12-11-2003 Balancing an unbalanced county

If they lost $4 million in 2003, I have no reason but to expect that the deficit for 2004 will be roughly the same, or more.--Luzerne County Budget Director Russ Arnone's assessment of Valley Crest's effect on the 2004 budget.

A member of the local media attempted to contact me yesterday wanting to know what I would do about the County's $23 million shortfall. Unfortunately, I ended up gabbing away on the telephone, much like a teenaged girl, with a very pleasant and well spoken city employee for over an hour and missed my chance to weigh in. Let's do it here.

Okay. What did Russ have to say? Basically, he just told us that if the status quo remains intact, we're already $4 million or more in the hole for 2004. I suspect that we already knew as much without Russ' having spoken up on the matter. What should we do about it?

Apparently, nothing. The politicos don't seem to possess enough testicle matter to put that facility out of it's misery. Surprisingly enough, if the calls to WILK this morning were an accurate barometer of the public's sentiment, the public has empty ballsacks too. Gee, they want the budget balanced, buy they don't want to see anyone lose their jobs. Yeah! That'll funkin' work!?! Is everyone snorting Sweet 'n' Low? Why does it appear that getting naked with Rosie O-Donnell is preferable to seriously addressing the Valley Crest situation for so many of us? This isn't rocket science folks. Maybe McG-styled rocket science. If it bleeds millions of dollars in red ink year after year, sooner or later, it has to either be seriously scaled back, or cut loose all together. THINK people!

Can someone explain to me what the Wyoming Valley Airport is all about? What benefit does that facility provide to the average residents of the county, excluding the twenty or so that actually own a small plane? I have no idea whether it generates a profit or bleeds more red ink, but county operations tend to fall into the latter category. I'll tell ya this much; that vast track of land sure seems like some prime real estate to this no-nothing novice. No one can make the argument that Cessna's are going to contribute to any economic development, so why do we need this little-used strip that sits a scant few miles from a semi-real airport? It seems to me that we don't. But a few, probably a special few people do.

I read that story about the 326 managers that were awarded 3% retroactive raises by the Tom/Tom twins and I was amazed to learn that we had so many freaking managers. 326? The county has something in the neighborhood of 2,000 employees. Do the math on that. That works out to 5.1 county employees for every manager employed by the county. Even an E-tard should question that frightening ratio. That's a hell of a lot of chiefs per injun, heyna? Is that how the private sector operates? 5 employees for every manager? You know better than that. During it's heyday, the Kidder Street Franklin's had close to 120 employees supervised by 4 full-time managers, despite being open 24 hours a day, 364 days per year. And that store always showed a profit. If the county decided to jump into the restaurant business, based on the current staffing, it would need 24 managers to operate that store. You know what that translates into, don't you? Red ink. Kiss those profits goodbye.

We're currently being told that layoffs are a possibility? A more honest assessment would be that layoffs are necessary and long overdue. Mandatory, if you will. If layoffs are just too painful for most of us to bear, say goodbye to even more of your hard-earned money, or your fixed income. The county's budget will never be balanced until someone steps up to the plate and makes the hard decisions that have previously never been made in this county.

Why is it that downsizing is an accepted fact of life in the private sector, while it remains anathema on the public side of things? Because the public sector doesn't have to show a profit as long as the perpetual tax increases are accepted by the general public. I couldn't believe some of what I was hearing from my pocket radio today. A few months ago, the hoi polloi were all for necklacing our majority commissioners and then stoning their burning bodies. Now, we're millions upon millions in the red and lo-and-behold; Joe Six-Pack is suddenly objecting to layoffs. What's that all about? The blind leading the blind, or the blindly led proving that they're deaf and dumb in addition to being blind?

Here's the gig kiddies. If we want to balance the books, or show a profit, we have to run as lean-and-mean as possible without it impacting on our service. If anyone thinks that our county government is presently running anything close to lean-and-mean, they've been watching way too much professional wrestling.

Sh*t! I'd bet those same people think that Paris Hilton is a five star hotel, although, admittedly, I wouldn't mind a lengthy stay there. Paris Hilton: a very nice place to visit.

Here's where we're presently at. A N.O.T. in Wilkes-Barre update:

Our up to the minute roster of volunteers:

This internet whacker

Larry Schultz

A city employee (who shall go nameless for now)

Private Sector Dude

The "Dare to Care" group

That's a good start, but I'm hoping to see more folks signing on by the time we actually hit the streets. I'm figuring we'll need $100-200 dollars for nifty T-shirts and work gloves for the entire crew, however big it may end up being. Maybe we can solicit a donation for that. I'm also going to approach a couple of city eateries to see if they'd be interested in providing some free lunches in exchange for some advertising. I'll try Cousin Sammy first. His business is relatively new and some press exposure couldn't hurt. Plus, when I order pizza for the copper dudes, he tries to discount the pizzas, which proves that his heart is in the right place. As far as the media is concerned, we'll need them to report on our activities for recruiting purposes. An army of ten is fine, but an army of 50, or 100 would be much more effective. Anybody have any other ideas? Send them along.

Oh, yeah. An e-mail on this subject:

*******Our city, for whatever reason, has become a disgusting mess!!! And frankly, I don't care what the reason is anymore. In the end it doesn't matter.

If you know a problem exists and you do nothing about it, you too become a part of the problem. I'll be glad to join with fellow residents to make sure that this city gets cleaned up!! Count me in. I don't need or want recognition in the media - a clean neighborhood is enough for me.********

BANG! As soon as the mercury starts inching back up there, we will come a calling.

Another e-mail:


*******I find it interesting that Kingston Township is considering a $500 to $600 annual tax on each commercial entity in the district in an effort to help close a $236,000 deficit.

I also find it interesting that all knowing home rule Nazi, Carl Goodwin, is a Township Supervisor.

This is a ridiculous tax and it's hard to understand why a booming area like Kingston Township couldn't keep a balanced checkbook.

Hey Carl, what's up with that?

West Side Dude*******

I think Mr. Utopia has been officially challenged. Yo Carl, wassup wit dat? Isn't it ironic that every Kingston Township municipal vehicle has "A home rule community" proudly displayed on every door? Home rule is much less than perfect in Kingston Township, but it'll be utopian for Luzerne County. That's the snake oil Carl is peddling these days. Carl's tax sounds eerily similar to what has taken place in Luzerne County and Wilkes-Barre to boot. They overspent and the way to fix that was to suck money out of the local economy. Then, more overspending equals more money being sucked out of the local economy. And then, eventually, the local economy sucks. Then, the geniuses will spend even more money and commission studies to figure out how to improve the local economy. It sounds to me as if Carl is just as clueless as the clueless wonders that overspent before him. Apparently, home rule isn't as flawless as Carl makes it out to be, but no one will ever know as long as the local media keeps lobbing him softballs.

This is cool. Check this link that SNAKE just send along:


I didn't know about this. Maybe we were too hard on the mayor. SNAKE sent along a pic of our brand spanking new garbage truck. Who knew?

Check the Wilkes-Barre Online store. I created some nifty Gage Andrew items and then purchased them myself. His mommy is sure to be surprised on Christmas morning. Her puter gizmo is on the blink, so she'll never know until she unwraps them. Awesome.

Is anybody else ready to step forward and get involved? Doesn't N.O.T. in Wilkes-Barre sound fulfilling? Rather than waiting for a cleaner city to suddenly arrive, why not take the bee by the stinger and speed things along? I'm gonna keep buggin' y'all for the foreseeable future, so submit already?

Me gotta go