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6-14-2004 V'ger needs to know


Government's view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it.--Ronald Reagan's remarks to the White House Conference on Small Business (August 15, 1986)

I see the local internet scrum has no end in sight. So be it. From the forum page:

Differing Opinion -- Jim Ulrich, 13:18:03 06/14/04 Mon [1]

Normally I agree with Mark. However, I have to admit that I too have begun to question his knowledge of the city going's on. At one point you may have been very informed with regard to city matters, but I believe you need to do plenty of homework. Leighton claims to be at poverty level, yet we keep incurring more expenses. I read your response to the hiring of Barrouk. I don't think his qualifications are in question. I do think his need was questioned. You also stated your opposition to the mounted police. What has Leighton said? Assuming you have debated the need with him. Over the weekend you posted a letter from someone that explained his thoughts on the fire department. Your response was pretty telling that you are not properly informed on the matter. There are a host of articles that suggest that he isn't cutting costs, but only redistributing the current costs.

You know, there are those days when I question why I ever bothered to stay in this city. First, I was hailed as the one guy who always did his homework. Now, I'm a guy in need of some serious homework. And my knowledge of the city's goings on has also come into question. That cracks me the f**k up when I consider all that I didn't post on the site. All of the "off the record" conversations I had with people who knew they could trust me to sit on info that would eventually hit the newsstands. The city documents piled against the side of my computer desk. Copies of our last four city budgets. The news clippings. The Parking Authority finances for the past eight years. The copies of lawsuits. The blueprints. In other words, even being a lowly serf such as I am, I f**kin' forgot more about Wilkes-Barre than the average resident will ever know.

Let's dissect this latest forum post just a tad, shall we?

Leighton claims to be at poverty level, yet we keep incurring more expenses. I read your response to the hiring of Barrouk. I don't think his qualifications are in question. I do think his need was questioned.

I'll explain why you are out in left field on this one. First off, if we're suggesting that the hiring of Barrouk was an added expense, I suggest you consider that his salary was in fact budgeted for fiscal 2004. He replaced a mayoral assistant that decided to investigate other opportunities just after the new administration took the keys to city hall. Nice try though.

Barrouk's qualifications for a kid his age are downright impressive. How old is he? 24? What were we doing at that age other than proving that we were not impressed by some bouncer's menacing glare right before all hell broke loose at the bar? Questioning his need was your second obvious mistake. If you're involved at all and trying to coordinate volunteer activities with the folks as city hall, you'd already know that playing cell phone tag with two people already burning the proverbial candle at both ends is not going to get things done by the hoped-for numbers. Questioning that hire suggests that you are not involved to any degree and are speaking from a position of ignorance. When was the last time you needed to speak directly to anyone on the fourth floor at the hall?

You also stated your opposition to the mounted police. What has Leighton said? Assuming you have debated the need with him.

I'm not entirely sure what the f**k that dribble is supposed to mean. I don't care what Tom Leighton thinks about the police horses. I read his comments that were published concerning the latest addition and it's obvious he supports having the horses around. I beg to differ. I disagree. I think we need more cops in cars or on bikes, but in case you didn't notice we can't afford to hire more cops, or even buy new police cars. In the grand scheme of things, the horses are rather inexspensive. Did I debate this issue with him? Uh, no. He usually doesn't consult with me in private before making decisions. Remember, I'm simply an unimportant peon that happens to reside in the Nord End.

On with the show...

Over the weekend you posted a letter from someone that explained his thoughts on the fire department. Your response was pretty telling that you are not properly informed on the matter.

Oh, really? Why don't you 'splain it to me then. The union boys claim the 'three men' on every piece of apparatus arbitration award isn't the root cause of this latest frustrating snafu, but they sure did have two more engines in service before it became an issue. Heyna? The only reason I'm scratching my head to some degree is because I have heard both sides of this issue from the folks involved, and I am confounded by it. First they wanted three men on every vehicle. Then they claimed they only wanted the city to agree to a minimum staffing number. Then the engines went down. And depending on who you might talk to at this point, they want something that sort of melds the two into something completely different, although, it totally escapes me as to what we're trying to achieve. And through it all, our mayor has maintained that we cannot afford what they want. The problem being, I'm really not sure what they want anymore.

The amazing part of all of this is, it is nowhere to be found in our local papers. This controversy rages on on the internet, but it's been festering well below the radar screen for the most part. Supposedly, from what we've been reading, our firemen are going to change all of that at the council symposium tomorrow night. Good! And no, I can't be there. I realize that I should probably disown my entire life and do much more homework in an effort to prove myself to someone who shields their e-mail address from public view, but I refuse to miss my grandson's third birthday party. I will surely be further out of the information loop, but I sure as sh*t don't give a flying farg.

There are a host of articles that suggest that he isn't cutting costs, but only redistributing the current costs.

Well, Dude, it's time that you step up to the plate and post them here for all to read. Our last mayor gave the cops a rather juicy contract right before the election, and this mayor got some major concessions from our firemen the very first time he negotiated a new contract. Granted, he could not have done so without those same firemen deciding to bite the bullet and do the right thing for the city's long-term financial health, but your unsubstantiated charge that he is merely "redistributing the current costs" is laughable at best. Go to the state's web site and search for Act 47. Do a bit of homework yourself.


And just in case we're not thoroughly confused yet, let's do an e-mail from the e-mail inbox:

*******Mark,

Got away from the routine here this past week. Came home to an email about the web site and that I needed to check it out pronto. Did that, and I am not shocked at all by what's on the site. This issue needs to come to a head. Hopefully Tuesday.

Now, let me just say that I do agree that everyone should come to the council meeting Tuesday to vent, argue, educate, and state their concerns. As for me, I see that some of the posts are a bit misinformed, and some are nothing more than frustration. I lashed out a couple of weeks ago myself on the BLOG when someone said that this union and its executive board did something less than proper. I too was annoyed at the fact that I am more than willing to debate the issue openly anytime and sign my name to what I have to say. After that, and when I saw where things were going there, I stopped caring about the BLOG. You are right, it has gotten ridiculous.

As for the facts about this issue, they cannot be ignored. There is a reason for the three man engines. There is a reason that we fought during the McG years to make that a reality. There is a reason that two man engines are dangerous and I will never advocate going back to them. The fact is no one asked for more than what we had.....that part is what bothers me....we asked for no additional people to be hired or put on the shift than what we had for years. In fact the overall number of those employed by the department has dropped from the 88 total to 81 right now. Everything was not "all right or hunky dory" when we had five engines in service with two on them.....I will stand up and argue that point until I am blue in the face. It took more engines and men to do the work we are handling with the three fire fighters on a piece. The problem is they went too far. Remember Mark, the engines only carry the equipment, they don't put the fire out or start the medical treatment.....it's the people....it's all about the people. It's the way people are deployed with equipment and the way they are utilized. We must strive for efficiency and safety for both the citizens and the fire fighters. That unfortunately has been thrown out the window.

I am very much concerned that the simple point of THE SERVICE has been cut. I'm not talking about the stubbed toe or cut finger, but the elderly woman with shortness of breath that we no longer are being dispatched to when the ambulances are tied up on other calls. Do I think someone in that situation should wait anywhere from 13 to 17 minutes for medical treatment when we could have intervened in about 3 minutes? I don't, but that is what is occurring right now after your taxes and mine have been raised. It's all about the service and that needs to change. This business about the three man engines is just the excuse being used, and being used badly by the city to justify their cuts in the service. It could have worked with the three's but the POLITICS of closing a fire station has gotten in the way. The POLITICS of how they are going to get out of debt has made the fire department the easiest solution for quick cash savings on top of the tax increase. Make it appear that the fire department does less.....AKA cut the calls that we go on by saying it is about keeping units in service for "the big one".....and sure they can make the case we can do with less fire fighters. But who suffers????..........the citizens, taxpayers and guests of this city.

I'm sorry, but that is it in a nut shell. We are no more, or less important than the police in this city. They have a job to do, and we have a job to do. That argument of apples and oranges I could go on about as well, but I won't. Both departments are about the people on the job in this city and those they serve. They serve in a different capacity and yet they serve in the same capacity. The balance of the two is where the politicians try to scare the people into misguided beliefs about who is more important and for what reason. I will not stand by and watch as they decimate one department and justify their actions on the backs of those they destroy in the process.

XXXX (I deleted his name)*******

So...are we all clear on this issue now? Sorry, but I am not. Not enough homework, I guess. I know who sent this e-mail my way and I firmly believe that he is one of the brightest, maybe even the very brightest, young folks currently employed by this city. But I am now further confused.

It could have worked with the three's but the POLITICS of closing a fire station has gotten in the way.

Is that what this is about? First it was three on a vehicle, then it was minimum staffing, and now it's about closing a firehouse? With all due respect, I must admit that you guy's are losing me.

Dude, I know how you feel about having two men on an engine and I completely agree with your concerns for the safety of the men riding on them when a structure fire erupts somewhere. And if this is not the voice of reason, I have yet to hear it:

Remember Mark, the engines only carry the equipment, they don't put the fire out or start the medical treatment.....it's the people....it's all about the people. It's the way people are deployed with equipment and the way they are utilized. We must strive for efficiency and safety for both the citizens and the fire fighters.

But...despite everything you hose types have told me during this most nonsensical impasse, ya'll have yet to tell me that the current administration is not telling the public the truth. You've skirted around it and you've stopped just short of it, but no one that has ever dragged a hose anywhere has stated their belief that Mayor Tom Leighton is not telling us the truth when he claims that we can't afford whatever it is that you folks want.

I saw that nonsense about someone on council wanting a volunteer F.D. despite the fact that a Third Class City code mandates a paid fire department. I also saw that bilge about the NorthEast station being closed only because it does not have a council member living nearby. In all honesty, for whatever reason, if I was forced to close one of our firehouses, that would be my first choice. Is anyone going to allege that our mayor is simply lying to us? Can anyone bring some clarity to this muddy situation? Did the union back him into a corner, or is he merely trying to balance the budget by downsizing our fire department? Which is it? Spit it out already?

V'ger needs to know.


Check this e-mail that I recieved from a lady in Mountaintop, or Mountain Top last night.

*******Ok, I am asking you this risking looking stupid. But I seriously do not know this.

Why doesn't WB have volunteers for their fire dept? If I am not mistaken where I live it is all volunteers. Am I missing something? Seriously.*******

Here is my reply that I sent along last night:

Because we have 43,000 residents packed into a few square miles. If you monitored our police and fire frequencies for even one day, you'd quickly understand the need for a paid fire department in this city. They 'roll' all day long and they are professional beyond belief. I really do admire their professionalism and dedication. They are worth every single dollar they earn, the only problem being that Tommy McGoof left us in a financial pickle the likes of which we've never seen. Sure, they draw salaries and benefits, but when 911 tones them-they will be on scene inside of four minutes. Four minutes. No volunteer fire company will ever come close to matching that. A while back someone said that we didn't need a paid fire department since there were rarely any tremendous out-of-control fires. The reason we never see any entire blocks burn to the ground, the reason we rarely see many out-of-control fires, is because our paid boys arrive on scene within four minutes after being toned. We pay the high taxes and we should demand nothing less than the best.

If ya wanna meet some of the "Hose Dudes," very many of them will be on hand at our block party on Aug. 21st, as will our mayor they are currently taking issue with. Consider that an official invite. We may be raising some serious hell as we claw our way back from the edge of the abyss, but we all know when to relax and have a good time.

Lemme know,

Mark

The reason we never see any entire blocks burn to the ground, the reason we rarely see many out-of-control fires, is because our paid boys arrive on scene within four minutes after being toned.

Well...they used to arrive on scene within four minutes after being toned. And we now need to figure out exactly why that is no longer guaranteed. I also need someone to fill in the cavernous blanks mostly because I have not been doing my homework of late.


I do have to post this. Michael Moore, that docu-sci-fi filmmaker goof constantly telling us how we should think, how we should vote, and how we should bow before his superior intellect had this to say during a recent interview:

Q:Distinguish between capitalism and greed. Is it safe to assume that on some level, you think capitalism is okay?

A: No, not really. I think our economic system is unfair and unjust and itís not democratic and it has to change. When I say that last line in the film, ďOne evil empire down, one to go,Ē our system is the one thatís got to go. Now, donít ask me what to replace it with because I donít know. I wish somebody would invent a system that takes the best things of capitalism and socialism and puts them together. The things from capitalism that encourage individuality and creativity and ingenuity, and those things from socialism that say no one shall be left behind. Why canít we have that? Why do they have to be at odds?

Capitalism and socialism intertwined? Yeah, that'll work. Why not have Lawrence Taylor, Harry Carson and Carl Banks join the cast of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy?

I really do have to go. I could spend hours upon hours doing some seriously overdue homework (?), but I would prefer to spend some time pumping up the amazing grandson, Gage Andrew, for his really big day tomorrow.

3 years old. Already? Before you know it, he'll be bitchin' about being called 'out' on a pitch that was obviously well off of the plate. I can't wait.

Nite

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