1-2-2008 Happy New Year?

Since practically everyone else is doing it, I feel compelled to do a year in review sort of ditty. So letís have at it.

2007?

Well, I lost a daughter and 2 grandkids to Tennessee. My sister moved to Florida quite abruptly. My brother upped and died on me. And the only father figure I ever had expired, too.

2007?

It sucked and then some.

Happy New Year!!!

And 2008? I resolve to keep my fingers crossed whereas the performance of Maryanne Petrilla is concerned.

ThereĎs been much noise made about resurrecting the Home Rule fight, as evidenced by this letter to the editor penned by a former member of the Government Study Commission that put in many an hour trying, but failing to institute Home Rule just a few short years ago. Those folks volunteered countless hours putting the Home Rule Charter together only to see it defeated at the polls.

And while I keep hearing this incessant rumbling about visiting Home Rule again, I donít see anyone stepping forward to spearhead another go at it. As was the case during the last go-round, one strong-willed individual is needed to push the agenda forward and make it happen. But, as of this moment, no one has volunteered to lead the oft-called for political revolution.

With that said, those who might be interested in leading the charge need to be remindful of the fact that a brand new charter need not be written from the ground up as the 2003 version is still available and ready for some tweaking.

In other words, to revisit Home Rule would not be the monumental undertaking that it was back in 2003. Most of the legwork has been done. So, if youíre seriously interested, there it is.

Good luck, and knock yourself out.

I keep getting, essentially, the same e-mail over and over asking me what I think of Tim Grierís budget challenge. Letís give that a go.

While I think his actions have been an interesting shot over the Countyís listing bow, in the end, I doubt that they will amount to very much.

Yes, the County was forced to retire itís 2007 TAN with 2007 dollars and not 2008 dollars, but the possible repercussions of that move have yet to have been explored fully. Will that have some debilitating effects on the 2008 finances at some point? Perhaps.

Yes, the County is being forced to justify itís 2008 financing packages to the state, but the Countyís argument that Tim Grier has no standing because he does not own property does have merit, and has been used before to fend off budgetary challenges from residents.

Even if the State sided with Grier, we have no way of knowing at this point is thatís a good or bad thing, as many high-profile projects are dependant upon the proposed bonds and such. If he loses his challenge, the County will have to start putting forth responsible and legal budgets on the block from today forward. If we wins, that might put the kibosh to, or at least seriously delay many of those high-profile projects. And depending on your perspective, that could be viewed any number of different ways. What his actions have given us is a healthy dose of uncertainty whereas those projects are concerned, but to date, not much else. Stay tuned.

On a side note, a few outraged people have called WILK and suggested that if Grier can be denied this challenge simply because he does not own property, perhaps he could even be denied the right to vote. In short, thatís not happening as there are plenty of legal precedents already on the books that would prevent that. No, they cannot take your vote away unless youíre in the military, deployed overseas and voting for a republican by way of an absentee ballot. As Florida 2000 proves, that can be done.

So whatís going to happen if Tim Grier wins his challenge? Fact is, nobody really knows. And thatís the problem with jumping into such things without having first investigated them fully. Some guy from Allentown calls WILK citing chapter and verse about the Unit Debt Act, somebody up here decides to run with it, and thenÖthen, weíll figure out what the ramifications of that move will be after the dust settles.

While I agree that the people who run this county need to be held completely accountable, Iím not sure that the people making the most noise about reinventing the government, or wanting a ďsmaller governmentĒ could mange things any better if this half-baked move is indicative of how would carry themselves.

As I said before, Tim Grier is not the bad guy in all of this. Skrepís crew sat on the bad news until after the election, and then they presented a budget build on deficit spending to cover the prior deficit spending. They cannot balance a single budget, but they wanted to borrow an addition $92 million? This, after four years of exorbitant deficit spending? Grierís challenge is the long-overdue verbal equivalent of ďGuysÖwhat the fu>k are you doing?Ē

And no matter who the State sides with in this manner, that aforementioned shot over the bow and been sent and duly noted. The folks supposedly toiling away under that rotunda dome now know that we have available to us a tool by which we can call them on their reckless spending, as well as their obviously poorly constructed budgets. That said, we need to research that tool a lot more before we go yielding it again.

When Skrep and Vonderheid first took office, one of the things they promised but never delivered was quarterly budget reports. And since taking office, they have spent like drunken sailors assembled around a well-worn brass pole in Bangkok. And the proposed borrowing contained within the 2008 budget is obviously a continuation of such.

I understand the difference between expenses and investments, and itís readily apparent that much of what theyíve spent and much of what they propose to spend could be called investments in our future as a community. But is there no limit to said investments? Can we continue to add to our already staggering outstanding debts while federal and state revenue sources continue to dry up?

Like I said, I doubt that the challenge already in the works will amount to much. But what that challenge did accomplish was calling even more attention, greater scrutiny to a county government that ought not be crafting itís budgetary plans anywhere near a brass pole.

The thing that worries me is, what unintended consequences will come about as a result of Grierís knee jerk actions?

We shall see.

I behaved myself on New Yearís Eve. Yep, I bought me a six-pack of Rolling Rock pounders, settled in and watched myself some completely inept television programming.

I wonder. Do you think I could be reimbursed for that six-pack Ďiffin I worked for the county? Hmmm.

So, this is what itís like to be normal. Watching inane twaddle on the video advertising box.

Scanner Land was surely hopping. Even here in our somewhat tranquil Nord End, alcohol numbed it all to the point of violence and what have you. Letís see, we had a stabbing go down within a couple of feet of our new city councilmanís home. Interesting, his first unofficial day as a councilman and urban decay sends him a reminder of what heís up against. And then we had the life flight out of here. We had a few domestic situations, as well as noise complaints. And then we had the kid who drove his quad into the back of a parked tracker trailer. Sadly, he didnít survive his wreck.

I swear, it ought to be illegal to operate a quad on the streets.

At some point, my son called me wanting to know what all the sirens were about. ďThe usual,Ē I told him. ďAmateur night.Ē When I was much younger, I battled it out with these drunken amateurs on the middle shift. Now that Iím old and senile, I sit home and listen to the battles on the scanner. Which is not to say that I donít enjoy the needless battles anymore. But these days, I donít lose any shirts or ties over this nonsense. Anyway, show me a drunk being hovered over by a cop itching to start swinging his baton, and Iím smiling inwardly. Show me a restaurant manager doing the same, and Iím in my own crazed version of Heaven.

I hope you didnít need to be bailed out because of a simple change of calendars.

Happy New Year!!!

A couple of days from now, the folks in Iowa will climb down off of their tractors and vote. Yes, the presidential campaign is underway, and even though itís months-long, it promises to be an interesting brouhaha.

And before very long, we too will be facing a primary vote come May. And in anticipation of that event, new political blogs will pop up here on the local scene. This has been an interesting phenomenon, oh, for about 2 or 3 years running now. As the next election draws near, anonymously-written political blogs start growing legs.

Basically, what they amount to are blogs that are trying to get one person in particular elected, but without disclaiming as much. They claim to be objective political pundits, when they are nothing of the sort. They take shots, deserved or otherwise, at the elected folk. They take shots at the longer-running, more established political bloggers. And they seem to absolutely delight in getting after me. So, by keeping track of who they donít take shots at, you can determine just who it is that they pulling for.

And just as soon as the votes are totaled, they go away. They go away because their predictions were wildly inaccurate, and because their preferred candidates were soundly beaten. With five months left before we vote again, it shouldnít be too long before some of these sorts of ill-fated blogs start making some ill-conceived noise.

Although, I do look forward to the emergence of these short-lived undertakings. I really do. Especially the ones that take after me. Theyíll demean me any which way they can. Theyíll call me every name in the book. And theyíll tell you Iím on some local politicianís payroll. But, what they never do right before they pull the plug on their internet monster is point out that what they wrote was well, well off the mark. And in this day and age where blogs are like assholes, in that, everyoneís got one, thatís the part of the electronic scuffle that I enjoy the most. The part where the anonymous know-it-alls run away.

Because, the thing is, if you write on the internet anonymously, you can never be proven wrong. No name, no face, no lingering smirks at the authorís expense. In fact, if you manage to embarrass yourself with your latest internet scribbling, you can pull the plug, run away, and start anew anonymously right before the election cycle after that. Yes, you can be a cyclical dummy. Pretty neat, hayna?

Katsock lost? OíDonnell got spanked? Hey, no biggie. Delete this current incarnation of misinformation run amok and try again during the run-up to the next election. You never know, you might get lucky and call the next one correctly. Then again, you might not. But at least youíll be safely wrapped in your anonymity.

Anyway, it shouldnít be long before the upstart experts start making some noise.

Yawn.

As promised, the editorial board of Wilkes-Barre Online (moi) has sent a list of questions along to City Administrator, J.J. Murphy, for his perusal.

So before too, too long, we should be able to gain a few insights from Wilkes-Barreís second in command.

ĎTil next time.