Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The LuLac Edition #863, June 30th, 2009



Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said the committee preparing for hearings for Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor needs time to review 300 boxes of records that recently turned up in connection with her work for a legal advocacy group. Like where did they records come from and who gave them to the GOP? McConnell said the Senate Judiciary Committee needs to examine the materials from the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund. Hearings are scheduled to begin July 13 on President Barack Obama's nomination of Sotomayor, a federal appeals court judge. The Dems have the majority, Obama’s nominee will win but not before being scarred a bit by a GOP looking to find an issue. The GOP, outnumbered on this one, faced with a nominee with pretty good credentials as well as a political double play (gender and ethnicity) can only hope to play the role of a school yard bully whose bark is bigger than his bite.


A potential White House contender in 2012 staked a claim to rehabilitating the Republican Party in the wake of extramarital affairs by two leading Republicans that have damaged the GOP's family-values image. Gov. Tim Pawlenty, of Minnesota said the obvious, "It certainly hurts the brand." Pawlenty viewed as a running mate to John McCain in 2008 volunteered his servies to spruce up the GOP image. "I think I can make a contribution, in a positive way, for trying to rebuild this party.
“ The problem with the GOP scandals is this, while there are many Dem scandals they can look to in the past, right now we have a virtual modern day Ward Cleaver/Cliff Huxstable in the White House with an intelligent wife who grows veggies in the garden and two adorable well behaved kids. Tough to paint President Obama as one of those “Hollywood loving, depraved Democrats with no morals or family values”. That is their problem. There is just no comparative data that can compute.


Pennsylvania's state government will most likely begin a seventh straight fiscal year without a spending plan in place. The Democratic governor and Republican legislators are about $2 billion apart on proposals to balance the state's recession-wracked budget.
Rendell says he's prepared to go as long as it takes to get an acceptable agreement. Rendell’s strategy has been to tell anyone who would listen that he will make tremendous cuts in the budget. Those interest groups being affected have taken to the airwaves broadcasting that something has to be done. Rendell knows he’s more popular than the Legislature and will use that to drive a wedge. Unlike other years though, Rendell is not blaming anyone in state government but rather "those SOBs on Wall Street." That's encouraging. Still, this 7th straight year of no budget on time does not inspire confidence in all branches of state government.

Monday, June 29, 2009

The LuLac Edition #862, June 29th, 2009



Well another parish that was over 100 years old closed yesterday. St. Mark's in Inkerman closed its doors. However in Wilkes Barre at St. Nick's, members of the Hispanic community joined that parish and called St. Nicholas their own. The new members increase St. Nick's family roster to about 1300. Meantime one year ago today, the church I grew up in, St. John the Baptist Church on William Street in Pittston closed its doors. The church is still standing, not sold, essentially rotting. Wasn't there supposed to be a memory wall installed in the basement of St. John the Evangelist and a handy dandy video tribute with memories tape recorded by parishioners of the Baptist and St. Casmir's? Oh well, it doesn't matter. By next year, it'll be a Wendy's. Here's the video:

Sunday, June 28, 2009

The LuLac Edition #861, June 28th, 2009



Every time I watch some rookie newscaster or even an anchor with a few years in the business not tell me the gist of the story they are reporting, not give me the point and leave a dangling piece of information in the ether, I think of Paul Stueber the former news director of WBRE TV and WNEP TV. As a veteran newsman, Stueber made sure people reported the entire story, start to finish. That doesn’t happen anymore. It occured last night on WBRE. They tell us a Wilkes Barre woman became Miss Pennsylvania but no one found a picture of her anywhere to complete the story! Paul has a media related blog called “Tying My Shoes” which has some great information in it. Here’s his link:
What was intriguing to me was part of what he said about WYOU TV. As you know I was a frequent guest on their Interactive News. In April, Nexstar Broadcasting said the production of the newscast cost too much money. Yet, according to Mr. Stueber, they were the only TV station that had an increase in revenue over the previous year.
Top-rated WNEP-TV, the local ABC affiliate, raked in an estimated $27 million last year, which accounted for 48.2 percent of the total local revenue, down from 50.1 percent in 2007. WBRE-TV, the local NBC affiliate, had an estimated $11.5 million, or 20.5 percent, of the advertising revenue, down slightly from 20.6 percent in '07. WYOU-TV (CBS) earned an estimated $9.4 million, or 16.8 percent, up from 15.5 percent in 2007. So even though they made more money the previous year, they dumped their commitment to news. Just pointing that out.


On Tuesday at his news conference, President Obama said a public plan would be “an important tool to discipline insurance companies.” He said he supports a public plan “that's not profit-driven, that can keep down administrative costs, and that provides you good, quality care for a reasonable price.” He added that if a public plan “is able to reduce administrative costs significantly, then you know what, I'd like the insurance companies to take note and say, hey, ‘if the public plan can do that, why can't we?’” John Holohan, the director of the Health Policy Center at the Urban Institute, a non-partisan Washington think tank, said “having a competitor to private plans, under a fair set of market rules, will provide more choice and place substantial cost containment pressure on the health care system.” But opponents of a public plan say it will undermine private sector insurance, eventually leaving nothing but taxpayer-provided and government-run insurance. Stuart Butler, a health care analyst at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, said at a forum sponsored by the Alliance for Health Reform that it would require “a staggering leap of faith to assume that the Congress and the United States government will somehow operate like a sort of benign umpire in the system, when it actually is also a team owner.” Under the proposal introduced by House Democrats last week, the plan would get some unspecified amount of start-up money from the federal government. But the intention of public plan proponents is it would become self-sustaining that is, financed by the premiums paid by the people who enroll in it. But Holohan that “the public plan is probably going to get sicker than average people” signing up for it. “There are an awful lot of people who have had health problems and have had bad experiences with insurance companies. And they will probably gravitate toward the public plan”. And my question to the esteemed gentleman is this: can you blame them????????????


Every late June before the Fourth of July, I wonder how my girl Maria Sharapova will do at Wimbledon. Sometimes the answer comes late in the final rounds, this year, alas it came early. Maria’s Wimbledon campaign came to an early end in round two after losing a thriller to Gisela Dulko.The Russian former champion was far from her best and the Argentinian took advantage, winning the first set 6-2.Dulko took a 3-0 lead in the second but Sharapova fought valiantly and won six games in a row to take the set 6-3, but Dulko refused to wilt and claimed the third set 6-4 on her fifth match point.Maria Sharapova's passion for Wimbledon has not been diminished by making an early exit for a second straight year.The former champion suffered a 6-2 3-6 6-4 defeat in a thrilling clash against Argentinian Gisela Dulko. She said: "Being here is a wonderful accomplishment. I'm not lying about it. I had the pleasure of playing on Centre Court again. I didn't play on it last year. I enjoy every single minute." Now that's class and true love of sports and competition. Here are a few moments with Maria; the first is a wonderful ESPN commercial that every guy will get and the next is Maria losing her cool at a line judge:

She'll do better at the U.S. Open at Flushing Meadows. Count on it!
The "Prez and Public Plan" story NBC/CBS News sources.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

The LuLac Edition #860, June 27th, 2009



Throughout their political career Paul Kanjorski and Maryanne Petrilla have attended more than their fair share of church festivals, backyard barbeques and picnics. But this week, both attended a picnic on the lawn of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C. President Obama who is fond of talking to, for and about "the folks" hosted the event. The picnic is an annual White House event and was hosted by both the President and his Veep. Naturally the two local politicos talked about the event. I mean who wouldn't?
“It was an honor to be invited to the White House and I was thrilled that Commissioner Petrilla was able to join,” said Congressman Kanjorski. “It was an eventful evening as we had the opportunity to talk with President Obama, Vice President Biden, and many others in a more casual setting. We also had the pleasure of seeing one of our Pennsylvania Senators, Senator Casey.”
“I was proud to represent Luzerne County to President Obama and his family,” said Commissioner Petrilla. “I greatly appreciated that Congressman Kanjorski gave me the opportunity to discuss the issues that matter in Northeastern Pennsylvania with so many members of the executive and legislative branches of government. And I look forward to making the most of those contacts as I continue to work on behalf Luzerne County’s families.”


A New Law Requires Major Health Insurers to Allow Eligible Children through the Age 29 to Remain Covered Under Their Parents’ Policy. As we all know in today’s tough economic climate, increasingly more young adults face difficulties finding work after leaving school, which means they also face the prospect of losing health insurance coverage. To address this issue, Pennsylvania recently enacted legislation to require major insurers to allow dependent, uninsured adult children through the age 29 to remain on their parents’ policy. The law, Act 4 of 2009, covers new insurance contracts and renewals after December 7, 2009. A young adult eligible for this coverage would have to meet the following requirements:
1. Have insured parents;
2. Not be married;
3. Have no dependants;
4. Be a PA resident or be enrolled full-time at an institution of higher education.
5. Not be covered by another health-care policy.
Parents would also have to pay their children’s premiums, and the coverage would depend on the employers’ willingness to offer the benefit to parents. For more information on how to apply for this coverage, parents should contact their employers or health insurers. If you are not eligible for health-care coverage under Act 4, other options are available to you, as well. If your parents have coverage through a large group plan, COBRA may provide temporary continuation coverage for you. Federal law requires that employees and their families covered under group health plans be offered the opportunity for temporary coverage where the plan would otherwise end. This coverage generally lasts around 18 months and requires premium payments on your part. In addition, you can also contact insurance companies to obtain an individual policy or, if you’re a college graduate, you can try calling your alma mater to see if you can continue the school’s health plan after graduation. Some schools offer coverage up to 12 months after graduation, which could also be renewable for up to two years. Right now there are many uninsured young people in this state simply because they can't afford health care premiums of roughly $500.00 a month on their own. This is a great move to get those people covered.


Walter Griffith, Junior has a dilemma. He actually is going to have to force himself from not going to a public meeting. In this case a meeting at an entity where he is a duly elected official. Griffith told me, “I will not attend any meetings regarding the Home Rule Study Commission until they comply with the Sunshine Act. I will not be a party to any illegal meetings that are not advertised.” Apparently the committee feels they don’t have to follow the Sunshine Laws. Okay, maybe technically they don’t, but let’s talk public perception here. We have a County Government in crisis with only four high profile competent public officials trying to hold it together. (Petrilla, Urban, Muroski and Carroll). In order to change county government, a study commission is elected. So the first thing this commission does is say they don’t have to have public meetings in the open and then limit audience participation time. To an already disgusted general public, this sends the wrong message. Now the GSC has been advised by Mr. Haggerty that they will not follow the Sunshine Law until they are advised by a solicitor. Here’s a plan that maybe makes too much sense, why not err on the side of caution and hold open meetings until you hire a solicitor? I hope Walter Griffith changes his mind and shows up. They say that democracy can be a messy business but you shouldn’t go out of your way to make it messier than necessary. Unless the whole point of this committee is to devalue itself from the get go and lose any credibility of the very angry citizens in this county, there should be open meetings without any reservations. Case closed.


This blog/site has been accused of being too personality oriented. I don’t think that’s true because I don’t share my every thought about just anything and put it out there. Our subjects are local, state, and national political affairs with a concentration on Luzerne and Lackawanna counties. (Thus the name LuLac!) We also deal with pop culture events and of course weigh in on opinions regarding such things. We offer other blogs on our Profile page but if you want more stuff, check out my facebook page. Google David Yonki facebook and it should come up. Sorry, no twitter, I’m too wordy, verbose and do have a life.

Friday, June 26, 2009

The LuLac Edition #859, June 26th, 2009



The Wilkes Barre Area School Board named Christine Katsock as a board member to replace Jim Height. Katsock who has been in the arena for a decade finally reaped a huge double victory on both party nominations in the primary. Her appointment was the most logical choice because of her electoral success plus her obvious commitment to public service. I reached Katsock at her home and she said this when I asked her reaction to the appointment. "I am absolutely thrilled. First off I want to thank the voters for making me the top vote getter in the last election. In the same breath I want to thank the Wilkes Barre Area School Board for voting me to this position unanimously”.



Two major American icons died on the same day. Yesterday morning Farrah Fawcett passed away after a long battle with cancer. Fawcet was the all American girl whose bathing suit poster graced the rooms of many an American boy in the 1970s. It is a little known fact that Fawcett was only on the hit series “Charlie’s Angels” for just the first season. Her body of work came in drama later on. One of her signature roles was that of an abused and beaten woman based on a true story called “The Burning Bed”. Fawcett may best be remembered though for her fight against cancer. The documentary on NBC chronicled the disease that killed her. Fawcett had a career with memorable moments. There were ups and downs and certainly some bumps along the way. But she never ran away from a fight. Every person who has cancer reaches a defining moment of reality that hits you over the head with the ravages of the disease and/or treatment. The one I had was minor to the Farrah Fawcett moment when she took her turban off to reveal the ravages against that gorgeous head of hair that made every woman envious and every man’s head turn. The video I saw showed me a lot of spirit, courage and fight. She made all of us aware of her obvious physical beauty with that poster from the 70s. We gained a glimpse into the inner beauty of her spirit and soul in the way in which she faced her death. God speed Farrah!
A video from that iconic first year of "Charlie's Angels".


I first became aware of little Michael Jackson when I went to visit relatives in Windsor Ontario when I was in high school. A radio fan, I toured the studios of that giant radio station CKLW, The Big 8. This was the summer of 1969 and the station staff was abuzz with a free concert in Detroit featuring a little known group called The Jackson 5. By the start of the year, their first single, “I Want You Back” hit number 1. It was followed by three other number 1 hits that year. There were numerous appearances on the Ed Sullivan Show with the front man being the youngest Jackson, Michael. Jackson is one of the few members of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame to be inducted twice, once as part of a group, the other as an individual. While he was a member of the group he began a solo career in 1971 while still a member of the group. Referred to as the "King of Pop" in subsequent years, five of his solo studio albums have become some of the world's best-selling records. Joe Middleton of Laflin and a former Pittston resident was a road manager and merchandising coordinator for the Jackson summer tour of 1973 and 1974. “He was a great talent with incredible stage presence and energy. The only thing was the kid had no life. When he was on the road he had tutors with him so he got an education but the father had the whole family under his thumb. He was the cash cow of his family and really did not have a normal childhood. When I saw him, he was very quiet. But once he got on that stage, that arena became his wheelhouse. He’ll be remembered as one of the top performers in that musical genre” said Middleton. Quincy Jones was also credited with securing Michael Jackson's place in pop music history. "It was Quincy Jones that took Jackson to the next level in terms of creativity and musical energy that he wasn't going to get at the assembly line music menatality at Motown Records" concluded Middleton. In the early 1980s, he became a dominant figure in popular music and the first African-American entertainer to amass a strong crossover following on MTV. The popularity of his music videos airing on MTV, such as "Beat It", "Billie Jean" and Thriller—credited for transforming the music video into an art form and a promotional tool. It also made Jackson an enduring figure in the pop music and entertainment world. When I was a staff member of the United Way of Wyoming Valley, I had a brush with the fame and frenzy generated by Michael Jackson. During the 1984 United Way campaign, local businessman Ron Simms came across maybe 50 tickets to the Jackson Family Reunion Tour in Philadelphia. Mr. Simms donated all of them and the organization sold them about $50.00 above face value. Word had got out that the show was sold out and when we opened the doors at 9 East Market Street, there was a line all the way to the Genetti Hotel Parking Lot. Needless to say we were sold out in a half hour. It was a good day for the United Way thanks to Mr. Simms………and of course to the ultimate talent of the Jacksons. Jackson donated and raised millions of dollars for beneficial causes through his foundation, charity singles and support of 39 charities. Other aspects of his personal life, including his changing appearance and behavior, generated significant controversy, damaging his public image. Though he was accused of child sexual abuse in 1993, the criminal investigation was closed due to lack of evidence and Jackson was not charged. The singer experienced health concerns from the early 1990s until his death, as well as conflicting reports regarding the state of his finances. Jackson married twice and fathered three children, all of which caused further controversy. In 2005, Jackson was tried and acquitted of further sexual abuse allegations and several other charges.
Here's one of the great songs of the 70s that made Michael Jackson and his brothers a household name.


The Vatican condemns the female combined oral contraceptive pill………The National GOP gears up for a convention fight between Pennsylvania Governor Bill Scranton and Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater. Though Goldwater is favored, the moderates in the GOP are lining up en masse to support Mr. Scranton. Meanwhile Goldwater tells reporters he is thinking about running mates as the convention nears…………..Statewide, Luzerne County Commissioner James Post was named to the Executive Committee of the Pennsylvania Republican State committee………………After pitching a perfect game on Father's Day, Jim Bunning gives up 11 hits in a game with the St. Louis Cardinals. The Phils win 6-5 with Ed Roebuck getting the win in relief............The Young Democrats of Lackawanna County completed their annual membership drive. The group met at the Hotel Casey and announced that they had 4200 members. Ralph Brunari was the chairman and the highest enroller was Marlene Sewack…..and 45 years ago today, the number 1 song in LuLac land was “I Get Around” by the Beach Boys. The flip side was “Help Me Rhonda”.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The LuLac Edition #858, June 25th, 2009



I don't mean to be redundant here but I must reiterate once more my concern as a citizen and taxpayer with the time card situation at the Luzerne County Courthouse. Two items from today's newspapers:
Former deputy chief clerk Bill Brace was among the employees who had accrued significant vacation and sick time. He was paid a total of $11,388.56 for 250.25 hours of unused vacation, plus an additional $3,000 for unused sick time, according to county payroll records. Times Leader.
Former Luzerne County juvenile probation official Sandra M. Brulo was suspended without pay after her arrest in February, yet the county still paid her almost $12,000 in March for unused sick, personal and vacation time. Citizen's Voice.
We can't say for sure how Brace and Brulo kept their time cards. That is past but it is illustrative of the huge payments people got on the way out the door. And there seemed to be no distinction between a guy like Brace who left to take on still another government job or Brulo who left under an indictment from the feds. The County row offices have not been acting like managers, they have not been on top of this issue. I mean can you really believe that no worker never took a vacation at the Courthouse or a day off? I mean how do you explain some of the empty offices on a Friday afternoon after 3PM? Where are these people? Radical changes need to be made:
1. Get rid of the unions. This is very tough for me to say because my dad was a union man all of his life on the Railroad. And God knows I'm in favor of "Card Check" because of the abuses employers have heaped upon workers in the late 90s and this new century. But the county employee unions have proven, just like the row officers that they are okay with this willy nilly policy of time card keeping. Ronald Reagan broke the union of the air traffic controllers for less reason than this.
2. Put every county employee on unemployment compensation for 60 days. Terminate every position. Have them reapply for their jobs. This will seperate the workers from the connected flunkys.
3. Put in a time clock. Kronos is a good company. That will insure that the time accrued will be accurate.
4. Keep the row officers because for better or worse they are duly elected. Keep the senior management staff. Have a volunteer committee of former Governor Richard Thornburgh, and former Ltn. Governor Mark Singel who will oversee the operation.
5. Once the county is back on a sound footing with a management system in place that is uniform in every office, and employees have been rehired, then unionize again.
This is an extreme action but it is needed. This is not just one "cowboy" row office going off on their own, this is an incestuous, systematic system of negative forces that have brought us to this brink. Whether it be neglect, laziness, entitlement, theft of services or chicanery....whatever the reason, it has to stop.


I heard Luzerne County Study Commission Chair Jim Haggerty rail against fellow Commission member Walter Griffith on the radio today. Haggerty used the term "Hyper technical" about 10 times. He said more than a few times that the Study Commission was doing the work of the people, he talked about how the committee last night worked an hour and a half doing the business of the people. When Sue Henry asked Chairman Haggerty if he wanted to share with the audience what the study commission was doing, Haggerty reiterated that the commission was doing the work of the people and studying the government of Luzerne County. I don't mean to be "hyper technical" here but some specifics from the Chair would have been nice.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The LuLac Edition #857, June 24th, 2009



Robert Loftus died Monday. Loftus is the last in a long line of political lions in the Democratic party that is passing from the political scene. Loftus was first elected Mayor in 1961 touting his experience as a businessman as well as a World War II veteran. His two decade long tenure saw virtually little tax increases in Pittston. Loftus also departmentalized the city with separate areas of responsibilities centered on streets, parks and recreation and community development. As Mayor of a third class small city with a declining business base, Loftus did the best he could in making certain the city was safe as well as making incremental steps in redevelopment. Through his terms, the downtown business district was chipped away by changing times in retail and industrial commerce. Loftus was known as a Mayor who communicated with his residents even if you did not always agree with his opinions. After suffering a heart attack in mid life, Loftus was fond of walking through Pittston City and through the borough of West Pittston with long time friend Nick Mauriello. The Mayor was doing cardio rehab before it become a mainstay in health care.
Loftus started a successful insurance business and also served on the Board of Directors and became Vice President of the First National Bank of Pittston. He served as Chairman of the Workmen’s Insurance Fund of PA for several years. He was also very active in the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick of Greater Pittston. In that role, Loftus was almost always on the dais at the old Mayfair Supper Club rubbing elbows with political all stars like Hubert Humphrey, Henry Jackson and Warren Magnunsen.
Loftus was also best known for his involvement at the leadership levels of the local Democratic party. As one who was elected in 1961 before the emergence of the Democratic party in the county, Loftus was a proponent of adhering to the strict party line. No ticket splitting for this guy! After the death of Dr. John Dorris after Christmas in 1967, Loftus was named County Democatic Chair as a compromise candidate. Even under Dr. Dorris, the party was split between the Slattery wing (the late Mayor Frank Slattery) and the Martin L. Murray camp. When Slattery lost a bid in the Democratic Judicial primary of 1967, many observers thought the rift would be healed. But upon taking office as Commissioners in 1967, the Crossin-Wideman team split almost immediately with Wideman teaming up with GOP minority commissioner Ethel Price to deny Crossin the chairmanship. The party was then split into two camps, the Crossin-Courthouse crowd and the Murray-committeeman group. Loftus was named chair because he could negotiate with both teams. Loftus felt if you were a Democrat, you ran as one. Through subsequent terms of 1971 and 1975, he made sure the dueling commissioners Crossin and Wideman ran as a team every time. County Democrats eradicated all Republicans, save for the mandated positions of Jury Commissioner and Minority Commissioner out from under the dome. He did not tolerate any Democrat going off the reservation. When Tom Lehman opposed Frank O’Connell (then a state Representative) for the 20th District State Senate seat, Loftus kept an eagle eye on the race. Knowing that O’Connell had many friend in the Democratic party, Loftus did not want any of his leaders or committeemen to openly support the GOP candidate. “We don’t want people getting independent on us” he would say with a glare that telegraphed that he meant business. Loftus, being the fiscal conservative was tight with a buck too when it came to party affairs. If the race looked like a loser, Loftus would not support it with county Democratic money or foot soldiers. Loftus retired as Mayor and was succeeded by Councilman Thomas Walsh. As party chair, he was replaced by longtime Treasurer and sidekick, Controller Joseph Tirpak. Loftus is part of a fast dying breed of “The Greatest Generation” who took their talents and guile into the world of politics. While many on the political scene today know nothing of the man, he was instrumental in building and maintain the dominance, for better or worse, of the County Democratic party.


South Carolina Mark Sanford ‘fessed up as to his whereabouts on Father’s Day weekend. Remember gang, when in doubt, know it’s always a woman. Seems the Guv has been having a fling with a woman in Argentina. Two practical tips here from “Womanizing 101”. 1. Never mess with your family’s holidays, Jeez, especially Father’s Day, I mean that’s just poor form. 2. Locate a gal preferably in your own country. A 30 mile radius of your house is even better.


Man oh man, any type of Home Rule is starting to look better. This recent fiasco with the county time sheets and row officers partially vindicates Sheriff Mike Savokinas when he was trying to explain his deputy sheriff’s vacation schedule. But it indicts all of the other row offices and the current form of county government as irreparably broken and in need of a major overhaul.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The LuLac Edition #856, June 23rd, 2009



People are getting sick and tired of these KOZ zones. Scranton city council denied a few of the extensions to area businesses. These guys wanted another 10 years of tax forgiveness to develop new business and create high paying jobs. Two questions, just how much time do you need to develop a business and where are the high paying jobs? We, as taxpayers sometimes rail against the people on food stamps, welfare and other assistance as milking the system. But the KOZ zones, which started out with good intentions has turned into a welfare program for the so called entrepreneur. It’s welfare money for the rich and connected. There should be a time limit on all KOZ properties. If they can’t turn them into a viable business in the allotted time period, they forfeit it. Plain and simple. You bet they’ll start a business. Funny, Henry Ford and in Pennsylvania Milton Shapp didn’t need KOZ zones to start up a thriving business and succeed. Man up guys, lose the government crutches.


Tom Marino, tipstaff to Judge Michael Toole testified before a federal grand jury today. He made no comments after the session. This appearance is part of the ongoing probe into corruption at the Luzerne County Courthouse.


Using the old adage giving credit where credit is due the State Senate Education Committee approved legislation to further ease the transferring of college credits across community colleges, state universities and the state-related schools: Penn State, Pitt, and Temple universities. The legislation, sponsored by Sen. Andrew Dinniman, a Democrat from Chester, is aimed at saving students who transfer to a public-funded school the expense of having to retake courses. The proposal would require the 14 state universities to accept 60 credits that a transferring student earned in foundation courses earned at community colleges, and admit them as college juniors. Currently, the law requires those universities to accept 30 transferred credits.

Monday, June 22, 2009

The LuLac Edition #855, June 22nd, 2009



President Obama cited his own long struggle to quit the cigarettes he got hooked on as a teenager as he signed the strongest-ever U.S. anti-smoking bill Monday and praised it for providing critically needed protections for kids. The bill marks the latest legislative victory for Obama's first five months. Among his other successes: a $787 billion economic stimulus bill, legislation to expand a state program providing children's health insurance and a bill making it easier for workers to sue for pay discrimination. The president has frequently spoken, in the White House and on the campaign trail, of his own struggles to quit smoking. He brought it up during Monday's ceremony while criticizing the tobacco industry for marketing its products to young people. Obama said almost 90 percent of people who smoke began at age 18 or younger, snared in a dangerous and hard-to-kick habit. When Obama was on the campaign trail, he spoke about his smoking concerns with Ellen DeGeneris:

When I was in grade school, one of the most popular show I watched as a kid was a cartoon called "The Flintstones". It was a knock off of "The Honeymooners" but I didn't realize it at the time. Here's an ad from that show, which was aired in prime time.

My father was a smoker. He was a two pack a day guy and his brand was Raleigh's. You'd get a coupon on the back of the pack you could redeem. I watched him smoke, loved the smell but felt it was just too much damn work to be a smoker. You had to open the pack, then reach into another pocket to get a lighter or a match. If it was a match, then you had to strike the match while keeping the cigarette in your mouth. Then after getting the fire going from the match, you had to light the cigarette, then take the cigarette out of your mouth, blow the match out, put it in an ashtray and then start puffing. Too much work for me which is why I never started. My father stopped cold turkey in 1968. This move by the President is a good thing for our health and well being as well as our future generations.


The Luzerne County Republican Party is hosting its first Summer Lawn Party, an outdoor fundraiser on Thursday, July 23, 6-8 p.m. at the Westmoreland Club, South Franklin Street, Wilkes-Barre. Guest speakers are State Sen. Lisa Baker and Hazleton Mayor Lou Barletta. County candidates will be featured: Attorney Richard Hughes for Luzerne County Court of Common Pleas, Walter L. Griffith Jr. for Controller, Carolee Medico Olenginski for Prothonotary, Gina Nevenglosky for Register of Wills, Frank Semanski for Jury Commissioner. Donation is $150 per person; $250 per couple.


Mrs. LuLac has watched this show once in a while. I was not aware of it but tonight she told me the family that is featured on TLC is from Wernersville, Pa. So that kind of makes this a pop culture item. Anyway, the couple, Jon and Kate are getting a divorce. As I was working on my computer, I heard Jon say, "I have to do what's best for me and for my kids". Kind of a slip that it came out "what's best for me" and then "and for my kids". Hey Dork boy, here's a thought, why don't you suck it up, do what's best for your kids and stay in the freaking marriage! Maybe they can rename the show, "Big Wuss and Kate: plus 8".

Sunday, June 21, 2009

The LuLac Edition #854, June 21st, 2009



We are all familiar with businesses that have been passed down from one generation to another. It has been done prominently in this area in the fields of media and manufacturing. When the family business is politics and public service, the passing of the mantle has to go through one big litmus test, the will and opinion of the people. History has shown us the success stories of fathers and sons who have succeeded in their father’s footsteps. Fathers and daughters as well have been political partners. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend followed her father into elective politics in Maryland while current Health and Human Services Secretary and former Governor Kathleen Sibelius followed in the footsteps of her father, Governor John Gilligan of Ohio. Mostly though, it’s been fathers and sons following in the political paths to power. But having a famous, electable father does not guarantee success. Presidents have not been able to translate their popularity to their sons. Just ask James Roosevelt, Elliot Roosevelt and Chip Carter. In LuLac land though, there have been successful transitions of father and sons into local politics. On this Father’s Day, let me tell you about a few.


James Musto was a popular and dedicated member of the Pennsylvania General Assembly in the late 40s, 50s, 60s and the first part of the 1970s. Musto represented the 3rd District which comprised the Greater Pittston area at that time. It was not uncommon for people of the district to follow Musto home on a Sunday afternoon after he went to church to tell him their concerns and problems. Musto had to deal with an aging population of constituents who were ravaged by the insidious disease suffered by coal miners, black lung disease or anthrosilicosis.
James Musto remained a dependable mainstay in the Democratic party throughout the years. His district was always regarded as safe despite numerous challenges from perennial GOP candidate Sam Daley. In early 1971 James Musto passed away and it was assumed his son Ray, who put aside his college education to help his father run the family business as well as aid him in his legislative duties would be given the opportunity to run in his father’s place. However the Third District Democrats and a few County Democrats had other ideas. The Democrats endorsed Third District Chairman Roscoe Mulchahy. It was reasoned by the Democratic hierarchy that since Mulchahy was a milkman by trade, he had greater name recognition than the younger Musto. The Pittston Area political community was shocked, then became divided. Ray Musto then decided to do the unthinkable. Run as a Republican in the 1971 special election to fill the seat of his father. The campaign passed out a simple 8 by 14 sheet that showed a sample ballot. In red circled was Ray Musto’s name. The Musto machine that carried his father to victory many times over was now in full gear. Pittston politicos were fond of saying “Ray wasn’t following in his father’s footsteps, he was aiming to make his own imprint on his father’s footprints!” People responded. The late Paul Delaney of Pittston was tireless in his efforts passing out those sample ballots. One Saturday night he got a few box boys from Detato’s Super Market in Pittston (I was one of them along with his son P.J.) to blanket cars and doorsteps with those ballot flyers. It was a coalition of the black lung miners and their widows as well as anyone ever helped by James Musto along with people who did not know the Musto family but felt Ray was getting treated unfairly. All of those factors propelled the younger Musto to victory. He won the special election going away, got his degree from King’s College that year and never looked back. Ray Musto served 4 terms of his own in the State House until fate once more intervened in his career. In 1980 Musto won the special election to fill the seat of Dan Flood in the 11th Congressional District. He was defeated in the Reagan landslide that year by James Nelligan. Musto went back to private life for a short time but then Martin L. Murray, the former President Pro Tem of the Pennsylvania Senate retired and Musto ran and won that job in 1982. Ray Musto is serving his 8th term in the Senate and is highly regarded for his work on environmental and infrastructure issues. One hallmark of the Musto political name is constituent service. If you contact his office, you will always get a response. We posed a few questions to Senator Musto on this Father’s Day and here are his responses:
1. What do you remember best about your father’s tenure in office?
His dedicated service to his constituents and in particular his attention to the problems facing the working families of Northeast PA.
2. He was quite visible in politics and were you ever as a kid growing up impacted in a positive or negative manner by your peers?
My father’s service record had a huge impact on the entire Musto family. His office was our family home. People would come and go at all hours any day of the week. The busiest day was Sunday because everyone one knew that he would be home on Sundays. My mother never knew how many people would be joining us at the family table for dinner. Service was his mantra.
3. Why did you decide to follow in his footsteps when there were other career options available to you today?
In the latter months of my father’s life he was not physically well and I spent a great deal of time assisting him in many aspects of his position except for voting on the floor.
4. Putting the father/son relationship aside, how do you think your father would rate you as a politician and a leader?
I think he would be pleased that I followed in his footsteps by making public service a priority.
5. If there were anything you could say to your dad on this Father’s Day, what would it be?
To my father and mother I would say that the Musto family is very grateful to them for the morals and values that they are responsible for instilling in each and every one of us. Thank you.
Ray Musto was joined in a commitment to public service by his brother Judge Joseph Musto who served on the Court of Common Pleas in the early 1990s and is currently on the bench as a sitting Judge.


A name well known in Scranton political circles is Doherty. Everyone knows that the current Mayor Chris Doherty has had a high public profile. Mayor Doherty has not missed an opportunity to promote the virtues of Scranton nationally whether it be on MSNBC’s Hardball or doing a promotion with a cast member from the hit TV Show “The Office’. The Mayor knows his way around a camera but a lot of that is in his genes. The Mayor’s father, James Doherty was one of the most well known, televised political personalities in the 60s and 70s. It was a much different time then. There was no cable, no video and only three TV channels, 2 of which having a major commitment to cover local happenings. Every Wednesday night if you were watching the news, chances are you’d see Councilman Jim Doherty on the air. Jim Doherty was of the “Greatest Generation”, the WWII era of individuals that meant what they said and said what they meant. Jim Doherty was a Ltn. Commander in the Navy during the second world war and commanded a PT boat in the D Day invasion at Normandy. Doherty was wounded there and no doubt saw thousands of men killed around him so you have to guess that standing up to the Scranton Sewer Authority for him was a walk in the park. Doherty’s exploits in WWII were actually chronicled in a Time Magazine story. After the war, he got a degree from the College of the Holy Cross as well as attending the Harvard School of Business where he received his Masters degree. He married, proceeded to have 11 kids and opened a successful business. In 1963 Doherty began his first of 4 terms on Scranton City Council. He has the distinction of serving under 4 Scranton Mayors, Bill Scmidt, James Walsh, Eugene Peters and Eugene Hickey. Doherty was extremely vocal in his TV appearances and because he was informative and entertaining, a news story featuring him could go on for more than 5 minutes. (Remember TV news was a different animal back then.) Doherty could be funny, once calming down an angry resident by saying he was sorry for upsetting the man’s “tranquility”. One time he referred to an issue not passed by council by saying “it’s as dead as a Christmas turkey”. One of Doherty’s last blasts happened in 1979 shortly before he left office. Doherty was pushing for higher pay for council and didn’t get a second to his motion. He chastised his fellow members by saying, “We don’t like one decision so we throw it to the courts. We don’t like another decision, we put it on the ballot. We’re not supposed to be acting like a bunch of pantywaists”. Despite that parting shot, Doherty was honored by that very Council as well as the city with a Jim Doherty day. Doherty died in May of 1993. His son Chris served on City Council from 1997 to 2001 but the news business changed and he got nowhere near the coverage his father did. But Chris Doherty built on his experience on Council and was elected in 2001, 2005 and now in 2009 as Mayor. Chris Doherty is on a pace, if he serves his full term to match his father’s tenure time on council. 16 years a piece to the city of Scranton). The Mayor has worked very hard to rebuild the image and finances of the city. He has been criticized by some Democrats for embracing Republican office holders to accomplish goals for the city. But he is fond of saying that he is the Mayor of all the people, Republican or Democrat. Jim Doherty was asked once why he never sought higher office. Doherty said, “City Council is where the spade work of city government is done”. His son Chris knows full well that a cooperative effort by all city branches of government, even with disagreements, gets the job done. Jim Doherty and his son Chris, by their respective careers in Scranton City government adhere to the old saying, “If it was easy, everyone would want to do it”.


Robert Casey Senior is a god in Democratic political party circles. But it wasn’t always that way. Bob Casey was touted as an up and comer by the Democrats in the early 1960s. The Democrats had a Governor, David Lawrence who was in his 70s when he left office and replaced by a vitality filled charismatic younger man named Bill Scranton. Bob Casey, a Scranton lawyer fit the bill for the go go 60s in the age of JFK. In 1962 Casey was elected to the State Senate and at the age of 36 received the party backing for Governor. He didn’t count on Milton Shapp, an industrialist who spent millions of dollars of his own money in that Governor’s race. Casey lost the primary but rebounded two years later with a win statewide for Auditor General. Obtaining a small apartment in Lemoyne which is right outside of Harrisburg, Bob Casey was home every Friday afternoon to spend time with his family as well as keeping his political irons in the fire. In 1970 he tried again for Governor but was bested by Shapp again. Casey was reelected in 1972, then went back to private life in 1976 despite being asked to run for the U.S. Senate in the Bicentennial year. 1978 came and Bob Casey lost another primary, this time though due to political chicanery. A man with a similar name, Robert Casey was running for Ltn. Governor and people thought they were voting for Robert P. They weren’t. I had the pleasure of interviewing Mr. Casey in early 1978 on WVIA TV. I was only 24, I was awestruck by him and by all standards I was horrible. But Bob Casey the man did an incredible thing that day. He guided me through the interview, clarifying my clearly inexperienced line of questioning and being ever so kind in dealing with me. The next Monday morning, station manager George Strimell said, “I saw your interview with Bob Casey, you know he saved your ass out there don’t you?” Indeed I did.
Eight years later in 1986 Casey made a fourth bid for governor in 1986, billing himself as the "real Bob Casey" to distinguish himself and make light of the mistaken identity follies of the past. Dubbed "the three-time loss from Holy Cross" by detractors, Casey hired two then-generally unknown political strategists, James Carville and Paul Begala, to lead his campaign staff.
Unlike his three previous tries, Casey won the Democratic primary, defeating Philadelphia district attorney (and future Philadelphia Mayor and two term governor) Ed Rendell. He then faced Thornburgh's lieutenant governor, William Scranton III in the general election. The race was considered too close to call until the week before the election but Casey finally won his long coveted prize by 79,000 votes. Casey’s victory made the career of Carville and Begala in national politics.
Casey brought what he called an "activist government" to Pennsylvania, expanding health care services for women, introducing reforms to the state's welfare system, and introducing an insurance program for uninsured children. Casey also introduced a "capital for a day" program, where the state's official business was conducted from eighteen different communities throughout the state. Despite charges that his administration squandered a budget surplus and ran the state into record annual budget deficits, Casey remained popular with voters, easily winning re-election in 1990 against a pro-choice Republican.
Governor Casey was well-known as a staunch pro-life advocate. In 1989 Casey pushed through the legislature the "Pennsylvania Abortion Control Act," which placed limitations on abortion, including the notification of parents of minors, a twenty-four-hour waiting period, and a ban on partial-birth procedures except in cases of risk to the life of the mother. Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania sued, with Casey as the named defendant, asserting that the law violated Roe v. Wade. The case went to the United States Supreme Court in April, 1992. On June 29, 1992, in the case of Planned Parenthood v. Casey the Supreme Court, upheld all of Pennsylvania's restrictions except one (the requirement for spousal notification) and affirming the right of states to restrict abortions.
During his second term, Casey was diagnosed with Appalachian familiar amyloidosis, a genetic condition where proteins invade and destroy bodily organs. To combat the disease, he underwent an extremely rare heart-liver transplant on the morning of June 14, 1993 at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. The announcement of Casey's disease was made just days before he underwent the transplant, and as a result many accused him of receiving preferential treatment with respect to donor waiting lists. Before undergoing the operation, he transferred executive authority to Lieutenant Governor Singel. Casey resumed his duties on December 13, 1993 almost six months to the day after he underwent the operation. Following his operation, Casey strongly supported legislation that encouraged organ transplants by guaranteeing access to the families of potential organ donors by organ recovery organizations, providing drivers' license identification of potential donors, and establishing an organ donation trust fund from voluntary donations to promote the benefits of organ donation. Today the organ donation trust fund is named in his honor.
Casey wrote a wonderful book, “Fighting For Life” which detailed his political career as well as his battle with his illness. I met him again at the Steamtown Mall on St. Patrick’s Day 1997 where he was signing his book. I had marched in the parade as a staff member of Rock 107 that day and was dead tired. But I had to have him sign my book. As always he was gracious and when I told him I was a follower from the time I was 12 years old in his first run for Governor, he inscribed in the book, “Thanks for being at my side since 1966, Robert P. Casey”. Robert Casey died on May 30th, 2000.
His son Robert Casey Junior followed him to the Auditor General’s office in 1996 and a beaming father saw his son take the oath of office. Bob Casey Junior was reelected in 2000, spoke at the Democratic convention of Al Gore (an opportunity denied to his father in 1992) and was elected State Treasurer in 2004. Bob Casey Junior ran against Ed Rendell in the 2002 Democratic primary but came up short. However in 2006, Bob Casey Junior was elected to the U.S. Senate after much prodding by the national Democratic leadership. The younger Casey has followed in his father’s frugality staying in his office along with family members for the Obama inauguration. (Casey Junior showed political courage too and great political acumen by endorsing Mr. Obama early on.) Even though he meets with Presidents, foreign leaders and power brokers, Bob Casey chooses to get home as quick as he can to spend time with his family. The father of four daughters, he was once asked what ambitions he would have in his retirement years, money, fame, power? He answered, “I’d just like to have a bathroom to myself once in a while”. Down to earth, focused on the issues, a proponent that government is here to help people, Bob Casey is truly his father’s son in every way politically, socially and in the most important manner, personally. Like his father, Robert Casey Senior, who never strayed from Scranton very long, Bob Casey Junior follows in those footsteps. When he was elected by a landslide for the U.S. Senate in 2006, a song blared out what could very well be the anthem for both father and son, “Hometown Boy”.


Attempts by e mail and phone to have the Casey and Doherty staffs contact Bob Casey Junior and Chris Doherty with our questions regarding their thoughts on their dads were unsuccessful. We thank Senator Musto for his participation.

The LuLac Edition #853, June 21st, 2009



I was 10 years old in the summer of ’64 and was following the Phillies in their pursuit of the pennant. My association began when I was sick with a variety of illnesses that kept me quarantined in my bedroom. The combination of measles, mumps and chicken pox, all converging on me at the same time sidelined me from the rest of the world. My sister graciously and generously let me have her portable radio. It was about 10 inches in width, 6 inches in height, had two big knobs, one on the left for the volume and one on the right to change the station. The color of the exterior was tan with fake mahogany trim. It was manned by 10 C batteries and weighed about 14 pounds. This was my lifeline to the rest of the world. At night I followed my Cleveland Indians on WWWE (3We) and when they began to lose the game (as was their way back then) I tuned into the Phillies broadcasts on WILK. Unlike the Tribe, the Phils were winning. Sticking to the motto that “everybody loves a winner”, I began to tune in to the Phillies first and then check on the Tribe later. I usually began the night with Don Bruce’s “Bullpen” program then waited for Byrum Saam, Bill Campbell and Richie Ashburn to take the airwaves. The games I heard were exciting and new to me. The strategies of Gene Mauch as well as his platoon system were explained in great detail and I used the arguments to debate my father when he visited and my classmates when I returned to school. That spring I bought a Phillies baseball cap which had to be surgically removed by the end of the season. When school was finished, I turned to the empty lots and playgrounds of Pittston Junction and lived baseball 24/7. When there was no one to play with, I took my Pee Wee Reese lefthanders glove (that I bought by selling tooth brushes for the Stanley Company) and went to the front concrete steps in front of our house. I would take a big rubber softball and toss it against the wall. It bounced back in an erratic manner but that was okay with me. I could catch the ball on the fly and become Johnny Callison or Tony Gonzalez. If the ball took a few bounces on the ground, I was Bobby Wine, Tony Taylor or Ruben Amaro. When I muffed the ball, I became Richie Allen. (Sorry cheap shot there!) A short pop up made me Gus Triandos the second string catcher of the Phils and one of my personal favorites. If it wasn’t following the political conventions, it was baseball, baseball, baseball. On the subject of the Phillies I became an absolute bore. When I went on visits to relatives, my father admonished me before hand to talk of things other than the Phillies like what time it was and how was the weather today. Father’s Day weekend came and the Phils played the lowly Mets. As chronicled in Edition #852 of LuLac, the Mets swept the Friday night double header then lost to the New Yorkers on Saturday. Sunday came and I attended a Father’s Day Father and Son Breakfast at my departed church, St. John the Baptist in Pittston. That afternoon, I was aware the Phils would be facing the Mets in a double header. Jim Bunning was going to pitch the opener and a young 18 year old rookie, just called up from the Minors, Rick Wise would hurl the nightcap. The Yankees also were playing a double header on that day too. (Lost to history and Bunning’s feat was the fact that in the second outing, the game went 17 innings until the Yankees prevailed.) Frankly I was more interested in the second Phillies game rather than the first so I took to the front steps bouncing my ball in the blazing, hot summer sun. My father read the Sunday newspapers on the front porch. I have forgotten where my mother was on that day. At one point my father went in to watch the game. During the 7th inning, my father came out and advised me I should come in and watch the game. He informed me it was a Perfect game. I knew only too well what that meant having heard about Don Larsen’s perfecto in the 1956 World Series and had just read about Sandy Koufax’s no hitter over the Cubs in May of 1964. Each pitch made me a nervous wreck. In the bottom of the 8th, I left the living room and went back to the front steps trying to take my mind off of Bunning’s attempt. Finally, I returned to the TV just in time to see the last two outs. Jim Bunning had pitched a perfect game in a season that I felt was destined for the history books. 45 years later, I still remember how I felt about this achievement as a young fan. Much has happened since that day 45 years ago today. I had the pleasure of meeting Jim Bunning who talked about the day with me. The game has been documented as one of the great feats of baseball and I have used the box score and the players working as a team as an example in business lectures I have given in my career. My elation with Bunning as an athlete does not equal my admiration for him as a right wing Republican Senator. But the man had his moment, was on the Ed Sullivan Show that night and was elected to the baseball Hall of Fame in the mid nineties for his plus 220 wins. (100 in each league as well as a no hitter in each). As I grow older, I think of the rich heritage as well as the wonderful minutia of the game of baseball. I feel fortunate to have been alive for many great moments as well as the opportunity I had to share them with people in my life. Some have faded with time but the one that remains vivid and clear is Jim Bunning’s Perfect Game. The game coming at such a young age for me has grown in importance. I think of three things every Father’s Day. My father, how much I still miss him and Jim Bunning’s Perfect Game on that day. As the years have passed since that game, I treasure it more and more mainly because it involved two things that will always be constant in my life. The first being the influence and love a father can only give a child, the second being the perfect imperfection and unpredictability of baseball. Both being things of beauty.


J Briggs CF
J Herrnstein 1B
J Callison RF
D Allen 3B
W Covington LF
B Wine PR-SS
T Taylor 2B
C Rojas SS-LF
G Triandos C
J Bunning P
Totals 32 at bats, 6 runs, 8 hits, 4 bb.
J Hickman CF
R Hunt 2B
E Kranepool 1B
J Christopher RF
J Gonder C
H Taylor LF
C Smith SS
A Samuel 3B
G Altman PH
T Stallard P
B Wakefield P
R Kanehl PH
T Sturdivant P
J Stephenson PH
Totals 27 up, 27 down, no hits runs or errors.


This is the talent line up for the Ed Sullivan Show the night of Jim Bunning’s Perfect Game:
Ed introduces the 50 candidates for the title of "National College Queen," then announces the 6 finalists.
On film: Ed visits Debbie Reynolds at her home. In her screening room, they view scenes of Debbie dancing in "The Unsinkable Molly Brown"
Harve Presnell (Reynolds' co-star in "The Unsinkable Molly Brown") sings "I'll Never Say No" (live on stage)
John Byner (stand-up comedian)
Sally Ann Howes - sings "Let's Face the Music and Dance"
Allen and Rossi (comedy team)
Sally Ann Howes sings "Do Re Me" with children from the Lexington school for the deaf. The children also do a "Spring Medley"
Cameo: Ken Venturi (1964 U.S. Open champion)
Jim Bunning (baseball pitching star from Philadelphia) - is interviewed by Ed twice in show.
Trini Lopez - "Hello Dolly" and "What'd I Say" (both songs in English and Spanish)
Ed crowns the winner of the "National College Queen" contest --Royal National dancers of Sierra Leone - perform in tribal costumes.


There’s not much film of the game. We found this on YOU TUBE. The first 20 seconds are of the last out for the Perfect Game, the rest highlights that fateful ’64 season.

Friday, June 19, 2009

The LuLac Edition #852, June 19th, 2009



When I was a guest on WYOU TV Interactive News during the height of the revelations about Corruption in the Courthouse, I made a statement on the air that got its fair share of criticism. I’ve gone back and forth on whether I was accurate or not. Just when I think I was too harsh, another story from the Courthouse comes along. Last night on WBRE TV, I Team member Joe Holden reported on a Luzerne County Deputy Sheriff whose time card was in dispute. Holden reports that three independent sources claim Charles Guarnieri hasn't been in the office for four weeks. Reached by phone on Monday, Sheriff Michael Savokinas said Guarnieri was, in fact, on vacation for two-and-a-half to three weeks. "It was time that was coming to him," Savokinas said.Payroll records dated April 15th through June 9th obtained by WBRE Eyewitness News reflect Guarnieri never clocked any vacation time while he was supposedly away from the office, as the I-TEAM was told by Sheriff Savokinas. Luzerne County Commissioners Maryanne Petrilla (D) and Stephen Urban (R) said there's no reason the payroll records would not properly reflect time taken off by any employee. Commissioner Urban called it "fraud."During a 15 minute confrontation with the I-TEAM outside the sheriff's department, Savokinas and Guarnieri repeatedly denied any wrongdoing. Guarnieri shoved a station microphone while being questioned. Savokinas said he does not do payroll, but he chalked up the issue to an accounting glitch. He referred us to the payroll department. Representative from that department said time cards are turned in by every county employee and are then internalized in a computer system. Guarnieri said the lack of any vacation time appearing on his time could have been "a typo." Commissioners said that wasn't possible. (SOURCE: WBRE TV News).
I give much credit to Commissioners Maryanne Petrilla and Steve Urban who weren’t buying the argument from the Sheriff’s department. I believe there are good employees at the Courthouse who are hard working and accountable with their time. But every time a story like this comes out, I tend to stick with my theory as to how Luzerne County Government can be fixed.


Saying it was not the fault of the residents of Pennsylvania, the State Lawmakers or himself, Governor Rendell blamed the budget crisis on the greedy few on Wall Street who messed up the economy. Rendell told his Cabinet this week that this was a situation they had to deal with. The agency heads are under orders to make an additional $500 million in spending cuts to offset the recession-caused drop in state tax revenue. Rendell issued target amounts Wednesday for more than two dozen state agencies. It will be up to agency heads to implement suggested cuts or else offer alternate cuts that meet the goal. As I pointed out in an earlier edition, the state budget by law has to be passed. Either the tax will be enacted or serious cuts will be made. But after this budget resolution is done, perhaps the State should take a hard look at how it does business. I have stated numerous times on WYOU TV that Governor Rendell could cement his legacy in history by taking a hatchet to the State Legislature and reducing it. There is no love lost between the Governor and the lawmakers. Every year since 2003, the state budget has not been delivered on time. This is the main job description of the Legislature. Can you imagine if in private business or in your job you failed to meet a deadline for 7 years in a row? Do you think you’d get a raise? Do you think you’d have a job? In an editorial the Scranton Times called for a Constitutional Convention to revamp the way we govern in this state. The last one was 1967. The Legislature as well as the rest of state government have established they cannot act responsibly. Like the vultures on Wall Street who went off unregulated, the State Government has proven it cannot even accomplish the basic tenets of their mission, i.e passing a budget on time. It’s time for the grownups to take over and straighten things out.


The two Shenandoah-area teens convicted of simple assault in connection with the death of Luis Eduardo Ramirez Zavala were sentenced Wednesday to at least six months in county prison. Their attorneys were shocked at the sentence saying the beat down was only a street fight. Brandon J. Piekarsky, 17, of Shenandoah Heights, and Derrick M. Donchak, 19, of Shenandoah, were convicted of simple assault. Many feel the boys skated with the verdict but more than a few are pleased that the felons will be doing a modicum of hard time.


The Government Study Commission for Luzerne county is getting into high gear. The 11-person commission appointed Commissioner Charmaine Maynard secretary. Four commissioners were named to a committee on study committees. They are Veronica Ciaruffoli, elected vice-chairwoman of the commission, Walter Griffith Jr., Richard Heffron and Jack Schumacher. The group will be looking for an assistant recorder to organize their thoughts as well as a consultant. They also started a web site. Here’s the address: Luzernegsc.org.


Unhappy with the appearance of the 100 year old Luzerne County Courthouse? Host a party. The North end of the Courthouse got a bit of sprucing up this week. There was a guy sandblasting the north side of the building and its steps. That hasn’t been done in many a moon. Turns out Geisinger Health Care System is having a dance party Saturday Night. Hey, when company is coming, you straighten up.


Former President George W. Bush in a speech in Erie before a manufacturing trade group delivered a greeting to one of the state's most famous faces from his father George H.W. Bush. It's not often that a member of the Bush family sees Penn State football coach Joe Paterno, a noted Republican who supported the campaign of the elder Bush, the nation's 41st president. In front of about 1,600 people at a dinner in Erie, the younger Bush said he had been reminded by his dad to "Give my old buddy my best . . . 41 sends his best to No. 1 in the heart of Penn State fans." The former President touched on familiar themes during his talk but began his hour-long appearance by talking about his father, who celebrated his 85th birthday last weekend by parachute-jumping out of an airplane near the elder Bush's home in Kennebunkport, Maine. "So this weekend I had an amazing experience: I watched an 85-year-old jump out of an airplane, and it wasn't about to crash," Mr. Bush said, snickering while the crowd laughed. Then, comparing his father to Mr. Paterno, who's 82, he said, "These are two people who could have easily taken out the Airstream (trailer) and traveled to some camping ground . . . but, no, these guys are going to live life to the fullest." Paterno of course will begin a new season this fall as the long time Penn State Coach. As a politico, Bush 43 realizes you can’t go wrong invoking the name of Joe Pa when you visit the Keystone State. Partial Source: Associated Press.


A study says that PNC Field, formerly known as Lackawanna County Stadium needs 13 million dollars in repairs. Those repairs will happen in the long term. The Lackawanna County Commissioners said that because of the economy, there will no new stadium construction. And that’s a good thing because the stadium we have right now is quite functional. Sure there needs to be some upkeep but a spanking new facility in the land where you see 4 help wanted ads in the Times Tribune and 7 in the Times Leader would be a foolish waste of money. Let’s fix what we have and enjoy it. The Scranton Times Tribune broke the news on the stadium study Thursday.


Senator Edward Kennedy, 32, is seriously injured in a private plane crash at Southampton, Massachusetts; the pilot is killed. Also in the plane with Kennedy is Indiana Senator Birch Bayh and his wife Marvella. The Bayhs also survive the crash. The accident leaves Senator Kennedy flat on his back for his 1964 re-election campaign. His wife Joan becomes his campaign surrogate through the rest of the election year. The crash also begins talk of “The Kennedy Curse” following the successful family around like a black cloud……..Three civil rights workers, Michael Schwerner, Andrew Goodman, and James Chaney, are murdered near Philadelphia, Mississippi, by local segregationist law enforcement officials………Statewide Attorneys for Supreme Court Justice Michael Musmanno ask the Pennsylvania Superior Court to review 6,000 ballots cast in the Philadelphia area in the U.S. Senate primary. The lawyers say the ballots were cast on the wrong line of the voting machines and therefore were invalid. Musmanno trailed this week by 636 votes to the eventual winner Secretary of Internal Affairs Genevieve Blatt…………..The Philadelphia Phillies open up a 5 game series against the New York Mets that will turn out to be quite historic. The Phils sweep a double header on Friday night with the pitching exploits of Art Mahaffey, running his record to 7-2 and Ray Culp who improved his record to 3-5. On Saturday, they lose 7-3, with rookie spot starter Dallas Green taking the loss evening his record to 1-1 against Jack Fisher to the Mets before the crucial Father’s Day Twin bill at Shea……..In Scranton, at 420 Spruce Street, a Scranton For President headquarters opens up. More than 750 people attended the ceremonies which featured a 35 minute program as well as a brass band with hundreds of placards bearing the face and name of the recently announced candidate. The main speaker was a Montgomery County Congressman Richard Schweiker who told the enthusiastic crowd “that Scranton was a new face who will bring new blood to the Republican party.” Schweiker also said Scranton’s wife and children were huge political assets and that Scranton could “beat Lyndon Johnson who is not, as people think, 10 feet tall”. Schweiker, a future Senator and Cabinet Secretary himself said the election could be won on foreign policy and fiscal responsibility, all of which Governor Scranton was well versed in……………..and 45 years ago this week, the number 1 song in LuLac land was “Rag Doll” by the 4 Seasons.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The LuLac Edition #851, June 18th, 2009



This weekend, the River Common development project will open to the public. The Susquehanna River, the bain of our existance here in Wyoming Valley will all of a sudden become a partner in business promotion and quality of life. A few thoughts on the project.
1. People usually rail on and on about government spending and taxes. We, as a people are quick to point to the government as a tax spendng machine where we get little for our money. Maybe that's because we tend to take so much for granted. Things like clean water to drink, states without borders where we have easy passage and educational oppportunities sometimes make our complaing seem like we're spoiled children to the world outside of America. But once in a while we see concrete evidence of what good government can do. The River Commons Project in Wilkes Barre is ample proof of that.
2. Government projects need a shepherd to take it from idea to conclusion. Again, in this era of remote TV switchers, Twitter messages and instant information mixed with instant gratification, the impatient forget the practical scope of dressing up a threatening river. Tomorrow there will be handshakes, proclamations and kudos to various and sundry public and private people who will be doing their own share of chest thumping and taking credit for the marvel that will be unveiled. But we should take the time to look to Washington and see that our representative in Congress was huge in getting this project finished. Representative Kanjorski has had a few ideas on river development, some accepted, some not. But throughout the process, he never backed down from the premise that a nice, clean, modern riverfront would add to our quality of life. He also fought tirelessly for the safety of our residents from the ravages of another flood. I personally thank him and congratulate him for his role in this major endeavor. Many of my readers think I'm crazed when I write that I don't mind paying taxes in this country, state, county or my city of residence. Taxes are the dues we pay to live with basic things not available in other parts of the world. The River Common project and Levee Raising System are shining examples. Congressman Kanjorski has made flood control in the Wyoming Valley one of his top priorities since he was elected to Congress. He was instrumental in enabling the Wyoming Valley Levee Raising Project to take place and ensuring that the project kept moving forward, which as a result, made the River Common possible. Many will look at this marvel and shrug their shoulders thinking this happened by a snap of the fingers or the blink of an eye. Or to put in the most common thread of current day pop culture understanding, like switching from "American Idol" to "America's Got Talent". It didn't happen that way, there were years of work in keeping the levee system alive which made the River Front a reality. For those interested and who can appreciate that, here's the time line on the project:
1972 – Hurricane Agnes devastates Wyoming Valley, flooding and destroying thousands of homes throughout the area.
As a private lawyer before his election to Congress, Congressman Kanjorski spent a year and a half year serving as volunteer counsel and advocate for victims of the flood.
1985 – Congressman Kanjorski begins his service in Congress, and he vows to make the completion of the levee raising project one of his highest priorities.
1986 – During his first term in Congress, Congressman Kanjorski successfully includes the Wyoming Valley Levee Raising Project in the federal Water Resources Development Act, authorizing funding for the project and enabling the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to design and implement the project. Without this authorization, the project would not have been possible.
1990 – The Army Auditing Agency during President Bush Sr.’s administration tries to cancel the project. But, Congressman Kanjorski ensures that the project remains alive and receives federal funding by meeting with the Assistant Secretary and Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works and testifying before the appropriate Committee which then includes funding for the project in its appropriations bill.
1991 – A new Army Audit Agency report is completed which agrees with all issues regarding the Wyoming Valley Levee Raising Project.
1992 - Congressman Kanjorski successfully includes the riverfront development project in Wilkes-Barre and flood protection for Toby Creek and Abrahams Creek as part of the Wyoming Valley Levee Raising Project in the federal Water Resources Development Act. This legislation authorizes funding for the added pieces of the project, enabling the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to design and implement them. Without this authorization, these added projects would not have been possible.
1993 – In addition to the structural components of the project, Congressman Kanjorski obtains authorization for non-structural mitigation plans to offset adverse effects which the projects could cause.
1996 – On January 20, the Susquehanna River reaches one its highest levels since the Agnes flood, causing damage throughout the majority of the Wyoming Valley.
Right after the flood in January, Congressman Kanjorski meets with President Clinton in the Oval Office to discuss the need to begin construction of the Wyoming Valley Levee Raising Project, and to invite the President to visit Northeastern Pennsylvania and inspect the flood damage.
In February, Congressman Kanjorski brings President Clinton to Wilkes-Barre to survey the flood damage firsthand. After the visit, President Clinton pledges his support to raise the levee.
1996 – In June, the Luzerne County Flood Protection Authority is created. In October, the Army Corps of Engineers and the Luzerne County Flood Protection Authority sign the project cooperation agreement committing the local share of funding totaling 25 percent of the project. The federal government would pay for the other 75 percent of the project, and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania agrees to split the local share with Luzerne County.
1996 - Congressman Kanjorski also successfully negotiates with the Army Corps of Engineers to include the replacement of 13 pump stations within the actual project. As a result, federal funding provides 75 percent of the project cost, saving Luzerne County more than $23 million which would have otherwise been a local responsibility.
2000 – Congressman Kanjorski secures important modifications to the Wyoming Valley Levee Raising Project, as he wins approval from the Army Corps of Engineers to have a better designed flood wall which would include three portals, providing access to the river for recreation, and it would take up less space while providing effective flood protection.
This replaces the design for an earthen embankment levee which would have required a large base, so that for every foot the levee increases in height, it would then require additional space at the base. It would have also destroyed most of the trees in the River Common.
Because Congressman Kanjorski reworked the flood wall design, the new wall made the space for the River Common possible, where as there would have otherwise not been room.
2002 - The Army Corps completes the major flood control portion of the levee raising project, which now provides Wyoming Valley residents with Agnes-level flood protection.
2004 – Hurricane Ivan causes flooding in much of the Wyoming Valley. But, the levee system protects the Wilkes-Barre area and prevents flood damages to thousands of homes.
2005 – Congressman Kanjorski continues to secure federal funding for the Wyoming Valley Levee Raising Project. In the fiscal year 2006 appropriations bill, he is also able to secure federal funding for the riverfront development project, enabling the Army Corps of Engineers to begin this phase of the project.
2007 - Congressman Kanjorski successfully includes Solomon Creek as part of the Wyoming Valley Levee Raising Project in the federal Water Resources Development Act. Because the project would not receive authorization as an independent project, Congressman Kanjorski works to incorporate it into the levee raising project because the creek is hydrologically linked to the watershed protected by the levees.
2009 – River Common and Wyoming Valley Levee Raising Project are unveiled to the public. The levee raising project is one of the largest flood control projects east of the Mississippi River.