I am constantly asked by people, “Why don’t you write about the shenanigans going on over at the courthouse?” Or, something to that effect, usually with a few bleep words thrown in for good measure.
Let’s put it this way, I used to. I used to hold out hope that if we voted for what looked like good people, things would change over there. But it’s become obvious that with an upper echelon county position comes a sense of entitlement as well as a large infusion of defiant arrogance. Consider this news:
Luzerne County Commissioner Greg Skrepenak and former chief clerk/manager Sam Guesto solicited tickets to sporting events from at least one vendor that does business with the county.
Larry Bickford, of L. Robert Kimball and Associates, said Thursday that his company, which is working on a proposed new county prison design, has purchased tickets for Guesto and/or Skrepenak several times over the last few years.
Bickford said his company offered the tickets half the time, and Guesto or Skrepenak requested them the other half.
Firstly, there is no accountability or oversight with this bunch. They do it, the newspapers belatedly report it, we get all riled up and that’s pretty much that. No matter what the predicament seems to be, nothing ever comes of it. We get mad, but the same characters are reelected during the next election.
Secondly, there are plenty of people questioning and opining away on the goings-on at the courthouse, so it’s not like I need to get involved. Walter, Tim, Mario, Gort and the Yonkster regularly dive into that oft-thickening witch’s brew, so there’s no need for me to spout off.
Take this flap over the free tickets. What are you going to do about it? Make a whole lot of noise only to see the targets of your wrath practically laugh in your face? Huff and puff and sh*t a 5-pound brick only to see them reclaim their positions when next we vote? Sorry, but I’ll sit this nonsense out, excepting for this one time.
I just read that a local blogger thinks there is nothing wrong with accepting freebies from vendors as if it’s a normal part of doing business. Let’s dispel with that nonsense right now.
Try this on for size. You’re a county commissioner and you earn less than a lowly high school dropout turned ditch digger. Then you put out for bids on a proposed project. Company A bids $1,000,000 on that project. And Company B’s bid comes in $250,000 higher, but they will provide you with free tickets, trips, hotel accommodations and what have you. And since you’re going to award this contract behind closed doors, tell me, which bid is more attractive to you?
The freebies in question are perks, premiums, dividends, and they are inherently unethical no matter which way you want to spin it. They are not a part of doing business as normal, and they are severely frowned upon in the private sector, with some companies going as far as stipulating in writing that they are a no-no whereas the procurement process is concerned.
But, as far as our woefully inept county government is concerned, they are a part of doing business. Yes, premiums seems to be at a premium over at the courthouse. And the acceptance of perks such as these is not only disreputable, it is unprofessional. Sadly, disreputable and unprofessional goings-on pass as business as usual under the rotunda dome.
There! I did it. I went and criticized our county honchos.
No more free tickets for this internet scribe.
The e-mail inbox lit up like a NORAD command-and-control bunker with the firing of this missile.
WILKES-BARRE – The city will no longer send a police officer to any Crime Watch Coalition meetings, further straining the already tenuous relationship between city officials and the group’s leadership.
The decision is the second action taken by Mayor Tom Leighton that has drawn the ire of Crime Watch members. In January, Leighton announced the city would no longer recognize or send officers to five of the 13 neighborhood groups that make up the coalition.
Charlotte Raup, director of the coalition, opposed that decision, but she reluctantly agreed to the terms in hopes of maintaining a positive relationship with police. She said she was stunned when she learned last week that the Leighton had expanded his directive to include all crime watch meetings.
Got me, man. I’m not sure what the gig is, but I have heard from some police officers that “tensions” have arisen between the crime watchers and those who are actually paid to deal with crime at the street level. Unfortunately, all of the information I am privy to was strictly “off the record,” and I am nothing if not trustworthy whereas my countless sources are concerned. And I always have been. That’s why people talk to me.
I snagged the following from the National Crime Prevention Council’s Web site. More specifically, I copied it from the page devoted to helping us insignificant critters “start or maintain a Neighborhood Watch program.”
Emphasize that Watch groups are not vigilantes and should not assume the role of the police. Their duty is to ask neighbors to be alert, observant, and caring—and to report suspicious activity or crimes immediately to the police.
Rutro! Hold up. Sorry, that’s the Jetson’s influenced version of ruh-roh. Oops. My best-kept secret is finally out. My biggest literary influences are a cartoon dog and two animated gophers. “What him say?“
Anyway, rutro! Houston, we have a problem.
One…more…time…”Watch groups are not vigilantes and should not assume the role of the police.”
It goes without saying that the crime watchers of the Wilkes-Barre variety are certainly not vigilantes. They have a long track record and have never taken to busting heads or anything. With that said, they have taken to assuming the role of the police, in that, they take it upon themselves to patrol our streets on occasion, and they do conduct routine stake-outs of suspected drug and/or stash houses. And now, even though they are an independent organization not officially affiliated with the City of Wilkes-Barre, they have, whether they want to admit to as much or not, practically invited the Guardian Angels into Wilkes-Barre.
I’m sure this will get my glossy pinned to a few more dart boards, but here goes.
The way I see it, a Neighborhood Watch group should be limited to keeping a watchful eye on it’s own neighborhood. I’m talking about looking out for your neighbors who are probably too old to defend themselves. Perhaps the single lady who lives alone on the dark corner of the street. Keeping an eye on the youngsters. Paying close attention to the homes of those who flew to some far off exotic locale. And perhaps breathing down the backs of the idiots that seem to pop up like gophers on every block.
Now, before you go there, I admit to not practicing what I now preach. When the druggies came to my tiny street, there was a fine line between what vigilantes typically do and what I did. But my actions resulted in many an arrest, a return to normalcy on this tiny street and I make no apologies for any of it. I did what I felt I had to do, and I didn’t even get shot. The way I see it, unless they happen to be recent escapees from the psycho ward, there’s nothing wrong with someone looking out for their limited turf, provided that they aren’t overzealous in their approach.
Okay, so our crime watchers do patrol the streets and they do conduct surveillance operations when they feel the need to. In other words, they are assuming what could only be called the role of the police. And since the City seems to be okay with that (while some police officers I have spoken to are not), where does it end?
Some previously unknown guy from Kingston ups and announces that he’s forming a new chapter of the in-your-face Guardian Angels and he intends to patrol the neighborhoods of Wilkes-Barre and then he and his cohorts are the guest speakers at Crime watch meetings? Sorry, but that’s out of line. That’s one too many groups openly assuming the role of the police. That’s one group who’s mission is too intertwined with actual policing encouraging yet another group to all but assume the role of the police to some degree on the streets of Wilkes-Barre.
And I’m wondering what a bike ride well after dark will be like this summer with so many disparate groups on the loose and judging too many books by their varying hardscrabble covers. What happens when the Guardian Angels catch me riding my bike through the alley behind Movies 14 after dark? Will they decide that I look somewhat suspicious and take immediate action? You know damn well they will. And they’ll likely approach me and ask me what I’m up to, which is the law enforcement equivalent of a field interview. And as private citizens--civilians if you will--they have absolutely no business in approaching me at all. But they will. It is their stated mission--protecting me from the criminals--when what I’ll probably need the most is the police department protecting me from the overzealous punks who fancy themselves as do-it-yourself cops.
The crime watchers and the do-it-yourself thugs can slice and dice it any which way they want. But when it’s all said and done, policing is best left to the police.
Play out that same bike-riding scenario, but this time I’m stopped by a Wilkes-Barre police officer. He’s probably light up my face with a flashlight and exclaim, “Oh, you’re that jerk from the internet. Hey, how much did you pay for that bike?”
I get that question a lot.
Funny, when to comes right down to it, I’d prefer to be stopped by real cops rather than being approached by any group itching to play cop. The thing is, not a one of the 91 police officers employed by this city will bust you upside the head unless you insist on it. They are professional, well-equipped and well-trained. But what happens to you when you openly and hotly object to being accosted by the roaming do-it-yourself units bent on proving their mettle to an adoring, but ill-informed citizenry? Will you get busted upside the head? Maybe. And “maybe” makes the entire situation totally untenable.
I don’t know why the mayor chose to pull the cops from the many crime watch meetings. You got me on all of that. I do know that in addition to the 13 watch meetings, the City gets requests from all sorts of other groups to have police officers present at all sorts of meetings. Senior citizen groups for one.
But for me, there’s an almost indecipherable difference between a “suspicious person” and an ill-trained and unaccountable person who took it upon himself to flag suspicious persons for the police. When it comes to law enforcement in this city, I’d much prefer a weathered badge over a stylish beret.
The long and short of it is, policing is best left to the police.
The only one worth reading? Um, there’s a couple of well-read fellows over at Blogspot that would likely take issue with that statement.
I’ve always told the people who happen upon my internet bullspit and get all upset as a result that I’m much less acerbic in person. Plus, text is often point blank and ultimately misleading. To call you a “liberal freak” with a wry grin on my face is quite different than those same two words typed in bold and followed by a couple of exclamation points, you liberal freak!!!
Look, the on-air employees at WILK have made it abundantly clear over the years that they loath the locals who persist in writing on the internet. Well, except for Sue Henry who regularly tells us she loves to gobble down most of what the internet has to offer. Nancy Kman once posted her laughably inaccurate “Blog this!” tirade on WILK’s Web site. To this very day, I’ve always hoped that it was something I wrote pushed her over sanity’s edge.
Kevin Lynn regularly mocks bloggers, and yet he whines about the mean things they say about him. And trust me, he’s whining. He reserves the right to spew vile invective on a daily basis, then turns around and whines about the return fire coming his way. He can slime with the best of them, but has little tolerance for slime other than his own.
I think it’s obvious that Steve Corbett has a very low opinion of the local blogosphere. But that’s to be excepted, since his meandering stream of a life seems to be a never-ending quest to be the undisputed center of attention no matter what. I figure that’s why he’s always shouting at the top of his lungs, so as to drown out everyone except for his magnificent self. Oh, and then there’s the daily reminders that he could kill all of us with his bare hands. Seems like he didn’t get enough attention during the formative suckling stage, and he’s forever damage goods because of it. Let me guess, he’s going to beat me up for such off-base opining on my part. Yeah, well get in line, tough guy.
I honestly think that they’re jealous to a degree since we do investigative reporting on occasion, while they’re practically restricted to reacting to what the newspapers publish. And I know damn well that they cannot get the last word in on bloggers, as they do on the radio. They can’t insult you, hang up on you and then laugh at your expense in this electronic forum. Nope, bloggers can fire a few textual tracer rounds back over their heads with alarming frequency. And they absolutely hate that. Not in this forum, baby.
With all of that said, they need not be stalked, harassed or subjected to profanity-laced tirades every single time they even go near an electronic communication device. They get their jabs in, we get or jabs in and that should suffice for both sides. No blood, no tears; just a lot of mostly meaningless back-and-forth.
Look, I disagree with most of what comes out of Nancy’s mouth, yet, I was looking forward to hanging out with her on a bus trip to New York City a couple of years ago. I ended up having to work, so that didn’t happen. She’s an intelligent and successful woman living in the public spotlight, so why wouldn’t I want to pick her brain for an entire day?
As for Steve, I could have a beer with him, but I will reserve the right to shout back so as to be heard. Well, I'd have that aforementioned beer while Steve would likely nurse a pureed celery and water with a twist. (???) And Kevin…well, he ought to be encased in glass with a sign reading, “Break only in the event of a 60s reunion.” Nobody that I’ve ever met remotely likes him, or would care to hang out with him.
I think what got Mr. Foglietta in trouble was that he couldn’t leave it at that. He had his blog, he had his electronic soapbox, but he had to press things a bit further. Turns out, in the opinion of a local magistrate, he pushed too far and hard. I know he disagrees with that decision, but if he limited himself to blogging, he would likely have never been dragged into that situation.
As for me, I am of the opinion that what really set all of this in motion was Kevin Lynn not being able to tolerate the ranting of what he calls “right-wing, bible-thumping, drooling knuckle-draggers.” He could have repeatedly hit the delete button on his answering machine until that overzealous person finally gave up on harassing him. But instead, he choose to silence him. Typical. When the left objects to your opposing message, it somehow gets squelched. Pretty thin-skinned. I know the offender in question was going overboard, but that’s what I’ve been doing for years on end; hitting that delete button on my imported answering machine. No magistrate, no headlines below the fold, just that delete button.
But that’s the difference between this right-winger and that left-winger, the level of vindictiveness and intolerance.
I know, I’m being mean again. Right, Kev?
So there you have it. If you vehemently disagree with someone‘s outlook on life, you ought not let it get you to this sorry point. Buy a 1,000 piece puzzle or something. Join the local neighborhood watch. Buy a slightly used kayak. Download some hamster porn and have at it. Beat the puppies. Or drink often and heavily. I dunno.
I guess what I’m trying to say is, fight nice, kiddies.
YOU LIBERAL FREAKS!!!
‘Til next time.