3-18-2006 The Commissioners' Voice re-visited

If the Times Leader does in fact go the way of the Sunday Independent, I think I’m going to have to start referring to the Citizens’ Voice as “The Commissioners’ Voice” all over again. While Mike McGlynn’s latest offering may be factually correct, it has lapdog written all over it. If this town does find itself reduced to being a one-newspaper town soon enough, the well-entrenched Democrats in this county will fear not of the local print media.

Fact! The Help America Vote Act was passed into law in 2002. Fact! The Luzerne County government had 4 years and a $3 million fedrule stipend to put electronic voting machines in our polling places for the May ‘06 primaries. Fact! If the machines are not in place, on time, as mandated by that aforementioned fedrule law, the county stands to lose the hefty stipend and will have to finance the machines out of it’s general funds. Fact! The folks in charge of this county made nary a noise about acquiring the electronic voting machines until the May ‘06 primaries were getting too close for comfort.

Now, the rush is on to blame everyone but the folks running the county, and the Citizens’ Voice is obviously more than willing to help pull the wool over the eyes of the general public. First we were told it was the feds fault as the Help America Vote Act stood in stark contrast to specific state laws. Now…now we’re being told the companies that market the voting machines are all snake oil salesman. Next they’ll be blaming this obvious screw-up on Hugo.

iVotronic Simulator

The Green Monster

Green Monster

How ‘bout some excerpts from McGlynn’s attempt to exonerate county officials from the blame they so richly deserve:

But, in ironic fashion, it seems that Piazza may very well be the victim of his own conscientiousness rather than a slacker who was asleep at the switch.

At the county elections board meeting held earlier this week, Piazza produced print-outs of e-mails between himself and Electronic Systems and Software, the vendor of choice, indicating that all was well and that the machines would be in place and the training provided in time for the May primary election.

Moreover, discussions between Piazza and ES&S apparently did not begin to get frosty until Piazza started pressing the company about extended warranties, service contracts and other issues. Piazza’s research persuaded him that many of the touchscreen voting machine vendors around the country have demonstrated that they are much more adept at selling their wares than they are at providing service and post-purchase support — leading to a situation in which many counties have found themselves saddled with huge maintenance and repairs bills.

What are we to conclude from all of that? Well, our voter services guru did a freaking righteous job. Didn’t he?

Get a load of this prehensile flapdoodle:

As Piazza stepped up his attempts to get certain assurances from the vendor, he said earlier this week, he slowly got a “bad gut feeling” that something was amiss with the voting machine deal, according to a report in The Citizens’ Voice. One company official, Piazza said, told him that matters such as warranties and service could be discussed “later.”

“It wasn’t something that I wanted to talk about later.

“It was something that I wanted to talk about now,” Piazza said.

Experienced reporters know that, when a party to an on-going, important story ducks media inquiries by refusing to return phone calls (“I’ll get back to you on that one” — but the person never does) or not being where he normally would be because reporters are sniffing around, it’s almost a sure thing that such party has been misrepresenting something, is guilty as hell of what the media people suspect he’s been involved in.

ES&S hasn’t been returning reporters’ phone calls.

And there it is, The Commissioners’ Voice tells it like it is in the one-party county known for societal and governmental retardation. It’s not Piazza’s fault, or the fault of any other county official for that matter. Nope. No way. Despite four long, long years worth of procrastination by everyone involved at the far-flung county buildings, we’re not going to make like we’re ordering Sheetz hoagies at the polls in May because of those evil Big Electronic Voting companies. Spare me, Mike.

Now, you can choose to believe that if you like, but I’m here to tell you that, regardless of how this voting snafu turns out, this is incompetence on parade for all to see. The Fedrule Govmint gave these in-the-know people four years to take care of business, but they tried and failed to get in done during the last four months. If these folks are not worthy of being impeached come election time, then we deserve what we get, which is much, much less than we’d like to think we deserve.

And this is a glaring example of what we can expect if that Times Leader of ours suddenly goes silent. The county’s zipper will get unzipped, and the Voice’ warm mouth will open wide. Just like it’s always been.

Remember, this is the county that joined in the spending of $61 million in airport improvements to attract a bunch of nubile stewardesses in tight little shorts and tight little T-shirts. We begged for progress and they gave us Hooters Air. The boobs gave us mammalian protuberances and now they expect our undying electoral support in return. Makes me wanna piss on my voter registration card.


I really hate to dump all over Wilkes-Barre’s only television station, but…the WBRE Web site is an anemic effort. Weak, very weak. I know 12-year-olds that could do better.

We all know about my on-going struggles with punctuation and such, but I’m not trying to pass myself off as some kind of award-winning journalist. With that typed, the last thing I’d expect to see is nonstop spelling errors coming from the local television news folks. I dunno.

From WBRE.com:

Back on the Beat

One of the biggest conerns in Downtown Wilkes-Barre is the safety of people, going to events or businesses in Center City that is about to change..

Wilkes-Barre is "reactivating" its foot patrols. The men and women in blue will "walk the beat." This is nothing new but it`s been about 10 years since police have been on the street in and around public square for business owners, it is a welcome sight..

harshad patel owner, frank`s news says "For customers its the most secure for customers, with customers coming in and they see cops out so they don`t have to worry about being robbbed somebody`s wallet being stolen."

The foot patrols will be joined by the mounted patrols..and just possibly ,officers on motorcycles and bikes may also make a comeback.

In actuality, this report is just a tad late. The beat cops have been making the rounds in the downtown for quite a few weeks. Yesterday there was a 911 call for kids skateboarding in the Ramada parking garage and the beat cop went walking across the Square within a minute. And when I’m bicycling my way through the area on a daily basis, I run into the horse cops more often than not. Those two mounted cops are kind of like me: they’re always out there somewhere.

As for me, I’m keen on the bicycle patrols and I hope they become a permanent fixture in the downtown when the theatre finally opens. They’re quick, they’re stealthy and they can pop out of the tightest crevices, which adds the element of surprise to the urban landscape. Hell, tell ‘em to give me a two-way radio and I’ll patrol the downtown for free beer alone. Does the city have an account at Corba Beverage? Fact is, when I’m pedaling my way throughout the city, for all intents and purposes, I am a 2-wheeled crime watch group unto myself. What’s my collar count up to, 12 arrests? When I see idiocy occurring , I dial 826-8106. Sadly, many others seeing the same idiocy often shake their heads in disgust, turn and walk away.

While the uproar over a closed firehouse continues to receive the most press, the policing issue is on the minds of many, many, many more residents than any firehouse. And that includes residents that do not live in Wilkes-Barre, but would like to partake of Wilkes-Barre on a more frequent basis once it’s new attractions get around to the ribbon-cutting ceremonies. While the folks in the Heights have been trained by a few “activists” to lie on cue about emergency response times (7 minutes, 10 minutes, 12 minutes, 15 minutes, 20 minutes and the latest: 30 minutes) for the cameras, the remaining neighborhoods are calling for cops, cops and more cops. And the administration of this city has been listening as evidenced by it’s hiring of 11 new cops, it’s commitment to the high-profile mounted patrols, it’s purchase of a paddy wagon in lieu of caged units and it’s resumption of the beat patrols in the downtown. The long-winded firehouse “activists” and a few of their allies in the fire department are counting on the squeakiest wheels getting the expensive grease in the end, but what the city needs is an enhanced police presence. And foot patrols in the downtown are a welcome addition. If I may, a long-overdue addition.

Another take on Wilkes-Barre‘s big birthday bash.

From DiamondCityWeekly.com:

The Big 200 by Gene Padden.

From the e-mail inbox Mark,
I usually don't get involved in the discussions about the closing of the fire houses, mainly because I don't like to get stressed about something I have no control over. I do have to comment on the fires the other night and everyone saying east station being open wouldn't have helped. That is wrong. It is true that Engine 4 would have been called to Carey ave, so they wouldn't have been on the hill, but what everyone seem to forget is that Engine 9 would have been sitting at Headquarters ready to go. Instead, when the second fire came in Engine 9 was on Carey ave and off duty guys were on their way to HQ but weren't all there yet. So instead of Engine 9 pulling out and getting to the fire in two to three minutes, it took seven minutes, which is a long time when a fire is ripping through a house. I understand Leighton did what he had to financially, but safety wise, 4 Engines are better than 3, and 5 are better than 4. We did the best we could with what we had to work with the other night, but obviously, if we had an Engine on scene in 2 or 3 minutes there is a good chance that fire could have been kept to a room and contents fire instead of a multiple dwelling.

A night like that may only happen ever few years, or it may happen every few weeks. Isn't it better to be prepared than caught with our pants down. I know the city doesn't have the money right now, and I won't even guess at the financial status of the city, but I would like to see a plan in place for the future. As a fireman I live in the city and I would feel safer knowing there were more firemen and more firehouses. Thanks.

(Name deleted)

I had thought about that, Engine 9 being deployed at headquarters and ready to roll up the hill when the second fire erupted, but, then again, if we had spent the $250,000 necessary to keep East Station open coupled with the new “3 man on an engine” rule and the union’s constant demand for more men per shift, who’s to say where Engine 9 would, or would not have been the other night?

I understand Leighton did what he had to financially, but safety wise, 4 Engines are better than 3, and 5 are better than 4.

We certainly don’t have to argue about all of that. As I said, I think we need another engine in service, and the last I heard, two new engines are on order and being constructed as I am typing this as part of Leighton’s $50 million, 5-year commitment to upgrading the physical plants and apparatus of the fire department. What I have yet to hear is a fire official or a fire union honcho tell the general public that both Engine 1 and Engine 5 were taken out of service because they were rusted beyond belief and maintenance nightmares. As far as the public knows, Leighton arbitrarily decided to decommission fire engines as a cost-cutting move, while the truth of the matter is that both of those engines needed to be pushed to get rolling on most days. Been there, seen that.

I have no idea how many miles Engine 9, Engine 3 or Engine 4 have registered on their odometers, but I do know that Rescue 7, our only rescue truck, has been racking up some ungodly miles on it. Engines 1 and 5 were completely used up. And I wouldn’t trade y’all a 3-wheeled Radio Flyer wagon for that #450 reserve engine. The “quick attack” mini-engine is practically brand spanking new as is Ladder 1. But what I’m alluding to is it won’t do us any good to have oodles and oodles of highly-trained, professional firefighters if they are reduced to plying their skills on antiquated and unreliable apparatus.

As a city, we’ve got many glaring needs, but only so many dollars to commit to those needs. So, the mayor has to prioritize until the city starts generating some more revenues. I took an early morning stroll to Oh Yes only to watch recyclables blowing up and down every street I set foot on. In my mind, we need larger recycling containers, more man hours devoted to driving street sweepers and DPW crews clearing the catch basins by hand. Will I get what I want? It’s highly unlikely while so many others are decrying a lack of visible policing, a lack of fire protection and, or a lack of whatever it is that floats their particular boat in a particular neighborhood. And that sucks, but what should I do about it? Pose for the cameras with unrealistic demands as has suddenly become the rage in this city?

A night like that may only happen ever few years, or it may happen every few weeks. Isn't it better to be prepared than caught with our pants down.

As a former, disgraced Boy Scout, I am a firm believer in being prepared, but whereas public safety is concerned, being prepared for every imagined contingency is unrealistic from a cost-benefit standpoint in a city that was dangerously close to opting for Act 47 status. You know, bankruptcy. Fire engines, firehouses, police cars and other municipal physical plants are expensive to procure and maintain, but adding additional employees is even more expensive. Basically, we can drill, plan and prepare for every possible disaster scenario, but municipal revenues happen to be a finite resource. The residents of the Heights want this, I want that and the downtown businessman wants a whole other thing, but if we’re going to make progress sustainable over time, the bottom line has to be priority #1 for the foreseeable future. Anyone with any business acumen understands as much, which leads me to believe that the folks creating the most uproarious tumult have no clue as to what they are yammering on and on about.

If Tom Leighton kowtows to every disparate group playing to the media, financially speaking, we’ll end up right back where we started in January ‘04--nowhere. He’s made some tough decisions and has been committed to maintaining budgetary discipline. For that he deserves accolades from the citizenry, but instead, he is continually the recipient of derisive attacks from those who know not, nor care not of which they babble on about at great length. To make a long story short, for the city to move forward in any significant sense, we can’t go back to the days of deficit spending, overdue bills and unpaid debts. We need fiscal responsibility. We need increased revenues. We need our outstanding debts reduced. And we need the populace to educate itself before it goes off half-cocked.

I must say that I was impressed to learn that the administration bothered to correct the original statements whereas the response times to the second structure fire are concerned. Chief Lisman was first reported as saying that “firefighters were on scene in about four minutes.” (TL-3-15-06) But later he announced that the “response time to the second (fire) was 7:03.” (TL-3-16-06) But, as we all know, truthfulness counts for nothing to the folks with the political axes to grind.

Still and all, to be able to scramble firefighters to a second structure fire in only 7:03 is nothing short of outstanding. It really is. I understand that for every minute that elapses between the call for help and the arrival of the first responders a structure fire can rage beyond anyone’s control. But with everything else having been said, it’s a testament to the commitment and professionalism of those off-duty firefighters who rushed from wherever they were when the later alarms were sounded to save the property and, perhaps, the lives of those they did not know. 7:03 may not be up to our usual lofty standards, but under the circumstances, it was nothing less than miraculous. Despite the sad fact that a couple of structures were lost in the dizzying process, no member of our fire department should have been hanging their head as a result. Their efforts were exemplary.

In closing, I too would feel safer with more firemen and more firehouses, but I’m also a realist. I can stay here and have the fire department arrive in 7:03 when there’s a serious structure fire ahead of mine on the waiting list. Or I can move to the sticks and watch my adobe burn down to the foundation’s anchor bolts while the volunteer fire department many miles away scrambles just to get to the fire hall. Higher taxes begets a paid, full-time, professional fire department. I’m good with that.

Stay safe.

From the e-mail inbox I am something of a newspaper junkie. Unfortunately I live in Bradford County which lacks any newspaper worth reading. To satisfy my lust I subscribe via mail to several papers including your Times-Leader. The pending sale of this entity troubles me. I wonder if the citizens of Wilkes-Barre realize what a priceless asset they have in this paper. It remains a stalwart independent, in-your-face, chronicle in an age of bland commercial media. It is my hope that its new owner will allow it to remain unchanged.

Do the citizens of Wilkes-Barre realize what a priceless asset they have in this paper? Um, I seriously doubt it. Do the citizens of Wilkes-Barre realize that life does not begin and end with the fu>king commingled recycling schedule?

The uncertainty whereas the future of The Times Leader is concerned has me filled with trepidation and then some. The political suck-asses at The Voice have proven time and again that they are in favor of the status quo in a backward county that has been compared to Cook County, Illinois on numerous occasions. If the Commissioners’ Voice ever broke ranks and endorsed a Republican for any political office higher on the political food chain than that of a dog catcher, hearts would collectively stop from Beaver Falls to Harveys Lake.

The well-entrenched political hacks in this county have always been at odds with the Times Leader folks, and that, in itself, speaks volumes about not only the Leader’ efforts, but the lack of journalistic integrity coming from the Voice. If the Leader ceases to exist, or if it goes the way of the Voice, Luzerne County and it’s residents will suffer even more as a result.

Needless to say, I’m worried.

Stay in touch.

From The Times Leader: Speak now, or forever face the smell of dammed sewage emanating from Lake Kanjorski.

You can have say on inflatable dam planned for area

Run for your life!

And who unequivocally supports Paul Kanjorski, this area’s foremost “expert” on dams and how not to clean a free-flowing river?

That would be the suck-asses at the Citizens’ Voice.

The Scorpions are on the docket tonight. It’s Matthias Jabs until both of my ears bleed.


PS--Figure this one out.

What choo looking at?