5-8-2005 Park Avenue

Despite not living anywhere near Park Avenue, I'm still peeved about the fact that some far-flung people from New York, York, PA and Washington D.C. suddenly feel the need to generate some more profits by locating a homeless shelter in a neighborhood brimming with new, and longtime residents. It may not be my neighborhood ox being gored, but I cannot stand by and watch this travesty be perpetrated upon anyone willing to stake a claim in this city. It's just not right.

I talked to someone in the knowing of a lot of city things earlier today and learned the names of the five people that make up our city's zoning board. They were not elected to their positions by the electorate, and in the short term, there is no way that we could hold them accountable for their decisions. But if they can't do right by the citizens residing in the area in question, I think close scrutiny is something they had better get used to. If they vote in favor of the invading missionaries rather than for the tax-paying residents, a world of invasive hurt will likely be delivered to their mostly insulated world. And that's the way it should be.

I printed both the Leader story, Homeless mission eyes W-B, and the Voice story Shelter for homeless proposal hit by Wilkes-Barre residents, early this morning. And I read them over and over again. I was looking for something I could exploit and send the missionaries back to whatever hellhole they've already milked for all of the local, state and federal grants that could be had. What we have here is not a group of selfless do-gooders trying to save all of humanity from itself. What we have here is just another outfit that rounds up losers so as to keep themselves in some nifty digs.

So I grabbed ahold of that yellow phone book and proceeded to look up the telephone numbers of the Park Avenue folks that both the Leader and the Voice had interviewed when this idiot magnet nightmare had first come to light. And despite my best efforts, name after name after name published in the newspapers did not appear in that yellow book. And then, there it was. A published name in both the local newspapers and the yellow phone book worked for me. So, filled with trepidation, I dialed the number.

Now, if you were me, what would you say to this person? "Hi! I'm an idiot that could have wallowed away in anonymity, but instead, I chose to turn myself into a target for retribution from the absolute worst that Wilkes-Barre has to offer. Wanna gab just a tad?" Nah. If your pitch is that others should get involved so as to resurrect this city, there's no need to scare them off right at the outset.

I told the pleasant and receptive lady my name, where I lived and why I was calling. I told her that our zoning board had previously ruled against a somewhat similar case right around the corner a ways from her neighborhood. And I told her that she might want to take a minute or two and study that previous (your neighborhood can generate serious profits for somebody living miles away) case brought before our zoning board by some of the residents of this city.

A trip back to '03 is suddenly in order:

The Citizens Voice

W-B zoners say no to expanding counseling center

By James Conmy, Citizens' Voice Staff Writer 10/16/2003

Wilkes-Barre Zoning Hearing Board unanimously shot down a proposal by city businessman Thom Greco on Wednesday, which would have expanded services at an existing counseling center on East Market Street.

Behavioral Interventions leases the property from Greco at 189 E. Market St. They wanted a variance on their zoning approval to allow treatment of up to 15 people at one time on the site. They are currently allowed up to eight.

The board learned at least some of the people being counseled at Behavioral Interventions are on probation for drug and alcohol convictions. The agency also indirectly monitors people on house arrest wearing ankle bracelets.

More than 10 residents or community leaders in the neighborhood were at the hearing to voice their concerns about the proposed variance.

Brian Bernedetti, principal of the Heights Murray Elementary School, submitted a petition of 60 signatures against Greco's proposal. "There are 800 children 300 feet away," emphasized Bernedetti. "We have safety concerns." Cathryn Britch pointed out there is a day-care center close to Greco's building. She also claimed her South Welles Street home was burglarized and is worried about more problems.

"I'm in fear of the place," she offered. "I'm a prisoner in my own home."
Linda Walthour owns the adjacent Family Dental Practice. She was against the plan to protect the safety of her patients and her 10 employees.

Lisa Staub is the program director of the Commission on Economic Opportunity's Kid's Cafe. The cafe is an after school program held from 3 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. at Heights Murray. It services about 150 children.

Staub said some of the children walk home by themselves at nighttime and the counseling center, which could have sessions ending at 7 p.m., poses a threat. Greco and Matt Werner, program director for Behavioral Interventions, constantly repeated other counseling services, especially parenting, are also offered by the agency.

"We want to be a good neighbor," Greco told the board, before turning and looking into the audience. "We're surprised by the turnout." Werner defended the effectiveness of the counseling programs by citing studies and other information. He also indicated Behavioral Interventions' continued existence in the area could be impacted by the decision.

If approved, Greco pledged to adhere to any of the board's provisions. But the residents' concerns proved too much for Greco and Werner's arguments.

Following the decision, Greco admitted he was disappointed with the outcome and said the petition from Bernedetti was inaccurate. The attached information implied the counseling was only for drug and alcohol abuse, which he insisted was not the case.

"There was a misconception with the circulated petition," he said. "The way it was written I would have signed it, but it was misleading."

In other business, the board unanimously approved Wilkes University's new facility center, which is now DelBalso Suzuki on South Main Street.

Wilkes University is planning to use the two DelBalso properties, the showroom and maintenance facility at 229 S. Main St. and the vehicle lot at 239-241 S. Main St., to centralize its maintenance operations.

The board learned at least some of the people being counseled at Behavioral Interventions are on probation for drug and alcohol convictions. The agency also indirectly monitors people on house arrest wearing ankle bracelets.

"We want to be a good neighbor," Greco told the board, before turning and looking into the audience. "We're surprised by the turnout."

We want to be a good neighbor??? Okay, so construct a grassy park on a vacant lot out of the generosity of your heart. Plant a few trees and some flowers. How 'bout a swingset? Monkey bars? No, no, no. We want to be good neighbors, while subjecting your neighborhood to the people we imported for profits sake. The people we so often see directly involved in Amber Alerts, or local manhunts when a girl not old enough to reproduce goes missing. Come on! Trust us. What would you rather have next to your home? A grassy park? Or a profitable idiot magnet?

This is insane. It really is.

Anywho, I talked to that nice lady that happens to reside on Park Avenue, and guess what she told me?

She told me that her family relocated to Wilkes-Barre from another, northern county. She also told me that a another recent transplant had purchased a home right next to the proposed drunk tank. And another long time resident on the other side of the "mission" was beside herself in abject disbelief that such a thing could even be possible in a city supposedly on it's way back from the brink of the reverse-gentrification abyss.

And I told her that her and her neighbors need to float a petition, and then get on down to that zoning hearing en masse and raise some serious hell.

If a "counseling center" is not acceptable within throwing distance of an elementary school, is a drunk tank acceptable where the high school girlies will be walking home from school?

I think not.

And those folks in that area need to make some serious, serious noise when that zoning hearing goes down on May the 18th in council chambers of City Hall.

Get after it, kiddies. This is your neighborhood ox being gored.

This came to me via the e-mail inbox. And if the Susquehanna River is the subject, you can bet your lucky stars that Kayak Dude is involved somehow.

What should be done for the Susquehanna River?

Your thoughts on issues relating to the county

May 8, 2005

Last week, we asked what environmental concerns you have about the health of the Susquehanna River and what you think area governments should be doing about the river. Here are readers' views:

Contrary to what Julie Oberg of the Maryland Department of the Environment says regarding the Susquehanna River - "It's fine for fishing; it's fine for swimming" - I totally disagree. About one month ago, shortly after Easter, my husband and I were traveling up Route 40 between Edgewood and Havre de Grace. Because of all the heavy rains, the streams and rivers that we could see were running a muddy brown.

With all the soil disturbance in Harford County, be it by homeowners, farmers, or development, is it any wonder why any body of water is always a muddy brown? There's no way I would encourage anyone to swim in any of these waters! And as for fishing, well that's at their own choosing and - possibly - risk.

Carolyn Hicks

It seems as if everyone has interpreted "most endangered" as most polluted. In reading American Rivers' report, that is obviously not the message or intent of the No. 1 ranking. The Susquehanna received its designation because of sewer pollution and a proposed new dam on one of the most heavily populated and impaired sections in the watershed. I paddle the Susquehanna for hundreds of miles every year. It is a beautiful and majestic river worthy of our protection.

Local officials should acquire whatever funds are needed to eliminate raw sewage from entering the river and address the equally significant problem of acid mine drainage. After that - leave the river alone and it will slowly cleanse itself. Finally, the last thing we need is another dam on the longest free-flowing stretch of river in the East. Clean it up and let it flow!

Don Williams
Harleysville, Pa.

My grandfather was a weekend warrior when it came to fishing. When I was growing up, I remember him waking me at 4 a.m. on Saturdays to go out and fish on the Chesapeake Bay. He was dedicated to his construction job during the week, and so dedicated to his fish each weekend during summer. At the time, I remember thinking that it was just way too early for a 14-year-old to get up and go fishing, but in adulthood, Saturdays with my grandfather have become very fond memories.

Recently, my grandfather told me, that in retirement, he doesn't go fishing as much as he would like because he is afraid to eat the fish from our polluted waterways. Through his lifetime, he remembers the factories throwing their garbage into the bay and large ships dumping their bilges as they ferried up the Chesapeake - all to the future demise of the fishing and crabbing industries. Now, in my lifetime, I watch our bay become even more polluted from harmful debris and chemicals flowing down through the Susquehanna River, while our governor does little to protect the future.

These waterways are the livelihood of so many in Maryland. They are a source of valued time spent with family and friends. They are memories that are close to our hearts, ones that warm our soul. It is imperative that the governor and the General Assembly do everything in their power to clean the Susquehanna River and save our bay.

Our children deserve the same kinds of memories I have been privileged to share with my grandfather.

Rob LaPin
Bel Air

The Maryland Department of the Environment says, "The overall trend on the Susquehanna is that the water quality is improving." Not from where I live. Are state agencies so desperate for "wins" that they are now comfortable with throwing the basics of good science out of the window?

MDE's assessment rests on a sandy foundation. The water quality assessment MDE used to make the spurious claim is on the Internet. The report says the water samples were taken several years ago. Samples taken three to seven years ago do not measure the river's current water quality. And samples taken at different times of the year are not comparable to show any trends. Is MDE using bad data to get around the hard truths of water quality?

The other disconcerting facet of MDE's public statements is their apparent willingness to settle for the bare minimum. If 0.5 MG/L is the minimum federally allowed amount of dissolved oxygen to consider a waterway healthy, a grade of 0.6 MG/L would rank just above a failing grade. I don't know about you, but a D-minus is nothing to write home about.

Those of us who live near the Susquehanna also know that there is a huge amount of heavily polluted silt piled up behind Conowingo Dam. The silt will have to be moved soon, and that will release massive amounts of pollution into the Chesapeake Bay.

All of this explanation of scientific method and lowered standards aside, you don't need to be a scientist to understand that all is not well with the Susquehanna. Just look at the river after a few days of rain. No river in its proper equilibrium runs chocolate brown.

Richard Norling

The preceeding was published at the Baltimore Sun.

Check this sh*t out. I can't remember how many times I've asked when the official city goverment web site rumored to be in development would appear, but I'm done asking that question. Looky here what I found.

The Official Wilkes-Barre City internet locale.

Okay. So it's a tad threadbare right now. But, at the very least, the link to the renter's ordinance is an insight most of us would have been without if I had not happened upon what was not meant to be happened upon at this point in time.

I'm kinda happy. Wilkes-Barre's web site may not be much to look at right now, but I've been wondering out loud why a city with a $35 million budget couldn't manage to put up what so many Jeff Gordon, or Britney Spears fans could manage all by their lonesome, and without the benefit of any dollars coerced by threat of arrest.

It's a start.

I gotta go. Just in case you missed it, today is Mother's Day. The girls have snuck all kinds of great surprises upstairs for days now, and the time has definately arrived to spring them upon her. This is gonna be really good being that I made like I had no idea that today is Mother's Day. Whatever.

We're about to surprise wifey.

And I can't help but to feel sad that my mother isn't around anymore to be fussed over. She deserved much more of that sort of thing than she ever recieved. If only...

Be cool