5-16-2007 We have spoken

Well, the much-ballyhooed “historic“ election is now histoire, and based on the results, I’m still wondering what all of the hoopla was about.

I’m sure some will claim some sort of political victory being that 4 incumbents are now busily planning their farewell tours, but this voting-by-district gambit was not the world-shattering revolution a couple of the activist/candidates hoped it would be. Yeah, a couple of faces may have changed, but the new-look council of ‘08 will not seat a single self-aggrandizing obstructionist.

McGinley, McCarthy, Latinski and Vitanovec are all out, but the 2 newcomers, Rick Cronauer and Mike Merritt, are hardly revolutionaries looking to stir up trouble just to make a name for themselves. I have never met or spoken to Rick Cronauer, but it seems painfully obvious to me that when a political neophyte garners twice as many votes as the entrenched incumbents, said newcomer has to be an exceptional person. I could not vote for him, but I’m encouraged by his victory. I think both his district and the city as a whole are going to be placed in very capable hands.

As for Mike Merritt winning up here in Nord End, I want to put to bed this oft-repeated notion that I am laying in wait hoping to rip him a new one. While I steadfastly believe he did not deserve the party’s endorsement, I’m not even remotely bitter about the election results. I did what I could to help elect the council candidate I believed in, she came up short, so now we move on. Despite resisting maturity with everything I can muster, I’m really a big boy. And I hate it.

Although, I will follow his future exploits very, very closely. This is my neighborhood, he will be my neighborhood’s councilman, so I’ll hang on his every word and his every deed. As of today, I will print out and file every word he has to say. And last I heard, the elected encourage the involvement of the electorate. Just, not too, too much.

Getting back to that promised political revolution, the district voting arrangement was a complete bust for the activists, the Republicans and the rest of the noisy folks running around with one chromosome too many. And, yes, I’m assuming very, very confidently that not a single Republican will win in the November general election. Bluntly put, the head-to-head match-ups are not very encouraging, if you happen to be a Republican. I think it’s safe to predict that not a one of those races will be too close to call late on election night.

On a personal aside, I find it beyond amusing that Mr. Name Recognition himself, Walter Griffith, will be squaring off against the surprisingly gargantuan political phenomenon that is Rick Cronauer. See that, I was wrong. There is a God after all. Although, I’m sure Walt will be busy spreading complete mistruths and unfair half-truths about Cronauer on the internet soon enough. Why change the modus operandi at this late stage of the game?

Citywide, only 85 write-in city council ballots were cast, but an unprecedented number, 41, were written in against Walter’s candidacy. Again, there is a God after all. How utterly sad is that? To run completely unopposed after years upon years of making one’s name recognizable to the unwashed masses only to carry only 83% of the vote?

The thing is, going from the current group of 7 Democrats to the 5 likely Democrat winners come November, the district voting flimflam didn’t accomplish much of anything. So, I figure that teeny tiny Republican cabal will get to brainstorming about how best to reinvent the system all over again so as to one day benefit themselves. In other words, after the electoral dust settles in November, expect yet another referendum petition.

Interestingly enough, if we pared the council to 5, but still voted at large, the next city council would likely look like this: Cronauer, Vitanovec, Thomas, Barrett and Kane. And if nothing at all was retooled to help the inept Republican party, our next council would probably look like this: Cronauer, Vitanovec, Thomas, Barrett, Kane, Reilly and Daniel. Hardly what the revolutionaries were hoping for.

In conclusion, what this tells us is that we should resist further attempts to reinvent the wheel every time the Republicans come a calling with petitions in hand. They couldn’t win, they managed to turn the system on it’s pointy little head, and they still can’t win. And despite what they’ll tell you, one-party dominance on a local scale is not proof of corruption, malfeasance or whatever perceived crime against humanity they’re pitching today. What it proves is that is that their party does not have it’s act together, and that their party offers up viable, attractive candidates about as often as Rosie O’Donnell comes across as a really nice person. Their complete ineptitude as a local political party should no longer serve as a clarion call for referendum action.

The election results, including the absentee ballots, as posted by the Luzerne County Bureau of Elections:


THOMAS M. LEIGHTON . . . . . . . 3,854...70.24%
TIM GRIER . . . . . . . . . . 1,613...29.40%

City Council

District A

TIM GRIER . . . . . . . . . . 76...4.93%
RICK CRONAUER . . . . . . . . . 847...54.96%
JOHN R. MADAY . . . . . . . . . 62...4.02%
SHIRLEY MORIO VITANOVEC. . . . . . 556...36.08%

District B

RAY ARELLANO . . . . . . . . . 107...10.74%
BRUCE J. REILLY . . . . . . . . 407...40.86%
TONY THOMAS JR. . . . . . . . . 480...48.19%

District C

JUSTIN MCCARTHY . . . . . . . . 275...32.82%
SAM TROY. . . . . . . . . . . 124...14.80%
KATHY KANE . . . . . . . . . . 437...52.15%

District D

JOE DANIEL . . . . . . . . . . 341...24.62%
TIMOTHY ANDERSON . . . . . . . . 100...7.22%
BILL BARRETT . . . . . . . . . 453...32.71%
SARAH MCCAFFREY . . . . . . . . 62...4.48%
MICHAEL J. MCGINLEY . . . . . . . 226...16.32%
JAMES G. TAYLOR . . . . . . . . 22...1.59%
BRUCE SZCZECINSKI. . . . . . . . 180...13.00%

District E

VIRGIL ARGENTA. . . . . . . . . 112...12.39%
FRANK MATELLO SR.. . . . . . . . 96...10.62%
MIKE MERRITT . . . . . . . . . 351...38.83%
CHARLOTTE RAUP. . . . . . . . . 174...19.25%
RON SILKOSKY . . . . . . . . . 171...18.92

Now the political dead men walking…that is, the Republicans.

District A

WALTER L. GRIFFITH JR. . . . . . . 211...83.73%

District B

VINCENT GUARNERI . . . . . . . . 91...52.00%
LISA MCGLYNN-COPE. . . . . . . . 75...42.86%

District C

PETER J. GAGLIARDI . . . . . . . 127...96.21%

District D

LINDA J. STETS. . . . . . . . . 152...86.36%

District E

JOHN M. YENCHA. . . . . . . . . 201...97.10%

As far as the mayoral race is concerned, it was hardly energizing. And that’s why it ended up being as close as it was. Well, that is, if a 70-29% trouncing can be considered even remotely close. Everyone knew Tom Leighton would win, everyone knew that Tom Leighton should win, so it suppressed the turnout to some degree. If more of us felt compelled to do our civic duty no matter what, this one ends up in the 85-15% range. Maybe even worse.

With that said, I do want to personally thank Tim Grier for stepping forward and giving us something to argue about. While I think his sudden entry into local politics was ill-advised, ill-prepared and ill-thought out, he’s a colorful guy, and certainly not brain dead.

Leighton wins Democratic nod for W-B mayor

From that Citizens’ Voice story:

When reached later Tuesday, Grier said he was impressed that he received almost 1,500 votes, considering that he spent only about $400 on his campaign. Grier said the vote totals showed that “people are dissatisfied in Wilkes-Barre.”

“Even if he got 70 percent of the vote, if he was really doing his job, his party would have supported him more,” Grier said. “I’m probably not the best candidate for the job. I haven’t finished college. A lot of people took issue with my appearance, but I still got almost 1,500 votes.”

Tim!…Tim!…Tim!…29% shows that a mayor that was not afraid to make the tough financial decisions that definitely needed to be made will no doubt annoy some of those that pray at the curb, and those that selfishly demand that a firehouse be built right next to their pool deck. What politics teaches us over and over and over again is that you can’t please ‘em all. And if you try, if what you want is an unrealistic feel-good consensus, you and your constituents are ultimately doomed to repeated failure. You gave it your best shot, so please choose your words wisely from here on out. You see, burning bridges is not the best way to approach life.

As far as the appearance goes, I raised 3 kids. And I did it with an iron fist. In this house, there was no democracy to speak of. And I stressed to my 3 kids that if they wanted to enjoy a long, happy life, they had to do whatever they could to boost their earning potential at every turn. The reality is, without disposable income, life generally sucks. I learned that painful lesson as a kid.

Thanks entirely to that oft-mentioned peer pressure that can practically crush a young person trying to make their way in life, they, at some juncture or another, expressed an interest in tattoos, stupid-looking haircuts, green hair, baggy pants, body piercings and whatever else there is that White America finds so appealing about mimicking ghetto life or life in public housing projects. And every time they got such a silly notion, I was there to deliver a robust NO! with a mighty thud. At times they hated me for it, but now they respect and thank me for it. They are now adults, they look like adults and they act like adults. Mostly.

During their formative years, I was paid to hire, fire, train and promote employees, very many of which were teenagers. And never once did I hire the kids sporting the garish-looking whatever it may have been. Yes, a conservative look may be boring, but if money and a somewhat comfortable life is what you seek, a conservative look is what will serve you the best, the longest. It’s ultimately cool to be a rebel and all to some degree, but being a rebel won’t pay the bills, and it won’t open doors that may need to be opened down the road a ways.

I offer this not as a criticism, but as very good advice. And absolutely free, no less. Give it some thought.

With all of that having been said, somebody told me that Tom Leighton would have been the happiest man in Wilkes-Barre has he lost last night. Yep, that’s what I was told. It goes like this:

If Tom Leighton had lost last night, homes all over Wilkes-Barre would have been put up for sale at a dizzying rate. And when Tom Leighton is not busy steering Wilkes-Barre in the right direction, he is a realtor by trade.

If I may, I must point out that I did not waffle like a politician, as a cell phone caller practically accused me of doing. I predicted 4 of the 5 council races correctly. And no one else barking about local politics on the internet can say as much. Plus, the only one I got wrong was my own voting district. Figure that one out.

I really thought Charlotte Raup had a legitimate shot at winning, which now seems off-base. But I will say this, even if I was predicting her eventual political fate with my heart instead of my head, I still firmly believe that she would have made for a great council person. And I truly hope this experience--this unexpected foray into city politics--does not dishearten her in any way.

While the newly elected make grand proclamations and suchlike, kiss babies and whatnot, I hope she stays right where she’s always been: on the streets with the tireless Wilkes-Barre Police Department fighting to make this city safer than it presently is. Her unrelenting one-woman mission has been a selfless mission, a mission that probably needed to be recognized and rewarded last night. And while that may not have been the case, I’ll sleep better knowing that she’s still out there somewhere in the dark staking out the worthless people that bring the most harm to our neighborhoods.

To Charlotte, I offer a heartfelt thanks. I mean that.

To all that dared to put themselves under the glaring political microscope, more thanks.

To last night’s winners, I will be paying close attention.

To WILK’s Sue Henry and the aging Karate Kid, great job. The election night coverage was superb.

To J.J. Murphy…dude, the Phillies do suck.

And to Tom Leighton, don’t get complacent. We’re still counting on you. Despite all that you’ve accomplished, Wilkes-Barre still deserves better. Do us proud, only, a little more.