The LuLac Edition #327, Oct. 18th, 2007
PHOTO INDEX: THE LUZERNE COUNTY COURTHOUSE.
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.
THE COUNTY DEBATE
The League of Women Voters sponsored a debate with the candidates for Luzerne County Commissioner. About 100 people attended the forum, the format was simple, a League official read a question from a card and all candidates answered. Each candidate presented themselves well and it was evident from the get go that this was going to be a civcs lesson for those gathered.
Jones: Talked about his family’s business association, his eight years on the Crestwood School Board as well as his mission to make government more accountable.
Petrilla: Spoke of her role as Township official, her experience in state government as well as her experience as Controller where she oversees all financial aspects of the County.
Skrepenak: Said it was an honor to serve as County Commissioner, touted his record in Drug and Alcohol prevention services and business development and making the county a better place to live. And he mentioned the name of his running mate at least twice in his opening statement.
Urban: Urban arrived at 7:03PM right in the middle of his fellow GOPer’s opening statement. How ironic is that given the order of speaking was picked well before he arrived. Urban touted the personal touch as Commissioner, being accessible to people and spoke of his accomplishments on projects in Shickshinny and Exeter.
Petrilla: Said that a dedicated tax for libraries like the one in Lackawanna County is not needed given the contributions made by the current board. Said the two libraries in her region thrive and should be supported.
Jones: Spoke of the two libraries in his school district, felt no new tax was needed and told the crowd his record supports supporting libraries.
Skrepenak: Mentioned that under his leadership with Todd Vonderheid, millage was set aside for libraries. He also mentioned that libraries make up the entire county system and that the money from the county supports every library in every community.
Urban: Spoke of his affinity for libraries, said he felt a dedicated tax was not necessary, mentioned that libraries are important to communities where people of all ages could benefit. Drew some smiles when he said he had first library card.
FAIR HIRING PRACTICES
Skrepenak: Spoke of the implementation of a personnel policy and director, said that the Commissioners have taken active role in making sure they got the right, qualified people for the right jobs.
Urban: Said personnel policy started out the right way but after the first two years of the Skrep/Vonderheid administration, things went downhill. Complained he was not included in hiring process and got agendas minutes before meetings.
Jones: Mentioned that he had experience in that area in private business and the school board, said that Commissioners must listen to department heads when hiring instead of political flacks.
Petrilla: Quality of managers was extremely important in the input, said that seeking information on new hires as a team was a good approach to use.
Urban: Was in favor, said that keeping skate boarders out of the neighborhood and public squares was preferable to kids on their own.
Jones: Said more than one county wide park was needed, proposed a network of parks to serve all residents.
Petrilla: Spoke of a $300,000 effort in Butler Twp that served dirt bikes, said that government needs to change with times and said parks are a good idea.
Skrepenak: The former athlete talked of the logistics of getting funding, neighborhood approval and suitable locations. Pointed out that activities like this would keep kids and young adults off the streets.
Jones: Use the money for fire and police protection and to hire a few grant writers to obtain more money for local communities.
Petrilla: More money to municipalities for infrastructure.
Skrepenak: Applied for funding through legislators. Made the point that Casino money is allocated to communities close to Plains Twp. and that fact must be taken into consideration. Would use money for regionalization.
Urban: Said property tax relief not yet in sight, preferred money go to local communities for libraries (said he understood Parsons Branch of Osterhout was set to close in December which is unconfirmed) and police protection and infrastructure.
Skrepenak: Told the group that the county does monitoring of hazardous situations and has a good EM team in place.
Petrilla: Said many environmental problem areas require the cooperation of federal, state and local. Pleased with the county effort so far.
Urban: Took the opportunity to say he was on call 24/7. Gave out his cell phone number (262-9840) and said he responded to specific incidents which were handled at his behest.
Jones: Echoed Petrilla’s comments that the issue of railroad spills was federal but that cooperation between all bodies of government was needed.
Skrepenak: Made great points saying that regional police forces were tried but needed more time and money to develop. Touted his Regional Records system that will enable local police forces to see warrants on all criminals in various towns.
Urban: Said there has to be enabling legislation to give towns the power to vote and create regionalization.
Jones: Better response time needed for local police, more money needed for training and development.
Petrilla: Spoke of her association with Casey administration that tried to provide start up monies for local police. When a new administration came in that went by the way side but said that might be a good place to start again.
Urban: Mentioned a daughter who left the area because of lack of jobs, said more high tech, higher paying jobs needed.
Jones: Less warehousing, more high tech jobs, less KOZ zones and freebies.
Petrilla: Pointed to the Zogby survey which said the hourly rate was increasing. More high tech.
Skrepenak: Said he is working with Chamber in order to get businesses to compete over the County. Expansion of non profits as well as efforts like wireless. Said colleges must be realistic in fitting the right jobs for the right people.
Petrilla: Selling of Valley Crest, life transition of county employees for early retirement as well as working as a team to cut costs and still provide efficient services.
Skrepenak: Getting on with reassessment so that properties are equal, and more money can come in. Said many people confuse reassessment with higher taxes.
Urban: Said the borrowing has to stop. Mentioned that borrowing to meet operating expenses is not a good option.
Jones: Mentioned that the county debt terrified him and that he’d be dead before there was ever a balanced budget. Agreed with Urban that borrowing was not a good thing.
Skrepenak: Said they were needed for travel and are tracked monthly to make sure there is accurate accounting.
Urban: Mentioned he never saw accounting of services and said it bothers him there seems to be carte blance on this type of spending.
Jones: Said the budget needs to be watched especially on things like this.
Petrilla: Pointed out that debit cards were essential in everyday business life. Agreed with Skrepenak that cumbersome issuing of checks and purchase orders were not efficient.
Urban: At the prison, no.
Jones: That would be the last resort he’d look at given the talent pool locally.
Petrilla: Only when needed and with the best contracts negotiated.
Skrepenak: When there is a need, it will be done but only with a demonstrated need.
Jones: Has to run numbers to see if doable, said he’d have no clue where it would go.
Petrilla: Said a prison would pay for itself in over 25 years. Looked at it as an investment that would bring money into the county.
Skrepenak: Pointed to prediction by Warden Gene Fischi in the 90s that we’d need new prison by now. Said it is needed for more space and we could charge for incoming out of area prisoners instead of paying money out.
Urban: Said the prison was not needed. Claimed the Probation Dept. could create 300 prison spots by dealing with parole violators as well as disposition cases.
Petrilla: Pinpoint management of health care costs and benefits. Said a delicate balance between serving the taxpayers and employee is important.
Skrepenak: Said his health plan did not mandate copays but he chose a plan with one figuring that if he asked the employees to do it, he should too.
Jones: Touted his experience on the Crestwood School Board where he claimed the only district in the county has a copay.
Urban: Says that he only takes his own health care costs and does not have family members on it.
Urban: Made a plea for the vote, said he was accessible, proactive and makes things happen. Said his eight years was all about serving the people and hoped he could do more of the same.
Jones: In a swipe at Urban, said he’d be constructive, not negative and use his consensus building abilities to move county government forward.
Petrilla: Touted her 20 years experience in government, said that she can bring a woman’s perspective to the commissioner’s board but had no intention of taking over with her gender, said that a team approach was important to solving problems.
Skrepenak: Thanked the voters for the honor of serving, mentioned that the greatest form of government was democracy in America and he was proud to be part of it. Said the question Luzerne County voters must answer is, “are they better off now than they were four years ago?”
IN THE CROWD
The event was well attended, in the crowd were Wilkes Barre Council candidates Walter Griffith (District A) and his wife, Peter Gagliardi (District B), GOP Chair Lynette Valvano, County Public Information Officer Kathy Bozinski, Dr. Jayne Moore from the King's Faculty, Pittston Area School Board member Terry Best and representatives of the two daily newspapers plus many more politicos I missed.
THE FASHION REPORT
Both Republicans Urban and Jones wore navy blue suits while Skrepenak and Petrilla wore your basic black ensembles. Some wags in the crowd commented on how Petrilla squeezed into her open toed heels which I dare say were quite fetching.
Everyone acquitted themselves well. Urban provided the personal hands on touch, Jones was refreshing in the sense that he said there were things he didn’t know, Petrilla while not charismatic in her presentation was fact filled and informative and Skrepenak calmly recited statistics, nuances of county government and made a good case for a second term. Out of the four, Skrep and Urban were the most informative in presenting their cases but Urban relied more on his association with the Democratic team taking credit for the successes and running away from the failures. Pointedly, he was not too critical of the shortcomings. It was evident that Skrepenak and Petrilla were comfortable as a team while both Urban and Jones were non communicative. It was democracy at its most civil and finest.