Sunday, December 29, 2013

The LuLac Edition #2575, December 29th, 2013

LULAC TOP TEN LOCAL STORIES

10. BILL SCRANTON DIES.. Former Pennsylvania Governor and Presidential aspirant Bill Scranton died this past July at the age of 95. Scranton was a UN Ambassador, State Department employee and a roving diplomat called on by Presidents and Foreign Leaders for his advice. His presence in Northeastern Pennsylvania was a constant until he retired to California due to his age. The outpouring of sympathy at his passing, years after he left public service was a testament to his honesty and ability to get things done. Scranton’s willingness to work with people in a bipartisan fashion really stood out when his political story was told against the backdrop of the contentious battles between President Obama and the Republicans nationally. Plus Governor Tom Corbett’s inability to get his key legislative priorities passed even with total GOP control in Harrisburg speaks volumes about what a great bipartisan dealmaker Scranton was in his time.
9. SCANDALS AFTERMATH..Even though the large portion of justice has been handed out for the high profile corruption cases of a few years ago, there still is some scandal residue. In 2013 former State Senator in the 22nd District Robert Mellow began serving a jail sentence right after Christmas. By Thanksgiving he was back in a Scranton half way house finishing out his term.
Meantime his cousin Fred Rosetti pleaded guilty to 33 months in federal prison for theft and mail fraud charges. In Luzerne County, former Senator Ray Musto again kept on getting continuances for his corruption trial due to illness. Fed up, Federal prosecutors levied another charge. In November while there was a court proceeding going on without him, Musto conducted a bizarre interview in his home with the Citizen’s Voice. Musto said on video that the comments be off the record. Debate over his competency to stand trial will bleed into 2014.
8. THE OFFICE WRAP PARTY...The fictional business of Dunder Mifflin, a Scranton based paper company went under the radar and off the air in a two hour finale on NBC. One of the top rated shows for a long time, “The Office” final episode did it the right way, tying up loose ends and giving viewers even more insight into the characters. Local affiliate WBRE got in on the action and a huge Office Festival was held in Scranton in May culminating with a night at the Scranton Wilkes Barre Railroaders Park with office cast members in attendance. An empty chair was set aside and the crowd went nuts when actor Steve Carell aka Michael Scott made an appearance. It was a tourism coup for Scranton and also a big business builder that weekend. It also made national news about how Scranton and the cast embraced each other.
7. OBAMA/BIDEN APPEAR IN SCRANTON..Very few times you will see a President come to your hometown when he is in office. Even rarer is the joint appearance of a sitting President and Vice President. That happened this summer when MR. Obama and Biden stopped by Lackawanna Junior College to talk about student loans and debt.
6. PLAY BALL AGAIN IN 2013.. Like a long lost friend, Triple A baseball came back to LuLac land with a new stadium, new mascots, new uniforms and a new name for the Yankees farm team. Excitement was at a fever pitch and attendance and business was very good for the Scranton/Wilkes Barre Railriders. The renovated stadium was very pleasing to rabid and casual fans alike. Another bonus for the fans were the appearances of Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez who were in town on rehab assignments.
5. HOTEL STERLING COMES DOWN.. After years of limbo the great building known as The Hotel Sterling fell victim to the ineptitude its keepers, age and deterioration. It took just a few days to level the landmark. Ironically, the man behind the tear down was killed a few months later when he was working on a similar demolition job.
4. FINANCIAL WOES...Like water everywhere, LuLac land’s governmental bodies had its share of red ink this year. The City of Scranton imposed more than a 50% tax hike for its residents and doubled the garbage fee. In Hazleton the city was wondering if they could meet payroll at the end of the year and in Luzerne County more than 400 million dollars in debt loomed as county employees were laid off and taxes were raised to the maximum allowed by the new Home Rule Charter. In Lackawanna County, voters approved a Home Rule Study Commission that recommended later on in the year that a new form of government be put to a vote. Concern about high taxes in the County and a more efficient way of doing things were driving factors behind that endorsement by the voters. In 2014, look for financial problems to continue and a battle royale regarding Home Rule Yes or No in Lackawnna County.
3. 13 MURDERS IN WILKES BARRE.. If it seemed like at least one person a month got killed in Wilkes Barre this year, well it was because one person a month got murdered in Wilkes Barre in 2013. The crimes centered around drugs, out of town “visitors” infiltrating the city and setting up shop for drugs and mayhem as well as fearless disregard for life for anything of value in the city of over 40,000. The Sherman Hills Apartment Complex became the lightning rod and had the spotlight directed toward their low income facility. A Task Force was set up to see if there could be a solution as well as a meeting between the out of town owners of the complex and City Council. When the meeting was held, the management team from New York told Council they were trying but Council asked told them to try harder. You can be sure that this story will continue on to 2014.
2. POLITICAL DEPARTURES.. Two big political developments shaped the top story of 2013. Scranton Mayor Chris Doherty made it known he would not be seeking a fourth term.
In Luzerne County, Controller Walter Griffith a presumed shoo in for a second term was charged with wire tapping conversations in an attempt to get information on the involvement of CityVest in the Hotel Sterling debacle. Despite the indictment, Griffith handily won the Republican primary but plead guilty and resigned his office. The charges were then reduced to a misdemeanor so Griffith can run for public office again.
These two political sayonaras, one voluntary and one forced paved the wave for the top story in LuLac land this year.
1. ELECTION 2013.. The Doherty annoucement of not seeking reelection cleared the way for a battle between City official Bill Courtright and Liz Randol who ran a very close race for Commissioner a few years ago. Courtright prevailed in the primary and after a hapless GOP recruited Attorney Jim Mulligan to run in August (The GOP primary winner Jerry Lewis or Garrett Lewis or Joe Lewis, whatever the guy’s name was quit) Courtright romped to victory. If Doherty had run, would he have prevailed? And if he had been beaten in the primary would he go for votes on the GOP side? Doherty’s departure though did nothing to improve the city’s finances and that is something the incoming Mayor will have to contend with.
In Luzerne County, the Griffith charges enabled the Democrats to see a way to reclaim that office. 2013 Women We Love recipient and Tax Collector Michelle Bednar ran an aggressive campaign first against primary opponent Steve Urban Senior and then political veteran Carolee Medico Olenginski. Bednar with the help of political heavyweights and unions prevailed and is set to be the financial watch dog as Luzerne County enters its third year in the Home Rule form of government. Will Bednar navigate the waters of Luzerne County finances like Griffith or will she have her own way? A question for 2014. But you can be sure that our top stories of 2013 would not have happened had not top item number two had different outcomes.

2 Comments:

At 7:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm kind of surprised at the top story being the election that no one voted in. But after reading it again, I understand your rationale. Griffith was on his way to a second term and I see where number 2 interacted with number 1.
Great job as always.

 
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