The LuLac Edition #502, June 22nd, 2008
PHOTO INDEX: ONE OF THE PAVILLIONS AT FRANCES SLOCUM STATE PARK AND PA. HOUSE DEMOCRATIC MAJORITY WHIP KEITH McCALL.
THE OLD ADAGE
As a young boy on summer Sunday nights, I would take my trusty left hander’s mitt (obtained by selling Stanley tooth brushes in the neighborhood) along with a big rubber ball and bounce it against the steps in front of my house. More times than not, I caught the ball coming back on the bounce. But on the times I didn’t, I’d eavesdrop on the conversation my father had with his railroad cronies (who were mostly his brothers and brother in laws) talking about the state of the world. One of my uncle Andy’s favorite bromides was, “if you knew the world was going to end, you’d want to be here in Luzerne County because it’ll take 20 years before it happens”. I thought of that the other day when I read in the Citizen’s Voice and heard on Corbett’s radio show that a former deputy in the County Sheriff’s office had behavior unbecoming an officer and a gentleman. It seems that a deputy under the reign of Barry Stankus took a photo of a fellow female Sheriff’s Department employee taking a shower and passed the nude photo around to co-workers. Needless to say there is a lawsuit which will cost county taxpayers money. But the sad and at the same time hysterical thing about this is that once again Luzerne County lags behind, even in deplorable conduct. I guess when Clarence Thomas almost had his Supreme Court nomination derailed by a few little details about a hair on a can of Coke or when Senator Robert Packwood resigned a distinguished three decade plus career because of his roaming hands, Luzerne County politicos were oblivious to that news. Look, what happened here should have been preventable. What type of screening process was there to hire this individual? Was he made aware that this type of thing was against all standards of decent human behavior? (I mean I’m told that those “swinger’s clubs” in the 70s had changing rooms for heavens sake!) And if this guy was in law enforcement for eight years, what other complaints or misuse of authority are out there that we have not yet heard about? And how about passing on the photo to co workers in that department? Were they at all appalled? The story tells us that not all was on the up and up in the Stankus administration, a regime I vigorously defended when challenged by current Sheriff Mike Savokinas. The offending deputy was canned by the new lawman and the woman will get a boatload of county money that could’ve been used for a program at the Area Agency on Aging or the CEO food bank. But the sad part of this story is that, as the kids say nowadays, “that is so yesterday!” We all passed photos of disrobed women in our lifetimes to our friends, but the major difference is we were only 12 years old and not deputy Sheriffs with a public trust. One must wonder what in the world is going to crawl out next from under the dome on River Street.
Time is flying by and in just a few days we will be blessed with a three day Fourth of July weekend. Thanks to Leap year, the fourth falls on a Friday and many local residents, tired of being sodomized by the Bush administration’s oil policy and high gas prices might want to vacation close to home and take in the beauties of Frances Slocum State Park or Thornhurst State Park, Ricketts Glen, take your pick. But as ESPN commentator Lee Corso is fond of saying, “Not so fast my friend…”An impasse in approving a state budget by July 1 could stop them from enjoying the park system. If the state Legislature and Gov. Ed Rendell do not agree on a budget, nonessential state employees could be furloughed, and state parks such as those in our area could be padlocked.
In 2007, after the Legislature and the governor could not agree on a budget on time, employees were furloughed and the state's 116 parks were closed, some entrances were barricaded until an agreement was reached days later. Reservations for park facilities, such as cabins and camping spots, were canceled and reservation payments refunded.
If budget talks reach an impasse and employees are furloughed, the state will again barricade its parks, ask campers to leave and cancel reservations until the 2,300 employees of the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources are back to work. Once more, the working stiff who just wants to use the services paid for with his tax dollars will be screwed by a State Legislature and (you know I admire Big Ed) a gamesmanship loving Chief Executive who can’t get a budget passed by July 1rst. It will never happen in my lifetime but I think the State Lawmakers should have their salaries dinged every day they don’t pass a budget. Just put this big calculator over the Capitol in Harrisburg and have the numbers flash, “today you are now losing your per diem and one day’s salary.” You’d see how fast they’d get the thing done. In the meantime though, if the budget does not pass and the state parks close, it’s “Porchville, Pa.” for the rest of us who work for a living.
PROPERTY TAX RELIEF?
Again, you know I love Big Ed but can’t he control or won’t he control some of the aftermath of his 2004 slots bill victory?
A legislative bill to earmark slots revenues for a broader category of economic development projects has surfaced just in time for the finale of the state budget debate.
House Majority Whip Keith McCall, D-Carbon, sponsored the measure to provide $760 million from a slots money pot to finance a range of “legacy” infrastructure projects to aid tourism, private colleges and universities, hospitals and projects by municipal authorities and economic development agencies to spur economic development. Yeah, as if what’s been done has given this area jobs with a working wage of more than 7 bucks an hour! Included is installing or upgrading water, sewer and electric power systems, natural gas pipelines and transportation facilities such as airports and parking garages. Wait a minute, I thought slots was supposed to be for property tax relief only. I thought the crumbling infrastructure in the state was supposed to be handled by the obscene gas taxes we pay at the pump? McCall’s bill begins a belated debate in the Senate about how to deal with a second generation of slots-financed projects. The 2004 slots law earmarks five percent of annual slots revenues to a fund for economic development and tourism. I’m all for economic development but first, let’s get the homeowners property tax relief, on which slots was predicated. If you can’t get a tax rebate on property taxes to every Pennsylvania homeowner, than you have no business “earmarking” the money someplace else. Maybe Pennsylvania residents should repeal slots by casting out lawmakers like McCall. Or have them (the Legislature and yes, even the Governor) all grow a set and pass a universal sales tax where everyone, from the junkie buying his rubber bands to shoot up to the person buying a starter car for their kid has to pay something. Let the debate begin, I have no problem fixing the infrastructure, but let's always keep in mind that property tax relief has not been forthcoming as promised. We're still waiting!
WE GET LETTERS
So last week I recieved two letters in the mail. One from John McCain asking me to contribute. Highest rate I could give (and "the ask" was in this letter 5 times) $2300.00. I got a letter from Barak Obama, highest contribution request $250.00. There was a tad bit of desperation in the McCain missive but that's what happens when you are behind a hundred million in the Presidential fundraising race.