1-18-2005 You can't shine sh*t

Statistically speaking, on any given morning I can awake to find an e-mail from someone that I managed to twerk off in some manner or another. And this just happens to be one of those mornings.

From the e-mail inbox:

*******Hi Mark. Lets set the record straight. I'm the one who has been raising the hell about the closing of the Heights fire station, and have been since the Mayor arbitrarily closed it some months ago. Now, why do I think the "report" on the status of the Heights station is a bunch of baloney! First of all, I had two volunteer experts (one a licensed engineering contractor, the other the former top Phase Three electrical engineer) who volunteered to go through that station, but their offer was rejected. When the Borton-Lawson inspection was being made, Councilpersons Barret (of Miners Mills) and Vitanovek (of South Wilkes-Barre), and others, were invited to attend the inspection. I was informed, while shopping, by cell phone and by being yelled at by fellow shoppers, that the inspection was underway, and I immediately went to the scene- only to find the inspection had already been done and everyone had left.When I asked why I, with a business and a home across the street from #4 station, wasn't informed of the inspection, I was told "somebody forgot to call you!". One of my major complaints about the handling of this issue is, and has been, that YES there are holes in the roof...and they have to be addressed so that the rain/sleet/snow doesn't continue falling into the house, causing irreperable damage. It has fallen on deaf ears, and the winter storms have continued causing additional damage, and will until someone does something about them. You know, a tiny pothole grows to a crevase if it's not addressed in time, and then it costs ten times as much to fix it. Same as with a hole in a roof. The need for immediate action on restoring the Heights fire station is so obvious that even a blind man can see it. It serves the highest density population in the City; the largest senior citizen population; the tiniest roads (which is why I secured the grant to purchase the min-pumper years ago), the steepest hills (two large trucks slid across E. Northampton St. at Park Ave. during the last snow/ice storm, blocking the intersection for some time- the same hill fire aparatus has to climb to get to us); several elementary and secondary schools filled with little children; home's so close together that a firefighter can't walk between them wearing an air pack and carrying a hose; the most high rise buildings in the City (unless you want to count Genetti's and Ramada, which are hotels); and complexes dedicated to serving the physically handicapped and mentally challenged. No other area of our City serves such a diverse population, yet all this is being ignored, as those in charge drag their feet with promises of "something new"...maybe next year. We just earned $120,000 selling junk vehicles at auction. And we'll soon be auctioning off tons of used office equipment. Can't that be used to repair the Heights #4 fire station? Now, as to your snide remark about my having finished last in the last election. Yes, I did finish last, because I have a big mouth that fights for the little guy, and the "power brokers" don't like it. Democrats and Republicans. But lets look at my record of what I've done on behalf of the City and it's people: I wrote the anti-loitering ordinance to chase gangs off our streets; Secured a grant to purchase a special mini-fire engine to use on lanes and alleys; Secured a $1.6 Million federal grant for City rehabilitation; Wrote the rental inspection ordinance to drive the slumlords out of our City (which, incidentally, 36 other Pa. Cities have since copied); Secured a grant for a Park Ranger to patrol Kirby/Nebsitt Parks after complaints from residents about "bad people" inhabiting them; Wrote a drug dealers version of Megan's Law (now before the state legislature for action); Am attempting to pass an health and safety ordinance to inspect and control tattoo and body piercing studios in the City (after a little 13 year girl was sexually assaulted in one of them, and another was found to be fillled with filth and motorcycles being repaired in it); Organized the "Honor Our Fighting Forces" rally on Public Square, attended by over 1,000 of our residents supporting our troops oversea's; And (with Councilman Tony Thomas) brought the "Healing Field" to Kirby Park, attended by tens of thousands of patriots; and answered hundreds of calls from average citizens needing help with everything from flooded basements in Miners Mills, to free medical care and special education for children in East End and South Wilkes-Barre with special needs, to filling pot holes and changing street lights all accross the City, and walked the streets at night with Crime Watch and Taxpayer groups to draw attention to drug and prostitution problems in their neighborhoods. So, yes, I did finish "last" in the last election...but I'll stand by that record.
Now, find me someone who can match it!
Jim McCarthy*******

Okay, then. We have entered a previously unexplored territory here. Up until now, my claim to dubious fame was my ability to get under the skin of mayors. It seems we need to add council folks to that list.

First off, I'd like to say that I'm glad you took the time to list your past accomplishments. You have capably served this city for many years and in many respects, you might have forgotten more than most people even know about Wilkes-Barre. You had a storied career as a journalist. You have operated a successful business for many years. You have raised a great family. And you have become a mainstay in city politics. Very, very few of us born-and-raised types could even come close to equalling that impressive resume. If I were to ever have a spat with a city council member, you would have been near the bottom of the list of prospective combatants. What a difference one hotly-contested issue can make.

Where in the heck should I go from here? Jeez. Let's begin with the "snide remark" thingie from my post on 1-14-2005.

I asked:

Are those numbers a bunch of freaking baloney? Or is Gentleman Jim a tad bit worried about being the lowest vote-getter in a city mandated by a public referendum to redistrict and eventually lose two of it's current council folks?

While the relationship between our council and mayor has been one of cooperation throughout all of '04, I remain forever mindful that the hugs and kisses are going to become fewer and farer between at some point when our seven council folks will be forced to fight it out for five seats. Well, that's assuming that all of our current council folks will seek another term. Sorry, but I am waiting for the reelection posturing to begin in earnest, and I can't help but to wonder if the opening salvos weren't fired to some degree since the East Station sprung it's biggest leak to date. And if memory serves me correctly, your public comments concerning the Heights firehouse brouhaha were the only comments that were completely bombastic, if not intentionally inflammatory in nature.

Many of our council folks were quoted as saying the East Station needs to be addressed sooner rather than later. And that may be how they really feel. Then again, they could be cleverly positioning themselves for the council battle royale looming on the horizon. But their motivation is not what concerns me at the moment. The residents of the Heights are demanding swift action whereas the closed station is concerned and as a direct result of that pressure, our council folks were forced to take a stand on the issue. A few made some noise about seeking a near immediate solution. Still another said we need to do things correctly with such large dollar amounts being thrown around. And another claimed that the mayor's engineering report was "a bunch of baloney." That would be you.

Why you were not invited to participate in the firehouse tour is well beyond me, but it does not portend that something sneaky or less than truthful is afoot here. And getting a second engineering opinion is not necessarily a bad idea, but to summarily dismiss the initial report out of hand as being "a bunch of baloney" suggests that you're not up to speed on assessing the structural integrity of a dwelling that has some serious moisture issues. A non-engineer cannot even dare to assess the structural suffiency or capacity of any structure merely by doing a walk-through, and neither can an engineer to some degree. But those of us that do have some experience whereas the structural integrity of a wood-framed structure with a swiss cheese roof is concerned already know that when the narrative-style engineering reports are followed up with written cost estimates, the cost estimates will typically dwarf those of the original narrative reports. Moisture will do that to a structure much more often than not. There's reality. And then there's the way we want things to be.

Let's say we opt to do just enough to get the firehouse open again. And then the cellulose-based materials covering what the engineers would really like to closely inspect get peeled away only to reveal a structural cluster-muck. Then what? Does the $340,000 then become $420,000? Or $500,000 perhaps?

Will we find structural cracks in foundation elements? Are the sills, headers and sole plates rotted or sagging? Is the ad hoc at-grade slab still capable of properly bearing the load? Are there any horizontal cracks in the roof trusses or the load-bearing wood elements? Are the load-bearing walls still up to the job? Any damage to floor joists or sub-floors? How about severe wood rot due to the chronic leakage? Any active-growth mold issues? Air quality issues? Asbestos? Heat loss factors? Termites? Once the stained walls and ceilings get peeled away, then and only then will we be able to fully assess what remedial actions are necessary and how much it'll all cost.

Is the Borton-Lawson report a bunch of baloney? There's one sure-fire way to find out, but we might not like what we find when the gutting of that structure gets underway.

And I'm not sure that calling the mayor's report a bunch of hooey in public serves anyone's best interests. It probably got the concerned residents in the neighborhood riled up even more than they otherwise would have been. But other than getting the hornets hopping mad, I'm not sure what it actually accomplished. By calling the mayor's stated position a bunch of baloney for all of your constituents to hear, are you saying his report is nothing more than pretentious nonsense? Is it bunkum? Hogwash? Horsefeathers? Rubbish? Or a bald-faced lie?

Maybe my comment was deemed to be "snide" by your standards, but I find your "baloney" comments flippantly counter-productive if not horrendously ill-advised. We've got enough gadflies nipping at the mayor's heels on every issue no matter how minute in nature. But do we need a member of our sitting council suggesting to the residents of this city that the mayor is being less than truthful with us? Is that responsible leadership on your part? Should an assistant manager of a retail concern tell his employees that corporate is lying to them and then expect employee morale to soar to higher and higher heights?

You obviously feel very, very passionately that the Heights needs a functioning firehouse right now, and I take no issue with that. Despite my initial 'c'est la vie' reaction to the two firehouses having been closed, quite a few of our hose dudes have pointed out to me the necessity of having one operating up there on the hill. The Heights presents some unique physical challenges to our first responders as well as some demographic concerns. Their arguments make perfect sense and they are the professionals as far as saving lives and structures goes. And you made the same arguments which suggests that you know your neighborhood very well and are trying to correctly serve it's needs. You should be applauded for that.

But what's that old Yiddish phrase? Oh, yeah. It's something along the lines of "You can't shine sh*t." And we don't need a gaggle of engineers with hardhats on to come to that logical conclusion. And in my less than learned opinion, you have spearheaded the effort to do exactly that.

And by floating the "baloney" balloon, you have suggested to the residents of this city that the mayor's word cannot be trusted. With that assertion I do take serious issue. Many have speculated as to what his true motivations and intentions really are, but I have yet to catch him in a single lie. He sought out a tough job and with that job came the necessity to make some tough decisions sure to annoy some segment of the population. But based upon his short but ultra-productive track record as mayor up to this point, I cannot fathom why an elected official in this city would say or do anything that might serve to undermine his credibility.

Reelection posturing, perhaps?

I dunno. I do suffer from dream-like hallucinations on occasion, and I prefer thinking much like a trailer-jockey might think all too often. But despite all of my curious abnormalities and my insane propensity for offering up too much literary (?) diarrhea, I believe in Tom Leighton and I also know that you can't shine sh*t. No matter how hard we might try, we just can't shine sh*t. And no slack jawed city slicker is going to convince me otherwise.

Gotta run. That goll-derned coondog is out back again and I'm a gonna shoot the sumbitchin' thing.


Opal!!! Git on over here and sit on my...