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Saturday, February 26, 2011

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.


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