12-30-2003 "Team Leighton"

Our focus will be on drug enforcement.--Gerald Dessoye, our newly named Chief of Police on WILK today.

If you happened to miss Casy Jones' Times Leader column today, do yourself a favor and read it right now. Far be it from me to suggest that he outdid himself, but he had me giggling even before I poured my first mug of tea this morning. I vote for the free fall sans the net.

When was that Times Leader strike anyway? Wasn't it in 1978? It amazes me when I ask somebody "Did you read that such and such in the Leader today?" and get a response like "I haven't read that paper since the strike." Or I'll get some anti-Voice response when I mention something in the Voice all due to a strike that went down when most folks were scrambling to find the latest rage, the Coleco Pong game console. Get over it already! The Wackenhutt guards were bussed in from Jersey, we surrounded their compound, we cursed at them, we threw things at them and then they went home. A new newspaper was born and the corporate paper had some competition. The result is that we've got two daily newspapers in a very small city. That's a rare thing and a good thing. Many large cities don't have two daily newspapers. Maybe it's me, but I think it's kind of hammerheaded to read only one out of loyalty to the folks that don't even work at either of these papers anymore. We're blessed with two papers, why not enjoy them both? I don't know.

Did I happen to get under someone's skin by poking fun at our Emergency Disaster Communications Muckity Muck Fleet, or what? Mayor McEmergency can filibuster all he wants about our supposed disaster preparedness, but I still maintain that all that he has done is repainted a bunch a junk that will never see any use. The Suburban will do nicely for picking up lunches and such, but that's about it. He claims this equipment "will serve to link communities together in times of common emergencies, such as flooding or chemical weapons disasters." Who's jerkin' who here? Chemical disasters? Here's the scenario. Oh my God, a chemical disaster presents itself! Now what? The County EMA will run the show until PEMA and possibly FEMA takes control of the situation. Our Communications truck might come in handy, but the county EMA has done just fine without up until this point. I listened in on the EMA's handling of that commuter plane that went down in a wooded area near the Avoca airport and I also monitored the EMA's handling of the Bear Creek flooding disaster. There didn't appear to be any communications problems during either mobilization.

The only community that embarrassed itself during the Bear Creek emergency was Wilkes-Barre when it sent a convoy of trucks piled with sandbags (?) up Route 115 only to find itself cut-off from the action by a flooded roadway. Then the decision was made to launch the toy hovercraft only to have it swept away and smashed into guardrails which put it out of commission for some time. Let's not forget September 11, 2001. New York and Washington D.C. were both attacked early that morning. Then, the hours passed without any further attacks. I never feared for my safety once during that day and neither did anyone that I've ever talked to about that fateful day. But...in Wilkes-Barre, all off-duty police officers and firefighters were mobilized by mayor McEmergency and then they mulled around fire headquarters eating catered food until midnight. All the while, our fearless disaster coordinator ran around complaining that "We don't have enough men." Enough men for what?

He can point to his repainted junk, his chemical suits, his secured grants, and his expertise as some sort of proof that we're somehow safer from some disaster that is not likely to happen, but I say it's mostly junk, bunk, and he's too easy to debunk. We've got more junk to store, to insure, to register, to maintain and in all likelihood; it'll never be used for what it's intended to be used for. If a Homeland Security grant was available only if the city had four S-10s with 50 caliber machine guns mounted on them, we'd be looking for an arms dealer right quick. Rather than securing grants for stuff we really needed, the mayor wasted valuable time and resourses on his disaster Rapid Deployment Forces. And he claims that we don't know how government works. Look who's talking.

While handing out keys to the city he said, "I don't give out many of these." Good! Thanks to the financial disaster he left us with, we can't afford too many.

I attended the noon press conference at City Hall today. Tom Leighton scheduled this event so that he could introduce the members of his new management team. I knew a few the names that would be announced well ahead of time, but there were enough question marks involved to peak my curiousity. I've gone on the record by saying that we needed a serious housecleaning at City Hall and I can honestly say that I walked away from that press conference feeling pretty good about Leighton's choices and our chances as a city.

The Dream Team?

I don't know the lady at all, but I was almost happy to learn that Marie McCormick had survived the purge. This lady was forced to face the angry council, the Blue Ribbon Panel, and the rather pointed questions over and over after the mayor decided to play hide-and-seek during the last two years of his administration. Time and again, she found herself facing the heat for decisions that she had nothing to do with. I'm surprised that she never resigned.

We also got an infusion of youth right at the top of the food chain. J.J Murphy will be the new City Administrator and Jason Dongas will serve as the Assistant to the Mayor. After being lucky enough to get to know them to some degree, I'm sure these two will bring some energy, some youthful vigor to city hall. They're young, they're bright and they'll both act very professionally in their new positions. Don't under-estimate them simply because they haven't started shaving yet. What better way is there to get young people involved in their city and their government than by showing them that young people can be a part of the government?

Left to Right: J.J., Jason, and A-1

Chief George was on hand and he stated that he has been mulling his retirement for quite some time now and after making the decision to retire, he was almost disappointed that he wouldn't be a part of the new administration. He also said that he was pleased that the man he suggested should replace him, Captain Dessoye, would be doing so. Unlike his boss, Chief George choose to go out as a class act.

Our new Fire Chief, Jake Lisman, has been described to me as a proven administrator, a proven firefighter, and a man that commands the full respect of the men that will be serving under him. It seems as if our fire department will be in very capable hands.

It all begins Monday

I noticed that both of our newspapers tried to get the hoi-polloi crying foul even before this press conference ever took place. The Voice mentioned that Lisman is a neighbor of Mayor-elect Leighton's and a son of former city Mayor Walter Lisman. The Leader chimed in with Dessoye...is married to Leighton's first cousin. Except to see that repeated on the pages of SAYSO and soon. All I know is, I've talked to a few cops and a few firemen about who they expected to see in these two positions come January 5th and those two names were the names that were tossed back at me. Not one person had anything negative to say about either of them.

Here's the entire Leighton team:

City Administrator-- J.J. Murphy***

Dep. City Administrator-- Marie McCormick

Assistant to Mayor-- Jason Dongas***

Executive Secretary to Mayor-- Gwen Blasi***

Chief Finance Officer-- John Koval

Human Resource Officer-- Christine Jensen

Chief of Police-- Gerald Dessoye***

Chief of Fire-- Jacob Lisman***

Chief of Paramedics-- Jude Spellman

Dir. of DPW/Recreation-- Al Clocker

Deputy Dir. DPW/Recreation-- Ken Pahler***

Dir. of Health Services-- Hank Rudalski

Assistant Health Services-- Andy Gregaris***

City Nurse-- Patty McNulty

Director of Planning-- Bill Harris

Director of Zoning-- Leon Schuster

Office of Community Development-- Kurt Sauer

City Attorney-- Tim Henry

Asst. City Attorney-- William Vinsko

Purchasing Director-- Ron Trimble

City Physician-- Dr. John Consalvo

There are some tough decisions that need to be made in the coming weeks and some of them might not be very popular at the outset, but it appears that we've got a capable team assembled to lead this city back from the brink. 2004 might start off a bit bumpy, but it'll get better and better in a hurry if these folks just do what they're capable of doing and if we remain patient and do whatever we can to support them. I'm ready to roll. Let's do it!

6 more days

I'm assuming that most of you know your alphabet, but how well do you know your corporate logos? Take a whack at this one.

Wifey will be heading off to the Bingo hall soon enough and I'm in the mood for some loud tunes. Feel free to join me, but bring your own beer.

Coming tomorrow: Markie's look back at 2003.

Talk to ya'