1-25-2005 Regionalization or: I was the teen-aged Police Chief of Kerry's Patch

Attention: A recent study suggests that recent studies are complete bullsh*t.

I spent quite a bit of time last night exploring issues-oriented web sites devoted solely to Pennsylvania and the politicos currently running the show. I was especially interested in the census data, the relevant numbers and opinion pieces concerning the regionalization of local governments that practically every insta-pundit says is overdue in this state. Believe me, I seriously doubt we'll see any of these tin-horn politicos managing these long forgotten coal holes to ever seriously embrace regionalization without being forced to at gunpoint. As Mel Brooks once opined, "It's good to be the king!" Even if said kingdom amounts to less than a smallish collection of vinyl-sided storage sheds, pot hole-lined trails and a single traffic light installed long before the advent of the War Bond.

Here's a bit of data from Issues PA.

The numbers are mind-boggling. Over 2,500 municipalities and 67 counties with annual expenditures exceeding $14 billion. Over 2,000 quasi-governmental authorities that spend billions of dollars more. And a state government with 34 departments and agencies -- most of which work with or through local governments. Does Pennsylvania's ""fragmentation"" of action and authority hinder the state's economic competitiveness?

Sure it does and everybody worth their weight in election yard signs knows it. But...the "power brokers" presiding over the thousands of municipalities too small to ever qualify for a post office of their own, at present, would never consider relinquishing their power (?) or their Pony Express outpost's separate identity. What this suggests to me is that the politicos running the smallest of our flailing culm-belt watering holes will not put the best interests of their graying constituents front and center.

Lemme ask you this: If some forgotten podunk on the bucolic outskirts of the county has to elimininate it's police force and rely on the State Police (who are already stretched pretty thin after dark) for police protection, are the residents of that podunk being properly protected? And are they being properly served by their politicos?

I once met a Statie who at that time patrolled Bradford County on the overnight shift. Guess how many troopers were on the road to protect these aging podunks that had no police departments county-wide? Four troopers patrolling in two patrol cars. That's it. Four. Does that sound as if the residents of these far-flung shanty towns are being properly served by refusing to regionalize?

I don't know. But I think the policing issue should be the ultimate litmus test by which one decides whether their podunk has out-lived it's economic viability as a separate governing entity.

And as far as I'm concerned, the meager regionalization efforts that are actually undertaken are a bunch of malarkey anyway. Luzerne entered a pact by which the Kingston cops would patrol their borough. Then the Luzerne folks cried that they were being under-served by the Kingston folks. And then the Kingston folks cried that their police protection was suddenly lacking because their cops were burdened with patrolling Luzerne. What was done about it? Luzerne backed away from the pact with Kingston and entered another one with Swoyersville. So now the Swoyersville cops patrol Luzerne and some grumbling from both Luzerne and Swoyersville residents is sure to come about sooner or later. The Luzerne folks will eventually cry foul again as if they're being treated like a second fiddle. And the first time somebody kicks a paperboy in Swoyersville, the grumbling about their cops being stretched too thin will start.

In a simplistic nutshell, the answer to everyone's question is not regionalization. The solution to what ails so many of these smaller municipalities is consolidation. There! I said it, alright?

At this late stage of the increasingly financially distressed game, there shouldn't even be a Luzerne Borough anymore. There should exist only the Luzerne section of Kingston. Through such an envisioned consolidation, everybody involved wins. The tax base of the new, larger municipality increases which affects buying power, insurance rates, state and federal grants and on and on and on it goes. And every single resident involved then has it's own full-time police force augmented by a consolidated tax base.

I was surprised to find Paul Golias' regionalization piece in the Voice this morning after researching much the same topic for way too long last night. And only a fool (probably lacking a police force of his own) would dare to bicker with anything he said to say. The only thing I would take any issue with is whether regionalization is preferable to consolidation in a long-term sense. The folks in Luzerne and Kingston have clearly demonstrated that regionalization efforts are about as binding as a high-profile Hollywood marriage. But if those two towns were to bite the funding bullet and forever consolidate, they would both find themselves in a much more tenable financial position after having done so.

Being that our mayor recently attended the U.S. Conference of Mayors info-fest in Washington D.C., I explored that web site and found a literal dearth of information on what the biggest challenges are to our cities. It all boils down to one thing: Not enough money. So I called the guy and asked him what he thought of the meeting of the mayoral minds. And after a bit of conversation he summed things up by saying that all of the mayors involved faced the very same problem: Not enough money.

And with all of this goobering having been said, does it make any sense for a Laurel Run to slog along broke as sh*t when what it should be doing is seeking to be absorbed by a larger, more financially viable municipality? Sorry, but when your dwindling town is reduced to holding bake sales to generate enough money to purchase a firetruck-the jig is up. It's up. Give it up. Ashley? Warrior Run? Wouldn't it make more sense to see Hanover City born?

Like I said, I don't know. But in my mind, being the Mayor of Sugar Notch in 2005 carries as much weight as and makes about as much sense as being the Mayor of Mr. Potato Head Nation.

Or as Mark Mothersbaugh once said: "GUESS I'M ONLY A SPUDBOY LOOKING FOR A REAL TOMATO!"

I suffered through...the latest scribblings from Casey Jones of Times Leader fame, and I'm wondering what his point was.

We did not recieve a city calendar last year and according to him, his basement is so filled with recyclables; it might warrant a visit from a code enforcement type. His piece titled: Remembering not to forget gets a bit easier, is a mostly pointless exercise, and all I really got from it is that he's a really lazy putz. Throughout 2004, recycling Zerox' were available at both of our Nord End Turkey Hills, so I'm not quite sure what his particular malfunction is. My basement isn't filled with garbage, but then again, I don't live my life flat on my back on the sofa.

But I am actually starting to miss Steve Corbett's mostly insulting journalistic forays into how I somehow failed the local bums that reside in the middle of Public Square. I never thought I'd say such a thing, but I just did.

So, anyway, somebody went and threw the brand new 2005 City Calendar on our front porch today.

There ya go, Casey

She'll never admit as much, but I know that wifey is pleased by this latest development. She has been grumbling about the curb-side pick-up schedules ever since the last "McGroarty: King for Life" calendar showed up at our front door. As I said, we've had the copies of the recycling schedule all along, but I suspect she was just mildly annoyed that something she had taken for granted for so long had suddenly been taken away. Such are the public relations battles that Tom Leighton currently faces. You know, not enough money.

But at the very least, our new city calendar is not the usual shameless self-aggrandizement document that we all knew and came to expect from former Mayor McFailedAlot.

Mayor Leighton provided us with a capsule version of where we've been and where we're going as a city in the not so distant future. And unlike the laughable "Progress as Promised" calendars of the not so distant past, this calendar brags only of major projects that are 100% financed, underway, or soon to get well underway. What a stark difference a single election cycle can make, heyna?

Although, if you flip forward a few pages, you'll find yourself at the "Bicycle Safety" page being June 2005. Hmmm. I wonder. Is the mayor really concerned about the well-being of our little tykes on bikes, or is he sending me a cryptic message of some sort? Hmmm. If he's really concerned about bicycle safety in this city, I think he should hire me as the city's Bicycle Safety Officer. There's gotta be $60,000 or so lying around somewhere. You would think. The folks in the Heights seem to think so. And who could point to my hiring as some sort of political hire after my having cycled just shy of 9,000 miles during the past three years? Can anyone else in Wilkes-Barre make that claim? Or, is anyone else in Wilkes-Barre proper that completely screwey?

Whatever. I don't need a city calendar to get through an average day, but I'm happy to know that a crutch that was missing for so many has been returned to them. Maybe Casey Jones can now get his sh*thole of a basement cleaned up, provided that someone else does the bulk of the heavy lifting.

And I quote from said calendar:

I have made the difficult decisions and will continue to make the difficult decisions to move Wilkes-Barre and it's initiatives forward in a positive atmosphere. We have come to a new beginning for Wilkes-Barre and with the continued support of Wilkes-Barre City Council, our residents and our businesses [sic] community, the City will be successful.--Mayor Thomas M. Leighton

Support? From residents? You can count me in.

And what's with...this quote from the Mayor of Wilkes-Barre Township in today's Leader?

"We have never had a governor come to our financial rescue, like Wilkes-Barre."

Oh, really? Is that so? Does the name "Kevin Blaum" mean anything to the folks currently residing in Luzerne County's new mercantile Mecca? It sounds to me as if Mayor Kuren's britches are getting a bit too big for his small town frame. He's suddenly writing checks his ego can't cash.

Lemme see here. His smoldering coal fire of a nowhere broken down borough is home to both a shimmering new 8,500 seat arena and a new, expedited (by state politicos) exit off of a major interstate highway. And no one came to Wilkes-Barre's Townships rescue? Hah! Hah! Hah! He makes about as much sense as anal sex does. Even when some forgotten podunk goes and gets completely lucky despite it's obviously limited politicos, the argument for consolidation, and not regionalization is made once again.

Call me an antagonist, but I wouldn't put this guy in charge of managing my growing Kevin Harvick die-caste car collection. He couldn't manage to get himself hurt while going door-to-door selling bibles in Baghdad. Managing a roadside rest outhouse might prove to be a challenge for the tough-talking mayor of Centralia North. Say what you will about how Wilkes-Barre found itself in such a pickle as of late. But managing Wilkes-Barre Township is akin to managing a freakin' Taco Bell, while managing Wilkes-Barre is more along the lines of managing a 24/7 full-service restaurant with a breakfast buffet, a salad bar and a unionized waitstaff.

Now I have yet another reason to never spend a single f**king penny in that annoying traffic cluster-f**k Mayor Kuren so proudly calls home. As if I needed another reason.

"We have never had a governor come to our financial rescue, like Wilkes-Barre."

Maybe not. But practically everyone else in the state government did, you freaking toadie.

Tough talk coming from the mayor of a smallish collection of vinyl-sided storage sheds, pot hole-lined trails and a single traffic light installed long before the advent of the War Bond. Consider the culm-belt source. And consider his track record before Kevin Blaum forced progress down his throat much against his will.

Regionalization? Nah. Bring on consolidation.

Kuren couldn't shine Leighton's f**king shoes.

Sez f**king me!

I guess I planted...the idea in someone's head out there that deleted web sites and such could be accessed by figuring out how to find cached and archived web sites and whatnot. Okay. whatever.

And now I'm being treated to daily doses of words that I typed, in most cases, quite a few years ago. Again, okay. Whatever. I'm not sure what the point is, but I've enjoyed it nonetheless.

Anyways, here's the latest e-mail installment of Wilkes-Barre Online re-visited. You tell me, man. I just type here.

I gave some more thought to that best day/worst day of my life question. The best day, excluding family, is real tough. I don't know. The day when I finally realized that Godzilla really didn't exist? The day when I finally figured out how to skate backwards on hockey skates? The day when Denise XXXXXX awakened a part of me that had lied dormant during my first 12 years, or so? The day we escaped the clutches of an overly abusive step-father and came here to Wilkes-Barre? The front-runner at this point is June 6, 1976, when I escaped that hell that most people look fondly upon in retrospect and call high school.

The worst days. A few have come to mind so far. The day (the exact date escapes me, Summer 1972) that I managed to impale myself on the top of the fence at Guthrie Field. January 28, 1986, when I mistakenly woke my little son to watch the Challenger launch with me. September 11, 2001 obviously ranks right up there for very obvious reasons. Despite being horrified on each occasion, I never shed a tear on any of those dates. The only day that I remember that caused me to shed a tear was December 8, 1980. I was managing the annual Franklin's Family Restaurants Christmas Party, and after consuming approximately thirty gallons of beer, somebody told me that John Lennon had been shot. It didn't really register at that moment.

The next morning, as I sat there sipping coffee and nursing that pain directly behind my eyes; the realization of what had happened hit me and hit me hard while reading the newspaper. I, as had so many others, had been waiting patiently for ten years for the Fab Four to finally come to their senses and do what their legions of devoted fans worldwide wanted them to do. Sadly, thanks to one completely deluded lunatic and his gun, the Beatles were officially laid to rest on December, 8, 1980.

That was the day when the music really died.

Here! Here!

Gotta jet.