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?