11-12-2006 Mayor Realty

Here‘s a couple of interesting tidbits I culled from the following 2003 report.

The biggest barrier to revitalizing downtown Wilkes-Barre is the current business climate. The issues perceived by the residents and business community must be addressed. A positive business climate is crucial—without it the City will continue to decline.

You folks on Simpson Street understanding that, or do I have to ‘splain it to you?

Also from that very same report:

Susquehanna River

There are major concerns about the level of pollution in the Susquehanna River, which restricts the River’s use for recreational purposes. Efforts to clean up the River have begun, however. In 2002, Representative Paul Kanjorski obtained a $900,000 federal grant to separate some of Wilkes-Barre’s combined sanitary and storm sewers. Because the two types of sewers are combined, in times of heavy rainfall, raw sanitary sewage outfalls directly into the River. According to the Wyoming Valley Sanitary Authority, there are approximately 50 combined sewer outflows in the Valley; 12 of these create up to 85% of the sanitary sewage pollution, and 6 are in Wilkes-Barre.--from Strategic Market Development Plan for Downtown Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania May 27, 2003

Interestingly enough, County Engineer Jim Brozena mentioned a much heftier figure whereas the river’s envisioned cleanup is concerned in this article recently posted at the Beacon’s site:

Still, there is one more thing that the residents look upon with trepidation…the water contamination of a river that has a combined sewer system.

"The water quality is not all that bad," Brozena said. "I think that's a misconception people have. When you put your foot in, you do get it back."

The Wyoming Valley Sanitary Authority has allocated $4 million to begin a comprehensive cleaning effort, though Brozena estimated that it would cost somewhere between $50 and $100 million to completely separate the systems.

"The Environmental Protection Agency is certainly not going to let this go on forever, but until then there is no reason that we cannot take advantage of this river as it sits now," Brozena said.

Except for the raw sewage that forms temporary deltas at the water’s edge, he is correct. (?) You’ll get your foot back, but it’ll most likely be coated with feces. That’s not a health risk, is it? Nah, not in Paul Kanjorski’s world.

You go first, Jim

So, Uncle Paul Kanjo says not to worry as he has personally secured what amounts to an inconsequential amount of money to clean the river versus what Brozena claims it’ll take to eliminate the sewage outflows from the environmentally challenged mix.

What would we do without him?

Confused? Don’t be. The best chance our river has to cleanse itself is to have the outflows completely removed from the equation while it remains a free-flowing river. You see, there is a sound reason why Pennsylvania leads the nation in the removal of dams, but our congressman presses on with his foolhardy plan to buck the current, environmentally sensible trend.

I see our malcontent “friends“ on the internet have taken to calling our top dog “Mayor Realty.” That’s cute and all, but it has about as much to do with reality as reality television shows do. I mind drifts back to when the mayor was first elected and our energizer “activist” (You know who he is) made the baseless accusation that since the mayor owned a realty business he would be a part-time mayor.

Since that useless twaddle didn’t pan out, now the baseless charge is that the mayor is conducting his business affairs on city time, and with the help of city council no less.

From that rapidly declining place--The Internet:

“Seems the Mayor of Wilkes Barre is conducting his real estate business at City Hall now and using the City Government for leverage with the help of City Council…”

Elect Walter Griffith Jr for City Council in 2007

Now, I’m no attorney, but that one is fast approaching that tripwire from which lawsuits spring forth. Yowza!

Allow me to get this straight. If a long-shuttered building is literally collapsing upon itself and a person has an interest in putting the property back on the tax roles in some shape or manner, the city should then demand fair market value AND the back taxes levied against said property from the interested person??? That’s how we’ll remove those eyesores one-by-one from the city’s neighborhoods? Methinks not, kiddies.

Take the property that was recently demolished so that Dr. Kerrigan could provide ample parking for his patients. If we demand fair market value, the back taxes and then he’s still on the hook for the demolition and removal of that awful property plus the paving costs--nothing happens and the eyesore remains in place and continues to disintegrate. That’s the long and short of it. Done.

Instead, we can hand the eyesore property over for a buck, and then sit back and watch as the longtime eyesore is transformed into a useable space put back on the tax roles. You make the call, people. Do you want the eyesores, or more parking spots available on our streets chronically short on parking spaces in some areas? Would you rather an eyesore, our your neighbor adding some green space next to his property? What’s better, broken glass on the sidewalks, or a big green lawn and a few strategically placed shrubberies? A gazing ball, perhaps?

Sorry, but what the mayor is doing is removing blight from the landscape one dump at a time. And for that he gets nonstop grief? For that he is accused of wrongdoing?

And let’s cover the former Murray property on Courtright street since Mr. Accusation himself brought it up in cyberspace.

The property was once in receivership, but ownership has been transferred back to a major financial institution. In other words, the much desired removal of that property involves much more than first meets the eye, so once again, Mr. Accusation knows not of which he speaks. But that’s alright, since intelligence or factual wherewithal is not a prerequisite for blogging.

In conclusion, if you’re content living next to imploding eyesores, vote for Walter Griffith. He’ll fight for fair market value and the back taxes, but never, ever get either.

This is a good one that I can’t let pass, also from the tireless Mr. Accusation:

I would like to respond to the Blog on the "always slanted and Bias" Wilkes Barre Online by Marc Cour which is below.

Always slanted and bias? Me? Wow, am I the equivalent of the mainstream media to your much more progressive endeavoring? Look here, you are emblematic of the vacuous thought processes that held this area back for so long. While some of us can rally around a responsible leader and the obvious progress that has been made and is still to come, you pigeonhole yourself by remaining oblivious to the positive things going on around you by hoping and praying to find something negative to glom onto. And all for personal gain.

You know the tired mindset since you, yourself personify it. Nothing will change. Nothing will happen. Nothing will work. Nothing spent is an investment, only a cost. You cling to the negative mindset much like the generations that came before you: the generations that could not have envisioned a shiny arena on the hill. The folks that were accustomed to the long-festering problems and had no real hopes of ever seeing this area bloom.

You have railed quite vehemently against every investment made in this city, and yet, you still seem to believe that your banal diatribes about how investing absolutely nothing in our future is ultimately the way to go and passes as financial discipline. A great example of a city that invested nothing in it’s future is Nanticoke, and now that city has no future at all short of a miracle. Yeah, and now Nanticoke is faced with shrinking revenues, rising debts, cutbacks, staff reductions and a horribly failing infrastructure. The painful lesson being, if you invest nothing you get nothing in return and that’s what you promise us: nothing.

Always slanted and biased? ( Note the spelling) Well, if I’m slanted and biased against the clueless sorts such as yourself, I’ll proudly wear that like a badge of honor. You more you babble, the more your obvious ineptitude seeps out, but don’t let that stop you--you’ve got that highly coveted council seat to win. Yeah, that council seat. Makes me wonder why a small businessman would seemingly devote his entire life to becoming a city councilman. Care to explain? Need the free health coverage? Allow me to guess…you’re fighting your selfless fight for the good of the unknowing people? Hah, hah, hah! Yeah, and Ouija boards are effective as crime-fighting tools!

Always slanted and biased? Against the negative nitwits and the pompous pretenders to the throne?

That I am.

From the e-mail inbox Mark,

Since you are busy assuming who will be running in the up coming council election how about looking to some of the qualified candidates who just missed the cut the last time. I am thinking about Rick Gazenski who as far as I know still resides in South Wilkes-Barre and could certainly give Shirley a run for her money.

Thanks for your time.

I’m not assuming so much as I am repeating names I’ve heard bandied about. And I’ve heard plenty.

Truth be told, I voted for Rick Gazenski during the last council go-round. Seemed to be an all-around decent guy, business professional as well as concerned for the city’s future. With that having been said, I’m sure someone will e-mail me with something nasty to say about him. It goes with the anonymous territory. If he does run, I can’t vote for him since he resides in one of those other districts I can no longer care about. We’re voting by districts now, so it’s Nord End or nothing. But that’s what we wanted, right?

As far as my district is concerned, I’ve heard the names of only two people that are definitely in the running, although, they have yet to announce their intentions. And it’s obvious to me that they will be running on a decidedly anti-Leighton tilt. So, all that we’ll need up here is a strong, viable candidate with a different platform, those aforementioned two will split the anti-incumbent vote and we’ll have us a yet-to-be-named candidate ultimately winning the council dust-up. Gee, that was easy. So who is that candidate?

And then there’s the rumors about this, that and the other one that thinks they can knock Tom Leighton off. Well, with more and more tangible results popping up every other day, the “I’ll wait and see voters” are no longer waiting for signs of progress. And before we head to the polls in May, the downtown streetscaping project will be well underway, the intermodel center will be under construction, the riverfront project will be fast becoming a reality, more retail concerns will have committed to opening in the downtown and the Sterling tower should be just about histoire. In other assorted words, with each passing day it becomes harder and harder and harder to make a case for voting against Tom Leighton.

As I previously stated, this one is going to be interesting. Oh, and great fun.

Can’t wait.

Wifey and I headed on down to Schiel’s for some groceries and upon our arrival I was stunned to learn that that beyond pothole-ridden section of S. Franklin Street was recently repaved. It had much in common with New Frederick Street and a stretch of Conyngham Avenue in that since nobody lives there, Community Development Block Grants could not be used to pave them. Hence, the reason they get paved about as often as a thermonuclear weapon is unleashed.

I snagged the following from a Times Leader blurb:

WILKES-BARRE – Pennsy Supply will be milling South Main Street from South Street to Northampton Street today.

Slusser Brothers Paving is then scheduled to begin paving this portion of the road shortly after the milling work concludes, pending weather conditions. Work hours are scheduled from 6:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., and short delays and parking restrictions should be expected.

This stretch of South Main Street is a newly added area to the city’s K-route paving project, a component of Mayor Tom Leighton’s $2.5 million paving initiative to improve the quality of the city’s roads.

I read about this “K-route” paving program too, but I didn’t give it too much thought. Turns out, after a year of exhaustive research, city officials learned that there was a federal program in place by which “main arteries and thoroughfares” could be paved using 80% state and federal funds combined with a local matching grant of only 20%. And this program was hitherto unknown to administrations past.

When I saw that our long-ignored stretch of S. Franklin had been paved, I just figured the city decided to finally bite the bullet and pave it using monies from the general fund. Since CDBG, Downtown Economic Development funding and liquid fuels funds could not be used, what else was I to think?

What in fact happened is that city officials have been doing their homework and then some as part of their ongoing efforts to better this city. And any time you can better the city by paying for only 20% of the overall costs of a given project, you are doing your job to the utmost of your abilities. Sweet.

We’ve recently paved Brown, Stanton, George Ave., Old River Road, S. Franklin and now S. Main Street between South and Northampton. And we’ve done it for a fraction of the cost that would have been attached in the past.

Stupidly, someone dared to suggest that Butch Frati is not qualified for the position that he currently holds.

They stand corrected.

Bicycle racks in front of Barnes and Nobles? Whew boy! You’d swear they had put me in charge. And bikes racks filled with bikes, no less.

I had this conversation with a high-ranking city official recently whereby I had told him the city should be doing whatever it possibly can to promote bicycling throughout the city and more specifically, the downtown. And if you want to talk about multitudinous and always available grant dollars, then take the plunge and delve into what is readily available to progressive-thinking municipalities.

Consider the possibilities and implications. Less traffic, ease of use, the associated health benefits and the perception that the city’s streets really aren’t as dangerous as some will have you believe. And really, all that we need to do to promote biking in downtown Wilkes-Barre is too provide highly-visible bicycle parking amenities, and even better yet--spy on them with one of those newfangled surveillance cameras of ours.

It’s easily doable, the money is available and it makes perfect sense.

Now who’s going to do the research and make it happen?

Gage, Zach, Taylor & Jeremy