Thursday, September 28, 2006

The LuLac Edition #66, Sept., 29th, 2006


Going to the candidate's debate.
Laugh about it, shout about it
When you've got to choose
Every way you look at this you lose.


Republican Christine Katsock and Democrat Ed Pashinski squared off for a debate sponsored by the League of Women Voters at Wilkes Barre’s King’s College McGowan Center. About 75 people attended the event and the debate was civil, informative, congenial and in effect a draw. Both candidates acquitted themselves well and if either one wins election to the seat vacated by Kevin Blaum, the district would be a big winner.
Here are some observations: Katsock is the best kept political secret in Luzerne County. She has a command of the issues, is a compelling speaker and in any other area of the state, she’d already be in public office.
Pashinski’s performance was steady, less fact filled but relied on his vast experience in music education, business and as a popular teacher. Pashinski was easy going but passionate while making his points.
Katsock quoted Ben Franklin saying, you can have government involvement and economic growth, but you can’t have both.
Pashinski noted the 6 step plan for success passed on to him by his family, saying that one can be successful by having Attitude, Pride, Organization, Desire, Self Discipline and Fortitude.
As stated before, both candidates were a credit to our democracy.
On various issues, let me break it down:


Katsock was adamant about finding a solution for the influx of people coming into town and causing problems. She said local governments could not solve the problem and suggested a comprehensive state law that would have teeth in it to help local officials with out of town criminals. She alluded to the Mary Leo murder as well as social service organizations that cater to people without in town credentials.
Pashinski talked about early childhood intervention, more police protection, and more neighborhood involvement. He stated that crime prevention cost money and that more police should be on board but health care costs prohibit smaller municipalities from hiring more police. That led into a discussion on health care reform.


Katsock said that a close look had to be taken at health insurance companies with surpluses and felt that money should be given back to the consumer.
Pashinski felt that a study of health care should be conducted and what is good should stay, what’s bad should be eliminated. Both agreed that with medical malpractice, the citizen had a right to a jury trial but Katsock said there should be caps on the pain and suffering clause of the tort law. In terms of health care reform, Pashinski called for a freeze on health care spending until something could be studied further.


Pashinski said if you eliminated a sales tax or any other one, it would have to be replaced with another tax to add the loss of revenue to the budget. Katsock said the property tax should be eliminated totally and referenced sheriff sales in the papers making the point that homeowners have no trouble paying state, county or federal taxes but are getting killed by property taxes. Pashinski, while saying taxes provided services said he was not in favor of a tax increase. Katsock agreed.


Pashinski said he’d be in favor of a KOZ zones which would give new businesses free rent for the first year to fill up the downtown storefronts. He said that less wrangling and power plays between the Chamber and government might make things better. Katsock touched on the crime issue saying that people needed to be safe not only in the downtown but in all neighborhoods.


Katsock related her two days at Wilkes recruiting new voters and felt that more public education in high school as well as the colleges should be undertaken so more young people are involved in the process. Pashinski noted the paucity of young people in the audience and said young people needed to get more engaged in the process because his age demo’s time is nearly over and that he is seeking the office for the welfare of his children and grandchildren.


Both said they would not take a pay raise but in different ways. Pashinski said they (the Legislature) did it all wrong but that wrong made a right. Pashinski noted that the pay raise issue woke people up, inspired them to get involved in the democracy and made the point that more eyeballs need to be watching both Harrisburg and Washington. Katsock used the opportunity to tell a story about going into the bosses office and asking for a blank check from the bosses’s business to pay a mortgage, a car payment as well other things. She compared that to the unvouchered expenses legislators voted for themselves as well as the pay hike. Katsock quoted from the Jefferson reform iniative which as one of its key planks prohibits any legislation from being passed between midnight and 8am and a freeze on all legislation after an election so the outgoing office holders won’t be able to affect the outcome of the future sessions.


Katsock reiterated her abolishment of the property tax, legislative and government reform, a program of directed spending as well as more contact with voters in her district.
Pashinski noted that you can tell where a person is going from where he has been. He outlined his forty years of service, said he had a history of bringing people together and would be a bi partisan legislator to help his district. He said we’re not just Democrats and Republicans but Pennsylvanians and Americans.

DEBATE NOTES………..Pashinski wore a single breasted navy suit with red tie, Katsock wore a salmon colored business suit…………..Both candidates agreed regionalization was important, Katsock lauded what Wilkes Barre Twp did with their revenues, Pashinski said that Wilkes Barre Twp was utilizing its resources and that with the addition of Mohegan Sun, Plains Twp should do well too. He pointed to Ashley as a problem area for revenue since they don’t have a lot of room for development….Pashinski made a joke asking if men could join the League. He was told yes. The League does need new blood, the website has not been updated in months and still shows the calender from the Spring primary……….Debate time: roughly under 1 hour…..Weather conditions, a slight drizzle at the start, a downpour at the end of it…..and last but not least,
the facilities at King’s College were first rate.


Good friend Jim Gibson forwarded the article from THE NEW REPUBLIC on the Sherwood/Carney race. I'm reprinting the whole thing because it's a great piece of writing and gives you an insight into how the 10th District is viewed by outside media.

Meshoppen Postcard
by Eve Fairbanks Post date: 09.22.06Issue date: 10.02.06

It's Labor Day at the Wyoming County Fair in Meshoppen, Pennsylvania, and the campaign season is underway. At the Wyoming County Democrats booth, Chris Carney, an earnest young Naval Reserve commander-turned-professor who is running for Congress, entertains a steady stream of voters. Carney, the challenger, is stumping hard--there's speculation that if he can win in the strongly conservative Tenth District, Democrats can take back the House--and, soon, his booth runs out of yard signs. One might expect a similar scene at the GOP booth a few yards away. But no one, save for a few county party officials, is there--not even the district's incumbent Republican representative, Don Sherwood.
Instead, Sherwood, a grandfatherly man in a checkered shirt and work boots, can be found at the bottom of a short hill, away from the fair's lively bustle, standing by a horsey-smelling mud patch. As he has almost every year for 15 years, Sherwood is helping lead a traditional farm competition called a horsepull, in which teams of Belgian Draft horses try to haul toboggans stacked with 1,000-pound concrete blocks 27-and-a-half feet along a strip of dirt. Usually, Sherwood helps load the concrete blocks onto the sled, but, a few weeks earlier, the 65-year-old had a heart procedure; so this year, he just hangs out, unannounced, chatting on his walkie-talkie. Although the race's first independent poll, released two weeks ago, has Sherwood seven points behind Carney, he is more passionate about discussing the drama of the horsepull than the upcoming election. "Oooh!" Sherwood whistles, in the middle of a question about his campaign: A pair of Belgians has stepped over the out-of-bounds line. "It's a psychological game," Sherwood tells me in a low voice. "If a teamster decides [his horses] can't pull it, he'll quit, because he doesn't want to teach them they can't pull it."
This calculus does not, it seems, apply to Sherwood himself. Despite the fact that he is facing the toughest challenge of his political career, Sherwood is surprisingly sanguine about his ability to pull his sled back to Washington. "I'm pretty well-known in the district--it's a lot of country people," he says. "I think we'll have it under control." Kicking back at the horsepull rather than joining the lawn-sign brigade might be a reflection of this confidence. But it might also be a way to hide out and avoid pressing the flesh--a potentially freighted activity for this embattled congressman. For, in addition to the considerable liabilities that come with being a Republican incumbent this fall, Sherwood has a highly original one of his own: In 2004, his 29-year-old mistress accused him of trying to strangle her during a massage. That's right. Dennis Hastert and his party could lose the House thanks to a backrub gone awry.
The tale of Don Sherwood's rise is a post-1994 Republican fairy tale, in which a sensible Everyman ascends from the dusty walks of rural America to the halls of the Capitol. Returning home from the Army in 1966 with the entrepreneurial itch, Sherwood founded a car dealership in his Wyoming County hometown and was soon elected to the local school board. Over decades selling cars and building schools, he became known for his genial, can-do personality. In 1998, he made a longshot bid for Congress against a member of the Casey family, Pennsylvania political royalty. Nobody thought Sherwood could win, but, after mobilizing nearly 2,000 volunteers and campaigning on family values and lower taxes, he was elected by 515 votes--the closest victory in the country that night.
After another close race in 2000, the Republican state legislature redrew the Tenth District for Sherwood with the same tender care a man takes in building a dream house for his beloved. Blue Scranton was expertly excised from the east side, and rural, traditional segments of five counties were tacked onto the bottom. Sherwood also won a seat on the House Appropriations Committee--setting him up to bring home treats like a $12 million grant to reclaim abandoned mine land. His new, gerrymandered district was so conservative--and so in love with his capacity to deliver pork--that even Democrats didn't seem to mind that he was a Bush loyalist. In the 2002 elections, Sherwood got enough write-in votes in the Democratic primary that he appeared on the final ballot as both the Republican and the Democratic candidate. As an unrepentant admirer who called himself Moon put it at the fair, the Tenth had become "Donnie Country."
Sherwood flourished in Washington as well, moving into Hill House, a reality show-ready Capitol Hill dormitory in which nearly half the rooms are occupied by legislators. Though he had a wife and kids back home, Sherwood enjoyed the Washington scene. "In most cities, the nightlife's on the weekends, but, in Washington, it's Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday!" he tells me. In 1999, at a Young Republicans event, he met Cynthia Ore, a Peruvian-American grocery-store heiress and aspiring Hill intern in her early twenties. She was attracted to his salt-of-the-earth charm. "Guys in D.C. try to be so suave," she later recalled in a newspaper interview. "They drive Bentleys and Ferraris. Don has a truck."
But, by September 15, 2004, Sherwood's country charm had worn thin. That was the day Ore called the police from the bathroom of his apartment in Hill House, claiming he had tried to throttle her. When the police arrived, Sherwood protested that he'd merely been giving Ore a vigorous backrub. The police, for their part, determined that Ore did not seem to be "of sound mind." A year later, after their report was made public, Ore sued Sherwood for $5.5 million, but the matter was dispatched with a settlement.
Whether Sherwood was really choking or massaging may never be known. But the episode, while no Chappaquiddick, was pretty sordid for the Tenth. "Nobody has any morals anymore," one constituent lamented in the local paper. And yet, Sherwood vowed to run again.
Signs of trouble for his bid appeared long before this Labor Day. In May, despite having raised more than $1 million, Sherwood was nearly derailed by a primary challenger who spent less than $5,000 on her campaign and won 44 percent of the vote. Sherwood's underwhelming showing "shocked the political establishment in the state," says Terry Madonna, a professor of public affairs at Pennsylvania's Franklin & Marshall College, and led the Cook Political Report, the Rothenberg Political Report, and Congressional Quarterly to upgrade the race's competitiveness.
But Sherwood and his campaign staff seem only vaguely concerned about their precarious situation. As of press time, he has no campaign website. When I saw him at the fair, he had not sent out any mailings, nor done any TV ads (he recently went on the air, nearly a month after Carney). A call to the state committee revealed that no upcoming campaign events were on record there. "I don't know why," offered the perplexed committee staffer. "I guess we haven't been told about any."
Though some might chalk it up to incompetence, Sherwood and his staff imply that their lay-low strategy is intentional--that they understand things about how the race will play out that others don't. "The conventional wisdom is that the Democrats will take over the House, and Republicans aren't running good campaigns," a Sherwood staffer explains. "If you look at that, it's not true. People here are everyday people. They relate to somebody like Sherwood." As for the affair's impact on the race, when I ask Sherwood about the settlement, he replies, with a strange smile, "Do you think there was a settlement?"
What about the terrible primary, the disappointing poll? Worrying about how numbers stack up, the staffer explains, is a bad habit some Democrats have--specifically those who attended liberal arts colleges. "Being a student of Aristotle," he says, "you look at logic. Well, in 2000, there were more registered Democrats in the district, and Don still won."
In the end, aside from the sense of entitlement generated by the "Donnie Country" phenomenon, aside from the belief that the apparent national wish for change is a fad, and aside from denial of facts (on the poll: "We think the results are crap," Sherwood spokesman Jake O'Donnell told a local paper), there is an element of pure mysticism driving the Sherwood campaign. Rejecting the cold science of the Democrats, they keep faith with the justice of the heavens.
But the most amazing thing about the alleged strangling is that it might not matter--or, at least, might not matter very much. Fortunately for Sherwood, sleaze isn't playing nearly as big in this election as was expected. In recent polls, voters rank "ethics in Washington" or "corruption in Washington" at the very bottom of the list of factors influencing their November decision. Some at the fair even seem to expect a mishap like a strangling to befall anyone who sets foot in Washington. "Oh, that?" says Marlene Fuhr, a lively blonde dressed in pink from head to toe, when I ask her about the alleged strangling. "He misbehaved in Washington, but they all do!"
Unfortunately for Sherwood, the issues are playing well. When asked about the allegations, one registered Republican who worked with Sherwood on the school board responds, "Yes, I was surprised, and disappointed. ... [But] my greater disappointment with Don is the nearly visible puppet strings to the Bush administration." And, at the fair, outside a pink-and-white striped funnel cake stand, Bradford Barnes, a born-again Christian conservative from nearby Mehoopany, says, "I told Donnie, 'I was kind of mad at you.'"
"Because of the affair?"
"I'm mad that we've still got illegal immigration," he replies. In any other race, Sherwood's scandal would likely be the central joke. In this unusual year, it's better to be an alleged strangler than a Bush puppet.
Staying down at the horsepull may be the best way for Sherwood to believe he's still in Donnie Country. During the ten minutes I spend at the GOP booth, only one person comes over to request Sherwood paraphernalia: an eager, mischievous-looking little boy who wants campaign balloons. As a staffer bends to inflate them, I look at the kid more closely. It is Chris Carney's son.

Eve Fairbanks is an assistant editor at The New Republic.

The LuLac Edition #65, Sept. 28th, 2006


When you are getting nailed at the gas pumps, you have to take the pain away by playing a game with yourself. During the past year, when gas prices were so high, I made a pledge not to get any more gas than $25.25 cents worth. I called it the Zager and Evans line after that 1969 hit, "In the Year 2525". There were some weeks when, not passing the Zager and Evans line, I maybe got myself three quarters of a tank. Never, ever, a full tank. I'm happy to report that as of Tuesday, I got gas and filled my tank, falling just shy of the Zager and Evans line of $25.25. with my total coming in at $25.19. So my Sebring has broken the Zager and Evans line...barely. But I would never have predicted that on the fourth of July.


My good friend Shadoe Steele, most likely very familiar with Zager and Evans and all things classic is going to be interviewing a golden oldie this weekend on WILK NewsRadio. The show will air Saturday at 12 noon and Mr. Steele will interview former WILK talk show host, friend of the teacher's union, the man who brought you a sold out 8,000 seat arena on Opening Night instead of a 15,000 seat building, you know him, you love him, you never forgot him, Mr. Ted Williams. Uh, Ed Williams? Uh, Ned Williams??? Whatever that has beens name was, Shadoe will be interviewing him. I'm heading over to Peter Paul Olshefski's house to sit down with the Judge and tune in.


Joe Leonardi, candidate for Congress in the 11th Congressional District desperately wants to debate Congressman Paul Kanjorski. Leonardi has enlisted the help of old Honest Abe himself to rekindle the spirit of the Lincoln and Douglas debates. I think Leonardi is at the point right now where he'd settle for a replay of an old Carolee Medico/Jill Moran debate! Anyway, Joe Leonardi is still waiting.
Leonardi is serious about this race. Here's a listing of some of the people who are working on his behalf.

General Campaign Manager David Spencer
Deputy Campaign Manager Paul Stebbins
General Campaign Coordinator Michael McCormick
General Chairman Jeff Yockavitch
Vice Chairman Edward Zabroski
Communications Director Tony Policare
Treasurer Lori Vandermark
Webmaster Frank Vandermark
Co- Luzerne County Coordinator Gina Nevenglosky
Co-Luzerne County Coordinator Joyce Dombroski-Gebhardt
Carbon County Coordinator Stephen Redash
Columbia County Coordinator Matt Wagner
Lackawanna County Coordinator Jim Williams
Monroe County Coordinator Dan Pagano
College Coordinator Joel Jukas
Video Media Coordinator Arnold Santos
Research Analyst Carol Chisak
Dr. Joe Leonardi is proud to have the above people join his campaign to bring a new vision and a new voice to government.


Dr. Joseph Leonardi Candidate U.S. House Weekend Schedule
wStroudsburg, East Stroudsburg Saturday, September 30, 2006
Best Western to various restaurants
Monroe Farmers Market to downtown businesses
2:00 PM
East Stroudsburg Town Hall to downtown businesses
Monroe County Historical Society Annual Spaghetti DinnerJ.T. Lambert Intermediate School 2000 Milford Rd. E. Stroudsburg PA

Scranton, Dickson City
Sunday October 1, 2006

12:00PM Buona Pizza, Lackawanna Ave to downtown businesses
3:00PM Viewmont Mall Area
7:00PM Lackawanna and Luzerne County Fall Dinner, Convention Hall


Going to the candidate's debate.
Laugh about it, shout about it
When you've got to choose
Every way you look at this you lose.

After once defending it as good legislation, Gov. Ed Rendell on Monday said he erred by signing the controversial pay-raise legislation last year that boosted salaries for lawmakers, judges and other state officials.
“No question I made a mistake in signing it,” the governor said during an appearance before the Pennsylvania Press Club.Mr. Rendell said he had developed a solid working relationship with the Republican-controlled Legislature during his first two years in office and signed the pay-raise bill because he did not want to undermine that rapport.
Republican challenger Lynn Swann, who has been trying to link Mr. Rendell to the pay raise in voters’ minds, used the latest remarks to hammer the Democratic incumbent for putting deal-making ahead of the public’s best interests.The debate heated up later in the day when the two appeared together at a candidates’ forum in Hershey.Sitting on the same stage, Mr. Rendell called Mr. Swann a “hypocrite” for bashing him while supporting two Republican lawmakers — Senate President Pro Tem Robert Jubelirer, R-Blair, and Senate Majority Leader David Brightbill, R-Lebanon — who helped negotiate the pay raise measure. Both lawmakers lost their re-election bids in the May primary.Mr. Rendell also rejected the notion that the pay raise was negotiated without public knowledge, noting the media first began reporting on pay raise talks in late 2004, several months before the bill was approved and signed in July 2005.“So it was in the public domain, people had time to comment,” Mr. Rendell said. “If people didn’t listen, there was nothing we could do about that.”Mr. Swann suggested the governor was trying to sidestep any blame.“He’s taken every position you can on this,” Mr. Swann said. “He called it good legislation, (then) tries to blame the Legislature ... and now is trying to blame the (voters of the) commonwealth because he said they had a chance to voice their opinion and they didn’t."

SWANN SPOTS HIT THE AIRWAVES………..Finally, the quote Ed Rendell made about tax reform relief is coming back to haunt him. In 2002, Rendell campaigned around the state saying he could enact property tax reform standing on his head. The new Swann ad has a chubby fellow carrying around a cardboard cutout of the Governor asking people how that property tax thing is working out for them. It culminates with a little old lady hitting the cutout with her purse. (The GOP strategists seem to have a thing for feisty older ladies, remember the senior citizen gal who shoved Senator Santorum off the polka floor?) This new ad plus Swann’s performance in the first debate and the Governor’s less than stellar effort (he seemed to want to be anywhere else but on that stage) might give the GOP candidate the boost he needs to close the gap with Rendell. The ad is funny, creative and goes after what many consider to be the Achilles heel of the Rendell effort.


Former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani will speak at a lecture sponsored by the Jay S. Sidhu School of Leadership at Wilkes University.
Giuliani will be the featured lecturer at Wilkes University’s Outstanding Leaders Forum at 8 p.m. Nov. 12 at The F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts. Last year’s speaker was former Secretary of State Colin Powell.
Tickets can be purchased through The F.M. Kirby Center box office at 826-1100 or at Ticketmaster locations including Boscov’s and Gallery of Sound, online at or by calling 693-4100. Tickets are $35.
This year’s forum also includes a New York-style buffet which begins at 5:30 p.m. at the Marts Center on South Franklin Street. Tickets to the buffet are $100 and include preferred seating for Mayor Giuliani’s lecture and a tax-deductible $40 donation to the scholarship fund and dinner. For more information on the buffet ticket purchase, call 570-408-4306.
Speaking of Rudy, he has been showing up in Santorum for Senator ads touting the incumbent Senator’s record on homeland security. This ad is very informative, classy and might make people forget about the ad attacking Robert Casey, Jr. that featured a smoke filled room of politicos looking like a Casey band of supporters who wind up behind bars. The problem with that of course is that two of the contributors featured in the ad gave nothing to Casey but some amounts of money to the Senator. Many feel that ad backfired on the Senator's re-election effort.
The ex Mayor's last visit was to Wilkes Barre stumping for President Bush in the 2004 Presidential campaign.


Monday, September 25, 2006

The LuLac Edition #64, Sept. 25th, 2006

YOU GO BILL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

In a combative interview on "Fox News Sunday," former President Clinton defended his handling of the threat posed by Osama bin Laden, saying he tried to have bin Laden killed and was attacked for his efforts by the same people who now criticize him for not doing enough.
Clinton accused host Chris Wallace of a "conservative hit job" and asked: "I want to know how many people in the Bush administration you asked, 'Why didn't you do anything about the Cole?' I want to know how many people you asked, 'Why did you fire Dick Clarke?"'
He was referring to the USS Cole, attacked by terrorists in Yemen in 2000, and former White House anti-terrorism chief Richard A. Clarke.
Wallace said Sunday he was surprised by Clinton's "conspiratorial view" of "a very non-confrontational question, 'Did you do enough to connect the dots and go after Al Qaida?"'
"All I did was ask him a question, and I think it was a legitimate news question. I was surprised that he would conjure up that this was a hit job," Wallace said in a telephone interview.
Clinton said he "worked hard" to try to kill bin Laden.
We contracted with people to kill him. I got closer to killing him than anybody's gotten since," he said.
He told Wallace, "And you got that little smirk on your face and you think you're so clever, but I had responsibility for trying to protect this country. I tried and I failed to get bin Laden. I regret it, but I did try and I did everything I thought I responsibly could."
The interview was taped Friday during Clinton's three-day Global Initiative conference.
On NBC's "Meet the Press," also taped Friday and aired Sunday, Clinton told interviewer Tim Russert that the biggest problem confronting the world today is "the illusion that our differences matter more than our common humanity."
"That's what's driving the terrorism," he said. "It's not just that there's an unresolved Arab-Israeli conflict. Osama Bin Laden and Dr. al-Zawahiri can convince young Sunni Arab men, who have - and some women - who have despairing conditions in their lives, that they get a one-way ticket to heaven in a hurry if they kill a lot of innocent people who don't share their reality."
In case you missed this interview, it was Clinton at his finest in terms of taking on the press. As you read this, he (Clinton) is getting blasted by the right wing press but you know he had to be having fun. Clinton accused Chris Wallace of ambushing the interview, but it appeared Clinton did the same to Wallace and Fox. Clinton's performance points to bothy the greatest strength of the Democratic party as well as its greatest weakness. No one can command as much attention as he does. And he can't run again. Other would be Democrats are measured against the Clinton aura. And whatever you think about the interview Sunday, that's not a good thing for the prospective candidates in '08 for the Democrats.


There is a big buzz about a 911 Memorial at Kirby Park in the City of Wilkes Barre. Mayor Tom Leighton and City Council want to establish an elaborate memorial to commemorate the tragedy of Sept. 11th, 2001. The proposed sight would be Kirby Park. Unlike the Dan Flood memorial on the Square or the Veteran’s memorials at the courthouse, this proposal has not received universal support. And the reaction to that opposition from City Council is very disturbing.
City Council President Tony Thomas says that that the citizens of Wilkes Barre should never forget the terrible circumstances of 911 and remember it forever. He feels the monument should be a constant reminder. My feeling is that we don’t need a constant reminder in Kirby Park to remind us of the barbarism of 911. And if Thomas is worried about future generations not knowing about the event, then if they don’t, I place full blame on our educators and the parents of those children for not telling them the 911 story. A huge monument is not going to instill any sense of history.
Councilman Jim McCarthy’s comments that those who oppose the monument are unpatriotic speak for themselves. McCarthy, who will tell you verbally and in print that he has been present at every historical event since the birth of the Baby Jesus, really outdid himself this time with his attack on David Saxton. Saxton, who made a lucid presentation to City Council regarding the environmental and structural concerns of the huge monument at Kirby Park was disregarded by McCarthy. This is unfortunate because Saxton at no time disparaged the 911 event. City resident Peter Gagliardi opined that the Council might be looking at the Memorial as a tourist destination and questioned the political ramifications of erecting the monument. The only sane action and comment came from Councilman Bill Barrett who said there is plenty of time to discuss and look over the matter.
Here’s our take on this issue. First and foremost, I believe that 911 will be remembered forever by our nation, very much like Pearl Harbor. It was an attack on our very existence and the people who did so must be hunted down and eliminated from the human landscape. No expense should be spared in doing that specific thing. The people who have given their lives in New York, Washington, D.C. and in that tiny Pennsylvania town that day should be forever honored and remembered. The people who have their lives in Iraq (however misguided that mission has become) should also be honored and remembered. There is no question about that either. But the placement of a 911 monument in Wilkes Barre of all places is out of sync. The memory of the fallen truly belong in the hearts and minds of the citizens of this town, the monument on the grounds of our city does not. Here’s why:
1. The tragedy did not take place here. While some area residents were lost in 911, and that loss is huge, the main event did not take place here. A few men from our area died in Pearl Harbor and on D Day, they are remembered with singular memorials but you don’t see an entire Pearl Harbor memorial or D Day memorial anywhere here.
2. Kirby Park’s landscape would be changed forever. That pristine area now would be reduced in size and structure for more limited activities at the expense of citizens who use the park now.
3. Cost of upkeep on memorial. Sad to say, there would have to be a full time detail to watch and secure the monument. Many of our residents are clean, law abiding, and solid citizens that take pride in their homes and communities. But many are pigs, slobs and thugs. Look at our roadsides near the city. Our litter does not consist of cigarette butts and Coke cans, we have people throwing mattresses and couches out on the side of the road. Any open space in the downtown is spray painted with gang symbols. In Pittston, the monument to the firefighters was up a hot 2 months and vandals went after it. Our citizens have yet to demonstrate that they are responsible and worthy enough to have a monument of this cost and this size in a public park. Sorry, we have slobs and pigs living among us, both young and old.
4. Aspects of tourism. If the city wants to promote itself, you do so with upbeat and positive things. Tony Thomas made the comment that some citizens wanted to promote a museum to a cartoon character Mr. Peanut and wondered how that could compare to a memorial to the 911 fallen. It can’t. But one is an upbeat recognition of an industry that began and prospered here while the other is a memorial to a historical event that took place miles away from us. Mr. Peanut is an advertising icon, quite bluntly, his market share and recognition factor is way bigger than the unfortunate, brave, patriotic area residents who lost their lives in 911 and the war.
5. If it is a memorial you want for the 911 victims and war dead of the Iraq conflict, then build one in a more public place like the Square or on the lawn of the courthouse. Make it simple, classy and understated. Its simplicity would be tribute enough to the dead you wish to remember.
6. Finally, the rebirth of the city will not be built on the backs of the people who have died in 911 or the Iraq war. Their patriotism should not be an entrée into a rebuilt Wilkes Barre. Before we wrap ourselves in the flag we should tell city officials that it is not unpatriotic to make sure the potholes in the streets are fixed first, that it is not unpatriotic to fill up those empty downtown storefronts, that it is not unpatriotic to clean our neighborhoods of out of town hoodlums who live in our public housing and use our social services while preying on our weak and elderly, that it is not unpatriotic to consider lowering the salaries and benefits of do nothing council members who are only stirred to action when their personal livelihood is threatened, (I do not include the Mayor in this, he earns his money) and that it is not unpatriotic to attempt to bring high paying jobs with good benefits to city residents who are trying to make ends meet with less. You, City Council, as a governing body address those patriotic issues. When you are through with them and successful, then we’ll talk about your million dollar memorial.


Years ago there was a teleplay on 1950s television called The Devil And Daniel Webster. It was an adaptation of a work by Stephen Vincent Benet. In future editions we'll tell you about it.
But last week, America had inflicted upon it the rant of Cesar Chavez from the scenic country of Venezuela. Chavez did something that no amount of right wing talk radio could do in 6 years of the Bush administration and that is making the President a sympathetic figure. His little act at the United Nations gives you an indication that Chavez wants to be on the “A” team at the UN. The best way to do that is to attack George Bush who is not universally regarded well in the world because of his misadventure in Iraq. Chavez hopes to gain enough leverage to become a member of the Security Council. His outrageous comments regarding Bush have even elicited sympathy from liberal New York Congressman Charles Rangel. It is after all, an attack on our President. Perhaps the United States should invite the UN out of this country, stop paying support for this stepchild of democracy and employ other means to get our oil in other countries than Ceasar Chavez’. Again, let me reiterate, I never voted for George Bush, I think he is and has been wrong for this country and he will go down in history as the worst President we’ve ever had. All that said, as an American, I am appalled at the attack on the office of the Presidency and on the man he holds it. To use the description “devil” in these charged times, when Chavez has not used this term in describing the terrorists of 911 tells us pretty much where the little man stands. There are some who say that Bush brought the world condemnation on himself and this country with his foreign policy actions. I say if that’s the case, then perhaps the President might want to respond more vigorously than with ground troops in finishing up this war on terror. Hey, in for a penny, in for a pound. And while we’re at it, let’s cut off financial aid to countries like Chavez’, we did it to the Liberians in the mid 80s with economic sanctions and a few well placed bombs and that pretty much shut them up.


The argument can be made that the President has no other place to go but up in the polls but the last few weeks some amazing things are happening on the national level. The more the President talks about Iraq, the war, the terrorists and his foreign policy plans, the more people seem to listen to him. Bush is at his best when he is out front defining his positions and even though many feel they are wrong and failed, standing by his guns. You can sum up the 2004 election with two statements. BUSH: “You may not like what I say or agree with it, but I stand up for what I believe in, right or wrong”. KERRY: “I was against the war when I first voted for support of the war”. Given the fact that there is no true Democratic voice on the war on terror, or Iraq, the Bush team might pull off another electoral win by putting their guy out there as the lonely cowboy who stands by what he says. Watch as the future polling bears this out. For all the negatives George Bush has with the American people, at this stage of the game, nothing in the House or Senate will change.


The fallout from the baseball announcement that the New York Yankees farm team will be coming to Moosic continues. As reported here, Bob Cordaro is looking like a real hero here and if things go well in the first year, he and partner A.J. Munchak will be re-elected to another term as Commissioners. Cordaro has always wanted to be a Congressman, he ran as a Democrat in 1988 against Joe McDade and lost. I can foresee a scenario where in two years Cordaro would challenge either Don Sherwood should he win re-election or Chris Carney should he defeat Sherwood. The Yankee deal is not without its minor blips on the political radar screen. First off there is the relationship with the Luzerne County Commissioners who own half of the team. That deal was brokered in the mid 80s by County Commissioner Frank Trinicewski, Junior, a huge Phillie and baseball fan. The current commissioners are unhappy with the lack of communications with their Lackawanna County brethren. There is the issue of higher ticket prices. Can’t wait to hear the hue and cry from the older voting bloc that says, “but I’m on a fixed income!!!” Hey, we’re all on fixed incomes! And then there’s the new stadium talk. Do Lackawanna taxpayers want to foot the bill for a new stadium replacing one that’s under twenty years old? The possibility that Mandalay Entertainment will pay for a new stadium does not ring true. Just look at the parent club’s efforts in New York to build a new Yankee Stadium, not all of that money is private financing. So while I’m looking forward to the Yankees triple A team here, I am realistic to know that the bloom might come off this rose very quickly if things are not run right. This is after all Northeastern Pennsylvania where people historically would rather see a hearse in your driveway rather than a Cadillac!!

I'm honored to be a guest this week on the L.A. Tarone show on my favorite TV station, WLYN TV 35. The show will be broadcast on Service Electric, Channel 21 on Thursday, September 28th at 5:30PM.

Monday, September 18, 2006

The LuLac Edition #63, Sept. 18th, 2006

PICTURE INDEX.....Brenda Lee, circa 1960, Pete Rose and a young lady not his daughter or wife, (she's a fan most likely, I have those too!) and Pope Benedict.


Years ago when you wronged someone, a sincere apology usually did the trick. Whether it was a fight on the playground, a broken window, an unfulfilled promise, we were told that if we were sincere and expressed our regret, peace would reign. That was in a much more gentle time and place.
Today, an apology isn’t enough. Even in today’s volatile world, apologies are not accepted. Pope Benedict VI gave a speech in his native Germany on September 12th. He quoted a 14th century poet talking about the Islam religion. He made it clear these were not his words. He was quoting from an already published work. The work spoke of the violence inherent in the Muslin religion. The reaction to the Pope’s speech from the Muslim community was swift and combative. The same religious leaders who never apologized to the American people for the slaughter of our citizens on 911 were outraged that the Pope made this statement. Let me clarify here, the Pope never directly made the remark toward them. He quoted from a 14th century poet. Let’s do multiple choice here: The people who were offended by this slam against their religion reacted (a) With calm and rationality seeking to understand the quotations and what was in the Pontiff’s heart, (b) By inviting an open inquiry of the current violence in segments of their religion and denouncing it, (c) Openly inciting demonstrations, threatening the Holy See with vicious attacks and shooting a nun in the back in Bosnia. If you answered (c), the Pope and that 14th century poet’s point is proven. In spades.
Of course the Pope backpedaled on his statement and apologized if he offended anyone. And of course that apology wasn’t enough for the Muslims. I guess he has to burn himself in public and die the death of an infidel to satisfy the offended parties. Nothing is good enough for the Muslim radicals who want to destroy us.
George Bush, (a man I never voted for, never agreed with and who I think is the worst President we have had) is correct on one count. The Muslim radicals will destroy us if they are given the opportunity. The fact that the Pope can’t even open up a discussion or conversation tells you a great deal about their tolerance for the West. Taken to the logical conclusion of their reaction, then if I quote a book that talked about the evils of the Nazi regime or the Mussolini regime, am I going to offend Germans and Italians? If I quote from a book about how the English settlers and pilgrims abused Native Americans, will I offend the British? If I talk about the evils of southern plantation owners and the slaves they owned, will I be accused of hating the south and perpetuating the myth of the black as inferior and will every person black or white past the Mason Dixon line hate me because of it?
The Pope made a speech. He quoted from a 14th century poet. He apologized. It should have been accepted by the entire world. By the way, Americans are still waiting for our apology for 911. Or at least a denunciation from the Muslim world elite. But we’re still waiting and waiting and waiting............


Pete Rose, the baseball hit king who admitted to gambling on baseball and is the best player not elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame has continued to apologize for his actions. He has even begun to sign his autographed memorabilia with the inscription: “I’m sorry I bet on baseball, Pete Rose”. To some critics, this public mea culpa isn’t enough. Critics say Rose is doing this to raise the price for his items of memories. The critics say it’s Rose’s cynical attempt to garner sympathy to get the Hall of Fame voting members to elect him to the hallowed hall at Cooperstown. We should be grateful, at least Rose’s critics aren’t shooting nuns in the back.


One Halloween the place I worked at demanded we dress up for the holiday. I stopped doing that in 4th grade because for three years, my mother put me in a cobalt blue Captain Kangaroo costume. Finally at the age of 9, I asked, “Could I stop this now?” She let me. Anyway, I dressed up in a tux and went to work that day with a sign on my chest that read, “I’M SORRY”. When people asked what I was for Halloween, I said, “I’m a formal apology”. I had to explain it to a few people but most people understood.


If you need to apologize to someone today, here’s lyrics from Brenda Lee’s 1960 hit, you guessed it, “I’m Sorry”.

I'm sorry, so sorry
That I was such a foolI didn't know
Love could be so cruelOh, oh, oh, ohUh-oh
Oh, yesYou tell me mistakes
Are part of being young
But that don't rightThe wrong that's been done[
Spoken:](I'm sorry) I'm sorry(So sorry) So sorryPlease accept my apologyBut love is blindAnd I was to blind to see
Oh, oh, oh, ohUh-oh
Oh, yes
You tell me mistakesA
re part of being young
But that don't right
The wrong that's been done
Oh, oh, oh, ohUh-oh
Oh, yesI'm sorry, so sorry
Please accept my apology
But love was blind
And I was too blind to see(Sorry)

Saturday, September 16, 2006

The LuLac Edition #62, Sept. 16th, 2006

PICTURE INDEX: A.J. Munchak, Lackawanna County Commissioner, GOP 11th District Congressional candidate Joseph Leonardi, the Yankee logo and Atty. Robert Cordaro, Lackawanna County Commissioner.


Take two majority commissioners who raised taxes by more than 50%, then are criticized for it even though the last administration left them with a deficit. Then add in some built in controversy regarding the sale of a ski mountain as well as the declining attendance fortunes of a professional major league baseball team. All that adds up to trouble for re-election, unless of course something big comes your way. The stars have to align themselves just in the right place at the right time. Could it be that what was a looming disaster, the loss of the Philadelphia Phillies as the home team for the Triple A affiliate could be turned into a winning situation? No one would’ve thought the Columbus, Ohio team, the Clippers would be in the same situation as the Scranton Wilkes Barre Red Barons. The Clippers, after all were the franchise of the Yankees for over 25 years, 28 to be exact. And now, the renowned Yankees are making little old Scranton/Wilkes Barre their triple A team. In terms of political capital, this is a boon to the Cordaro/Munchak administration. Cordaro, who was booed on Gerry McNamera night, will surely be roundly cheered if the Yankees come to town. The political implications of this are HUGE. The Yankees are the most popular franchise in baseball history. And even if you aren’t a Yankee fan, you follow them. See what’s happening to the team in the Bronx. Rehab starts? Lackawanna Wonderful. Gene Michael in a limo coming down Montage Mountain Road? Lackawanna Wonderful!!! All the Cordaro/Munchak team need do to win re-election in 2007 is remind voters that they orchestrated the move. Or that the move happened on their watch. Tom Ridge’s political career was punctuated with a series of lucky happenstances that led to him reaching the peaks of power without a sweat. People used to joke, “God wakes up in the morning, looks himself in the mirror and says, “What can I do for Tom Ridge today?” Bob Cordaro, judging from this Yankee manna from heaven, just might have that same connection.


In a blatant attempt to garner the support of mushroom farmers, mushroom fans, mushroom lovers and devotees of creamed mushroom soup, the Governor has proclaimed September Mushroom Month. Now this might seem like a small thing, but state officials report that the industry contributes more than $391 million to the state's economy. Pennsylvania is the leading mushroom producing state in the U.S., with over 495 million pounds produced each year.The Keystone state is No. 1 in producing the button mushroom that's familiar to many consumers. The technical name is agaricus. Other varieties of mushrooms include shiitake, enoki and oyster.The number one county, in terms of overall mushroom production, is Chester, in southeast Pennsylvania.


It appears there will be more Senate debates than the ones that were set up for Bob Casey and Rick Santorum. The GOP incumbent has accepted the Green Party candidate’s invitation to debate across the state. The Casey camp has declined saying that they have a policy that each campaign can only have one representative on stage for debate at the same time. The Casey people contend that by the Green Party candidate accepting money from the Santorum camp, the aforementioned therefore is part of the GOP team.


Congressman Paul Kanjorski declines debate invitation.
Dr. Leonardi responds "I will debate anytime, anywhere."
On today’s Sue Henry Show, carried on the WILK network, Dr. Joe Leonardi expressed his concern that the voters are being denied a debate between the two candidates. Dr. Leonardi explained that about two weeks ago, he received an invitation from the Lackawanna League of Women Voters to debate the incumbent congressman. Dr. Leonardi told Sue Henry that he immediately cleared his schedule and made time to participate. He went on to explain that on Tuesday he received a call from the League of Woman Voters informing him that, the Congressman had declined the invitation to participate. In a discussion with Sue Henry, Dr. Leonardi said he would welcome a debate at the WILK studios. Dr. Leonardi stated that he would make himself available anytime if WILK could set up the debate.


Frank Castellino, long time Democratic Recorder of Deeds passed away the other day. Castellino first became Recorder of Deeds in 1968 after being elected in the near historic Democratic sweep of 1967. That election was known as Dr. John Dorris’ swan song. (Dorris was chair of the party and later died in December of ’67). Castellino served in that office for over 32 years, retiring in 1999. It is significant that no Democrat regained the office after he left it. Castellino was a scrappy guy. I remember him taking on a classroom of college students in 1975 when he was stumping for the Charter No group. (in 1975 there was a move afoot to change the county charter. Castellino stood before a crowded class of King’s Government students and essentially said, “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it”. He also extolled the virtues of the spoils system and how important it was to get, obtain and nurture political connections as a way to help you through life. It was an honest presentation of Luzerne County politics. Through the years, he was a fixture at the Courthouse and at Democratic events. Even when age and illness were taking their toll, he supervised his office with competence and as some staffers have said, kindness. Here’s his obit from the Times Leader.

Frank Castellino

Frank C. Castellino, former Recorder of Deeds, Luzerne County, died Friday, Sept. 15, 2006, at Wesley Village Nursing Facility, Jenkins Township. He was born Feb. 13, 1917, a son of the late Joseph and Giovanna (Mancino) Castellino. He was a 1934 graduate of Pittston High School and Wilkes-Barre Business College in 1939. Frank was re-elected Alderman in the City of Pittston from 1946 to 1966; a member of Pittston City Council from 1966 to 1968. Prior to being elected Recorder of Deeds, Luzerne County, he served in that office as chief clerk and then chief deputy since 1940. He also served in the U.S. Navy during World War II, returning to resume his duties at the courthouse. During his eight successive terms to office, in recognition of his many efforts and achievements, he was elected to president of the Pa. State Recorder of Deeds Association. In addition to being a charter member and the first president of the Greater Pittston Ambulance Association, he was also a member and past president of the Pittston Lions Club for over 50 years. He was a member and past president of the Montedoro Society and past president of the Luzerne County Columbus League, helping to erect the Christopher Columbus Memorial in the City. During his eight terms in office, Frank initiated many changes and improvements, including in 1993, the installation of the first computerized system for a county office in the state of Pa. He was also instrumental in creating a satellite office in Hazleton to better serve the lower county. Frank was preceded in death by his son Peter; his wife of 54 years, the former Josephine Puma; brothers Sam and Joseph; sisters Mary Sorci and Eleanor Sorci. Surviving are two sons Joseph and his wife, JoAnn, of West Pittston; Frank and his wife, Diane, of Harding; three grandchildren Peter of LaQuinta, Calif.; Helena of King of Prussia; and Cara Jo, a student at Savannah College of Art & Design; two step-grandchildren Dr. Shawn Miller of Dallas; and Alycia Fink of Tunkhannock.
Once when Harry Truman was barnstorming the nation, a local official ambled up to him and proudly introduced himself as the Prothonotary of the County. Truman looked at him with amusement and said, “What the hell is a Prothonotary?” The Prothonotary is in fact the chief notary of a courthouse. Here are the duties of the Recorder of Deeds as mandated by the state. This was the office Frank Castellino efficiently managed for 32 years.


The recorder of deeds is the officer responsible for maintaining the records relating to the transfer of real property in the county. This officer also records oaths and commissions of county officials, district justices and notaries and is the custodian of other miscellaneous documents.
The 1682 Frame of Government provided for an officer known as the master of the rolls who was selected annually by the governor from two names submitted by the Provincial Council. This individual served the whole province, and all land conveyances had to be recorded in his office. Besides recording deeds, mortgages and related papers, he also recorded the provincial laws. A 1683 law required that all deeds, mortgages, settlements and conveyances had to be acknowledged in open court.
In 1706 an act was passed for the acknowledgment and recording of deeds which required that every deed or conveyance and satisfaction had to be acknowledged by two witnesses before a justice of the peace with the recorder or enroller of deeds or his deputy being present. These documents then had to be recorded in the city or county where the land was located. Each county was to have an enrollment office, but there was no explanation how the selection of the recorder was made, This same law provided for the continuation of the master of the rolls for the whole province who maintained his office in Philadelphia and the other counties either personally or through his deputies. It appears that he was responsible for recording original deeds and patents while the local recorders handled deeds to land which had been previously granted. In 1809, the office of master of the rolls was abolished, and his records were turned over to the Land Office and the Secretary of the Commonwealth.
In 1711 and 1715, laws similar to that of 1706 were passed which determined the selection procedure for the recorders in each county. initially, the prothonotary or county clerk was ordered to act as recorder of deeds except in Philadelphia where the Assembly appointed a specific individual. The recorders in the other counties held office until the justices of the court of quarter sessions removed them and named replacements.
The 1776 Constitution made the recorder an appointee of the General Assembly, but the Constitution of 1790 gave that power to the governor. It was not until the Constitution of 1838 that the office became elective with the individual serving a three year term, The 1873 Constitution continued that practice, but a 1909 amendment increased the term to four years.
In the Constitution of 1776, the office of register of wills was created in each county and city. A law passed the following year required that one person serve as both recorder and register. According to the Constitution of 1838, the legislature was authorized to provide for the number of persons in each county who could hold the recording offices. An 1839 law formalized the division of the offices, and the county codes now provide for how the offices shall be filled depending upon the classification of the county. In the six home rule counties, the recorders of deeds are either elected or appointed. Although they may be called the clerk of records or director of court services and their responsibilities may include other recording functions, these officers or their deputies have essentially the same duties in regard to keeping real property records as the recorders in the other counties.
The recorder of deeds is the custodian of the records and indexes relating to the conveyance of land or the transfer of real property in the county. These include deed books and indexes, mortgage books and indexes, subdivision plans and various kinds of maps. This officer also records the commissions and oaths of county officials, district justices and notaries as well as maintaining copies of military discharges and numerous miscellaneous documents.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

The LuLac Edition #61, Sept. 15th, 2006


As I watched the very articulate Green Party candidate for the U.S. Senate opine on all things political on PCN the other night, I thought about Third Party candidates of the past. The Green Party candidate told a group of assembled supporters at the Rotunda of the Capitol in Harrisburg how it was his dream since grade school to be a candidate for the U.S. Senate. It was curious to me that the Green Party candidate slammed Robert Casey for not joining the debate fray and seemed to keep the gloves off of Senator Rick Santorum. (Oh well, I guess you don't want to bite the hand that feeds you!) Anyway, in his hour long speech, the Third party candidate railed against Casey for not wanting to debate. If that's all he has against Casey, then the Green Party candidate will be remembered just as well as Mark Clark and John Anderson. Those guys ran as Third Party candidates for President in 1980 and if you ask anyone on the street if they remember them today, nobody does. And that will most likely be the fate of the Green Party candidate for Senate in a few years.

RENDELL SPOT TOUTS PITTSBURGH.........People are still up in arms about that Ed Rendell spot running on Cable TV that touts the city of Pittstburgh as "Ed's kind of town". I think Rendell did the commericial to blunt criticism that he was the Governor of Philadelpia. And besides anytime I ever met Rendell he always hyped Harrisburg as the place to be. Read the inscription on the photo, "See you in Harrisburg!" Now that's what I call promoting where you live.

PITTSBURGH MAYOR ON LETTERMAN....Luke Ravenstahl, the new Mayor of Pittsburgh appeared on the David Letterman show Thursday night. Did well and held his own with Dave.

SWANN'S NEWEST COMMERCIALS...........Lynn Swann has a great new TV commercial running. He is finally running an issue oriented commercial talking about welfare reform. The problem is the Welfare to work program might have been an issue 10 years ago but doesn't seem to resonate with voters in 2006. Still, the ad presented Swann very well.

POLITICAL SHOPPING......Want to wear your support of your favorite candidate on your sleeve, or your back or your head? Here are some links to political stores.






The LuLac Edition #60, Sept. 15th, 2006


Before the election season kicks off in earnest and we have to be somewhat serious, let me do a take off on the Esquire Magazine Series "Women We Love". Part 2.
Geena Davis of course. Can't get enough of her smiling face.
Katherine Baker Knoll, the grand dame of Pennsylvania politics. Now vying for statewide office for at least the 10th time, CBK could show the cast of survivor a thing or two.
Mary Ann Yonki, for all she puts up with.
Francine Schertzer, a member of the staff of the Pennsylvania Cable Network who produces and hosts several shows on the network.
And GOP candidate Lynn Swann and his two, healthy, unidentified friends.

The LuLac Edition #59, Sept. 14th, 2006


Before the election season kicks off in earnest and we have to be somewhat serious, let me do a take off on the Esquire Magazine Series "Women We Love".
In this edition we have Sue Henry, a talk show host on WILK radio who tells it like it is with a pair of velvet gloves. She might be a Sox and Santorum fan, but like President Bush, you know where she stands.
Maria Sharapova, the simple black dress brought to the tennis courts, the win at the U.S. Open proving she's more than a marketing icon, and her fiesty behavior at the post match press conference make her a favorite in my book. At 6'2, I'd carry a stepstool with me all the time to feed her as many bananas as she wants.
The Buffalo Jills Chearleaders who I met in the Bahamas in 2004 and who graciously posed for a picture with me when they found out I was writing a book. Made me feel like an Arthur Miller in a sea of Marilyns.
And of course, Geena Davis. What more can be said!

Monday, September 11, 2006

The LuLac Edition #58, Sept. 12th, 2006



Pittsburgh recently lost its Mayor, Robert O’Connor who had previously served on the City Council. O’Connor was diagnosed with a rare form of brain cancer and died in early September. He was regarded as a positive booster of the city and had the distinction of hosting both the Super Bowl Champion Steelers as well as the All Star game in his short tenure. Here is a recap of his life and legacy to the Steel City as reported in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette on the day he died.

Pittsburgh Mayor Bob O'Connor died last night at 8:55, ending his fight with a brain cancer diagnosed when he was just six months into the job he had sought for a decade.
One hundred minutes later, City Council President Luke Ravenstahl was sworn in as the 59th mayor of Pittsburgh.
Mr. O'Connor, 61, died at UPMC Shadyside less than two months after being diagnosed with primary central nervous system T-cell lymphoma, a rare variant of an unusual cancer of the brain and spinal cord.
Present with the mayor at the time of his death were his wife, Judy, his sons, the Rev. Terrence O'Connor and Corey O'Connor, daughter Heidy Garth, in-laws Jacob and Dee-Dee Pelled, longtime friends Robert Jablonowski and Jimmy Carr, chief of staff Dennis J. Regan, secretary Marlene Cassidy, spokesman Dick Skrinjar and Kevin Quigley, manager of the city's "Redd Up" campaign.
"I'm devastated. He was my best friend," Mr. Jablonowski said. "It's a tremendous loss. People loved him. When I would walk the streets in Squirrel Hill, you couldn't walk 10 feet without someone coming up to him."
"Our region lost a great man and a visionary leader, and I lost a dear friend and confidant," said Dan Onorato, Allegheny County chief executive. "Bob O'Connor and I began our political careers on the same day, when we were sworn in as members of Pittsburgh City Council. From that day on, our friendship grew and strengthened, and we became partners in governing. My thoughts and prayers are with his wife, Judy, his children, Heidy, Father Terry and Corey, and the entire O'Connor family during this difficult time."
At City Hall last night, the process of succession began when Deputy Mayor Yarone Zober somberly crossed the hall from the mayor's office to council's office. He carried a blue folder containing a letter from acting city solicitor George Specter, advising that the post of mayor was vacant and asking if the council president would accept it.
Mr. Ravenstahl, at that point still the president, opened council's door and, his face a portrait of trepidation, wordlessly accepted the folder. He then retreated to council's hallway for several minutes.
Meanwhile, city officials gathered in the mayor's conference room. Council members William Peduto, Jim Motznik, Twanda Carlisle and Len Bodack assembled to the left of the conference room desk. Mr. Ravenstahl's current and former staff members gathered on the right. Administration members, including Mr. Skrinjar, Chief of Police Dominic J. Costa and Public Works Director Guy Costa, joined the gathering.
Mr. Ravenstahl, with his wife, Erin Lynn, entered from a door that connects with the council chamber. Then he placed his hand on a Bible, and Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Robert C. Gallo administered the oath of office.
"I, Luke Ravenstahl, do solemnly swear that I will support the Constitution of the United States, and of this state, and the charter of the city, and that I will faithfully discharge the duties of office to the best of my ability," he repeated after Judge Gallo.
Mr. Ravenstahl gave a short speech, calling the day one "of great sorrow and grief for the entire city of Pittsburgh." He ordered flags flown at half-staff and urged residents to pray for and support the O'Connor family.
He said nothing about his plans, other than to indicate that he will follow in Mr. O'Connor's footsteps.
"His words and actions and deeds will serve as a model to my tenure as mayor of the city of Pittsburgh," he said. "The time will come for Pittsburgh to continue on with its mission. Now is the time for us to look back and reflect on what Mayor Bob O'Connor has meant for the city of Pittsburgh. He will be dearly missed."
He took no questions but returned to the Council Chamber, an aide closing the door behind him.
"Tonight, we get a new mayor, and the city has to rally around Luke Ravenstahl like it rallied around Bob O'Connor," said Mr. Peduto.
Hours earlier, it had been a day of uncertainty and prayer following an announcement Thursday night by Mr. Skrinjar, who told reporters that Mr. O'Connor's condition had deteriorated. "The mayor has gone from day-to-day to hour-by-hour," Mr. Skrinjar said.
City Council opened its first session since its summer break yesterday with a moment of silence for the mayor, then many officials headed to a Mass and 12:30 p.m. interfaith prayer service for Mr. O'Connor at St. Mary of Mercy Church, Downtown.
Mr. Ravenstahl, Mr. Motznik, Mr. Zober, Allegheny County Sheriff Pete DeFazio, state Sen. Jay Costa Jr., acting city Controller Tony Pokora and other city and county officials were among the 150 who filled the church.
Pastor Donald Green, of Christian Associates of Southwestern Pennsylvania, called Mr. O'Connor "a witness who has cheered on family and friends and indeed a whole city" and saw his destiny as a place "where there is no more pain or sorrow."
And in reference to Mr. Ravenstahl, Mr. Green said, "For your sake we will cheer him on."
Rabbi James Gibson of Temple Sinai said, "We know that sometimes we can leave this world whole and healed, even if we are not cured."
And Bishop Paul Bradley, administrator of the Catholic diocese, read the Beatitudes, which famously begin in the Matthew version, "Blessed are the poor in spirit."
Bishop Bradley praised Mr. O'Connor as "a good man, an honest man, a man of faith, a man who has used the Beatitudes as the standard to guide his own life."
Uncertainty permeated City Council's session yesterday morning. The first meeting after the summer is usually little more than ceremonial, but yesterday's session was heavy with significance. Mr. Ravenstahl opened the meeting with the Pledge of Allegiance and a moment of silence for the mayor.
Throughout the afternoon, friends and admirers of the Mr. O'Connor visited his office to comfort his staff.
"Bob and his family have been in our constant prayers," said the Rev. John Dinello, pastor of Immaculate Conception-St. Joseph Parish. "He's been a great asset to us in Bloomfield. He's been moving on many of the projects we've wanted to have done for several years," Father Dinello said.
"He's part of our family," added Bloomfield advocate and developer Janet Cercone-Scullion. She said Mr. O'Connor had agreed in January to serve as grand marshal of the neighborhood's upcoming Halloween parade.
"We are heartbroken," she said, breaking into tears.


The succession of a popular politician most times has a major element of chance in it. When Theodore Roosevelt succeeded William McKinley, he was put in the Veep spot to get him out of the hair of the Republican guard that controlled the nation. When Lyndon Johnson was picked to be John Kennedy’s Vice President, the Kennedy insiders saw their man as a vigorous 43 year old as opposed to the elder Johnson who had had a major heart attack. In both cases, there was no foreseeable chance that either man would be elevated to the top spot. In the late 1970s, City Council President Diane Feinstein became the Mayor of San Francisco after she took over for the assassinated George Moscone. And in the late eighties, Sophie Masloff, an old time political pro (still active at the age of 85) became the Mayor of Pittsburgh after the death of Richard Caligerri. With O’Connor’s death, the succession of chance continued when you read the story of new Pittsburgh Mayor, Luke Ravenstahl, a 26 year old council member.

In the last hours before Mayor Bob O'Connor succumbed to a rare form of brain cancer, the man in line to succeed him declared himself ready to serve.
Council President Luke Ravenstahl, 26, of Summer Hill, became the youngest mayor in city history shortly after Mr. O'Connor passed away last night.
In remarks to news reporters earlier in the day, Mr. Ravenstahl acknowledged that his youth "is an issue that many will raise. But I am here. I have been the president. I have been elected by my district, I have been elected by my colleagues, and I'm more than confident that if and when I'm called upon, I'm here to serve the residents of the city."
Yesterday marked the end of a long, quiet period for Mr. Ravenstahl, who had chosen to say little about his governing priorities since the July 10 start of Mr. O'Connor's ongoing hospitalization with central nervous system lymphoma. His reticence faded after city officials on Thursday began acknowledging that Mr. O'Connor rested precariously on the edge of death.
"We're waiting for the mayor to make his decision," said mayoral spokesman Dick Skrinjar.
The city's charter says that if a mayor isn't able to serve out his term, council's president can accept or decline the post. Mr. Ravenstahl made it clear he wouldn't decline. Though he's young, public service is in his blood.
His grandfather, Robert, was a firefighter, and later a state representative, until ousted by Tom Murphy, later the mayor. His dad, Robert Jr., worked his way to the top of the city's water and sewer authority, then was tapped to be a district judge, a post he still holds.
Mr. Ravenstahl graduated from Pittsburgh's North Catholic High School in 1998, a star baseball player and kicker and quarterback for the football team.
He signed on to play football at Mercyhurst College in Erie, but stayed for just one year. He transferred to Pitt, where he didn't play football. Then he transferred again to Washington & Jefferson College, where he kicked for the football team, and graduated with a bachelor of arts in business administration.
After graduation, he worked as an account manager for a courier service. By 23 -- a year after graduation -- he was running against incumbent Barbara Burns for the Democratic City Council nomination in District 1. Though Mr. Murphy backed Ms. Burns, Mr. Ravenstahl won.
He was inaugurated in January 2004, and married Erin Lynn Feith, a beautician, six months later. They live in a three-bedroom home on Cerise Street, in the northernmost fringe of the city.
Mr. Ravenstahl's early career was marked by opposition to the stringent cost-cutting measures eventually adopted under state Act 47 for financially distressed municipalities. Joining labor unions in opposing the plan for months, he only voted for it at the last possible moment, in December 2004, when all of council united behind it.
In late 2005, he got a freak break. Then-council President Gene Ricciardi, now a district judge, announced that he would resign the presidency some time prior to leaving council at that year's end. That was widely viewed as an effort to pave the way for Councilman Jim Motznik to seize the reins.
Mr. Motznik could not assemble four colleagues willing to vote for him. He and Mr. Ricciardi, however, were able to get just enough votes together for an ally of theirs, Mr. Ravenstahl.
On Dec. 6, 2005, he won council's presidency with the bare minimum number of votes. In January, a unanimous council vote gave him a two-year term.
"The fact that he has positioned himself to become president is encouraging," said Ms. Burns. "That tells me he has good communication skills. ... Sometimes, you're in the right place at the right time, and you seize it and you gain something from it."
No one, at the time, thought he would imminently become mayor, given the inauguration of the apparently vigorous Mr. O'Connor.
In eight months in the post, he worked closely with Mr. O'Connor's administration. He voted against a nonbinding measure to remove state fiscal oversight, bucking the potent firefighters union.
After Councilwoman Twanda Carlisle's spending on consultants was questioned and referred to prosecutors for review, he proposed curbs on council discretionary funds, which were approved, though a few members said they fell short of true reform.
Then the mayor was hospitalized. A month later, he was declared temporarily disabled, and appointed Deputy Mayor Yarone Zober to run the city.
Chemotherapy failed, and after seizures and an infection occurred, focused radiation treatments were put on hold.
Now the focus is on Mr. Ravenstahl.
"He has had experience on City Council, but I think how you gauge somebody is by their intelligence, work ethic and ability," said state Rep. Don Walko, D-North Side, an early backer and adviser to Mr. Ravenstahl. "I think Luke has all of those great characteristics."
With the mayor's passing, there will be not just a generational shift, but a change in tone from the ebullience of Mr. O'Connor to the cautious poise of Mr. Ravenstahl, he added.
"Luke puts a different face on the city."

Sunday, September 10, 2006

The LuLac Edition #57, Sept. 11th, 2006


5 years ago today.

I was getting out of bed on the morning of September 11th, 2001. I was working the night shift as a trainer at the Call Center on South Main Street in Wilkes Barre. My shift allowed me some extra time to sleep and hang out at home before I started work. It was a beautiful September morning and I turned on my newest radio obsession, Mike and Mike In the Morning on ESPN Radio. Grabbing a TAB, the morning drink of choice for me since the age of 15, I tuned in to hear Digger Phelps, former Notre Dame basketball coach talk about his son in law, Jamie Moyer, a major league pitcher with the Seattle Mariners. All of a sudden, Mike Greenberg said that it appeared that something struck the World Trade Center in New York City. As I listened intently, I knew this was going to be more than a radio event. My inclination was to tune in to the radio station Kevin Lynn worked at, (I always liked the way he put big events in historical perspective) and then realized he was no longer working there. Knowing that the TV cable channels were already on this story, I ambled into the living room to turn on the TV and at least see if there was any information.
My late father was amazed by TV. He would look at the landing on the Moon, the funeral services of John and Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King and mutter, “Television is a wonderful thing, it can take you places you never thought you’d go to”. He had died in 1980, just before the launching of CNN and long before the explosion of Cable News channels and 24 hour news coverage. As the network coverage of the events of 911 began in earnest, I thought of him that day.
I turned the TV on long enough to see the second plane go into the tower. Then events started to transpire quickly. My wife called me shortly after the news that the Pentagon was bombed and simply said, “We’re either being attacked or the world is coming to an end”. She was right on both counts. A foreign enemy had breached our borders and well fed sense of security and taken out one of our biggest landmarks of commercial success. Ironic that little, mean men who live in caves could actually concoct a plot like this. And to an extent, the world did end for America because things did change. We were forced to confront the fact that we were not universally loved but vilified. There were people who meant to do us harm. The way we did business also changed forever. Our approach to basic freedoms that we took for granted so long would never be the same. Five years later, after the attack, we wrestle with these changes. While there is general agreement that the attack changed us, there are varying degrees as to how we should react to those changes in both our government and citizenry. Perhaps the testament to the attack, five years later, is that instead of being united in our efforts to understand and fight terrorism, we are divided by it.
Later that day, I drove to work. Popped the top and drove silently through the streets of Wilkes Barre. In the early afternoon, it was eerily quiet. Just the humming of car motors and sounds of traffic. My new hire class for Cendant Membership Services waited for my arrival. A former student of mine from Hanover Area School District sat silently in the class. There was no way this class was going to learn the nuances of computers and membership sales techniques. We turned the TV on and watched. In silence. I saw the pictures of New York Mayor Rudy Guiliani. I was concerned and impressed at the same time. I had long been a Rudy fan. During the summer of election year 1993, I went down to his box seat at Yankee Stadium, introduced myself, had my picture taken with him and chatted about New York, the Yankees and the great steaks at Smith & Wolensky’s in the city. A year later, when he was Mayor, I wanted to get the picture signed but could not get near him. He was the new Mayor and my access was not the one I had when he was a candidate. Two sections over, I asked a native New Yorker if he’d pass the photo down like a hotdog or soda. He did and I watched my photo go from fan to fan until it reached the Mayor. An aide yelled across the seats, “What’s your name?” I yelled back, “David!” The fans yelled to the aide to make certain he heard, “David!!!” And the signed photo was returned to me in the same fashion. It was in pristine condition. I thought of the Mayor and those native New Yorkers and wondered how many were firefighters, how many were police, how many had families in that rubble that was the World Trade Center. At 7PM there was a candle light vigil on the Square and at the behest of my former student, I allowed the workers to attend it. The student, a gangly, goofy eighth grader when I knew him who had a propensity for passing wind and belching at will had to my surprise become a young adult. A taxpayer. An interested American. When the class returned we watched more of the news on TV until the word came that the class could be released. The work of the Call Center on South Main Street and its commerce would have to begin anew on September 12th.
I returned to my desk and checked my e mails. A co worker of mine from the Salisbury, Maryland location e mailed me with her outrage. In a strange juxtaposition of fierceness and tenderness, she wrote that she planned to save everything about this day so her youngest daughter would never, ever forget the tragedy of September 11th. I checked in with a cousin who lived in New York City. She was devastated. Her husband who has a mail order business saw the chaos from his office window. My friend from Colorado sent a short e mail. Both of us, political junkies refrained from the crass election implications of the news event for this day.
As I gathered my things, I threw my brief case over my shoulder and even though it was 1AM, opened up another can of TAB. I wouldn’t be getting much sleep this night. I walked to my car in the parking lot off of South Street. Walking down the sidewalk, there was a lady of the evening sitting on the curb with a man. He was her pimp, a homeless guy or a customer. Don’t know which. All I knew was on this night, we were all citizens. They were both smoking cigarettes and drinking Genesee Beer. The man looked up and said, “Tough day at work today”? I replied, “Tough day in America today, never mind work”. The woman, used and worn but at one time most likely young and pretty once said to no one in particular, “Don’t worry hon, the sun will come up tomorrow and shine brightly. No matter what bad things happen, it always comes up”. And she was correct. It did. But for most of us, since five years ago, it just doesn’t shine as bright.

Friday, September 08, 2006

The LuLac Edition #56, Sept. 9th, 2006

Back in 1980, there was a crowded field for the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate seat which was being vacated by Richard Schweiker. Schweiker had served since 1968 when he beat incumbent Senator Joseph Clark in a hotly contested race. The Senator in 1976 took a turn as Ronald Reagan’s Vice Presidential running mate in an attempt to wrest delegates in the Pennsylvania fold from then incumbent President Gerald Ford. It did not work and Schweiker served out the rest of his term in anticipation of another Reagan run and perhaps a place either in the campaign or the administration.
The Democratic party saw an opportunity to win the seat back and the field was crowded with luminaries like State Senator Craig Lewis and former Pittsburgh Mayor Pete Flaherty. A candidate who was a long shot was State representative Joseph Rhodes. Rhodes was making history because he was the first black candidate to run statewide for national office. Rhodes announced his campaign and started to travel around the state. From party regulars he essentially got the cold shoulder. His campaign needed some traction but his team was unaware on how to jump start his effort.
Rhodes was from the western part of the state and the Pittsburgh Steelers were just coming off a Super Bowl victory over the Dallas Cowboys. It was decided by the Rhodes camp to have star Steeler fullback Franco Harris campaign with the candidate and/or his wife Linda. This instantly brought out the crowds for the Rhodes campaign. Whereas in the past, Rhodes barely got a few people at his rallies, now places were packed with people waiting to see Rhodes but also more importantly waiting to see Franco Harris.
Rhodes' wife Linda came to Wilkes Barre with Harris in tow. A crowd of 200 people showed up at Genetti’s to see the candidate’s wife and Harris. The problem was everyone gravitated to Harris. Rhodes’ wife, who would become Secretary of Aging in a later Democratic administration was nearly stampeded to death by fans with footballs, posters and other pieces of Steeler gear. At one point, while Mrs. Rhodes tried to give the stump speech, there was so much commotion that Franco had to get the crowd back in line.
It appears that the football celebrity of Lynn Swann is also proving to be both a blessing and a curse. Swann does draw crowds and is an energetic speaker but there are people who seem more interested in his glory days rather than his policies. Swann is in a quandary because he can’t very well deny his celebrity or fame. (He appeared on NBC TV Thursday night as part of the NFL pregame salute to the Steelers). But he needs to address issues, not do autographs if he is indeed to come within striking distance of Ed Rendell. If I were part of the Swann team, I’d find the film clip of Ed Rendell saying, “I can produce property tax reform standing on my head”. But I’m not and they haven’t. Swann needs to break out soon, if he doesn’t, his campaign will occupy the same footnote in Pennsylvania political history as Joseph Rhodes’ run in 1980. Historic, but not successful in terms of the end result.

LYNN GETS MORE HELP…….Got this e mail from the Swann camp which kind of proves my point.
Dear Swann Team Member,
Last night, the 2005 Super Bowl Championship Steelers kicked off their 2006 season with a victory in Pittsburgh against the Dolphins.
Watching the Steelers play brings back wonderful memories of some of the great athletes I was fortunate enough to play with, including NFL Hall of Famer and Pennsylvania's next Governor, Lynn Swann.
As a friend and former teammate of Lynn's, I'm proud to support his campaign to put Pennsylvania back on track this November, and I believe in his plan for change, reform and leadership in the Commonwealth.
When Lynn and I were drafted to play for the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1974, we became part of a team that went on to win four Super Bowls.
We were successful because we worked together towards a common goal, and because we had strong leadership. Our teamwork required dedication, hard work, focus, leadership and the ability to craft a winning plan and follow through with it.
Lynn's going to bring these same principles that made him a successful athlete to Harrisburg. He's got the right stuff to be the next Governor of Pennsylvania, and he knows that we have to change Harrisburg. But we can't change Harrisburg unless we change Governors.
That's why I support Lynn, and I'm asking you to do the same today.
We've set a goal to raise $50,000 for Lynn online before the next campaign fundraising filing deadline on September 18th. Will you join the Stallworth Challenge by making a donation of $50, $150, $250, $500 or $1,000?
With Election Day only two months away, it's vital to help Lynn's campaign. That's why I'm challenging each and every one of you to join our team and help us reach our goal of raising $50,000 by September 18th.
Your support will make all the difference. I've worked with Lynn and know first-hand that he is the man who can bring the necessary leadership and reform that Pennsylvania needs. Please, join me today in giving Lynn your full support. Thank you.
Sincerely, John Stallworth
P.S. I am supporting my friend and former teammate, Lynn Swann for Governor of Pennsylvania. With only two months until Election Day, it's extremely urgent that you help us reach the goal of raising $50,000 by September 18th. Lynn is going to bring the leadership to the Commonwealth that he showed on the field for the Steelers.
Your donation, no matter how large or small will help us reach our goal. Lynn's the man who will change Pennsylvania for the better, but he won't be able to do it without our help. Please join the Stallworth Challenge right away! Thank you.

LEONARDI CHALLENGES KANJOSKI TO DEBATE....Congressional candidate Joe Leonardi on the Sue Henry program on WILK Radio challenged Congressman Paul Kanjorski to a debate. No word yet from the Congressman.