6-9-2008 42 percent less paving?

Follow me here. Iím not trying to defend George W. Bush in any way, so calm the freak down. Breath in. Breath out. Okay, all better now?

We were told that Bush switched to mountain biking after a knee injury put to rest his jogging days. Apparently, the evil Bush tries to keep himself in good physical shape. A noble and wise pursuit for most, but not for the real-life version of Doctor Evil. You see, when Doctor Evil works out, that needs to be thoroughly mocked.

Enter one Kevin Lynn.

Now, this is no big deal, but as an avid cyclist, I took great offense to Lynnís constant mocking of those who bicycle, simply because he couldnít restrain his seething hatred for George Bush, and republicans of any sort. Yes, just as soon as Kevin Lynn learned that Bush was big on cycling, it started. The chuckling. The mocking. The jokes about ringing our ďbike bells.Ē No, he couldnít limit himself to trashing Bush. No, all of a sudden, bicycle riders were jerks, miscreants, nincompoops, or people obviously not up to Lynnís formidable standards.

Just look at this freaking moron! What an idiot! Bicycles? Who the hell rides bicycles, except for complete losers? Go ahead, George, ring your pathetic little bike bell, why donít you.

Jee-suz!!!

Yo! Kevin! Non-dude, take a look at this pathetic loser. What a freaking total geek! My god, look at that nerd! Holy Revenge of the Nerds, Batman! Dude, whereĎd you get that cool pocket protector, at Geeks R Us?

Ha! Ha! Ha!

Oops! Hold on a second.

Is that who I think it is?

Never mind.

Please click on the following link, take a quick look around, and then click your way right back to here. Go ahead. Iíll wait.

Smart Car

And there it isÖthe future. The car is easily affordable, itís cute beyond belief and the manufacturer says itíll go from here to Kalamazoo and back on a single half-pint of gasoline, or a gasoline-like substance. Whatís not to like?

Well, with gasoline now topping out above four dollars a gallon, Iíve noticed more bicycles out there on the streets, as well as scooters and motorcycles. And thereís absolutely no doubt that the Luzerne County Transportation Authority is seeing a sudden upsurge in riders. It seems as if some of us will do anything other than pull our cars up to the gasoline pumps after taking out another mortgage on the over-assessed house.

And thereís nothing wrong with any of that. Personally, Iíve never quite understood why people would avoid exercise like the plague, yet fill their shopping carts with reduced-calorie this, that and everything. You want to lose weight and save money in the process? Easy, ride a bicycle to work. Itís simple. And I like simplicity.

In all honesty, while some people are changing their habits, most are not. The garishly large vehicles are still-over accelerating to and then over-breaking (sometimes) at the next red light. Yeah, those Soccer Moms are still playing like itís the Daytona 500 every day. Itís still kill or be killed out there. And I truly believe these idiots think that the price of gasoline will magically go down with the election of a new president. So, kill anybody in your way, wait it out and things will get back to normal in January of 2009.

Some of us do understand that the price of gasoline is not going to be dramatically reduced, and weíre begrudgingly changing our ways of doing things. And I figure some will even be tempted to purchase revolutionary vehicles like the Smart Car. But what that sort of car would actually do for them is to dramatically reduce their life-expectancy.

Because the very first time you try to block the path of one of those caravans of SUVs hurtling through the stalest of red lights, youíre a goner for sure. Yep, dare those chicks with the ten toes on the Expeditions accelerator and the ten fingers on the cell phone and they will happily kill anyone foolish enough to get in their way. Oh, and then complain after your squashed skull leaves a red smudge on their shiny hood ornament.

Do the math: Smart Car versus Hummer.

You tell me.

Speaking of 4-bucks-a-gallon gasoline, what affect will that have on the finances of our smallish local municipalities? Better stated, what affect is it having? I talked to a city official this morning, and I learned a few things.

First of all, oil is used in the production of cold-patch, hot-patch and your garden varieties of asphalt. So, as the price of oil goes, so goes the price of asphalt. I dug a little deeper. According to Pennsylvania Department of Transportation's asphalt price index, the price of asphalt has risen 42 percent since March, going from $364 a ton to $517 a ton. Many in the industry see it rising above $600 a ton when the index is updated next month.

Long story short, if Wilkes-Barre had budgeted, say, $1,000,000 for repaving projects in 2008, we can expect 42 percent less repaving than was originally planned for.

And after some investigation, I read that many contractors do not want to bid on municipal paving projects without escalator clauses, since the price of oil keeps on climbing higher and higher. There are escalator clauses built into these municipal bids, so that the contractors do not lose their proverbial shirts with crude oil prices on the steady rise.

Now, Iím no expert on all things paving, but itís obvious to me that next yearís pothole season promises to be a real humdinger. Thing is, if the City of Wilkes-Barre identified and budgeted for 100 separate repaving and patching events throughout 2008, it can now afford 42 percent less such events without going seriously over budget. And if you know anything at all about Mayor Tom Leighton, itís going to take an entire trainload of elephants jacked-up on illegal steroids to drag him into the red ink. While this city needs a lot of things, what it needs the most is to protect the bottom line. So, 42 percent less paving?

And remember, Iím using Wilkes-Barre as an example for the purposes of this exercise, but the same troubling thing applies to your nearby municipality. Sucks, huh?

Hereís another thing I wanted to know. Do our local municipalities budget for gasoline use by municipal vehicles after receiving bids on gasoline prices that are fixed for the entire fiscal year? The short answer is no. No, again, using Wilkes-Barre as an example, the city pays for gasoline much like we do. As it rises, we pay the going rate. And so does the city.

Even though I have a copy of this yearís city budget, I have no idea where I put it and Iím not going on a freaking budget hunt now. So, letís use another large number that peasants like us cannot even begin to comprehend. Let us say that, based on the gasoline consumption of past years and figuring in a cost increase, letís say the city budgeted $1,000,000 for gasoline usage by city vehicles during 2008. While that City official I spoke to this morning was noncommittal about citing exact numbers, in my mind, it goes without saying that city has already burned through that $1,000,000 it budgeted, or will do so soon enough.

And since weíre not going to cut back on the frequency of our police patrols, and since we cannot conserve gasoline usage by the fire department that has to roll when needed, and since the curbside stuff has to be picked-up no matter what, the city is going over the projected numbers on this one no matter what. And, if, as I said, our mayor will not engage red ink, something else has to be cut back on in some other area to make up for the now exorbitant price of providing city services involving motorized vehicles.

So, as residents of these far-flung municipalities, we have a few decisions to make. Do we encourage our elected leaders at the local level to deficit-spend their way to maintaining our already challenged infrastructures? Or do we demand that they protect the bottom lines of our communities during these most uncertain of financial times?

Before you answer that, remember, a vote to protect the bottom line means youíll be expecting to see more potholes next year. An opposite vote means you should not be outraged if and when you start hearing talk of doing more with less, cutbacks, layoffs, austerity measures, or the dreaded ďTĒ word--tax increases. Then again, given the stark realities we are facing at the moment, you could go with the unenlightened resident routine and utterly demand that your elected leaders pull a nonexistent financial rabbit of their hats.

Whatever. Make of that what you will. I was just wondering. But I think it provides much food for thought. And maybe even a sprinkling of realism thrown in for good measure. As in, you want what you want, the elected officials be dammed?

Get real!

I had to use a sick day today. My lower back is really being a pain in the, wellÖa pain in the back.

I couldnít even get off of the mattress when I first awoke. And it only took me six hours to get myself to the point where I could stand up straight. So, this is what itís like to be 75-years-old? Not exactly fun.

Nothing against my immediate supervisor, as I put him in a real bind by calling off. Itís just that I absolutely loathe being the bad guy only because Iím in intense pain. When I think of all the people who call off because theyíre in some sort of snit, because they canít handle their alcohol, or because they want to go shopping in StroudsburgÖit really annoys me. Iím half-crippled, and Iím the bad guy? Iím quickly becoming addicted to Advil, but Iím the big prick?

Sorry, I figure you didnít need to, nor did you want to know any of that.

With the temperature getting above ninety yesterday, if you know me at all, you already knew I went bicycling.

I canít help myself. And I love it. While the great majority of the populace was most probably lounging in front of air conditioners with hoagies stuck in their faces, I felt compelled to get on out there and play tough guy. Not so long story short, Iím tough and youíre not. But, there is an alternate version of that statement. Iím crazy and youíre not. Pick one.

Admittedly, Zach, Jeremy and I did spend quite a bit of time frolicking in the cityís suddenly under performing water fountain on Public Square. You know the one. The one with the ďNo Public BathingĒ sign perched right next to it. Canít we fix that thing once and for all?

Well, I should say, Zach and I had fun. And Jeremy was being a big wienie until I upped and carried him right in to the middle of the damn thing. And did he scream? Woo boy.

Cry

As you can see in this next picture, we were intermingling with black people. And plenty of them.

Scary

Itís funny, but every time we stop to ďbatheĒ on Public Square when the Mercury goes stratospheric, we always find ourselves surrounded by black people doing much the same thing. Why do you suppose that is? Are they poorer than us? Or, being that pools are not inexpensive to acquire, maintain and operate, are they just more thrifty than us? You know, smarter?

My guess would be, that, on average, theyíre probably just poorer than most of those obese whites flopped in front of the air conditioners and with the hoagies hanging out of their faces. From the air to the backyard pool and back to the air. Sounds about right.

Many of those very same whites say they avoid Public Square like they would genital warts because of all of the ďscary peopleĒ down there. Which scary people would that be? The people wearing the bike helmets while terrorizing their grandchildren? Or the people with the darkest of tans that wonít rub off?

What did Frank Zappa say? Oh, yeahÖHey, you know something people? I'm not black, but there's a whole lots a times I wish I could say I'm not white.

Trust me, thereís nothing scary about Public Square. And thereís nothing scary about black kids simply wanting to cool off just like the white kids do. Get a grip, people.

And after we returned home completely unscathed from this most dangerous of engagements, Zach and I hit the pool.

What? It was frickiní hot outside! You try pedaling that elongated bike with two grandrodents strapped to it.

Go for it.

Scary

From the e-mail inbox Cour: You savage ME again and then say you only want to talk about issues! Okay. I promise. This shit gotta end somewhere. It's very exasperating - and unnecessary. I DO think you're a very good writer, despite all the crap I said about you. Let's go after the real enemies. WILK and the other impostors in the media. With a double barrel approach, maybe we can persuade Entercom to sell and get out of town. I got Lynn fired at the U of S with one e-mail to the president. We're on the same page. I'll take my stuff about you off the NEPA blog. -DEF

Fine, weíll call it ďinternet dťtente.Ē Seriously, the mutually assured destruction bit was getting old.

Entercom? Nah, theyíve got zero competition. Why would they go anywhere? Although, if you want to rid yourself of that proletariat in the making, start a talk radio outfit. They are starting to suck. Wouldnít take much to eat into their ratings.

Hereís your WFUK lineup:

6-9am David Foglietta

9-Noon David Yonki

12-3pm Glenn Beck

3-7pm Mark Cour

7-12 (Insert name of syndicated Far right or left-wing radical)

12-6am Loonies who saw UFOs and slept with Bigfoot.

And hereís your first-ever WFUK advert. Why FUK? Why not FUK? I think Iím on to something here.

Done.

Hey, I want to hear more about that e-mail to the University of Scranton. I always wondered about putting Kevin Lynn in a setting dominated by nubile young women. Itís like putting a pederast in charge of a troop of Boy Scouts.

Wait! Excuse me. Some are currently fighting to do just that. My bad. Welcome to the newly-improved, Anything Goes Amerika!

This one went out last night.

From the e-mail outbox Mr. Governor,

The 20th annual Thompson Street Block Party is set for Saturday, August 9, and the residents of this street in north Wilkes-Barre would like to invite you to this years soiree, which promises to be huge.

The administration of the City of Wilkes-Barre will be in attendance, save for one who was deployed to Dijoubti, Africa, as part of the ongoing war against fanaticism.

Sir, in my mind, you are Wilkes-Barre's greatest friend. Without the money you committed to Wilkes-Barre's ongoing comeback, none of it would have ever happened. I voted for you because you promised to deliver to PA's struggling downtowns, and, as far as I'm concerned, you delivered on that promise and then some.

And for that, I will be forever grateful. I mean that.

Anyway, with the heated primary season now behind us, what better way is there to unwind than by meeting appreciative constituents in a party atmosphere? Plenty of food, drink, music, levity, games and just plain good people who chose not to run away to the safety of the suburbs.

Thanks,
Mark Cour
570-XXX-XXXX
wilkes-barre.tripod.com

And hereís the response so far:

Thank you for your invitation to Governor Rendell. We will be happy to forward this to his Scheduling Office for review.

Youíll never know until you try. Right?

And what better way would there be to block off the end of the street than by using his bus?

Stay tuned.

I have to go. Sitting on this stack chair is giving my lower back an attitude all over again.

Later