Tuesday, June 30, 2009
But the county's newly hired legal guns say not so fast. Philadelphia based Elliott Greenleaf & Dean is getting $300+ per hour to defend the county in the lawsuit. Why in-house lawyers can't handle this is puzzling. Staff Solicitor David Schwager, who represents the assessment appeals board, doesn’t have time to devote to the Kopko case because he’s busy processing mediations, commissioners said. Every county department, board and agency has a solicitor which may or may not be mandated by state law. It seems like there are hundreds of them. The GSC should look at creating a solicitors office with a staff of attorneys that would handle all county legal business. Rosenn Jenkins & Greenwald was originally hired but pulled out because of a claimed conflict that Dr. Kopko called bullshit. “I believe they’re smelling a case that they can’t win,” Kopko said.
Some more fun with reassessment include The Luzerne County Assessor’s Office has failed to fully value and tax a Rice Township residential property that’s on the market for an asking price of $649,000. The home is owned by Angelo Terrana. Terrana sits on the county Board of Assessment Appeals, which oversees the assessor’s office. Plus there is Participant 2's multi-party Bob Mericle's dance over a Wilkes-Barre property that he owns. We own a rental double block and one side is valued $8000 more than the other but for the most part the houses are the same. 21st Century may have got a few things wrong.
And I got this in the inbox:
Would love to give you an update on reassessment. The law has been violated and the county knows it! Apparently the rats are turning on each other as 21st Century (who will be held responsible along with the commissioners and others) filed a brief indicating, and you guessed it, that reassessment is now illegal based on county actions and the settling, or tanking, based on your perspective, has reduced the equalized values.
Oh, by the way, mediation is absolutely illegal, appears nowhere in the 3rd Class County Reassessment Law, and was signed into "law" by none other than Mark "I'm gonna do time" Ciavarella. The process does not address the sweetheart deals for politician's and their family/friends/political contributors which it will when we file for removal in a few weeks. My attorneys and I are confident that we will prevail. We have to ..for the people! For as many on the ridiculously high side values, their are the ridiculously low values.
Please keep in mind that I met with the commissioners to head this off. I asked them for three things; 1) correct the overs and unders on reassessment (Urban indicated that he knew of at least 5 municipalities "grossly undervalued". He said he would not address those and each municipality should file an appeal in 2010. Not happening since the politicians in those municipalities need their constituents votes to get re-elected. 2) Guarantee no more tax increases since the base has been adjusted (Petrilla answered, "No way, can't do it" Could you blame her with the corruption and mismanagement of funds that have gone on? She is a party to it! 3) Return the windfall fees to taxpayers since their is evidence that 95% of individuals did not receive their Pa certified appraisal amounts and were beaten down because they could not afford anymore attorney fees or associated costs. (Can anyone say, collusion?)
It goes on and on. There will be 25 items that clearly has violated the law, let alone adding the county corruption issues in. I would enjoy to fill you in more. By the way, keep calling the Sue Henry Show.
Dr. Victor P. Kopko
PA board, Scarantino reach deal A better contract should have been written
Official: Controller's office should review accrued time payments How about some time clocks
No clean slate for Skrepenak No Shit
Local action can rid county of Old Politics You're preaching to the choir Paul
Sunday, June 28, 2009
Friday, June 26, 2009
So what else is going on?
Iran is having a revolution
The US health care system is going to be overhauled
North Korea is rattling sabers
US forces are leaving the cities of Iraq
Swine flu may kill us all
All this will take a back seat for the next few days while our librul media obsesses about MJ
MORE BREAKING NEWS
Anna Nicole Smith is still dead
Katsock to fill vacancy on W-B school board
Christine Katsock has run for many offices over the last 10 years and I have usually voted for her. Katsock was the top vote getter on both sides of the ballot in the primary election for W-B Area School Director almost guaranteeing a win in November. The present members of the board made the right decision to give her a head start in her new job.
Thursday, June 25, 2009
Deputy Sheriff Carl Zawatski hasn't taken a day off in a year and a half.
Deputy Treasurer Dominick DePolo missed only 3 hours since 2006.
Deputy Clerk of Courts Tom Pizano hasn't missed a day of work in 3 years.
Mark Carey, Deputy Recorder of Deeds, had no paid days off due to illness, vacations or personal time during the last 18 months.
I want to commend these gentlemen for their work ethic.
Or maybe not.
Most officials don’t report time off
Watch the video
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
He was issued a subpoena on June 1. The Feds are looking into money Participant 1 Robert Powell paid to Toole. Zen says it was $82,000 for his services for refusing to rule on subpoenas issued by then Controller Steve Flood when he was looking into the county contract with PA Child Care in 2005 then owned by Powell and Greg Zappala. Toole could have ruled against the subpoenas, but that would have given Flood a chance to appeal to get the subpoenas enforced. Toole was also a guest at the Juvie Brothers Florida condo least once and also ruled on a dispute involving Robert Powell's yacht.
Prosecutors say Powell knew that Conahan and Ciavarella were committing a crime when they accepted the kickbacks from Powell and local developer Participant 2 Robert Mericle, but failed to report it. He also helped the judges disguise the source of the money he and Mericle paid.
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
The TL and the CV ran stories last week about Alcalde de Hazleton Lou Barletta being invited to speak at Pat Buchanan's anti-immigrant gabfest along with some of the heavy hitters of the lunatic fringe such as Phyllis Schlafly, former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, anti-affirmative action leader Ward Connerly, former Congressmen John Hostettler and Tom Tancredo. There were no follow up stories
According to the TL he tried to distance himself from some of the nuts... Barletta said he doesn’t agree with some of the beliefs or stances some other speakers will share but he’s there to talk about a topic that he feels strongly about.
One of the speakers at the conference was "best-selling anti-immigration author Peter Brimelow."
From Think Progress:
Peter Brimelow, one of the panelists to the event, is the editor of Vdare.com. He has written extensively against immigration and has long advocated that the GOP must “appeal to its base: white Americans.” Brimelow has defended accusations that he writes and publishes white supremacist material by declaring his content to be merely “white nationalist.”
Brimelow also urged the attendees of the Buchanan conference to attack affirmative action in an effort to attract the votes of "young whites" and "yellow people." After claiming it would be "suicidal" for any "white man" to vote for Obama, Brimelow contended that immigrants should not be eligible for affirmative action because "they weren’t slaves to this country, they’ve never been discriminated against."
They have the audio.
Buchanan and Brimelow also mocked Judge Sotomayor's efforts to improve her English while sitting under that banner. Maybe Mayor Lou should check out the guest list before he goes to another hatefest like this one.
Monday, June 22, 2009
8. Ed Mitchell (D)
One of the Pennsylvania’s most effective political spokesman, Mitchell has guided some of the state’s most embattled Democrats through reelection. He works for both Congressman Paul Kanjorski (D-11) and Congressman John Murtha (D-12), both of whom have found themselves the favored targets of Republicans over the years. Kanjorski, in particular, was widely expected to lose last year. And while coverage of Kanjorski is rarely glowing these days, Mitchell can chew out a reporter on the phone as well as anyone. Yours truly would know.
Dan admits that it is an inexact science to rank who are top guns and is threatening to name the best-dressed political consultants tomorrow.
Sunday, June 21, 2009
A few items in the news caught my eye that fall into the category of Idiot Watch.
Alcohol, firearms and the chicken dance
WNEP: Police said a group of kids were playing basketball when Gerald Wiernusz, 41, of Kingston waved a weapon and threatened to shoot anyone who came on his property. He also apparently clucked like a chicken. Officers believe Wiernusz was drunk at the time.
Father of the Year
HANOVER TWP. - A man was arrested over the weekend for leaving three children home alone while he was drinking at a bar...Keith Allen Rucker, 38, of South Main Street, Hanover Township, was charged with three counts each of endangering the welfare of children and recklessly endangering another person... Township police allege in the criminal complaint that Rucker was watching a 9-year old, a 5-year old and a 4-month old that he left home alone while he drank at a bar.
Don't get your knickers in a twist
TL: A Shickshinny man who was arrested Friday morning for allegedly stealing a pair of woman's underwear and sunglasses from vehicles in Hunlock Township is a guard at the Luzerne County Prison, officials said.
Jacob Francis Heylek, 36, was charged with two counts each of theft and loitering and prowling at night, and a single count of public drunkenness.
Heylek was suspended without pay Friday morning pending an internal investigation, said prison Warden Joe Piazza.
The only thing that travels faster than the speed of light is bad news
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
Edwardsville turns down St. Hedwig's zoning change
A request by Catholic Social Services for a special-use variance to convert the former St. Hedwig's School into apartments for veterans was unanimously denied Tuesday by the three-member zoning board...Zoning board members refused to comment on their ruling.
Austin gives us an update:
Last night the Edwardsville Zoning Board unanimously denied the variance needed. They did not give a reason at the meeting. Several residents spoke in opposition to the project. They were concerned it would go the way of a low income housing project that they've had trouble with.
The difference is that the vet center would have staff on site 24/7, regular and random screening for drugs and alcohol and a strict zero tolerance policy. Catholic Social Services has experience with their vet center in Scranton that has been a great success both for the veterans and the community.
Commissioner Urban was among the supporters and testified that he lives near a housing project that has staff on hand and has not generated one complaint.Veterans shared experiences about they have done and sacrificed. They spoke about similar projects and their effectiveness.
CSS will appeal the decision.
I would like to see an accounting of the program to judge if it is worth it. I'm sure that there are some success stories like Schiel's Supermarket but what about the dead weight?
In 2005 The Times -Leader did a series on the program that questioned it's effectiveness. I can't link to the articles now because the local papers want to be paid for reading old news but I dug into my archives to give you some highlights.
I did some math using the TL numbers for Wilkes-Barre. I may be wrong but I come up with $3.7 million in tax breaks since 1999 that has produced a net 640 jobs.
These items caught my attention:
Half of the KOZ properties in the city are owned by the city itself or government-related agencies. Many are dilapidated or abandoned properties that haven't attracted investors, even with their tax-free status. Others such as City Hall, Public Square Park and police headquarters make little sense as targets for developers.
Thirteen property owners who were granted KOZ status, and have enjoyed about $37,000 in relief from municipal property taxes, have reported no new investment or jobs since joining the program, according to applications filed with the state.
Some of the other gems that were included in the original KOZ were Coughlin High School and Hollenback Park. Lowe's Restaurant on W. Market St was also designated a KOZ and at the time everyone involved said that it had nothing to do with the political connections of the owner but that is another story. I wondered about including a high school and public square on a list that would never be developed and I got my answer.
"If a property is already designated as a Keystone Opportunity Zone but cannot be developed due to developing restrictions or environmental issues or other issues, the state is providing an opportunity for that property to be decertified as a Keystone Opportunity Zone property and for an equivalent or lesser amount of acreage to be swapped into the program in the same municipality."
It sounds like bait and switch.
Some members of the Wilkes-Barre Area School Board objected to being told that they had to approve the swap with little time to consider it.
Lynn Evans asked why they waited until the last minute to present the district with the resolution. Board member Theresa McGuire told city officials they almost always come to the school board at the last minute for approval. While the resolutions are typically items the board would agree with, she doesn't appreciate being handed a resolution and told to act immediately.
The Scranton City Council has had enough.
Scranton KOZ issue is about to boil over
"The last thing we need is more people not paying taxes in our city," school Director Chris Phillips said....Almost a third of the KOZ requests on council's agenda belong to companies of businessman Louis DeNaples.
In Luzerne County
“What was supposed to be a 10-year program for blighted land is now permanent,” Drew Magill said the program’s expansions and extensions have snowballed.
Wilkes-Barre property owner Walter Griffith said KOZ properties rely on police and other government services without paying for them.
Extension requests include:
• 100 parcels in Wilkes-Barre.
• About 150 acres by the Hazleton Municipal Airport owned by Hazleton.
• 135.12 acres in Nanticoke and Hanover Township.
KOZ's are not the only "revitalization" tool out there. A program called Local Economic Revitalization Tax Assistance (LERTA) actually makes more sense because a project has to be a going concern.
Then there is just writing off the past due taxes owed.
This is also from 2005
Wilkes-Barre Mayor Tom Leighton said his desk is stacked with developers willing to revitalize the former Old River Road Bakery, Radnor Building on South Washington Street, Academy Street Market and First National Bank building on Public Square. Outstanding taxes are the only obstacle, he said.
So what is happening with those properties?
Many people in Luzerne County have seen their property taxes go through the roof because of the recent reassessment and ask "is this fair?"
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
Former Luzerne County judges Mark Ciavarella and Michael Conahan are not entitled to their pensions and could be liable to reimburse the state $4.3 million for higher juvenile placement costs it says are tied to the kickback scheme the jurists engaged in, the State Employees’ Retirement System has determined.
Conahan has been collecting 8 grand a month since he retired and Ciavarella was slated to get over $5K but has not received any payments. Ciavarella also tried to cash out his contributions after he was charged but the state pension fund refused his request. Conahan's timing was better and got a lump sum payment of $302,777.09.
And the assertion of Robert Powell that he was strong armed into paying the Juvie Brothers all that money in bribes is laughable. They also forced him to invest in the real estate deal with them and Jill Moran in Mountaintop. The fact that Powell was wearing a wire after the Feds pinched him hit the papers this week and I'm sure that my faithful readers will remember that was first reported on this blog in January.
The headlines about Bob Mericle and Judge Toole should be coming soon.
Sunday, June 14, 2009
Saturday, June 13, 2009
On Tuesday, June 16th the Edwardsville Zoning Board will have a hearing to consider a plan to build a vet center at the former site of St. Hedwig’s Church. The new center would be owned by Catholic Social Services Housing Corporation and operated in conjunction with the Veterans’ Administration.
The center will:
§ Be built with $9.6 million dollars in federal money from the Stimulus Package
§ House 30 veterans and their families from the hundreds on the VA Hospitals’ waiting list. Nine of the units will be customized for disabled veterans.
§ Be cheaper for the veterans at either 20% or 30% of their income.
§ Permanently support the local economy. Kingston and Edwardsville will have 30 new residents paying less for housing so they will have more disposable income.
§ Be beautiful building with gardens and landscaping that will help to improve local property values.
§ Have fulltime staff and screening for drugs and alcohol use. These factors have made similar centers a joy to live near.
There will be no rehabilitation services offered at St. Hedwig’s Veterans’ Village and it is unlikely to house veterans with severe cases of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), alcoholism or drug abuse. The reason is that there are facilities and programs specifically designed to support veterans with these problems elsewhere in the state. The majority of the population at St. Hedwig’s Veterans’ Village will be veterans with families.
Concerned citizens are encouraged to attend the meeting on Tuesday, June 16th or contact the Edwardsville Zoning Board at:
470 Main Street
Edwardsville, PA 18704
570 288 6484
For questions please contact Austin Ford, a volunteer with the NEPA Veterans’ MultiCare Alliance at (570)706-3960
Friday, June 12, 2009
Lidge who? Ryan Madson got his 2nd save in 2 days after Raul Ibanez hit a 3 run shot in the top of 10th inning.
Boston 36-24 -
New York 24-26 2 GB
Philadelphia 35-23 -
New York 31-27 4 GB
Thursday, June 11, 2009
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
Tuesday, June 09, 2009
In the mean time we can speculate about who will be running against Kanjo or Carney in 2010. I'm really not ready to cover the upcoming race for Governor as none of the prospective candidates excite me. As far as the 2010 Senate race goes I will apply the Easter Bunny Test. I will vote for anybody but Arlen Specter in the Democratic Primary and if Joe Sestak is the only serious candidate he has my support although I would rather see Patrick Murphy or Allyson Schwartz make the run.
So that leaves us with Baseball. The Phillies should have swept the Dodgers over the weekend but came out with a spilt. They should have also swept the phargon Yankees a few weeks ago. There is nothing more demoralizing for a baseball team than going into the bottom of the 9th with a lead and losing the game. Brad Lidge was a perfect 41 saves in 41 opportunities last year but he has blown 6 saves so far this year. I think it's time to give Ryan Madson a chance to close the game.
Saturday, June 06, 2009
Recently I recounted the musical performance of me and the Rain Man at his wedding to his lovely bride that is still talked about to this day. Tonight he reminded me of a few twists that I engineered at the reception when the big day came for me and Mrs. G many moons ago. I chased her until she caught me, what can I say.
At the time The Mararena was the big hit for wedding dance songs and is still is but I was not having anything to do with that. So I instructed the DJ to play The Time Warp whenever someone asked for it. It created confusion at first but eventually people learned how to jump to the left and step to the right.
When it came time to do the garter nonsense instead of the Stripper the song was Don't Touch Me There by The Tubes
I committed other heresies that day including using scissors and a squirt gun at various parts of the ritual.
Friday, June 05, 2009
How do I uninstall or remove Internet Explorer 8?
Now I'm back to IE7 and all is well.
Thursday, June 04, 2009
The local papers have obits.
Former Congressman Harrison dies
Congressman Kanjorski had this message:
“As we mourn the loss of Congressman Frank Harrison, I pass along my thoughts and prayers to his family and friends. Frank and I knew each other as college debaters. Since first meeting him, and throughout our professional careers, I have always respected Frank for his strong intellectual abilities. After his political career, he joined the classroom as a college professor where he benefited the education and lives of many students. He will be missed.”
“Frank was a very viable and tough opponent; a very bright guy,” Nelligan said. “I would like to offer my sincere condolences to his family.”
The best tribute to Frank Harrison and a recap of those turbulent times comes from our local political historian David Yonki:
Participant 1 in the Juvie Brothers scandal, Robert Powell, payed some cash to Toole for unspecified reasons according to Terrie Morgan-Besecker in the TL. Why would Powell possibly give money to Toole ? Let me get out my crayon.
Toole refused to rule on subpoenas issued by then Controller Steve Flood when he was looking into the county contract with PA Child Care in 2005 then owned by Powell. Toole could have ruled against the subpoenas, but that would have given Flood a chance to appeal to get the subpoenas enforced. Toole was also a guest at the Juvie Brothers Florida condo least once and also ruled on a dispute involving Robert Powell's yacht.
Or it could have been for something else.
In other news the Juvie Brothers are still free to travel back and forth to the condo in Florida and may not be sentenced for some time.
Someone once said that justice delayed is justice denied.
Two other local crooks plead guilty this week.
Height, Scarantino to enter guilty pleas
Wednesday, June 03, 2009
The Citizens’ Voice editorial, “President should stand ground on closing Gitmo,” on May 27, is problematical, since no governor in the country cares to handle the political fallout of housing Guantanamo’s terrorists in his/her state.
Solution: Luzerne County should craft a plan and proposal to Governor Rendell, by which the population, inclusive of the 100 most dangerous terrorists President Obama says should be detained, be transferred here, together with the $60 million Congressman Obey says are available to house them in a new facility, to be named, suggestively, “Luzmo.”
The above solution, if bought by local and state governments, would solve a national problem, the present overcrowding in the county prison, reduce unemployment and free me to help find a buyer for the old Eighth Street bridge.
Edziu Antek Silvent
This guy should be a blogger. Good luck selling that bridge.
The Saturday OT Committee and Operatic Society will gather to watch the Belmont Stakes at the usual place and time; Saturday, 4PM at Marks Pub 1287 N Washington St, Wilkes-Barre (map it).
None of us are big horse race fans but this is just another excuse to infuse cash into the malt beverage industry to ensure it's liquidity. After all, we don't want D.G. Yuengling & Son to go the way of General Motors.
The 21st annual Thompson Street Block Party is scheduled for Saturday, August 8, 2009. Pencil that one in on the calendar. This year Mark is threatening a “live” set of music. I shall make a motion at the Committee meeting this Saturday that we make our début of the the new theme song. As the musical director I have proposed in the past that we replace our slurred version of Bohemian Rhapsody with a totally incoherent rendition of Beethoven's Ode to Joy in the original German. The motion has always died for lack of a second for some reason. Failing that maybe me and the Rain Man can reprise our duet of the songs from Jesus Christ Superstar that we performed at his wedding to much acclaim.
And just to throw out one more thing Douglas Adams fans have to hunt the wocket.
Walter L. Griffith Jr., the Republican nominee for Luzerne County controller, is not pleased with votes to put new properties in tax-free Keystone Opportunity Zones.
“The same players get all the breaks. … This has got to stop,” Griffith said.
Luzerne County commissioners on Friday removed Hollenback Park in Wilkes-Barre from a KOZ and replaced the 26.5-acre property with 37 new properties. On Thursday, Wilkes-Barre City and the Wilkes-Barre Area School District approved the KOZ switch.
The Wilkes-Barre properties will lose KOZ status on Dec. 31, 2010. KOZ properties are exempt from property, business privilege, mercantile and earned income taxes. Properties in KOZs from extensions or swaps only get the tax-free status when developed and occupied.
“I see the school district is looking to levy a tax increase on the taxpayers as well,” Griffith said. “Maybe if we would stop the corporate welfare and stop the giveaways, the money would be there to help all the taxpayers.”
Amen to that.
Tuesday, June 02, 2009
Congressman Paul Kanjorski has been a whirlwind of activity since he was reelected. The Picture above is from the signing ceremony with President Obama enacting the Helping Families Save Their Homes Act. He wrote several provisions of the law that also included protections for Credit Unions. He teamed up with Congressman Chris Carney to get the Credit Cardholders' Bill of Rights enacted into law. I think that this law is a good start but much more has to be done. I suspect that the banks will raise other fees to make up for lost revenue. Here is some good advice. Just like Dan Flood before him Kanjo keeps bringing home the bacon. $3 million for the Luzerne County Transportation Authority to buy hybrid buses and other equipment through the stimulus bill, $10 million for the Pocono Medical Center, $138,000 for the Hazleton General Hospital and a bunch of money for new fire trucks in the area. My favorite is $950,000 to help fix up Coal Street Park in Wilkes-Barre although they should have included a new swimming pool for the kids in addition to a new facility for the Penguins.
Borys reported in Sunday's Scranton Times that Hazleton Mayor Lou Barletta might take on Kanjorski a third time. He lost a close one last time after getting clobbered in 2002. The last time I talked with Mayor Lou he was looking at Lt. Governor run but things change. My analysis, for what it is worth, is that Barletta would easily win the GOP nomination and be Tom Corbett's running mate. The few times I have talked to Barletta I got the impression that he would rather be an executive instead of a legislator. Borys also speculated about the future of Scranton Mayor Chris Doherty wondering if he would run for Congress or Lt. Gov, etc. I previously reported that Lackawanna County Commissioner Corey O'Brien is running for the seat.
On a side note the Scranton Times recently changed it's online format demanding money to read it's articles more than a day old. Since the same company owns the W-B Citizens Voice we can expect that it will follow shortly. The only work around that I can think of right now is to save an article that interest me on a Word Document or Google Doc then reference it later but that is a lot of work. The Times-Leader has been charging for stories more that 7 days old for a long time. I wonder how many people actually pay them to read old news?