The LuLac Edition #2314, December 31st, 2012
THE YEAR IN REVIEW
TOP NEWS STORIES OF 2012
We continue with our tradition of counting down the top news stories of the year. Blessed that we survived another 365, in this case 366, we give you in countdown method the top ten stories LuLac wrote about locally, statewide and nationally. And as Casey Kasem used to say, "Let's get to the countdown".
LOCAL TOP LOCAL STORIES OF 2012
10. ELECTION OFFICE GO ROUND……..Long time and extremely competent Elections Bureau Manager Len Piazza was fired by County Manager Bob Lawton. Piazza got into a dispute with newly elected Controller Walter Griffith. Griffith wanted Piazza to sign in with the new Kronos time cards, Piazza said no. Piazza then launched an investigation into Griffith’s campaign fundraising reports (which with all due respect to Walter can most likely fit the back of an envelope) and Griffith became predictably outraged. The Controller then met with Lawton. Piazza thought the Election Board could save him since he claimed he worked for them. Lawton fired him, Piazza got a lawyer and that dispute is still up in the air. The County Council called on former voter head Tom Pisano to replace Piazza. Pisano said yes but then a week before the election, without telling anyone, “retired” In came Wyoming County Part time Voting Director Marisa Crispell-Barber. Piazza reapplied for his old job, but the nod went to Crispell-Barber. Despite the new Voter ID law which was challenged, no big issues emerged in this election. We think Crispell-Barber is using the time clock.
9. BASEBALL IN NEPA........The followers of the Scranton Wilkes barre Yankees had no place to go this year to watch their team. The County Commissioners got money to get the Stadium renovated. The new management vowed to make the new Stadium and team more fan friendly. They held a contest to pick a new name for the AAA franchise, the winner was Railriders. New uniforms were unveiled and fans got to sign a beam that will be in the outfield. Can’t wait for someone to say, “Play Ball!”
8. CORDARO AND MUNCHAK OFF TO JAIL.......They didn’t expect to win that election in 2003. Certainly they didn’t expect to be heading off to jail for their behavior in that first term. But they did. Munchak went South to a jail that had medical facilities for his health. Cordaro was first housed in New York State but was then moved when he knew the prison guards in the joint. My sources tell me Munchak has dropped some weight and is looking better and that Paul Sorvino, the actor has yet to pay a visit to his old benefactor. But hey, you never know.
7. CRIME OF ALL TYPES........Four hit and runs in Luzerne county, the latest being a 5 year old boy, a bloodbath in Plymouth from two shirtless brothers who started a crime spree the day before, mobile meth labs every couple of blocks, a slashing in a Nanticoke bar, a shooting a week at Sherman Hills, a young man who gets shot by his friend but has the friend’s mom allegedly covering it up for him, the same kid goes on TV the night of the shooting saying his friend was with angels but neglected to say he put him there, and what’s his face (a name I will not mention because I know he loves the attention) gets another delay in his trial so that his lawyer (who he will most likely try to seduce) can read over his case. Dick Wolf from “Law and Order”, if you ever run out of ideas, here we are!
6. MELLOW PLEAS AND GETS 18 MONTHS.....Former State Senate power Bob Mellow plead guilty and got 18 months for mail fraud as well as using employees for political purposes. One of the most powerful Senators in the State, Mellow will go to prison in January.
5. HOTEL STERLING........Mayor Tom Leighton put a roadblock up in 2012 because the Sterling was in danger of falling down. Even the winds of Hurricane Sandy didn’t touch it. A wrecking ball will but the County has to figure out the funding with the City. The Feds want their 6 million bucks back, CityVest still wonders why everyone is mad at them and the date with destiny has yet to be revealed. One thing is for sure. When the wrecking ball does come down, Lady Sterling will not fall down easily.
4. MUSTO TRIAL DELAYED......Former Senator Ray Musto has had his corruption trial delayed more times than any other lawmaker. The reason? His health. While Musto is ill, it didn’t help that he was out at the Casino on a Friday night for dinner. He’s a free American and can go where he wants but this was not a good strategic move on the part of his legal team. Musto’s lawyers are appealing Judge Richard Caputo’s order that the trial start quickly.
3. CONGRESSIONAL MUSICAL CHAIRS......So the reapportionment committees waited until the last minute and all of a sudden, Lou Barletta was no longer LuLac land’s Congressman. Lou got himself a new district which went from Hazleton to Northumberland County, to Sunbury and all the way to Dauphin County. Bill Vinsko thought he could beat Barletta in the fall but was stopped by Harrisburg activist Gene Stilp in the primary. Barletta beat Stilp in the General. The 11th Congressional District did not include Wilkes Barre.
Tom Marino’s new district went from The Delaware Forest in the Poconos, to Tunkhannock, Bradford County, parts of Luzerne, and most all of Lycoming and Union Counties. The 10th District did not contain Scranton. So what do you do when a district the 11th loses its Congressman? You give him one from Pottsville! And what do you do when a district like the 10th loses its Congressman? You give him one from Pottsville. Dan Flood, Paul Kanjorski and a few others represented the 11th for 68 years. Bill Scranton Senior, Joe McDade, Don Sherwood and Chris Carney represented the 10th for 54 years. That’s a lot of time to have your own Congressman.
That’s what Tim Holden was up against when he ran for another term, this time in the newly created 17th. The GOP thought they were doing him a favor but they weren’t counting on a challenge from a well funded, articulate, Scranton area Attorney who just happened to be on TV every night for four years doing a segment called “The Law and You”. Cartwright ran a good campaign with quirky ads. But even if his flawless campaign had a few missteps (which it didn’t) he would have won. Lu (Wilkes Barre-Luzerne County), Lac (Scranton-Lackawanna County) were used to having a Congressman and no one was going to give them one from out of town no matter how much seniority he had. Cartwright won the primary and then beat Laureen Cummings in the General.
2. HOME RULE STARTS UP......A few history items here. Jim Bobeck of Kingston was the first Luzerne County Council Chair. Tom Pribula was the first interim Manager while Bob Lawton from California became the first permanent chief. The new democracy is a bit messy and the meetings are very long. The County is still trying to get out of debt and the Council mirrors the national Congress. Some think taxes should be raised, others say no. There have been curious hirings like not rehiring the Clerk who handled all of the business in the first year prior to Home Rule. Former County Commissioner Edd Brominski has proven to be a watch dog and things seem to be evening out. But it will take a long while to solve these issues and one year is not an indicator of things to come. As it enters into year two, the County Council remains a work in progress.
1. LOCAL TAXES GO UP.........Tax hikes in Scranton of about 27%, Wilkes Barre 26%, Hazleton 83%, and places like West Pittston and Exeter with budget challenges. Paul Kanjorski once said that when local governments don’t get money from the state or feds, the only place to get the revenue is from the own local citizens. This is the real “fiscal cliff” when local residents really find out how much government costs. A woman I used to work with once said she only voted in Presidential elections because the local ones really didn’t matter. I wonder if she say that after she gets her tax bill in 2013.
TOP TEN PENNSYLVANIA STORIES
10. STEELERS/EAGLES….. Both NFL teams, the Eagles and the Steelers are beyond the playoffs this year. The Eagles finished with only four wins while the Steelers limped through the second half of the season. The difference is one coach will be fired and it won’t be Mike Tomlin.
9. CASEY AGAIN……………Scranton native Bob Casey won re-election to the Senate after a spirited battle from millionaire coalman Tom Smith. Smith poured 17 million dollars of his own coin into the race but Casey prevailed with his middle of the road approach to representing Pennsylvania.
8. THE SANDUSKY TRIAL……..In June the national media converged on Pennsylvania to the little courthouse in Bellefonte Sandusky was convicted and just like that the media left. On to the next story.
7. JOE GOES, BILL WINS……..It was a Sunday morning when the statue of Joe Paterno was removed from outside Beaver Stadium. For many Penn State fans, it was like JoPa died all over again. But as summer turned into fall, and after two clumsy wins, Penn State began to win with the Belechick bred Bill O’Brien. And all of a sudden, no one was railing about the statue, talking about Sandusky or even the fact Penn State wouldn’t be in a bowl game. Winning might not cure all but it’s a good start.
6. PENN STATE IN THE DOCK……Former Penn State president Graham Spanier was indicted by a grand jury along with Vice resident and Athletic Director Tim Curley. Spanier was indicted on eight counts of perjury, obstruction and endangering welfare of children. Additional charges of felony obstruction, conspiracy and endangerment were also filed against both Curley and Schultz, who are still awaiting trial on perjury and failure to report a crime. Curley was indicted for perjury and child endangerment in connection with the case.
5. SHOW ME YOUR PAPERS…….The Republican controlled Legislature voted in a Photo ID law trying to circumvent the electoral process. The law mandated that everyone who went to the polls had to show a photo ID. People representing minority and the elderly fought back And there was a court decision which said that photo ID would not be required for the 2012 Presidential race. The law still remains but there is a Constitutional challenge pending.
4. NOT A BATTLE GROUND STATE……..The lop sided lead enjoyed by President Obama in the Keystone State kept the TV coffers bare this election cycle. We were not dubbed a swing state until the last ten days when Mitt Romney poured some millions into the state. To the political junkies, we missed out on the political celebs converging on the state. To the rest of the population not so interested, this year was a restful break.
3. ARLEN SPECTER PASSES AWAY………A man who served Pennsylvania as the longest serving Senator in Washington died in the fall. Arleen Specter succumbed to still another battle with cancer. Specter’s legacy to the Commonwealth was summed up by one Ed Rendell who said “Other than Benjamin Franklin, no one contributed more to Pennsylvania than Arlen Specter”. Amen to that.
2. OFF YOU GO BOYS……..Men who were leaders of the House in Harrisburg just a few years ago are now off to jail or already there. House Speaker John Persel and Bill DeWeese are in the same prison. Former 22nd District Senator Bob Mellow was sentenced in November and the 14th former Senator Ray Musto has yet to face trial. Meanwhile the Orie sisters have been active in this realm too. Former Senator Janie Orie is in jail after her conviction on using paid staff to do political work. Her sister Joan Orie Melvin is awaiting trial on similar charges.
1. A TWOFER WINS AG RACE……Kathleen Kane made history not once but twice. Kane became the first Democrat elected to the office of Attorney General since it was designated an elected office in 1980. And she also became the first female elected Attorney General in the State history. The first thing she’ll need to do is sweep the 32 year old GOP cobwebs out of the office. Then look for her to be a thorn in Tom Corbett’s side in the next two years. How this relationship evolves might be the top story of 2013.
TOP TEN NATIONAL STORIES
10. THE CLINTON COMEBACKS……Just four years ago the political power couple of the 90s were vanquished and defeated by the new kid on the block Barack Obama. Surely Bill and Hillary Clinton would be relegated to the sidelines by this new era. But a month into the new reign, Hillary was tapped as Secretary of State. Through the next few years she showed her diplomatic and social skills as one of the most traveled State Secretaries in years. Then in 2012, Bill Clinton was called upon to articulate the Obama vision (something the President seemed hard pressed to do at times) and was spectacular at it. The resurgence of both Clintons is one of the top political stories of this year.
9. JOHN ROBERTS SAYS YEA……..One of the biggest surprise moves of the year was Supreme Court Justice John Roberts’ yes vote on the Affordable Health Care Act. The right wing was in shock while the left wasn’t far behind them. The decision made Obama care the sanctioned law of the land. There was speculation that Roberts might have faced a mini revolt when the Court returned in October but that did happen.
8. GAY MARRIAGE………With more states ratifying gay marriage, more ceremonies being allowed in those states, as well as a greater acceptance of the issue, this was a news story when there was opposition to it. That is a reverse from when news was made when a gay couple got married. In another generation, this story will not even be a blip on the news line radar screen in the future.
7. OBAMA CARE………..More news came out about the effects of the Affordable Health Care Act. It was news when a state Governor said a health exchange would or would not be set up. The Republicans still railed about how it was an infringement on freedoms but the big news was the way the act would be paid for and regulated. That story will continue in 2013.
6. THE FISCAL CLIFF……..Once more the White House and the House of Representatives face off in an awful game of chicken regarding taxes on the rich. House Speaker Boehner is now out of the equation because he can’t do two things that is fundamental to a leadership role in Washington, count and compromise. Sadly this story will bleed into 2013.
5. BENGHAZI………..Take a volatile country with terrorists, an Ambassador that is known for his accessibility, a breakdown in security for the aforementioned and you have a recipe for disaster. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three others were killed because there was a monumental failure of our information and security detail in the Mideast. The tragedy of this was it was preventable or as preventable as something like this could be in the Mideast.
4. THE SANDUSKY CONVICTION………Jerry Sandusky was convicted after a two week trial in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania from testimony of his sexual abuse victims. He got what amounted to a life sentence and will die in prison. What will not die is the floodgates of this story. Sandusky’s victims continue to embolden others to tell their stories. That might be the best legacy of this awful case.
3. HURRICANE SANDY………Weather is always big news but when a huge hurricane dumps rain, wind and gale force winds on the east, it is a big deal. The devastation was horrible and as we move into the darkness of winter, the folks affected by this are still trying to put their lives back together.
2. ELECTION 2012…………..This was like the story that everyone agreed should have a quick ending but just went on and on. In the end, a President with an unemployment higher than anyone in history except FDR, who still had his origin of birth challenged by some people, who faced a devastating attack from the most vicious right wing groups won a second term by a majority. Like Bill Clinton before him, President Obama was blessed rather than cursed by his enemies. The Republican party now has to make a fundamental decision, are they the party of Reagan or Limbaugh and Fox News? In the meantime, the Obama’s and most of America thanks you all.
1. MASS SHOOTINGS………..How can the murder of 20 innocent children not be the top story of the year? There’s a lot of components to this story but a few things are clear. Assault style weapons should not be in the hands of citizens only authorized personnel. Better mental health training should be made available to all. And there has to be a curb on these insidious, mind numbing, non intellectual, silly Xbox games that create violent introverts with no life beyond their bedroom door. Until an attempt at any one of these are fixed, you’ll see more stories like this in the future.