11-30-2004 $52? No Christmas in Who-Barre

If you will not fight for right when you can easily win without bloodshed; if you will not fight when your victory will be sure and not too costly; you may come to the moment when you will have to fight with all odds against you and only a precarious chance of survival. There may be even a worse fate. You may have to fight when there is no hope of victory, because it is better to perish then to live as slaves.--Winston Churchill

Words of wisdom for sure. But I wish we could get our kids the hell out of Iraq already.

From the Thursday edition of the Citizen's Voice:

Wilkes-Barre City, Luzerne County's largest employment hub, could generate an additional $1 million by raising the tax to the $52 ceiling, according to Mayor Tom Leighton.

The big guns in Harrisburg are going to pass a bill into law that will allow local municipalities across the state to increase the occupational priviledge tax for commuters who work in their backyards from $10 per year to $52 per year. So the question begs, should Wilkes-Barre turn it's back on a possible cash influx estimated to approach $1 million a year? Methinks not.

I entered the work force when I was fourteen years-old. Way, way back when, the only thing required of me to remain gainfully employed was the acquisition of working papers, a chest x-ray at the Kirby Health Center, and paying that once per year $10 occupational priviledge tax. Oh, yeah. And wearing a freaking hair net.

I remember staring at my paystub in the kitchen at Percy Brown's and asking what the heck that $10 tax was all about. It was explained to me by the assistant manager, one Leo C. Smith. Never one to mince words, I launched into an F-bomb-laced tirade that was up to my usual standards. I have to buy the priviledge to work? Muck that! Leo, being the shrewd motivator of young men that he was, told me to get back to work before he cut my nuts off. Funny, I miss that guy.

Okay, so I knew what the ten bucks was all about and I've been forced to pay it every year since. I've paid it for three decades and then some. And it was never increased. Not once. If it had been increased in incremental steps, no one would have said too much about it. Inflation and such, you know. All part of growing up, we'd suppose. Everything goes up, right?

Well, it never did go up. And even if it had gone up to say, $20 at some point, would that have caused anyone to cancel a trip to Wally World, or jump from Wilkes-Barre's highest point? No more Whammy Burger for the kids? Even at $52 a year, we're talking about a whole $1 per week. Buy one less Powerball ticket every week and the tax is covered. One less box of Junior Mints here and there and the thing is covered in full. Step-dad used to hand me a buck and send me to the corner store for three packs of Lucky Strikes. These days he pays upwards of four bucks a pack. And he's still puffin' away. The sad reality is, the cost of damn near everything goes up from time to time. In a capitalist society, that's just the way it is. If the cost of everything we hold so near and dear didn't rise for a year or two; the Moon's orbit around the Earth would probably decay until it went spinning out of control and crushed Giants Stadium. Be careful what you wish for. That is, unless you're an Eagles fan.

But in Wilkes-Barre, we are fortunate enough to have a taxpayer association "educating" the public with their predictable automatic naysaying routine no matter what the f**k the politicos come up with.

Christine Katsock, president of the Wilkes-Barre Taxpayers Association, argued an increase in the city's occupational privilege tax, coupled with its 2.85 percent wage tax, will drive away new residents.

"We want to build the tax base in Wilkes-Barre City, and in my opinion, we do that by attracting people from other areas of the state to move to the city," Katsock said.

"For a single mother, or a couple who is just making ends meet, $100 out of their funds is just too much."

One dollar per week "is just too much?" And if I'm reading this Voice story correctly, she was completely serious.

"The new revenue could help me put more police officers on the streets," Leighton said. "It's something we will look long and hard at."

More cops on the street, but at what cost? How am I going to come up with an extra dollar every single week? By knocking off a Turkey Hill with a loaded middle finger? I can't afford this. I realize that Leighton can't tag me with this. But Ashley just might so as to fix all four of their potholes. Or is it potwholes? This is a single income household and Joe Nardone is my pusher. I'm going to take a long, hard look at moving to one of those bucolic townships that tax at a much, much lower rate. And if I need the cops, I'll just pray that the state police are not on the other side of the county when I call for help. We get what we pay for, Christine.

Her plan is a plan doomed to failure. She'll attract new residents by keeping taxes down, and then having the streets patrolled by fewer and fewer cops as rising costs eventually overwhelm a stagnant tax base. Nobody is going to move here from Mountaintop and increase our tax base with only six cops patrolling our streets on any given shift. He have to offer safety, cleanliness and services first. Then, and only then, will folks consider a return to small city life. And unless I'm hopelessly misinformed on things of this nature, our police force is not a volunteer force.

People whose annual income is less than $12,000 are not subject to the tax.

Yudichak also supported an amendment to the bill that would have allowed municipalities to collect the tax on a quarterly basis. It was defeated by legislators.

Katsock claimed consideration of the quarterly payment option furthers her argument the tax drastically impacts household budgets.

"To put it on a payment plan is indicative of how extreme this raise is," she said.

$52 paid over twelve months is "extreme?" Don't f**kin' blame me, man. I didn't encourage her further by voting for her. I'd just luv to hear her outline her plan for putting more cops on our streets without returning to the recently bygone days of massive red ink. Oh, geez. I totally forgot. We're going to have city council executed on Public Square. I completely forgot. That'll get us two more cops. Total!

Typical chickie. Oh, no. What of the single mothers? It's for the kids. Try applying for some federal grant money and the health department can stage some condom giveaways. Society cannot move forward, because we have to be overburdened with those who don't think before they launch into some spread eagle exercises with near strangers. The single mothers can move back home, or grab a smallish adobe at Sherman Hills. Their self-induced plight does not concern me in the least. I'd rather have more cops patrolling the streets of my struggling city. And Ashley too.

Raise my taxes by $42. Do it now.

You're a sly one, Mister Mayor...

And we've also got...yet another letter to the editor's of the Voice from one of our taxpayer activist super heroes, one Charles Urban.

His letter was nifty and all, but I do take issue with one particular line from it.

So for those of us who speak out for our communities and good government, we should not be branded as naysayers or watch dogs, but as people watchers with positive motives and ideas for the betterment of our communities.

Excuse me while I hack up my poorly chewed bagel. Arghhhhhhhhh! All better now. Whew.

What word more accurately describes these people than "naysayers?" No matter what our current council and mayor have proposed, there were the taxpayer activist crazies crying foul on cue for whatever media representatives would listen to them and then sprint to publish their "rightful" indignation by deadline. Pretty soon, Mayor Leighton won't be able to finish a sentence while discussing official city business within three clicks of the Energizer Activists. Why wait to hear his proposal on any given issue? We already know how the crazies are going to react, don't we? NO! NO! FOUL! WRONG! BAD!

And you can qoute them, but please, spell their names correctly.

And as far as the dubious claim that the usual activists are informing the public goes, if by adopting a contradictory position to that of our elected folks 110% of the time is concerned; that's not as much informing anyone as it is distorting the facts and breeding more negativism where plenty already exists. If that's somehow deemed to be productive, I must be snorting the wrong brand of plastic cement. On a side note, I don't care what anyone says. Temporary cognitive malfunction is all a part of almost growing up. It worked for me.

And when exactly were all of these "ideas for the betterment of our communities" unveiled? All I keep hearing is the persistent lynch mob that needs to settle some sort of a score with our sitting council.

Oh, and the freaking baritone genious that e-mailed the people at Ambac and begged them to deny the city the bond insurance it would have surely sank like a rock without. Now there was a f**king bright idea coming from the ranks of the clueless super heroes.

They shouldn't be branded? No? How about kicked in the ass repeatedly until they stick to something they're good at? That is, assuming they're actually good at something other than getting their names in the newspaper.

I just knew...that the likely increase of the occupational priviledge tax would cause all sorts of letters to the editors and SAYSO calls. And I figured they'd be more entertaining than watching police horses headbutt unsuspecting woman. And the unwashed masses did not let me down. There were two letters published in the Voice today and both of them were against the proposed tax increase. Whatever. But check the attached bylines from those letters that oddly enough, were both penned by folks from Nanticoke:

To the average working person, $52 is a great deal of money

That one had me chuckling before I read the letter.

A $52 tax would be OK, if we could vote ourselves a raise

Now remember, both of these letters came from Nanticoke. Here's the part where I get myself in trouble again. Ready? After suffering through these, I thought to myself: Who the hell are you guys kidding? With $52 in hand, you can buy a freaking double block in Nanticoke and have enough cashola leftover for a drunken session at the bowlarama. Who's kiddin' who?


How about...this story from the Times Leader's Lane Filler titled Old bills include mundane, the odd which questions the necessity of some of the unpaid expenses McG saw fit to spend. He mentioned my employer with this line:

How about $3,900 to J.C. Ehrlich Co. for "bird control?"

Bird control??? What in Sam Moses is that??? Sounds pretty silly to me. Wasteful spending, perhaps?

This comes from a guy who traveled to the sands of Iraq to learn all about a real live shooting war, but he can't pick up something as mundane as a telephone to learn about "bird control" before going to print. Seems kinda odd to me.

Allow me to 'splain it. There is a distinct reason that hundreds of Starlings are not poised overhead and pooping on his head every time he wanders into city properties looking for a scoop. And there is a reason that not all of the buildings in this city are coated from top to bottom with pigeon droppings. And that reason would be professional bird control services.

Sure beats what's being done to control those poop machines living in Kirby Park.

George Banks...was the subject of some lively back and forth on WILK this morning. He killed a slew of people in 1982, and he's scheduled to die just a few short hours from now. Gee whiz! That wasn't quick. At least, when you consider what a total slam dunk his case was.

Plenty of wishy-washy folks called WILK and spoke out in no uncertain terms as being dead set against the death penalty. I've never really understood this confounding position. I imagine if some stranger went and tortured, raped and murdered one of their kids, they'd be singing a different tune right quick. But as long as it's someone else's kids being disected to death, it's the death penalty itself that upsets them. This sort of perplexing thinking makes me wanna kick the dog on occasion.

If anyone ever killed one of my kids, trust me, they'd prefer the state-sponsored going away syringe compared to the grotesque send-off I would be planning for them. And if anyone spoke out against the death penalty while my kid's murderer's life hung in the balance, I honestly believe I'd take an interest in busting their fat heads wide open. These pro-lifers from the 'Burbs should probably consider how hurtful their words are for the family members of the wrongfully slain. What the heck? They're probably overly concerned with the lawn sprinkler upgrade, and balling the pool guy again to ever give a flying leap about anyone else's slain children. Such is the nature of the typically upper-upper-upper middle class vocal anti-whatever crowd. You gotta have money and too much time on your hands to be a vocal anti-issue-of-the-week protestor. Or "Kurt from Scranton." F**k them.

So George Banks had a helluva nice families with his private welfare baby harem, and then one fine Sunday morning he decided to kill damn near every one of them. He blamed all of this on racism, but that's about what we should have expected from a member of this country's largest group of victims that can't seem to stop wallowing in their victimhood. He screwed up and he screwed up real big. I'm a white guy, so...it's somehow my fault. (?)

He killed his own children and he should fry. He also killed a kid in the street who was doing nothing more than preparing to leave town to see a concert. For that, he should be donated to the soup kitchen and deep-fried so that the current residents of the Sterling Hotel won't go hungry. Is that too harsh? The drunken homeless have to eat, too.

That guy had a chip on his shoulder that neither of his shoulders could bare the weight of. He was in Franklin's approximately twelve hours before he went and fragged everyone he encountered later that night. Back then, all of our guest checks were audited at our company office complex. Any guest checks that had customer comments on the reverse side were shipped back to the store of origin for the store manager to review. If the comments were negative, they would be duly noted and the manager would react accordingly if possible, albeit, very steathily. If the comments were positive, the employees involved were notified that a customer bothered to take the time to applaud their normally under-appreciated efforts. There is no better way to make a waitresses day than to inform her that someone took the time to compliment them. Sadly, that doesn't happen often enough.

Anyway, Banks and some of his extended family members were in the restaurant on that Saturday afternoon for a bit of lunch. As it turned out, he took the time to fill out the questionaire on the back of his guest check. And it took a few days, but that day's checks were eventually audited, and the checks with comments, including Banks' check, came back to the store for the manager to review. The next thing I knew, detectives and dudes from the DA's office were interviewing the employees that had come into direct contact with him that day.

He paid our restaurant quite a nice compliment when you consider that he was obviously overburdened by the racism that he saw practically everywhere he looked. We obviously impressed him that fine day that would be his very last as a free man. His customer comments were as follows:

"It's nice to go into a restaurant and not be treated like a nigger."

As far as I'm concerned, I say stuff him full of chum, fly him down to the north coast of Australia and start tootin' those Great White whistles. Mass murderer! Come and get it!

I betcha I'd probably sleep better after seeing the video.

Gotta go.