10-29-2007 Let’s vote

The Times Leader editorial board has endorsed Mayor Tom Leighton, a real no-brainer as far as I’m concerned. The voices of reason have spoken.

Some hapless sort e-mailed me and wondered aloud about how I benefit by backing Tom Leighton. I get this kind of thing now and again. Proof that no matter what we do, abject idiocy is always lurking out there somewhere.

Anywho, the e-mail was so predictable, it’s as if there’s a form e-mail out there for people to use when they want to take a misguided and uninformed shot at me. You know the deal, what am I getting out of it? A city job? A city job for the wife, the kids and my three-legged half-sister, perhaps? That sort of swill. More useless twaddle from the anonymous hordes.

First of all, working for the city would probably be interesting in that a clear challenge is always motivating. And despite what Linda Stets may have you believe, the city is challenged being that money still does not grow on trees. Plus, it’d be ultimately satisfying to see your hard work result in a better community in which to live. If it were up to me, I’d take a job with the CAT folks. You know, inspecting problem properties and what have you. And with a pest control background--something that can and does directly relate to public health--I have something unique to offer in that area.

With all of that said, I have never applied for that or any other city job. Why? Because I have a job. And a good one at that. And I seriously doubt that there’s anyone in this entire state that knows his enemy as well as I know mine. I’m a specialist and my ongoing education is continuing every day. I put a lot into my job and I get a lot out of it. Experience, confidence, knowledge and professionalism makes for happy customers and structural sound dwellings.

And as to that question, what do I get out of it, well, it’s like this. I get sound leadership and a commitment to financial responsibility. And, again, despite what Linda Stets is promising, this city does not have the funding to build the laundry list of amenities she thinks we should have. And going forward, we need to spend only what we can afford. And secondly, we need exactly what District E hopeful, Mike Merritt, said at the sparsely attended candidates debate sponsored by the League of Women Voters.

Most important issue

Guarneri: “The neighborhoods. A lot of residents are disheartened and discouraged. We need to get them out to vote. The worst thing is to have no hope.”

Gagliardi: “People need to elect people who will best represent them. We need new blood, a new approach, a bipartisan government.”

Merritt: “Crime needs to be reduced and the deficit needs to be paid down.”

Griffith: “Clean up the neighborhoods. Rid the people of their apathetic attitude. Demand accountability from your elected officials.”

Stets: “We need jobs, quality jobs. We need to retain our college graduates. We need to keep the best of the best.”


The freaking deficit needs to be paid down.

Dude…er, Mike, methinks you just won yourself a vote. Outstanding, man,

Imagine a $38 million budget not saddled with short and long-term debt payments? Imagine being able to buy or build whatever the heck it is that we need. Imagine not needing financial assistance from the feds, the state or the county when the structure fire to end all structure fires breaks out. Imagine having some disposable income to work with year-in and year-out.

The freaking deficit needs to be paid down.

See that? Sue Henry was right. There is a God, which means I’m screwed.

Speaking of that Murray fire, my Uncle John relayed the following joke.

I was eating at Neddoff’s (I know its closed) when the guy at the next table says, “Heimie, that was a helluva fire last night, wasn’t it?” The other guy at that table barks, “Keep it down, you idiot! The fire is tonight!”

Where was I?

Oh yeah. Financial responsibility and Mike Merritt.

So, according to the candidates, we need better neighborhoods, jobs, Republicans (?), and all sorts of other nifty stuff that costs money. Money that does not exist, that is. But one lone voice arose speaking of financial responsibility. And without financial responsibility, nothing is possible in the long term. And why has Tom Leighton been forced to make the tough decisions? Um, no money?

Think about it. What small town politician wants to close firehouses, close pools and say no to any request from the citizenry? None. But Tom Leighton did.

What? You want a new pool? Sure, here you go. Here’s a million bucks. Now, let’s go swimming and make sure to remember to vote for me.

A skate park? Why…sure. Who cares about liabilities and unsupervised juveniles mucking about at all hours. See my secretary and tell her I said to give you a million bucks. Oh, and vote for me, Mayor Big Bucks.

A new firehouse in the Heights? Gee, I don’t know. That might annoy the folks in the other neighborhoods. I know, let’s build a new firehouse in every voting district. That ought to work. Happy days are here again, vote for me and we’ll let some poor sap of a mayor pay for it all in the future.

Try this on for size. If a meager 10% of the city’s budget goes to pay off outstanding debts, that amounts to roughly $4 million per year that cannot be spent on improving the city. If 20% of the budget is devoted to outstanding debts, now we’re approaching $8 million every fiscal year that cannot be utilized for anything of note. There is no more federal revenue sharing program, so if we’re ever going to get to the point where we can spend significant amounts of money--without begging--on infrastructure projects on a continuing basis, we need to retire our outstanding debts.

Now, I ask you, are the pretenders to the thrown saying no to anything as they promise away their days running up to this election? A skate park? Why, sure. That’s a great idea. Another firehouse? Oh, yes, that would be wonderful. More cops? Yes, I will park one in front of each and every home. Pools? Of course I will build pools, lots of them, in fact. A police substation in Parsons, as Linda Stets has promised? Hell yes. No problem.

And how will the infinite laundry list of expensive goodies be paid for? We know. The pretenders to the throne know how. They say it every time they pander to voters. I, Hoby P. Swickles, will look for grant monies. That’s the candidate’s way of saying, “I’m not really sure.” And if you can’t pay for it, why promise it in the first place? Why? Because you either don’t know what you’re going on about, you’re financially reckless, or you’ll say anything to get yourself elected. And in my swirling vortex of a mind, those are all disqualifiers.

So, rather than give us the feel-good election lines, rather than say what the frighteningly dense electorate wants to hear, the political neophyte from the good ole Nord End says we need to pay down our deficit. Not exactly words of wisdom, mind you, but exactly what this city needs.

So, as a result, I will vote for Mike Merritt. What he said to me is that he is a man of his convictions. A man that will do as Tom Leighton has done before him…make the tough decisions. Yes, I want a pool within walking distance of this modest adobe. Yes, a want a firehouse within throwing distance. And, yes, I want a police substation/skate ramp just down the street a ways. The only hitch is, we can’t afford any of that at this time. And in Mike Merritt, I think we’ve found a man who will not be afraid to tell us as much. I think we’ve found a man who will tell us all of that is entirely possible--someday--if we do the financially prudent things right now.

The freaking deficit needs to be paid down.

Who knew? Who knew that among the scores of ranting and raving political wannabes, one man would hit the proverbial nail right on it’s flattened head? Who knew that amongst the promisers of everything expensive, expansive and worth promising would come a voice of financial reason?

See that? You don’t have to attend these debates in person to be able to read between the lines. While everyone else on the stage was promising countless expenditures, while they were kowtowing to the oft-repeated demands of the day, one man promised the exact opposite. One man promised exactly what we need.

The freaking deficit needs to be paid down.

And therein lies the answer to many of our most vexing financial questions: How will we pay for it? We’ll pay for it out of petty cash, iffin’ we actually had any.

Make checks payable to: Merritt for Mayor of Nord End.

Sez me.

The mysterious editorial folks at the Times Leader have also chosen to endorse Walter Griffith over Rick Cronauer in District A.

The current city council appears to work together well and that’s great. But there should always be room for someone like Griffith on an elected body.

Griffith is the type of person who won’t always vote along with the majority. And, he will speak up – to the public – when he sees injustice.

That comes as a surprise to me, but not a complete shock after reading the endorsement. Sorry, but, I’ll get up to speed on the important issues of the day after I’m elected just won’t cut it with the mood of the electorate being as odorous as it currently seems to be.

The electorate seems to be pissed at the president, the congress and especially our county government. There is some dissatisfaction with this city’s current administration, but much of that is due to the oft-repeated lie that our neighborhoods are being shortchanged, while the downtown remains priority one.

But let’s not forget that Rick Cronauer was easily the top vote-getter back in May. So endorsement or no endorsement, and neophyte or not, Walter Griffith is still facing a vote-getting leviathan.

It don’t matter much to me, as I cannot vote for or against either of them. But, no matter who wins that city council seat, I will critique them nearly every time they speak or act. It’s one thing to have me on your back during an election season, but it’s a whole other thing when you’re in an elected office. With that said, I think that second only to Tom McGroarty, Walter Griffith has taken more than his fair share of criticism from this wayward scribe. And he hasn’t even fired a single high-velocity round my way. Well, not yet.

Oh, and as far as the dinner invite goes, Walter, I gave you my phone number, so call me already. Enough with bouncing e-mails back and forth. You see, I’m not a dinner kind of guy. I don’t eat meat, seafood or anything that once crawled or urinated. I’m more of a lunch kind of guy. Give me a grilled cheese, mustard, some onion rings and a diet Coke and I’m more than good to go. Plus, it’d be wholly inappropriate to wear a pair of athletic shorts and a tank top to dinner, but that’s about as dressed up as I ever get. Well, that is, except for when Patty Leighton gets her hackles up. Anyway, I’d love to chew the political fat (Yuk!) sometime, so call me.

As far as the county government is concerned, I will not vote for any incumbent. Not a single one.

I am totally annoyed with the entire program, and I’m am definitely of the “Throw the bums out!” mindset. Enough with Skrepenak. No way to the anointed one, Maryann Petrilla. I’d had more than I can stand of Steve Urban’s weasel-like antics. Fu>k the secret juvenile detention deal. Screw the unaccountable use of taxpayer-provided debit cards. No more hiring of friends, family and family friends. I have had enough.

I voted for Todd Vonderheid, but not Greg Skrepenak. They told us to deep-six the home rule idea and to trust them. We did as much and I’m sick of the backroom deals, the lack of transparency, the cronyism and the nepotism. As far as I’m concerned, Hugo Selenski is far, far smarter than the people in charge of our county. And prettier, too.

I don’t even want to know who’s running against the incumbents. When I stand before that screwy electronic voting machine, I will click on the names of the political neophytes, the challengers. Democrat? Republican? Whatever.

All I know is, it’s time for some serious turnover under that rotunda.

Forget your party affiliation and do the right thing.

According to Linda Stets, the mayoral race is neck-and-neck. While I seriously doubt that, she’s entitled to her opinion.

She will prevail, she said, because the people are tired of the way things have been.

“The old boy network is on its way out,” Stets said. “There is a new breed of voters. If I’ve learned one thing, it’s that the people are beginning to wise up. They are waking up and realizing we need change.”

Where I come from--here--that’s called wishful-thinking.


A new breed of voters? In this aged county? That’s utter hogwash and I’m thinking the water table up there in Parsons needs to be tested and soon.

First of all, if she’s the end-all mayoral candidate, how come her own brother is openly, wholeheartedly supporting Tom Leighton? What does he know that we don’t?

Secondly, it’s one thing to make election year promises, but it’s a whole other thing to find a way to pay for them. She’ll make some staffing cuts at city hall, which she mistakenly estimates to be around $100,000, and then she’ll remodel Coal Street Park? Sorry, toots, but that’s the dreaded “fuzzy math” you’re using.

You couldn’t even get the diseased trees removed from that park for $100,000.

You’re going to rebuild pools and reopen disintegrated firehouses? Really? With what, S&H Green Stamps? Wait, I know. The oft-mentioned, but nonexistent grant dollars that every pretender to the throne promises to find after the election.

“Labor & Industry?”

Stets: I would hire an economic development coordinator who would be responsible to actively pursue business and industry for the city.

Dear, have you ever stepped foot in a warehouse clocking in at half a million square feet? I have. Ever been in a processing center that was planning an 80,000 square foot addition? I have. And it is indisputable that Wilkes-Barre does not have the land available for such scenarios. Wilkes-Barre has nothing to offer as far as attracting any significant labor and/or industry. There’s a reason the biggest of the big concerns build in industrial parks, i.e., tons upon tons of available acreage. Wilkes-Barre has none. In fact, the parking lots for plants such as these would dwarf what is available in Wilkes-Barre. So to say you’re going to attract labor and industry is a hollow, laughable promise, and it clearly suggests that you don’t know what you’re talking about. Although, I knew as much a long, long time ago.

If, in fact, you happened to attract a large employer, let’s say to the 13 acres where the ruins of the Murray building now lay, the neighbors would sh*t major bricks at the mere thought of tractor trailers rumbling on in 24 hours a day, so put a sock in it already. If Master Chemical is demonized for the miniscule amount of truck traffic they generate, would any neighborhood be happy about the truck traffic a gigantic warehouse would generate? Not on your life.

Labor & industry?

Yeah, right!

As mayoral candidates go, this one is about as attractive as an infected boil. She thinks she talks a good game, but none of her circumlocution amounts to much. Her numbers clearly don’t add up. And having seen her in action on many occasions, she is heavy-handed and then some, suggesting a return to the horrible V.L.P. days, which every city employee still remembers and still dreads.

In my opinion, Linda Stets is to responsible, level-headed leadership what I am to devouring bloody pot roasts. And if you vote for her, it’s obvious to me that you do not pay too much attention to detail. When she talks, you need to listen. Because not much of what she has to say passes the smell test.

In my mind, she’s a charlatan. And that’s the exact last thing this city needs at this critical juncture. Tom Leighton’s has been a steadying hand, and I’m all for keeping what was, just four years ago, a severely listing boat, rock steady for four more years.

But what did you expect, he gives me free hat pins. No city jobs, just the hat pins.

‘Til next time.

Go Jints!!!