12-11-2004 Lightning Rod Man, Broadzilla, Wonk Woman and Rambo Ambro' or: How Tuesday ended Marsha's reign

I can guarantee you none of you will ever be reelected, and that includes you, Mr. Leighton.--Linda Stets, a politically connected gadfly pretending to be a champion of the downtrodden taxpayers

Where were you people 12 to 15 to 20 years ago? Don't look at us to finance your financial sins from the past.--Linda again

I attended the first half of Thursday night's council meeting so as to listen to the complaints of the usual suspects whereas our proposed increase in the right-to-earn tax was concerned. In all honesty, I really expected much better from the always negative and completely phoney baloney punditocracy.

Walter Griffith was the opening act and he sparred a bit with an obviously annoyed mayor. As per usual, Walt either had his numbers jumbled, or he wasn't concerned in the least about being accurate while smearing the good names of others. Mayor Tom called some of his hapless allegations "mis-representations." All this over $42 a year? You tell me, man. I'm but a slug.

Stephen J. Urban got into the act and he treated us to a rambling, disjointed presentation that was rarely on point. He needs to stick to his Xbox for the foreseeable future. The guy actually said "I make a good buck," but he then went on to say that the $42 increase in the occupational priviledge tax is too much of a burden. Hmmm. I make a good buck, but eighty cents a week is just too much to bare? Is it me?

Everyone in this city that possesses a tongue is crying out for more cops on our streets, but when those extra cops are actually within our reach, everyone starts crying poverty on me? Is it me? Is it? Or are some folks simply more concerned with getting their names in the newspapers than what they've been crying for all along?

A meager $42 a year, a pittance, equals cops up the freakin' whazoo, or hopefully, something nearabouts. $0 a year equals the unacceptable status quo, which nearly everyone has been freaking out about. Do we want an enhanced police presence, or don't we? To hear Urban Jr. tell it, if the elected types would simply "streamline a little bit," we've have cops falling from the trees. That's so much laughable bluster, everytime he speaks from this day forth I will begin chuckling uncontrollably before he finishes a single sentence. Streamline? Streamline what? The curbside pickups? The fire department. Not the police department, for sure. What should we streamline? Oh! Streamline. That's code for attacking the nine elected folks we have in this city. In other words, in very common parlance, that means Junior doesn't have a f**king clue how to streamline anything of note. But he did manage to get his name in the paper. Mission accomplished.

Some guy that I've never heard of, one Michael Jacobsen, had some very pointed questions for both council and the mayor, but he was very courteous and respectful. Imagine that. Crazy, I know.

Kathy Kane and Ambrose Meletsky had their signals crossed to some degree and when Ambrose approached the microphone and was about to launch into a subject other than the right-to-work tax, she asked him to save it for later on, and he then became instantly annoyed and discourteous to the point of being rude on purpose. This seems to be the 'norm these days coming from the usual activist suspects. Civil discourse has no place at City Hall when the folks frothing at the mouth approach the elected evildoers. If Kathy Kane had spun her head 360 degrees and proceeded to projectile vomit on Meletsky's back, all three of our super heroes would have lept from their seats and shouted "See!!! I told ya!!!"

The power of Christ compells you! The power of Christ compells you!

In my opinion, Linda Stets, aka Broadzilla, was completely out of line with her shoutfest. First off, I shouldn't have to suffer any hearing loss simply because she decided to show up and shout everybody down. Her mostly sorry act was passionate contempuousness bordering on outright hatred. If she only knew how many groans she elicited from the crowd seated behind her, she would have probably whirled around and treated them to a toungue-lashing, too. How could so many be so utterly clueless while in the presence of her obvious superiority? I guess we'll just never know. That is, unless she decides to headbutt us and make us completely deaf immediately afterwards. This chick needs a hobby and soon.

75 K! 75 K!!! I don't know how many times she made reference to the mayor's salary in the 120 decibel range, but I was really starting to feel sorry for her to some degree. To hear her spew it, it's as if the mayor's salary is alone draining the life out of Wilkes-Barre. And despite whatever misgivings you may have about his pay scale, he has served but one year and he deserves a chance to make good on his promises. He inherited a financial nightmare and the city will not end this fiscal year bleeding more red ink. He had to start somewhere, and a balanced budget is the best place to start. But no!!! His salary is too high. So say the loosely-connected mental midgets with the brightly colored capes on back-order.

Sorry there, kiddies. But as far as I could determine the other night, the folks trying to finance the hiring of more police officers are doing exactly what needs to be done. And the publicity whores? Well, they were doing exactly what they always do. They were busily getting their names in the papers again, but they were on the wrong side of the issue again. What else is new?

Where were you people 12 to 15 to 20 years ago?

I'm not sure. Where were they 12 to 15 to 20 years ago? Where was Linda, for that matter? Where was Walt? Where was I? Where were you? Are we forward thinking here, or are we so consumed by the past that we can't see any future at all? Where we once were is not the pressing issue here. Where we're going should be.

But, no. Some people will continue to demonize our elected folks in an attempt to one day replace them themselves. If the mayor slashed our taxes in a big way, these folks would glom onto some other moronic issue and purposely get in the way of the cameras. If the mayor promised us all a Hooters girl to do with what we wish, the super heroes would leap from their nuclear-powered super hero re-charge stools and accuse us of double and triple-dipping. Well, in that case, they'd probably be correct. Forget that one. You get my drift. No matter what, the Council/Mayor haters are not going to stop spraying it onto our Lens Crafters.

Do we need more cops? G,wan! Get outa here. You think?

Do we need further useless guidance from Lightning Rod Man, Broadzilla, Wonk Woman and Rambo Ambro'?

Methinks not.

Let's do some civil service tests, shall we?

Let's take a...whack at Harry McCarthy's recent e-mail thoughts.


I've been doing my best to be supportive of the new administration. I'm trying really hard to keep a positive attitude about the future of W-B while being lambasted and criticized by friend and family alike for opting to stay the course. With less than one year under the toolage of Tom Leighton I've been reluctant to write him off as another self serving W-B democrat. But (there's always a "but" when I write to you) maybe the critics and cynics are on to something with regard to the firehouse closings. You tell me.

There's an uproar brewing here in the Heights, apparently with good reason. Residents are asking for info regarding the relations and discussions of the committee pertaining to the closing of East Station to no avail. The committee that was formed to explore the re-opening of that house has lost it's credibility before it has had a chance to do anything, and with good reason. You see, the folks up here on the hill can't understand why the mayor has instructed the committee to refrain from informing the residents as to the work being done behind closed doors. They can't understand why the meetings are closed to the public and the media (violation of the sunshine laws?). They can't understand why nobody else is allowed to join the committee. And the can't understand why one of the members of that committee doesn't even live in W-B, let alone the Heights.

I was at the City Council meeting the night the committee was formed. And I knew that as soon as Tony Thomas ( a man I respect) proposed the formation of a committee around this subject that this engine house was as good as gone. You know as well as I that the quickest way to kill an issue is to propose a study or form a committee. That's a tried and true tactic of any political body. And borrowing from "The Art of War", the mayor has used another well known tactic to seal the fate of that engine house by granting title and the perception of empowerment to the members of the committee without ceding any real control. And the only dissident voice of the committee was removed from her seat. Now the committee is no longer an opposing body, merely an extension of the administration. Personally, I can't understand why the folks on the committee (some of whom I know quite well) are foolish enough to fall for this ploy.

Dude, I know very little about that committee of which you speak. I know from reading the papers that Denise Carey seems to be the leader of that bunch. Shelby Sudnick is also a part of that group. Oh, and Bob Kadluboski wasn't allowed to play in any of those reindeer games.

I have very little faith in any sort of committees comprised mainly of residents appointed by the movers and the shakers. I'm not trying to rain on anyone's parade. That's just how I feel. The way I see it, the big guns are going to do what they want, or need to do and that's that in a nutshell. If the Chamber folks were leaning towards taking down our downtown canopy, nothing any committee of residents could have to say would sway them from their original plan. I see the formation of citizen committees as a way the important people placate us for a while, and hopefully, absorb us into the political Borg at some point. I believe you made reference to such a thing already having taken place. If Mayor Leighton truly wants that firehouse rebuilt, or replaced; it'll happen in due time. If not, nothing my merry band of keggers could come up with would affect the eventual outcome.

Organized groups of citizens sitting with the powers that be by invitation only for any length of time eventually renders most of those folks incapable of criticizing the folks they originally sought to criticize. Two recent examples of vocal citizens groups being neutered would be the North End Concerned Citizens and some of the Wilkes-Barre Crime Watch members way back when when McGroarty was listing hard to port. That's my opinion, of course. And it's worth about as much as my Dale Murphy rookie card. Or as you put it, they become "an extension of the administration." Obviously, we're in agreement as far as citizens advisory groups are concerned.

As a result, even my own wife has become a vocal opposer of the committee and the administration; launching a verbal attack at last night's Council meeting against those bodies and Ch. Lisman. Despite my urgings that the Chief's heart is still pure in regard to the operations of the Fire Department. Puts me in a truly awkward situation. So I'd like to say to any of your readers who are forming the storm yet to come: Lay off Ch. Lisman. He has his marching orders and is expected to carry them out whether he agrees with them or not. That's his job. That's what administrators do. I've worked with and for the man for 17 years which gives me a little more insight to his character than the average Joe in the street. I'll stand by him.

I've met Chief Lisman on many, many occasions, and I think he's a real stand-up guy. I really do. (See Dale Murphy rookie card) But being a co-worker of his for 17 years and then being supportive of the man speaks volumes about his character that I can't come close to matching.

I agree that the closing of East Station is a tragedy for the residents of the Heights. We have the highest population density, the narrowest streets, the highest percentage of elderly, the highest percentage of public and subsidized housing, 4 high rise buildings dedicated to the elderly and disabled, two public schools and the steepest hills in the city. The loss of a City presence in the Heights has already manifested itself in increased drug activity on the corner of E. Northampton and S. Sherman streets, just feet from the now defunked engine house. Four black males can be seen daily selling drugs on that corner on a daily basis. Yes, the police are aware of it. In fact just last week a white Buick four door with a maroon top was parked right in front of my house while one occupant was "shooting up" with the dome light on. I had every intention of "doing" his windshield with my Louisville Slugger but the pulled away before I could get my shoes on. I'm told by the police that they know who the sellers are and are doing the best they can with the resources they have. Meanwhile, all I can do is call 911 repeatedly.

Obviously my concerns are other than fire response times. Again, knowing the capabilities of the apparatus and the skills of the drivers I doubt that response time will be profoundly different except in severe weather conditions or in the event of multiple emergencies. While fire response times are surely compromised under the previous conditions, I'm more concerned with medical aspects of the firehouse closings. And maybe my concerns are more selfish than noble. For example: My father has had multiple by-passes and multiple heart attacks. My best friend's wife has severe blockages of both femoral arteries at the base of the aorta. My neighbor has lost both legs to diabetes and has become grossly obese due to a thyroid condition. Another neighbor has lost a good portion of his intestines to cancer. I could go on but I think you get my point. And with the loss of two engine companies there is no longer anyone to respond to medical emergencies when both ambulances are on calls. Outside ambulances are being called into the city on nearly a daily basis due to increased call volumes with no engine response to intervene during those long delays. And so I am deeply concerned about the health and well being of my friends and neighbors in their times of need. Since all of our firemen are either Paramedics or E.M.T.s, the closing of this engine house may mean the difference between life and death of the people I know and love.

The city is well aware of my concerns, and shared them through out most of my career. These concerns are evidenced by the purchase of automatic electronic defibrillators for all of the city's fire apparatus at great cost to the tax payer. Several of these expensive machines now sit idle collecting dust. These concerns were also manifest in the purchase of "mini-pumpers" that will easily fit down tight alleys of the Heights. The newest one purchased with O.C.D grant money due to the geographic and social variables that make up the Heights. Are we now in violation of those grant requirements? Will we have to pay the money back?

When I poo-poohed the closing of these firehouses in the short term, I was thinking in terms of fighting structure fires and whatnot. But as a scanner land regular, it has become obvious to me that the loss of the engine companies has put a serious crimp in our responses to medical emergencies. If anyone in this city's administration attempts to deny the obvious, tell them to traipse on down to Radio Shack and grab a scanner for themselves. There's no way an ambulance from Hanover Township is going to respond to a medical emergency in the Heights section anywhere near as quick as an engine from the closed station could. There's just no possible way.

With that said, there's no way I'm going to show up at a council meeting and launch into any elected official. Unlike some, I'm taking them at their word, and in this case, the Mayor's word in particular. He said he didn't want to throw good money at a bad situation. Time will tell if he's leveling with us or not. And in time, we'll hold his employment situation in our hands. But until that day arrives, I think we're kinda rolling the dice with people's lives. I've never tended to anyone's emergency medical needs, but when folks are just about flatlining; quick response times are critical. Even a maroon like me knows as much. I'm assuming our elected folks know as much.

Certainly budget constraints are important. We all have to live within our means. But if this truly is the case how can the mayor justify 17 political hires this year while reducing the number of firefighters through attrition and the institution of a "by-out"? Wouldn't it be more prudent to hire a firefighter than a personal secretary? Wouldn't it be more prudent to hire a firefighter rather than another secretary in the personnel office? Shouldn't it more more noble for the mayor and his administrators to take a pay cut rather than compromise public safety? Especially in light of the fact the firemen themselves were willing to and have committed that very same decision? If we can't afford to fix the roof on East Station how can we afford to purchase an old bank building on Public Square at 100 times the cost? A building that has been on the market since I was in high school! I hate to say it, but I think our new mayor learned a little too much from the last one. If that's the reality of the situation then God help us all in the coming years.

Harry McCarthy

As far as political hires are concerned, I know not of which you speak. I've been preoccupied to some degree with my own medical problems of late. I did hear some "political hire" grumbling when my next-door neighbor was hired by the city, but that's total bunk. How often does the city hire someone who is clearly over-qualified and eager to get this city humming again?

Personal secretaries versus firefighters? That's a no-brainer, iffin' we're privy to all of the facts. I don't see how a pay cut forced upon the elected folks will even make a dent, but that constant drumbeat has not grown any quieter of late. As far as the ancient bank building on the Square is concerned, I honestly think we need to wait and see what the real deal is before passing judgement. I don't know if it's totally lost on everyone, but that smallish building is the last remaining eyesore on Public Square. There might actually be a viable plan in place, so I'm not jumping on the Broadzilla bandwagon anytime soon, unless she's offering copious amounts of free beer and some backstage passes for Blue Oyster Cult concerts. Sorry, Mayor Tom. I can be bought.

Did he learn a few things from the previous mayor? Possibly. But I don't think our current mayor is devious by nature. He said he would not shy away from making the tough decisions, and I really think he's just trying to ride the storm out until things start turning for the better in this city. And trust me on this, I'm not being loyal to a fault no matter what. I'm simply remaining my optimistic self.

I supported the guy because I believed in him. And despite the obvious financial shortcomings that have forced him to make a tough decision or two, I still do believe in him.

Nobody said they could cure what ills Wilkes-Barre in a matter of a few months, and I think it's completely understandable for some folks to be a bit frustrated right now. But I think they need to look at the overall picture rather than latching onto some small aspect of it and losing their cool. There seems to be a lot of that going on right now.

There may come a day when we look back on these unsettling times and laugh while tipping a hops & barley concoction or two. There might not come such a day. I, for one, believe that the passage of time will cure much of what ails us right now.

Forever the optimist.

Here's a quick...right-to-slave tax update:

Ashley Borough: raised from $10 to $52

Wright Township: raised from $10 to $52

Plymouth Township: raised from $10 to $52

Avoca Borough: raised from $10 to $20

Jackson Township: raised from $10 to $52

Wilkes-Barre City: soon to go from $10 to $52

And only Wilkes-Barre's decision to raise the right-to-work tax has the "I'll boycott your city!" morons spinning in place and babbling like freaking fools. Why is that?

My termite chickie...at work asked me the other day if I knew that Wilkes-Barre was the birthplace of Home Box Office. I knew that.

Here's a couple of blurbs I stole from the World Wide Web of near lunacy:

November Home Box Office (HBO), a movie pay TV service, launches on the Service Electric cable system in Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania, delivered on videotape. Owned by Sterling Communications (which is backed by Time Inc), HBO charges subscribers $8 a month—as much as they pay for a basic tier of up to 12 channels. Selective delivery of cable channels to subscribers requires a system that allows specific signals to be seen only in households where premium subscriptions have been paid; a set-top converter returns channels sent out 'off-frequency' to a usable frequency. Although costing $30 each, the converters also allow more than the 12 channels accommodated in the design of the television receiver. An alternative solution is to add a 'trap' to the ‘drop’—the cable between the street cabinet and the home—that can be removed when the household subscribes. However, this does not break the 12-channel barrier and is amenable to illicit tampering to by-pass payment. Under Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulations designed to protect the terrestrial ('free') TV broadcast window, pay TV channels are allowed to buy only films less than two or more than 10 years old.

The first cable network was Home Box Office (HBO). This service was established in 1972 by Time, Inc. as a movie/special service for Time's local cable system in New York City. The company then decided to expand the service to other cable systems and set up a traditional broadcast-style microwave link to a cable system in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. In November of 1972, HBO sent its first programming from New York to Wilkes-Barre. During the next several years HBO expanded its microwave system to include about fourteen cable companies The venture was not overly successful, nor was it profitable for Time.

Like I said, I knew that. I was fourteen years-old at the time when I came home from school and my Mom announced that we had "cable." I looked at her as if she had been brewing some sort of home recipe in the furnace room. Cable? What in the muck is that? Not only that, we had Home Box Office. At that point, I was hoping that the insanity gene would skip my generation.

So, she ups and shows me this tiny push-button box that was connected to our new 25" television by a 900 foot wire. And then she started pushing the buttons. Channel 5! Channel 11! Oh my goodness, (No more God. I can't believe I said the words "Under God" at the council meeting the other night) Channel 5!!! How I missed you! Growing up near NYC, I practically grew up being scared out of my wits by Channel 5's "Creature Features" broadcast every Saturday night. Channel 9? Rheingold commercials and all? I was home at last.

She explained what this HBO thingie was all about, but it kinda sounded like geometry or some such gibberish to me. Movies? Movies that no one had ever seen before? Just like going to the Comerford, or the Paramount? I remember taking two steps at a time all the way up to my room to see if that hit of acid was still under the base of my lamp. Whew! Moms not losing it or anything. Whew.

Since she typically retired rather early on most evenings, I was free to explore this wired cable thingamabob all by my lonesome. At first, I thought that HBO sucked monkey dongs. It was loaded with movies I had already seen, and special events that only Liberace and his throng of boy toys would enjoy. But one night early on, I finally caught the beginning of HBO's feature presentation, some movie I had never heard of before: Serpico.

You need to remember that back in those days, an R rating meant that kids my age were not admitted into the theaters. Back in those days, rules were actually enforced. I'm not making that up. So I watched Serpico and it was the greatest movie that had ever been made. I was spellbound by the F-word marathon. Sh*t! This movie had more F-bombs than a typical afternoon at the Coal Street basketball courts. And it was on TV! This was waayyyyy cool. I couldn't wait to tell my closest friends. When they heard about the "effing" orgy, they quickly reserved seats for later that night. In those days, HBO played it's lone monthly feature presentation more often than al-Jajackass plays beheading videos.

So later that night, the boys rolled in with Dr. Peppers in hand and the feature presentation music rolled. And Al Pacino and the boys lit it up. F you! No, F you! No, F you you Fin' F! F you? No, F you you F! This was a timeless classic for sure. Whoever wrote this majestic screenplay was an absolute genious. At the very least, we were ready to award an Oscar for Best Film Featuring Nothing but F-Bombs. I had no idea how much this thing of beauty cost, or how Mom was managing to pay for it; but I was willing to do whatever it took to keep it. And my bestest bros were hooked also.

One other night, we were watching some complete loser of a movie called Nashville (I think) and it was obvious that the guys were really missing their nightly Serpico fix. All of a sudden, an actress named Tuesday Weld goes bare-assed on us and the camera is locked in on her perfectly sculpted butt as she walks away. ROAR FROM THE CROWD!!! Holy freak! Did you see that? Maureen who? McCormick what? Santa-freakin'-Maria! For the next month or so, we were reduced to playing Bobby Hull hockey every night until Tuesday Weld made her award-winning bare-assed walk away from that camera.

Who could top this? Foul language? Naked butts? Yessiree, Home Box Office had arrived in Wilkes-Barre and we, the unwashed goofs from Coal Street were liking it and than some.

Here we are some thirty years later, and F-bombs coupled with naked butts wouldn't even make for a top-selling video game. I surely can't launch into some diatribe about things being kinder and simpler back then. All I'm saying is Home Box Office sure as hell captured our undying attention at the time.

Tuesday freakin' Weld. Woof!

Doctor Chandler?

Will I dream?