Sunday, March 11, 2007

The LuLac Edition #172, March 11, 2007




When Jet Blue made customers unhappy with their boarding policies during the St. Valentine’s Day Weather Massacre, they instituted a customer bill of rights. I used to work for an on line business that basically did the same thing because they wanted to cover their asses so they wouldn’t bleed any more money than they were due to a shortcoming in technology issues. On the surface it sounds good but all it means is that the PR people (unlike Penn Dot PR guys and gals) in the company are attempting to earn their money.
The Bill of Rights in the U.S. Constitution is a sacred thing and the other day I thought about it as it related to private citizens when two things happened. The first was when I heard Scranton Councilwoman (?) Sherry Nealon Fanucci making snide remarks about the citizens appearing before Scranton City Council. Fanucci said the parade of characters appearing underneath her polished designer Prada shoes (doesn’t the devil wear Prada? No matter so does my man, Jose Ratszinger, the Pope!) was like the cast of the Jerry Springer Show. Still another public official making sport of the people she is supposed to represent. First off, if she ever saw the Springer show (and sad to say I have during my recent 6 month vacation which thankfully is winding down), she’d know that most participants are from the South and therefore not as smart as the average Scrantonian. Second, most of the people on the Springer show are thespians or actor wanna bees who make the rounds from gutter to gutter on daytime TV in search of the minimum paid by the union. So right off, she’s insulted the intelligence and the intent of the people coming before her body. Sherry Nealon Fanucci should either apologize or resign.
The job of being an elected member of anything is a tough one. I know that first hand. I had an uncle who served on the Wyoming Area School Board. He’d be at the bowling alley, church, the golf course, even home on New Year’s Eve watching the Bowl games and some resident of the district would besiege him for a favor, a question or just plain nonsense. But he always treated them with respect and did his best to answer the questions they posed. When they built the new school, his name was put on the cornerstone and the comments from citizens were incredible. “Hey bigshot, ya got your name on the school!” or “How much money ya get when they built that school?” Yeah, right, that’s why the guy drove a ’62 Corvair until 1979. My point here is that when you get elected, it’s a full time 24/7 job. You are the face of the organization you represent. I know some of the questions become redundant and tedious. And sometimes you want to roll your eyes and maybe punch a wall. But you asked for this job, these citizens belong to you as public charges and if you can’t understand that, then go back to the Country Club or whatever it is you condescending people do for fun and give the job to someone who understands the role of a citizen participant.
The other thing that got me thinking about this was Mrs. LuLac’s second travel adventure of the week. After being stranded in Charlotte for 36 hours due to a U.S. Air computer foul up, Mrs. LuLac traveled by car to Williamsport on Friday for a Children’s Literacy Conference. Our routine is for her to call me when she gets to her destination so I know she’s safe. At 8:30AM on Friday, the phone rings and Mrs. LuLac tells me she got there safely but that the car was blowing white smoke. After accessing the situation, Mrs. LuLac determined that she should make her presentation early, then come home via tow truck with the car to the dealership. She rode with a young man named Tim, 34 years old who used to be an over the road trucker but gave it up because of his two little daughters. His wife has MS and the job he had now really took a hit on the family finances. A large part of one of his paychecks went to healthcare. As they wound their way toward LuLac Land, Tim told Mrs. LuLac of his frustration with just trying to get by paycheck to paycheck and his fear for the future given the uncertainty of his economic circumstances. Job security, even for someone willing to work hard and show up on time just didn’t seem to be enough anymore he fretted. He talked about his goals to make life for his two daughters better and hoped his wife would get the care she needed for her disease. Mrs. LuLac noticed that the guy needed a whole lot of dental work but surmised this was way down on his priority list. When they parted, the genial young man wished Mrs. LuLac luck but not before pulling out pictures of his two daughters. When we discussed this later, we both came to the conclusion that Tim was doing everything right as a parent, husband and worker in his life. But was he being served well by his employer, his government and his society? We can hope he will be.
And that brings me to the Citizen Participant Bill of Rights. I believe that every Citizen should be guaranteed the following:
1. An opportunity to be heard in public meetings without ridicule or snide comments directed at them.
2. The chance to participate in one of the offices in government where they might have a concern. Have them “shadow” a department head for a day. This may give the Citizen/Participant a clearer insight into how the area they are complaining about works.
3. If snide or derogatory comments are directed against them, an action of recourse against the official making the comment. (An ad in the newspaper, equal time on the radio, a segment on channel 64, whatever).
4. A demerit system against public officials who can’t handle criticism, questions or inquiries. This would be kind of like a Consumer Reports rating so that when the public official runs for re-election, they are rated on customer service with a 5 star rating being the top and a 1 star rating being the lowest.
5. Every public official, city, county or state should be required to spend one day each quarter with a regular citizen picked by lottery. The public official, whether you be a $10,000 a year council member with full benefits or a Mayor making over $60,000 grand a year, will spend one day with the citizen. Seeing how hard he or she has to work for their money, having dinner at the house, seeing the condition of their neighborhoods and like Mrs. LuLac did with her tow truck driver, getting an insight into what the hopes, dreams, concerns and especially the fears of their constituency actually are in these trying times. Perhaps if this was made mandatory, there would be fewer remarks from Mrs. Fanucci, less chest thumping from Tony Thomas and a kinder and gentler Tom Leighton.
For years businessmen turned politicians like Milton Shapp, former Senator Charles Percy of Illinois, and even current GOP candidate Mitt Romney have said “we have to run government like a business”. True but running a business is more than cost cutting and efficiencies, it is dealing with a consumer, a person that makes the very existence of the entity possible. Voters and citizens should demand they be treated as consumers and treated with the respect, power and dignity they deserve. And if Fanucci and the others don’t like it, or can’t handle that meager responsibility, get a job in a deli slicing meat. It’s honorable work and the pastrami won’t talk back to you.


Taxpayer advocate Walter Griffith recently recieved a compliment worth noting. Griffiths is running for Wilkes Barre City Council in District A and sent us a line recently.

Dear Dave,
I have attached the letter that I will be placing in the newspaper soon regarding the Taxpayer Advocate issue...Seems the City Council is still unaware of who their employers are in City Government and they continually disrespect the taxpayers like myself and Sam Troy...I am running for City Council to help to allow City residents the opportunity to be heard at a City Council meeting without any intimidation or disrespect...


Ladies and Gentlemen:

It appears that publicly raising concerns regarding, voicing opinions about and questioning City government decision making processes can be viewed either negatively or positively, depending upon which side of the Council table one finds himself or herself. Quite often over the last several years “yours truly” has been referred to by a few as a “Taxpayer Critic”, perhaps even a “trouble maker” or even worse than that… just for having brought forward an opposing or minority point of view.

Rather than an elected body of individuals taking exception to any citizen well within his or her rights to question its rationales or lack thereof , wouldn’t it be better to welcome and consider other points of view instead of belittling and dismissing them out-of-hand! However, for the record, persistence (on my part) since 2003 in the face of such strategies (seemingly meant to intimidate) has, for example, directly or indirectly brought about:

· The demolishment of a vacant North River Street apartment complex;
· The online posting of upcoming Council agendas;
· A focus on the need for a “bid process” to be established in regard to the sale of City property;
· A concern regarding the legality of the “Rental Ordinance” and associated fees;
· “Another Point of View” regarding the impacts of the Business Improvement District (BID) on City-wide services and the increased tax burden on affected businesses;
· Pleas for street flooding preventive measures such as the annual cleaning of storm drains and adequate snow plowing and if need be…removal;
· A petition to modify-for-the-better the manner in which administrative and Council pay raises are determined;
· Advocacy which resulted in our City voters’ choice regarding Council redistricting being upheld by the Luzerne County Court and Election Board;

Let me add that I shall continue to be a concerned and pro-active citizen in regard to the well-being of the City of Wilkes-Barre whether or not my counsels fall on “deaf ears”. Almost winning the Council seat that Jim McCarthy now holds to the end of this year did not deter me from continuing to state my case for the betterment of our community. By this point in time most, if not all, must know that I am sincerely committed to the best outcomes for the City of Wilkes-Barre and its citizens.

And as I mention Mr. McCarthy, I must also state that the most recent news article of last week wherein Mr McCarthy has stated that he would like to attend City Council Meetings in the future as a Taxpayer Advocate like Mr Ambrose Meletsky and Myself, Walter Griffith Jr. is by far the most rewarding compliment that a taxpayer advocate can receive from a veteran city council person and I would hope that Mr McCarthy would strive to always represent the taxpayers of this City in the same pro Active fashion as I and Ambrose Meletsky have done in the past.

Thank You

Walter L Griffith Jr.

Taxpayer Advocate


At 11:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great article on citizen's bill of rights. Look at what's going on in POttsville where they want written permission to speak. We are really goling ass backwards. And look at Scranton and Fred Bellardi, he just wants to serve but the question is for "how much?" If Freddie was around in 1776 he'd ask the coloiniests or the tories one question, "how much money ya gonna give me?"

At 12:39 AM, Blogger Tom Carten said...

I saw the "written permission to speak" on the usual half-@ tv report. What did they mean by "written permission"? Was it simply to make up a list of questioners before the meeting for efficiency? Or do you have to jump thru hoops at some time before people gather?

I assume goodwill until proven the opposite, and I definitely do NOT automatically accept what the local newspeople tell us. They skimmed over that one entirely too fast for me and left out too many details.


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