5-13-2005 30 days

Now there's an idea.

City council passed a unanimous resolution giving our mayor 30 days to come back to council with a plan for fire protection in the Heights. Well lookie there!

That ought to work. It sure beats sittin' here reading the latest baseless accusations, the rumor mill conspiracy theories and the tales of fire trucks taking longer and longer and longer to arrive on scene to emergency calls in the Heights. No more feasibility studies conducted on the fly by folks with a political axe to grind. No more Cub Scouts lining up to replace drywall. And no more nonsense. That is...I hope.

Let's see what the mayor has to say. Are we going to "throw good money after bad" just to shore up political support in the Heights? Are we going to budget another $400,000 in the '06 budget and build a new firehouse up there on the hill? Or are we going to continue to operate out of three firehouses from here on out? I'd like to hear a definitive answer once and for all. Depending on what that definitive answer might be, we could see the political battle lines for the next election cycle drawn right before our very eyes.

But before the next firehouse brouhaha goes down, some folks need to be reminded of the still precarious state of the city's finances. The administration and it's hired bean counters have a five-year financial plan in place, but I think some of us are forgetting that we're not out of the woods just yet. Buildings are being erected. Some new garbage trucks may be on their way. And, yes, the damaged playgrounds need to be restored to what they recently were. But when I ran across this argument published in today's Voice:

She complained if the city could find the money to buy two garbage packers and a payloader, money should be available to fix the firehouse.

I'm thinking that some of us do not understand the city's current financial situation, or simply do not care. The fact is, the city had no choice but to purchase a couple of new packers. And I'm left to assume that someone hasn't heard about our packers driving on the shoulder of 81 all the way to the landfill so as not to hold up the traffic behind them. The last time this city bought a new garbage packer, our downtown canopy system was being uncrated. Thay have become about as reliable as planning for your retirement by playing the lottery. Tell if I'm wrong, but didn't McGroarty get both of those New York City cast-offs for $8,000? Or was it $8,000 each? Sure, in the short run, he saved the city some money. But, as things worked out, here we are all of four years later and our packer fleet looks and runs worse than those cars the Jihadists are exploding all over creation.

Money should be available to fix the firehouse? That bit of murky illogic demonstrates to me that some of us haven't the foggiest idea of where the city is at financially. I sure hope the mayor's gofer has been watering those money trees out back as he was clearly instructed to do. I think we should sh*tcan the packer order, forget the swingsets, go down to two firehouses and build a park at the end of my street. Oh, with a pond. And some exotic, imported shrubberies. And how 'bout a wading pool for the non-peeing kiddies? There should be some money available for that. And without operable garbage trucks, we'll just have to personally deliver our garbage to the DPW compound. I don't care. It's right up the street a ways from this adobe. Howbeit, it'll be a bit of a ride for those Heights folks. But I don't care about that voting district. I only care about my voting district. Right? F>ck the rest of the city. I want what I want and I want it smack dab in the middle of my neighborhood, er, my voting district.

I wonder if Ambrose and his merry band of petitioners will ever admit how bad they f>cked-up the works in this city. We haven't even voted by districts yet, but we're already splitting into opposite warring camps, evidenced by the exchanges some of our council folks had at the meeting last night. And then there's this from the Citizen's Voice:

Kane complained a sign on the door said the closing would be "temporary." She further complained the city administration is "wasting time" and she is tired of council "being stopped in our tracks."

"I feel all along they wanted three (fire stations)," Kane said. "I applaud the mayor for what he has been doing the last year and a half, but he's not remembering the whole city."

"The Heights," yelled a number of residents who attended the meeting.

And we have this from the Times Leader:

WILKES-BARRE Ė City Council members havenít been elected by district yet, but councilwomen Kathy Kane and Shirley Morio Vitanovec, normally the closest of allies, had a disagreement at Thursday nightís meeting that definitely had a districted feel.

During a discussion of the Heights fire station, Vitanovec pointed out that the city lacked the money not just to fix the station, but to staff and equip it.

Kane said Vitanovec, who lives on South Franklin Street, was getting her bridge over Solomon Creek repaired after six years of waiting, and argued, ďNow itís my turn, now itís Jimís (McCarthy) turn.Ē

Vitanovec responded by pointing out that no one has ever worried about the fire risk to people in her neighborhood caused by having three of the four bridges over the creek closed, and in response to Councilman Phil Latinskiís oft-repeated argument that a new station planned in the Hollenback Park area will be plagued by traffic problems, that residents of Barney Farms have no access to fire protection when there is a bad accident on Dagobert Street.

Kane and Vitanovec have argued in the past that when council members are elected by district in the future, they will stand up for their own neighborhoods rather than the city as a whole.

Hold on here a second. Phil's gettin' a new firehouse. Shirley's gettin' a new bridge. And Kathy and Jim are demanding a new firehouse, too? Screw this! I'm getting on the blower and chewing out my district's council person for not bringing home the bacon to Nord End. This just isn't going to cut it. I will not be denied. But...I'm not sure who represents this out-of-the-loop district. Let's refer to that handy dandy voting district map supplied by Copper Dude Inc., shall we?

Screw the Heights.

Nord End!

Let's see here. Hmmm...

Graphics by Copper Dude Inc.

Near as I can tell, my councilman resides right next to the shuttered Heights firehouse. No, er, hold on. Maybe I'm in that purple-looking district. Maybe. If so, I think my councilman might actually hail from the south side of Blackman Street. Nah, I think I'm in the yellow district. In that case, my councilman might be within a stone's throw of Pocono Downs. Then again, he might be living up near where the Plains cops turn around and head back into their turf. Or he could be right across the street from the Heights little league field.

Wait, now. Could it be? Are those folks chanting on cue in the same voting district as me? Are they fighting for my "neighborhood?" I had no idea. I'm calling Kathy. Gee, although, I may need to call Bill. Or possibly Phil. Or both. Or neither of them. Lookin' at that map again, I'm thinking that maybe I need to call Tony.

But...we've come to learn that this agreed upon redistricting map is no longer set in stone. And as long as city council has gotten it's collective phlegm up and is now demanding answers, maybe they should get off of their duffs and demand that the voters of this city be able to identify just who the f>ck actually represents them before shipping them off to the turf wars. Heyna?

Who am I in support of? Who am I pissed at? Ya got me by the short curly ones. The way things stand right now, I don't know who's hornswoggling who. But that's okay. That's allowed to wallow as is. Iffin' they get around to it one of these years, iffin' they have the freakin' time, maybe that'll make the short list of their questions in dire need of immediate answers. Ya never know.

I may happen to possess the intellectual capacity of a special-ed soil ant, but I fail to see how not even having a clearly defined status quo to challenge is acceptable in a city of this size. So, the mayor has thirty days to deliver his answer? And how many more days, weeks, or months will it take for council to deliver an answer to a crucially important question that has been begging for years?

Who represents my district when the voting push comes to shove?

Is thirty days enough time for all y'all to come up with an answer?

We made the Associated Press. Well, that is, our backwater political ways did.

Papers spar over whether to report on incident involving Sherwood

5/12/2005, 7:55 p.m. ET
The Associated Press

PHILADELPHIA (AP) ó Ever since the Miami Herald outed presidential candidate Gary Hart as an adulterer, journalists have anguished over how far to go in reporting the personal lives of elected officials.

The debate took on new life this month in northeastern Pennsylvania, where some newspapers and broadcast outlets have declined to report on an encounter between U.S. Rep. Don Sherwood and a 29-year-old woman.

After obtaining a tip and a police report, the Times Leader newspaper of Wilkes-Barre reported that officers had been dispatched to the 64-year-old congressman's Washington home last September after a woman dialed 911 from his bathroom.

The woman told police that Sherwood had been giving her a back rub and abruptly began choking her. Sherwood, who is married, denied assaulting the woman and no charges were filed.

Other news organizations, including The Associated Press, quickly picked up on the story. Sherwood issued a statement apologizing for "the pain and embarrassment" he caused his family. He didn't explain the nature of his relationship with the woman.

The Scranton Times, its sister paper, The Tribune; and The Citizens' Voice of Wilkes-Barre gossip throughout Sherwood's district but it hasn't made the pages of The Scranton Times; its sister paper, The Tribune; and The Citizens' Voice of Wilkes-Barre, three newspapers owned by Times Shamrock Communications.

Lawrence K. Beaupre, the managing editor of The Scranton Times and The Tribune, explained the decision in a letter to readers on May 8.

"Call me crazy. Call me stubborn. But I don't think anyone's private, so-far legal affairs are my business. Or yours. Not even if it's a politician. Not even if the matter is tawdry," he wrote, adding, "Where is the connection between the politician's private moral life and his public performance?"

Beaupre said he might change his mind if criminal charges were filed against Sherwood or if the woman sued the congressman. He criticized the Times Leader for publishing its initial story, calling it guilty of "sanctimonious self-righteousness."

Times Leader Managing Editor David Iseman defended the decision to publish, saying the stories were evenhanded and gave a voice to the woman who made the assault claim, Cynthia Ore of Maryland.

"She is insisting that a congressman hurt her," Iseman said. "We thought people should know that. Let people draw their own conclusions."

Two northeast Pennsylvania television stations, WBRE and WYOU, also refrained from reporting the woman's claims.

Nah. No news there. The Voice is all too busy with reporting the domestic incidents of the unrich and powerless to bother with a congressman, a young girl and a 911 call. No news there.

Whoa! Has anyone heard anything at all about this exclusive? I found this titillating snippet at LackawannaCountyNews.com .

IT HAS FINALLY HAPPENED: A very high profile sitting judge in NEPA will go before the bar of justice sometime next year. And he won't be alone. A federal grand jury has determined that there is enough evidence to bring the case forward for trial. The Feds have the judge, and many of his underlings, on tape colluding with made members of two major crime families, one from New York and the other from the Pittsburgh/Ohio region. Among the charges are aiding and abetting prostitution, protection of drug racketeers, perjury, obstruction of justice, and even murder. Stay tuned - DEF

I ain't touchin' that one. I don't look none too good wearing concrete.

Luzerne County Controller: Steve Flood? Or Maryanne Petrilla?

I honesty believe that Flood's pit bullish style was exactly what we needed when Ren & Stimpy, sorry, when Makowski and Pizano were ruling the county roost and spending the county into oblivion. I openly supported the guy, voted for him and then cheered him on as he locked horns with those shameless spenders. And in time, quite honestly, I got kinda tired of the non-stop rancor, the subpoenas and the law suits, or threats thereof.

And when Vodd Tonderheid and that little guy...what's his name, oh, Skrep took office, I figured that things would settle down under the rotunda. But, much to my surprise, the rancor continued unabated. Todd and Skrep both seem like reasonable guys to this casual observer of the courthouse goings-on, so I had to blame the continuing strife squarely upon Steve Flood's shoulders. I don't know. With a new mayor in place, the city seemed to be quieting down. And I had hoped to see the courthouse return to some sense of normalcy. But it seemed to me that with Flood in the mix, every working day presented yet another wailing klaxon that had Flood vectoring for another kill shot.

After being subjected to the initial wave of Maryanne Petrilla's election ads, I thought that she sounded like a reasonable person herself. And it almost became a toss-up in my mind. Flood has proven himself to be the taxpayer's watchdog he promised to be. But he's an abrasive sort of cuss. And I got to thinking that, maybe, just maybe this Petrilla lady could be a kinder, gentler county controller.

And then WILK put her second election ad into heavy rotation. And I was immediately turned off by it. Way off. To begin with, I knew the claim that he had "taken the fifth" was poppycock. And I was annoyed with the ads claim that Flood's personal finances are a mess. As far as I know, he's a successful businessman. And I really don't care what his personal finances were like when the USFL announced that then Heisman Trophy winner, Herschel Walker, had just signed with the New Jersey Generals. Besides, the issue at hand is not Steve Flood's personal affairs. The issue is whether or not he's been an effective controller. Putting all of his bombastic shenanigans aside, I think he has been an effective county controller. And then some.

I know Ed Mitchell is the go-to political guru in these parts, but I think he went and produced himself a dud with this political ad. We shall see. In one breath Petrilla promised to bring civility to the office. And in the very next breath she took negativity to a height previously thought of as being unreachable. Right then and there I knew she not someone I wanted to vote for. And while gabbing with Kev & Nancy yesterday on WILK, Petrilla was blind-sided when Flood called in and went right after her. All of a sudden, the smooth talking hopeful was stammering and searching for her words. And when Flood challenged her to a lengthy debate, she neglected to jump at the chance.

She practically accused him of everything under the sun in her radio ads. But her misrepresentations were indefensible when the taxpayer's watchdog came a snarling at her in response. That's what I heard.

I'm voting for Steve Flood.


Gotta jet.

Cheer up Phils fans. There's always those Philadelphia Bills, er, those Buffalo Eagles to look forward to.