Sunday, November 05, 2017

The LuLac Edition #3638, Novembrer 5h, 2017


The city of Pittston has undergone many changes in the last few years. For years races in Pittston were largely uncontested in a General Election due to the lack of a strong Republican party identification and presence. One must go back to 1971, 46 years ago when a Republican ballot line in the Pittston Area came out on top. But even that was very debatable since Ray Musto ran as a Republican because he was denied the endorsement to succeed his father, James Musto by the Third District Democrats. They instead gave the nod to Roscoe Mulcahey who Musto defeated on the GOP line. 
This year the battle in Pittston comes down to a seasoned city leader, former Mayor Michael Lombardo vs. Charles Bufalino who is making an initial run for office.
Both candidates were asked the questions regarding their current thoughts on the city, who they are as well as their plans for the future execution of the office if elected. Here are the two interviews.
(Lombardo got top billing because we adhere to whatever party is on the top of the ballot in an election year.)



1. After eight years on the sidelines, what brought you back to wanting to be Mayor of Pittston again?

It actually has been 12 years since I last served as mayor. I think answering why I didn’t run for a third term provides a better answer. The most important 2 things in my life are my family and the city- in that order. While the responsibility of mayor is one that I take serious, the responsibility of parent is second to none. Twelve years ago I recognized that my responsibilities to my family; more specifically my twin daughters, was where I needed to direct the majority of my attention. Twelve years later I am certain that I made the right decision. My daughters have graduated from the University of Notre Dame and are both gainfully employed and beginning new chapters in their adult lives. As proud as I am of all we’ve achieved in the city it is pale in comparison to the pride Catherine and Kristen bring me. Nothing I’ve done or will ever do is more important than being a good father. I will honor that commitment as long as I live. To the question of my desire to serve as mayor again:
much like the role of parent, my responsibilities and commitment to the city are important and long term. First, let me say that I have great respect for Mayor Klush and that respect has grown. Like me 12 years ago he has decided to focus the next few years on his children. That decision created an opportunity for me to run again. There is much more that I believe is possible including developing our neighbor hoods into revitalized places with a strong sense of community. That is my main priority. Rounding out my list of goals, I would include Main Street Development in the Junction, continued park development, continued financial stability, and additional infrastructure improvements to assure our citizens of essential public services for generations to come and the continued opportunity to attract development to the city.

2. Your critics will say that the city is too much in debt. How do you answer them and what plans do you have to watch the debt?

Debt is always a concern but I believe manageable debt, particularly at a time when interest rates were at a historic low, is necessary for modernization of our city, public safety and creating an environment that is attractive to private developers. Much like a car or your home, investment into the asset is necessary to preserve the viability of the asset. Until 1998 the city suffered from acute neglect. Its sewer infrastructure was over a hundred years old and starting to show significant signs of failure. Additionally, new unfunded state and federal mandates delineated mandatory upgrades. In fact over 55% of the present city debt is directly related to mandated upgrades to the city sewer/storm water system. The city maintains a very high credit rating because we have managed our debt appropriately. We are not near our debt ceiling and have no intention to approach that. The city is constantly monitored by DCED and the Auditor General’s office with regard to borrowing.
Eugene DePasquale, Pennsylvania Auditor General and top financial watchdog had this to say about Pittston: “Whether it’s new jobs or something, they are managing it in a fiscally responsible way.”
All metrics related to the economics of the city indicate significant growth and in the past 8 years we have seen in excess of $35 million dollars of private investment in the city and downtown.

3. The growth and the redevelopment is noticeable. Do other cities contact you for advice?

I appreciate the recognition that noticeable results have been achieved but there is much more to be done. Applying the same principals in our neighborhoods as we used downtown will insure the same progress is realized there. To the question of other cities/municipalities contacting us; the answer is yes. Two recent examples include Berwick and Pottsville. Both places sent contingents here to meet with myself and city elected officials as well as various department heads. In addition to visits here, I have visited Berwick and Pottsville and assisted in initial visioning sessions and developing a pathway for master planning. Our past 4 governor, and 2 of our lieutenant governors, auditor general DePasquale, Senator Robert Casey and Congressman Kanjorski and Cartwright, several state senators and state representatives as well as high ranking state department heads have come to examine the Pittston Model. In fact, Auditor General DePasquale (see Nick Wagner Times Leader), said after a tour of the city:
“It’s great to see leaders who have a game plan on how to move the community forward,” “Some communities have just stopped trying,”
“It shows what you can do it if you’re willing to put the effort in. You’re doing it residentially and commercially”
Several of our projects have received sate-wide awards and recognition including but not limited to, The Greater Pittston Memorial Library, the Lincoln Heights Senior Living Facility and most recently our Northeast Land Bank. I have had the honor to serve on several state wide panels to discuss issues related to municipal revitalization.

4. How do you plan to get divergent groups to work together to achieve more?

In order to get any groups to work together you must first understand each group’s priorities. Secondly, you must understand the road blocks that will disrupt that goal. My educational background/psychology degree and over twenty years of experience gives me the skills necessary to facilitate divergent groups finding common ground and developing a mission all care share in. It’s all about building concensus.

5. If you had a dream city version of Pittston, something that would make it stand out nationally, what would you want?

A city is much more than bricks and mortar. A successful city is defined by a strong sense of community. For 20 years I have worked on building our sense of community and civic pride. When I took office in 1998 the city was often the brunt of the joke, presently we are a shining example of hope, cooperation, leadership and ultimately revitalization. There are countless articles, editorials and letters to the editor supporting this claim.
I am excited to report that for the past 6 months I have been working on two programs related to neighborhood housing; “100 Houses Initiative” and “Project REACH”. I have presented both at the state level where they have been met with excitement and encouragement and also provided advice on potential state level funding partners. Additionally, 3 local banks have already signed on as partners. These programs will spark home ownership and result in significant tax base growth. These programs will shed the national spot light on our city.

6. Any future ambitions after Pittston, you’re a young guy on the go. Any thoughts on any other office?

I learned a long time ago “never-to-say-never” but, I’m pretty certain that the office of mayor is the only elected seat I will ever hold. While there have been countless rumors regarding my interest in running for higher office that’s all they’ve been is rumors. Twenty one years ago when I made the decision to run for mayor it wasn’t because I was interested in politics or holding a political office: It was a decision made because the city I love was in decline and I believed that significant potential for progress existed. The position of mayor afforded me the opportunity to effectuate the necessary change to realize the goal of revitalization. I am extremely proud of my 8 years as mayor and am confident that given the opportunity, the next four years will yield similar returns for Pittston.



1. You are running an underdog campaign, who is Charlie Bufalino and why should anyone vote for him?

Who is Charlie Bufalino?
I am a Pittston born-and-raised son of a well-known local photographer. My family were all tradesmen. I use the skills I learned from them to maintain the family homestead built by my coal-miner grandfather and his brother. I’ve been lucky to be able to share Pittston with my two children, who grew up in their great grandfather’s house.
I graduated from Penn State in 1979 and worked in local television throughout the 1980’s. I designed and built the first tv studio and control room at Luzerne County Community College and taught the tv production classes there for several years.
I acted as the first publicity coordinator for the Pittston Tomato Festival during the period of its fastest growth 1983-1992. I left television in 1997. I earned a Master’s degree in Instructional Technology and have worked in interactive multimedia design and production since then for Fortune 500 clients. I currently work as a web consultant out of my family home.
Why vote for me?
I always had a passion for Pittston, its people and its history. I think our role in the history of the US is misunderstood and one day I’d like to find a way to address that.
Fiscally, I’m a conservative. I don’t believe in frivolous spending and I’m against reaching into the pockets of working people to finance fanciful, unproductive projects.
I’ve handled multi-million dollar budgets and managed staff.
I’m a good creative resource and a problem-solver. The way people interact today with technical support for computer devices from HP to Compaq is still largely based on a model I and my team envisioned in 1999.
I understand our city’s problems and have offered solutions.

2. You point to your involvement in the Tomato Festival as one of the founding committee members. How in your estimation has Pittston changed since then?

I don’t want to sound like I invented the festival. The Festival Committee identified the need for “a” festival of some kind and they settled on the tomato theme. I promoted it and contributed to its success.
The success of the Pittston Tomato Festival was transformative for Pittston and it had a huge physical impact on the city and the morale of its residents.
Before the festival, we in Pittston had seen some of the worst corruption and the most awful political climate during the days of the coal companies. In those years Walter Winchell told the world that if you wanted to commit a murder and get away with it—go to Pittston, PA. We had a reputation for being the Voter Fraud Capital and home of the Mafia in the US.
I was born in 1957 and I saw the transition while growing up. I felt the jabs, as far away as State College, as people poked fun at the town and at me for living in it.
By the 1980’S, jobs were gone and people that had weathered the storm were left like hurricane survivors stranded on a beach. So they decided to have a party.
That’s why I see the Pittston Tomato festival as a triumph. It changed the way we see ourselves and the way everybody else sees us. Civic pride resurfaced. Pittston developed a new sense of community. Properties started shaping up. People were happier than they’d been in years.
I’m not more proud or happy about any one thing I’ve ever done or award I’ve received in my career than I am about my role in producing that outcome.

3. How do you plan to overcome what looks to be a formidable Lombardo machine?

Mike Lombardo and I are both running on his record of accomplishment and his impact on the city. There’s a very deep undercurrent of dissatisfaction and mistrust among Pittston residents and business owners. Behind the DryVit and plywood facades of the downtown, there are shop owners who have trouble staying in business and meeting the arbitrary and sometimes-expensive city demands.
Meantime, homeowner landlords get the focus of code enforcement while favored slumlords seem to get away without inspection at all. Permit fees, building fees, have gone out of sight. Want to appeal? Win or lose, you pay $250.00. And you appeal before the code officer and others with city interest.
There’s also a burden of the city’s 20 million dollar debt, dangerously coupled with some none-too-realistic and very expensive plans. For example, the stated intent to host an international film festival by spending an expected 1.75 million dollars to fund and staff a theater to house a Film Office and host an international film festival.
Nearly 20 years of experience in tv and film leads me to say—the project will never pay for itself. Proof is in the $30,000 spent to date with nothing to show for it. It can only generate ego gratification for its authors at our expense.
Mister Lombardo’s vision of the city may just prove dangerously out of sync with the public’s ability to fund it.

4. What would you have done to make Pittston different than the way it is now?

My first focus would be on making the city solvent by restructuring city government, stopping unnecessary spending, and restoring Redevelopment Authority properties to the tax rolls. The RA currently owns more than 80 properties representing a revenue potential of $477,000.00 which would certainly help square some debt. We’ll look at those long-term loans against the $20 million debt and make a plan to address them. We’ll rebuild our tax base by incentivizing individual investment in vacant properties and restore equity to the code processes and fee schedules and we’ll look for other ways to court middle-income ownership.
The Fort Pitt School, commemorating the original Fort located on the same spot, itself a symbol of the factory schools in a town that was itself a factory….will soon be gone. The Redevelopment Authority changed its plan to save the building. The new plan is to tear it down. If it goes, it will join the dozens of other buildings including the famous Flatiron building, which did not need to be razed, and the canal-era Courthouse on South Main Street which themselves were iconic symbols of Pittston’s past.
I’d like to see the return of individual investors to the city. People are scared away by the uneven code-enforcement. I’d like to create a positive climate for first-time homeowners to dare to invest in one of the city’s many double-blocks without fear of reprisal or unfair code enforcement, as a means to rebuilding the tax base and restoring the community.
I’d like to see kids have something to do out in the open air. The Pittston Pool at Cosgrove park, lost under Mister Lombardo, was a great resource for children. I can’t promise to build it back. But as a father of two young children living in Pittston, I’m embarrassed that, in the town I call “The Jewel in the crown of the Wyoming Valley”, I had to drive to Duryea to find my children a decent playground.

5. What is your vision for the city if elected?

I’d like Pittston to continue to be a City that Works – a city of working families who can afford to live in the city and enjoy the fruits of improved services and improved parks, and a government that respects them as citizens.
a. I’d like city government to create a plan to address the 20 million dollar mountain of debt that started in Mr. Lombardo’s term as mayor and continued with his behind the scene personal control. Squaring the debt would be the first priority and it would involve among other things reclaiming some of the $477,000.00 – yearly uncollected tax revenues in properties tied up by the Redevelopment Authority.
b. Create a culture of respect and fairness in city government. I’d like to see the people of the City trust the city government and participate in their government without fear of reprisal or being ‘shouted down’ by the dais.
c. Improve the tax base. Create an influx of families willing to buy single or double-block homes without fear of being forced out of town by arbitrary inspections and fees.
d. Rebuild our neglected parks and playgrounds. Improve or maintain services generally.
e. Hold the line on taxes and fees.

6. .Name the things you think Pittston needs to do that it hasn’t to make it a better city?

a. Create a long range economic plan to address the current $20 million debt
b. Immediately suspend all wasteful spending and return a sense of fiscal responsibility to city government
c. Reorganize administrative offices
d.Do a comprehensive study of all city departments with an eye toward public safety and fiscal responsibility
e. Restore the 80+ RDA-owned properties to the tax rolls to remove the burden of $477,000.00 in uncollected revenue tied up in the currently untaxed RDA-owned properties.
f. Promote individual homeownership to rebuild the tax base. Redirect community development funds to homeowners for rehab and property improvements.

(Photos of candidates: Citizen's Voice, Times Tribune)

EDITOR'S NOTE: Lombardo is running with Michael Lombardo and Kenneth Bangs for Council. 
Pat Toole is running as an Independent for Pittston City Council.


At 10:51 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Mr Yonki

This was great, a couple of comments/questions.

-when did Ray Musto run for Mayor? I think that would make a fascinating post. I thought he lived in Pittston Twp, never knew he lived in the city.
-kudos to coming up with these insightful questions and getting the candidates to answer them. They show you commitment to putting together a great blog and it also shows the commitment of the candidates.
-this insight has swayed be a bit, at first I was going Buffalino, but after reading some of his comments, I am no longer so certain.
-I am glad Buffalino didn't take credit for inventing the tomato festival, we all know it was Wil Toole :) LOL

At 2:59 PM, Blogger David Yonki said...

-when did Ray Musto run for Mayor? I think that would make a fascinating post. I thought he lived in Pittston Twp, never knew he lived in the city.


Please re-read the first part of the post. I didn't fill in as many of the blanks as I should have. Corrected, we don't want any of that fake news TAHFQ babbles on about.

-I am glad Buffalino didn't take credit for inventing the tomato festival, we all know it was Wil Toole :) LOL


Let us not forget Kenny Scaz too who by moving to Florida raised that state's collective IQ by 10 points or better.

At 5:10 PM, Blogger PoorRichard said...

Thanks for the effort you put into this edition. The Pittston race is very important to me because I have to atone for past action. When Lombardo ran the first time, I voted for him. I was not unhappy with the Walsh administration and in fact I though his crew were excellent. Very responsive and always available but like many others, I just thought it was time for a change. It is no secret that Lombardo never left office, he simply gave up the title and maintained control.

I wasn't 100% sure what I was going to do on Tuesday but I was leaning toward Bufalino but only slightly. After reading Lombardo's comments, especially the way he down played the massive city debt I made my decision. Lombardo has no fiscal restraints. He seems proud that he has created this debt but is he as equally as proud of our taxes and city service fees? I'm now retired and I just cannot afford four more years of Lombardo. The city ignored our neighborhoods for the past 20 years and the city parks, once a point of pride are now and have been a disgrace. No more, please no more. If Lombardo gets elected I fear I will lose my home. I need to say that I met Mr Bufalino while he was walking on my street and he seems to be an intelligent man filled with pride in his home town. I did know his father and thought he was a great guy. I have asked my friends and family to please consider Mr. Bufalino and his running mate Pat Toole.

At 9:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

No one can deny the progress of the city of Pittston.

At 12:58 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If progress is cheap facades, tanning shops and tattoo parlors then progress is evident. Removing taxable properties is a hurt on the remaining taxpayers. I heard that the secret plan is to buy the east side of Main Street properties from Oak St to Lagrange St. More taxables for us to makeup for.


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