3-1-2003 305 days...

Here’s the gist of one of those forwarded e-mails I just received:

Pepsi has a new "patriotic" can coming out with pictures of the Empire State Bldg. and the Pledge of Allegiance on them. But Pepsi forgot two little words on the pledge, "Under God." Pepsi said they did not want to offend anyone. If this is true then we do not want to offend anyone at the Pepsi corporate office. If we do not buy any Pepsi product then they will not receive any of our monies. Our money after all does have the words "Under God" on it. Please pass this word to everyone you know. Tell your Sunday School class this weekend and tell your Pastors/Ministers, tell your family, tell your neighbors--let your voices be heard. We want the words "under God" to be read by every person who buys a can.

HOW FAST CAN YOU FORWARD THIS ONE?

Recently I was hoodwinked by one of these. The one about the dying kid needing business cards from everyone so that he could be entered into that stupid Guinness Book of World Records. World’s largest cake? World’s longest fart? Like I care! I was totally fooled by correspondence via snail mail from a local contractor. Anyway, I decided to check into these forwarded requests after that. Today I took a real quick look at the Pepsico web site and quickly found this statement:

Statement from PepsiCo:

We wanted to clarify an erroneous report that has been circulating around cyberspace for the past several months. Pepsi has not created any packaging containing an edited version of America's Pledge of Allegiance. A patriotic package used last year by Dr Pepper was inappropriately linked to this rumor. Dr Pepper's position is very clearly articulated at: Dr. Pepper.

So there it is. Pepsi is off the hook, but Dr. Pepper is definitely on my boycott list. Remember that old jingle of theirs? “Dr. Pepper, so misunderstood.” Not anymore.

Another TAN?

Well, well, well. I was wondering how long that Redevelopment debt was going to be allowed to continue to languish before the city would find itself getting sued again. The Times Leader reports today that the overdue $1 million line of credit has finally come due as a local bank filed suit on Friday to recover the money. Here we go again!

We’ve all been clamoring for the mayor to refill those vacant seats on the RA board so that we could move forward with Holeplex II and the vacant Call Center property. He has steadfastly refused to and even resorted to smearing the reputation of a person submitted to him for a position on the RA board. So now what? Technically, the city isn’t being sued-the RA is. The only problem is the money the RA owes will ultimately come from the city coffers-the taxpayers. The RA doesn’t have enough members to act on anything, so are we finally going to reconstitute the authority? Is so that would only create more rancor, because then folks would be clamoring for action on the previously mentioned capital project failures. What’s a troubled mayor to do other than blame everything from the Holeplex to Ebola on City Council?

Another cool million gone! The only question is-how the hell are we going to pay it? It’s March 1st, heyna? Hell, let’s take another Tax Anticipation Note. We can set a record that’ll never be broken and it might even qualify for the Guinness Book of World Records.
Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania: The only City to need a Tax Anticipation Note in three consecutive months. No municipality would have a realistic shot at breaking that record other than our own city.

The Voice story “Wilkes-Barre fire station plan stalls” blind-sided me this morning. I thought the Super Duper Firehouse was a dead issue a long time ago. That story is riddled with half truths and complete falsehoods from our fearless leader. Here’s two cuts from that story:

"Council voted to do the job and then they stopped it," the mayor explained. "The politics changed. When it became fashionable to fight with me they held it up."

“They all thought it (new station) was a good idea and then they changed their minds," the mayor insisted. "Council stopped it from being finished. They're obstructionists."

That’s interesting. I remember attending a council meeting last year and when tirelessly grilled about the proposed firehouse by Councilman Latinski, the mayor admitted that he hadn’t done a stitch of homework on the project. The mayor had announced that the state donated that 1.066 acre parcel to the city, but then the truth came out-the city had paid $14,000 for it. Oops! Little ($14,000) white lie? He was asked if the new firehouse was designed yet. Nope. He was asked if the property had been core-drilled yet, because that area has historically been an area riddled with mine subsidences. Nope. He was asked how fire apparatus would exit the station-at the traffic signal on the Boulevard? Yep, after we totally reconfigure where N. Washington St. intersects with the Boulevard. Was that project designed yet? Nope. Do we know what that would cost? Nope. Needless to say, he was ready to move forward with another expensive project without dotting a single I. City Council was less than impressed at that point. Here we are in 2003 and he’s trying to make it sound as if the project was ready to be built and council held it up. NOT!

This complete babble cannot go unchallenged. A cut from the Voice:

The mayor also said fire trucks filled with water couldn't get up some of the hills in that section of the city, adding the Cross Valley Expressway would ease travel.

"When the truck is empty it is easy," McGroarty offered. "But would you want the fire truck coming without any water?"

First. If a fire truck couldn’t get up a hill in this city while full of water, then why would it still be in service? Second. If that was true, why hasn’t the mayor provided a capital plan to replace those trucks? Because it isn’t true. If a truck failed to scale a hill while rushing to an emergency, trust me, the event would find it’s way to the press.

What is that dribble? Also, when an engine finally leaves a fire ground and is less than full-it is immediately put out of service until it is refilled. Every single time. Scanner Land doesn’t lie. Fire trucks coming without water? It doesn’t happen and the mayor knows it.

If the facts don’t support your case, confuse the issue. Confuse the public, some of them might actually believe the council is the problem in this rapidly failing city. But why listen to some internet goof who can’t punctuate? Let’s do an e-mail:

****Mark, I just got done reading the Voice this morning, and I feel the need to vent my frustration about the comments that were made in reference to the new fire station. In the article, McGrandstand says, "The politics changed,. When it became fashionable to fight with me they held it up." Oh contrare, Mr. Mayor. When it became obvious that this would be money spent on another of your useless monuments to yourself, the council put a stop to it. Response times would have increased in 80% of the coverage area of both Engine Co.'s. What would be gained? He also stated, "When the truck is empty, it's easy", McGroarty offered. "But would you want the fire truck coming without any water?" This comment was made in reference to the hills in the Parsons area, and East End. This comment is ridiculous, and a bold attempt on his part to scare people. The Wilkes- Barre Fire Dept. responds to EVERY incident with a full tank of water....no exceptions! If the vehicle's tank is emptied at another incident, it out of service until the tank is filled....period. If the administration, over the last 7 years, had kept their promises about updating apparatus, instead of just slapping a coat of white enamel on them, the vehicles would be modern, and up to date firefighting vehicles, not underpowered rot boxes.

As for the stations themselves, the goof-in-charge said that Northeast Station is built on a mine shaft, and the building shifts. If this is the case, why doesn't he bring in the OSM and remediate the mine situation before someone gets hurt? There is no mine....the building has some problems with the roof, and some masonary concerns. The apron and the parking lot need to be re-paved....this is due to the truckloads of salt and heavy equipment pounding on it over the last 7 years, but that's it. As for North Station, it was built in 1933, and until 1973 when the present Headquarters was built, was the newest fire house in the city. It is old, and needs a roof and electrical work, but is still solid and will last for years.

The only reason that these buildings are in the condition they are in today is because of the lack of proper and routine maintainance by the administration. There is no better explanation. If he thinks that building a new station will be cheaper than fixing the old ones, he's out of his mind. If they put $100-125,000 into each of these stations, they will last for another 20 years.....a new station, with everything completed will run at least $1.2 million. I've got an idea.....take the money he wants to spend on a new showplace, and update the old stations. The rest of the money could be used to update the apparatus. The city council enacted an ordinance to protect the firestations in various parts of the city. It is a shame that they even had to do this, but I for one commend them for it. 9 more months.....let it be quick!****

Any questions kiddies? One other note. The Northeast firehouse has over twenty separate roof leaks and has had them for quite some time now. The dudes in that station have had to resort to covering equipment with tarps to protect it from the leaking roof. They refer to it as “The Rain Forest.” Is this ‘doing more with less’ also? Rather than fix the roof, we buy tarps? What did the mayor say to channel 28 about the deplorable condition of Coal St.?

“It’s like a leaky roof. You can’t keep patching it, you need a new roof."

Blah, blah, blah and blah. New roof? He won’t even patch it!

It is going to be so refreshing to have a mayor that tells us he truth.

I keep seeing that Humvee rumbling around town and I’m wondering how long it’ll be before it sports a FOR SALE sign being that those unsightly vehicles get less than 9 mpg.

Graffiti is in the news again. The Voice story today points out that two of our remaining businesses in this city have been nailed lately and the owners are less than pleased. I keep saying that Wilkes-Barre is not currently a business-friendly city and Mark Torbik’s comments to the Voice are extremely troubling when you consider that he spent untold thousands to remain a part of the drowntown. We either take back our streets, or the exodus will continue.

Who was the clueless goof that e-mailed the Voice about graffiti? Check this:

One Wilkes-Barre resident sent an e-mail to this newspaper defending those responsible for graffiti, claiming they are "artists" who are just expressing themselves.

"Think of it as an illegal advertising campaign and the product is art," he wrote.

Forget calling the cops. Keep an axe handle handy and if you happen to get the drop on one of these ‘artists’ feel free to ‘illegally’ express yourself.

An e-mail from a Copper Dude:

****Mark,
Looks like your now the official middle man. OK. Here are a few suggestions to help this individual in the red light district.
First, since he is able to observe undetected, can he provide registration information? If so please call. Second, did he actually observe a sex act that was in full view of the public?(not him running up to the vehicle, endangering himself or others) If so please call. Lastly, should an investigation reveal that a crime was actually committed, will he testify? If so please call. I'm certainly not discouraging him from calling 911 to make us aware, but we already know. In fact, I would bet my next paycheck on the fact that, collectively, officers dedicate more motor patrol, stationery patrol and assigned time to the block including S. Main, E. Ross, S. Franklin and E. South Streets than any other section of the city.

Lots of information is exchanged here daily. People telling patrol officers that hookers are on the street is nothing new. We rotate areas every single shift. Which means that the same officer isn't in the same area two shifts in a row. This supposedly increases awareness, alertness and different approaches to resolutions. With that said, it is highly unlikely, that this individual would speak to the same officer two shift in a row.

The red lighters e-mail seemed to suggest that he had some bad experiences with our department, administration or both and for that I'm sorry. His fears of being dismissed, name read over the scanner or address put out for public consumption are understandable. However, since he can't seem to solve the problem on his own, his options are somewhat limited.

We need to know who to talk to about a complaint. Therefore, we have to know where to go. Makes sense. People must provide information, this is what forms the basis for an investigation. Makes sense. And people must be willing to follow through with their obligation when they ask police to intervene, meaning testify. Again makes sense. We have many investigative tools at our disposal, but without witness' our investigative tools are sometimes useless.

In closing, please bear in mind that assumptions based on a citizens gut feeling are not crimes. The complaint the red lighter has is justified, BUT being totally honest, it's the oldest profession in the world. The biggest cities with thousands of officers can only somewhat control the problem, not quell it. Thats not admitting defeat, just stating the facts.****

BANG! We can end all of the hooker debates and hooker problems. Bring back the bike patrols and sic ‘em on the hookers!

Another e-mail from a city resident:

****Mark,
I was at the meeting on Wednesday for the new TAN. Jim Hayward lied in front of God, the whole Council and press. Our XXXXXXXX of a mayor was _in the building_ at 4:30 wandering around. How do I know? Because I _saw_ him! Mike McNarney had his facts correct. Hayward, when asked where the mayor was, stumbled on his own words. At first he said that the mayor was in the building, then two seconds after that said that he "thought" McGroarty was in Harrisburg on "some equally important" business. Hayward lied to cover for this XXXXX.****

Oh, come on! Everyone should be used to this by now. This is Wilkes-Barre. We should be fully used to cryptic responses, half-truths, sophmoric gasconade and stonewalling from our bamboozling potentate and his hand-picked myrmidons. Short and sweet: Where is the mayor? I’d tell you, but then I’d have to kill you.

The time to start voting responsibly and holding people accountable has definitely arrived in this downtrodden kingdom.

Check this pic of 57 Taft Street up yonder in the Heights.

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What’s the first clue that this is an obvious derelict property? The front door being wide open is a pretty good hint. A neighbor tells me that the dump has been vacant for well over three years and the Neighborhood Impact Team has been there numerous times. And it’s still a problem property. Everybody knows it’s there, everybody knows it needs to be dealt with-but there it remains. At what point can we just bulldoze it and send the owner a picture of what remains of it? How many years have to pass before we can put it out of it’s misery? If a politico lived next to it, it would have already been bulldozed. Residents apparently have no real recourse when dealing with eyesores on their street.

An e-mail snippet:

****305 days and counting....****

I hear that!