6-15-2005 AMBAC vs. The Heights

Each year, obesity claims the lives of 300,000 Americans and adds over $100 billion to health care costs. Should government enforce a 2,000-calorie intake limit per day? There's absolutely no dietary reason to add salt to our meals. Salt can lead to hypertension-induced heart attacks that kill thousands. Should government outlaw salt consumption? Sedentary lifestyles have been shown to lead to shorter and less healthy lives. Should there be government-mandated exercise programs?

The justifications used for "Click It or Ticket" can easily provide the template for government control of our diets and other lifestyle features. Maybe I'm a bit out of touch with today's Americans. With the silence in the face of attacks on Burger King and McDonald's, alleging they cause obesity, maybe Americans are pining for more government control over their lives -- and "Click It Or Ticket" is just softening up the rest of us for what lies ahead in the future.--Walter E. Williams

Blaming McDonald’s for the “sudden” outbreak of obesity is tantamount to super-sizing one’s own stupidity. But, as with any other bald-faced lie repeated often enough, if we can blame our shortcomings on somebody else, it works for us. And as soon as I hear someone going down that paved with manure McDonald’s-made-my-kid-a-tub ‘o lard road, I usually feel sadness for their obvious lack of personal responsibility, if not their lack of being able to process rational thoughts. McDonald’s is killing us all. Yeah, and Hillary Clinton and her ilk will save us from the evil American corporations.

Maybe we need more abortions, not less.

And as far as this “Click It or Ticket” program is concerned, the panty waists among us are rightfully indignant when some legislator wants to dictate their bedroom habits to them. But it’s apparently perfectly fine if someone wants to make something as completely lame as my seatbelt a federal issue. Next on the twisted agenda? Requiring helmets for the purposes of taking a shower? Required safety apparel for those goofing-looking speed walkers? Air bags on those Pride Mobility scooters? Or how about seatbelts on school busses? Nah, forget about it. That’s an un-funded mandate that we can’t possibly foist upon the general public.

The fedrule govmint couldn’t bare to see me injured for lack of a seatbelt. But it could care less about my grandkid’s safety. You try to figure it out even though it‘s completely nonsensical. The way I figure it, we’ve already passed the apex on the Rise and Fall of the United States timeline, so why fuss about it?

Have a few more chemical or agricultural amusement aides, pray to the 72” television, and fret not over the burgeoning Nanny state.

You will do as you are told until the rights to you are sold.--Francis Vincent Zappa.

I have nothing against anyone opining away in public so long as they do not cower behind their anonymity. But I can’t believe how many people have as much a problem with our new slogan and logo as some people had with the content of the mayor’s “I believe” speech.

From the Voice:


Mayor Leighton's "unbelievable" announcement was nothing but a waste of time. He wants people to stop having negative thoughts toward the city, yet he has done nothing to improve the city since he came into office.

The "I Believe" slogan should be "I Hope" because of all the things he said were going to happen the likelihood [sic] of them actually happening is very slim.
Mayors in the past have promised things and haven't delivered on their promises. What makes Leighton's ideas any different from the others?
Maybe the city should listen to the residents' needs and wants instead of assuming that is what they want.

Christopher Mattey
Wilkes Barre

From the Leader:

Posted on Wed, Jun. 15, 2005

Rework W-B’s logo to inspire unity

Now that the dust has settled regarding the mayor’s unBELIEVABLE big announcement of last week, the slogan for Wilkes-Barre should have been We Believe instead of I Believe. The negative atmosphere that the mayor said permeates Wilkes-Barre is a result of individuals and personalities pulling in all directions. We need to unify our thinking and energies into a positive atmosphere for the sake of Wilkes-Barre’s future. The logo should be redesigned to read “We Believe in Wilkes-Barre.”

From a promotional and marketing aspect, it would be more effective as well as eye catching. If the mayor truly believes in change for the city of Wilkes-Barre, then he should look no further than to himself for this consideration. It is an oldie but a goodie -- We the People.

Bruce Gutterman

Guys, guys, guys!!! Jesus H. Christ!!! “I hope?” “We believe?” On my mark…three, two, one…throw your head back and fire a chill pill towards that place where your tonsils used to be!

Are we so completely jaded that we feel compelled to publicly criticize a new slogan and a new logo? Jeez ‘o Pete! Some folks sure need a satisfying hobby and soon.

Why not, “I’d believe if?” How about, “We’ll believe if and when…?” Or, “I can’t believe no matter what the fu>k you do?” Judging by the mentality of the seemingly fatally narcissistic folks residing in this struggling backwater, we might have found ourselves a friggin’ winner.

“I can’t believe.”

Yeah. That pretty much sums up the folks in this area that blame their every ill on the elected folks. I can’t believe that a new motto titled, “I believe” could cause such a useless and needless ruckus. If a new motto has some of us all in a brainless tizzy, how completely fu>ked up are we as a community?

I absolutely love this bit: Maybe the city should listen to the residents' needs and wants instead of assuming that is what they want.

The residents’ needs?

Like what? A firehouse on every corner? A street sweeper for every block? Recycling rubber bands at the curb? Clutter cleanups on a cyclical schedule that loops every three months? More firemen? More cops? Better snow plowing? More pothole patching? More paving projects? Less bicycles? A less offensive logo? And…a completely revitalized downtown district?

Here’s an excerpt from Mike McGlynn’s latest column in the Voice which also beats the “residents’ needs” drum.

The Heights needs - and has a moral right to - a neighborhood fire station because, in the event of a fire, minutes, even seconds, can be precious. The difference between a pumper dispatched from the crown of East Northampton Street and from East Ross Street, High and Parrish streets or the Hollenback Park area can be the difference between life and death.

These three locations don't look all that far off on a simple map but, in terms of fire trucks wending their through an old city of tangled, narrow streets and up the steep hills leading into the Heights, they might as well be in Larksville or Timbuktu.

Statistical comparisons to cities of roughly the same population around Pennsylvania may have their place in the debate, but they don't respond to legitimate concerns about the demands of a particular city's topography. We're not talking rocket science here. We're talking about the law of gravity and how the problems it poses might even be compounded by a dose of inclement weather just as a fire is incubating in somebody's home.

Efforts to bring new life to the downtown are both necessary and laudable, but they should not cause us to look past more urgent (and more easily accomplished) tasks, such as restoring a firefighting presence to the Heights.

In our zeal to take long strides on the path to progress, we occasionally overlook the simple cracks in the sidewalk.

Blah, blah, blah. Why don’t we put him in charge of a $35 million budget while the folks from AMBAC are glued to our backside?

Ah, but the following story from today’s Leader should serve as a rather cold glass of water tossed into the faces of the folks that need to get drunk on excess spending.

Bond insurer wants progress, not talk

AMBAC is willing to work with Wilkes-Barre if the city can sell the former call center building.

By LANE FILLER lfiller@leader.net

 WILKES-BARRE – Does AMBAC “believe?”

The answer is a qualified “yes”, according to AMBAC’s managing director Gerard Durr.

But Durr reiterated that the New York-based bond insurer will not “throw good money after bad” in its dealings with the city, and belief alone in Mayor Tom Leighton’s administration is not enough to underwrite a new $35 million pension bond.

Durr needs to see real progress.

“Anytime a city has been in default, it takes a lot of effort and some time to re-establish itself in the credit markets,” Durr said.

Wilkes-Barre defaulted in 2002, forcing AMBAC to pony up a $220,000 payment for the call center, an act that placed a heavy strain on the relationship.

Leighton has done a lot to relieve that strain, Durr said, but he stressed that the process of righting the city’s finances would take years of discipline.

AMBAC has an interest in seeing Wilkes-Barre recover, because it already insures the bonds the city does have and could face extraordinary losses if the city went into distressed status, Durr said.

Still, each new debt issue must be examined with a critical eye, he said.

AMBAC will support refinancing the $35 million pension bond and extending the payoff of the loan 15 years to approximately 2028, if the city can sell the call center and get out from under the costs associated with the vacant building.

A sales agreement with Wilkes University is nearly done, pending a Zoning Hearing Board meeting on June 22 for a variance the college needs to use the South Main Street property for classrooms, athletics and recreation.

If the deal goes through, AMBAC will help the city refinance the pension bond, and restructure payments that are poised to escalate to nearly $5 million per year. The city will also be able to avoid making an all-interest payment of just under $900,000 on September 1.

How much do initiatives like “I Believe…” announced last week by Leighton matter to companies the city does business with?

“Actually, it does matter, because without a new and positive attitude, there’s no way anything can ever get better,” Durr said. “The city does seem improved, visibly, and the mayor has made real progress with the finances, which bringing in advisors was a big part of. We’re encouraged.”

But real fiscal challenges remain.

“The test is over the next several years, growing revenues, making the redevelopment work, managing costs and establishing reserve funds so the city isn’t always on the edge,” Durr said. “It will be some time before Wilkes-Barre is out of the woods, but it’s on the right track.”

“The city does seem improved, visibly, and the mayor has made real progress with the finances, which bringing in advisors was a big part of. We’re encouraged.”

But real fiscal challenges remain.

“The test is over the next several years, growing revenues, making the redevelopment work, managing costs and establishing reserve funds so the city isn’t always on the edge,” Durr said. “It will be some time before Wilkes-Barre is out of the woods, but it’s on the right track.”

So, financially speaking, the city is on the right track. At least, that’s what the Big Apple financial gurus are telling us. The only problem is, too many of us have not the patience required to stay on the only track that makes sense for us and guarantees that‘ll we‘ve actually have a future worth waiting for. Nope. The local folks have no need for nor any understanding of the need for a dose of austerity in the short run.

We want what we want and we want it right fu>king now. Luckily for us, the guy pulling the frayed purse strings absolutely refuses to spend what we don’t have right now. Some folks want a firehouse. And others want clutter cleanups. As for me, I want nothing more than to be AMBAC’s best friend, AMBAC’s favorite city, if you will. I just want to be loved. By AMBAC, that is.

Some have suggested that picketing the mayor’s house might be necessary in the fight to force him to spend the money we don’t currently have. How utterly pathetic is that? Somebody ought to be ashamed of themselves for even suggesting such a heavy-handed and invasive tactic. And on the other hand, the financial guru’s are demanding that we unload that Call Center real soon like, simply because we’re spending too much money.

As of this moment, we just can’t have it both ways.

And the folks in the Heights need to be reminded that the great preponderance of this city’s residents are incessantly haranguing the mayor to hire even more police officers than he already has. The charge that he’s not responding to the wishes of his constituents just won’t hold any water, pumped through a hose or otherwise.

The vocal cabal that meets by the light of the karaoke machine needs to understand that they are in the minority whereas public safety is concerned. But, the members of that tiny cabal are resolute in their thick-headed absurdity only because they quite frequently rub elbows with some folks angling for future votes.

Perhaps a couple of our council members ought to stop encouraging these increasingly emboldened people and instead enlighten them as to the precarious state of the city’s finances.

Seriously. Who should we be listening to right about now? The AMBAC folks? Or Denise Carey? ( You know, I really hate singling her out all the time, but she is the most highly visible of this rag-tag group of folks who scoff at the mayor’s having drawn a line in the sand right in front of the bottom line.) But, again, who should we be listening to right about now? The folks that absolutely refuse to adapt to a changing financial reality? Or the folks holding the city’s financial future in it’s hands while simultaneously demanding that we adapt to things as they currently stand?

The Voice editorial says spend.

Mike McGlynn says we need to spend.

The Heights cabal demands that we spend.

And then there’s AMBAC.

If this no-brainer is too tough for most to comprehend, then maybe they spent too much time burning chocolate chip cookies a few years ago. We all know that Rome wasn’t built in a day. But if Tom Leighton doesn’t rebuild Wilkes-Barre in a day or so, we’re gonna picket his dog coop? Some of us are way, way, way off base.

Come to think of it, maybe we don’t deserve better than what little we’ve become accustomed to. Those summer hires of ours just collected the yard waste on this street using an ancient Chevy S-10 that had to have it’s motor raced non-stop so that it wouldn’t stall out and gum up the entire traffic works.

Do we need a firehouse in the Heights? Probably. Is that firehouse at the very top of the 100-page laundry list of expensive things the city needs right now? I highly doubt it.

Copper Dude & Co.

From the e-mail inbox Thanks.

From your latest post & this e-mail...sounds like someone has a few days off. When I saw the USS Pop-Pop tag, I thought I was going to see a new kayak.

Enjoy the A/C. Getting older? Perish the thought. Rage on!


Oh yeah! I took a dozen days off. Good for me. As for the kayak, I think I’m gonna have to smother wifey with her own pillow for that to come about. Stay tuned.

Rage on? I freakin’ hear that!

From the e-mail inbox Thanks for the website to NEPA SaySo. I kind of missed reading some of them in the newspaper. Even if some of the calls were from bozos I loved reading and laughing at them.

Those anonymous losers were comical, weren’t they?

From the e-mail inbox Two men were talking. "So, how's your sex life?" "Oh, nothing special. I'm having Social Security sex." "Social Security sex?" "Yeah, you know: I get a little each month, but not enough to live on!"

From the e-mail inbox This whole bit had me in stitches! It gave new meaning to lmao (laughing my *ss off) :

"Up until the summer of ’03, I had never owned an air conditioner in my entire life. The thing is,…

Totally deranged, ain’t I?

If you are not a fan of Triumph the Insult Dog, I demand that you proceed directly to the cabinet below the kitchen sink and drink whatever products you find contained therein. Wait, wait. Scratch that. I’m sorry, that entire Sprawl-Mart episode is making me crazier that I already was going in.

If watching a ten-minute video of Triumph insulting the Michael Jackson supporters just outside of the Santa Marina courthouse does not interest you, nothing ever will.

And on a local note, Triumph even interviews former Times Leader columnist Steve Corbett.

Here’s a tasty morsel of Triumph’s biting magic: On a scale of one to ten, what is the age of Michael Jackson’s boyfriend?


Do yourself a favor, watch the video.