10-17-2007 Facts is facts

Due to the unseasonably warm temperatures, my workload at work has yet to trail off. So, I’ve been watching and waiting for an election brouhaha that is yet to come, and quite frankly, probably not coming at all.

Seriously, if the best the hopefuls have is this oft-bellowed, “The neighborhoods have been neglected at the downtown’s benefit,” well…I have to say, nice try and all and make sure to show up for the next less than exhilarating and less than competitive election go-round. Now, don’t let the voting booth curtain hit you on the ass on the way out.

Come to think of it, did they actually purchase those curtains yet? Ah, you gives a funk anyway? Just vote and shut your hole.

So, the dreaded powers that be in Wilkes-Barre have decided to enforce a law restricting the placement of election signs that, from all accounts, was enacted around the same time that Adam first gave Eve the good ole in/out, in/out real savage like. And according to howling critic extraordinaire, Walter Griffith, the sudden enforcement of this little-known ordinance represents “..a set back for freedom and democracy…”

How dramatic. Where’s Superman when we need him? To fight for truth, justice and the District A candidate’s yard signs.

Somethin’ like that.

To be perfectly blunt, no one has the right to erect signs of any sort on anyone else’s property and/or properties, so, in effect, the rights of property owners are being enforced. As for our precious democracy, since 50% of the country seems to prefer a socialist state in which free speech from the remaining 50% should be curtailed by law, I’d say the democracy experiment has just about run it’s course and the United States of America should be deemed a rapidly backsliding Teat State from here on out.

Puerto Rico, anyone?

And freedom? Well, we are still free to do as the leftists say, but resistance will not be tolerated for too, too much longer. Stop being hateful and exclusionary, cough up 60% of your earnings, be forever tolerate of the intolerable, smoke an awful lot of something organic and pull that straight democratic lever. Now, get back to work because the countless slackers everywhere are beckoning Hillary to provide them with that which they steadfastly refuse to provide for themselves. Have a nice day, but refrain from being judgmental of others as to do so would result in your being judged very, very harshly.

Signs? I’ve got one on the front lawn and one out back. In other words, I’m good to go and feel absolutely no need to trespass.

Get it?

Trespassing?

I heard this quick sound byte on WILK in which Steve Corbett mentioned Tom Leighton’s ‘08 budget and referred to the lot of us as being “delusionary.”

Knowing damn well that Corbett has not reviewed a copy of said budget, would anyone out there happen to have a clue as to what this bombastic curmudgeon is going on and on about? He just refuses to relent? Scranton (his chosen urban setting) is utterly perfect, but Wilkes-Barre is to small cities what Rosie O’Donnell is to beauty? Chris Dougherty good/Tom Leighton Bad? And all because Tom Leighton steadfastly refuses to respond to Corbett’s predictably juvenile rants and baseless attacks? You will do as you are told, call, or he will trash yours and your city’s reputation?

So, a balanced budget is a delusion. In a town that was carrying $10.8 million in unpaid, overdue debts just four short years ago, a balanced budget leaves us open to unearned, unfair criticism?

Whatever. You heard it first on WILK: No matter what, Wilkes-Barre still sucks. Well, that is, until Tom Leighton makes all chummy like with that oft-hyperventilating blowhard, Steve Corbett.

Funny, I spent two days a week working in the Scranton area this Summer, and I’m here to tell Steve Corbett that Scranton and Wilkes-Barre have the exact same challenges and problems to overcome. Although, Scranton does have some pools and a prohibitively expensive tree house. Oh, and Chris Dougherty does call Corbett and pretends to enjoy his company. And therein lies the biggest difference.

Yeah, Steve, you can huff and puff all you like. But the undeniable truth of the matter is that your neighborhood, the Hill Section, looks and feels much like the neighborhood I hail from. Yep, some of us spend significant amounts of time in all of NEPA’s cities, so it’s impossible for you to hoodwink us much like you plague upon the ignorance of others who rarely cross over their tiny podunk’s borders.

Tell it true. What you despise the most about Wilkes-Barre is that it’s duly elected leader ignores you as he should.

So take that, roll it in your alfalfa sprouts, your tofu, your wheat germ and eat it!

I‘ve enjoyed the Times Leader‘s “Election 2007” series to date. Although, I’d prefer that these candidate previews be a tad more comprehensive, i.e., longer. But why complain, right?

Kane: City on the right track

“We have been working together with the mayor for the last four years and it’s really been a pleasure to watch the city improve,” Kane said Thursday during an interview with The Times Leader Editorial Board. “The administration has been responsive to council’s concerns. It wasn’t that way during my first term.”

Yeah, her first term. I think too many of us have forgotten what her first term was like. The city council demanded financial data and the former mayor refused to provide the answers, or to even attend the council meetings at all. And all the while, the city’s unpaid debts were piling higher than was Tom McGroarty’s desk.

Yet, somehow, Tom Leighton’s inane, unrelenting critics claim he’s unresponsive, if not, unapproachable. How stupid do they sound?

She is proud of the establishment of a junior council (her idea), which gets a sprinkling of high school students involved in the workings of city government. As far as I’m concerned, anything that gets our youth involved in the process is a good thing.

I take no issue with anything Kane had to say to the editorial board, whoever they are.

Cronauer says he will do job or get out after 4 years

“I’m not in this to criticize anyone or for personal gain,” said Cronauer in an interview with The Times Leader Editorial Board. “I promised my family I would do what I can to return this city to the way it once was; to improve the neighborhoods and improve family values.”

I don’t know the man, but he comes off as being a man of his word. There has to be a reason he was the top vote-getter in the primary and skunked the popular incumbent in the process.

Griffith wants to see more council, public involvement

“Council has the power under the Home Rule Charter to ask questions regarding policies and procedures,” Griffith said. “But I feel by actually meeting with department heads, council members would get a better understanding of how the city operates and that would make the system more accountable.”

Griffith would review city budgets, improve ordinance enforcement and establish a sealed bid process for city-owned properties.

“I want to see more involvement of the public, especially at council meetings,” Griffith said. “Right now people who address council are not treated with as much respect as they should.”

It’s good to see that he’s keeping his normally accusatory self in check. But, with that said, it sounds as if he’s running for city auditor. Not necessarily a bad thing, mind you. It’s just that he still sounds as if he’s hunting for nonexistent scandals under every city-owned rock.

And I see he neglected to mention the ‘neglected neighborhoods’ bit, which practically every challenger, himself included, has been trumpeting to the point of absurdity.

He’s tweaked his message and act over the years, and he’s presented himself rather well before the editorial board. But he still faces the vote-getting dreadnaught that is Rick Cronauer.

Good luck with that.

Fighting drugs and crime main focus for District E’s Merritt

“The neighborhoods have definitely gone downhill,” Merritt said. “The drug problem is terrible. We have to take our streets back. You can see it in our playgrounds; it’s like being in some inner-city area. I see kids 30 years old hanging out there. We must tell them they can play basketball, but don’t bring any drugs.”

Merritt said the city has seen an influx of out-of-town residents and that absentee landlords rent to people he described as a “different element.”

Drug-related crime is on the increase, he said, and he would like to add more police officers and increase Crime Watch participation. If elected, Merritt said, he would look into available funding to see if more officers can be hired.

He and I live in the same neighborhood, and his perception of what’s going on is spot-on accurate. The problems are not unique to Wilkes-Barre by any stretch of the imagination, but the solutions to said problems have proven to be frustratingly illusive.

Short of hiring even more police officers and bringing on a big clampdown, in my opinion, the absentee landlords are our biggest dilemma. The decades-long out-migration of our youth has left Mom and Pop back here with a home that nobody wants upon the parent’s passing other than the investment seeking absentee landlords and, of course, the rising Hispanic population. What to do about it? That’s a tough one.

In the Nord End, what we face are mostly nuisance crimes and the directly related what have you. And since we cannot outlaw absentee landlords, absentee parents and poor parenting in general, we’re left grappling with a byproduct of an obvious societal decline that probably requires more than the occasional saturation patrol to correct.

As for the illegal drugs and the debilitating effects they inflict upon our society, I see no end in sight. We can either send them all to the recently expanded hoosegows, or we can legalize everything and then freak out when the potheads, crack heads and dead heads kill our children while driving under the influence. As we can all easily predict, if possession and use becomes legal, consumption will increase exponentially. Oh, but the drug testing industry would explode.

It’s hard to take issue with what Merritt said, but the answers to those problems are going to be hard to come by. With that said, we do need to search for them.

Mike Merritt actually dropped by here at the modest adobe this past Sunday. Although, he banged on the door while the National Football League had my strict, strict attention. Our conversation kept alternating between the needs of the city and the needs of our fantasy football teams. Weird, for sure.

Seemed like a nice enough guy. Relaxed, affable, well-spoken and most importantly…an NFL fan. I do like his business background. No, not like running a bar, a garage, or a any other nondescript small business. No, I mean a business acumen that involves millions of dollars and hundreds of employees that are counting on you to make the prudent business decisions. If you truly want government to be run like a profit-and-loss business, you need people that have been there and done that on a much grander scale than what we’ve become accustomed to. In this respect, Merritt seems to fit the bill.

Although, when he left here, he thanked me for my support. Support that I had yet to offer.

So, there it is. Merritt or Yencha? Who’s my choice for the first ever Mayor of Nord End?

Stay tuned as pictures don’t lie.

And, finally, the outright champion of the myopic ‘forgotten neighborhoods’ campaign, Linda Stets.

Stets: All of Wilkes Barre deserves attention

“I think a common sense approach can bring back the city to a more civilized lifestyle,” Stets said during an interview with The Times Leader Editorial Board. “The past few years there has been too much emphasis on Public Square. A lot of the money being spent there could have been applied to our neighborhoods.”

Common sense? Huh? Care to expound on that? Sounds like Hillary Clinton, always short on specifics. We need to do it better. We need to do it smarter.

I’ll have to get me one of those Gobbletygook-to-English translation paperbacks.

“Outside of Public Square, I don’t see anything (the mayor) has really done,” Stets said. “Our neighborhoods are declining. We need to fill up those offices (Leighton) built.”

Nothing new there. The administration has been focused on the downtown, while the city’s neighborhoods are in a state of decline. Yada, yada, yada.

The only problem with that election year pitch is that is wholly, inexplicably and inescapably inaccurate. Point blank, it’s total bunk.

The following documents are a bit dated, but I think they clearly show that the current administration of this city has been hard at work trying to improve an infrastructure that was literally falling apart around us when last we elected a mayor.

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Facts is facts.

Now, if those are neighborhoods being ignored, then I’m missing something.

Linda Stets has been pounding this “neighborhoods” thing, but the fact of the matter is, it’s patently unfair and completely inaccurate.

At the conclusion of 2003, Wilkes-Barre was a battered and broken place. Our then mayor established a “Pothole Hotline” by which motorists could call and make a claim when the streets damaged their cars. Remember that? The fire department and police department were regularly dispatched to the scenes of cars that had fallen into collapsed catch basins. Remember that? Creek walls were in danger of collapsing into the creek beds. Remember that? We had two firehouses that were on the verge of being condemned or much worse. Remember that? And every one of those glaring problems have been and are still being addressed.

As I said, those documents are kind of dated, but consider the monies involved.

Paving completed as of 2006: $3, 800.000.00

Catch basins repaired as of 2006: $1,346,000.00

Bridges replaced as of 2006: $4, 750,000.00

Major sewer repairs & cleaning: $765,450.00

Flood recovery work: $4,250,000.00

New fire station: $790,000.00

Weir St. pump station upgrade: $125,000.00

N. Main St. wall repairs: $150,000.00

Hollenback Park repairs: $150,000.00

Projected paving for 2007: $1,185,000.00

Catch basins for 2007: $170,000.00

Bridges for 2007 & 2008: $5,800,000.00

Sewer repairs & Cleaning for 2007: $225,132.35

Ongoing flood recovery work to end 2007: $4,650,000.00

Yeah, we need pools and more park improvements. And, yeah, it’d be nice if the Scott Street firehouse could be donated to Stets Inc.. Yeah, it’d be fun for some to have a skate park. Yeah, it’d be nifty if we had exciting new amenities on nearly every block, plus a free city-supplied chicken in every tarnished copper pot.

But the plain fact of the matter is, it doesn’t make much sense at all to install a new sub floor and flooring atop a structurally challenged sill plate and header board. Common sense, right Linda? Should we attach new shingles to a roof barely supported by failing roof rafters? Would you install new windows directly above termite infested cripples? Methinks not.

What this administration has been doing is fixing the city from the foundation up by repairing the far less than sexy, but long neglected basic infrastructure first. New vinyl siding would be great, but if the block foundation is crumbling underneath, how much “common sense” would that amount to?

As I said, facts is facts. And to say that this city’s neighborhoods are being neglected, or have somehow been forgotten about is tantamount to running a completely disingenuous campaign for elected office. The downtown improvements are wonderful and give one cause for optimism, but our neighborhoods have been improved by leaps and bounds.

The fact is, the city is in noticeably better shape than it was as recently as December of 2003. And that didn’t happen by accident. Rather, it happened by design simply because we have capable leadership in place that realized from day one that we can’t shine sh*t. You can’t build upon a structurally deficient foundation, and the Leighton administration knew as much.

Do what you will with Mayor Tom Leighton on election day. Shoot at him with paintballs, boil him in Crisco, or even worse yet…bark some off-color Irish jokes at him. But know this. No matter what becomes of his political career, when Wilkes-Barre has finally turned the corner for good, he will be known as the mayor who fixed Wilkes-Barre. No matter what his political future may hold, he will be recognized as the mayor who made the temporarily unpopular decisions by laying the proper foundation for future construction.

Try as you may, you can’t shine sh*t. And a vote for Linda Stets is a vote to deny Tom Leighton the credit he so richly deserves.

Facts is facts.

Sez me.

‘Til next time.






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