10-19-2008 Weekly update

As of this very moment I’m listening to David Yonki and Gort with Shadoe Steele on Froggy 101 FM. They are both doing themselves proud.

And that huge plug of this author from Gort…Wow!!!

Thanks, dude.

As you may have noticed by glancing at the slideshow on my front page, Coal Street Park as we knew it no longer exists. As I struggled with trying to take decent pictures through the temporary chain link fencing with a less than stellar camera, a sense of sadness came over me.

The park was my refuge when not nodding off at Coughlin or happily toiling away at Percy Brown’s. It kept me out of trouble. Well, mostly. It introduced me to Eddie Day & TNT. And it introduced me to my one and only wife.

Many a memory flooded through my mind as I remembered the long history I once had with this park. And a long came a girl in her late teens with an expensive-looking camera in tow, pretty much doing the same thing. I asked and she said she was grabbing some pictures for her photography class. So I told her my opinion, that there were plenty of great pictures inside of those temporary construction fences just waiting to be taken. She agreed and then bent down to take a low angle shot of the broken steps leading up to Sherman Street. I bid her adieu and pedaled away. And I await the new-and-improved Coal Street Park, sans the pool.

As the latter stages of 2007 unfolded and the entirety of 2008 passed on by, we all felt the economic malaise to some degree or another. And we’ve lamenting as much for months on end.

The meteoric rises of the prices of heating oil, natural gas, diesel and gasoline have been on the local radar screen for quite a while now. In fact, they have dominated the local news on very many occasions. What the price of heating our homes provides us is this foreboding of winter. The price of gasoline makes the cost of commuting back and forth to work downright untenable. And the unworkable price of diesel fuel makes shopping unpleasant when we arrive at the checkout line. And we’ve also got the fact that products made from crude oil have skyrocketed in price, i.e., asphalt products, both cold and hot.

And despite knowing all of that and much, much more whereas our backsliding economy is concerned, we’re now surprised that the City of Wilkes-Barre is also facing a similar budget crunch? We’re shocked? We’re angered? And Walter Griffith is going to lead the revolt?

Poppycock, all.

From the Citizens’ Voice:

WILKES-BARRE -- Mayor Tom Leighton Wednesday unveiled the city’s 2009 budget of $40.86 million that boosts real estate taxes by 31 percent, increases city income and real estate transfer taxes and raises some fees.

The mayor placed most of the blame for the increase on the recent nearly $1 million arbitrator’s award to the city’s firefighters, drawing a strong response from the local union president. An arbitrator ruled in September the city must pay roughly $1 million to the firefighters for not providing equal pay compared to the police officers.

Leighton said the budget will have a $2.6 million shortfall.

The city’s property tax rate will increase by 23 mills, from the current 73.53 mills to 96.53 mills. A mill is a $1 tax for every $1,000 of assessed property value. Leighton said the average increase equates to $70 per property owner.

First of all, when the projected budget rises from an approximated $38.31 million to an estimated $40.86 million, there are only a few ways our elected leaders can approach that expected increase. They can increase revenue streams. They can trim back on discretionary spending as well as what would be called “fixed costs.” They can add to the financially debilitating “debt service.” They can do what our county commissioners did, by submitting a budget that was as much fictional as it was laughable in it’s sheer and utter incompetence. Or they can do some or all of the above.

So, what would we have them do?

Here’s a comment I snagged from the Times Leader Web site:

Walter Griffith
October 16, 2008 at 1:04 PM

Comment on Article

Just remember that Tom Leighton gets a pay raise every time the Unions get a pay raise...and so does City Council and Controller..so where is the incentive to negotiate a reduction in pay??? The people of the City of Wilkes Barre need to keep this all in mind in 2011 when these Borrow and Spend Politicians like Tony Thomas and Kathy Kane and Bill Barrett come up for election with the Mayor. These people have been on Council since Mayor McGOO and they have continued to do the same thing...RAPE THE TAXPAYERS OF OUR MONEY AND GIVE IT TO THEIR POLITICAL FRIENDS. Lets ban together and change the City and give it back to the taxpayers that are paying the bills.

While the comments about the raise policy are accurate, our elected leaders have voluntarily declined the raises.

Moreover, with the economy in the tank and constantly searching for an even lower bottom, Walter, are you saying that city employees should be forced to accept a “reduction in pay“ at this scrambled time? They, like both you and I, are facing the very same financial uncertainties. And your immediate answer to the budget dilemma is to force them to get by with even less? Sorry, but that’s knee-jerk, vote-for-me, buzz words nonsense.

Then we have the following offered at a local blog:

Walter Griffith said...
The City was offered a health care plan that was 350,000.00 less with the same benefits and they turned it down...this administration of Borrow and Spend career leaches need to be removed from City Hall..If the City want to save money they can freeze all salaries and health care benefits..any increase in health care benefit costs should be paid by the employee not the taxpayers and lets look at the Retirement benefit for all City Administration personell like Mayor Leighton and City Council members like Mike McGinley and Phil Latinski and Jim McCarthy which are being paid 1/2 their salary and life time health care for their entire families.
3:45 PM

Your initial claim is dubious at best. Look, one of the reasons I chose the jobs I did over the years was the benefit’s the various employees were offering me. I’ve never been normal, in that, I do not take my benefits for granted.

So, if my employer suddenly announces to me that my benefits are no longer going to be available to me as originally promised, only one of two things can come about as a result. I will leave that company. And if I can’t leave that company, my attitude and my productivity will probably make a precipitous slide.

Cost-cutting is one thing, but there does come a point where you cut your penis off to spite your crotch. There does come a point when rank-and-file employees--people--are not interested in working for peanuts. And since having a local government is necessary, and since that government has to draw it’s revenues from us, we need to be thrifty as well as fair.

As for our elected folks, yes, they do enjoy too many perks, as well as some lavishly-expensive benefits. It was reported that the ranks of the city employees have fallen by 100 over the last decade, so I’m not sure how many more can be left go if we truly intend to keep the city services just as they are.

So if we’re talking about cutting salaries and benefits, that leaves the elected people under the cost-cutting microscope. And while they can certainly get by very comfortably with less, the savings we can tally by taking a blunt hatchet to their salaries and benefits would not make up for the projected 2008 versus 2009 budgetary shortfall. Not even close.

So while I wholeheartedly agree that part-time employees are not entitled to health care benefits, especially benefits for life, I reject your threadbare premise that the crux of the problem lies at City Hall. If you did away with that which you so often and so vociferously object to, you’d still be facing that very same budgetary shortfall.

You can cut the mayor’s salary in half, and you’re still looking at struggling to balance the next budget. You can half his assistant’s salaries, and you’re still staring at the very same problem. You can eliminate Jim McCarthy’s or Phil Latinski’s ongoing health care benefits, and the red ink will still be staring you in the face. The problem is obvious, but your proposed solutions are not workable and quite ludicrous.

Bottom line, in an increasingly volatile financial climate, the mayor has presented a balanced budget. And dislike it as we may, if things don’t get any worse than they presently are, we may just get through 2009 without bleeding a long trail of red ink.

All too often, many of our local municipalities do not offer budgets that add up. Case in point, Nanticoke. After years and years worth of gross financial mismanagement, Nanticoke was forced to go the way of Act 47, a distressed city. Look northward and you see Scranton, a city literally buried under long term debts and flirting with outright bankruptcy.

But here in Wilkes-Barre, we have an administration that faced the grim economic realities as they are and presented a balanced budget. We have a team that, once again, made the tough decisions. Not the popular decisions, the tough decisions. And they had to know going in that the news of tax increases and fee increases would go over like a lead balloon. Still, they did what needed to be done.

These people have been on Council since Mayor McGOO and they have continued to do the same thing...RAPE THE TAXPAYERS OF OUR MONEY AND GIVE IT TO THEIR POLITICAL FRIENDS.

You had better check your facts on that one. Bill Barrett? Rick Cronauer? Mike Merritt? I’d day they’re all relative newbies on city council. And what of Kathy Kane and Tony Thomas? What, we’re they elected to council positions before Video Killed the Radio Star premiered? Not!

And they take “our money and give it to their political friends?”

What’s that all about? Inane electioneering on your part?

You know, you’re either a part of the solution, or you’re a part of the problem. And since your laughably off-target proposals offer us little, if any solutions, I’d say you had better rethink things before next you rant and rave.

A while back, I inquired about whether privatizing our refuse collections could offer us some budgetary relief. And I didn’t do as much on the local newspaper’s web site, or on the pages of some local blog. Nope, I went right to the top, I asked our mayor. It amounted to little lore than thinking out loud, but still, it was an obvious attempt to help find the solutions.

Look, publicly calling them names and publicly accusing them of unsubstantiated crimes against humanity is not going to deliver to you what you feel you need the most. And demanding that rank-and-file employees do with less while we’re complaining about the very same thing is tantamount to being a heartless prick.

And while we can all say what we want about our current mayor, he’s not a heartless prick. Because if he was heartless prick, he would have likely thrown some fictional budget out there that would have been catastrophic in it’s conclusion. And judging by the predicaments of some of our neighboring communities, I’d say he’s done the adult thing by being honest, making the tough decisions and presenting things as they really are…grim.

And if he should be beaten up for that, then there really is no hope for any of us. Because what that suggests is that we don’t really want to hear the truth. And the truth is, the entire world has been thrown into economic turmoil. And meanwhile, our little ole mayor right here in Wilkes-Barre R.F.D. has to find a way to successfully navigate through these most dangerous of economic waters.

So, it‘s still off with their heads? That’s all you’ve got? You’re staying on message, despite a possible economic depression? It’s still rage against the infernal machine no matter what?

Okay, then it’s Rick Cronauer in a reelection landslide.

Sez me.

From the e-mail inbox Mr Cour,

Check out these links on the non-partisan govtrack.us website.

Obama: http://www.govtrack.us/congress/person.xpd?id=400629
McCain: http://www.govtrack.us/congress/person.xpd?id=300071

Obama pegs the Ideometer to the left. Clicking on the Ideometer graphic shows where each legislator falls. McCain is in the center (as are nearly all the GOP Senators). Obama is well to the left (as are nearly all the Dem Senators...and he's even more left). Given all this factual historical data, It amazes me that anyone believes Obama will be courageous enough to ever cross party lines.

Obama has authored nothing and never voted against his own party. Time after time McCain has authored numerous pieces of bipartisan legislation (McCain-Feingold, McCain-Kennedy), and he worked in a bipartisan manner on issues (Gang of 14). He has a proven track record of bipartisanship...whether or not one agrees with his policies.

This is truly an historic election...where a track record and experience means nothing.
Pottstown, PA

It is truly remarkable. This is how I see Obama:

Based on nothing, he knows everything.

It’s a joke. By direct comparison, this guy makes an empty suit look three-quarters full. Personally, I think he’s a smarmy, condescending and overly confident know-nothing that has done nothing. And if he wins the election, that could be written off as an obvious over-reaction to, an over-correction of the Bush years on the part of the electorate.

He wins because they sucked? Not much of a platform, hope, and change.

We shall see.

You know, bloggers take a lot of heat for being irresponsible, if not, outright libelous and slanderous. And in all too many cases, rightfully so. And most of that heat comes from the longstanding, recognized media.

Fair enough.

Practically every time I turn on talk radio, the prevailing attitude of the talk show hosts is pretty much the same, that bloggers are irresponsible, if not, outright libelous and slanderous. And those hosts do go to great lengths to dismiss bloggers as hapless, ignorant and irrelevant.

Fair enough.

Now, when the bomb dropped, when it was announced that Mayor Tom Leighton’s proposed budget for 2009 included tax increases and the like, I told Wifey with no uncertainty that both Walter Griffith and one Steve Rodham-Corbett would be getting all apoplectic and within minutes of the breaking news.

And I was undeniably correct.

As for Rodham-Corbett, he’s become so predictable of late, he’s become insufferably boring. Try this on for size. If the city council of Scranton were to be caught in the act of having group sex with a troop of Girl Scouts, Rodham-Corbett would go on the air ranting and raving about how completely bad Wilkes-Barre and it’s leadership has become.

A triple murder in Scranton? Nary a mention does Rodham-Corbett make of it. Oh, but when a stray dog bites a squirrel in Wilkes-Barre, there’s the loud one bashing Wilkes-Barre’s brains in all over again.

And he saves the very worst of his vitriol for Mayor Tom Leighton. It’s become patently obvious that it’s become personal for Rodham-Corbett. Yet, no one at Entercom Communications seems interested in reigning him in just a tad.

Today’s top story?

A meteorite hits the Pentagon? Rodham-Corbett goes after Tom Leighton. Madonna is caught in bed with George W. Bush? Rodham-Corbett goes after Tom Leighton. John Lennon is found to be alive and working at a topless Jack-In-The-Box on Sunset Boulevard? Rodham-Corbett goes after Tom Leighton. The top story never matters, only further sullying Tom Leighton’s name and reputation seems to matter to Rodham-Corbett anymore.

And here’s Rodham-Corbett’s latest installment of, since Tom Leighton dares to ignore me, I will unfairly tarnish him every chance I get. Here’s more radio bullying coming from NEPA’s foremost radio thug.

Right after the new budget was announced, and right after I correctly told Wifey that Walter Griffith would be on Rodham-Corbett’s suddenly flailing show railing against the administration in a heartbeat, this is what our radio bully, this is what Rodham-Corbett had to say.

And I quote directly from the audiotape I am in possession of:

“Nothing stops Tom Leighton. Not even Tom Leighton. He’s got no discipline. He’s got no control. His life is an illusion. His public service is a sham. Let’s talk about it.”

End quote.

Did this doddering buffoon learn nothing from Fred Williams’ oft-sued example? You remember, Fred’s yeoman-like work in getting himself sued? Jeez, “His life is an illusion?”

That’s not going over that fine line, is it?

Bloggers are chastised by the radio talk show hosts for being irresponsible, if not, outright libelous and slanderous? Yeah, so what’s the difference between all of that aforesaid stuff and what Rodham-Corbett typically brings to the airwaves of NEPA? Because, if there is a distinct difference, I don’t see it.

That’s what passes as responsible journalism at WILK? That passes the smell test? If it keeps up at this quickening pace, I see the legal department up there at Entercom getting some unwanted business because of the thug’s usual antics.

But before the tough guy gets WILK sued all over again, I’m thinking we could put together some sort of charity event in which both Rodham-Corbett and Tom Leighton step into a ring, and where rules need not apply.

C’mon Tom, kick his ass already.

And speaking from experience, remember what I told you. The guys who go on and on and on and on and on about their purported karate skills are doing so so that you’ll be too intimidated to one day kick their asses. All blow and no go.

C’mon Tom, kick his ass already.

I have to cut this short. The weekly NFL injury reports will start showing up soon enough, so I have to see if I need to make any adjustments to my roster.

I’m 6-0, but this week’s contest is certainly in doubt. Boldin and Westbrook are still on injured reserve. And I have a couple of bye week guys out of action.

Still, I’m looking forward to it.

By the way, we’re talking about adding two expansion teams for 2009? Anybody out there interested? All that you need is a entrance nominal fee, a decent computer and some football smarts. Lemme know.