9-6-2005 RSVP


Since a politician never believes what he says, he is quite surprised to be taken at his word.--Charles De Gaulle

I recieved the following e-mail with RSVP in the subject line. Francais, non? Please reply? Why not? Let's have at it.

From the e-mail inbox Dear Mark: Having just read your comments, regarding my editorial in the Citizens Voice, I must say that I had thought better of you, and had held your W-B On Line to a higher standard than I now do. "Rotting Firehouse"? presiding over "a floundering City for twenty years"? "We are not powerless"? To begin with, this "rotting firehouse" need not rot. It had a leaky roof, that compromised the integrity of the walls and electrical cicuitry contained therein. And it was closed, last October, "temporarily", according to the Mayor. "Temporarily", according to my dictionary, means: "not permanent", and "for a short period of time". A year later is not "temporary".But, the question I have asked a dozen times at City Council is- why let it continue to rot, or get worse. If you had a leaky roof on your home, would you not patch it so the rain/snow/ice didn't cause even greater damage- to the point where it was irreperable? Electricians, carpenters, roofers, have all voluteered their time to repair the original damage (as in last October), if the City would provide them the material. They have never been taken up on their offer. Even if it is never re-opened, should someone want to eventually buy it- doesn't it's value go down every day it's exposed to the elements? As to my usage of the U. S. Constitution, you might look at the oath of office we, all elected servants, take where it says we will uphold the Constitution...including the portion that says we will not infringe on the right of the people to petition the government. It doesn't say anything about being charged for challenging or questioning our percieved infringement. Matter of fact, the Carey family has been paying the salary of the City Attorney's (and the rest of us in office) through their taxes for the last 30 or more years...in other words, they've already paid the attorneys once- should they be forced to double pay them? And your inference (see "powerless") that "the people" can throw us out every election. Thats four years between elections to throw out someone, ie: See the pervious administration. And a lot of damage can be done in those four years...damage "the people" have to wait to try and change. And that, incidentally, is what "Initiative and Referendum" is all about. It gives "the people" the right to challenge decisions immediately. And its already the law in 24 states and the District of Columbia. As to what I've been doing since first elected to City Council, I will hold my record up to any and all local politicians, and "brag" (if you will) that I wrote the law that is chasing the slum-lords out of our beautiful City (although it took me seven years to get it passed), and it has been copied- word for word- by 36 other Pennsylvania Cities; and wrote the "Anti-Loitering" law that has been upheld by the Courts to chase of gangs and troublemakers of our streets; and secured $1.6 Million in grants for City developement; and helped secure a $150 thousand grant for the City to buy the special fire engine designed for use in the small alleys and lanes bigger apparatus can't get through; and am trying (for three years) to get tattoo parlors licensed and inspected by our Health Department (they aren't now), after a 13 years old girl was sexually assaulted in one of them, and another was proclaimed "filthy" by inspectors; and am waiting (for over a year) to get a law passed, based on "Megan's Law", to tell neighborhoods when people convicted of sellling drugs move into their area; and trying to get the City to buy a "drug-sniffing dog" to check incoming interstate buses (which the bus line owner has endorsed), as state and federal police do at airports and terminals; etc., etc. Now, Mark, thats part of my record. Check the record of any other elected official, and print their's. As to people not knowing what they were signing, when asked to sign the IR& petition...the language was clearly printed at the top of the petition what it was all about- the "first step" towards re-opening the so-called "Heights Fire House #4", by allowing "the people" the right to petition government for it's re-opening. You call it "prattle", I call it their right! I have supported this administation when I though it was right, just as I did previous administartions, but when I think they are wrong- then I'll let my opinion known...loud and clear. 23+ years of working as a journalist out of the U. S. Congress and the White House taught me how government "should" work, but often doesn't. Thats the knowledge, and experience, I bring to City Council. One last thing, doesn't it intrigue you to notice that the Mayor answered my column in one paper, with his in another...on the same day? Almost as if he had seen a copy of what I had written before it was published?
Hmmm...coincidence?

Just in case you couldn't quite nail it down, the foregoing e-mail came to me direct from a veteran city councilman.


What luck for rulers that men do not think.--Adolf Hitler

Here we go!

Having just read your comments, regarding my editorial in the Citizens Voice, I must say that I had thought better of you, and had held your W-B On Line to a higher standard than I now do. "Rotting Firehouse"? presiding over "a floundering City for twenty years"? "We are not powerless"? To begin with, this "rotting firehouse" need not rot. It had a leaky roof, that compromised the integrity of the walls and electrical cicuitry contained therein. And it was closed, last October, "temporarily", according to the Mayor. "Temporarily", according to my dictionary, means: "not permanent", and "for a short period of time". A year later is not "temporary".

Yeah, well, I own a 'spensive dictionary, too. Although, it's a cold day in hell when I am actually forced to use it. Correct me if I'm wrong, but the word "ranconteur" is defined as person who excels in telling anecdotes. Or, to more accurately describe what has been passing as activism in the Heights of late, a ranconteur would be more aptly defined as a person who excels in telling incriminating anecdotes.

Yes, the word "temporary" was in fact posted on the front door of that firehouse late last year, but that was before the engineering reports were delivered to city hall. Correct me if I'm wrong, but what I'm taking from yours and your neighbors oft-repeated hang-up with that word is that the mayor lied to us. Are you not accusing him of lying to his constituents?

You hilltoppers cannot retract your statements after the fact. I've got a good memory, and the very, very thinly-vieled accusations are as follows: The mayor lied, the engineers lied, the fire chief lied, the 911 supervisors lied, and Tony the Tiger would lie too iffin' Tom Leighton told him to. That's what you people sound like on most days, so your predictable according-to-my-dictionary twaddle does not impress me in the least. You can toss that age-old debate trickery into the same circular basket where other typical and tired debate misdirection ploys such as "The buck stops here," and "What would Jesus do?" obviously belong. Sorry, but you're not dealing with your garden variety karaoke pro here. You're gonna have to do better than reciting from a dictionary as if that's an undeniable proof of wrongdoing on someone else's part.

You used to hold Wilkes-Barre Online to a higher standard? Trust me, your downward-adjusted opinion of my efforts will have no bearing at all on how well I sleep tonight. Truth be told, while you encourage others to go off half-cocked and redesign their local government whenever they get a bug up their tight asses, I get the distinct impression that there are those at city hall that would prefer to see me join the mass exodus out of this town. At the risk of causing some unconscience tension for some of you, that ain't happenin'.

But, the question I have asked a dozen times at City Council is- why let it continue to rot, or get worse. If you had a leaky roof on your home, would you not patch it so the rain/snow/ice didn't cause even greater damage- to the point where it was irreperable? Electricians, carpenters, roofers, have all voluteered their time to repair the original damage (as in last October), if the City would provide them the material. They have never been taken up on their offer. Even if it is never re-opened, should someone want to eventually buy it- doesn't it's value go down every day it's exposed to the elements?

On it's face, your argument to at least repair the roof and forestall any further structural damage makes perfect sense to me. Then again, very many of you in the Heights seem to have completely poo-pooed the fact that this city's adminstration has seen fit to replace the roofs at both the South Station and Headquarters, and...and allocating the monies necessary to build a brand spanking new, state-of-the-art firehouse. But none of that positive news seems to matter to the folks in the Heights. No, rather than investing in our structurally sound physical plants, you people seem to think that we should spare no expense to rehabilitate a structure that outlived it's functional usefullness long before bell bottoms went out of style. You're privy to the latest financial info, you know that the mayor has some bean counters watching his every financial move, and you also know that for the foreseeable future the mayor has to appease them and then some. So, rather than remaining mute while your neighbors set out on a mission to brand everyone not in agreement with their demands as lousy, stinkin' liars, why didn't you mount a very public campaign by where the mayor would eventually bow to intense public pressure and finally see fit to allow the volunteers to mothball and protect that structure?

And as far as it's value is concerned, I challenge you to find anyone that would offer you much more than a complete set of Topps 'Desert Storm' trading cards for it. To speak of it's "value" kind of denies the obvious, doesn't it? Rather than haranging me about whether I'd fix my own leaky roof, I ask of you if you'd invest any significant amount of money in that building if you happened to be saddled with it's ownership? Can anyone in the Heights spot any appreciable differences between that aged, glorified chicken shack and, say, fire headquarters? Is there even the slightest of differences between that rat trap and South Station? As Wilkes-Barre's ranking statesman, I ask of you, should we really throw good money after bad, while we're still struggling against the odds to generate the new revenue sources we so desperately need?


Democracy is a process by which the people are free to choose the man who will get the blame.--Laurence J. Peter

As to my usage of the U. S. Constitution, you might look at the oath of office we, all elected servants, take where it says we will uphold the Constitution...including the portion that says we will not infringe on the right of the people to petition the government. It doesn't say anything about being charged for challenging or questioning our percieved infringement. Matter of fact, the Carey family has been paying the salary of the City Attorney's (and the rest of us in office) through their taxes for the last 30 or more years...in other words, they've already paid the attorneys once- should they be forced to double pay them? And your inference (see "powerless") that "the people" can throw us out every election. Thats four years between elections to throw out someone, ie: See the pervious administration. And a lot of damage can be done in those four years...damage "the people" have to wait to try and change. And that, incidentally, is what "Initiative and Referendum" is all about. It gives "the people" the right to challenge decisions immediately. And its already the law in 24 states and the District of Columbia.

Yeah...defending the Constitution if nifty and all, and Oh! so dramatically noble, while our local legislators and their cohorts across the state just took a giant dump all over this state's constitution. Let's be serious. One day the building blocks of this country need to be defended by our elected folks, and the next day those very same cornerstones need to be cleverly sidestepped. It all depends on a given agenda at a given time. Please don't insult my intelligence, while the party you belong to keeps on telling me that the Constitution is now "a living, breathing" document subject to change on the very next whim. Trust me, Thomas Jefferson you ain't!

And this mostly vapid argument that the city attorney's time is already paid for by us does not resonate with me. When the mis-directed activists bent on performing their latest nonsensical forensic audit march into city hall demanding this, that and the next city document be photo-copied on the spot; are you suggesting that city employees being pulled from their assigned duties does not constitute an added expense for the city's government? And what of Walter when he demands the wrong 300-page document be reproduced so that he can get his activist jollies, only to learn that he demanded the wrong paperwork and then refused to pay for the copies? And whatever happened to his in-depth audit of the mayor's inaugural ball? With all due respect, it's one thing to defend the rights of the people, and it's a whole other thing to defend the actions of the very loosest of our loose cannons.

And your I&R argument doesn't make sense given the nature of our latest petition drive. Denise Carey and her inner circle were not "immediately" challenging any decision. What she was up to was akin to following the original Stars Wars trilogy. "Step One," remember?

And as far as her being "charged" for her efforts goes, the lot of you up there on the hill are casting unsubstantiated accusations once again. Judge Conahan threw the proverbial book at her, yet, as the current spin goes, Tom Leighton told him to do it. I know, I know, I know...it's those dirty rotten politico bastards again. They're all corrupt, unfeeling bastards. Present company excluded, of course.

Follow me here, you need not lecture myself about the previous administration. If memory serves, I was the first one to point out the abject ineptitude of that outfit, and I caught mucho, mucho flak for having done so on such a premature basis. A lot of damage can be done in a four-year span? What happened to the built-in checks and balances that city council supposedly provides us with? I thought it was your job to keep that damage to an absolute minimum. Are you saying that we need petition after petition after freaking petition to make right what city council allowed to go wrong? Sure, the buck has to stop somewhere, but the elected folks in this city have never attempted to clearly deliniate exactly where that last buck of ours stops.

And what of this petition-of-the-month-club anyway? You're not going to try to tell me that you see that as a healthy situation, are you? This one can't get elected, so we're reducing the size of city council? Another one has a serious axe to grind, so we suddenly need to vote by districts? Another activist bunny has a few political scores to settle, so we need to reduce the salaries of the folks we seek to replace? Another one, encouraged by the usual activist suspects, think's she needs her neighborhood firehouse to remain open for business, so we're going to rewrite the city charter, while waiting for the sequel to that petition effort? Initiative and referendum? Sorry, man, but I'm all petitioned out! What we have here in Wilkes-Barre is not an example of democracy in action. What we have here in this city is the mutated tail trying to wag the dog. We've got way too much tinkering going on by people that cannot even begin to comprehend the long-term ramifications of their often ill-advised efforts.

And how can you make the ridiculous argument that the voice of the people has somehow been squelched when Walter Griffith, Christine Katsock, and Denise Carey find themselves being quoted in the local newspapers 50-100 times to your every one quote? Think about that. "Denise Carey" has become a household name in this valley. Christ almighty! The local reporters have these activists set-up on speed dial. The local reporters probably know their goldfish on a first-name basis at this point.

And I will still maintain that the system works just fine when the electorate starts paying attention to it's troubled town. Elect a spud, dump the spud four years later. Works for me. But, I'm not prone to hangin' out with the usual activist suspects that seek to keep building name recognition for themselves. Actually, I find it troubling to know that you were willing to climb into bed with them, albeit, on the dry side of the bed.

As to what I've been doing since first elected to City Council, I will hold my record up to any and all local politicians, and "brag" (if you will) that I wrote the law that is chasing the slum-lords out of our beautiful City (although it took me seven years to get it passed), and it has been copied- word for word- by 36 other Pennsylvania Cities; and wrote the "Anti-Loitering" law that has been upheld by the Courts to chase of gangs and troublemakers of our streets; and secured $1.6 Million in grants for City developement; and helped secure a $150 thousand grant for the City to buy the special fire engine designed for use in the small alleys and lanes bigger apparatus can't get through; and am trying (for three years) to get tattoo parlors licensed and inspected by our Health Department (they aren't now), after a 13 years old girl was sexually assaulted in one of them, and another was proclaimed "filthy" by inspectors; and am waiting (for over a year) to get a law passed, based on "Megan's Law", to tell neighborhoods when people convicted of sellling drugs move into their area; and trying to get the City to buy a "drug-sniffing dog" to check incoming interstate buses (which the bus line owner has endorsed), as state and federal police do at airports and terminals; etc., etc. Now, Mark, thats part of my record. Check the record of any other elected official, and print their's.

Ah, this is what I'm thinking whereas your list of accomplishments are concerned. You may not like it, but here it is. Around the same time that our recently deceased canopy system was erected, this city was named "The Newest old City in the Country," our something thereabouts. Now, I must ask of you: During the three decades that followed this city's post-flood reworking, what, exactly have our elected folks done for this city other than putting it on cruise control and collecting their travel vouchers for travelling all the way to Wilkes-Barre from Wilkes-Barre? What has anyone done while the city decayed beyond all possible belief? What was done to bolster our long-sagging downtown? What was done to maintain our infrastructure? Why is it that the perks and bennies our current unionized employees enjoy prevent us from hiring as many as we truly need? Why is the city currently mired in tens of millions of dollars in debt? How has our reputation as a city become so completely sullied? Why did we become preoccupied with tattoo parlors, while the folks sporting many of the tattoos in question now scare the freakin' bejesus out of the older folks that bother to wander our pothole-ravaged streets?

Being apothetic for far too long, you might be tempted to point a finger of blame at me. But, I never sought out any votes in exchange for the promise of a great place to live. Somewhere along the line, this city went totally caput and the blame has to fall squarely on the shoulders of the folks smiling and waving back at us from the parade reviewing stand. I never stood on that stand. But you did, many, many times over.

While I stick it out here and grapple for the elusive answers to all of our troubling questions, you dare to lecture me about defending the Constitution? You rattle off your list of accomplishments, while my neighbors are begging me not to be so damned willing to defiantly stare right back at the occupants of the stash houses? I cruise this city on my bike scanning the surrounding environs like an un-armed bike cop, while you and your ilk debate whether or not I should be allowed to keep a watchful eye on things from the seat of my stealthy bicycle? You look this gift horse in the mouth, while encouraging the people that stupidly believe that hoodwinking other people into signing their John Hancocks on the line amounts to looking out for one's city? I've lowered my standards by taking issue with you?

Now, Mark, thats part of my record. Check the record of any other elected official, and print their's.

I will admit that you have a bit of a point in that respect. I did mention two other council folk by name and I challenge them to send me their list of accomplishments. Well, that's assuming that they have any to speak of. If they happen to be computer illiterate, tell them to scribble their lists on the back of a matchbook and mail them to me.


Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want and deserve to get it good and hard.--H.L. Mencken

As to people not knowing what they were signing, when asked to sign the IR& petition...the language was clearly printed at the top of the petition what it was all about- the "first step" towards re-opening the so-called "Heights Fire House #4", by allowing "the people" the right to petition government for it's re-opening. You call it "prattle", I call it their right! I have supported this administation when I though it was right, just as I did previous administartions, but when I think they are wrong- then I'll let my opinion known...loud and clear. 23+ years of working as a journalist out of the U. S. Congress and the White House taught me how government "should" work, but often doesn't. Thats the knowledge, and experience, I bring to City Council. One last thing, doesn't it intrigue you to notice that the Mayor answered my column in one paper, with his in another...on the same day? Almost as if he had seen a copy of what I had written before it was published?
Hmmm...coincidence?

I'm sure the petition's language was up to snuff in a legalese sense. But...when you pitch one point, while sitting under a banner that pitches yet another, you are all but inviting a court challenge from the evil powers that be. And I'm kind of annoyed that you failed to address the litany of mistakes these people made. Fact is, they made quite a few. And you cleverly sidestepped the fact that one of their own, one Jamie Lake, asked that the pages of signatures he personally collected be removed from the fray after he had a change of heart.

You and I both know that the great majority of the populace will sign damn near any petition I present them with if they perceive it to be an attempt to get even with those dastardly politicians. Wanna save your firehouse? Wanna stick it to 'em? Wanna get even with 'em? Wanna join the ranks of the class envy warriors? Well then, I'm your f**king man!!! Sign right here on the dotted line for "step one" and maybe, maybe someday we'll get parts two, three, and four on the ballot. Of course, part one had absolutely nothing to do with saving any firehouse, but why split pubic hairs when we're defending the constitution and the rights of the people?

23+ years of working as a journalist out of the U. S. Congress and the White House taught me how government "should" work, but often doesn't. Thats the knowledge, and experience, I bring to City Council.

That's a feather in your cap for sure, but politics run deep in my family, too. Actually, the D.C.-styled politics just happened to run very deep in my family at one time. I'm quite sure you must have run across my political hero at some point or another--my grandfather's brother--Rep. Michael Kirwan--a labor Democrat from Youngstown, Ohio--a member of Congress from 1935 to 1970--a former Chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee--the dude that saw to it that my grandparents took me on many an exhaustive tour of Washington D.C. that included visits with some of the people who's names you probably like to drop on occasion at social events. When I was but a boy, he took on a God-like stature in my eyes.

Unlike the hapless folks at Petition R Us, I'm not some sort of upstart political novice. I had a sketchy inkling as to how many of the political games were played at a very tender age, but I never really gave them a second thought until my hometown started to literally meltdown right before my very eyes. Chances are, I've suffered through much more of Dan Flood's second-hand cigar smoke than you ever did.

One last thing, doesn't it intrigue you to notice that the Mayor answered my column in one paper, with his in another...on the same day? Almost as if he had seen a copy of what I had written before it was published?
Hmmm...coincidence?

Um...like, you're going to have to expound upon on that wee bit of paranoia. What are you trying to say? Does he have your house bugged? Or have one of your family members sold you out? Wait! Maybe he's using spyware! Or, perhaps he picks the lock long after you've gone to bed. Coincidence? Yeah, I'd say so unless you're suggesting that something much more sinister is afoot. And in that case, maybe you should set about defending the constitution again.

I said:

And then there's this issue of threats and intimidation coming from the elected folks. This is the third time I have heard this mentioned in public, and each time, nary a specific detail was involved. In my mind, that's because it's simply not true and patently absurd. It's a bullspit ploy designed to build resentment against this city's administration.

And you said:

I intend to find out who the callers are and make their names known so the people will know who these bullies in government are, and who gave them the order to do this.

I'm waitiiing!!!

RSVP


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