5-14-2007 The educated vote: Leighton

Time to get ‘er done, that “historic” election of ours. Truth be told, the run-up to the primary election was kind of boring when compared to all of the pre run-up vitriol that was spewed all over the local internet. Vitriol that was served up by now-candidates, but deleted just as the campaign kicked off. Seems they want to be seem as reasonable and rational at election time.

Then again, I did see some late breaking twaddle on the internet by which Tony Thomas Jr. does not reside within city limits, so he cannot serve on council, or anything else for that matter. Just what the world needs, more anonymous idiocy. I really hate to break it to the anonymous bottom feeders, but I often run across Tony just as he’s leaving for work in the morning. And, yes, he resides on Lehigh Street. Idiots all!

As far as the multitudinous amounts of candidates and their stated platforms are concerned, that was kind of boring, also. Although, in their defense, the city has been on the right track since 2004, so what else were they left to offer other than that oft-repeated message about the neighborhoods having been forgotten. They want more attention paid to the neighborhoods…like, who doesn’t? One thing at a time, kiddies. You see, we ain’t drowning in increased revenues just yet.

Actually, the I’m-for-the-neighborhoods gambit really isn’t much of an agenda at all. Tom Leighton & Co. decided to start with the downtown and then watch the progress spread out over the city from there. And it’s not an overnight process as we all wish it would be. But if they had the exact opposite plan, to start with the neighborhoods and get after the downtown last, the candidate hordes would be whining in unison about the downtown having been forgotten. For me, it’s all much ado about nothing.

As far as differentiating herself goes, Charlotte Raup has been talking about crime prevention, drug interdiction, absentee landlords, and an overall beautification of the city, but not only in her own neighborhood, rather, citywide. But her years on the streets with the Crime Watch have made her painfully aware that the crux of all our crime problems is the proliferation of illegal drugs. No matter what else we endeavor to do as a municipality, the drug problem has to be contended with before this city will ever make it on to one of those Best Places To Live lists.

As far as the “race” for the mayoralship goes, there is no race at all, unless you’re been mixing and heating vast amounts of corn meal, water and yeast again. If you go back to that June 5, 2005 “I Believe” speech, it stands as a stark reminder of how low the morale of the city was when the current administration took office. As a city, we were about as dispirited as a city could be by Wilkes-Barre’s rapid descent into the financial abyss, as well as the obvious neglect of the city’s infrastructure was concerned. We were broke, dodging overdue and unpaid debts to the tune of $10.5 million dollars. The city looked awful from one end to the other. High profile crimes were dominating the headlines with a shocking and humiliating frequency. And our new tourist attractions included a muddy hole and a vacant call center that was not paid for. We were the only city in the entire state to be kicked out of the Weed ‘n’ Seed program, whereby new police officers could be hired and paid for with grants. The then-governor even publicly called out our mayor as being “inept.” And we needed 5 Tax Anticipation Notes in 2 fiscal years just to keep the city financially afloat. Oh, and the city had gotten so completely bad, one of it’s residents even went berserk on the internet.

Say what you will about the current bunch holding the keys to the city, but they have made all of the disillusionment--the rock bottom dispiritedness--evaporate in less than 4 short years. Where once some dared not say “I believe” in public, some eventually said “I’m starting to believe a little” in muttered tones, which eventually gave way to a full-blown, “You know, I do believe.”

In less than 4 short years, our biggest hurdles have become the mundane things, the things that are certainly within our reach. Some demand more emphasis on street cleaning. Some call for the reinstatement of those god-awful clutter cleanups. Some think we need to plant more trees, or paint over the annoying graffiti in a more timely manner. And some noisily demand that either a new firehouse be built or an old one be rebuilt in their neighborhood. And all of these things are certainly doable now that the major hurdles, especially the gargantuan financial hurdles, have been overcome.

But in my mind, when I look at where we were versus how far we’ve come in such a short spate of time, I cannot and will not complain about the mundane things. And we’ve got much to be pleased about. The improvements to the city’s infrastructure of late has been nothing less than remarkable. Movies 14 and the resulting economic investments in the downtown are cause for hope. The increased foot traffic is so encouraging, it’s beyond description. The vast number of buildings, both large and small, currently being remodeled in this city is also remarkable. Wilkes and Kings are now finding it easy to market the city, and their enrollment numbers are going up. And Wilkes is about to start a law college, or whatever it is that they call it. The downtown is well lit, and by the day, better attended by shoppers, bar-hoppers and movie-goers. Where once all we had were hookers, drug dealers and vagrants, now we have a budding retail environment.

And I’m sick of the constant caterwauling over the closed firehouse in the Heights. Except for a couple of concerned citizens, the vast majority of that caterwauling has come from political operatives with designs on elected positions. Nobody said a word when the Northeast station right here in Nord End answered it’s final call. And that’s because we knew that place had gone tit’s up as a functional building. The silly part of all of this is, the Northeast station was somewhat salvageable when directly compared to that broken down lean-to in the Heights.

4 years ago, we had two fire engines that almost had to be pushed to get rolling. Now we have three brand spanking new fire engines. Five years ago, we had a ladder truck that was often put out of service for repairs. And now we have a new one, who’s specifications were chosen by the firefighters themselves. We have a new firehouse. We also have two brand new ambulances, so spare me the needless caterwauling about a lack of public safety. That’s bunk.

Try this…21 new police officers.

One…more…time…21 new police officers. Our neighboring communities drool at the thought of having 21 full-time police officers total, sans the new hires. Many of our neighbors have no police department at all and have to rely on an overstretched State Police barracks for police protection. Still others have considered disbanding their police departments outright to save money. Then we throw in the 3 new police K-9s for good measure. And the newly-reactivated S.W.A.T. unit. And the paddy wagon, since many of our cruisers lack transport cages. And the new police cruisers. And the new undercover cars.

Public safety, you say? Are you daft? Better stick with that forgotten neighborhoods routine.

Unlike some other blogs, you get my completely uncensored opinion here. And in my opinion, a vote for anyone other than Mayor Tom Leighton is a thoroughly uneducated vote. And it doesn’t matter to me that both of his threadbare opponents are not even remotely qualified for the position they ridiculously seek. Even if he was squaring off against a solid opponent, I still say he’s man for the job, hands down. He managed to replace the despair with hope, and that was in only one short term at the helm. I say what he has put in place, and what he has in the works has to continue on to fruition. And if you vote against him, you are forgetting just how low Wilkes-Barre could, and did go.

As for the current council folks, I’ve heard them called every name in the book, but I’ve yet to be convinced that they are merely “rubber stamps” to Tom Leighton’s demands. Unlike the previous mayor, he handed them balanced budgets. And he pitched projects that had the funding in place long before the bricks and mortar hit town. He reduced the city’s outstanding debts. He protected the general fund. He resurrected our credit rating and resurrected our lost bond insurance. He brought new life to long-floundering projects. He restored our solvency, as well as our pride.

Now, I must ask you, what parts of the program were they supposed to vote against?

You want to go off on some anti-incumbent barrage, voting against someone rather than voting for someone? By all means, knock your imported sandals off. But be real careful who and what you vote for, ‘cause you might just find yourself a self-aggrandizing obstructionist or two. If your incumbent council person absolutely must be given their walking papers, please vote for someone who is reasonable and measured. Because, as far as I’m concerned, we’ve come too far, too fast to screw it all up now.

Anywho, vote Leighton. He’s done us well, and he richly deserves another term.

By the way, the city was a newly redesigned Web site, and it’s really, really well done.

One more reason to be proud of the city in which you live.

Wilkes-Barre’s new Web Site

From the e-mail inbox Gotta love the Freedom of Information Act


I knew it! I knew they would finally release the ingredients in Viagra!

3% Vitamin E
2% Aspirin
2% Ibuprofen
1% Vitamin C
5% Spray Starch
87% Fix-A-Flat

Not true. It’s actually 91% Fix-A-Flat.


Here‘s a good read on the debatable, deflatable dam:

Invisible Flood Blog

And then there‘s, my son the fledgling rock star. Try “Special Eddy” as it reminds me of John Lennon.


WARNING: Musical selections are not safe for kiddies and grandmas.

The Gale Force Project

Gotta go. See you at the polls.


The educated vote