7-31-2005 Hereabouts or: Hanging on to one's druthers


Do you remember North Korea? It's the country Sen. John Kerry and the Democrats kept asserting was more of a threat than Saddam's Iraq during the campaign of 2004. Funny, they haven't mentioned it since. They've reverted to the customary Democratic methods of dealing with threats in non-election years: appeasement, bribery, denial and blame America -- not necessarily in that order.--Mona Charen--7/29/2005

Repeat after me: Three days off in a row! Unreal! Mini-vacas such as this one never, ever seem to happen for me. And I've enjoyed it for all it was worth.

On Friday night I took in the Moscow Country Fair. Trust me, country fairs are certainly not my cup of tea. But...since Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan (i.e., The Turtles, i.e., Flo & Eddie) were scheduled to appear, we were off to Cow Tipping Township in the blink of an eye. These guys broke up arond the time the Partridge Family made it's debut, so on the way up there I got to thinking about my age showing, or some such useless gibberish. But by the time the Turtles hit the stage and the large crowd had pressed their way towards the stage, it dawned on me that I seemed to be the only concert-goer in attendance that hasn't tried Geritol.

I loved these guys smooth harmonies as a kid. And by the time I was suffering through junior high, these two were touring and recording with Frank Zappa. Small world. And even though 40 years have passed since they first made the charts, as a live act, they are still going strong. Funny as all hell to this very day. Anywho, the trip to Moscow was a rewarding one, and all of my pics of the dynamic duo look like dung. That's enough Bumpkinville for this summer.

Imagine me and you, I do...

I see that the folks at Repudiated R Us simply refuse to deal with reality. It must be that thin air up there makin' them light-headed. Or something.

From the Times Leader:

Posted on Fri, Jul. 29, 2005

Closings or not, W-B fire protection solid, experts say

By LANE FILLER lfiller@leader.net

“There is no reason for residents or business owners in Wilkes-Barre to be agitated or concerned about their level of fire protection. The protective capability of Wilkes-Barre with three stations, as you have now, would not affect the ISO rating at all.”

Dave Dasgupta ISO spokesman

WILKES-BARRE – So what does the Insurance Services Office really think about fire station closings in Wilkes-Barre?

“There is no reason for residents or business owners in Wilkes-Barre to be agitated or concerned about their level of fire protection,” said ISO spokesman Dave Dasgupta. “The protective capability of Wilkes-Barre with three stations, as you have now, would not affect the ISO rating at all.”

The Insurance Services Office rates risk for communities and the insurance industry.

In the war of the closed firehouses, the insurance rates and protective rating of the city have been a hot topic. Two fire stations, one on Conyngham Avenue and one in the Heights, have closed in the past 11 months. Residents who live near the Heights station have responded by picketing Mayor Tom Leighton and city council, seeking signatures on petitions and, at every council meeting, accusing the city of gambling with their lives and announcing that fire insurance rates in Wilkes-Barre must surely rise.

But they won’t.

In fact, Dasgupta said ISO doesn’t even take distance from a fire station into consideration unless the nearest one is more than five miles away. Even with the closing of the Heights station, the homes in that neighborhood have a station within two miles.

On a scale of 1-10, one being the best fire protection humanly possible, Wilkes-Barre rates a three. That’s “quite good,” according to Dasgupta, who said everything up to and including a rating of eight is considered to have quite good fire service.

And ISO isn’t alone in that opinion.

State Farm Insurance doesn’t use ISO’s rating for residential property, preferring instead to come up with its own risk ratings.

“Of course, there is no such thing as ‘fire insurance’ on residences,” said State Farm spokeswoman Sue Sampson. “What we’re talking about is homeowner’s insurance, and those premiums reflect all the risks properties face. Actually, 70 percent of losses from damage to homes are not fire-related in any way.”

Sampson said the quality of local fire service is certainly reflected in State Farm’s rates, but added that other than a 1.4 percent statewide increase last November, rates and ratings in Wilkes-Barre have not changed a bit.

That’s what Fire Chief Jacob Lisman has been saying for months, to no avail.

“I have been reassured again and again that with the number of men we have, with the number of apparatus we have in service and with over 600 hydrants, the insurance companies have no issue with the level of coverage we are providing,” Lisman said.

Dasgupta concurred, saying, “We look at a lot of factors, not just how many stations a city has but how many men, how many trucks and how many hydrants. We’re comfortable with all that in Wilkes-Barre.”

More surprising, perhaps, to some Heights residents, would be Dasgupta’s last assertion.

“From the ISO’s point of view, the fact that the same number of men and apparatus are still working, but are concentrated in three locations instead of five, makes them more capable of responding to serious emergencies that could threaten a significant loss of property or danger to lives.”

Alrighty then. The response times in the Heights are better...better than the national average. The ISO folks claim there is no problem with the reconfigured fire department, so there goes the anemic higher fire insurance rates argument. You'd think some folks would be leaning towards shutting their pie holes, right? Nope. For chrissake, the vaccuous bilge continues. Check the latest rubbish from Save My City, which I snatched and pasted below:

The Times Leader today has proclaimed that there is no need to fear about fire protection in the city of Wilkes-Barre, see their story. Lane Filler, Column Filler or what ever your name is, you are certainly welcome at City Hall, and by the way I hear that they just made some more Kool-Ade.

The article quotes an employee of the ISO, but it fails to mention that the last ISO audit was performed during the previous administration. Back then the city had more firefighters, stations as well as front-line and reserve apparatus, just some of the factors that are graded in an ISO audit. An ISO audit will also look at the water supply and Code Enforcement. Code Enforcement has been an issue in this city for the some time now, the city has been lacking certified building inspectors, the first one was just certified in the last two months.

The best way to settle the ISO argument is to have the city request the ISO rating to be reclassified, ISO link,

All the city has to do is to fill out the questionnaire and submit it to the ISO, then we will all know the truth.

One more tme:

“There is no reason for residents or business owners in Wilkes-Barre to be agitated or concerned about their level of fire protection. The protective capability of Wilkes-Barre with three stations, as you have now, would not affect the ISO rating at all.”
Dave Dasgupta ISO spokesman

An employee claims? Er, was it their spokesman? Let me see if I've got this claptrap right. The mayor, the newspaper reporter and the ISO spokesmen are all branded as being liars now? Anyone who doesn't see the world through the same soot-colored glasses as those spirited folks in the Heights is not telling the truth? Is that where we've arrived at?

A handful of disaffected agitators, council hopefuls, uninformed misfits and some truly well-meaning folks always tell the truth, while everyone else is not telling the truth? Thin, folks. Very f**king thin.

And what's this mularkey?

Code Enforcement has been an issue in this city for the some time now, the city has been lacking certified building inspectors, the first one was just certified in the last two months.

Oh, really? One phone call to Butch Frati at 208-4177 will quickly dispell that work of fiction, that complete non-truth, that mis-guided nonsense. It's your dime, do it.

I'll say it again, what we've got here is activism run amok.

From the e-mail inbox Hey Mark,

Hope all is well, and hope you are staying cool. When the hell did we start living on the sun?

Anyway, I was reading some of your posts at work yesterday, and I noticed one thing. I noticed that the people who are the biggest douche bag whiners, are the ones that scatter like cockroaches when this sh@t hits anything close to resembling a fan.

Here in our little "mile square city" of Hoboken we faced a similar problem with the closing of a firehouse on the west side of town.

The problem is this...we have a complete semen rag of a mayor, Dave Roberts, and just like McGroarty, Roberts has been going around bragging how he has not raised Hoboken's taxes in 7 years. Now, that might sound all nice and goddamn swell, but anyone who didn't kill their last brain cell knows that you must go with economically changing times, and raise the taxes...even if it's just a very small percentage (God knows we pay a fortune here to begin with).

So now Mayor "lets give all the money to the crack addicts and help them find a job" Roberts had no choice but to close the fire station, which left 2 stations for a town of 38,000 people. So what did the people do? Did they whine? Nope. Did they come to anyone with their hat in their hand? Nope. They started their own volunteer fire department. These guys recruited 41 Hoboken residents...everything from Wall Street traders, pizza shop owners, to the tough blue collar guys. 6 guys are there at all times, and the 2 fire trucks and the fire house were taken over by local businesses, and money is donated by the businesses and residents to keep the firehouse and trucks in good condition. Now if that isn't self reliance, then I don't know what is.

Mayor Roberts is more concerned about doing less important things like improving Frank Sinatra park, and writing out parking tickets...sounds eerily familiar, no?

Now on the flip side of things we have the lovely urban cesspool of Jersey City that borders Hoboken to the south.

Now those people have the mob mentality. One section that is turning very bad, and very crime ridden is the Greenville section of Jersey City. It's all over the news about how crime is up a billion percent since last Wednesday, and it's going up a billion more percent by Monday. These people have signs about saving the "ville" and this, that, and the other, but will they do something about it? FU@K NO!! They will bitch and complain till they all have strokes, but God forbid they actually get off their asses and do something. Just goes to show you two things:

1. The dogs with all bark, never have any bite.
2. Those who walk softly always carry a big goddamn sledgehammer, so you can crack some fu@kin' skulls when need be.

Oh, you might get a kick out of this http://www.nosubwaysearches.org/ these pansies are complaining that they are having their civil rights violated and refuse to have their bags searched before they get on a NYC subway. Now, I take the subway to and from work every single day, and several more times during the day to meet with clients. I would much rather be poked, prodded, and interrogated, then being blown to a million little pieces by some camel jockey looking to get into heaven with his 72 whores.

Maybe we should take all these civil liberties fu@ks, and throw them all on one train heading for "paradise".

Be good my friend.

-Jersey Dude

Dude, if the folks in the Heights had just stuck to their grass roots guns and had not crawled into bed with the usual, "Elect me" activist suspects, public support might, that's might, have come around to their way of thinking eventually. But, alas, they are dealing in half-truths, non-truths and have taken to torching their own properties to make trouble. Basically, the Save my Firehouse crowd has come dangerously close to morphing into this city's version of MoveOn.org. And I knew things were headed in the wrong direction when it was threatened that the mayor's home might be picketed.

If you want to prove a given mayor wrong, offer some documentation, not threats. Sadly, these folks have recieved some really bad advice along the way and they are slowly, but surely neutering their own arguments. And I really don't give a flying funk about who wants to beat me up outside the local bar. These folks have lost their way. With increasing frequency, they come off sounding vindictive and childish. Remember, after getting an answer they didn't like, one of their own suggested that a local reporter and an ISO employee are not presenting us with the truth. Let us take stock of where we're at, shall we?

The mayor lies. The reporter lies. "An employee" from ISO lies. And Markie needs a savage thrashing. Did I miss anyone? Maybe they should picket Lane Filler's humble abode.

And I love that raising taxes issue. Point blank, Tom Leighton raised our taxes. And it's about time that someone paid attention to the bottom line. Our former mayor was always very quick to point out that he never raised our taxes, but he left office with $10.4 million in unpaid debts. Leighton raised our taxes? Are you joshing me? That move was the responsible move whereas the city's long-term financial health was concerned.

And check this out. One of the comments posted at that Save My City outpost made the claim that our streets are not being swept by those contraptions with attached brushes, and that we pay taxes to have our streets swept. That's another bald-faced lie. During my work week, I leave the house early and I see those street sweepers rumbling south down Penn Avenue on most mornings. I have not seen a street sweeper on my street, but, then again, we don't need any such thing on our smallish street. We--the residents--keep our street looking clean and neat. We don't need anyone, elected or otherwise, to remind us to take pride in our neighborhood. But not everyone takes the initiative. If they did, they wouldn't be bitching all the time.

Take that abandoned car in the Saber Room lot as an example. I could have raised hell about it on the internet. But instead, I made one phone call to a police captain of ours and, lo-and-behold, the well-entrenched and battered junker is no more. The administration of this city is trying to respond to problems. Give them a hand. Well, that is, other than demanding that stacks of good money be thrown after bad.

By the way, one big atta-boy, wait...one big atta-chick goes out to our police captain.

I would have no problem at all with my bags being searched, but I think we need a bit more profiling going on here. I see no point in wasting any time feeling up grandma, or searching the contents of a junior high cheerleader's rucksack. And to those who say profiling is wrong, I offer this. If the cops are looking for a shooter described to them as being tall, white and bearded, then why in the hell would they bother stopping and searching black guys? If we're supposedly guarding against suicide bombers of Middle Eastern descent, why in the hell would we be bothering with searching an 80-year-old white woman? Why? So as to please the politically correct ninnies who, if they had their way, would get us killed in droves.

Tell me, do you arm yourself for your subway rides? Just curious.

Be good? I do try, but it never seems to work out that way. Stay in touch.


From the e-mail inbox Hi Mark,

Loved the tattoo joke. You have not heard from me lately and I thought I would write. Mark, Our stance is simple. 14 men is too low. 16 or 17 is the lowest they should go.
Their own study says so and they have nothing else that says differently. I know all about the financial hardship. But ask yourself why is it that the Fire Department is paying the price. All other department can hire new people except us. And I am not talking about the Police Department. They got lowered under McG and now they are getting some new people, great for them. I am talking about others. If we do it breaks the bank. When they finally realize that 16 or 17 is where we should be then there is enough to open East Station. We are not asking for a fire house on every block. Just enough to be safe. Their own study says that 17 is the lowest and they can even go down to 2 Fire Houses. That is to save money building expense wise, but not to lower the number of fire fighters on duty. To me it makes more sense to spread out the fire fighters that is why I believe there should be one in the Heights also. The stories of small alleys and steep roads are not false. Mark, the reason we are at 14 is to pay for the mistakes of previous administrations. I have been at every council meeting for the past years except of 1 or 2. I wish you were there to hear me because it is not reported. I have made the case against everyone of their arguments. It has been said to me to go back to 2 per engine and we can have 5 fire houses open. But they do not realize that to go back to the old way would still require 16 fire fighters to have 5 fire houses open. Ask the firefighters how much more they are able to do with that third guy. It is unbelievable. We do it better and safer with the third. Is that not the way it should be? Not to make it look like we have better fire protections but to actually have it!!! In a nutshell, We did our part, everyone knows it, but they wanted to save more money to pay for their own mistakes and we are taking the blunt of it. Everyone says we are trying to scare people by saying that the bad stuff will happen because of the way we are operating. But that is what we are there to protect against. Help us help you. Is that too much to ask for?

Tom

First off, the 11 new hires in the police department were possible because of newly created revenues. So, to claim that those new hires don't seem to "break the bank," while hiring new hose dudes seemingly would break the bank is a bit disingenuous, don't you think? Sure, he could have hired more fire fighters with some of that new revenue stream, but if we're ever going to make this city whole again, issue number one has to be a coming to grips with the perception that this city is a dangerous place. While a few in the Heights demand that 8 new fire fighters be hired immediately, the remainder of the city and our neighboring communities are clamoring for a return to the law & order days for Wilkes-Barre.

So what should have been done? Hire 6 new cops and 5 hose dudes? If we're ever going to get that defunct downtown of ours generating any serious revenues, we need cops, cops and more cops. And whether anyone wants to admit it or not, our future as a city is dependant upon that downtown generating revenues. This city needs money and a healthy, bustling downtown would go a long way towards providing those needed monies. In this respect, sorry to say, new hires in the fire department is the very last thing that we need right now. Which is not to say that we might not need more hose dudes. And I'm not poo-pooing your well-stated arguments. I'm just saying that as priorities go, enhanced police protection is at the top of the list at the moment.

I enjoyed a two-hour bikeabout on Friday. I had no grandkids in tow and I was not looking to tour the city. I just wanted to work up a serious sweat. I circled the downtown for two hours and happened upon two bike cops, a horse unit, a patrol car and not a single menacing-looking idiot. At lunchtime, the park in the middle of the Square was dominated by office workers and such eating their lunches, gabbing or perusing a local paper or two. The point is, lots of cops equals an abscence of useless idiots. And that's exactly what that downtown needs before all of the projects come to fruition. If we remodel every single inch of the downtown and nobody comes...we are screwed.

You keep using that 14 number, but the way I've come to understand it, the manpower varies anywhere from 14-17 on a shift-by-shift, or an hour-by-hour basis. I'm not looking to pick a fight, it's just that this staffing stuff has had me scratching my fat head for months on end. Sometimes I just don't get it. First I was told that we need 3 fire fighters on every engine so as to safeguard the lives of the men riding on those engines. Then, East Station closed and I was told that 2 on an engine would suffice for the purposes of keeping that dump open. So which is it? By arguing for 2, are you enhancing the fire protection in the Heights while putting your own men at an increased risk? There's a vexing inconsistency there that I find troubling. Like I said, this staffing stuff escapes me sometimes.

Although, when a structure fire does erupt, the call for a second alarm requires an automatic call in of off-duty men. This practice does concern me. Do you guys have an on-call list? For instance, are Jones, Smith and Doe are on call today? Or is the call-in of off-duty fire fighters left completely to chance? If we need three more guys to fight a fire and damn near the entire department is off at a clam bake somewhere, then what? Do we seek assistance from an outside department, or do we simply make do with what we have at the fire ground?

While the streamlined fire department has been making do with what they currently have, I can't help but to wonder what happens when we do have 14 men on-duty and two structure fires present themselves simultaneously. Then what? If one humdinger of a structure fire demands a mobilization of off-duty hose dudes, what do we do when the next idiot plugs an air conditioner into a 99-cent extension cord? Trust me, I never accused anyone in your department of trying to scare anyone. And bad stuff does happen. But I think that some of us have lost sight of the fact that mayors in the past have tried and failed to scale back our fire department to save a few bucks only to be spent elsewhere, while our current mayor has been all but forced to balance public safety versus the bottom line. Current finances being what they are, he's in a tough spot and you're in a tough spot completely due to past malfeasance.

Help us help you. Is that too much to ask for?

No, it's not too much to ask for. But I know that the city's long-term financial health depends upon us resisting the urge to spend money we don't have right now. And I never once lost sight of the fact that your union brothers and yourself made some serious contract concessions. Fact is, the fire department did more than it's share whereas trying to regain some financial stability is concerned. I didn't forget about that and it pains me to see the hose dudes at odds with the mayor they tried to help.

Honestly, I don't think attending council meetings and trying to generate public pressure on the mayor will ever amount to the desired 17 men on every shift. The only way I ever see that coming about is behind closed doors. We've got a union boss, a fire chief and a mayor that probably all want the same things. The question is: how do we make those things come about? Or more correctly posed, how will the three of you make those things come about? If bad things can happen, maybe the three of you have some unfinished business to attend to.

Still, it surprises me to learn that some city folks seem caught completely off guard by a bit of austerity that was clearly called for after McGroarty literally broke the bank. As early as 2002, some of us knew that we were in serious financial trouble, and I fail to see how that makes the current administration the bad guys.

Help us help you? I seriously doubt that I can. I think that ball rests squarely in your capable hands. Is there no middle ground from which you can all work from? We need not any further demogogic antics, useless rhetoric, or alienated citizens armed with petitions fraught with short-sightedness, or any further meandering missives. What we need is some sort of meeting of the minds.

I can't make that happen, but I'm holding out hope that someone can.


This is freaking wild. I have not seen this dude that chewed much of the same Nord End dirt as I did since high school. And yet, after all these years, I wandered into the e-mail inbox and there he was. I don't care what anyone says, I love this wonderful world of electronic pulses we call The Internet. I do. You can find anything using the internet, sans my father.

From the e-mail inbox Mark?

Searched my name and found your site. I see you are still upset about the '69 Super Bowl and take it that your life must be going well (no real problems).

Moving back to WB now (mom's old house). Life in Swoyersville was too boring so I decided to move back to the big city and have less police/fire protection for only triple the taxes. At least city hall provides more entertainment in a week than the borough building could in a year.

Tom

Yeah, the AFL still sucks! Er, sucked. You know what I mean.

Yes, I guess my life has gone well. If a completely mis-guided idiot can fall well short of growing up and end up having three great kids, three amazing grandchildren, (with a fourth rodent on the way) and a marriage spanning 26 years; then I guess I'd have no complaints at all if I dropped over dead at this very moment. Do a Google search for Joe Walsh lyrics. That's where I'm at.

Now that we're neighbors again, look me up. I'm still up for some Electric football, Stat-o-Matic football or a heated bit of AFX racing. The Cour-Vette is safely locked away in a tackle box down the basement. And I'd truly love to hear first-hand accounts of derring-do while piloting F-16s and C-130s.

Seriously, look me up. It's been a while.

Gage & Taylor at the Moscow Country Fair


From the e-mail inbox Beer is made by fermentation cause by bacteria feeding on yeast cells and then defecating. In other words, it's a nice tall glass of bacteria doo-doo.

I don't know. It doesn't taste like sh*t to me.

I snagged the following snippet from the Gort 42 blog. Believe it or not, there are quite a few local bloggers commenting on everything from national politics to the paving of E. South Street.

POPE GEORGE RINGO I said...

When Apollo Mission Astronaut Neil Armstrong first walked on the moon, he not only gave his famous "one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind" statement but followed it by several remarks, usual comments between him, the other astronauts and Mission Control. Just before he re-entered the lander, however, he made the enigmatic remark "Good luck Mr. Gorsky." Many people at NASA thought it was a casual remark concerning some rival Soviet Cosmonaut. However, upon checking, there was no Gorsky in either the Russian or American space programs. Over the years many people questioned Armstrong as to what the "Good luck Mr. Gorsky" statement meant, but Armstrong always just smiled.

On July 5, 1995 (in Tampa Bay FL) while answering questions following a speech, a reporter brought up the 26 year old question to Armstrong. This time he finally responded. Mr. Gorsky had finally died and so Neil Armstrong felt he could answer the question. When he was a kid, he was playing baseball with a friend in the backyard. His friend hit a fly ball which landed in the front of his neighbor's bedroom windows. His neighbors were Mr. & Mrs. Gorsky. As he leaned down to pick up the ball, young Armstrong heard Mrs. Gorsky shouting at Mr. Gorsky, "Oral sex! You want oral sex?! You'll get oral sex when the kid next door walks on the moon!" True story.

12:10 PM

Gort! Klattu, barada, nickto!!!

I love reading local blogs. Maybe I should link to them one of these days.

Free cheese at Price Chopper

I gotta skedaddle.

Good luck Mr. Cour.


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