3-12-2005 Dumber than a box of rocks

A three-ring circus was the only way to describe the scene in Wilkes-Barre City Council chambers Thursday night during a three-hour meeting.--Citizen's Voice, 3-11-2005

Before you scroll down, please keep in mind that our usual suspects, the self-appointed taxpayer advocates, are not negative, and they are not naysayers. According to them, they are the the ultimate defenders of the downtrodden resident's wallets. The very same downtrodden residents that are becoming increasingly disgusted with their useless hijinx purported by them to be the selfless acts of the politically and financially astute residents that are mad as hell and not going to take it anymore.

But we should give them their due. Their various and sundry beefs with our current administration's plans for Wilkes-Barre typically make about as much sense as eating yellow snow. And after being rebutted by city officials after launching into the latest round of their misrepresentations, they tend to come off sounding about as intelligent as a box of rocks. But, at least they're consistent. That they are and then some.

If the mayor proposes that we should invest some money in the city's future or sagging infrastructure, they howl like a bunch of stuck pigs. When the mayor claims we don't have the funding necessary to do whatever it is that the taxpayer advocates demand of him, they loudly and viciously accuse him of all sorts of crimes against humanity. If he proposes that we follow plan X, Y and Z, they freak out for the cameras and demand that we immediately institute plan A, B and C. If he proposes a sale that would lead to private development in the city and increased revenues for the city, they instead demand that nonexistant city funds be used to turn a long vacant structure into the world's very first peanut emporium. At one council meeting they absolutely demand an immediate and expensive solution to a shuttered firehouse brouhaha and at the very next "three-ring circus" of a council meeting they want to build Wally World East. If he says apples, they demand oranges. If he says Grenada, they say "Yo mama!" and then proceed to remind the newspaper reporters to spell their names correctly in the next edition.

As I said, at least they're consistent and consistency should count for something. They're consistently on the wrong side of every issue, but that does not seem to deter them in the least. They flippantly level wild charges at the mayor and his underlings, but they can never back up their accusations with factual data. Does that somehow pass as responsible advocacy? Does that add up to productive grass roots democracy? Or does that constitute little more than a box of rocks?

If a transcript of that meeting existed, I imagine it'd probably go something like this:

Man: Oh look, this isn't an argument.

Mr Vibrating: Yes it is.

Man: No it isn't. It's just contradiction.

Mr Vibrating: No it isn't.

Man: It is!

Mr Vibrating: It is not.

Man: Look, you just contradicted me.

Mr Vibrating: I did not.

Man: Oh you did!!

Mr Vibrating: No, no, no.

Man: You did just then.

Mr Vibrating: Nonsense!

Man: Oh, this is futile!

Mr Vibrating: No it isn't.

Man: I came here for a good argument.

Mr Vibrating: No you didn't; no, you came here for an argument.

Man: An argument isn't just contradiction.

Mr Vibrating: It can be.

Man: No it can't. An argument is a connected series of statements intended to establish a proposition.

Mr Vibrating: No it isn't.

Man: Yes it is! It's not just contradiction.

Mr Vibrating: Look, if I argue with you, I must take up a contrary position.

Man: Yes, but that's not just saying 'No it isn't.'

Mr Vibrating: Yes it is!

Man: No it isn't!

Man: Argument is an intellectual process. Contradiction is just the automatic gainsaying of any statement the other person makes.

(short pause)

Mr Vibrating: No it isn't.

Man: It is.

Mr Vibrating: Not at all.

Man: Now look.--Excerpt from Monty Python's Argument Clinic.

Nah. There's no hint of abject negativity or automatic naysaying going on in Wilkes-Barre. At least, none that I can detect.

And this crying foul very publicly over the Cross Continental Realty sale really has me stupified. Let's over-simplify this nonsense, since I love simplicity versus incessant and needless hand-wringing and thinking things to death.

Let's see. I buy a vacant building for a meager $100 and then turn around and resell it for $230,000. Not bad, heyna? Plus, the guy that wants to retool this building also wants to buy the derelict property next door for $150,000. And if that's not enough of a return on my original paltry investment, after this guy completes his planned project, it'll mean residuals will be paid directly to me for years on end.

Does anyone care to criticize my actions?

We damn near beat the frickin' tar out of the last mayor because of the disasterous financial ruination he alone presided over. We openly mocked him after all of his promised progress delivered little more than the state's most infamous excavation. We bemoaned the lack of a viable downtown, or business in general as business after business fled this shell-shocked city. For years on end, Wilkes-Barre was the recipient of daily black eyes in the press, while our embattled mayor kept telling us that all was well, evidenced by our award-winning curbside pick-ups. We approached the precipice of Act 47, but somehow backed away after an election where we actually got it right for once.

And now some rancorous folks are suggesting that the new mayor needs to have the tar beat out of him after delivering the progress we were all clamoring away for for so long?

Call me what you will. As if I'd care. I've heard it all before. I'm the mayor's head cheerleader. I'm his "butt-boy." I'm his apologist. Knock yourselves out. But I think the guy is getting a raw deal. I think he's getting beat up by a few folks with rocks in their heads with a capable assist from a few Times Leader reporters. Lately, city business cannot be discussed without our neighboring communities being treated to the latest tales of abject lunacy emanating from Wilkes-Barre. Now I ask you: How the heck are we going to change the negative perceptions of this city while a handful of "taxpayer advocates" continue to paint this town as a place that can't get a single thing right?

It's obvious that we can't pick and choose who should address our city council and our mayor when the cameras are rolling in council's chambers, but it's getting to the point where I wish we could. Some among us absolutely refuse to be a part of the solution. Based on their consistent, well-publicized folly, they seem quite content with staining our image as a city as they continue to build their brand names for some future election cycle. Their constant drumbeat of negativity and naysaying does make them sound dumber than a box of rocks, but they press on as part of their personal, unstated agendas. For the vocal few, the city's future is not near as important as getting themselves elected or appointed to something one day. In my mind, that suggests that they are the biggest hypocrites in this city. And they should be belittled from this day forth.

I was at the Labor & Industry building site yesterday afternoon, and it's painfully obvious that the steel girders are just about set to go up. The Sordoni guys hauled away the heavy equipment and delivered some construction-type cherry picker vehicles. And one of the guys was shoveling the snow off of the areas where the girders will be bolted to the footers. Finally. Finally...rather than reading about the financing being in place, or what which city authority did to facilitate a coming project, finally, Tom Leighton's measured and responsible leadership will FINALLY result in some brick and mortar coming to downtown Wilkes-Barre. And with it will come a few hundred state employees. Finally. One of the many catalysts to this city's big, big comeback will FINALLY appear from the infamous ruins of one of the highest profile and most expensive failures we had sadly grown accustomed to for well too long.

We've got a long way to go before Wilkes-Barre ever tops the list of the best small cities in America, and it's possible that some of the many plans to revitalize this city might not pan out. But, if nothing else, Tom Leighton has delivered what seemed well beyond our reach just a few short months ago: hope. He's given us hope. He's given us many reasons to feel optmistic about our chances as a small city, if not confident. And for that he deserves heavy incoming flak every single time he sticks his head in council's chambers?

Methinks not.

I aggravated my lower back at work yesterday and when I awoke this morning it was much, much worse. I had to pop a narly painkiller and I'm feeling a bit out of sorts. And for that reason alone, I need to cut this exercise short.

But I'll leave y'all with this thought. If the advocate folks that sound dumber than a box of rocks stay on the path they're currently on, they're all gonna look really, really stupid when Wilkes-Barre zooms to new heights and Tom Leighton gets the last laugh.

Dumber than a box of rocks.

Just you wait and see.