1-31-2004 $44 million

The States will retain, under the proposed Constitution, a very extensive portion of active sovereignty...--James Madison, Federalist Paper No. 45

How many times do you think he's rolled over in his grave during the past fifty years?

That turned out to be a heckuva fire yesterday. If this fire had erupted much, much later in the day, we might have had scantily clad chickies pouring out of Toppers and into the middle of Main street. That would have made for some interesting television video. It was reported that the folks at the Army/Navy store donated some outer garments to the residents of these two structures that were forced to evacuate in a big hurry. I'm wondering if they stock thermal thongs and pasties. Probably not. Plus, it's tough enough trying to put down a stubborn structure fire without having to do so with a fully involved stiffy. It gives the phrase 'Surround & Drown' a whole new meaning. Can strippers file for unemployment compensation?

The Army/Navy store donated clothing to the fire victims. Boscov's donated a cat carrier for a displaced kitty. The folks at Bell Furniture invited the hose dudes into their store to thaw out provided they didn't get any soot on any of the new furniture. And the Red Cross folks showed up with all sorts of liquid refreshments for the hose dudes. When disaster strikes, the good inside of people oozes to the surface. This is exactly how we as a community need to come together and make this city shine again. Let's face it, we may be on the road to recovery now, but this city has to overcome the disaster that the past eight years amounted to. We need to pitch in. We need to get involved. Volunteer some time. Donate some money to the volunteer causes. Donate a few pizzas to feed the volunteers. Cut some grass. Help clothe freezing strippers. Whatever it may be. If we can come together like never before, the disaster we suffered through can be overcome faster than most folks would like to believe. Bring on Spring! I'm raring to go.

I wandered into City Hall yesterday hoping to purchase a copy of the 2004 budget which was released earlier in the day. I figured they'd charge me the going rate of ten cents a page. Your normal city budget is usually heavier than a copy of The Sunday Independent, but I was good for it. I came to learn that City Hall charges twenty-five cents a copy and I didn't even begin to choke. Holy moly! It's no wonder most common folks aren't privy to the minute details of how our government works or how it's funded with prices like those. We shouldn't have to sell a family heirloom everytime we want to grab a copy of any report or study that gets filed away at City Hall never to be seen again. I realize we need revenue, but we also need easy and affordable access to all things government if we really want those apathetic folks to get more involved.

No more boobies

I heard the hose dudes request that a load of road salt be dumped at the fire scene and I fear that they destroyed a perfectly good ice skating rink once the load was delivered. It was difficult to move at that scene. It was cold for sure and that steady breeze had a nasty bite to it. There was ice everywhere and flooding nearly everywhere else. Why can't we have the worst structure fires when it's like 70 degrees and sunny?

Hockey skates required

From today's Times Leader:

New downtown street lights are expected courtesy of a potential $1.5 million windfall from the federal government.

Congressman Paul Kanjorski, D-Nanticoke, announced Thursday night that he is close to securing money to replace the red, Franklin-style lights that have stood (most of the time, anyway) since the mid-1970s.

And from today's Citizens Voice:

Thanks to Congressman Paul E. Kanjorski (D-11) the lights should be coming back on in downtown Wilkes-Barre. Kanjorski pledged $1.5 million for the city's revamped downtown lighting project at last night's Wyoming Valley Catholic Youth Center dinner at the Ramada Inn.

Most of the time, anyway. Crack me up, man. A bit of sarcasm? My favorite jab of all-time from any local reporter was when Mike McNarney wrote that mayor McTommy promised that some proposed loan of his would ...really, really, really... be paid off on time this time. LOFFFFFFFL! The tea I spit on my monitor when I read that line was easy enough to wipe up.

So Uncle Paul came through for us all of a sudden. Why now? What's changed? Why not last year? I know why and so do you. The one person who could not cooperate with anyone at any level of government was removed from the equation on January, 5, 2004. The guy who constantly cried "It's all politics" 24/7 played nothing but dirty politics 24/7 and those very same politics eventually went and bit him on the ass. There is a god afterall. And we're getting new lights. I could get used to this good news stuff.

With everything that's gone on in this city and the challenges that still lie ahead of it, it's very hard to argue with much of what Tom Leighton proposed when he unveiled his budget for 2004. The tax increases, fee increases, and even the cost of garbage bags increasing makes sense and shouldn't break anyone's bank. What was it, the average household will see only a $99 annual increase, which breaks down to $1.92 a week? In this age of DirectTV, cell phone/video games, and DSL computer hook-ups; it'd be hard to raise too much hell about the increases provided that the SAYSO number wasn't hard-wired into your mind.

I was annoyed to learn from WILK that I had missed the slideshow presentation at City Hall. I wasn't sure if a press conference was going to be held to unveil the budget, but then again, I didn't bother to find out either. If I had known, I would have liked to have been there. I wonder if they used any of the pics from my humongous picture library. Whatever. I really don't have a problem with any part of the budget plan except the proposed pay increases for everyone from the department heads up to the top of the political food chain. They amount to peanuts as part of a $44 million budget, but I fear they could lead to the further balkanization of the folks drawing a paycheck from the city. How could the lower paid folks being asked to pay for 30% of their health-care costs not be angered by the raises for the higher ups?

I snagged this from the Leader story:

Increases in Leighton's proposed 2004 budget include a $2,800 increase in the mayor's salary to $78,121; a $500 raise for each council member to $12,903 (council chairman $14,431); and a $1,200 pay increase for Controller Bernie Mengeringhausen to $36,093.

City Attorney Tim Henry will be paid $40,000, up $4,600 from last year, and Assistant City Attorney Bill Vinsko will earn $37,000, up $9,400. City managers also will get raises.

Minus the unannounced raises for department heads the pay increases amount to $21,500. Peanuts by anyone's scale. But how could any member of council tell any city employee with a wife, and a kid, and a car, and a house that they should pay 30% of their health-care costs, and then turn around and vote themselves a $500 raise? That ought to get the forum and SAYSO buzzing again. That's just inviting dissent and hard feelings. And I gotta tell ya', I am sick to death of hard feelings and rancor in this city. The mayor's salary is beginning to penetrate the stratosphere. I don't have a problem with paying our current mayor that amount, because I'm confident that will turn out to be a bargain after he turns this city around. You can argue that we need to pay the big bucks to attract good people, but as our last mayor easily proved, the high salary guarantees us nothing.

I don't think the pay increases of our elected folks should be tied to what the unionized folks get either. Their increases should be based on performance and nothing else. Balance the budget. End the fiscal year in the black. Show us concrete evidence that the city has gone forward, or at the very least, hasn't gone backwards. Then vote yourselves a raise. To expect built-in raises in a city that has spiraled downward for twenty years is an insult to those of us that pay their salaries. Pay increases in this city have been based 100% on attendance as they apply to our elected folks and the city certainly looks as if incentives should be a part of their salary increases in the future. If the elected folks get the very same percentages that the union folks get, how is there any incentive to hold the line on the employees pay raises? It's yet another less than stellar example of home rule at work.

Who knows? Maybe they'll forego the raises when they get together to vote on this budget. It sure would send the right signal.

I had no idea that Tony Thomas was into ice sculpturing. That's one nifty looking volcano.

Mt. Thomas

Finally! Saint Stupor Bowl day. This game is interesting. On paper the Pats & Panthers look almost evenly matched in a lotta ways. It would be easy to pick the Panthers over the Pats, except for two things. Tom Brady has a quick release and is seemingly unflappable. And Bill Belichick is and always has been one tough cookie during the post season. I always root for the underdog provided that they haven't beaten the Jints anytime lately, but I doubt that the underdogs will pull this one out. It should be a good one though.

Pats 29-26???

Taylor, Gage & Zach

Ever hear of a zitcom? That's a television show that targets a teen-aged audience.