3-19-2006 The Mike McGinley Fan Club or: federally subsidized reverse-gentrification

"You keep renting to the same type of people all the time and I think we need the federal government to come in and say you know what-you can`t rent to section 8 anymore."--Councilman Mike McGinley, March 8, 2006

As reported by WBRE, McGinley received “cheers from the crowd” at a recent council meeting that was beset upon by Hutson Street residents demanding a crackdown on crime in their neighborhood when he made that comment.

The way I see it, the residents of this city know their neighborhoods better than any mayor, councilman or police officer could ever hope to. While those residents may exaggerate on occasion to get their frustrations across, they typically know where their problems stem from. And when McGinley’s comment brought on raucous cheers from the crowd, I thought that spoke volumes about Wilkes-Barre’s reverse-gentrification woes.

The original intent of the U.S. Housing Act of 1937 was to assist senior citizens in need. But as with every fedrule entitlement, it was perverted over the decades so as to be more all-encompassing in an attempt to curry favor with the poorest of the voting blocks. You know, the folks that rarely vote anyway. I’ve read much about HUD’s Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher programs and whatnot, and I have to say, trying to cut through all of the red tape and confusing language is almost too much to bare for any average citizen. I’d bet that our council members don’t even understand the nuts and bolts of this monstrosity. As near as I can tell, the housing authorities across this commonwealth participate in the Section 8 program so as to obtain certain urban development action grants, but I fail to see where all of this beneficial urban development is going on.

According to a recent statewide study, as of April 25, 2005, there were more than 50,128 qualified individuals and families are on waiting lists for affordable apartments through the Housing Choice Program. Curiously, only 15 of the 89 housing authorities in this state chose not to submit data to the study, with the Wilkes-Barre Housing Authority being one of them. As per the Housing Alliance of Pennsylvania: Information was obtained through telephone calls, emails, faxes, and mail to each individual housing authority. Repeated attempts were made to get current and thorough reports from each housing authority. So, what’s the problem in Wilkes-Barre? Are the details of our local Section 8 program a closely guarded secret?

From what I could gather, the only agency that compiles data on the Section 8 programs impact on a given community’s crime statistics is the FBI, but the program’s proponents regularly decry them as being completely unreliable. (?) Interestingly enough, one of the staples of maintaining safe public housing projects is the Fedrule Govmint’s mandating and bankrolling of anti-crime programs in those very same housing projects. So let’s try to follow this through. Anti-crime programs are necessary in public housing projects, but Section 8 housing does not disperse those with a propensity for committing crimes into our neighborhoods???

Despite what some stuffed suit with a briefcase stuffed with statistics to the contrary might tell you, those who live in close proximity to Section 8 participants will attest to the fact that the programs bring violent crime, vandalism, graffiti, housing devaluation and housing degradation to a given neighborhood within a very short timeframe. They will also tell you that the program’s participants rarely assimilate themselves into the neighborhoods due to their behavioral shortcomings. Basically, the process of reverse-gentrification is federally subsidized so that those who cannot or will not respect the laws or their neighbors can trade-in a slab townhouse for a shabby rental with a dirt basement. I fail to see the benefits of this program.

And those who are being federally subsidized to purchase their very first homes have access to tutorials such as “homeownership, housing counseling, financial literacy, asset building” and more. Sounds to me like a program fraught with a very high failure rate. I remember what happened up here in the Nord End when our former mayor rehabbed a long-vacant structure into a home, built a prefab cardboard home of sorts and then tried to find barely qualified folks to purchase them. The winner of the rehabbed home lottery could not secure a mortgage and the home sat vacant for another two years. And the folks who purchased the cardboard home lasted all of three short months and then vanished one weekend. It was eventually purchased by another young family, but they flaunt every law and ordinance on the books and tend to have run-ins with every neighbor they encounter. I fail to see the benefits of this program.

Oh, and how long has the rehabbed home at 397 Hazle Street sat unoccupied now? Like, 3, maybe 4 years? Tell ‘em I’ll take it “as is” for $15,000 and I’ll bet they jump at the chance to get rid of it. Whoa! Sorry. Federal funds are involved, so it’ll just have to sit vacant and rot some more until we find ourselves someone who is barely capable of affording it before we can unload it. Sound like a plan?

I know I’m painting with a broad brush and I also know that there are some good people down on their luck that deserve a major break. Remember, I spent five long years in a federally-subsidized housing project, so spare me the xenophobic or racist-driven e-mail drivel. I care not where my neighbors may have come from, or what they happen to look like provided that they respect all of my stuff.

Fact is, we live in a city where a decision was made to expand the Section 8 program to directly counteract the loss of federal and state subsidies that were sure to follow the long and steady decline of the city’s population base. Apparently, it’s better for the politicians and the various and sundry municipal authorities to have our aged housing stock filled with lawless idiots than to have it sit empty. Sound like a workable plan for the purposes of gentrifying a struggling city? Or does it sound as if we shot ourselves in the foot?

Wilkes-Barre is already the county’s capitol whereas social service agencies are concerned. We are the county’s idiot magnet. We’ve got more do-gooders, adult rehab centers, drug clinics, flop houses, drunk tanks, soup kitchens, food banks, abused shelters, homeless shelters and every other outfit known for doing good so as to perpetuate the employment of those doing good by way of securing foundation grants and whatnot. Do we really need to be this county’s ground zero for Section 8 housing, too?

Look at it this way. When the long-frustrated hoi polloi get to hootin’ and hollerin’ when a single city councilman dares to cast doubts upon this most dubious of federal programs, that’s your first clue that the ultra-destructive program needs to be constricted in a major way. We know our neighborhoods. And we know what does the most damage to them. The question is, will anyone who glad-hands for a living dare to do anything about it?

I doubt it. We’ll probably continue being the idiot magnet of the county, while we conspire to hire even more police officers. We’re chasing our thoroughly frayed tail.

Sez me.

I snagged the following letter to the editors at the Times Leader for your amusement.

Posted on Sun, Mar. 19, 2006


Media with access needed to take on W-B’s government

Through the news media, our two local newspapers, we are privileged to receive information on the operation of Wilkes-Barre government. They are the eyes, ears, voice and watch-persons in keeping the voters and taxpayers informed.

The news media should not be restricted or denied any information or access to talk to any public employee. The citizens have the right to know.

Our taxes pay all city bills, including salaries, benefits, and all expenses, plus the city loans of $300 million plus principle.

Under the city charter, we can place on the ballot through petition a change in city government. We can eliminate the mayor’s position and have a city manager. A city manager is obligated to answer all questions posed by city residents. At the present time, it is not the policy, so good government went out the window with the mayor’s policy.

We constantly hear the problems are due to the past administration. We differ with you – the past administration is now the present administration. So don’t pass the blame.

City council is the legislative body that has the authority to pass ordinances, subpoena powers, resolutions and investigative powers, which are not being enforced. They also control the powers of the mayor. The voters of Wilkes-Barre passed the law that reduces city council members from seven to five and represented by districts in 2001.

At the present time, they are in violation of the Commonwealth Court ruling and charges should be brought up against city council. We believe that the mayor is in violation of the city charter, and charges should be filed against the mayor and city council. They broke the oath of office to uphold the Constitution of the United States, and the state. We think the county commissioners should be contacted to start proceedings. It is their responsibility to see the laws of Pennsylvania are upheld. The taxpayers should also impeach city council and the mayor.

We need the news media to keep us informed. You are a valuable asset to our community and our everyday lives. Without you, some 42,000 residents with only a few attending council meetings, we would be kept in ignorance and darkness of city operations.

Ambrose Meletsky Charles Urban Wilkes-Barre

$300 million? The last time these guys spoke to the issue of the city’s outstanding debts, they cited a figure of $51 million. Did Tom Leighton manage to add $250 million in debt without the media knowing about it, or are these two guys making it up as they go along?

Under the city charter, we can place on the ballot through petition a change in city government. We can eliminate the mayor’s position and have a city manager. A city manager is obligated to answer all questions posed by city residents. At the present time, it is not the policy, so good government went out the window with the mayor’s policy.

Yeah!!! That’s what we need. Even more loose cannons running around with petitions in hand. Have any of these haphazard petition drives not blown up in their faces? The folks who would be King have gotten us nothing but non-stop controversy, countless court dates, court challenges, lawsuits, and a city woman tagged with some hefty court costs. They seem to think they know how to better operate the government, but they haven’t gotten a single thing correct to date. From Home Rule to voting by districts to promoting 42,000 to serve as the collective Borg of firefighting management, they have been short-sighted every time they canvassed the city.

Oh, and this reduced council issue is so much ado about nothing, it’s amazing the initiative ever got started in the first place. To hear the self-anointed “experts” tell it, all would be well and postcard perfect if we could simply hamstring the mayor, delete the council and force everyone connected to city government to toil away for reconstituted peanuts. And that would fill the downtown, fill the potholes and fill the city’s coffers how??? Now we’re being told “The taxpayers should also impeach city council and the mayor.” (???) How melodramatic. How hysterical. How utterly brainless.

Yeah, we need the media to keep after the politicos, but we also need the media to start quoting citizens that have a clue as to what they’re shouting about from high atop their house-of-cards soap boxes. I think the foregoing letter is a perfect example of having something important-sounding to say, but nothing important to add.

Get the mayor! Get the council! Kill ‘em all and let Walter sort ‘em out!

Consider the laughable source: Republicans in watchdogs’ clothing.

One more letter destined for the circular file.

Just in case you neglected to follow the link I provided, this is a powerful picture of the routine discharges from our many drainage outflows that Paul Kanjorski wants to dam for our recreating pleasure?

Kayak Dude took the pic and it’s worth well more than a thousand words.

Sewage Outflow

Does anybody really want to recreate in or on that?

The Dallas Cowboys have signed Terrell Owens to a 3-year contract? Trust me, I’m a huge Bill Parcells fan, and I’m here to tell you that this move is going to backfire even faster than it did in Philthydumpia. Bill Parcells if a no-nonsense coach who makes all other no-nonsense coaches seem lame by direct comparison. Parcells is to maintaining discipline what Parris Island drill sergeants are to playing mind games.

As a Jints fan, I couldn’t be happier. Giants Nation was thrilled when the Eagles stupidly signed the self-serving man-child, Terrell Owens, and now we’re primed and ready to watch another NFL East opponent implode. Plus, it’ll be interesting to see how the Dallas faithful will react to a player they absolutely despise. It might take a little while to get really interesting, but this is going to be good fun.

I can’t believe Parcells thought this was a prudent move from a team chemistry standpoint, so I’m only left to assume that Jerry Jones didn’t give him the chance to veto this highly questionable move. And being the overbearing control freak that Parcells is, his days in Dallas are probably numbered.

Next stop, Washington. We need Terrell to screw up that team, too.

Maybe we could clone him.

Yikes! I‘m sure many of the structure fires we’ve had in vacant structures were the work of arsonists, but these people allegedly torched an occupied building. How poor is that?

Three charged with arson in W-B

What I’m wondering is, if they knowingly torched a building with people inside, couldn’t they be saddled with some variation on your basic attempted homicide charge? I dunno except to say, what pricks!!!

Check this out. Gage Andrew and I were out and about enjoying a walkabout yesterday morning, when a family of Latinos drove on by and divested themselves of their garbage right in front of us.


Do you ever get the feeling we’re fighting a losing battle by clinging to this urban setting of ours with so many hapless scumbags running loose? I do. There are those days when Sorber Mountain does sound like a plan.

Where’s Opal?