5-30-2005 What stinks?

The oft-repeated adage “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it,” cannot be proffered up as serious advice for any of the movers and shakers in this county. But as things pertain to this Perry Block group and in particular, their recently (?) collapsed holdings, why not fix it if it’s obviously broke? And why not fix it after the Perry Block group (two people) needed the assistance of two members of the Chamber of Commerce, and tax-forgiveness from the city’s council to acquire and supposedly develop the properties in the first place? Why buy a decrepit property and then allow it to further deteriorate to the point where it becomes a public safety hazard needing to be immediately removed from the landscape?

Seriously? What gives? You would think that needing high-profile co-signers, KOZ status and tax-forgiveness to get some sort of redevelopment project underway smacks of being ready to plow ahead and get some progress going. Well, one would think.

The unwashed NASCAR fans out here already look at anything our community leaders say and do with a highly skeptical eye. And after a quick review of this city’s and county’s troubled and corrupt history--they are smart to do so. Our elected folks in particular should be reminded that all too often their decisions and the motives behind them are just barely making the radar screen of the general public due to their miasmic nature. And all too often, where tax breaks and the like are concerned--an overwhelming fetor hangs over many of their financial moves. I’m not suggesting that anything illegal or unethical is afoot, here. I’m merely trying to remind our fearless leaders they give us reason after reason after reason to question not only their sometimes murky motives, but their decision-making processes to boot.

How smart do we look after forgiving the back taxes on a highly visible property that collapsed to the ground just two weeks later? And how smart do we come across as being when we can’t even figure out when the building was last inspected? Forgiving the taxes on a building that may, or may not have been recently inspected suggests that the right hand has no idea what the left hand has done of late. I wandered into the property in question during the summer of ’03 and took a few pictures of the trees growing on the ground floor. Yes, trees. The backside of the roof was collapsed as far back as 2003, and the sunshine beamed down upon those thankful, but obviously misplaced maples.

This bothers me. We’ve got our new renter’s ordinance in place, and apparently we have no qualms about carting evil-doer property owners off to the gulag for something as minor in nature as trying to rent out a double-block with a couple of missing receptacle covers. Conversely…sadly, if you happen to own a rapidly failing eyesore located in a Keystone Opportunity Zone, we’re asking you whether you’d prefer us to drop to our worn-out knees, or bend over and grab our ankles again. Whether they want to believe it or not, council’s decision to forgive anything to the well-connected owners of a building that two years ago had trees growing within it’s girth is beyond odorous to those of us that remain powerless but ever hopeful for better days ahead. Sorry, folks. But this one really stinks.

As evidenced of late, our city council members need years upon years upon freaking years to redistrict the city for the purposes of voting by neighborhoods with their political futures hanging in the balance. But, whereas forgiving tax dollars is concerned, apparently, decisions can be made faster than a speeding gavel. And now that the obviously suspect Perry Block properties got their collective load-bearing asses kicked by gravity, what are we--the voting dummies--left to think of the seemingly endless financial assistance the out-of-town K.O.Z. property owners received from damn near everyone supposedly in the knowing of all things important?

What went on here was certainly not a meeting of the minds. What we had here was a cloacae of in-the-loop folks who managed to drop yet another icky deposit upon our thoroughly stained image.

Is it any wonder that a great preponderance the folks paying the freight simply do not trust the folks laying the tracks?

Consider our school district’s leaders supposedly wringing their hands over the proposed downsizing of the districts physical plants. In my mind, this is nothing more than posturing before dropping the bomb that, quite frankly, most of us Nord Enders should already be fully expecting. Gee whiz. We could remodel Meyers and close GAR, but that would be really, really expensive. Or we could rehab Coughlin and GAR, and close Meyers. Or…we could build a new super high school at no small expense. Or…

Meanwhile, back at Map Center, Coughlin High School remains a Keystone Opportunity Zone site just waiting to be gobbled up by some heretofore unknown entity. King’s College, perhaps?

So, are we stupid? Coughlin remains a K.O.Z. site, but the school district has no idea at all which high school they’d prefer to unload??? Is anybody buying into that bullspit? I’m not. Everybody and their elected and appointed brothers want us to trust them at their word. But all too often their less than up front actions result in yet another unmistakable stench.

Mr. Loyalty himself, Al Boscov, could not convince our city council to reduce his taxes. But a couple of out-of-town eyesore owners could?


Something sure reeks.

Memorial Day necessary reading. We held the monster party on Friday night. We did copious amounts of alcohol and car racing yesterday. Today...

News from the home front

Oliver North

May 27, 2005

FALLUJAH, Iraq -- For three weeks, my FOX News team has been immersed in little more than what's been happening around us. Memorial Day isn't, as they say over here, on our radar screens.

The soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines we've been covering and living with in Al Anbar Province have been focused on chasing terrorists, avoiding IEDs and staying alive. They call it situational awareness -- being alert to only the friendly and enemy situation in the immediate vicinity is an absolute necessity for these young Americans in harm's way in this hot, dusty and dangerous place. And because these troops believe that what they are doing is important to their families and their country, it's a good thing they can't see what passes for "news" back in the states.

Earlier this week, we arrived at TQ, once one of Saddam's air force bases, now a major U.S. logistics installation between Fallujah and Baghdad. While we waited in a sweltering concrete hangar for a helicopter flight to Baghdad, one of the Marines offered the use of his "office," a plywood enclosure inside the revetment, so that we could charge the batteries on our equipment. Unfortunately, he also had recent editions of several U.S. newspapers and magazines, and a television. We made the mistake of reading the papers and turning on the TV.

The single satellite service in the region that airs U.S. programming carries only one cable news network, and it isn't FOX. Like the periodicals, the broadcast was a broadside of anti-American propaganda, worthy of a radical Islamic website. There were stories about how the Newsweek fable about U.S. prison guards desecrating the Quran "could have been true." Others provided the latest casualty figures from IEDs and suicide car bombers. Several highlighted the conviction of a U.S. soldier for "war crimes."

As is commonplace, various "experts" derided U.S. policies and tactics, bemoaned the "terrible consequences" for America in the region and whined about the absence of an "exit strategy." In one, Gen. Wesley Clark proffered a diatribe on U.S. failures. The rest of the "news" was about Michael Jackson's pedophilia trial and the threat of a "nuclear option" in the U.S. Senate over judicial nominees. There were no success stories, no mention of courageous U.S. troops carrying the fight to the enemy and no "knowledgeable authorities" testifying about how things just might be getting better in Iraq.

Perhaps it's just fatigue after three weeks in the field. It's possible that after six trips to Iraq and two to Afghanistan, I'm "too close to the story" to be "objective." Conceivably, by living with those fighting the war, I can't "see the forest for the trees." Maybe those who report from New York, Washington or Atlanta really do have "the big picture" in clearer focus than those of us who document what's happening at the "tip of the spear." But I doubt it.

Despite print and broadcast stories to the contrary, the hundreds of young Americans we've interviewed and covered on this trip haven't lost their elan . Notwithstanding the negative news, they continue to believe that they are winning this war. And on this third Memorial Day of Operation Iraqi Freedom, their successes include: During Operation Matador along the remote Syrian border, the 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marines fought nonstop for seven days and nights, capturing and killing hundreds of the enemy, perhaps even Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Though they mourned the loss of nine of their brothers in arms during the first phase of this operation, these troops are back into the fight again. Only FOX's broadcast reports this action.

The soldiers of the 1st Battalion of the 503rd Infantry deployed to Iraq from Korea. Many of them will be away from their families for more than two years. Though living conditions at Corregidor Combat Outpost are as "Spartan" as any I have seen since Khe Sanh or Con Thien in Vietnam, they go out every day with Iraqi troops and commandos to hunt down elusive terrorists in the capital city of Iraq's largest province. They are ignored by the press.

Many of the Marines and Navy Medical CORPSMEN in the 1st Battalion, 5th Marines are back in Iraq for their third seven-month combat deployment. Yet, I detected no carping or complaining as they carried out 'round-the-clock raids and patrols, manned checkpoints and stood watch side-by-side with Iraqi troops in the heart of the Sunni triangle. This isn't considered to be "news"? All of the soldiers, sailors and Marines serving on advisory and assistance teams who spend day and night training and operating with the new Iraqi military and police units commend the growing competence, professionalism and courage of their counterparts. The media overlook them.

Press reports repeatedly cite American vulnerabilities to IEDs and homicidal suicide attacks. Yet, the "mainstream media" are strangely silent about the depot the Marines established to "up-armor" every wheeled vehicle in Iraq by October so that every Marine will have the best available protection.

Civil Affairs teams of U.S. soldiers, medics, Marines, Navy Corpsmen and Sea Bees provided $500 million in medical supplies, improved a rural medical clinic serving 40,000 Iraqis, helped jump-start small businesses in Fallujah and built sanitation facilities for a 275-student elementary school. Our press treated it like a state secret.

These are just a few examples of the good news from Iraq that won't be news at home.

Since this is Memorial Day weekend, I'm going to get down on my knees to thank God for those who have made the ultimate sacrifice serving our nation and pray for those who do so today. And I'm going to slip in another prayer that those who report "the news" here at home will yet report on some of the successes that these brave Americans have wrought with their blood, sweat and tears. Perhaps you'll join me.

Pennsylvania's Fallen Heroes

Adams, Brandon Edwin 22 Hollidaysburg
Baddick, Andrew Joseph 26 Jim Thorpe
Baker, Sherwood Russell 30 Plymouth
Barr, Aric Julius 22 Pittsburgh
Baum, Ronald Eric 38 Hollidaysburg
Bernstein, David Richard 24 Phoenixville
Booker, Stevon Alexander 34 Apollo
Brabazon, Edward Walter 20 Philadelphia
Brown, Andrew William 22 Mount Pleasant
Brown, Timmy Ray Jr. 21 Conway
Bucklew, Ernest Glenn 33 Enon Valley
Carman, Edward William 27 McKeesport
Cohen, Michael Ryan 23 Jacobus
Coleman, Bradli Nathaniel 19 Ford City
Cox, Gregory Alan 21 Carmichaels
Curran, Carl Fancis II 22 Union City
Cutchall, Christopher Eric 30 McConnellsburg
Davies, Shawn Michael 22 Aliquippa
Dillon, James Robert Jr. 19 Grove City
Faunce, Brian Richard 28 Philadelphia
Franklin, Michael William 22 Coudersport
Geiger, Christopher Patrick 38 Northampton
Giles, Landon Scott 19 Indiana
Gleason, Michael Todd 25 Warren
Golby, Christopher Allen 26 Johnstown
Grimes, Kyle Jason 21 Bethlehem
Hayslett, Timothy Lawrence 26 Newville
Henry, Joshua Justice 21 Avonmoire
Hershey, Brett Michael 23 State College
Horton, Jeremy Richard 24 Erie
Huey, Sean Patrick 28 Fredericktown
Hull, Eric Raymond 23 Uniontown
Humlhanz, Barton Russell 23 Hellertown
Ingraham, Thor Harrison 24 Murrysville
Ivory, Craig Steven 26 Port Matilda
Jenkins, Robert Boyd 35 Altoona
Jodon, Andrew Ryan 27 Karthaus
Johnson, Maurice Jerome 21 Levittown
Jones, Rodney Aaron 21 Philadelphia
Karpowich, Paul Daniel 30 Bridgeport
Kasecky, Mark Joseph 20 McKees Rocks
Kephart, Jonathan Roy 21 Oil City
Koch, Matthew Allen 23 West Henrietta
Kondor, Martin Wilson 20 York
Kritzer, Bradely Gordon 19 Irvona
Lloyd, Dale Thomas 22 Watsontown
Long, Zachoriach Wesley 20 Milton
Maglione, Joseph Basil 22 Lansdale
Maher, William Joseph III 35 Yardley
Mason, Nicholas Conan 28 Greenville
Matthews, Clint Richards 31 Bedford
Minucci, Joseph II 23 Richeyville
Mitchell, Sean Robert 24 Youngsville
Morgain, Carl 40 Butler
Morrison, Nicholas Bradley 23 Carlisle
Moxley, Clifford Leonard Jr. 51 Berwick
Navea, Rafael Luis 34 Pittsburgh
Nolan, Joseph Michael 27 Philadelphia
Oaks, Donald Samuel Jr. 20 Erie
Phelan, Mark Patrick 44 Greenlane
Puello-Coronado, Jaror Christopher 36 Long Pond
Ramos, Tamarra Joharidelonda 24 Quakertown
Renehan, Kyle Joseph 21 Oxford
Rusin, Aaron James 19 Johnstown
Sandri, Matthew Joseph 24 Shamokin
Santoriello, Neil Anthony 24 Verona
Seifert, Christopher Scott 27 Bethlehem
Sherman, Anthony Lee 43 Pottstown
Small, Corey Lee 20 East Berlin
Smith, Michael James 24 Media
Struble, Sascha 20 Philadelphia
Sturges, William Russell Jr. 24 Spring Church
Swank, Brett Daniel 21 Northumberland
Sweeney, Paul Anthony 32 Lakeville
Todd, John Harrison III 24 Bridgeport
Tomko, Nicholas Allen 24 McKees Rocks
Voelz, Kimberly Ann 27 Carlisle
Weismantle, Douglas John 28 Pittsburgh
Wells, Lonny Dion 29 Vandergrift
Zeiger, Kenneth Eugene II 22 Dillsburg

From the e-mail inbox If you consider that there've been an average of 160,000 troops in Iraq during the last 22 months, that gives a firearm death rate of 60 per 100,000. The rate in Washington, DC is 80.6 per 100,000. That means that you are 25% more likely to be shot and killed in our Nation's Capitol, which has some of the strictest gun control laws in the nation, than you are in Iraq.

Conclusion: We should immediately pull out of Washington.

A bicycle ban? Zachary votes No!!!

Zach attack

Have a good one.

Gage, Taylor and myself are about to pedal away from the adobe.