8-11-2005 Who-Barre revisited

There is no terrorist threat in this country. This is a lie. This is the biggest lie we've been told.--Michael Moore

Tell that to the folks in London and see if they agree.

What a difference a couple of days can make. Well, and one senseless murder. For months all I've heard is guff about how unsafe we are because the city refuses to hire more firemen and reopen a firehouse. But in the blink of an eye, the argument for new hires has suddenly switched to cops, cops, cops, cops and more cops.

I stayed up way too late last night while burning CDs. Needless to say, I got out of bed later than normal only to find both newspapers dominated by stories about cops, folks who demand more cops, cops who want more cops, and reporters who got more than they bargained for while working on one of their "negativity sells" stories well after dark. You know, another cop story or lack thereof.

Whatever. Basically, no one is mistaken. We need more firemen and we need more cops. We need lots of stuff. But, as things currently stand, budgetary restraints must be recognized and strictly adhered to. Fact is, the impatient public doesn't want to hear that sh*t. And to some degree, I can sympathize with their frustrations. Making the situation even more imflammatory is the fact that we've certainly got no shortage of factually-bankrupt activists stoking the fires of discontent. If everyone would take a half step back, chill out for a spell, and compare where we've been versus where we're at and where we're likely headed; I think most of us would admit that the current adminstration is really getting an undeserved bad rap in many respects. At this point in this city's history, their's is a juggling act not meant for the very strongest of the week-kneed. And to a very large degree, I can sympathize with their frustrations while they try to slog us out of the mess we're in.

But, with all of that having been said, when I climbed out of bed this morning only to find the demand for more cops splashed from cover to cover in both of our newspapers, my mind harkened back to a previous decision this mayor made that had everybody up in arms and demanding his scalp. Well, that is, what's left of it. Namely, when he raised the occupational priviledge tax from $10 to $52. 'Member that? I do.

Here's a snippet from some of my gibberish I posted on 11-30-2004 titled, "$52? No Christmas in Who-Barre."

From the Thursday edition of the Citizen's Voice:

Wilkes-Barre City, Luzerne County's largest employment hub, could generate an additional $1 million by raising the tax to the $52 ceiling, according to Mayor Tom Leighton.

The big guns in Harrisburg are going to pass a bill into law that will allow local municipalities across the state to increase the occupational priviledge tax for commuters who work in their backyards from $10 per year to $52 per year. So the question begs, should Wilkes-Barre turn it's back on a possible cash influx estimated to approach $1 million a year? Methinks not.

I entered the work force when I was fourteen years-old. Way, way back when, the only thing required of me to remain gainfully employed was the acquisition of working papers, a chest x-ray at the Kirby Health Center, and paying that once per year $10 occupational priviledge tax. Oh, yeah. And wearing a freaking hair net.

I remember staring at my paystub in the kitchen at Percy Brown's and asking what the heck that $10 tax was all about. It was explained to me by the assistant manager, one Leo C. Smith. Never one to mince words, I launched into an F-bomb-laced tirade that was up to my usual standards. I have to buy the priviledge to work? Muck that! Leo, being the shrewd motivator of young men that he was, told me to get back to work before he cut my nuts off. Funny, I miss that guy.

Okay, so I knew what the ten bucks was all about and I've been forced to pay it every year since. I've paid it for three decades and then some. And it was never increased. Not once. If it had been increased in incremental steps, no one would have said too much about it. Inflation and such, you know. All part of growing up, we'd suppose. Everything goes up, right?

Well, it never did go up. And even if it had gone up to say, $20 at some point, would that have caused anyone to cancel a trip to Wally World, or jump from Wilkes-Barre's highest point? No more Whammy Burger for the kids? Even at $52 a year, we're talking about a whole $1 per week. Buy one less Powerball ticket every week and the tax is covered. One less box of Junior Mints here and there and the thing is covered in full. Step-dad used to hand me a buck and send me to the corner store for three packs of Lucky Strikes. These days he pays upwards of four bucks a pack. And he's still puffin' away. The sad reality is, the cost of damn near everything goes up from time to time. In a capitalist society, that's just the way it is. If the cost of everything we hold so near and dear didn't rise for a year or two; the Moon's orbit around the Earth would probably decay until it went spinning out of control and crushed Giants Stadium. Be careful what you wish for. That is, unless you're an Eagles fan.

But in Wilkes-Barre, we are fortunate enough to have a taxpayer association "educating" the public with their predictable automatic naysaying routine no matter what the f**k the politicos come up with.

Christine Katsock, president of the Wilkes-Barre Taxpayers Association, argued an increase in the city's occupational privilege tax, coupled with its 2.85 percent wage tax, will drive away new residents.

"We want to build the tax base in Wilkes-Barre City, and in my opinion, we do that by attracting people from other areas of the state to move to the city," Katsock said.

"For a single mother, or a couple who is just making ends meet, $100 out of their funds is just too much."

One dollar per week "is just too much?" And if I'm reading this Voice story correctly, she was completely serious.

"The new revenue could help me put more police officers on the streets," Leighton said. "It's something we will look long and hard at."

More cops on the street, but at what cost? How am I going to come up with an extra dollar every single week? By knocking off a Turkey Hill with a loaded middle finger? I can't afford this. I realize that Leighton can't tag me with this. But Ashley just might so as to fix all four of their potholes. Or is it potwholes? This is a single income household and Joe Nardone is my pusher. I'm going to take a long, hard look at moving to one of those bucolic townships that tax at a much, much lower rate. And if I need the cops, I'll just pray that the state police are not on the other side of the county when I call for help. We get what we pay for, Christine.

Her plan is a plan doomed to failure. She'll attract new residents by keeping taxes down, and then having the streets patrolled by fewer and fewer cops as rising costs eventually overwhelm a stagnant tax base. Nobody is going to move here from Mountaintop and increase our tax base with only six cops patrolling our streets on any given shift. He have to offer safety, cleanliness and services first. Then, and only then, will folks consider a return to small city life. And unless I'm hopelessly misinformed on things of this nature, our police force is not a volunteer force.

People whose annual income is less than $12,000 are not subject to the tax.

Yudichak also supported an amendment to the bill that would have allowed municipalities to collect the tax on a quarterly basis. It was defeated by legislators.

Katsock claimed consideration of the quarterly payment option furthers her argument the tax drastically impacts household budgets.

"To put it on a payment plan is indicative of how extreme this raise is," she said.

$52 paid over twelve months is "extreme?" Don't f**kin' blame me, man. I didn't encourage her further by voting for her. I'd just luv to hear her outline her plan for putting more cops on our streets without returning to the recently bygone days of massive red ink. Oh, geez. I totally forgot. We're going to have city council executed on Public Square. I completely forgot. That'll get us two more cops. Total!

Typical chickie. Oh, no. What of the single mothers? It's for the kids. Try applying for some federal grant money and the health department can stage some condom giveaways. Society cannot move forward, because we have to be overburdened with those who don't think before they launch into some spread eagle exercises with near strangers. The single mothers can move back home, or grab a smallish adobe at Sherman Hills. Their self-induced plight does not concern me in the least. I'd rather have more cops patrolling the streets of my struggling city. And Ashley too.

Raise my taxes by $42. Do it now.

You're a sly one, Mister Mayor...

"The new revenue could help me put more police officers on the streets," Leighton said. "It's something we will look long and hard at."

Christine Katsock, president of the Wilkes-Barre Taxpayers Association, argued an increase in the city's occupational privilege tax, coupled with its 2.85 percent wage tax, will drive away new residents.

Now I ask you, in retrospect, who was right? Did we need the ten new police officers that the nuisance tax increase provided us with? Or was our activist extraordinaire correct when she railed against the most minute of tax increases ever levied upon free people anywhere? Did we need those ten new cops? Or didn't we?

Y'all wanna anonymously bust on my glasses, or my propensity for not pissing my pants in public when the mumblers head my way. Speak out. Was Tom Leighton in tune with what we needed? Or wasn't he? Was the teeny tiny tax increase a needed investment in our future? Or was it another needless expense as the activist crazies wanted us to believe?

Sound off!

This Voice story had me scratching my dented head for a couple of reasons.

W-B council rejects fire chief's request to sell hovercraft

By Denise Allabaugh, Staff Writer 08/11/2005

By a 5-2 vote, Wilkes-Barre council shot down a request from Fire Chief Jacob Lisman to sell the city's hovercraft.

Trucksville resident Paul Adamchick offered to buy the hovercraft and trailer for $11,702.

Council members Phil Latinski, Jim McCarthy, Kathy Kane, Tony Thomas and Bill Barrett voted against selling the hovercraft, saying they believe it is a valuable tool to have to save lives.

Council Chairwoman Shirley Vitanovec and Councilman Mike McGinley said they chose to take the advice of the chief, who said it is not needed.

Lisman and Assistant Fire Chief Ed Snarski told council that the hovercraft can only hold a maximum capacity of 600 pounds, which equates to two firefighters and one victim. More than one victim cannot fit, they said.

They displayed pictures of the damage the hovercraft sustained when firefighters assisted with the Bear Creek flooding in May 2002. They said the jon boat, which can hold six people, is a better rescue device.

Lisman read a letter from Dr. John Turner of Kirby Health Center stating that if firefighters are breathing the mist from sewage from the river, it can cause life-threatening diseases.

If the hovercraft could not make it in 12 inches of fast-moving water, Lisman said he could not in "good conscience" send the firefighters out in the hovercraft when the river is 35-38 feet.

Tom Makar, president of the International Association of Fire Fighters Union, Local 104, however, said if firefighters are responding to an emergency, "They'll do what they have to get the job done.

"Firefighters don't care about mist. They don't care about smoke," Makar said.

Latinski and McCarthy said if the hovercraft saves one life, they feel it is worth the $11,700.

Kane and Thomas said the hovercraft can be used in situations when the jon boat can't. It can be used to skim over ice, Kane said.

Thomas said it can be used when the streets are flooded. "Just that alone is worth $11,000 to me," he said. Lisman, however, said he did not believe it was a "logical approach" to only rescue one victim at a time. Vitanovec agreed.

"If you're not able to save everyone's life, to me, what good is it?" Vitanovec asked.

Barrett suggested in the future, it might be a good idea to get a larger hovercraft. McGinley agreed.

The hovercraft, trailer and other equipment were purchased during former Mayor Tom McGroarty's administration in 2001 for $29,978 with grant money from the Office of Community Development.

If the hovercraft was sold, Lisman said the $11,700 would be returned to the Office of Community Development to purchase better equipment for the firefighters.

Mayor Tom Leighton said the hovercraft will remain in storage and "collect dust."

Lisman read a letter from Dr. John Turner of Kirby Health Center stating that if firefighters are breathing the mist from sewage from the river, it can cause life-threatening diseases.

I wouldn't doubt that claim. Pigeon droppings on air conditioners can result in respiratory distress. And so can excessive amounts of rodent droppings within a structure. But that's not why that claim caught my eye. If breathing the mist from sewage in the river can cause health problems, then why would we want to dam that same sewage and then invite people to come play on it? Anyone wanna take a stab at that one? Anybody?

A doctor from the Kirby Health Center thinks mucking about in raw sewage is a bad idea. But our local congressman claims it's the key to future revitalization. All I know is, I make it a habit to never play in poop. But what do I know?

And to be honest, I don't think our council folks did enough homework before voting against the sale of this glorified Hot Wheel toy. The first thing that comes to mind is that picture of the craft smacking into the guardrail on Route 115. If a couple of feet of on-rushing water can sweep it away and imperil the lives of the men hanging on to it for dear life, why would we use it again?

Secondly, no one mentioned the fact that the hovercraft had to be rescued when it launched in very high waters when that freight train derailed in Honeypot a while back. It's too small and not powerful enough to be effective unless conditions are just right. I've seen that Plymouth Township hovercraft up close during the RiverFest events. It'a a huge machine. It seats, like, six or eight people. I forget exactly. Actually, I was promised a ride in that thing, but it never came about. Drat! When I first witnessed that monster of a machine being fired-up, I thought, how in the hell does some smallish borough have such an impressive machine, while the best my city can acquire is a lifed-sized TootsieToy?

Tom McGroarty may have been correct by thinking that a hovercraft was a good addition to the fire department. The only thing is, he bought the wrong one. A 600-pound capacity? If that thing ever goes back into service, we had better hope the thinnest of the firefighters are on board when somebody very, very obese decides to take a flying leap from one of the bridges.

If I had bothered to address council on this matter, I would have told them to park it in the Kirby Park playground and let the little kids play on it. Oh, and so the bigger kids can spray paint all over it.

If we really need a hovercraft, let's acquire one that doesn't put everyone connected to it in danger.

The Rodent Patrol

From the e-mail inbox "With the numerous obstacles that currently face this city, (many of which being crime-related) the very last thing we need is any member of our police department gone slacker on us. And even if the cop in question spent his lunch hour in the gym, wouldn't he be much more visible while enjoying his lunch on Public Square?

No matter how that cop came to be there, if I was running this city, I'd be hopping mad, demanding answers and considering whether a warning report, or a pink slip needs to be yanked from the bottom drawer of my desk.

That's crap, and we have no room for error in this city.

Protect and Serve.

That's the mission the way I understood it."

Your city is not alone on this subject. In my area I have seen several police officers tend to personal matters while on duty. However, my area doesn't have as much crime that WB has. Busy as WB or not - you are still on duty. Even in my little town. But you guys don't have the money in your city to be wasting it all on officers who do not take their position seriously full time. I say out with him!

You know, I really hated posting that bit. By and large, our cops run from call to call to call to call without timely back-up and with a Turkey Hill hoddog hanging from the sides of their mouths. They don't patrol as much as they do run around in circles during shifts. If you think your job totally sucks, take the civil service tests involved and become a Wilkes-Barre cop. Then you'll fully understand what 'runnin' your ass off' means.

But when someone without an axe to grind that I know and trust tells me that they saw a Wilkes-Barre cop doing what appeared to be slacking off, I instantly saw red. Like I said, we have no room for error in this city.

I have since been made aware that our cops are given some latitude as to where and how they can take their lunch breaks. And by no means do I agree with that somewhat liberal policy in a city struggling to prove that it is becoming a safer place with each passing day. God forbid another cute old lady has her life snuffed out while a cop was taking in a little league game. Fair or not, just imagine what the press would do with that developing story.

I know our patrol officers are understaffed, overworked and somewhat frustrated. But, despite everything they've been through, they need, now, more than ever, to be focused in like a laser on the mission at hand. Anything less invites yet another black eye in the press for Wilkes-Barre.

We demand a lot from them and I don't want to see their reputation tarnished. That's why I recounted what was told to me by a concerned citizen. Trust me on this, my faith in them has not been diminished in any significant way. We may have our fair share of crime in this city, but we've also got the best police department throughout the entirety of Northeast Pennsylvania.

Sez me.

From the e-mail inbox History of "Liberals & Conservatives"

The two most important events in all of history were the invention of beer and the invention of the wheel. The wheel was invented to get man to the beer. These were the foundations of modern civilization, and together were the catalyst for the splitting of humanity into two distinct subgroups; Liberals and Conservatives.

Once beer was discovered it required grain, and that was the beginning of agriculture. Neither the glass bottle nor aluminum can was invented yet, so while our early human ancestors were sitting around waiting for them to be invented, they just stayed close to the brewery. That's how villages were formed.

Some men spent their days tracking and killing animals to BBQ at night while they were drinking beer. This was the beginning of what is known as the Conservative movement. Other men who were weaker and less skilled at hunting, learned to live off the conservatives by showing up for the nightly BBQ and doing the sewing, fetching and hair dressing. This was the beginning of the Liberal movement. Some of these liberal men eventually evolved into women. The rest became known as girliemen.

Some noteworthy liberal achievements include the domestication of cats, the trade union, the invention of group therapy and group hugs, and the concept of Democratic voting to decide how to divide the meat and beer that conservatives provided.

Over the years conservatives came to be symbolized by the largest, most powerful land animal on earth, the elephant. The jackass symbolizes Liberals.

Modern liberals like imported beer (with lime added), but most prefer white wine or imported bottled water. They eat raw fish, but like their beef well done. Sushi, tofu, and French food are standard liberal fare. Another evolutionary side note; most of their women have higher testosterone levels than their men.

Most social workers, personal injury attorneys, journalists, dreamers in Hollywood and group therapists are liberals. Liberals invented the designated hitter rule in baseball, because it wasn't fair to make the pitcher also bat.

Conservatives drink domestic beer. They eat red meat and still provide for their women. Conservatives are big-game hunters, rodeo cowboys, lumberjacks, construction workers, medical doctors, police officers, corporate executives, soldiers, athletes, and generally anyone who works productively outside government. Conservatives who own companies hire other conservatives who want to work for a living.

Liberals produce little or nothing. They like to govern the producers and decide what to do with the production. Liberals believe that Europeans are more enlightened than Americans. That is why most of the liberals remained in Europe, when conservatives were coming to America. Then the liberals crept in after the Wild West was tamed, and created a business of trying to get MORE for nothing.

And you thought history was boring.

From the e-mail inbox "I've sat and talked with both of them, and they seem to want what everyone else wants. Namely, a decent house, a decent street and a decent life."

You continue to amaze me.

"A decent house, a decent street and a decent life."

Simplistic (your stated favorite) yet eloquent.

I think you need to take the next step whatever it might be. Would you serve a greater purpose writing for one of the papers----or would you do likewise by running for an elected office?


I don't know. Wouldn't that be enough to keep the lot of us content on most days. A decent house, a decent street and a decent life? Seems like it.

I was asked not to post the following e-mail, but after reading the previous one, I really felt the need to address this sudden call to greatness.

Sorry dude.

From the e-mail inbox Hey Wilkes-Barre Dude! (LOL)

How's the vacation going? I had a visitor today and I was asking about you at my facility and John stated your on vacation. I just wanted to drop a line or so stating that this web site you have originated, "Wilkes-Barre On Line" is doing something in our community. Something of the nature of bringing together the thoughts of the citizen's of Wilkes-Barre. Whether it's a good thing or not, it's a start. This is what we need, citizen's to voice their opinions. As far as the politics go, well, thatís not my bag and I try like hell to not be so opinioned of the doings in the city of Wilkes-Barre. I do like reading and scanning your site. I always look forward to entering the site to see what's going to be said next. I guess we will have to label you as the Howard Stern of the web... I have only one question; Why are you doing what your doing and not become an employee of one of the local news papers? I am very serious. You have a talent, skill, knack for doing what you do with this web site. Have you ever given it some thought on publishing your own paper? Something like the Suburban News. I'll bet they would sell pretty good. I am sure you could get enough backers/investors to get you started.

Take care,

Thanx, but I've already got two mentally unstable people stalking me on a part-time basis. The way I see it, the very last thing I need is a wider circulation. It's getting to the point where I could probably bring harassment charges against these wayward dolts, but I prefer to stare back at them only to let them know that their intimidation tactics are completely lost upon me.

The Howard Stern of the web? Wow! All that without top-heavy nudie girls? Go figure. I've been called the Rush Limbaugh of Wilkes-Barre, and the Matt Drudge of Wilkes-Barre in the past. Plus, lots of other saucey names that can't be typed here. Whatever. I have no control over what people call me, nor do I care. Call me what you will, but I think it's extremely productive that we can air our views in a totally politically incorrect environment. I realize that I'm a dipsh*t and I go out of my way at times to push some people's buttons, but an on-going debate should never be deemed to be a bad thing.

I know it sucks that you're all stuck with me, but worse things could happen to y'all. No?

From the e-mail inbox Mark,

They are going to string you up one of these days. LOL!

"My son would never do drugs! But if he does get caught doing drugs, I want those ni**ers arrested."

Yowza! You are out there my friend. Way far out there. And you happen to be 100% correct.

Stick to your guns young man.
HXXX from Kingston

Thanx and all, but I know I'm right. But the white folks don't want to admit that they are equally implicit in the explosion of drug use in this country. The way they see things, the demand is the result of the supply. They are fools.

No street sweepers???

This mayor tried to drown me!

I made my contribution to the block party this morning. I weed-whacked the entire street, (except by the side of that unlicensed day care center on the corner) I hosed-down the entire street, and then I removed the piles of muckity muck along the curb. Other than helping to pick-up some chairs and tables, and a Saturday morning trip to Keyco in Forty Fort...all I have to concern myself about from here forward is the delivery of loud tunes, tunes, and more tunes. Trust me, I'm on it.

I'm real good at making trouble on the internet, bicycling all over the valley and eradicating termites from all types of structures. But my actually specialty is blasting good tunes for hours on end.

We're gonna have us some fun come Saturday.

And remember, the big-ass, monster tent means that the weather is not a factor. We are gonna party like it's 1999.


P.S.--The games include eggs, water balloons and chocolate pudding. Bring a change of clothing.

Happy Birthday in Heaven, Rebecca Mary.