2-12-2005 More flotsam from the hill

It's like a feeding frenzy. They'll go on anything.--Nancy KMan of WILK while discussing bloggers

I'm still ill and I'm wondering if I can buy NyQuil by the gallon anywhere near here. I don't think that sh*t works, but it does have a really high alcohol content. At this point, feeling numb all over beats feeling ill all over. A dozen or so shots of NyQuil with a beer chaser. This ain't yer grandma's chicken & stars soup here, kiddies.

Bloggers, they'll go on anything? Some will. Still, some have managed to end Dan Rather's career for trying to sink a president with fake documents. And now a few other bloggers have caused Eason Jordan, the chief news executive at CNN to hand in his resignation after making the dubious claim that journalists in Iraq were "targeted" by U.S. troops.

Both of those huge stories would have been non-stories if not for the blogosphere. The point being that these once respected news sources can no longer make things up as they go with impunity anymore. Now what are we gonna do with college professors that make it up as they go along? Ward Churchill says the 9/11 attacks were an inside job? That's a mighty big accusation there, phony baloney Injun. Back it up, or shut the f**k up.

As soon as I read that Corey Feldman was subpoenaed to testify at Michael Jackson's freak show of a trial, I pictured Feldman wearing green fatigues, squirting his water pistol filled with holy water, and yelling "Die bloodsucker!" in the Lost Boys flick. Now, if Michael Jackson made unwanted advances on Feldman's pubic zone way back when, what might I imagine him yelling in place of bloodsucker?

I see we held our monthly firehouse powwow and from what I'm reading, these get-togethers are now replete with unprovable accusations, four-year old info, "$1 billion in available federal money" that no one has bothered to secure even a small chunk of, claims of sagging response times, and the Heights folks claiming for all to hear that they don't give a flying hoot about the other areas of the city. And all of this goobering came from politicos and politico wannabes. Now we know where the loose cannon activists get it from.

Here's the reporting from our two newspapers:

W-B council threatens to veto budget over closed firehouses

By Heidi E. Ruckno, Citizens' Voice Staff Writer 02/11/2005

Wilkes-Barre fire stations continued to dominate debate inside council chambers Thursday as council continued to press Mayor Tom Leighton to come up with a plan to address fire protection.

Councilwoman Kathy Kane said several council members would not pass the 2006 budget unless funding was available to address the Heights fire station.

"If it's not in the budget next year then we would not vote for the budget, some of us," Kane said. The aging firehouse on East Northampton Street has been closed since October.

Kane has lobbied for a station in the Heights since the Northampton Street station's closure, along with councilmen Jim McCarthy and Bill Barrett.
They asked that money to either repair or replace the station be made available in 2006, in either the general fund or Office of Economic and Community Development budgets.

Kane feels the administration is not being entirely honest with council about the firehouse situation, as does McCarthy. McCarthy asked retired Code Enforcement Officer Bob Mosely, who inspected all five fire stations under former mayor Tom McGroarty, to speak at the meeting.

Although he admitted he had not been inside the Heights fire station in at least four years, Mosely said at one point the building was actually in better shape than the operating fire station in Parsons.

"As far as my experience as a general contractor and a code enforcement officer, the building is structurally sound and can be repaired," Mosely said.

In addition, Barrett said he's heard rumblings that the city would like to consolidate to just three fire stations. Councilman Phil Latinski felt the city should maintain five stations, a plan that would include reopening both the Heights station and the condemned Conyngham Avenue station.

Kane: Mayor not honest on firehouses

The Wilkes-Barre council member fears the Heights will not get a station.

By LANE FILLER lfiller@leader.net

WILKES-BARRE – In the battle over the city’s fire houses, Councilwoman Kathy Kane let a new salvo fly Thursday night, accusing Mayor Tom Leighton and his administration of not being honest with council and the citizens.

Speaking for herself and a group of concerned citizens with whom she, Councilman Jim McCarthy and Councilman Bill Barrett have been meeting, Kane said, “We don’t believe people are being honest with us as far as the firehouse goes, the mayor and the administration want to stay with three stations.”

Kane and McCarthy are Heights residents, and Kane made the views of many in that neighborhood clear when she said, “I’m happy with three firehouses, if one of them is in the Heights.”

The city closed two of its five fire stations in late 2004, and Leighton has said neither should be repaired.

He has proposed and budgeted building one new station near Hollenback Park, in the Parsons section, and has said he will look to state and federal funding to perhaps build a new Heights station in the future.

McCarthy also chimed in, pointing to $1 billion in available federal money that could be accessed to repair or replace firehouses.

Leighton did not respond directly to the accusation that he sees only three fire stations in the city’s future, but said, “I try to keep council up to date on everything that’s going on.”

Leighton also pointed out that President Bush’s newly proposed budget includes a 50 percent cut of community development funds, which could sound the death knell for federal aid many cities seek.

Heights resident Denise Carey also spoke, pointing out that since her local station closed, ambulance response times gave been affected in addition to fire response times.

In response to the news that council and the mayor received 3 percent raises this year, only Walter Griffith spoke, and he did not attack the raises themselves.

“Council needs to pass an ordinance that will keep the mayor from negotiating his own raises and the council’s raises,” Griffith said, addressing the fact that Leighton negotiates the union contracts to which elected officials’ raises are pegged.

“I’m not saying the council and mayor don’t deserve raises, just that there should be checks and balances.”

Council passed several ordinances and resolutions without discussion, appointing new members to the Building Inspection Board of Appeals, awarding the contract for the South Franklin Street Bridge project and authorizing door repairs at fire headquarters and paving and ramp projects for 2005.

Let's not dwell on too much of the hysterical-sounding minutia here. Some of it is counterproductive accusation. Some of it is ill-advised speculation. And some of it is needless circumlocution.

We've got one council type saying the mayor is lying to us and only really wants three fire stations. And another saying we've got a quick billion in funding waiting to be drawn down from the feds. Before too many of these council folks go promising too much of anything to their constituents, they might want to spend a few days studying Dubya's latest budget proposals. Before we go accusing the mayor of anything else, let's take another look at a snippet from that Leader story:

Leighton also pointed out that President Bush’s newly proposed budget includes a 50 percent cut of community development funds, which could sound the death knell for federal aid many cities seek.

I don't care what any of the five people fighting this firehouse fight have to say, Leighton's statement is 100% truthful and 100% accurate.

Dubya has proposed moving the Community Development Block Grant program from the Housing & Urban Development Department to the Commerce Department, which is expected to produce at least a one-third to a one-half reduction in available monies for CDBGs. If those numbers were to be borne out, the 4.7 billion annual cost of the block grants could easily be cut in half unless Congress does serious battle with Dubya on this issue.

Not only are the numbers frightening to smallish communities such as ours, the entire shift to the Commerce department makes no sense from an operational, if not, philosophical standpoint. HUD programs have a more community-based focus, while Commerce programs are geared more towards economic growth. And CDBGs also encourage direct economic development to some of the most disadvantaged and blighted areas.

Here's a quick explanation of what we're facing from the Associated Press:

Bush Community Development Plan Criticized

Tuesday, February 08, 2005 10:24 p.m. ET

By GENARO C. ARMAS Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Bush's plan to make deep cuts in a popular community development program was harshly criticized by mayors, who said such a move would undermine efforts to provide affordable housing, create jobs and keep other urban renewal efforts afloat.

Mayors and county officials urged Congress on Tuesday to reject Bush's proposal, part of the administration's 2006 budget plan.

"This will have a devastating economic impact on communities across this country," said Don Plusquellic, mayor of Akron, Ohio, and president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley said Bush is seeking to weaken the finances of American cities at a time when mayors are already dealing with budget crunches from mounting homeland security costs.

"These cuts are sad, irresponsible and dishonest," O'Malley said. "With a budget-cut ax, he is attacking American cities, he is attacking the metropolitan core."

The Community Development Block Grant program, started in 1974, provides money to more than 1,000 municipalities.

Generally, counties with at least 200,000 residents and cities with at least 50,000 residents automatically receive a grant each year. The government must sign off on a municipality's plan to ensure money is being used to help low-income residents.

States also get money to disburse to smaller communities, which must apply each year.

The program has been a perennial target of Republican presidents since the Reagan administration, though Congress nearly always restores whatever money the White House wants to cut. A harsh fight over Bush's plan is expected.

The administration wants to move the $4.7 billion community development program from the Housing and Urban Development Department to the Commerce Department. Commerce would also absorb another 17 community development programs _ which disburse an additional $1 billion in grants _ from other Cabinet agencies.

Bush would spend $3.7 billion on the new Commerce program _ about $2 billion less than the 18 programs together get now.

The cuts are part of a broader effort by the administration to trim the federal government's record $427 billion budget deficit. Bush has targeted 150 programs for elimination or drastic cuts that he says fail to meet goals, duplicate other services or are not essential for the federal government.

"Spending discipline requires difficult choices. Every government program was created with good intentions, but not all are matching good intentions with good results," Bush said in an address Tuesday to the Detroit Economic Club.

The mayors group, along with the National League of Cities, the National Association of Counties and several business organizations, urged Bush to leave the block grant program untouched.

The groups said the program in 2004 created or retained more than 90,000 jobs.

Cities also often use community development grant money to attract private funding for urban renewal projects. In 2004, every community development grant dollar brought in about $2.79 of private financing, the officials said.

They pointed to numerous projects they said blossomed because of community development dollars, such as a business redevelopment project in Los Angeles that attracted a new supermarket, other stores and restaurants into an underserved neighborhood. The project created more than 500 jobs, the officials said.

Republican James Garner, mayor of Hempstead, N.Y., said his city uses program dollars to help fund Boys and Girls clubs and other youth activities that help keep troubled kids out of gangs.

Councilwoman Kathy Kane said several council members would not pass the 2006 budget unless funding was available to address the Heights fire station.

Unless Congress can slay Dubya's looming CDBG dragon, is that 2006 Wilkes-Barre budget something we wanna be writing things into a year in advance? And if there's really (???) $1 billion in available federal money that could be accessed to repair or replace firehouses, somebody had better start gently rubbing that bottle and begging that previously unknown Genie to lay down three big wishes on our ignorant and misinformed asses.

Maybe the noisy folks trying to run a financially challenged third-class city from a bar should stick to darts. Or karaoke. Or anything else it is that bar people do successfully while not requiring much expertise or talent. Sleeping it off face down in one's own vomit suddenly comes to mind.

Kane and McCarthy are Heights residents, and Kane made the views of many in that neighborhood clear when she said, “I’m happy with three firehouses, if one of them is in the Heights.”

Well isn't that just f**king special? All of this public bloviating about "public safety" was just that: bloviating. It's not so much about public safety as it is the personal safety of some of the folks making the most noise.

Guess what? I'm fine with going with only one firehouse. Yup. Let's save some serious bucks, shall we? We build one new firehouse right next to my adobe and close the rest of them. If the folks in the Heights can be so callous, then why the hell can't I? Heights? South Wilkes-Barre? Central city? Piss off, why don't you? I cold care less about your families. All I want is a firehouse next to my house and the mayor can do whatever he wishes with the rest of you.

911: W-B City Fire. Respond 111 Self-Centered Street. Report of a working structure fire. 20:49.

WBFD: F-6 to County, Thompson Street clearing house.

Yeah, there's the ticket, baby. Listen to me tell it. Wilkes-Barre only needs one firehouse, if it's next to my house.

From the e-mail inbox Hi Mark, How are you? Hope all is well with you and your family. I just wanted to pass this along to you, this is a statement I read at the City Council meeting last night. Talk to you soon, Shelby

As the spokesperson for the Heights Firehouse Committee, I feel it is my duty to the residents of the Heights and to the Committee Members that I ask at this time if the administration has a solid plan in place to repair or rebuild the Heights firehouse. I realize that the reopening isn’t going to take place in the immediate future, but at this time I feel that we are at a stand still.

I realize tough decisions have to be made in order to move the city forward, but we can also look at this decision in a different perspective, the reopening of this firehouse may not look good in the numbers right now, but in long term if we are going to move forward as a city, we need to make public safety the first and foremost priority. Reopening this firehouse may be a financial setback for the city, but sometimes we may have to take a setback in order to move ahead, so therefore it is a tough decision but a right decision.

Also, I would like to address the issue of whether or not we are going to repair or rebuild this firehouse, and if we are not planning to repair it, I would like to know what the plan for the present building is, and if we are not planning to use the same site that the present firehouse is on and the building is sold, I would definetly like to see it sold for its value, and the monies used for repairs and upkeep of the stations in the future.

In closing, I am asking that now is the time that we get some straight forward answers, we need not to dance around this issue anymore. We have taken a major step in the right direction with our police protection, but we also have to realize that our fire protection is just as important. Let’s continue on the right track, and in order to keep this city moving forward, we have to ensure that the public is protected on a consistant level, so that we can not only move forward in a positive aspect but also in a safe one.

Ah, there are still a few sane minds remaining up there in the Heights. Respectful questions rather than heaps of accusations and such.

With the proposed 2006 federal budget being what it is, I think we need to put all kinds of pressure on Uncle Paul and his buddies for the foreseeable future and see to it that federal funding to cities like ours does not end up getting cut at all.

And I also think we need to stop harrassing city hall every time we auction off a few rusted vehicles for profit. There's the short-term mind (I want my firehall now!) and then there's the long-term minds of the folks that promised to stop the financial blood-letting in this town. We actually went a whole year without creating more red ink, but we're not exactly sitting pretty just yet folks. Wilkes-Barre is only a few financial mistakes, or one limp-wristed mayor away from hitting the financial skids again. If the guy in charge of the purse strings backs down every time a couple of council folks orchestrate a public campaign to make him look bad in the eyes of the public, Wilkes-Barre's rims could very well start wobbling again.

Tough decisions, remember? If we had money literally bursting out of the cracks at city hall, we'd have eight firehouses, 150 cops, 6 new garbage packers, a spaceport, a rescue helicopter, our very own coast guard and Cheap Trick on Public Square twice a year.

And until we find the necessary funding to make all of that nifty stuff possible, we'll just have to get by with only one firehouse located here on Thompson Street.

From the e-mail inbox Bush Budget Again Proposes FIRE Act Cuts

Firehouse.Com News

The President's proposed budget for 2006 calls for deep cuts to programs for first responders.

The budget calls for $500 million to fund the FIRE Act, down from the $650 million budgeted for 2005. This would be the second year in a row the program has been slashed; in 2004 the program was budgeted for $750 million.

"It makes no sense whatsoever," said New Jersey Congressman Bill Pascrell, author of the FIRE Act. He said Bush is following the same pattern as the past four years, of attempting to reduce support for first responders despite a need for basic equipment. He said requests from fire departments in 2004 totaled $2.5 billion.

"Every firefighter, from departments large and small, better understand that elections have consequences," Pascrell said. "This president couldn't care less about first responders."

In addition to cutting back the FIRE Act, the proposed budget eliminates funding for SAFER, the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response Act. The program was intended to support the hiring of up to 75,000 firefighters over several years to help communities meet national standards for firefighter staffing.

The proposed cuts imply an attitude of, "To hell with the firefighters," Pascrell said. He said SAFER received support for $50 million in the House and for $65 million in the Senate, but none from the administration.

Pascrell applauded the firefighters who fought for these programs but warned that the rest of the fire service can't just take the "gain without the pain." They need to stand up for these programs, Pascrell said.

"This is not a Democratic/Republican issue," he said. "This is the security of our nation."

The IAFF called the budget proposal disappointing, especially in light of the Boston Globe's recent report on the decline in the nation's fire response.

"Both Republicans and Democrats have championed providing sufficient resources to the FIRE Act and SAFER, the program that provides funding to add fire fighters to local departments, since the programs were authorized," said IAFF General President Harold Schaitberger in a prepared statement.

"Our hope is that we can work with members on both sides of the aisle in Congress to once again bring the funding for emergency preparedness in our nation's communities back to levels that begin to address the major shortages we see in more than two-thirds of the communities in America."

Congress will now take on President Bush's budget proposal and determine the final numbers. Each of the last few years Congress has exceeded the President's numbers in the final appropriation.

According to the USFA, the Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program posted today the initial schedule of applicant workshops for the 2005 grants. The application period is tentatively scheduled for March 7 to April 8.

$1 billion in available federal money that could be accessed to repair or replace firehouses???

Judging by the previous e-mail, the union honchos from our very own fire department aren't quite as optimistic as one of our council folks seems to be.

Maybe somebody needs to put up or shut up.

D'ya think I punched her too hard? Hey look! It's not like I didn't repeatedly warn these rodents about the inherent dangers of touching Pop Pop's CDs!

Alright, you got me. I would never punch such a beautiful little rodent. Turns out, she went and snuck some of mommy's lipstick when mommy had her back turned. Looks cool though.

You rodent! I'll punch yer frickin' eyeball and...



Gotta go. Feel like sh*t.

I'm done with my tiny intellectual boat tossing around in the bathtub of my life. A big shout out to Kevin Lynn for that latest bit of mental sophistry offered up as a prized eeking from the mind of a superior other-worldly being. Gee, Kev, just how did you manage to build those pyramids afterall?