at the county level. Rather than present a balanced 2011 budget, our commissioners gave us a useless document built upon wishful thinking. And now that the Valley Crest sale has predictably fallen through, we have a roughly $4.5 million budgetary shortfall. Same as it ever was.

With numerous states quietly considering bankruptcy as forward-thinking leadership, our county leaders are leading us down that same bumpy path to insolvency. Austerity? Layoffs? Furloughs? Concessions from unions? Oh, no. Too painful, and too politically dangerous to muck about with the political base--the 2,000 or so county employees. Let’s just stick with the status quo and hope that money trees suddenly sprout all along the dike system we cannot afford to mow without the levying of special taxes.

And don’t think that the arrival of Home Rule in January 2012 will be the panacea--the quick fix--we needed all along. I am not in the least impressed with the work of the folks implementing it. And with a few exceptions, neither am I impressed by the growing list of county council hopefuls. If anything, 2012 promises to be a year of transition during this protracted period of economic turmoil.

That is, it could get a lot worse before it gets any better, something that needs to be said about the economic malaise that is the United States as it slides into further economic tumult and disorder under a president that blah, blah, blahs about budgetary restraint while fervently supporting the further looting of private sector America by uncaring public sector unions.

Long story short, you may want to start stockpiling food, water and ammo. And if you have the financial wherewithal, you can get out ahead of things by taking your family and retreating to a remote compound reminiscent of the forward-deployed special forces camps of the Vietnam war.
Pessimistic? Me?

Nah, I just took receipt of my rebuilt Fender Strat, so I’ll be making with the Mick Ronson routine while the world around me goes up in smoke. And when society breaks down and chaos fills the streets, I'll be the guy looting the local music store in search of a vintage Les Paul. Sunburst finish, I hope.


Sunday, February 13, 2011

The local buzz: November 23, 2006

For those of you that have been lurking around on the local Internet for probably far too long, you know that where we are now versus where we started at are as diametrically opposed as are sound leadership and the stumbling of our Bumbler-in-Chief.

During the infancy years, sites posted by locals included a site about the "Strippens'," another site put up by a Wilkes-Barre resident who collected exotic motorcycles, and a site that explored our unique linguistic offerings. Ac-a-me, comes to mind. None of which predated my original offering, Wilkes-Barre Online, which first appeared on December 2, 2000.

Anyway, back on November 23, 2006, I posted a video on YouTube.com titled "All the Madmen (of Northeastern PA)." Actually, it was a slide show that was a capturing of a moment in time, a snapshot of the local blogging scene at that time, if you will.

What I noticed today after signing into YouTube for the first time in a dog's age is that in less than five years, the local blogging scene as we once knew it has radically changed. Actually, it's long, long gone.

Your assignment: Give the video a whirl, grab a pen and a scrap of paper, and while watching this ad-hoc muckity-muck of a thing, make a notation for every Web site that still exists. Trust me, you won't expend much ink.


The verdict is in

Be forewarned, I am not a lawyer, and I am not about to start playing one on the Internet.

Like most everyone else in these culm-covered parts, I have been intently following the trial of former Luzerne County judge Mark Ciavarella. Be it newspaper, the Internet or talk radio; I’ve been tapping into it. The two local newspapers have been updating their sites at breakneck speeds. Kudos to those folks. The local bloggers, for the most part, have been regurgitating what the newspapers have had to offer. And WILK radio has been all over this fast-developing story. Literally, all over it.

Much unlike most people, I believe there is a simple solution to most of what are portrayed as the most vexing of issues. Most people seem to cloud issues by making them much more complicated than they need to be. And more often than not, completely by design.

Simplicity case in point: ‘Should we dam the Susquehanna River at Wilkes-Barre?’, which was submitted to me by Kayak Dude circa early 2001.

Ah, let’s see here, should we place a rubber condom of a dam in front of untreated raw sewage? “Ding,” goes the Simplicity Alarm, for which there is no patent. Nope, I reckon that recreating in and on raw sewage is something that appeals only to long-entrenched congressmen. Or, at least, one in particular.

But wait, they argued…it’s not that simple. Sure it is, sez me. It sure as all tarnation is simple, dammit. It’s as simple as envisioning yourself playing in a man-made 5-acre toilet, courtesy of Fedrule funding.

Case in point: You claim to have seen an unidentified flying object. You know, like in The Day The Earth Stood Still.

Okay, let's examine this. Dude, stop huffing the balsa sealer when no one is looking.

It's simple. And I like simplicity.

Yesterday I spoke at length with someone who was firmly convinced that our former judge is going to walk, free as a bird. Mistrial…hung jury, he explored every conceivable angle. I’d say he is to pessimism what Baroke Oblahblah is to blowing environmentally friendly smoke up our discharge tubes, but we’re all entitled to our opinions, unless, of course, if we happen to lean noticeably to the right.

Since I’m not an overpriced attorney, I need no convoluted legalese, no 16-year degree, any party of the second part contrivances, any fractional divisions thereof divided by the width of a circle or any of those garish-looking ties. And so, my judgment of guilt, based completely on the irrefutable laws of simplicity, is as follows…

The stuffing of enormous sums of cash into FedEx boxes, brown paper bags, tin cans, satchels, burlap potato sacks or into a metal Flintstone’s lunch box sans the fragile thermos by elected officials is a sure sign of undeniable, irrefutable guilt.

Therefore, I, Judge Markie F. Simpleton-Cour, sentence the defendant to be incarcerated for a term of no less than 20 years in the interactive, 120 decibel-powered Captain & Tennille Hall of Fame facility.

I mean, really? Stuffing cash into paper bags and the like?

Who do these people think they are, members of the Wilkes-Barre Area School Board?


A quorum of three newbies

I once took a walk throughout the entirety of Nord End, with my sole purpose being to compile a list of things I would change if I could do so with impunity. With extreme prejudice. As if I were the undisputed dictator in these here parts. At the conclusion of said walkabout, my list was kind of threadbare.

We had us an aging railroad bridge that needed a major overhaul. We had a few storm sewers that had collapsed into the asphalt. A missing street sign or two. Some curbing that needed to be replaced. Stuff like that.

In addition to the publicly-owned infrastructure, I spied the privately held properties that, I, as all-knowing king, would immediately strike from the landscape. Properties that just screamed out…Reverse-gentrification!

There were a couple of dozen properties that made my list. Code violation issues. A couple of suspected and/or known drug houses. Properties in stages of serious disrepair a la absentee owners. Thing is, if I were the king, I could make them all go away inside of a week or so while armed only with a couple of backhoes and a dozen or so city workers. Or a few gallons of kerosene.

Thinking more like a city council person (gender neutral…isn’t that wonderful?) pandering to ill-informed voters, I figured my district should have it’s own firehouse, plus it’s own contingent of police officers. A dozen or so ought to do. A community center. A free library tucked into the side of the free clinic. Candy-lined playgrounds. Oh, and a neighborhood S.W.A.T. team on 24/7 standby. And plow trucks prepositioned on every corner, a street sweeper on every block, right next to the leaf collecting trucks, the sewer trucks and the paving crew that paves 365 days a year without breaks for lunch.

Long story short (and with finances in shorter and shorter supply) I figure the Nord End is not lacking for too, too much, save for perhaps a slightly bolstered police presence. All of which leads me to this upcoming primary election by which all five city council seats will be in play.

With three of our five members of council pursuing other endeavors, we’ve suddenly got a plethora of political neophytes tossing their hats into the ring. And without exception, they are listing our “neighborhoods” as one of their top priorities. The unstated assertion being that our current mayor has devoted too much of his attention to the surging downtown at the expense of our neighborhoods.

While espousing the intricacies of the broken window theory is wonderful and all, I need more than that. With a quorum of three newcomers coming to a five member legislative body, I want these candidates exposed to more far-ranging questions on a wide list of issues, primarily financing issues.

Liquid fuel taxes…paving in low to moderate income neighborhoods…tax anticipation notes…bond ratings…tax-incremental financing…Keystone Opportunity Zones…the outstanding debt to operating budget ratio…crucial things such as those. The country is broke, the state is broke, and Wilkes-Barre is just getting by. And we need to elect people to council who demonstrate a clear understanding of what seems like minutia to most.

Up here in the Nord End, District E, no one has formally announced a challenge to Mike Merritt, our one-term incumbent councilman. (Although, a past hopeful, Virgil Argenta, has pulled his election yard signs out of the mothballs.) But I have to tell you, if you come a bangin' on my door looking to glad-hand me until my four eyes glaze over, you had better bring with you far more than the oft-repeated “neighborhoods” spiel.

The way I see it, an educated voter such as myself deserves educated candidates. And as of this point, I figure I could tutor most of the city council hopefuls in the ways of effectively operating a third class city in Pennsylvania.

Say…50 bucks an hour?


Saturday, February 12, 2011


Hello everyone,

Attached is a press release announcing Vito DeLuca's event to officially launch his campaign on Saturday the 19th. I have included the text below as well.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me.

All the best,
Dan Salvaterra


Attorney Vito DeLuca to Hold Official Campaign Announcement Event

WYOMING (Feb. 10, 2011) - Attorney Vito DeLuca will host an event to formally announce and officially launch his campaign for Judge of the Court of Common Pleas at Alden Manor on Saturday, Feb. 19, 2011. The announcement and petition signing will begin at 10:00 a.m.

The event is open to the public free of charge and refreshments will be served to all those attending. Alden Manner is located at 119 E Kirmar Avenue (Middle Road) in Nanticoke between Old Mountain Road and Lee Mine Avenue.

To learn more about Attorney Vito DeLuca’s candidacy for Luzerne County Judge please visit his website at www.VitoDeLuca.com.

About Vito DeLuca:

Vito DeLuca is a Kingston attorney and Luzerne County’s Chief Solicitor. Attorney DeLuca has been in private practice since 1993, concentrating on the areas of municipal law and criminal defense and he is certified by the National Board of Trial Advocacy as a Criminal Trial Specialist. He has also served as a Law Clerk to former Court of Common Pleas Judge and current Pennsylvania Superior Court President Judge Cory Stevens and retired Court of Common Pleas Judge Gifford Cappellini. Attorney DeLuca is a husband, father, and a native of Luzerne County. As judge he intends to work with the judiciary to restore integrity, fairness and openness in the Luzerne County Courts.

For more information on this press release, please contact Lynette Villano at 570-654-6567, or Dan Salvaterra at 570-822-4300.


Editor's note: Markie has been very busy this week, and not the least bit interested in writing. He's been working too much and following the big corruption scandal trial. And, yes, as a result, he's even been listening to WILK in the very late afternoon/early evening, a temporary but embarrassing development.


Monday, February 7, 2011

Barletta News

For Immediate Release Contact: Megan Sweeney
February 7, 2011
(202) 225-6511

Congressman Barletta’s Staff To Hold Office Hours In Monroe County

WASHINGTON – Staff from the office of 11th District Congressman Lou Barletta will be conducting office hours at the Mount Pocono office of 176th District State Representative Mario Scavello every Tuesday beginning February 8th from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. The office is located at 31 Pocono Boulevard, Mount Pocono, PA 18344.

Monroe County Office Hours

WHAT: 11th Congressional District Office Hours

WHEN: Tuesdays beginning February 8th
10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.

WHERE: Office of State Representative Mario Scavello
31 Mount Pocono Boulevard
Mount Pocono, PA 18344


Congressman Barletta’s Staff To Hold Office Hours In Lackawanna County

WASHINGTON – Staff from the office of 11th District Congressman Lou Barletta will be conducting office hours at Lackawanna College on Wednesdays from February 9th through February 23rd from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. The Admissions Conference Room is located at 501 Vine Street, Scranton, PA 18509.

Lackawanna County Office Hours

WHAT: 11th Congressional District Office Hours

WHEN: Wednesday, February 9th from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.
Wednesday, February 16th from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.
Wednesday, February 23rd from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.

WHERE: Lackawanna College
Admissions Conference Room
501 Vine Street
2nd Floor
Scranton, PA 18509


Why do we have to share our congressman with Monroe and Lackawanna County anyway? Can't they go and get one of their own?


Simpson For Council

This is a first for me. And thinking about it, it's probably a first on the local Internet, too.

A press release from a candidate for Luzerne County Council...

Contact: Bruce J. Simpson
February 7, 2011
Phone Number: 570-824-5451

Bruce J. Simpson Announces Tax Plan to meet Luzerne County deficit

In recognition that property taxes are already too high on the people of Luzerne County and are placing a burden on many seniors who are trying to hold onto their homes, Simpson has announced that if elected to the County Council, he will not vote to raise property taxes.

"I realize in order to eliminate the nearly half billion dollar deficit that Luzerne County is anguishing under, new revenue will have to be raised. It is my intent to introduce whatever legislation is required to try and do this so that the tax burden is spread evenly across the board and where possible, on non-residents of the County. It isn't equitable to tax only home owners, or only those who reside in apartments to battle the deficit. New thinking is required to seriously solve this problem," Simpson said.

"If elected, I intend to propose a raise in the hotel occupancy tax by one to two percent on the 3200 hotel rooms within Luzerne County. This will result in only a one or two dollar per night increase to those utilizing hotel rooms, and raise the county tax rate from 5% to 6% which would match the state rate of tax. I would also look into proposing a new entertainment tax that will affect the Mohegan Sun casino which was supposed to reduce property taxes for many in the county. I've seen no such decrease. I would also investigate levying a new tax of .25 for every movie ticket sold in the county, and an additional one dollar tax on every live event entertainment ticket sold at any Luzerne venue.

Any new taxes of this nature would be classified as "restricted revenue streams," so that the only permitted use for these new taxes would be to apply them directly to the deficit and nowhere else. I would also propose a "sunset" provision on these additional taxes that would make them expire and revert to the previous tax rate once the deficit reaches zero.

"I realize that these taxes might be controversial, but the Luzerne County Government must make concrete efforts to reduce the debt that is choking off growth in the county as well as taking badly needed revenue away from productive projects and services and instead going towards interest payments on the debt. We all have to face it: this debt isn't going away by itself."

Simpson said that if elected, he would urge the new council to examine all sources of revenue and examine how they are being used to the benefit of the county and make changes where necessary.

"The days when taxes were raised without a plan and with no concern for who they effected must end. Creative use of available new sources of income must be sought out and used so that taxes are fair to everyone and the county can avoid bankruptcy."

And the campaign web site: Bruce J. Simpson For Luzerne County Council


Sunday, February 6, 2011

Leighton announcement

Wilkes-Barre Mayor Tom Leighton will be making an announcement this coming Thursday at the Ramada Inn at 5:15 pm. If the schedule allows, I'll see you there.

Correction...Wednesday, February 9, at 5:15 pm.

Maybe it's about the new splash park at Coal Street. Then again, maybe not.


Thursday, February 3, 2011

Ionization or Photolelectric?

After reading the following story in today’s Citizens’ Voice--Fire chief: Home did not have smoke alarms--it occurred to me that we read about these sorts of warnings each and every year.
An excerpt: The Kingston home where three people died Monday in a fast-moving fire did not have smoke detectors, Kingston fire Chief Frank Guido said Wednesday.

With the tragedy still fresh in the public's mind, Guido reminded residents they need smoke detectors - and they can get them for free.

The Kingston Fire Department has a collection of 100 smoke detectors available for free to residents of Kingston and Forty Fort, while other departments conduct similar handouts, the chief said.

After not much thought, I realized that the two smoke detectors we have in this house were installed by members of the Wilkes-Barre Fire Department in 2001, maybe 2002. Being that technology advances so rapidly, making it difficult to keep abreast of, I figured some research was called for.

This October 29, 2008 story--Don’t Change Your Batteries - Change Your Smoke Detector, Too--confirmed my suspicions, that perhaps my smoke detectors are woefully dated and inadequate.

It is estimated that up to 80-90% of the smoke detectors installed in private residences are of the ionization variety. Not only has the International Association of Firefighters (I.A.F.F.) officially called for the ionization units to be replaced by the newer photoelectric units, Boston Fire Chief Jay Fleming has been calling for the effective ban of ionization units since the 1990's.

Have you ever disabled your smoke alarm because you were cooking, smoking, showering or burning a scented candle? If so, you disabled an ionization detector because of “nuisance tripping.”

But, and this is a big but, ionization units react quicker to open-flame fires, while photoelectric versions react quicker to slow smoldering fires that have yet to flash-over into a fire. For more on that, peruse this next paragraph…

“On average, ionization units respond about 30 seconds faster to an open-flame fire than photoelectric type alarms. However, in a smoldering fire, ionization units respond on average 30 to 60 minutes slower than a photoelectric unit. In some cases, they may not respond at all. Most residential fire fatalities occur at night and are result of smoke inhalation. The flash-over point in a fire is basically the point where the fire goes critical. Twenty to thirty years ago, the flash-over point in a fire occurred in as little as 12-14 minutes. Due primarily to the increased use of synthetic and engineered materials, flash-over now often occurs in as little as 2-4 minutes. This leaves the occupants significantly less time to safely exit their home in a fire.”--California Real Estate Inspection Association
That got to me thinking that perhaps the best set-up is to have one of each; an ionization alarm as well as a photoelectric version. And it should be noted that you can also install units that combine both technologies.

So, rather than Google the thing to death, I figured I’d seek out the advice of a professional firefighter. As a result, Wilkes-Barre Fire Chief Jay Delaney agreed to field and respond to my questions earlier today.

He said that while it’s good to understand the differing technologies, it’s crucial that people have “working” smoke detectors in their homes. And he couldn’t reiterate that “working” part enough. He said we should all have smoke detectors, they should be dusted and have the batteries checked regularly, if not monthly.

He went on to say that having smoke detectors that are not regularly maintained may be doing little more than providing you with “a false sense of security.” He also mentioned it is estimated that only 40% of the smoke detectors installed in homes actually work.

According to him, the City of Wilkes-Barre has provided residents with 400 or so detectors (I forget the timeframe) absolutely free. And many of them were installed by the city’s own firefighters. If you need new units, supplies are dwindling. His overriding point was, with the City offering free smoke detectors on a first-come, first-serve basis, there’s really no excuse for not having at least one. They currently have Kidde ionization detectors on hand that include batteries.

Since both the ionization and photoelectric units seem to have their strengths and weaknesses depending on the density of the smoke, I asked if I should install one of each. “Absolutely,” was the quick response.

I do thank him for his time, but I feel I’d be doing him as well as you a disservice if I didn’t take his lead and reiterate all over again, it’s crucial that people have “working” smoke detectors in their homes.

You’ve all gotten your new 2011 City calendars, so why not pencil in some regular maintenance. Smoke detectors provide quicker detection, faster responses from emergency responders, less loss of property and they flat-out save lives.

Get to it.


Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Dead wrong

This one is a bit disturbing.

The Real ‘CSI’: How America’s Patchwork System of Death Investigations Puts the Living at Risk

Watch Frontline's documentary [1] produced in conjunction with this story. And listen to NPR's All Things Considered [2] for more on this story.

In detective novels and television crime dramas like "CSI," the nation's morgues are staffed by highly trained medical professionals equipped with the most sophisticated tools of 21st-century science. Operating at the nexus of medicine and criminal justice, these death detectives thoroughly investigate each and every suspicious fatality.

The reality, though, is far different. In a joint reporting effort, ProPublica, PBS "Frontline" and NPR spent a year looking at the nation's 2,300 coroner and medical examiner offices and found a deeply dysfunctional system that quite literally buries its mistakes.

Blunders by doctors in America's morgues have put innocent people in prison cells, allowed the guilty to go free, and left some cases so muddled that prosecutors could do nothing.

Remind me here, who is the current Luzerne County Coroner?

Far be it from me to expect less than services of extreme distinction from my soon-to-be replaced corrupt county government.


The Great Genesee Storm of '11

I just chopped my way through three quarters of a ton of ice. No, not shoveled. Chopped. The palm of my right hand feels like it’s been tenderized by a fallen anvil.

The layer of ice on the sidewalks was damn near an inch thick and was adhered to that concrete as if it was part of it since the day it was poured.

Mind you, I’m not whining. I’m simply stating facts. I mean, I don’t want to come off as whining about the weather. No need being taken for one of those left-leaning whine-o-sexuals.

Speaking of pouring, I stayed up all night playing Civilizations VI while listening to the police scanner. And that had to be the single most boring scanner event I have ever partaken of. Save for a few medic calls and the back-and-forth banter of the plow drivers, it was one threadbare night. So I’m left to believe that the weather keeps the crime rate artificially low in most of northern Canada as well as Alaska. And probably both of the Falkland Islands. I guess.

I was out of the modest adobe early Tuesday morning as I made my way to Junedale. For those of you that rarely leave the valley, Junedale is an aged coal patch of a place that sits between Beaver Meadows and Tresckow. You know, down south of Hazleton. In lower Luzerne County. Oh, buy a map already, will you? Or one of those newfangled Tom Toms, if you’re really that completely lame. Tom Tom for the Puss Puss.

Anyway, down that away, the roads were snow covered and the sleet was coming down so hard that my windshield wipers kept freezing up. And when it got to the point where I was counter-steering the counter-steering, practically zigzagging my way, I decided to break off the route and make it back to Wilkes-Barre while I still could. That is, one jackknifed rig on 309 and one jackknifed rig on I-81 and Markie is reduced to fending off the lot lizards while the sleet continues to pile. Not!

Now, for those of you who failed your random drug tests and lost your city jobs, the roads in Wilkes-Barre were in far better shape than anywhere else I spied with four eyes yesterday morning. So there’s really no need to call WILK this afternoon and demand that Mayor Tom Leighton be beheaded immediately after his impeachment.

Once I got back here to the city, I realized that I was woefully short on emergency supplies and whatnot. So, going into survivalist mode, I made my way to Corba’s Beverage and stocked up. Let’s see: secondary source of heat? Check. Ammo? Check. Flashlight? Come on, I am the frickin’ termite guy, for Allah‘s sake. Alcohol? Double, triple, er, quadruple check. And as you can see, and despite the severe angst it causes you, I did survive the Great Genesee Storm of ‘11.

And to the person who sent the tough-talking email my way, please, spare me. I made a promise to Wifey many moons ago, and I ain’t beat the tar out of anybody since. Well, not that she knows of.

Trust me, Gort is a big boy and he doesn’t need anonymous defenders emerging from the electronic pond scum. And I reserve the right to type whatever may be necessary to finally shock him out of his self-imposed premature retirement.

Besides, I meant boob in a playful way.

Gort is a goober.

How's that? Better?


No 'Crossing Over' in Wilkes-Barre

Should we open a work-release facility on the playground of Dan Flood Elementary school? No? Okay, then how about this one...

W-B group will meet with facility principals

WILKES-BARRE – Crossing Over has been described as a “good neighbor” by some, but members of the Downtown Residents Association remain concerned about a proposed change in the neighborhood.

Jim Casey and his sons, James and Shane, operate Crossing Over, a transitional care facility for homeless men on South Main Street. The Caseys plan to sell 80 percent of their interest in the business to Terry Davis, owner/operator of Keystone Correctional Services in Dauphin County.
The deal hinges on a zoning approval from the city to allow expansion of the facility from 50 clients to 130.

Davis plans to renovate the building and convert it into a secure work release facility that would help convicted criminals transition back into the community.

This one is easy.

130 “convicted criminals” residing on South Main Street. 130 bored guys eyeballing the female students of Wilkes University while making their way to class and such. 130 potential crimes in the making.

And, on Main Street, no less.

Jim Casey and his sons, James and Shane, not to mention, Mr. Davis, ought not saddle us with their lowbrow, for-profit schemes that will not benefit the area involved in any conceivable manner, nor will it benefit the city at large. What we have here is a grouping of imaginative but unproductive profiteers who care not for the citizenry around them. All that they really care about is making a profit at our expense.

130? Jeez, why not 250, say, 500 “convicted criminals” residing on Main Street? Think big. Buy another shuttered building and import 1,000 “convicted criminals” to our downtown. The soup kitchen will feed them. The CEO, St. Stephens and the Food Bank will fulfill their most basic of needs. Begging will provide a few beverages of the 40-once alcoholic variety when no one is looking.

All that we’ll need to do is to raise the $52 operational privilege tax to $104 and then hire, train and outfit another platoon of police officers.

If I’m on the zoning board, this one is a NO brainer.

Say no to Crossing Over in downtown Wilkes-Barre.

Sez me.


Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Flashback: October 6, 2005

Does anybody remember this boob?

From the e-mail inbox:

Hi Markie,

I'm a fellow Nord Ender, Coughlin 197X. I'm a local blogger and I think you may have seen my site. I did an around the neighborhood post and I hope you will check it out:


You are the blogfather and I always enjoy your posts. I don't always agree with you but I want to thank you for bringing problems to attention.


Yeah, man. I visit your site. I like it. It's well done. Actually, I absolutely love reading what the locals think about the state of the world. As near as I can tell, there aren't that many bloggers in this valley of ours. I went and checked your post and as it turns out, I've visited every one of those sites at one time or another. I think they all try to convey what they think to be the truth, and not a one of them is offensive in any way unless you're way too far to the right, or off the scale on the left side of things.

The only one I find to be hypocritical is put forth by a blogger who feels free to type away, while seeing to it that an earlier version of my site was deleted by the host due to said blogger's complaints. Sorry, but this free speech stuff has to apply to everyone no matter how stupid they may wish to sound. And if I sound stupid, feel free to tell me so. What the hell, everyone else does.

I was talking to a local celebrity the other day and she said I seem to thrive off of people trying to bust my jewels. She got that right. As Tommy used to always say to those in need of a beating: "If ya wanna fight, we'll f>ckin' fight!!!" Fact is, I do like to mix it up in these electronic forums of ours. But me reminded, I'm not nearly as acerbic in person as I come off as being on the internet.

The "blogfather?" That's a freakin' new one. Somebody once called me the "Rush Limbaugh of Wilkes-Barre," which really isn't the case. Yet another called me the "Matt Drudge of Wilkes-Barre," which, while Tom McGroarty was the mayor, was probably completely accurate. But, the "blogfather?" I like that.

Anyways, y'all should check out Gort 42. Add it to your faves and get a free Sony Playstation III for a limited time only.

Editor's (my) note: That's exactly as it appeared on 10-6-2005.


Barletta Town Hall Meeting

Congressman Barletta Announces Town Hall Meeting in Wilkes-Barre

WASHINGTON – On Thursday, February 3rd at 7:00 p.m., 11th Congressional District Representative Lou Barletta will be holding a town hall meeting at the Wilkes-Barre Township Fire Hall, 152 Watson Street in Wilkes-Barre.

“I have long stated my commitment to holding regular town hall meetings in the 11th Congressional District,” Barletta said. “I look forward to hearing the thoughts and concerns of my neighbors at Thursday’s town hall meeting so that I can ensure that their voices are heard in Washington.”

The event, which begins at 7:00 p.m., will be open to the public.


WHAT: Town Hall Meeting with Congressman Lou Barletta
WHEN: Thursday, February 3rd , 2011 at 7:00 p.m.
WHERE: Wilkes-Barre Township Fire Hall

152 Watson Street
Wilkes-Barre, PA 18702


A few minutes ago, I got one of those robo-calls about this. And then seemingly seconds later, I received the press release via email.

Is this a call to action to all of the "nuts with cameras" throughout NEPA?


*Watson Street? Actually, I think that's in Wilkes-Barre Township, home of Arena No!

Barletta on Egypt

Congressman Barletta Addresses Current Situation In Egypt

Jan 31, 2011 Issues: Energy

WASHINGTON – 11th Congressional District Representative Lou Barletta released the following statement regarding the recent situation in Egypt.

“Like so many in the 11th Congressional District, I have been closely following the ongoing events taking place in Egypt,” Barletta said. “I continue to hope for peace in the region, and though the ongoing crisis remains fluid, the recent events in Egypt and their potential repercussions in the region should also serve as a reminder of the urgent need for our country to gain its energy independence.

“Our country must commit itself to developing alternative fuel sources such as those that can be produced by turning coal and natural gas into liquid fuel. The increased focus on turning coal and natural gas to liquid fuel will reduce our dependence on foreign oil and provide our economy with the freedom to grow and create jobs.

“We simply cannot afford to remain dependent on overseas political situations when it comes to liquid energy in this country. It is time to refocus our efforts on promoting innovations that will expand our liquid energy options, and I look forward to getting to work bringing energy independence to this country



A couple of useful links you might want to stash...

The City of Wilkes-Barre on Facebook

That one is kind of, uh, I dunno... effeminate? Face it, social networking by, ahem, supposed adults, is lame no matter which way it's misapplied and/or misspelled.

Although, they did post a press release on the storm preparations.

Congressman Lou Barletta’s 11th District site

Yepper, you can contact your new congressman by way of email.