Rated one of Pennsylvania's top blog/sites, the LuLac Political Letter delves into issues of politics on all levels (with special concentration on Luzerne and Lackawanna Counties: thus the name LULAC) and pop culture.
The LuLac Political Letter was also named Best Political Blog of the Year for 2014 by NEPA BLOGCON.
Wednesday, December 31, 2008
The LuLac Edition #682, Dec. 31st, 2008
PHOTO INDEX: LONG TIME NEIGHBORS DINAH AND JOSEPH “CHUBBY” MILKANNIN TAKING A DANCE (ON THE LEFT)) AND MY MOM AND ME (ON THE RIGHT). SHE WAS TRYING TO TEACH ME THE NUANCES OF SLOW DANCING WHICH AT THE TIME WAS KIND OF WEIRD BUT WOULD SERVE ME ALL TOO WELL LATER IN LIFE. (PHOTO CIRCA 1961).
NEW YEAR’S EVE Today on New Year’s Eve, we have Ryan Seacrist, that annoying troll Kathy Griffin on CNN with Anderson Cooper and a variety of cable wannabes that bring in the New Year. When I was young, there was the neighborhood house party where friends and co workers got together, hoisted a few, walked home and returned the next day to eat pork and watch bowl games. (It was a Slovak tradition not to eat fowl on New Year’s Day because legend had it, all your money would fly out the window.) The youngsters would get a small glass of wine, Catawba Pink as I recall, attempt to learn how to dance and then ring in the New Year with Guy Lombardo and the Royal Canadians. From YOU TUBE: Guy Lombardo's band doing “Boo Hoo”, and the opening of the grand show from the famed Waldorf Astoria Hotel.
PHOTO INDEX: THE CLINTONS, HILLARY, CHELSEA AND BILL, ALL VISITORS TO LULAC LAND IN 2008, SENATOR CASEY AND THEN SENATOR OBAMA ENJOYING WAFFLES AT A LOCAL ESTABLISHMENT AND GOVERNOR ED RENDELL.
TOP 10 NEWS STORIES
l. OUSTER OF JUDGE LOKUTA: The big news was the ouster of Judge Lokuta by the Judicial Review Board. 2. REASSESSMENT: After 40 years, county residents' properties were reassessed pretty much without incident except for residents of Harvey’s Lake. 3. ELECTION OF 2008: LuLac land became the hotbed for visits from the likes of Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Hillary and Bill Clinton, Governor Rendell, Caroline Kennedy, John McCain, Sarah Palin and not to mention some of the lesser lights of both national parties. 4. BONUSGATE: Top Democratic aides who were using their positions to campaign for their parties’ nominees and doing opposition researchwere indicted in a sweeping summer event that rocked the Capitol. 5. CATHERINE BAKER KNOLL/JAMES RHODES: Two Harrisburg mainstays, Ltn. Governor Catherine Baker Knoll and State Senator James Rhodes died this year. Knoll from cancer, Rhodes from an auto accident. 6. POLITICAL SPLIT: The short lived partnership between Greg Skrepenak and MaryAnne Petrilla came to an abrupt end early this year when the one time running mates clashed on human resource issues and reassessment. A larger split this county has not seen since the days of Crossin and Wideman. 7. LOUIS DENAPLES: The guy uses his own money to rehab a broken down resort. He then gets banned from the Casino because someone said he stretched the truth. Then the guys who threw him out of the Casino business he uilt with his own money come back to him for a handout. If I were he, I’d use one of my middle fingers when anyone mentioned a handout. 8. COUNTY BUDGET AND THE COURTS: The County of Luzerne is trying to balance the budget, the employees think they have a mortal lock on jobs and shouldn’t get laid off. The Judges say none of their people should get downsized. A mess that will continue into 2009. 9. GOVERNOR ED: Cited by Politico as one of the faces of the 2008 campaigns the wags in Washington will miss. The Governor never met an open mike he didn't like. While many across the nation will miss his free spirited banter, we in Pennsylvania will always have the Comcast Chevrolet Eagles Post Game show. 10. KANJORSKI’S COMEBACK: Left for dead by many political experts nationwide, the Congressman from Nanticoke fought a spirited and expensive campaign that returned him for still another term in D.C.
PHOTO INDEX: STATE SENATOR ROBERT MELLOW. MELLOW REMINDER Senate Democratic Leader Robert Mellow reminded Pennsylvania’s seniors they have until Dec. 31, to submit Property Tax/Rent Rebate program applications. According to Mellow, roughly 128,000 Pennsylvanians who qualify for the rebate still have not applied. “It is extremely important that every single senior or disabled Pennsylvanian who qualifies for this program submit an application,” Mellow said. “As the deadline approaches, heating and energy bills are due, and some residents desperately need the money. It would be a shame for them to miss out.” A maximum $650 rebate is available for eligible Pennsylvanians age 65 and older; widows and widowers age 50 and older; and people with disabilities age 18 and older. As much as $786 million in property tax relief will find its way into the pockets of thousands of Pennsylvanians, including expanded rebates from the Property Tax/Rent Rebate program and general property tax relief for homeowners distributed through school districts. Mellow said applications are available at his District Offices in Peckville, P.O. Box B, Peckville, PA 18452, and Mt. Pocono, 102 Pocono Blvd., Mt. Pocono, PA 18344. Applications are also available to download and print at www.papropertytaxrelief.com, as well as at Department of Revenue district offices, area agencies on aging, and senior centers. For assistance in completing the20application or to determine eligibility, residents can call toll-free, 1-888-222-9190.
PHOTO INDEX: FORMER BUSH PRESS SECRETARY AND BROADCASTER TONY SNOW, SINGER AND SONG WRITER ISAAC HAYES, MEET THE PRESS MODERATOR TIM RUSSERT, ACTOR PAUL NEWMAN, WRITER AND BROADCASTER STUDS TERKEL, TOYMAKER RICHARD KNERR, SINGER NORMAN "HURRICANE" SMITH, BETTY JAMES, NAMED THE PENNSYLVANIA BASED "SLINKY TOY", CATHERINE BAKER KNOLL SHOWN ON THE RIGHT IN A CAMPAIGN STOP WITH SENATOR CLINTON, SATIRIST GEORGE CARLIN, WRITER WILLIAM F. BUCKLEY, RUSSIAN WRITER AND DISSIDENT ALEXANDER SOLZHENITYSN, PIN UP QUEEN BETTIE PAGE AND OUR "MOVING ON......"LOGO.
This new feature replaces our "TRANSITIONS" segment. Today we select a few notable celebrities who have passed on in 2008. Most are politically related but we've thrown in a few pop culture icons too. The list of those who passed on is filled with worthy people but for space consideration, we can only name these few.
TONY SNOW: was an American political commentator, television news anchor, syndicated columnist, radio host, and the third White House Press Secretary under George W. Bush. Snow also worked for President George H. W. Bush as chief speechwriter and Deputy Assistant of Media Affairs. Snow served as White House Press Secretary from May 2006 until his resignation effective September 2007. Snow was critical of the second Bush administration but was hired as the press aide nonetheless. He was an engaging conservative with a passion for music and his family. Thought he was a superb host on Fox News Sunday.
ISAAC HAYES: was an Academy Award-winning singer-songwriter, actor and musician. Hayes was one of the main creative forces behind southern soul music label Stax Records, where he served as both an in-house songwriter and producer with partner David Porter during the mid-1960s. Hayes & Porter were named to the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2005 in recognition of their string of successful hit songs for Sam & Dave, Carla Thomas and others In the late 1960s. Their hit song "Soul Man" by Sam & Dave has been recognized as one of the best or most influential songs of the past 50 years by the Grammy Hall of Fame, The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, Rolling Stone Magazine, and RIAA Songs of the Century. Hayes became a recording artist, and recorded successful soul albums such as Hot Buttered Soul (1969) and Black Moses (1971) as the Stax label's premier artist. In addition to his work in music, Hayes was a composer for motion pictures. His best known work, for the 1971 blaxploitation film Shaft, earned Hayes an Academy Award for Best Original Song. Isaac Hayes later appeared on "South Park" but for me, nothing he ever accomplished was like his slow, soulful versions of songs. From YOU TUBE: Isaac Hayes:
TIM RUSSERT: was a television journalist and lawyer who appeared for more than 16 years as the longest-serving moderator of NBC's Meet the Press. He was a Senior Vice President at NBC News, Washington bureau chief and also hosted the eponymous CNBC/MSNBC weekend interview program Tim Russert. He was a frequent guest on NBC's The Today Show and Hardball. Russert covered several presidential elections, and he presented the NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey on the NBC Nightly News during the 2008 U.S. presidential election. Time Magazine included Russert in its list of the 100 most influential people in the world in 2008. Russert was well liked and brought an "everyman" demeanor to the show he guided for years talking about his son, wife, dad and beloved Buffalo Bills.
PAUL NEWMAN: was an award–winning and seven-time Academy Award–nominated American actor, film director, entrepreneur, humanitarian and auto racing enthusiast. He won numerous awards, including an Academy Award for his performance in the 1986 film The Color of Money. He also won several national championships as a driver in Sports Car Club of America road racing, and his race teams won several championships in open wheel IndyCar racing. Newman was a co-founder of Newman's Own, a food company from which Newman donated all post-tax profits and royalties to charity. As of October 2008, these donations had exceeded US $250 million. He was married to the same woman for decades and was the epitome of American male style. Just ask GQ.
LOUIS "STUDS" TERKEL: was an author, historian, actor, and broadcaster. He received the Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction in 1985, and is best remembered for his oral histories of common Americans, and for hosting a long-running radio show in Chicago. I first came into contact with the legend of Studs Terkel when I began to work at WVIA FM in 1973. The station used to run his radio show out of the Windy City. Terkel also wrote the best selling book "Working" where individuals spoke of their daily living.
RICHARD KNERR: was an inventor best known for inventing the frisbee and Hula Hoop. In 1948he cofounded the company Wham-O. In 1957, an Australian visiting California told them offhand that in his home country, children twirled bamboo hoops around their waists in gym class. Knerr saw how popular such a toy would be; and soon they were winning rave reviews from school kids for the hollow plastic prototype they had created. And of course Wham-O later marketed the Super Ball which made long ball hitters out of all us kids.
JAMES K. MCMANNUS: better known by his professional name of Jim McKay, is best known for hosting ABC's Wide World of Sports (1961–1998). His "Spanning the globe to bring you the constant variety of sports... the thrill of victory... and the agony of defeat... the human drama of athletic competition... This is "ABC's Wide World of Sports!" introduction for that program has passed into American pop culture. He is also known for television coverage of twelve Olympic Games, and for his reporting on the Munich massacre at the 1972 Summer Olympics.
McKay covered a wide variety of special events, including horse races such as the Kentucky Derby, golf events such as the British Open, and the Indianapolis 500. But his most tragic and crowning moment was at those 1972 Olympic Games.
NORMAN SMITH: was an English recording engineer and producer who worked with the Beatles; as a musician, he used pseudonym "Hurricane" Smith on his self-titled album. Smith was said to be one of the best producers and sound engineers the Beatles ever had. He left their employ after the release of "Rubber Soul" and had a pretty decent career afterwards with campy songs like "Oh Babe What Would You Say" and "Who Was It?"
BETTY JAMES: who came up with the name Slinky for the stair-walking spring that has delighted children for more than 60 years and who ran the toy company after her husband, the inventor, left it and his family in 1960, died in Philadelphia. She was 90 and lived in Hollidaysburg, Pa., where the company, James Industries, is located. Paging through a dictionary in 1944, Mrs. James put her finger on the word slinky because she thought it best described the sinuous and graceful movement and the soft sound of the expanding and contracting metal coil her husband, Richard, had fashioned. Mr. James was an engineer at a shipbuilding company in Philadelphia in 1943 when a torsion spring fell off a table and flipped end over end on a ship’s deck. The James family made 400 Slinkys and, just before Christmas 1945, persuaded Gimbels department store in Philadelphia to let them set up a ramp in the toy department. Not only could a Slinky perform serial somersaults down the ramp, but it could turn a child instantly into a faultless juggler. At $1 each, those first 400 sold out in 90 minutes. So far, more than 300 million Slinkys, including rainbow-hued plastic models and Slinky Dogs, have been sold, enough to circle the earth about 150 times, if stretched, which they shouldn’t be.
CATHERINE BAKER KNOLL: was the first female Ltn. Governor of Pennsylvania. Prior to that she was Pa. State Treasurer and active in the Democratic Party. Her final campaign was in support of Senator Hillary Clinton, in fact in our photo index one of Knoll's friends requested that we use a picture of Mrs. Knoll in her last campaign effort. Done.
GEORGE CARLIN: was a stand-up comedian. He was also an actor and author, and won four Grammy Awards for his comedy albums. Carlin was noted for his black humor as well as insights on politics, the English language, psychology, religion, and various taboo subjects. Carlin and his "Seven Dirty Words" comedy routine were central to the 1978 U.S. Supreme Court case F.C.C. v. Pacifica Foundation, in which a narrow 5–4 decision by the justices affirmed the government's power to regulate indecent material on the public airwaves.
WILLIAM F. BUCKLEY: was an author and conservative commentator. He founded the political magazine National Review in 1955, hosted 1429 episodes of the television show Firing Line from 1966 until 1999, and was a nationally syndicated newspaper columnist. His writing style was famed for its erudition, wit, and use of uncommon words. Buckley's program was a mainstay in my home even with a liberal, labor union die hard Democratic set of parents.
ALEKSANDR SOLZHENITSYN: was a Russian novelist, dramatist and historian. Through his writings, he made the world aware of the Gulag, the Soviet Union's forced labour camp system, and for these efforts Solzhenitsyn was exiled from the Soviet Union in 1974. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1970. He returned to Russia in 1994. Had to read his book in college and found it frightening and fascinating all at the same time.
BETTIE PAGE: the 1950s secretary-turned-model whose controversial photographs in skimpy attire or none at all helped set the stage for the 1960s sexual revolution, died in 2008 at the age of 85. Page was placed on life support after suffering a heart attack in Los Angeles and never regained consciousness. He said he and Page's family agreed to remove life support. Before the heart attack, Page had been hospitalized for three weeks with pneumonia. "She captured the imagination of a generation of men and women with her free spirit and unabashed sensuality," Roesler said. "She is the embodiment of beauty."
Page, who was also known as Betty, attracted national attention with magazine photographs of her sensuous figure in bikinis and see-through lingerie that were quickly tacked up on walls in military barracks, garages and elsewhere, where they remained for years. Her photos included a centerfold in the January 1955 issue of then-fledgling Playboy magazine, as well as controversial sadomasochistic poses.
PHOTO INDEX: APOLLO ASTRONAUTS FRANK BORMAN, WILLIAN ANDERS AND JAMES LOVELL, JUNIOR, OUR 1968 LOGO, STATE REPRESENTATIVE TODD EACHUS, THE BLOG EDITOR AND FELLOW DOOR BUSTER OF 1968 PAUL K. (PAUL AND I WENT FROM ST. JOHN THE BAPTIST GRADE SCHOOL TO ST. JOHN'S HIGH TO KING'S COLLEGE) THE ST. JOHN THE BAPTIST CLASS OF 1968 AND THE WASKO BROTHERS, BOB, ME AND DREW TRYING TO RE-CREATE A BEATLES PHOTO IN APRIL OF 1968.
TODD SAYS NO
The House Democratic caucus denied a request by its former second-ranking member to pay the costs of defending him against criminal charges in "Bonusgate," an ongoing legislative corruption investigation. Majority Leader Todd Eachus, D-Luzerne, made the decision in response to a Dec. 11 letter sent to him and other House leaders by Mike Veon's lawyer, Bob Del Greco. Del Greco threatened to seek a federal injunction if the House of Representatives did not agree to pay Veon's already accrued legal expenses and "all future attorney fees and related expenses consistent with its custom and practice of paying legal fees for House members and staff over the last two decades." "It's a slam dunk," Eachus said of his decision. "I think people expect that me as a leader and the House Democratic caucus to be stewards of their tax dollars. Paying for liability exposure or legal exposure for former members of the House would be an unwise way to spend their tax dollars." Veon, a former state representative from Beaver County, is among 12 people associated with the House Democratic caucus who were charged in July with theft, conflict of interest and conspiracy in connection with the alleged illegal use of government employees and taxpayer money for electioneering. The upcoming trial is part of the Bonus gate indictments that happened this past summer.
PA. HEALTH CARE
Pennsylvania’s Insurance Department says the waiting list for a state-subsidized health insurance program for adults has reached an all-time high.Department spokeswoman Rosanne Placey said Tuesday that 145,800 adults are now on the waiting list for the adultBasic insurance program.Placey says that’s an increase of about 15,000 since November — also a record-high spike.More than 46,000 adults are currently enrolled in the program, which helps uninsured adults whose incomes are too high to qualify them for Medicaid.
This is our final segment for the year 1968. We hope you’ve enjoyed it and hopefully got a better glimpse into what it was like growing up in that turbulent year. Living through that year has shaped my political belief system as well as the way I approach news events entering my life in the current time. If you were at all awake during that time period, you can’t help but be affected by it. Hope you enjoyed it.
The year began with football. We watched this fast running back from USC, O.J. Simpson break away from tackles at a breakneck pace. The next day at school, a class mate of mine and I were involved in an “incident”. We busted the front door at the venerable but now defunct St. John the Baptist School in Pittston. Our parents told us the door would lead both families to financial ruin, bread lines danced like visions in our heads but the pastor said, “don’t worry about, we have insurance”. Then he bellowed, “but don’t do it again!”. Time passed as the cold winter turned to spring and events just converged on us with the same rapidity of a Simpson run. My Packers won Super Bowl II, then came Tet. Then Gene McCarthy’s candidacy, the Rockefeller entry and exit drama, the Romney brainwashing story, the New Hampshire primary upset of LBJ, LBJ’s withdrawal, Martin Luther King’s assassination, our spring school dance, Easter services, two more failed attempts by Sister Rosina to expel me from the Presidency of my class, a visit by the Wasko Brothers, (classmates for seven years until they wound up in Endwell, New York), a class play of which I was the lead, later finding out I was the second choice, an outing to Rocky Glen Park dubbed as our class trip (previous classes went further out of the environs of Greater Pittston with a few “incidents” which penalized us,) the 7th grade girlfriend encounters, the death of Bobby Kennedy, the emergence of George Wallace as a viable Third Party candidate (this was after all 1968 and anything could happen and did), the summer before high school doing an odd lot of things including working as a short order cook at a hot dog joint in the Junction section of Pittston, the fantasy convention cooked up by a few of my friends held at the Wyoming Monument, the boring GOP convention in Miami and the tumultuous one in Chicago, the start of the fall campaign, the decline of the Wallace booklet when Americans realized the guy was an anti labor fascist , working as a Humphrey-Muskie volunteer with the local UAW and Ladies Garment Union as well as carpet bagging into Kingston to help Richard Adams run against Frank O’Connell for State Representative, adjusting to high school and the classes (Latin? How the heck can I get out of this?) lying about my age I obtained a new job at the new Detato’s Supermarket, the election of Nixon over Humphrey, and finally a familiar contentment with the age old comfort quilt, Christmas with the family. My father had a workplace injury (broke his leg in three places on the railroad) and was confined to the downstairs living room. We had our tree, our relatives, our holiday customs that told us, despite the eventful year, we were safe in our family unit. Despairing a little bit, but safe. Then from the heavens came a confirmation that maybe all was not lost in spirit and faith. Three astronauts orbiting the moon sent a message that told us that 1968, though eventful was just a passing speck of time in a universe and world that had been and would remain bigger than all of us. The message from outer space, given by three of our own Americans gave us pause to reflect on our lives, our insignificant place in the universe but also the ultimate goodness of mankind. From You Tube: Apollo 8.
WHO WE WERE
We, as Americans in 1968 were quite different than we are today. On the top issues of the day, 44% of Americans thought Vietnam was the biggest concern with Civil Rights at 17%, Racial Strife at 12%, Juvenile Delinquency at 12% and the economy at 6%. In 2008 58% of us thought the Economy was the most important issue while the war in Iraq stood at just 13% with Health Care and Jobs coming in at 9%.........In 1968, a whopping 81% of Americans said that law and order had broken down in America, 72% said Richard Nixon was a man of high integrity, 60% opposed Pope Paul’s ban on birth control, 51% said there should be a law banning marriages between blacks and whites, 53% said the church should keep out of political matters, 31% felt that Dr. King brought his assassination on himself and 28% would refuse to be seen by a physician of color…..67% of whites believed blacks were asking for more than they deserved, 63% said they had less ambition than whites and 54% of whites said people of color laughed a lot……On teenagers, 32% would forbid their daughters to wear mini skirts, 50% would forbid boys with long hair, 57% would forbid drinking beer, 31% “petting” on a date, 63% would oppose dropping out of school, 66% would forbid taking a two week trip alone and 19% would forbid wearing sandals……in 1968 73% believed in life after death while in 2008 it was 68%, 60% believed in the Devil in ’68 while in ’08 59%, 66% believed in hell while in ’08 62% believed it and heaven came in at 85% in ’68 as opposed to 72% in ’08….on the new President 5% believed he’d be great in ’68, 48% good, and 36% fair and as far as 1969 being a better year, 29% said yes, 9% said worse and 59% said there’d be little difference…..the number one song of the year was “Hey Jude” and the number 1 song in the last week of 1968 in LuLac land and America was the Brooklyn Bridge’s “Worse That Can Happen”. From You Tube:
PHOTO INDEX: THE LUZERNE COUNTY COURTHOUSE. LAYOFFS BEGIN What was promised, now has become the inevitable. The Luzerne County Commissioners announced today that 27 employees will be laid off by the first of January. The commissioners approved a $129.2 million budget that eliminates funding for 138 full-time county jobs, with 55 jobs in the judicial branch. President Judge Mark A. Ciavarella Jr. filed a lawsuit claiming any reduction to the judicial budget would cause "irreparable harm. The layoffs don't include judicial employees. The Commissioners approved a contract with a Philadelphia firm to work on litigation over the 2009 budget allocation for the county judiciary. Officials want to lay off 34 more employees in the judicial branch, but can't because of the litigation. SISTER ADRIAN The Scranton area social service community is losing a true advocate and champion of the poor. Sister Adrian Barrett announced her retirement from the Friends of the Poor. Sister Adrian was well known for her community wide Thanksgiving programs and efforts to feed and house the poor. Her charitable works exceeded all expectations and her enthusiasm will be sorely missed by those who have been helped by her generosity. May she slow down, smell some Irish roses and enjoy her retirement.
PHOTO INDEX: CHRISTMAS AT THE VATICAN AND IN WASHINGTON, D.C. TWO CENTERS OF POWER.
As things calm down politically in deference to the Christmas season, two quick notes. Tuesday, Dec. 23rd we'll be on WYOU TV Interactive News at 6PM and 7PM talking about some issues involving state and local politics........and on Saturday, the first politician I voted for locally passed away. Sherman Sartin was 81 and served his community well. Sartin ran for the Pittston Area School Board in 1973 as a Republican and I voted for him because of the way he talked about public education. He never got the opportunity to serve because the GOP was steamrolled by the powerhouse Third District Democratic organization in that election. He never ran again for public office but served his community and church well in various endeavors like service clubs and other organizations. He will be missed.
PHOTO INDEX: FIRST LADY IN WAITING, MICHELLE OBAMA, WILK'S NANCY KMAN, ACTRESS JENNIFER ANISTON, WYOU TV ANCHOR LYNDALL STOUT, THE LATE CATHERINE BAKER KNOLL, LTN. GOVERNOR OF PENNSYLVANIA, EVIE REFALKO MCNULTY, LACKAWANNA COUNTY RECORDER OF DEEDS, MEET THE PRESS PRODUCER BETSY FISCHER, FORMER WBRE TV REPORTER JILL KONOPKA FACING THE MICROPHONE FROM THIS BLOG EDITOR, LUZERNE COUNTY COMMISSIONER MARYANNE PETRILLA, SENATOR HILLARY CLINTON AND WBRE TV ANCHOR CANDACE KELLY.
WOMEN WE LOVE
Esquire Magazine used to have an annual feature in their magazine called "Women We Love". LuLac had one last year and decided to make this an annual event. We picked these women with no special criteria whatsoever, just on our gut reaction as to their public personas, (some we've met, some we did not, all we've observed) and what we feel they have contributed to politics, pop culture, media and society in general. So here we go:
MICHELLE OBBAMA: Despite numerous chances to lose her cool, the new First Lady designate played a vital supportive role for her husband in the Presidential race of 2008. She deftly avoided much controversy despite her "first time to be proud to be an American remark" and was a valuable partner in and outside of the campaign. I think her style and education will make some of those White House social gatherings interesting places to be. And you can count on her being a covert player in administration policy.
NANCY KMAN: WILK'S talk show host as well as Entercom Company executive keeps a fine balance going on the "Morning Show with Kevin and Nancy". She has made WILK a radio station of consequence with a variety of talk programming that spans ideals and philosophies. In addition to her duties at WILK, she serves as a correspondent for WVIA TV's "State of Pennsylvania". A cancer survivor, she has been known to reach out to people afflicted with that disease.
JENNIFER ANISTON: "Friends" was never one of my favorite TV shows and I just had a passing notice of actreess Jennifer Aniston. But recently, she appeared for the second time on GQ Magazine, sans clothing. This time she was only wearing a men's tie. I later learned that she has been reportedly doing these covers as "revenge" against her first hubby Brad Pitt. I love that! As a recipient of a few "revenge" dates in my life from beautiful woman, (yeah call 'em mercy dates if you want, I don't care) I say go for it Jennifer. I would have published the current magazine but Mrs. LuLac claims it got misplaced last week while she was efforting to decorate the Christmas tree.
LYNDALL STOUT: After having her first child, Lyndall Stout made a smooth transition from WBRE TV to WYOU TV Interactive News. A good interviewer as well as a top notch reporter and anchor, Stout is balancing her career, motherhood and career objectives with a sunny optimism that serves her well on and off the air. She is also involved with the "Buddy Check" for breast cancer awareness in the community.
CATHERINE BAKER KNOLL: Knoll was one of our winners last year. This time around, we give her the award posthumously for her last days battling with cancer. Catherine not only showed great grace under pressure, she also insisted on defending the integrity and profile of her office. Her most famous moment in '08 was grabbing a microphone from a master of ceremonies at a Hillary Clinton campaign rally featuring former President Bill Clinton. Defending the significance of her office, her move, criticized by some, got a great reaction out of the former President who most likely understood her motivation in the matter. RIP, CBK.
EVIE REFALKO McNULTY: The Lackawanna County Recorder of Deeds is a dynamo in terms of local politics. She navigated the Presidential war between Senators Clinton and Obama in 2008, winding up front and center with both of them in the national headlines. A virtual font of knowledge on political trivia (as if it's ever trivial) Evie is engaging, funny, gracious and is destined to be a political player for a long, long time.
BETSY FISCHER: She started out as an intern for the venerable NBC program "Meet The Press". By the time 2008 came around, she was producing the program working side by side with Tim Russert to make the show a ratings winner. After Russert's untimely death in June, Fischer held the show together, shepherding it into another era with a new host. Tim Russert would be proud of her work and dedication.
JILL KONOPKA: One of my favorite people in the local media, Jill went to Germany on a fellowship to study the Eueropean Media, specifically in that country. After her return to the area, she moved on to better things in New England. She now works at the CBS affiliate in Hartford, CT, WFSB. She is doing the weekend anchor duties (pretty much as she did them on WBRE TV) and is a field reporter roaming the New England landscape for news stories she can only report in her own style.
GEORGIA CARROLL: Now 88, Georgia Carroll lives in relative quiet in her retirement. But when she was a big band singer with the Kay Keyser Orchestra, she made a lot of righteous noise. Sporting that All American Girl look of the 40s, she was one of the Keyer band's biggest assets. From YOU TUBE: Georgia Carroll.
MARYANNE PETRILLA: Her first year as Luzerne County Commissioner has brought her many challenges and she has met them all. From a political parting with her election team mate Greg Skrepenak, to controversial firings, to a battle with her own Judiciary, Petrilla has done something remarkable for a politician in these parts: she is actually leting her conscience be her guide. She has been vilified by some, shouted down by many, but admired by those who are looking for a government leader who will lead, not follow. Kudos and continued success to Commissioner Petrilla.
HILLARY CLINTON: The former First Lady almost became President if not for a bad strategy in avoiding the caucus states and overloading her campaign staff with overpaid underachievers. Clinton ran an energetic campaign, giving incredible speechs that hit home to a middle class sick and tired of being stomped on by the current administration. She fell short of her goal but established the fact once and for all that a woman could run for President and be taken seriously. So seriously in fact that the sharp knives and sharks were ready and willing to gut her campaign at every turn. When it was over Clinton lined up behind her foe and is now part of his team taking on the Foreign Policy challenges of this new time. With her leadership abilities, the world will be in good hands.
CANDACE KELLY: Kelly has made a great transition from the WYOU Interactive Team to being co-anchor on WBRE TV News. The Minnesota native has established roots here in NEPA and knows the terrain of the news business locally. Her on air demeanor accentuates the mission that WBRE TV is trying to accomplish with their news broadcasts. Her election night coverage was very impressive and was ranked as one of the best by segments by some of the local print media.
PHOTO INDEX: FORMER LACKAWANNA COUNTY COMMISSIONER BOB CORDARO AND CONGRESSMAN PAUL KANJORSKI.
OH THOSE MACHINES
The state Supreme Court denied an appeal by the secretary of the commonwealth in a lawsuit filed by a group of Pennsylvania voters who say electronic voting machines violate state election code. The ruling clears the way for the Commonwealth Court to determine whether touch-screen machines violate the state code.
FROM THE CONGRESSMAN
Congressman Paul E. Kanjorski (PA-11), the Chairman of the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Capital Markets, Insurance, and Government Sponsored Enterprises, sent a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) expressing the urgent need to provide aid to municipalities facing devastating budget shortfalls as a result of the economic crisis. Chairman Kanjorski recommends creating a General Revenue Sharing program to help municipalities and including such a program in the stimulus bill. As a result of their budget deficits, municipalities are unable to fund social services to the aged and the poor, needed job-creating infrastructure projects, and public safety networks. CORDARO ON LOKUTA
On his monthly radio program today, former Lackawanna County Commissioner made some news by saying that he felt the penalty against former Luzerne County Judge Ann Lokuta was too harsh. Cordaro said the loss of her pension was too much of a punishment and felt that it inhibited the former Judge from seeking employment as an attorney. Cordaro also took a shot at Commissioner Mike Washo saying that Washo made the voting in the Pennsylvania Electoral College “all about him and not history”. The Cordaro show is heard every fourth Sunday on WILK Radio Sundays from noon to 2pm. Other weekly hosts are Joe Peters, Paul Stueber and Cathy Donnelly.
20 YEARS AGO
Much of the political fallout from the Lockerbie air disaster has been resolved, but doubts remain about who was behind the explosion 20 years ago today in the skies above Scotland. A cancer-stricken Libyan secret agent is in prison, the sole person convicted in the tragedy, but he has earned a second appeal by convincing judges that “a miscarriage of justice” may have occurred during his trial. Some of the victims’ families are still not convinced that Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi, 56, is to blame for the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, which killed 259 people, mostly Americans, in the air, and 11 more on the ground. Al-Megrahi, convicted in January, 2001, is serving a life sentence. The Palestinian groups suspected of being involved have steadfastly denied any link to the plot. The dynamics of the case have changed in recent years as Libyan leader Col. Moammar Gadhafi has engineered a rapprochement with the West in the dangerous times following the 9/11 attacks on Washington and New York. The self-styled revolutionary leader, who once seemed to thrive on confrontation, has renounced terrorism and voluntarily dismantled his clandestine program to develop nuclear weapons. Britain, the United States and Libya are friendly now, publicly committed to working together to contain the threat of international terrorism. Libya has paid out several billion dollars to the families of Lockerbie victims, and has accepted “general responsibility” for the attack. U.S. officials, and the families involved, said in November that Libya had made the final compensation payments. These acts of contrition have allowed Libya to restore diplomatic ties to Britain and the United States and to curtail United Nations-imposed sanctions. From AP and various sources, '08.
PHOTO INDEX: MARYANNE PETRILLA, LUZERNE COUNTY COMMISSIONER CHAIR AND BILL KELLY, PRESIDENT OF WVIA TV/FM.
It seems like the Luzerne County Commissioners are finally getting some help in their legal battle against the Luzerne County Judges. News came that the Luzerne County commissioners are about to get some moral support in the legal battle to force the courts to reduce staff. The County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania will intervene in the action or submit a legal brief supporting the commissioners’ position. The CCAP, represents commissioners of all 67 counties in the state. The legal battle is under way because county Commissioners Maryanne Petrilla and Steve Urban passed a 2009 budget that cut spending on full-time employee salaries in court branches by $1.7 million. Court branches received $15.6 million for salaries in 2008, compared to $13.9 million allocated in 2009, according to a review of both budgets. Petrilla and Urban proposed 34 layoffs and the elimination of 21 retiree-vacated positions in court departments. Both Urban and Petrilla said the courts could choose their own path in determining who to terminate. In other words, they were taking their hands out of the pot and just asking the Courts do simply do their job. The County Commissioners Association has been pushing a plan that will put all judicial employees under state wide financing since Commissioners have to fund the court system through property tax revenue. And as typical in Pennsylvania, there are 67 sets of County Commissioner boards with 67 different set of rules and standards. To date, the state has only funded the salaries of judges, district justices, court administrators and their immediate deputies. The association is aiming to switch all court-related employees to state employees, limiting the counties’ responsibilities to things like providing security and infrastructure. With the involvement of the CCAP, you can be sure this pitched legal battle will be watched carefully statewide. In the meantime, Luzerne County is held hostage by the courts. Ironic, huh?
This week there was an interesting letter from a Times Leader reader on the subject of WVIA TV/FM's budget cuts and how that organization was dealing with them. Here it is: It’s refreshing to know that there is still some integrity left in this country. Although I’m sure it was painful for Bill Kelly, president and CEO of WVIA Public Media, to have to lay off workers and cut some local programming, at least he and the senior vice presidents had the grace to take salary cuts. Even though it probably won’t change WVIA’s financial picture that much, it’s more than the CEOs of automobile companies and the presidents of failing banks did.Public Broadscasting in this area has been a rich blessing with managers like Kelly and others before him who foresaw budget problems. This is not the first belt tightening by WVIA nor it will be the last. But unlike the banks and others with their hands out, Public Broadcasting has always had a plan of action, a workbook if you will when it comes before the government for funding. The management of WVIA did not file a lawsuit or ask for a bailout, even from their own members, they did what they were responsible for and did it. Maybe we can load a few board members of WVIA in a Suburban and let them show some row officers how to make intelligent but painful cuts in a budget.
BY THE WAY.....
Hughestown Borough passed their annual budget for 2009 the other day. They layed off a secretary. So far, no one is filing a lawsuit. Another example of responsible government in tough times.
The judge who granted a preliminary injunction that blocks staffing cuts in the court system agreed with the court’s position that “immediate and irreparable” harm would be caused if the stay were not granted. The injunction, signed by specially appointed Senior Judge C. Joseph Rehkamp of Perry County, also requires commissioners to fund the courts at the same level as the 2008 budget. Attorneys for Luzerne County President Judge Mark Ciavarella sought the injunction, contending the court order was necessary to ensure the status quo is maintained pending resolution of Ciavarella’s suit that challenges court cuts contained in the county’s 2009 budget. That from the Times Leader. This thing is far from over and a hearing will be held in late December to get this issue resolved. 2009 RACES
Looking ahead to 2009, here are some races up for grabs in Luzerne and Lackawanna County. In Luzerne, the office of Prothonotary will be up for grabs with an embattled Jill Moran being the incumbent. The Controller’s seat is up and a few Democrats have expressed interest like Wil Toole, former Pittston City official, former Valley West School Director Augie Piazza, PA School District official Tony Rostock and former Controller and Commissioner Tom Pizano. The Pizano candidacy is very strange to me. The guy was elected Controller, jumped ship to become a County Commissioner and left the office to Andy Reilly who was defeated by Steve Flood. If Pizano had stayed where he was at, there would be no Steve Flood and the Dem majority would still be going there merry way. But his ascension made Steve Flood and his various lawsuits against the Democratic majority possible. Now he wants back in according to sources. He’s strong on the West Side and might make a return to his electoral roots. On the GOP side there seems to be a great deal of support for Bob Sypniewski from the Back Mountain while Wilkes Barre City Tax advocate Walter Griffith has signaled his intentions for a run. In Lackawanna County, Evie Refalko McNulty will run for a new term as Recorder of Deeds. Linda Munley wll go for another term as Register of Wills The Sheriff of Lackawanna County John Syzmanski is set for another go at that office while DA Andy Jarbola goes for another term. Other offices up are Scranton and most Borough Mayors, three Scranton Council seats and three Scranton School Board seats. LEGALS IN THE LAC
Luzerne County is not the only place where the Judiciary is upset with the Commissioners. The Scranton Times reports that an Archbald district judge refuses to be quieted after budget cuts by county commissioners pushed one of her clerks out the door the day before Thanksgiving.District Judge Laura Turlip Murphy, in recent letters obtained by The Times-Tribune, took the majority commissioners to task for what she says was funding of discretionary agencies instead of others mandated by the state — specifically the courts.In reply letters and in interviews, commissioners Michael Washo and Corey O’Brien weren’t pulling any punches either, regarding Judge Murphy as simply unwilling to see the dire economic times facing the county and its residents. Commissioners eliminated more than 100 positions since taking office in January to balance the 2009 budget without a tax increase. In the last month Midvalley judges Murphy and John Pesota lost one of three clerks in their offices. Judge Murphy questioned the commissioners’ actions: “Court funding should have priority in the budgetary process, as many other goods and services are discretionary, including: giving raises to selective employees; creating new positions in certain agencies ... just to name a few,” she wrote. Commissioners gave salary increases to their directors of communications and human resources. They also hired two support staff for the communications office.See folks, the difference here is that while the Archbald Judge is being critical, she is not trying to stop the budgetary process and the very vital kink of County government. That’s the legacy of the Luzerne County Court En Banc. LULAC ORGINS
Got a wonderful e mail on the name of our blog, LULAC. Here is it: Hello Mr. Yonki, I wanted to comment on your use of the name 'LuLac' in your newsletter. I do not know if you are aware, but back in the late 60's an oil company was established in Pittston ... that oil company was 'LuLac Oil', and it was owned and operated by my late grandfather. He created the name 'LuLac' ... so, the name has a special meaning to me and has been coined for many years before your blog. Just thought I'd pass that information along. I am very much aware of the LuLac Oil Company. As a matter of fact when I was naming this site, I checked to see if LuLac was still around. As a young boy, I listened to the LuLac oil company commercials on WPTS Radio and remember those LuLac trucks. Please think of the site name as a homage to that great company that served Luzerne and Lackawanna County well for so many years. I swiped the name but did so with a warm place in my heart and a great deal of pride. LEHMAN STRIKE
The greed of the local teacher’s unions once again raised its ugly head, this time in the Lake Lehman School District. The teachers who are paid way above the local average are bitching about health care. Seems they have to pay a portion of it. And then there are those working poor, some of them parents of the overpaid educators who can’t afford even basic health coverage. Once again, people doing well seem to have a tin ear when it comes to the economic mess the rest of this region, state and country are in. Happy striking. Don’t get frostbite. 1968
China's Mao advocates that educated youth in urban China be re-educated in the country. It marks the start of the "Up to the mountains and down to the villages" movement……..President Johnson holds Christmas receptions at the White House as he closes out his term in office….in Pennsylvania Congressman Richard Schweiker prepares to take over the U.S. Senate seat held by Joseph Clark. In 1969, Pennsylvania will have 2 GOP U.S. Senators….State Senate Librarian, former Senator Harold Flack announces he will give us his appointed job of $15,000 a year in the state……County employees are granted a $500.00 tentative raise by the team of Crossin and Wideman, Luzerne County Commissioners….The Luzerne County Prison Board approved a program to train prisoners in computers and data processing and the number one song in LuLac land and America 40 years ago this week was “I Heard It Through The Grapevine” by Marvin Gaye.
PHOTO INDEX: TWO PEOPLE BATTLING FORCES IN THEIR OWN BUILDING TO DO THE RIGHT THING, COMMISSIONER MARYANNE PETRILLA AND BUDGET DIRECTOR TOM PRIBULA. (PHOTOS FROM THE TIMES LEADER.)
Just a few thoughts on that lawsuit brought by the President Judge of Luzerne County against the County Commissioners. The rationale seems to be that the Court can’t function without the allocated money and it would be impossible to provide full services with a cut. I respectfully submit that there are other ways to achieve this goal rather than suing your fellow partners in government. First off, a position was created for Sam Guesto earlier this year. At the time, a tough budget year was looming and yet by fiat, Judge Ciavarella created the job. This seems to take the air out of the whole argument that the court can’t function. Surely if you can find money for a new position, you can make some cuts. Here’s how:
1. Have each Judge and Court Administrator take a $10% and 5% pay cut. 10% for the Judges, 5% for the Administrators.
2. Work longer hours in order to accommodate the workload. Other county offices are eliminating positions. You’re not. So increase the hours. It won’t kill the salaried people to put in a little extra overtime. They do it in private business when times are tough. Why can’t the court do so?
3. Reinstate the staff of Judge Lokuta. Assign these experienced people to other departments. Or is the grudge against Lokuta so deep that “justice is not only blind, but deaf and dumb” too?
4. Install a Kronos time clock to make sure the Court, in its endeavor to serve the community and not shortchange the county for the money that’s not being cut, have full accountability for its workers. An honest day’s work for their pay. Kronos time clocks are in private business, why not county business? When I was on Jury Duty in the late 80s, the President Judge addressed the issue of parking. He said that if there was a space open after 830AM, whether it be a Judge’s, Court administrator’s or any other labeled one, to take it. “After all, if they’re not here on time, you should park there”.
The County Judiciary with this lawsuit has reinforced the fact that they seem to be a cut above the others, even the County Commissioners who run the county. This lawsuit is an insult to the taxpayers, the county row offices which have to cut their services as well as the other elected and unelected officials who have rolled up their sleeves to solve a big problem. This lawsuit only adds to it and that is the biggest joke and insult of all.
Then there’s Bob Reilly who said he is considering a lawsuit saying "that he won’t have the resources to carry out his mandated responsibilities.” We elect people to be creative, not to be robots. After twenty years on the job, you mean to tell me he can’t be creative in his staffing to get the job done? Private business owners have “mandates” too. It’s called meeting a payroll. If they can do it, the County officials should too. Or maybe at election time, we should give these guys a crack at the private sector to see what it’s really like out there.
Location: Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania, United States
Political analyst for WBRE TV's Pa. Live program and post election commentator for WBRE TV's Eyewitness News Daybreak show. Author of the book "A Radio Story/We Wish You Well In Your Future Endeavors" and "Leges Vitae" "26 Rules of Life" and the new novel, "Weather Or Knot". The blog editor also writes various news articles and columns as well as upcoming literary projects. The blog editor was a frequent guest on WYOU TV'S INTERACTIVE NEWSCASTS when political issues were discussed on the national, state and local level. Yonki was a weekly panelist on WYLN TV 35's Friday Topic A program. He also appeared on the Hazleton, PA. station on Election Night doing coverage and did special projects and stories for WYLN TV 35's 10PM Newscast "Late Edition".