2-7-2007 A $12 million snub?

My wife, a.k.a. Wifey, has never had a valid drivers license. Except for that one failed try when she was 16 years-old and had a learner’s permit…she has never since tried to acquire one. And over the years, that fact has unfairly added to my daily chores and the like. Not until my eldest child first secured her driver’s license was anyone other me licensed to run out for something as basic as a gallon of milk.

There did come a point when wifey was being denied goods and services all over the place because she did not, as she was so frequently told, possess a valid identification. So, we bothered to apply to the state for one of their rather inexspensive state-issued identification cards. And after the passage of four short years, her state-issued identification card expired. Or as the law enforcement types would say, it was “suspended.“ This is the part where the abject stupidity entered into the needless fray.

Once her state-issued identification card had expired, no local business would accept it as proof of identification. Contained on that expired card is her name, address, birth date, sex, height, eye color and a glossy that proves she is who she claims to be. But no. Since she failed to send some more money to the state only to be squandered for wasteful, but politically expedient bullspit, she, for all intents and purposes, has no identity. She has been “suspended.”

So, as a result, I’m going to send the money to the state. I’m going to renew her expired identification card. I’m going to make her a valid person again. And then Ed Rendell can use that money to provide something completely undeserved to someone too completely undeserving and too completely stupid to provide it for themselves.

Anywho, she’ll be a real person again. (?)

Speaking of Ed Rendell, is there anything out there that he won’t raise taxes on? Is there any envisioned limit to the size of the state government? It’s just this swirling black hole that keeps sucking more and more money into it? It’s never going to contract?

Higher and higher and higher taxes plus a clear lack of meaningful, well-paying jobs equals the mass out-migration of our better educated residents. Namely, our young. Still, the focus is on the elderly vote. Gee, we’ve got to “lower” the property taxes of the state‘s largest voting bloc. By increasing the state sales tax? Sure, he’s going to replace one tax with another tax, but redistribute some of the burden of the new tax. In other words, since younger folks spend more money than older folks, the young get screwed again, and all in the name of politics.

The great Oz has spoken.

Now shut up and pay your taxes.

I was surprised and saddened to learn that former Times Leader reporter, Jolyn Resnick, recently passed away.

She covered City Hall back when I first got to wondering aloud about what was going on in this city. When I unrolled the Times Leader every morning and disposed of the ink-stained red rubber band, her stories were the first ones I’d read. And as the city was going through a very turbulent period, it became obvious that she did her fair share of digging for details, and that she cut our elected leaders no breaks.

I met her one time at our block party during the summer of 2002. At that time we had a mayor being blindsided by some sort of weird new phenomenon: a blog. And as this new source of info continued to frustrate him by publishing things that typically never made the pages of the newspapers, I’m told he searched for ways to silence this new voice, only to be frustrated. That frustration changed to vindictiveness when, for the first time in the 17-year history of our annual block party, the city denied us the necessary permit to hold the 2002 block party.

And my published response to that was a terse warning to the city that Thompson Street would be holding it’s annual party whether the City of Wilkes-Barre liked it or not. Some on this street wondered if we were headed for a showdown with the city, but we remained unified in our defiance. As Tommy always says, “You wanna fight, we’ll fight!” And that pretty much sums up our response to the blatant snub that was denying us the permit. But while we were of the same defiant mind, I was the focal point of that defiance.

So the day of the block party arrived, and we were but minutes away from it’s official start time when this tiny lady appeared on the sidewalk asking for someone to point her in the direction of Mark Cour. At first glance, I knew she was a member of the press. She had the name tag hanging around her neck and a pad in hand. I said to my neighbor, “Oh, man. What have I done?“ He told me not to worry about it and to grab a beer. Turns out, that was my first of two interviews with a Times Leader reporter that included a beer. So, we exchanged niceties, she said some really nice things about my efforts on the internet and then she asked me the following question, “Do you think the mayor will order the cops to raid your party?”

I’m paraphrasing myself (that’s messed up), but I told her I had no idea what might happen, but if the mayor wanted a public relations nightmare to deal with, raiding the city’s longest-running block party would be the right way to go about getting one. It became apparent to me that she fully expected trouble at the hand‘s of the mayor, and that was the story she was there to cover. Very intuitive reporter.

Well, the anticipated trouble never came about. Actually, the opposite occurred as passing fire trucks and police cars fired-up their sirens and air horns all night in support of the partying folks that dared to defy the mayor on his own turf.

Jolyn wrote a nice story about a nice party and it appeared on the pages of the Times Leader the next morning. I never saw her again, but I remember what she said to me when she was about ready to leave that night. She said, “I pictured you a lot taller.” Surprised, being that I’m a shade taller than six feet, I asked her why. She said, “Your in-your-face writing style made me think you were a much bigger man.” I cracked up.

The only thing I could say to that is, as it pertains to grass roots politicking, the keyboard if mightier than the fist.

Nice lady.

The Luzerne County Federation of Sportsmen? Where have these guys been hiding all this time? Where were they at the public comment meeting? And why have they chosen to speak out now? Um, because somebody pretty high on the political food chain asked them to?

Sportmen’s group champions dam

Fish aside, Schutz said the popularity of Shikellamy’s man-made Lake Augusta had a lot to do with the Luzerne County Federation of Sportsmen’s decision to unanimously support a dam here, Schutz said.

“We’ve got sportsmen who belong to our organization who go there. During the summer, it’s loaded with boats,” said Schutz, noting that his county group is an arm of the Pennsylvania Federation of Sportsmen.

Wrong! Nice try and all, but I used to truck on by that lake at least twice a week for years on end. That man-made lake is about as busy as a tattoo convention promising the use of used, unclean needles. I’d pass over the lake on my way from Northumberland to Hull’s Landing and see a few boats motoring across the lake. That lake is little-uesd.

“I think the benefits far outweigh the drawbacks. It seems like everybody is jumping on the panic button,” he said.

No, actually, it’s the scant few supporters of the dam that are hitting the panic button. The fact that the sportsmen chose this late date to speak out proves that the dam is in big, big trouble. Again, nice try.

And what of the “benefits” he speaks of? What benefits? The fecal matter? The algae blooms? The acid mine drainage? The documented health risks for users of said proposed lake?

This guy is misleading you. The question is, who put him up to it?

You’ve got a pretty short list of politicos to pick from.

This is the kind of stuff that gets the activist crazies going all apoplectic and whatnot. We’ve got local governmental entities banding together and using creative tax policies to spur significant economic development.

Council to vote on project aid

Luzerne County, the city and the Wilkes-Barre Area School District would create the tax increment plan to help finance a $2.2 million loan for the first phase of the project. The loan would be administered through the Luzerne County Redevelopment Authority. The funds would be returned to the county, city and school district through an increase in taxes on the property.

Mayor Tom Leighton said that by improving the property, the taxes on the land will increase dramatically, meaning the city, county and school district will eventual benefit by gaining more revenue from the condos and businesses on the land. Also, Leighton said, the project could help spawn more development.

Here’s the scoop. If you haven’t seen it close up, trust me, that Murray property is beyond dilapidated and then some. Plus, it’s an enormous property rotting away on one of our busiest thoroughfares.

So, if you’re in charge, what do you do? Allow it to rot until it falls over, while praying to Allah that somebody magically appears promising to spend $22 million to rehabilitate it? Or, should you try to spur economic development by providing incremental incentives to a developer that is promising to rehabilitate it, if, indeed, he receives the tax incentives?

Eyesore? Or no eyesore? Economic development? Or no economic development?

You make the call.

I want to throw a number at the city council and mayoral hopefuls who all seem to be running on the same platform in which we’re being told that the downtown is being rejuvenated at the expense of the city’s neighborhoods. So far, “the neighborhoods are being ignored” seems to be the best that anyone’s got.

I’m working on getting my hands on an itemized list, so for now you’ll have to be content with that number I means to throw at you. That number is the number of dollars that have been spent on infrastructure improvements and new construction in the city’s neighborhoods during the past four years alone. That number does not include the $5 million devoted to the two new bridges that span Solomon Creek, or the two other bridges soon to be constructed. And that number does not include anything that has been acquired, built, repaired or demolished in our downtown during the past four years.

And the number?

$12 million would be the number of dollars that have been spent on infrastructure improvements and new construction in the city’s neighborhoods during the past four years alone.

Facts is facts, kiddies. $12 million is a helluva lot of money. And I fail to see how our neighborhoods have been forgotten.

$12 million.