While some seem transfixed on their neighborhood and their neighborhood alone, the construction and related whatnot in the downtown is accelerating at a somewhat dizzying pace.
Check this readers comment I snagged from Save My City, that watering hole for malcontents, rabble-rousers and political novices:
All I keep hearing about is the past administration this and past administration that. The sad fact is that we are into the third year of this administration with very little to show for the mayors first term. Well what about the theatre and the L&I building? Remember he was elected in 2003. The people of this city deserve better than what they are getting. When was the last time you heard about this city receiving a grant from the Feds or the state?
Take a look for example at the street light fiasco, almost three years and not one light pole has been put up, this mayor would have impressed me if he declared an emergency and started working on the light poles the on his first day in office. Could not have been done you say, okay just keep repeating I believe, I believe, now your eyelids are getting heavy...
This is what happens when your vision is clouded by having your eyeballs pressed firmly against your prostrate.
All I keep hearing about is the past administration this and past administration that.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but the previous administration left this city a physical, financial and attitudinal mess. One of the mentally vapid “Save My City” “saviors” claimed that the current administration is trying to “squeeze the union” at everyone else’s expense. In actuality, this city avoided becoming an Act 47 city--a financially distressed--city under Tom Leighton’s stewardship, and quite frankly, when he first took office, I thought that Act 47 status might be unavoidable. Remember, his first official act as mayor was the acquisition of a record-setting $10.5 million Tax Anticipation Note to retire the previous administration’s unpaid, overdue debts in one fell swoop. While some may not want to hear about silly little things like facts, the selective memory routine is borne of petty politics and little else.
As far as squeezing the union is concerned, if Leighton had opted for Act 47 status which some thought he would be forced to do, the first thing that would have been burned in this city would have been the union contracts. Under Act 47 status, the fire department would have been reduced in size and scope, and most assuredly more drastically than it has been. Basically, he had two options upon taking office. He could relinquish control of the purse strings to the state, or he could try to reduce and control operational costs from City Hall. If you think the closing of two horribly deteriorated firehouses was a bitter pill to swallow, you would have just loved being an officially declared distressed city.
Someone also mentioned that Scranton had more policemen and firemen, but if they did their homework, they would have known that the unionized employees in Scranton fought long and hard to have their mayor ousted from his roost. Why? For doing much the same thing that Leighton has done in Wilkes-Barre--controlling costs.
The sad fact is that we are into the third year of this administration with very little to show for the mayors first term. Well what about the theatre and the L&I building? Remember he was elected in 2003. The people of this city deserve better than what they are getting. When was the last time you heard about this city receiving a grant from the Feds or the state?
Take a look for example at the street light fiasco, almost three years and not one light pole has been put up, this mayor would have impressed me if he declared an emergency and started working on the light poles the on his first day in office. Could not have been done you say, okay just keep repeating I believe, I believe, now your eyelids are getting heavy…
I’m not sure what caused all of that drool. Take your pick. There’s the selective memory thing, the clouded vision melanoma, or the petty political prick deal going down.
Grant monies? Um, Ed Rendell brought…what was it?…$10 million to Wilkes-Barre.. Oops! Did we intentionally forget about that, or is the fecal matter dried to the eyeballs again? Just this year Rick Santorum stepped to the sidewalk podium at Kings College and announced that he had $1 million to add to the streetlight project. Ouch! Do we need a series of eyelid scrapings, or was that deleted from the memory by design? What’s City Vest up to now? Wasn’t it $8 million to rehab the Sterling Hotel? The mindless Borg from the Heights can yammer on and on all they like until the next exciting fire (cross your fingers) erupts, but the undeniable truth is that those monies would have been unattainable had Tom Leighton not knocked Tom McGroarty off during the ‘03 primaries. Fact is, the big political fish don’t throw money at the little political fish until they gain their trust as being responsible leaders.
We have “very little to show for the mayors first term?” This is the worst kind of hollow claptrap coming from those who fail to realize that an ISO rating has to take a back seat to financial concerns such as bond ratings if Wilkes-Barre is to thrive once again. Without the far-flung possible investors confidence in our ability to operate a fiscally sound operation, grants, loans and subsidies would be harder to acquire, plus, more expensive to come by. The reason we have “very little to show” for is because our mayor dotted the “Is” and crossed the “Ts” before the bricks and mortar were ordered, paid in full and delivered.
If we remember correctly, the previous mayor spent $5 million to erect a muddy hole. He also encroached on an enjoining property the city didn’t own. He expected contractors to engage the project without actual blueprints. And he left us a trail of related lawsuits as a result. Basically, he tried to build a $14 million theater without having the funding in place, the property rights, or the necessary engineering or feasibility studies done before he went off half-cocked.
I know the folks in the Heights don’t deal well with truths, but here’s a true story to chew on. When the bulldozers were first clearing that site for the now infamous footers to be poured, I stood there on Washington Street snapping pictures from various angles. All of a sudden a certain mayor tapped me on the shoulder and said “What do you think, tough guy?” I responded to his purposely childish remark by asking him how the city was going to pay for the expensive theater project. He said, and I quote: “It’s getting built, isn’t is?” I confirmed what our eyeballs were already telling us both, but repeated my much more than fair and reasonable question. He proceeded to repeat his original response: “It’s getting built, isn’t is?” My retort was “We shall see.” Since my pocket radio was blaring away, he asked me who I was listening to. I told him I was listening to Fred Williams on WILK (this area’s 2nd biggest critic of his administration) which caused him to chuckle near uncontrollably. As he was turning away, he smiled wide and said “He said it wouldn’t get built, too. Who looks smart now?”
Who looks smart now?
I’ll tell you who looks smart now. Tom Leighton looks smart. He looks smart now because he departed from the previous mayor’s one-man-show approach to all things urban planning and revitalization, and invited whatever entity that wanted to assist into the, then, fledgling coalition. Be they chamber folks, businessmen, financial planning firms, bond insurers, residents associations, business organizations, individual residents, internet raconteurs, governors or even a Republican Senator; if they could aid in Wilkes-Barre’s eventual rebirth, he made it obvious that his was an all-inclusive administration. Could one man save Wilkes-Barre? Obviously not. Could one man attract, encourage, work well with and meld together all of the scattered interests hoping to save Wilkes-Barre? Yes he can and he did just that.
As far as Wilkes-Barre having nothing to show for his 27 months at the helm, I couldn’t disagree more vociferously. I’m not limited to assessing the current state of the city from church basements, council meetings, fire grounds, or the corner bar as so many in the Heights seem to be doing these days. The truth be told, the downtown is bustling with construction activity from one end to the other.
I know being patient for two years is well beyond most folks capabilities, but things are accelerating down there. Yeah, it started slow. They removed the canopies. The Labor & Industry building took a while, but it’s open for business and a hotbed of foot traffic. It seems as if it’s taking a long time for the theater complex to near it’s completion date, but it’s an expansive project and we are but a couple of months away from bitching about the price of a giant-sized box of Junior Mints. I can’t wait. First they laid the conduit for the new streetlights. Now, they’ve got the footers being poured up one side of South Main and down the other. I drove by Lowe’s the other day, and they’ve taken to remodeling the recently exposed exterior of the building and they’re adding windows down the side of the building. A window booth, anyone?
The environmental remediation has already begun at the soon-to-be removed Hotel Sterling tower. The sprawling Murray Complex was purchased by a successful developer, the tenants moved out and now I see that the City Mager end of the complex has been demolished. Something is in store for that property, but what it might be is completely unbeknownst to me. The Wilkes University security center has relocated to South Main, further construction is on-going and contractors are currently making all sorts of upgrades to the parking garage above it. Wilkes also unveiled the new sports facilities inside the former call center, and in my opinion, that building is fast becoming a jewel.
The liquor license notice has been posted in the window where our new dance club is soon to be opening. The former CVS property where the new pool emporium is due to open has been undergoing some serious renovating for quite some time. Hey! Even a new-and-improved, much safer Cage Metropolis is back on the downtown’s landscape. In all honesty, I wish they’d upgrade the front side of the building. It may attract crowds, but from the front, it looks like it’s been vacant for years. We’ve got two new eateries, an arts emporium, a comedy club, and from what they tell me, an all-time high interest in the long-vacant downtown storefronts. We’ve got new playground equipment at Kirby Park, which was very long overdue. Trust me, the grandkids liked that playground the least. We’re close to becoming a Wi-Fi capable city. We’re considering a city-wide system of surveillance cameras to enhance public safety and reduce graffiti vandalism.
The Chamber folks announced this week that a bookstore/coffee klatch is destined to fill the former Woolworth’s building. The intermodel bus and parking facility is fully funded and on it’s way. When that facility opens, we’re being promised vertical parking all around Public Square. Don’t forget the riverfront remodeling project soon to get underway. Don’t forget that some plans are afoot for that shuttered bank building two doors away from the Kirby Center. Then, consider the fact that whenever I quiz those in the know about any future developments and such, to a person, they all say pretty much the same thing: In two to three years, people won’t even recognize this city.”
I know it’s hard to believe in a city not usually known for progress. I know it’s much easier to dwell on the negative. If you believe, you can be disappointed. And if you dare to believe, you can eventually be proven wrong. But I have to tell you, we’re on the cusp of some really exciting times in this city, despite the negativity that seemingly pervades much of the news coming out of this city of late.
I’ve been listening to all of this jazz that I’m too pro-Leighton for a while now. Look, if you were to dump him come election time, I would not slice my wrists, or drown myself in Paul Kanjorski‘s proposed cesspool fun park. I would mock your abject stupidity, but it’ll never come to that. I have nothing to gain by being “too pro-Leighton,” except for what I wanted all along--a new-and-improved Wilkes-Barre. And I never suggested that he alone deserves all of the credit for what is about to happen in Wilkes-Barre. He was simply the catalyst by which everyone that could help did help. And help they did.
“…keep repeating I believe, I believe, now your eyelids are getting heavy…
To be painfully honest, the only people making my eyelids heavy are the thoroughly jaundiced fools on the hill. If recalcitrant jabberwocky passed as leadership, these folks would be running the entire show. Fortunately for us, we’ve grown tired of fools running this city into the ground.
Do you really want to save my city?
Pay these fools no mind.
The other day, while I was pedaling my way home, a late-model car screeched past me on Wyoming Street, came to an abrupt stop and four gang-banger types spilled out with “trouble” written all over their faces. I pedaled a bit further, stopped, looked back and watched a mini-brawl break out. It was over about as soon as it started, the bangers jumped back into the car and sped away. I scribbled down their license plate number and proceeded to follow them to a Madison Street address with a large crowd milling about in front of it. During the trip to Madison Street, the call came over the scanner that a fight was in progress on Wyoming Street and the area (patrol) car was dispatched. To those that would criticize the policing effort in this city, criminal acts can happen at breakneck speeds, and the assailants can disappear into the woodwork in seconds. Pipe down!
Since one of the bangers took a good look at the scanner on my bike, I didn’t want to get too close to the crowd on Madison, so I watched them from the corner on Butler Street. I dialed 826-8106 and passed along what I had seen and the plate number to the cop that answered the phone. He said he would pass that along to the area car that was on scene on Wyoming Street. Since he seemed kind of skeptical, I called a city detective and gave him the same information.
This guy stalks drug dealers like child molesters stalk nubile tweens at MySpace.com. He was already aware of the Madison Street address, but at the very least, the plate number I passed along might provide some additional insights as to who he is dealing with. I hope.
In addition to that, a city woman e-mailed me asking for help with what she suspects to be a nearby drug house. Not wanting to hand out cell phone numbers, I provided her with the e-mail address of that very same city detective. If anyone can help her, it’ll be him. Based on past experiences, he has won my undying trust in these respects.
My sole point is that drug dealers and drug houses can be effectively dealt with by direct citizen involvement, but not by showing up at council meetings armed with little more than impassioned shouts at the elected folks. Our police officers can and do work magic when provided with a bit of assistance on our parts. When the fight went down on Wyoming Street, the idiots that started it parked far enough away to ensure that their intended targets would not to able to supply the plate number of the car. That’s where I came into the mix.
If you see something that you absolutely know isn’t right, pass it along. Get plate numbers and such. Leave a message on the detective’s answering machines if they aren’t in when you bother to call. You never know. The info you provide could make what would be a year-long investigation into a much shorter investigation resulting in arrests. Rather than griping in a loud fashion and feeling powerless, get involved.
Why would a priest from a city-based college bother to endorse the damming of a polluted river? What do we have here? Yet another person who has never seen brownish foam clinging to a kayak paddle telling us what the river needs? Has he ever grounded a kayak at the base of a sewer outflow and taken note of what was spewing out of it? Has he looked at the acid-stained banks of the river from the middle of the river? Has he seen for himself the slow whirlpool still feeding river water in the mines directly over the scene of the Knox Mine Disaster? Has he seen the rusted rail car still sitting in the river’s water all these decades later?
When it comes to this easily debatable inflatable dam argument, consider the dubious sources supporting it’s construction.
By the way, while working on the furthermost end of West Academy Street last week, my co-worker and I spotted a Bald Eagle gliding towards Barney Farms. Wanna see them for yourself? Wanna see their numbers increase in this valley? Then tell your congressman that you want this river our ours cleaned rather than dammed.
From The Times Leader:
Clean up Susquehanna before doing anything else with river
My sports-fishing travels have taken me to places on the Susquehanna River where chemical waste pours in 24 hours a day. The summer smell of direct sewage deposit is also there. The Butler Mine Tunnel in Pittston and sewer overflow pipes in West Pittston also provide direct sewage.
The Lackawanna River dumps acid mine water into the river at Pittston. Slightly down river, the inflatable dam will be a holding tank for this mess. How the DEP and other state and local agencies can provide water quality permits for a dam in this area is beyond my comprehension, but I guess anything is possible in the world of politics.
U.S. Rep. Paul Kanjorski is a fine guy, but his notion of installing an inflatable dam near Wilkes-Barre is almost as crazy as the low-lying park that was recently taxpayer-built along the east side of Pittston City. The river floods it annually with smelly water. Any taxpayer money allocated to the Susquehanna should first be used to clean up the water.
Alan Kornish Pittston
Check this out. The War on Terror is all but over.