4-17-2005 Tom Leighton is telling it like it is

"We need to suck it up, tighten our belt and pay it off rather than just pushing the problem off into the future."--Walter Griffith

And fractional divisons thereof.

Hmmm. Here's a quote I snagged from the W-B council discusses sewers, refuse story published in Wednesdays Times Leader:

And Tony Thomas pointed out that local union leaders are angry that so many projects connected with the city are using non-union workers.

“It’s a sealed bid process,” Leighton said, “and they’re really not our projects. I’ve met with the union leaders and I support union labor, and all of these jobs do have union workers, but the rule is that prevailing wage must be paid, not that union workers must be employed.”

No suprise there. A union guy, councilman Tony Thomas, is looking out for his fellow union guys. Happens all the time.

But then I happened upon the Report illuminates city fire house troubles news bit in this mornings Citizen's Voice:

"From what I saw in the report, it can be re-opened in a short amount of time without much money being expended," McCarthy said.

"We've had people volunteer to do the work for free or at no cost, so I don't know why the administration is digging their heels in."

Needless to say, we have two city councilmen who are not nearly on the same page. One seems to think that a publically and privately financed theater project should be constructed by local unionized workers. Whatever.

And still another councilman wants us to believe that having the Brothers Hooper remodeling a shuttered firehouse out of the goodness of their hearts is the correct course of action to take. Wow! The boys from OSHA would have a field day with that. Forget what any other state and federal rules and associated agencies with oversight powers whereas reworking a firehouse might entail. Cuzzin Jiggy from North Meade Street says he can get that firehouse back up to code for a twelve-pack of Mickey's Big Mouth and little else. What's not to like?

I harken back to last summer when Larry, my co-workers and I adopted the grassy median strips on South Penn Avenue for a steady bit of maintenance. Let's be honest here. When the first Spring sprung after Leighton was sworn in, the entire city was suffering from years upon years worth of obvious neglect. By simply mowing a median strip, pruning a few branches and trimming a few bushes-volunteers made an obvious difference. And we were happy to do so. And what happened next? One of the unions that protects city workers filed a complaint with the city.

We mowed some grass and that resulted in a complaint from the union types. I'm sure there is some language in their contract that could have prevented us from doing any further volunteer work, but those same union types knew that the herculean task of cleaning up what McGroarty had left us with was well beyond their understaffed means. They protested, albeit, mildly, but they also knew that their union brothers were completely overmatched by the enormity of Wilkes-Barre's unsightly condition at that time. Whatever. Our intent was not to eliminate union jobs or to erode their overtime possibilities. Our intent was to make Wilkes-Barre just a little bit more pleasing to the eye. And in that respect, our efforts were successful.

Being an elected official and all, I cannot speak for Jim McCarthy's motivation. But Denise Carey's tenaciousness in this matter really needs to be applauded. She wants that firehouse reopened and as far as I can tell, she ain't going away anytime soon.

But...there are rules, guidelines, unions, plus federal and state agencies to be dealt with before anyone takes a Craftsman hammer to that mothballed building. The Brothers Hooper are not going to be replacing the non-existant roof. The local Bridge Club cannot handle the HVAC work. And the Heights Little League champions will not be replacing any soggy and drooping drywall anytime soon. Is have to be dotted in accordance with the law. And Ts also need to be crossed no matter how high emotions may be running.

To be honest, I wish things could be as simple as local residents banding together and rebuilding their local firehouse. I really do. If that were the case, I'd get my skinny ass up to the Heights right quick and get to hackin' on whatever it was that needed to be hacked on. But there's the way we'd like things to be. And then there's the way things are. And dealing with the reality of the situation isn't always pleasant. The question begs, are the folks in the Heights willing to deal with reality?

It doesn't seem so.

There are those occasions when I would love nothing more than to call WILK and spout off but simply cannot. I have in the past with varying reactions from the hosts, past and present. I was 3 for 3 with Steve Corbett as each call ended with my being hung up on. My calls to Kevin Lynn always ended in a similar fashion, with him firing insults my way after cutting me off. Fred Williams was always receptive to what I had to say. Sue Henry is always willing to listen to most folks opinions, with the lone exception being the hysterical rants coming from Lackawanna County's full-time protestor, one "Kurt from Scranton." What I like about her most is the fact that she always seems to err on the side of optimism. During these turbulent days of political polarization, a protest on seemingly every street corner and victimhood run amok, that's a very rare approach to life.

Anyway, during Friday's show, she posed a question about whether Tom Leighton's claim that it's the outsiders shooting up this city was accurate or not for her listeners to chew on. And chew they did. I had my silly-looking cell phone in my hand while kneeling in a dark and dank basement when...

Dearest Suzie Q,

As is so often the case, I was about to call you this morning only to be interrupted by a customer. Dontcha just hate when that happens? Anywhooey, Tom Leighton's claim that the recent shootings here in the big Willie Bee are the handywork of "drug dealers...not from Wilkes-Barre" is right on the mark.

First of all, The folks at the Times Leader were either being a bit disingenuous, or a bit lazy when they supposedly "looked it up" as Leighton told them to do after they asked for evidence to back up his claim. More often that not, the "city beat" reporters carry police scanners. They know what's going on in this town.

When a drug dealer from The Bronx puts a cap into a drug dealer from Philly, the next morning the newspapers will list their names, ages and current addresses. So, as far as the general public knows, some guy from Carey Ave. shot some other guy from Scott Street. But if you happen to have your trusty police scanner by your side when the shooting goes down, if patient, you will learn the identity and the "real" addresses of the perps involved when the cops run their names, alias, or Operator License Numbers (OLN) through the NCIC and local computers.

Suddenly, the guy from Carey Ave. turns out to be a guy from The Bronx. And the guy from Scott Street turns out to be a guy from Philly. And more often than not, their criminal records are so long, faxing them over to police headquarters becomes quite the chore.

When the shooting at The White House went down and the cops snagged the shooters, I recognized their names from a previous home invasion that included firearms, beatings and whatnot. In other words, the drug dealers from the Jamaica section of Queens were looking for some payback after the drug dealers from Camden disrespected their turf. Or something thereabouts. Who knows who ripped off who, who shot at who first, or who was selling crack where they ought not be selling it? The point is, when the good folks at Luzerne County 911 run a 10-27 (license check) and a 10-29, (records check) you learn very, very quickly that the folks currently shooting up this town are not from this town.

Basically, Mayor Tom Leighton is telling it like it is. And Police Chief Dessoye has pulled out all of the stops as far as getting after drugs, the folks who sell them and the folks who purchase them in this city. I know a few of those guys cruisin' the city at all hours of the day and night in the unmarked and semi-marked cars. And I once tagged along with the "two-man attack unit"- a narcotics unit-all night long. To call those guys highly dedicated, self-motivated and extremely professional would be doing them a disservice. Mere words alone cannot express my admiration for the Wilkes-Barre Police Department and it pains me when I hear, or read anything that belittles their on-going efforts.

Yeah, we may have more high-profile crimes being committed in this town than that of our neighboring communities, but we also have the largest, (very soon to be larger by ten) most professional, and best equipped police department in this entire county. While other local municipalities are considering pressing on into the future without any police department at all, this city continues to look for creative ways to hire even more. In this case, small city living does have it's advantages. I can have an entire, paid fire department, or a medic unit at my front door within four minutes of sending out a distress call. And when I lock that front door at the end of the day and head off to bed, I rest easier knowing that dedicated professionals are out there in the dark protecting me and my clan from the lawless big city gunslingers.

Whether the negative ninnies want to believe it or not, Wilkes-Barre has finally gone and found itself some capable leadership. And while we're still having to deal with a laundry list of complex problems brought on by past mistakes that still deliver a somewhat steady flow of black eyes in the local press...we're gonna be alright. Give us some time to get it all back together and cut us the slightest bit of slack while we're fighting the good fight.

Wilkes-Barre may seem to some to be pretty goofed-up right about now, but positive change does not come about overnight. We've still got plenty of good people residing here and very many of us, including our new mayor, will settle for nothing less than Wilkes-Barre reclaiming some of it's former glory. To that end, I remain supremely confident so long as Tom Leighton is leading the most dedicated of the troops into battle.
Wilkes-Barre? It's gonna be okay.

Just you wait and see.

Markie in Nord End

I snagged this imitation pearl of wisdom from the Leader's Saturday edition:

Walter Griffith, a frequent city critic who ran unsuccessfully for council in 2003, says the city is shifting the debt burden to future generations.

“We need to suck it up, tighten our belt and pay it off rather than just pushing the problem off into the future,” said Griffith.

We need to suck it up, tighten our belt and pay it off rather than just pushing the problem off into the future."

Okay, so some folks should have never moved out of their mommy's attic. Suck it up? Tigthen our belt? Exactly how would we make that come about? The once stifling amounts of DPW overtime paid out has become about as rare as taxpayer watchdogs with a friggin' clue. We need more cops, not less. According to Walter himself, we need five firehouses to assure public safety, not three. We desperately need new police cars, new garbage packers (NOW!) and quite a few new fire engines. Suck it up?

How would we accomplish that, Walt? By cutting into the compensation levels of our council and mayor? Oh, yeah! That'll do it. Cut the council, cut their bennies, force the mayor to work for free Whopper coupons, and that $26.6 million pension bond will be paid off inside of six months, right?

If there is something that you are actually good at, by all means, please stick to it and leave the city management stuff to the adults. Your ad nauseum persistence in such matters is inexplicable in it's abject meaninglessness.

Passion and committment, when coupled with facts and experience can be a "force multiplier," if I'm to believe what makes a certain city administrator tick.

Follow this link for an insight on passion and committment:

Kayak Dude's Speech

From the e-mail inbox Mey Mark,

All is abuzz here in Nirth jersey about the news. Don't know if you heard it yet or not, but your New York football Giants are getting a new home at The Meadowlands. I enclosed this article for your reading enjoyment.

Everyone here in Hoboken went nuts when they hears the G-Men were going to stay in Jersey.

Jersey Dude! Whoa! That's the first I heard of that. Thanks for the heads up.

A new $750 million stadium for Big Blue? That's not only good news for Jints fans. That's good news for local NFL fans of all stripes.

"A Soviet-style movie theater???"

Posted on Sat, Apr. 16, 2005

Wilkes-Barre needs more action for rebirth

This is a response to the recent editorial by Mrs. Terri Ooms. Your editorial was right on the mark by your statement “Developers and new businesses aren’t going to invest in a community when the community doesn’t invest in itself.” A community is not investing in itself with a Soviet-style movie theater or a river front park on America’s most endangered river. Also there is a reason why we should never build anything in a flood plain area because it has a tendency to flood! A community invests in itself with safe and clean streets and sidewalks, sewer lines that don’t overflow, structurally strong school buildings, education and taking care of the needs of citizens.

I was a member of the Downtown College Town Initiative, where students from the five area colleges gave input and recommendations on downtown Wilkes-Barre. We said how downtown is unclean, unsafe, empty, dark, and scary. After a year of our suggestions being posted on the Diamond City Partnership’s Web site no action has been taken.

I am very confident if the city and other governments made concrete investments such as tearing down the canopy, better lighting clean streets and sidewalks and more residential housing, we wouldn’t need to use $2.5 million for a theater. Businesses would be using their own money to be downtown.

What kind of type of economy are we planning for? Is their a plan at all? If we want a manufacturing economy we may be competing against China, which socializes industries, devalues its currency and gives their citizens free housing. Do we want to attract “young professional” or Internet companies? How can we do that when I live four miles outside Wilkes-Barre and cannot get a cable modem installed in my house? It should be up to the taxpayers to decide what type of economy we want.

Shane Novak
Hanover Township

Vodka, vodka, vodka, vodka, vodka, Junior Mints and popcorn, anyone?


The gulag awaits you.

Taylor Kate

Gotta go. Temps are up and I've got three toad-sized individuals here itching to head outdoors.