If our Mayor and City Council are doing such a good job, why are we millions of dollars in debt?--Walter Griffith, from his giant and expensive looking ad on page 10 of today's Sunday Voice

And what was on Page 1? "City looks good in black," an article that tells us that expenses are down, incoming revenue is way up, and barring a catastrophe, the city will end the current year with a surplus. To put things in perspective, the city hasn't ended a year with a budgetary surplus since electricity was first discovered, or somethere thereabouts.

They tell us that timing is everything, and if that's the case Walter has to be hopping mad and spinning near out of control much like the Tazmanian Devil right now. And his vindictive petition drive, his revenge so to speak, won't amount to rehydrated spit whether it manages to put a few referendum questions on the ballot or not.

With a $34 million dollar budget and tens of millions of long-term outstanding debts to pay, nickel and diming our sitting council and those to follow is akin to balancing the federal budget and paying off the national debt by demanding that Congress pay for their paper clips from here on out.

We've already covered the health benefits as they apply to council members. Basically...they should never apply to any part-time employees. But with that said, how does cutting the $12,000 salary or our council folks to $7,000 achieve anything of note? That doesn't amount to enough money to hire a single cop or a single fireman. Oops! Fireperson. Sorry. And he also seeks to slash the mayor's salary by approxiamtely $25,000? Why? To make it even more difficult in the future to hopefully attract the best and brightest professional types into the public spotlight?

Hell! Why screw around, Walt? Let's cut the mayor's salary to a paltry $32,000 a year. That'll save us a ton of bucks. We'll end up with mayors out on parole, or mayors that feverishly worship Art Bell, but what the hay? We've got to save money no matter what the long-term effect. Being short-sighted and somewhat dimwitted is not a crime under the Patriot Act, so let's follow Walt into urban oblivion.

And I take serious issue with the following line from Walt's less than thought out political ad that portends to know our current mayor's eventual political fate:

When he is voted out of office next election,...

First of all, wishful thinking does not nearly qualify as political smarts, but it does provide an insight into the kill-'em-all mentality of this failed candidate for local political office. He has no vision to speak of. His only stated agenda is to see to it that the folks that were elected take a financial hit because of his tireless, yet misguided efforts.

Tom Leighton is to be a one-term wonder? We'll just see about that after the street lights go up, the theater attracts crowds, the grant monies for more cops hits town, financial responsibility becomes the 'norm, the empty storefronts begin to fill, the riverfront becomes a bonified attraction and Wilkes-Barre finally turns that long-elusive corner. Talk to us then, Walt.

We dumped McGroarty and fought off Katsock while the future of the city was still well in doubt. Once that future begins to brighten in a major way due to his capable leadership, you're gonna have a hell of a time dislodging him from is current position. And you shouldn't ought to do anything to get me overly motivated again. I can be one hell of a political campaigner when need be. Turns out.

It was a hundred degrees in the shade. Not a snowball in sight. Junior Barnes was sitting on the steps in front of my house...

I saw something yesterday...

...that had me seriously questioning my own faith in the future of my neighborhood and my citys as well.

Before going off to bed on Friday night, Gage Andrew gave me a hug, a kiss and his tentative schedule for Saturday. First, we were going for a tractor ride to see Bobby at Oh Yes. Then we were going to enjoy some tasty offerings from Mr. Softee. Lasty, we were going to take a match to some fireworks. I'm gonna have to buy this kid a freakin' Daytimers planner at this rate. Anyway, the chicks in this family were headed out to a baby shower so Gage and I would be spending the day together. Cool with me.

No sooner had the girls rolled out of view, I reached for the remote for my diz-busting stereo. The Bigfoot of stereos. It may not crush many cars, but it can rattle a foundation loose to the point of a possible structural collapse. We wandered through some rather loud Joan Jett, Men Without Hats, The Clash, The Specials, B-52s, and finally some Dead Kennedys. You gotta raise these kids right, ya' know?

I took a break from my impressive air guitar display only to notice that Gage was furiously trying to roll over my WILK/Bartuska's recliner so I asked the boy if the time was right for the tractor ride. It was and it only took us twenty minutes to find him a pair of socks. I should have trusted my first instinct and just allowed the boy to wander through the Nord End in lieu of socks, but I was almost sure the chicks would end up coming home early and having a freaking bird. Whatever.

We found the socks, the miniaturized NIKEs and we rolled the tractor forth. This thing is constructed of like 99.99% plastic. Sh*t! I think even the axles are made of plastic and the result is that it makes even more noise than a Sherman tank once it starts rumbling along. I can't hear the boy, and he can't hear me, but he sure seems to enjoy it's company. We turned onto to Butler Street, rattled a few bricks loose as we passed condemned homes and headed for Oh Yes.

We turned into the alley and only the Perman Mortgage parking lot separated us from the final mad dash to Bobby's store and all of those free "wollypops."

This is gonna sound stupid, but I love that parking lot. I can't wander through there without taking a healthy gander up at that big structure which used to be my church and my school a long time ago. That place was sooooooooooooooooo important to my mom and my grandmom throughout their lives, and I can't pass by there without thinking of and yearning for them. It may be 2004, but there are those days when I pass through that lot and all that I can see is 1964. Yesterday was not one of those days.

Try as he may, Gage cannot bring his tiny legs to propel his tractor up that incline to N. Main Street, so Pop Pop has to push him. As we approached the halfway point of our climb, a senior citizen was very slowly backing out of a parking stall in the lot. We came to a stop and waited patiently. As he backed up, one of the Bloods, or Crips, or Dick-Smokers (I don't know what they call themselves. I only know what I so frequently see and I see them selling drugs in that lot directly across from their N. Main Street rattrap) lunged towards the back of the car, smacked his hand down on the drunk and started launching profanities at the senior couple within who were obviously startled judging by the way the car lurched (John Kerry) to a sudden stop.

Then a second approaching "African-American" and some slut hanging from his arm joined in. It was awful. It was "Mo-Fucka" this and "Mo-fucka" that and the seniors in the car had quickly graduated from looking startled. They were downright scared to death.

The last discernable statement I heard was "I'll sue your white mo-fucka asses you sock-cuckers" just as my police scanner entered the fray and quite loudly. The Dick-Smokers were caught completely off guard and their attention quickly refocused on me. Moi. The lead asshole was now headed directly towards me and he said, "You got something to f**kin' to say to me?" The words "Suck D___, S____" were just about to roll off of my tongue when Gage spoke up about continuing on.

That's when it hit me. As much as I would have liked to take issue with the worthless scumbag wanting to get into my face for absolutely no good reason, my first responsibility was my grandson's safety and not defending any senior citizens from the violence-prone reefer addicts. I clutched the baton in my pocket, flirted my gaze elsewhere and walked away as the three of them mocked me and met up with a white kid in a pick-up truck for all of sixty seconds. Another dope deal completed.

So...what am I to take from this experience? Senior citizens should be subjected to needless harrassment only because their pigment is very pale. And some skinny white guy walking about with his three year-old grandson in tow should be the subject of intimidation only because he happens to carry a police scanner, or God Forbid! Might even be one of those white, cracker, racist policemen himself?

You know, it's a bit gauling, no, no, it's gone well beyond that, to listen to the biggest racists since the Civil War era, i.e., the "African-Americans" to be whining about racism all of the f**king time, while they proudly display their racism, their abject hatred on their sleeves.

Some of us "crackers" just want to occasionally wander through the Nord End in pursuit of lollipops and little else. Others seem intent on wandering through the Nord End in pursuit of white people. Those white, racist bastards!

I'm gonna head down to Ruddle Street and investigate exactly what it takes to get a permit to conceal a firearm. And then we'll just see where that leads me. Armed walkabouts? While that prospect may sadden me to some degree, no one, no one, is going to threaten me with a ridiculous and needless race-based skirmish when the young boy is firmly in tow.

If some folks can't, or won't control themselves, I'll be more than willing to do it for them.

Apparently, as things currently stand, Gage's memories made in that parking lot will stand in direct contrast to mine. And I really don't believe that we should just accept the fact that our cities are being overrun with lawless assholes, run away and stick our heads in the sand in the Back Mountain or somewhere else crying out for a gate and a rent-a-cop to man it.

If the disaffected idiots from Queens, or Camden think they're going to waltz right in here and intimidate the hell out of me, they are in for a bit of a surprise.

And there's a house on N. Main Street directly across from the Perman Mortgage lot that is in dire need of a couple of gallons of gas and a struck match. Or a police raid. Whichever comes first. It really doesn't matter to me.

We shall see.