11-15-2004 It's the tax base, stupid!

Just as it would be madness to settle on medical treatment for the body of a person by taking an opinion poll of the neighbors, so it is irrational to prescribe for the body politic by polling the opinions of the people at large.-- Plato

Democracy is the recurrent suspicion that more than half of the people are right more than half of the time.-- E.B. White

I snagged this from a SAYSO in todays' Leader:

Number one, the fact of the matter is that you must cut at the top, and that means that you cannot give the perks that you are giving to city council.

Even the mayor's situation is pretty lucrative when you look at him in relationship to other mayors in other cities in the state.

Number two, the unions are killing the city of Wilkes-Barre.

So where doe this leave us? What to do about it?

Do we force council to serve the city for a lifetime supply of free Double Bubble and little else? Should we significantly reduce the compensation of any future mayors and seriously restrict the pool of professional, qualified candidates? And should we put those damned unions in their places already? Smack 'em upside the head, too? Should we rumble forth with our blinders on and lay a bitchslap on the political scum at city hall, or should we allow them to serve out the remainder of their terms unscathed and accomplish some, if not most, of what they have promised us? What if...what if this current bunch at city hall does a great job, and the city starts improving slowly, but surely? And what if, while they're quietly accomplishing some significant progress, we slash their compensation to the point where they are no longer interested in retaining their current positions and are one day (not so far away) replaced by a bunch of losers? What if?

And what should we do about those "greedy" unions? Should we force concessions from them until the civil service tests are no longer given because nobody will be interested in supplementing their income with food stamps while being called upon to put their lives at risk? If what we want are well-trained, motivated and professional city employees, we have to offer them more then peanuts for their efforts. They need to earn a living wage too.

I've pretty much heard it all at this point. The cops are overweight and sleep in their cruisers behind the closest available mini-market. The firemen get paid to sleep. The DPW guys work too slowly. The chickies at city hall don't work very hard and there are too many of them. Our city council is bleeding the city dry. (???) And the mayor earns as much as Bill Gates. Well, almost. Basically, to hear some tell it, every single person currently employed by the City of Wilkes-Barre is overpaid, under-worked and secretly scheming to drain our wallets even more. To hear some scream it whenever the press is anywhere nearby, the only thing wrong with Wilkes-Barre is the people currently employed by Wilkes-Barre.

While I understand the dire need to contain our costs if not embrace outright austerity at some point, I am not so quick to condemn the current management for this city's woes. I've heard the argument that some of these higher-ups were on council for twelve years while the city accelerated it's downward spiral, but we need to remember that many of them have not been working at city hall for near that long. For those of us transfixed on paying someone back for past sins, I say that mindset is not productive. Rather than stickin' it to 'em, we should be holding them accountable while trying to work with them to drive this city towards better days.

I get a major kick out of Walter Griffith and his vocal but smallish taxpayer lynch mob. Okay, let's say we significantly slash the salaries of the council, the controller and the mayor. Okay. Then what? What's next? Uh, well then we elect the leaders of the taxpayer pack? And then what? I mean, really, what are these crazies promising us other than sticking it to the current elected crop? What's the long-range plan, man? Well, we're gonna stick it to those greedy bastards and figure out the rest later. Wonderful. Where do I sign up?

The taxpayer lynch mob is telling us that we don't need to invest in our flailing downtown. Nope. Investing copious sums of money in theater complexes, streetlights and riverfront playlands is all a waste of money in the minds of these people. They say that rather than wasting money on our downtown, we should invest the money in our neighborhoods. Really? And that would do what for our empty city coffers? That would generate income how? The city is living paycheck-to-paycheck and these folks are promising to end that troubling cycle by removing health care benefits from five people. Our infrastructure needs a boost for sure, but we're going to slowly go completely belly up if we don't start generating more income in that downtown. New storm sewers are neat and all, but what this city needs is a cash infusion that won't have to be paid back. To this studious observer of all things Wilkes-Barre, it's not a matter of the taxpayer activists being wrong on any given issue. It's a matter of never getting anything right. Be careful what you vote for. You might just get it.

I harken back to my training when I was first hired to manage a 24/7 restaurant. A wiley old veteran of the restaurant wars continually pounded home the point that building sales was tantamount to success. If you've got robust sales, the associated costs can be contained and the staffing and such tweaked where needed to generate a handsome profit. But if you don't have robust sales, you are in a perpetual world of cost containment hurt. That's exactly where this city is at. We can contain our costs to some minor degree, but not nearly enough to get this city where we want it to be. We need to greatly enhance all available revenue streams and that is exactly what the folks at city hall are trying to do right now. If we as a city can build our sales, i.e., our anorexic tax base, to any great degree, everything else will fall into place if we are fiscally responsible. And to suggest that trimming the salaries and benefits of a grand total of seven people will deliver us to the illustrious Land of Oz is foolhearty, if not, downright dishonest.

If we had forced the CEO of Techneglas to slash his handsome salary and perks, would that plant still be open for business?

Some say the cops are overpaid. Some say the firemen are overpaid. Some say our clerks are overpaid. Still others say our elected folks are overcompensated. Slashing a few pennies isn't going to amount to much of anything. Asking the dishwasher to forego a raise is not going to keep a struggling restaurant open, and neither is drastically reducing the salary of the otherwise more than capable restaurant manager until he finally gives his two-week notice.

We need to drive our sales. And soon. And in this respect, our current elected folks have got us on the right track.

All they need from us is a bit of patience, and a few less clowns working against them.

One other note. To listen to Walter Griffith's endless bloviating, both our mayor and council should be picked up for questioning by the Wilkes-Barre Taxpayer Association. But remember, expecting to be well-compensated for one's employment is not proof of unchecked greed, nor is it proof of fraud, or borderline corruption. He really needs to cool it with the accusatory rhetoric.

You may not agree with much of what I may happen to think. But please think things through a bit more rather than just wussfully jumping on the "class envy" bandwagon. Our city's future is still in doubt.

Gage's hero: Elmo

From...the e-mail inbox:


Just got a chance to catch up on your posts. The Fire Station closings comments really got my attention. The response time to the fire on Reno Ln. by Rescue 7 and Ladder 1 would have been under 4 minutes. No debate there. The point is that if East Station was still open, the response time would have been under 2 minutes. As you know, from following the goings on of the FD, waiting an additional 2 minutes for FF's to arrive is an eternity. It would mean death for someone trapped in a smoke filled residence. It also means more advanced fire conditions on the FD's arrival and more property damage. Also, it means apparatus traveling farther, across the city in some cases, to reach the scene of a fire which is a danger to the FF's and the public. this also leaves VAST areas of the city unprotected. Maybe 5 firehouses might sound like too many, but three sounds like too few.
What do you think?................PXXX*******

I can't argue with any of that to any degree. I fully understand the need to control costs, but, in fact, three does sound like we're stretching things a bit too thin. But the mayor stated that he would address the situation in the Heights, and he also stated that a new firehouse should be constructed to replace our two northernmost shacks posing as firehouses. Taking him at his word means we'll eventually have four firehouses, and the positioning of those four houses doesn't seem that bad to me. In a perfect world, we'd have six, maybe even eight, but as we all know; this city is far from perfect in a financial sense.

And yes, two minutes is a big, big deal as far as response times are concerned with working structure fires. Until this situation gets sorted out, I think the city should be advertising those free smoke detectors much more often than it normally does. Winter is upon us, and anyone that has ever charged a line knows what that means.

Let's all cross our fingers.

Gage and A.J.

For Sale: Very little used and only slightly dented miniature hovercraft. Asking price is $10,000 but the City of Wilkes-Barre will consider trading it for a Bucky Dent rookie card in fair to good condition.
Interested parties should contact General Murphy at city hall.

From... the dreaded e-mail inbox:

Once upon a time, a Sultan was blessed with the birth of a son after years of hoping. The boy immediately became the apple of his father's eye. Just before his son's sixth birthday, the Sultan said to him, "Son, I love you very much. Your birthday is coming soon. What would you like?"

His son replied, "Daddy, I would like to have my own airplane."

His father bought him American Airlines.

Just before his son's seventh birthday, the Sultan said, "Son, you are my pride and joy. Ask what you want for your birthday. Whatever it is, it's yours."

His son replied, "Daddy, I would like a boat."

His father bought him the Princess Cruise Line.

Just before his son's eighth birthday, the Sultan said, "Son, you bring so much happiness into my life. Anything you want, I shall get for you."

His son replied, "Daddy, I would like to be able to watch cartoons."

His father bought him Disney Studios.

Just before his son's ninth birthday, the Sultan said, "Son, you are my life. Your birthday is coming soon. Ask what you wish. I will get it for you."

His son, who had grown to love Disney, replied, "Daddy, I would like a Mickey Mouse Outfit."

His father bought him the Democratic Party.


What...the heck. Another one from the e-mail inbox:

We at Carnival Cruise Lines are not forgetting that a lot of entertainers promised to leave the country if George W.Bush were to be re-elected President.

With that in mind, we have a Special Offer for those who still want to keep their promise!

Attention: Alec Baldwin, Rosie O'Donnell and her "wife", Ed Asner, Janneane Garafalo, Whoopi Goldberg, Al Franken, Michael Moore, Cher, Phil Donahue, Rob Reiner(apparently still a "meathead"), Barbara Streisand, Jane Fonda, and the entire staffs of the LA and NY Times and anyone else who made that promise, please dispose of all US assets and report to Florida for the sailing of the Funship Cruise, "Elation," which has been commissioned to take you to your new vacation homes in Afghanistan.

You may opt to be dropped off in Somalia or Iraq or some similar sunny location.

The Florida Supreme Court will sponsor a Farewell Parade in your honor through Palm Beach, Broward, and Miami-Dade counties prior to your cruise. Please pack for an extended stay... at least FOUR MORE YEARS.

Note: Since you advocate strict gun control, you may not bring any.

Staffing your voyage is Bill Clinton as captain, John Edwards as cruise director, and Gray Davis, as Purser (the guy in charge of managing the money).

"Teh-RAY-sah" Heinz Kerry hopefully will be shoved somewhere below decks away from the media. Monica Lewinsky will be the "Cigar and Cigarette Girl". Entertainment will be provided by the Dixie Chicks and Bruce Springsteen, and movies will be shown each evening by Michael Moore.

John Kerry will be our Life Guard based on his past experience of pulling people out of the water. He is also in charge of games and has eliminated "shuffleboard" in favor of his new game he calls "waffleboard". Be sure to pack your flip flops as you will need them while playing.

Ted Kennedy will double as Bartender and back-up Life Guard. He only qualifies as back-up Life Guard since his experience in rescuing people from drowning has not been too successful.

Revs. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson will provide inspirational services, and Al Franken will give inspirational talks each afternoon.

If you have any questions about making arrangements for your homes, friends and loved ones, please contact Senator Hillary Clinton. Her "village" can raise your children while you're gone, and she can watch over all your money and your furnishings until you return.

"Bon Voyage!"

Is this a great country or what? It's called Freedom of Speech.


Suddenly, I'm thinking iceburgs. Hmmm.

Apparently...the anti-Bushies will stop at nothing. First it was Big oil. Then Enron. Big finance. Then it was Halliburton. Big reconstruction. Now it's Diebold. Big, evil voting machine. The frothing at the mouth has no end in sight. Dicks.


Never...underestimate your physical therapists ability to get to the bottom of the problem. Does that hurt? Nah. How 'bout that? Nah. That? Nope. How about this? Almost. And that? A little. And this? Argh! You f**ker!

Whatever. Gotta jet.