4-18-2009 A Quorum of Two

I ain‘t blogged in quite a spell, not that I missed it none too much. I had the Tennessee family folk here in the days preceding Easter Sunday. Ate a lot. Drank even more. I’ve been working a heck of a lot. I even took in my first ever Zoning Board hearing.

I spied those protestors sporting the tea bags on Public Square. Can’t say I understand it, this protesting nonsense. Lots of people gathering, making mostly unintelligible noises, impressing themselves and their significant others, but no one else of note. Certainty not the intended recipients of their message. After about ten minutes of that insufferable noise, I split without taking a single picture. Not worth the effort or the time.

Anyway, I’ve been here. Er, I’ve been kickin’ around here somewhere.


I would be totally remiss if I failed to weigh in on Nanda Palissery for Controller-the interview , posted at Gort’s site some days ago. Being forewarned, I was looking forward to reading what the presumptive GOP favorite for controller had to say.

First of all, I think it goes without saying that if vagaries are what floats your listing vote, this is the controller candidate for you. Just to be annoying, I’ll paraphrase:

It’s not necessary for him to put his career on the back burner, the position is not necessarily a 9-to-5 job, he wouldn’t have to be in the office 8 or 9 hours a day, but he will be available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Typical county code, gray area doublespeak. He will be the controller, he will be available, it’s just that his hours on the job will be of an indeterminable, unspecified, questionable and always nebulous nature. But don’t sweat it, kiddies…he’ll always be available.

But available for what? The emergency forensic audit at 3 in the morning? The subpoenas delivered to the office by the FBI as dusk arrives on a Saturday? Available for what?

I think his remarks speak volumes about a lack of commitment to the position.

Secondly, his answer to the question I submitted:

In a county mired in countless political corruption scandals, a county near overwhelmed by crushing outstanding debts, a county where recent, unrealistic budgets amounted to red ink ultimately paid for up by even more future outstanding debts, should the newly elected County Controller put his or her chosen career on the back burner for the time being and take the taxpayer’s financial bull by the horns?

His response:

One of the misconceptions is about the actual role of the Controller and that’s something that people need to understand that there is not a lot of discretion that the Controller has. The Controller does not have discretion over what items are to be paid or funded. All I can do as the Controller is to say is hey look this was supposed to be approved by the commissioners before it got paid. Just like I said before Dr. Vita is my example having collected $1.2 million since 2001 that was never approved by the commissioners. That’s what the role would be. As far as budgets and so on I will do and say whatever I can say as far as they accept input from the Controller. But I don’t have a lot as a Controller that I can do about the budget there is not a lot of discretion that I exercise in that regard. What I am saying is the time that I’m going to make available will be anytime they need me to do anything. I don’t necessarily need to put my career on the back burner to do that.

Okay, now let’s revisit Gort’s question:

Why should you be the next Luzerne County Controller?

And the answer:

A couple of things that I think that are important. One is that I always believed and was raised to believe that if you want something to be done right, do it yourself. Among the candidates that have submitted their names in this election to run I think I am the most qualified for a couple of reasons. One is that I have a business background, I’ve had various businesses in the area including my own law practice for 15 years. I’ve been fairly successful with that. Two, in addition to a business background I have a legal background and I think a lot of what the Controller does is legal in nature. That is interpreting contracts and appropriateness of spending and so on. I think for those 2 reasons if nothing else I think I am the most qualified candidate.


Let’s take those two responses and try to make sense of their conflicting messages.

I’m a hands-on guy. I am the most qualified candidate. I have business experience. I have a legal background. A lot of what the Controller does is legal in nature. That is interpreting contracts and appropriateness of spending and so on. But the position affords me no actual power (my misconception), so why should I have to be in the office on a fulltime basis, or have to put my chosen career on the back burner?

In other words, he’s got the necessary credentials to wield little or no power? Am I getting this wrong?

And, as to whether it’s a job that requires his presence much more often than not, well, he’ll be “available.”

The way I see it, he’s as purposely vague as he is insultingly infuriating. The way I see it, he’s not worthy of my vote. Or yours, for that matter.

Nice job, Gort.

This one had me scratching my offensive-looking head.

From The Lu Lac Political Letter:

A question from a reader:


Gee, that would be me, the mean, old nasty blogger who dares to say an unkind thing every chance he gets, um, I mean, every once in a while.

The response from the learned blog author:


I’m wrong?

Whoa! Whoa! Whoa! Time for a bit of fact checking there, boys and girls. Perhaps an emergency visit to the optometrist. Or a shrink.

Exhibit A:

From The Sue Henry Pothole Challenge

But here’s the part that got my dander up. I challenge Sue Henry to walk that parade route with me and point out the deep potholes. As a matter of fact, I challenge her to find any potholes on that parade route at all. Any. I challenge her to come back down here and relocate all of these nonexistent potholes for me. Know why? Because there weren’t any at all on the entirety of the parade route. I was there. I drove the entire length of the thing. They were not there yesterday. And there are not any there today.

3 times! Count ‘em, 3 times…”parade route.”

And I repeat:

“Know why? Because there weren’t any at all on the entirety of the parade route. I was there. I drove the entire length of the thing. They were not there yesterday. And there are not any there today.”

And a little over a month later, that fact still stands as verifiably accurate.

And what’s up with the griping about potholes anyway? Every year, every year just as Winter is about set to expire, every year…oh, the potholes.

Um, did we expect the freeze/thaw process to deliver anything less than potholes? And do we understand that road repairs of almost any nature take place after the mercury gets itself up there on the thermometer a ways? Like, after April 1st, as PENNDOT strongly suggests? And did anyone notice that filling holes in the road with cold patch is akin to trusting a full-blown drunk with a wad of cash?

Oh, yeah. And wasn’t it Wilkes-Barre that just purchased a special machine thingamabob designed specifically for patching those dreaded potholes?

Please, if you need to appear as if you’re taking the administration of your city to task, you’re going to have to do significantly better than bitching about a naturally occuring phenomenon on manmade roadways.

And if you really feel the need to take me to task for whatever reason, please resist the oft-overwhelming urge to take my comments totally out of context.

Still though, no takers on the Sue Henry (The Parade Route) Pothole Challenge.

That’s what I thought.

And then we have the Zoning Board hearing. This is the section of the post that’ll get the bleeding heart types to gasping or fainting or suddenly turning their backs on the rights to free speech.

You can read the news account for yourself, but the long and short of it is, by a 2-1 vote, the Nord End is now home to it’s very first idiot magnet.

Yep, why should the Nord End be spared from the reverse-gentrification the do-gooders are importing to every other neighborhood? Why not here?

Trust me, I knew going in that there was probably no way any zoning board was going to deny a variance to any do-gooder outfit already established in the city. In my mind, no way. And I also suspect that somebody higher on the political ladder may have made the board members aware of the resulting negative press a no vote on the variance would have likely resulted in. Who knows, not me.

But picture the fallout. The board votes no, and then the Citizens’ Voice reports the next day that the homeless homeless shelter may be about to go the way of the Chevrolet…extinct. And the bleeding heart types go all apoplectic and what have you.

And then the Wilkes-Barre bashing radio talk show hosts seize yet another opportunity to bash Wilkes-Barre by inviting the regular dimwitted callers to call in and bash the administration of the city. Bash away, dummies. What fun.

And then the mayor or one of his underlings would probably feel the need to do some quick damage control by pointing out that the Zoning Board is an autonomous body, which the administration of the city has no control over…yada, yada, effing yada.

So, rather than cause all of that chaos and tumult, just grant the request for the zoning variance and hope the idiots drawn to this relocating do-gooder magnet don’t get too drunk and too ornery and too mischievous and the like.

Going in, I had no idea of what to expect. I figured they’d swear me in, allow me to make my statement and then shoo me away for being so utterly heartless and so completely insolent. That’s what I figured. And that was far, far off the mark.

What actually transpired was a rapid fire point/counterpoint exchange between myself and Bill Bolan, president of the board that operates Ruth’s Place. That immediately followed this fantasy land presentation by Bolan and an attorney, wherein their version of a homeless shelter was depicted as the best-run facility this side of the Heaven annex.

It’s one thing to be able to write well, as I have often been accused of doing. But it’s a whole other thing to be able to think on your feet and fast. Honestly, I found it to be invigorating. And I felt that nervous energy building inside of me, like right before you know violence is about to break out. What a rush!

The first thing they presented were the results of a survey they had conducted of the businesses in close proximity to the old location on N. Franklin Street. And overwhelmingly, they found that there were little or no objections to the presence of the homeless shelter. This brought a grin to my face.

Allow me to get this straight. At the part-time, night-time shelter, the homeless folks were locked indoors all night, right after nearly all of the employees of the nearby financial institutions have departed Wilkes-Barre for the day. That would be, the employees who had little or no contact with anyone that might be visiting the shelter during the PM hours. What a joke.

I pointed out the absurdity of the findings and received no rebuttal.

Bolan pointed out that the women who needed shelter were also given “counseling” as a way of helping them overcome their addictions and the like. I fired back that, according to their Web site, the counseling was not mandatory of the invitees. In other words, they can refuse the counseling. That was the first time Bolan seemed to be stunned. And then he launched into this “Many of the…” explanation, that he would be repeating after each of my volleys. “Well, many of the…”

Yeah! Many of the…but the others fall through the cracks, right?

He claimed that if they refuse counseling, the goal is to then place them in another facility. Okay, I’ll bite. Like, in one of the many other homeless shelters located here in Wilkes-Barre? He’s funny.

He went on to say that there was little accessible alcohol for the shelter attendees, something I quickly corrected by pointing out the multitudinous list of bars within mere spitting distance. He had no response to that. It makes you wonder, don’t it? Why was he so quick to stress that his future foundation grant invitees would not have easy access to alcohol? What unnerves him about the accessibility of alcohol? Any ideas? Anyone?

He also went well out of his way to make it sound as if the property they were hoping to relocate to was in an industrial park, never mentioning the nearby residences of the surrounding neighborhood, only the nearby businesses. Incorrect, as I pointed out. And this is a point that should have resulted in the variance being denied. Not only do I reside within 120 feet of the structure in question, but on the South said, there are homes within 30 feet of the complex. As I said, this should have been the deciding issue. But, it’s politically incorrect to deny the do-gooders, the homeless and especially, the saintly women done wrong by, well, done wrong by themselves for the most part.

Funny though, as Bolan and I were sparring away with a zoning guy refereeing the affair, the room full of well-dressed do-gooder supporters were staring at me almost disbelievingly. “What a horrible, horrible man,” they must have been thinking. Right. These would be the do-gooders that don’t live anywhere near any idiot magnets. Same as it always was and always will be with the folks doing the greater good, doing it far, far away from where they live.

Others were eyeballing me and whispering amongst themselves. I got the impression they were inquiring about just who was this mean old, heartless man. Whatever. I gave my name and address when I was sworn in. I’m Mark Cour, I live right across the street, and I’ll be watching you and yours while listening to the police scanner and paying for copies of the soon-to-be police reports for my new Ruth‘s Place file. And remember, the police scanner never lies. It only accurately reflects what’s going on.

Yesterday I had a conversation with an acquaintance of mine who resides on the South side of the building, right across the street from Benco Dental, and with Benco’s massive parking lot sitting directly behind his house.

He knew about the results of the zoning hearing, he applauded me for fighting the good fight and he said it’s time for the neighbors to chain down anything that can be pawned. Pawned? Words of wisdom. And he went on to say that the cars in the Benco lot have been broken into on occasion by the miscreants that wander along the railroad tracks, and that some of the neighbors were watching out when they could. And it was his opinion that the cars would be broken into more frequently once the homeless shelter opens, and the being-on-our-best-behavior, the initial self-imposed probationary period passes by for the management of the shelter. And sure as I’m a juvenile posing as an adult, that will come about.

“This is a neighborhood. They just about characterized it as an industrial park,” Cour said. “I do not believe a neighborhood that has not been ravaged by crime … is the right place for a 24-hour homeless shelter. The North End is a pretty peaceful neighborhood. We aim to keep it that way.”

What I said was, I do not believe a neighborhood that has not been ravaged by crime and reverse-gentrification is the right place for a 24-hour homeless shelter.

Damn straight!

And just as police scanners do not lie, neither do pictures or videos, something I will be taking en masse when the need arises just across the street. Neither do police reports, and neither do things that go missing, neither do recycling cans dumped over and stripped of aluminum cans. And neither do the neighbors that intend to hold the do-gooder management of that homeless shelter completely accountable.

When it sat on N. Franklin Street, it was flanked by commercial structures that operated primarily in the daytime. But up here in Nord End, this is a neighborhood 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. And the very last thing we deserved was a quorum of two deciding that what the Nord End needed was to play home to homeless alcoholics, homeless drug addicts, the homeless mentally ill, the homeless emotionally disheveled, the homeless physically battered and perhaps a slew of homeless parolees.

No, what the Nord End needed was for the quorum of two to do the right thing by ruling that a viable and still safe neighborhood should not be home to an idiot magnet. And in that respect, they willingly turned their backs on us.

And I’ll leave you with the proof that that latter comment is true and accurate.

There was a reason why Bill Bolan did his level best to make it sound as if the property in question was in an industrial park of sorts, with nary a mention made of any homes or neighborhoods in the general vicinity. And that’s because that’s exactly where this homeless shelter belongs, in an industrial or commercial area, far from any neighborhoods. He knows it, I know it, and so do the quorum of two.

But, alas, without a home, the homeless shelter doesn’t exist. And if the homeless shelter doesn’t exist, the proprietors, the do-gooders of said idiot magnet lose their foundation grants. And without their foundation grants, they have no more, what once was, a cottage industry. More precisely, they have no more jobs. And that’s really what it’s all about, money.

Sez me, the graduate of the Association of Gospel Rescue Mission’s online course, Beginning Guide to Foundation Grants. The guy who bothered to investigate how and why the crafting of idiot magnets became such a rapidly growing industry.

The North End is a pretty peaceful neighborhood. We aim to keep it that way.”

You asked, so here it is. There’s been nothing new on the genealogy front. In fact, if you can locate one Eugene J. Cour, you will win an all-expenses paid trip for four to the 2009 Thompson Street Block Party, which is hard-slotted for Saturday, August 8th.

The only thing I managed to dredge up recently were some U.S. patents he scored while working for IBM, Oswego. Here’s one:

A Bit Rate Generator? You sure got me by the ball bearings.

Many have said that, even though I never knew him, that I definitely take after my father in many respects. All of which makes wonder the what-ifs whereas what I might be doing now if I would have been provided with the education he was provided with.

Then again, if I did become some high-priced genius long, long ago, I wouldn’t be here annoying the hell out of the lot of you. I think things worked out for the best, don’t you?

Don’t answer that!

I volunteered to do some sweeping and such as part of this, what’s it called, the All American Wilkes-Barre Cleanup Day? I dunno. Something like that.

Funny, this would not be my first go-round with this city cleanup stuff. I’ve been doing it for 6 years now, and I put together two rather ambitious projects. One being the rehab of the grassy median strips in the middle of Pennsylvania Avenue. And the biggest being the cleaning of the entirety of Kirby Park, which was sponsored and paid for by my employer.

Some say they pay taxes and shouldn’t have to get involved, and that’s all fine and good. As for me, I’d rather just jump on in there and get whatever needs getting done done. What’s the worst that can happen? Some exercise?

So, if you see a guy sweeping this street and the immediate surrounds, aim your car at that guy and hope for the best.

Good luck with that.

Why not end this electronic malarkey with some dartboard fodder, yes?

Gage Andrew is playing Little League these days. And with his family traveling north for Easter, he wanted to model his uniform for us. Now, while he’s on the Orioles, his mom tells us that when he was placed on his team, he rushed to tell his dad he was on the OREOS. Cute.

In addition, he was excited to learn that his Aunt Ebbie, as a child, also played for the Orioles, only here in Nord End. And since Wifey and I saved every sports uniform our kids had ever worn, Ebon and Gage decided to pose together in their Little League jerseys.

Yes, you heard that right. Even at her advanced age, Ebon still fits in her Little League jersey.



And then my son Marque tried the same thing. Sure, he fit in the old jersey. Sort of. Almost. Turned out, he had way more trouble getting it off than on.


And lastly, Ebon recently hit two home runs for LCCC. Not home runs like round-the-park home runs. Home runs like driven over the fence home runs. She’s still got it.