4-9-2006 The future has arrived

I am soooooooooooo looking forward to warm temperatures and being out and about doing nothing of any great importance. Gage and Taylor did not make the usual weekend trip from Pottsville to Wilkes-Barre, so Zach and I toured the city today on the Rock Stomper that has been collecting dust in the basement since October last.

We rode from the smallish adobe to Parsons to Barney Farms and back again. I don’t know that you normal folks would consider today a warm day, but I was wearing shorts nonetheless. If the weather refuses to deliver those warm temperatures, I refuse to further participate in any Reindeer games. Regardless of what Tom Clark happens to predict, I’ll be doing shorts from here on out. I’m switching to Summer mode.

We ran across a Cadillac in that alley that runs between Dyer Lane and the Square where that elderly lady recently ripped the gas main out of the ground. The driver’s side door was open for 30 minutes with no one around it when I approached a patrol unit and called it to his attention. Next thing I knew, it was being towed away. That was not my intention, but then again, Zach was all excited after being in close contact with police officers, so at least he had fun.

If anyone is interested, we’ll be doing the bikeabout routine twice next weekend. We’d love to have some company, so give me a buzz if you‘re interested in abandoning the couch.

Zach on the Stomper

When I finished reading the following letter published in the Times Leader today, I could do little more than chuckle at how some people continue to be so utterly clueless.

From The Times Leader:

Business improvement district not a good deal for most

I am writing this letter to inform the business community of the city of Wilkes-Barre of a concern that should be made known regarding the proposed business improvement district.

The proposed area that these government officials are going to target includes the same businesses that have stood by the downtown through the very lean times. They are now going to be asked to pony up more of their very marginal profit to help finance a project that should be getting done with the tax dollars that they are currently paying to the city. This BID program will only be applied to the taxpaying businesses in the designated area. The nonprofit businesses, which incidentally are the people that are pushing for this project, will not be required to contribute to this project.

I have spent time researching this BID Project on the Internet, and I would suggest that every downtown business take the time to do the research as well to determine if this is a benefit that they would like to be funding with their already small profit.

I feel as a city taxpayer that the city should be giving us these services without asking businesses to pay additional money.

Each property owner in the designated area needs to be very alert to the way that this project is being presented to downtown merchants. They should request that instead of always coming to the same people for funding, why not ask the city administration to reduce their salaries and benefits? How about they start giving the city taxpayers the most value for their tax dollars by taking care of the streets and giving us the services we are paying taxes to provide to businesses and residents?

Walter Griffith Jr. Wilkes-Barre

The proposed area that these government officials are going to target… (???)

Um…first of all, the business improvement district was proposed by members of the Diamond City Partnership and not any “government officials.” Also, the plan is completely voluntary, so there’s no need to stir up trouble or controversy. If a long-struggling downtown businessman opts in, so be it. And if he chooses not to, well, there you go. In no way can any of that be twisted to attack any of our elected leaders unless you happen to be a political sad sack with an increasingly dull political axe to grind.

“…nonprofit businesses…” (???)

You know, you know. He’s unfairly trying to demonize the businesses in the Keystone Opportunity Zones once again. Those tax-exempt businesses are frequently targeted for verbal abuse by the folks with the class envy thing going on. Rich folks, er, business owners often seek out tax-exempt status, but instead of welcoming them to the city, folks like Walter continue to see them as a problem. If you’re content with your own life, the rich folks shouldn’t bother you. They don’t bother me, but Walt seems to have some class envy issues going on. It’s worrisome. Pray for him.

Would you vote for a guy who had published the phrase “nonprofit businesses?” I know I wouldn’t, but I do my fair share of typos.

All over the country, business improvement districts are the ‘norm in progressive cities. But according to Walter, in Wilkes-Barre, a business improvement district should be ample reason for suspicion, and scorn and political grandstanding. Forget the god damned Mexicans already. Let’s build us a wall on the border and pitch Walter over to the other side. Hell! He might finally get himself elected to something in a such a dismal place. Donkey Catcher immediately comes to mind.

I snagged the following from a Voice story that was published on April 1, 2006:

Improvement plan has had positive effects on many cities’ downtowns

There isn’t any other device that we know of that can do what this does and that is changing the perception of downtowns,” said Houstoun, a consultant for the Diamond City Partnership, which is trying to establish a district in downtown Wilkes-Barre. “There’s more investment. Vacancy rate is down.”

There are 1,200 business improvement districts in North America in business and commercial areas of all sizes, from tiny Hampton, Va. to Times Square in New York City, Houstoun said.

Pennsylvania cities — including Harrisburg, Lancaster, Manayunk, State College, West Chester, Reading, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh — have established business improvement districts.

Since the early 1970s, downtowns across the United States and Canada have been using business improvement districts as a mechanism for revitalization. Today, the districts make downtown areas “more fun, friendlier and safer,” Houstoun said.

Getting involved in one’s community is wonderful and all, but Walter is the sterling example of how not to do it. You see, every once in a great while you need to say something that makes sense or that has some basis in fact. Taking a contrary position to whatever comes along does not pass as intelligence, nor does it suggest that a single pearl of wisdom is forthcoming. If the administration of this city decided to purchase red police cars, Walter would be calling for a nice shade of blue. When storm sewers are replaced, he calls for more paving. And with some major paving projects scheduled for later this year, he’ll be forced to whine about fixing storm sewers again, or dream up some new gripe so as to keep with his shameless name recognition program.

Vote for me: I’m the guy who never gets anything right, but I do so in a loud and grotesque manner.

I guess that counts for something. But not in Wilkes-Barre. Not anymore.

From the e-mail inbox Seems to me, we have laws in place that should be enforced. Illegal immigrants? Send them back. Minimum wage? Where? If a decent wage was offered, americans would do the jobs. Now comes the kicker. Who is paying cash under the table? Rich White folks. Now who makes the laws and lobby in D.C.? Rich white folks. And what really frosts my gonads(I'm female) is most of the money goes back to wherever they came from so they can have their families join them. I'm a senior citizen (70)-with a hubby who is also 70 and is alzeimers'. Now, we would have to turn our measly little abode over to the nursing home in order for him to stay there. Would have to move in with one of my kids. We worked all our lives for that roof over our heads. Can barely afford his meds and mine. When migrants come into play, it's free eye glasses, teeth, medical and prescriptions. We are living(barely) on s.s. We can't afford another car when this old 93 ford dies and the Insurance, keeps going up and up. Now illegals don't have to own a car. They are transported to their jobs by a company owned bus. It takes them to the grocery store and they have free clinics which they are transported to in busses.

Monday, there is going to be a big march here in Ft. Myers. (Ortiz Ave.) Busses of people coming. 20 to 30 thousand people they hope. Had to get a PERMIT, Have to follow certain criteria,(yeah, right) We have to hire extra emergency personnel, police; have to have watering holes for them(water buffaloes)There are no side walks and the highway will be shut down as it will be 4 miles of people, they predict. Some people are going to rent motels as they will be unable to get to their homes. The parade is supposed to last 4 hours. Calling for rain-Hope it does rain on their parade!!!I don't mind sharing with other cultures, but dammit, do it legal-Some restaurants and construction companies are complaining, they have to shut down. All their workers are Haitians, Guatamalans, and Hispanic. Go hire some more. Replace them-Oh well--lol-Shirley

Sorry to say, but it might be time to leave North Cuba, er, Florida, and head for some much friendlier confines. Try Montana, Utah or perhaps Alaska. You’ll still have your income confiscated for the purposes of subsidizing alien invaders, but you won’t have to watch them strut all of their illegality all of the time.

“Rich white folks?” I hear you. How much money do some of these people need? You know things are going horribly awry when the white folks get to hating the rich white folks, too. As far as I’m concerned, anybody who pays under the table or who hires illegal aliens should be put out of business by the Fedrule Govmint. Unfortunately, that Fedrule Govmint of ours is no longer for the people, or of the people.

They’re rich white folks.

No habla

Let‘s do a two-year review, shall we?

Mayor Tom Leighton has been the top dog for sixteen months now. And during his laborious sixteen months at the helm we’ve been pointing to the future whereas progress was concerned. Some day soon, all of this good stuff is going to happen, right? Well, the future has arrived.

It may not look like it, but we’re two short months away from enjoying an all-digital movie experience mere minutes from our homes. The new street lights will be going up in early to mid-May, and the new streetscaping we were promised in the downtown will get underway. New sewer lines will be installed in advance of the theater’s opening, but the construction of which will go on overnight so as to not impede the progress of the theater project.

That behemoth which is the PNC Bank building on Market Street has a new owner which is looking at investing upwards of $12 million in the building. For the first time, that huge building will include residential space. Without an indigenous population, no downtown can thrive for very long. Don’t underestimate this acquisition.

We’ll have a new firehouse opening in early May. No, it’s not in the Heights, so many of us will likely pooh-pooh it’s arrival. And when North Station is closed, we’ll have three firehouses, all in great shape, and located as follows: North, South and Central. The city is much, much longer than it is wide, so this move makes sense as needs continue to outweigh available financial resources.

All of the funding is in place and the last of the mighty hurdles have been cleared for the Coal Street project to finally move forward. Remember that project? They are going to widen the street to five lanes, straighten it out and have it be a conduit from Route 81 directly into the downtown. Oh, and we’re still waiting for the big announcement whereas Coal Street Park and the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins are concerned. You forgot all about that sure to be exciting project, didn’t you?

The intermodal project is fully funded and about ready to get underway. This will not only remove the LCTA buses from the Square and provide for vertical parking, it will create 700 new parking spaces. Goodbye Radnor Building. Hello progress.

This one blew my mind. I was making my way through Livingston Lane only to realize that the city’s single largest collection of graffiti had been completely removed from the urban landscape. Yowza!


It may not look like much, but a week ago those buildings were completely covered with the scribbling of those who would stupidly call themselves artists. Top-to-bottom and side-to-side, those buildings were pig-ugly, but no more.

Turns out, the outfit that power-washes the city’s vehicles, E.J.’s Power Washing, volunteered to power-wash those buildings clean. The cost of which turned out to be so prohibitive, the “artists” yet to be tried for their crimes will be looking at even bigger restitution costs. I can’t wait until they get to scrubbing walls as part of their community service doled out by a local judge. They’ll be plenty of good pics and taunts.

The properties soon to house our pool emporium and dance club continue to undergo renovations. The Hotel Sterling renovation is already underway. We’ve got beat cops on the prowl again. The Chamber folks are talking about a bookstore/café opening in the former Woolworth property. The riverfront project will begin shortly. It will not include a condom posing as a dam. Sez me.

We are in store for one exciting Summer here in Wilkes-Barre. We’ve been talking about the same projects for so long, some of us got to wondering out loud whether they would ever happen at all. Well, we were asked to be patient and some of us were patient. And for the very first time since the aftermath of the Agnes disaster, Wilkes-Barre has something to be both excited and proud about.

I’ve heard a lot of horrible things said about Tom Leighton, none of which were remotely fair or deserved. I’ll not list them here today, but I knew all along that he would do us proud and then some. I met a lady in Plymouth the other day who said she was saddened by all of the guff he seems to get because, as she put it, “His heart seems to be in the right place.” That it is. His heart is in Wilkes-Barre, right where it’s always been. Whether some choose to believe it or not, for almost three years now he’s put his heart and soul into turning this city around. And the events that will begin to unfold during 2006 will vindicate me and many, many others for daring to believe, while so many others could not, or would not rally around two painfully simple, yet inspiring words: “I believe.”

“I believe” we’re in for one helluva great Summer and I am looking forward to watching Tom Leighton’s most vocal critics eat their less than thought-out words.

I almost can’t wait.

From the e-mail inbox Mark,

I've been reading and enjoying your web site since its beginning. I have a question, but first a little background…

Long story short: I graduated from Meyers High in 197X. I left the area for job reasons in mid-197X and have been living in southeast PA since then. I’m considering a new job for which I have the option of being located in a New Jersey office, or in the Wilkes-Barre area. My wife and I still have family in the area, and return for weekend visits about 10 times per year. We try to come home for holidays, and a couple of the first-rate church bazaars during the summer. In fact, my daughters (ages 20 & 22) and I still have a Black Friday tradition of taking the LCTA bus downtown for a day of walking/shopping/eating. So I’m still pretty familiar with the area.

So here’s my question: Somewhere in the northern part of the city there was a housing development planned a year or two ago. I’m not exactly sure where this is located, but if I recall correctly it was going to be rather large (that is, more than just a few houses). Do you know where this is located or what used to be there? Hopefully not in a flood zone nor another field full of McMansions!

Any comments or information would be most appreciated!

Best regards,

I fired off an e-mail response to DXXX, so he knows all about the rapidly expanding Pine Ridge Development. Imagine that. Wilkes-Barre is becoming a possible destination point for those who originally hailed from the city. Five years ago, they would have said this was an impossibility. Five years ago, the only navigable road seemed to be leading directly out of the city. Five years ago, I was definitely thinking about heading off to Sorber Mountain and marrying my cuzzin. And what’s the only thing that has changed in all of Wilkes-Barre during the past troublesome five years?

The leadership.