“We are gonna turn this town around.”--Tom Leighton
What a freakin’ night! It started out extremely hopeful albeit a bit apprehensive for the scores of Wilkes-Barre residents in attendance, but once the numbers started rolling in to Tom Leighton’s election headquarters, the nervousness quickly evaporated and turned into wild jubilation. The first numbers posted showed a 2-1 vote for Leighton. The second ward posted had the mayor on top. A guy within earshot said “What the hell is wrong with these people?” My heart sank a bit with that news and I quickly headed for the beer cooler. This politics business can be a bit nerve-wracking when the future of the city hangs in the balance. Then the landslide started in earnest. Ward after ward reported that the rout was on. With each update the assembled masses cheered and were quickly told to keep it down so that Tammy could continue to work the phones. The mayor had lost in his home precinct and he also lost the East End. The outstanding numbers continued to roll in and completely contented, I headed outside for a smoke. All that I could think at that point was “I knew it!” The downtrodden and disgusted residents of Wilkes-Barre were not so stupid after all.
Believe it or not, simply hanging out on the sidewalk with an open container was equally exhilarating. The folks passing by in their cars were honking their horns and shouting pro-Leighton exhortations and a few salty messages for our mayor. Then the fire department vehicles returning to Ross street after a call started firing their air horns and a Medic unit lit up the overhead lights. Passing police officers also triggered their overhead lights in a show of support for Tom Leighton and the folks that had obviously helped to propel him to victory. It was as if a gigantic weight had just been lifted off of the tired shoulders of this troubled city and everybody knew it. Wilkes-Barre had voted. Wilkes-Barre had voted for change and we’re all going to eventually be better off because of it. All that was left to do was to celebrate.
Then Tom Leighton and his family came trudging down the street to meet the supporters that worked so hard to give him the opportunity to right the lengthy laundry list of wrongs in this city. There was an electricity in the air that surprised even me. The positive ions had more than a few hairs standing on end. As he met the throng of jubilant and relieved city residents pouring out onto the sidewalk to greet him, Tom Leighton was so completely pumped-up, he barely resembled the calm, cool and collected man I have come to respect. The orgy of hugs, hand shakes, kisses and atta-boys quickly commenced. Although I was thoroughly satisfied that we had finally put our struggling city on the path to better things, I somehow felt strangely detached from the proceedings. It was as if I was watching an old news reel of an historic event. Weird, huh? This heavily videotaped scene may not one day appear on The History Channel, but I am thrilled and proud to say “ I was there man!” I was there when Wilkes-Barre rallied around a real leader, rejected the mediocrity that it had grown accustomed to and looked toward the future with optimism for once. I was there!
Then the march commenced. The man that will lead us into the future led us in a march across Public Square to the Ramada. While I knew that we would eventually head for the Ramada, I never imagined the trek to be as completely surreal as it was. That detached feeling came over me again. I completely expected this eventual outcome, but I never, ever for a second imagined it being so uplifting and exciting. We were more than willing to follow him to the Ramada and we’re ready to follow him into the future. After eight years of ridiculous and destructively divisive turmoil, Wilkes-Barre actually has something to be upbeat about: Mayor Tom.
When I wandered into the Ramada, I joined the party. The only problem was that I wandered into the wrong party. I managed to walk into the Skrep party and I didn’t even vote for the guy. Whoops! I found the Leighton gig and it was elbow-to-elbow. He should have rented the Arena for the night. I’m a bit of a novice when it comes to these politico gigs, but that room was super-charged. There was some serious excitement going on in that over-crowded room. The consensus was that we had just replaced the abject misery that we have grown so accustomed to with unbridled optimism. Rock the vote! Tom Leighton and his family took the stage and the first thing to pass through his lips was “We are gonna turn this town around.” Here! Here! Bring it on!
Wilkes-Barre is about to rebound!
This gathering was for me, a once in a lifetime confluence of folks that would have never otherwise met, except for the fact that Wilkes-Barre deserves much better than it has been getting recently. The city employees were there, the “suits” were there, the politicos were there, the media was there and insignificant nobodies such as myself were there. A broad cross-section of the embarrassed folks that ARE Wilkes-Barre were there and they were rallying around the man that will lead us all to better days. Wilkes-Barre has voted and Wilkes-Barre voted for Tom Leighton. Gone will be the days of the daily black eyes in the press. Competence has come to town.
I got to meet Sue Henry, if only for minute. After she approached me, some guy latched onto her and filled her ear. After he relented she soon headed for the exit. I realize that the WILK types had a long day covering the election, but I was kind of miffed at the guy. It took me a while to warm up to her after Fred Williams was unceremoniously shown the door, but I thoroughly enjoy her show and I never miss a single installment. It would have been really cool to hang out with her for a spell. It’s a rare day that I meet anyone that shares my passion for good music. She’s actually much cuter than that picture of her on the WILK web site.
I also met our future county commissioner that has no last name: Commissioner TODD. I voted for the dude, even though I once thought of him and his ilk as useless golf pros. If you continue to educate yourself and examine the issues objectively; you can manage to change your own opinion all by yourself.
I walked home after the affair rather than driving with thirty or so beers in my system and I couldn’t help wondering just how many of these politicos basically tolerate me, rather than actually appreciating what I’ve done in this place we call cyberspace. I’m not even sure what I’ve managed to do. Whatever. It doesn’t really matter what they think of me. All that matters is what they do and what they bring to this flailing city and I think that they all agree that this city deserves better.
Therein lies the reason that I was out and about last night.