Sunday, October 31, 2010

Have we misjudged former and present presidents?

I was sent this and it tells us a lot about their character.

Now this is "a touch of class"!

The doctor had his TV on in his office when the news of the military base shootings at Ft. Hood, TX came on. The husband of one of his employees was stationed there.

He called her into his office and as he told her what had happened, she got a text message from her husband saying, "I am okay." Her cell phone rang right after she read the message. It was an ER nurse," I'm the one who just sent you a text, not your husband. I thought it would be comforting but I was mistaken in doing so. I am sorry to tell you this, but your husband has been shot 4 times and he is in surgery."

The soldier's wife left Southern Clinic in Dothan, AL and drove all night to Ft. Hood. When she arrived, she found out her husband was out of surgery and would be OK.

She rushed to his room and found that he already had visitors there to comfort him.

He was just waking up and found his wife and the visitors by his side. The nurse took this picture.

What? No news crews and cameras? This is how people with class respond and pay respect to those in uniform.

I sent my cousin in Fayetteville , N.C. (Retired from Special Forces) that picture of Geo. W. visiting the wounded at Ft. Hood. I got this reply:

What is even better is the fact George W. Bush heard about Fort Hood, got in his car without any escort, apparently they did not have time to react, and drove to Fort Hood. He was stopped at the gate and the guard could not believe who he had just stopped. Bush only asks for directions to the hospital then drove on. The gate guard called that "The President is on Fort Hood and driving to the hospital."

The base went bananas looking for Obama. When they found it was Bush, they immediately offered escort. Bush simply told them to shut up and let him visit the wounded and the dependents of the dead.

He stayed at Fort Hood for over six hours, and was finally asked to leave by a message from the White House.

Obama flew in days later and held a "photo" session in a gym, and did not even go to the hospital.

All this I picked up from two soldiers here who happened to be at Fort Hood when it happened.

This Bush/Obama/Ft.Hood story is something that should be sent to every voter in the US. Those who wanted "change" certainly got it.

Someone, PLEASE, show me anything that will tell us that Obama has ANY respect for the country he leads! I'm looking for just a little sign of respect!

I don't know if this is the COMPLETE truth, but it fits with everything I have seen of Obama.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Leighton's gambling with our lives

I was talking to a friend who has gone to a couple of Dictator Leighton's 'Town meetings' (BTW Didn't McGroarty do the same thing to try and save his insane dictatorship?) and they told me Leighton is claiming work has been 'on going' on Solomons creek...... WHERE?!!! My family has lived across from that creek for 90 years and we haven't seen anything substantial done to that creek since around the late '80s. And that was mainly for show. So once again, Dictator Leighton "WHERE HAS OUR TAX MONEY GONE? WHAT HAPPENED TO THE $50 MILLION OF TAX MONEY MARKED FOR THE CREEK & BRIDGES?"

I know I haven't posted about the Salerno's fire yet, and I keep getting questions about it. So here goes.
Could we have saved the building with more manpower? In my opinion, No. It was arson and too far gone.
Would having Engine 3 in service have made a difference? On that night, we did have Engine 3 in service.
So Leightons manpower cuts made no difference? Yes they did, Because of the size and intensity of the fire both Engine 1 and Engine 3 were used to pump water. Because of the cuts this happened:
Engine 3 was left unattended so I could (I am Engine 3s engineer for my group) hook
Engine 1 to the closest hydrant (across the street).

Engine 3 ran out of water causing the withdrawal of the attack team that was trying to gain entrance. Meaning? If someone had been inside.......

Several examples of 1 Firefighter manning a hose line that NFPA guidelines require multiple men.

Oct 5 2004 "I would never, never gamble with the safety of residents visitors or guests," (WNEP). Yet this is what he is doing. Is the life of a firefighter, a family or a child worth his gambling?

He raised our taxes but fought to 'forgive' the old river road bakery's taxes, so he could sell it (for 8 cents on the dollar) to his campaign contributor tax free.

In short, We (the taxpayers of W-B) are paying maxed out taxes for top notch safety...... We are NOT getting what we are paying for!!!

A few Quotes from our Dictator:
-April 29 2010 “Firefighter rehabilitation at all emergency incidents is important,” (Times Leader)
Proper manning is much more important for your safety and ours.

May 31, 2008 (Citizens' voice) "I have great respect for the fire department. They do a great job and their safety is my number one concern" By cutting our manning and taking engines out of service?

-"I have delivered Jobs and Public safety to the citizens of the city" His own political add.
How by cutting the FD to unsafe levels? This is a fact, The cities own study says 17 is the minimum.

July 8 (WNEP) "It's very crucial that the fire department have adequate water pressure when they're fighting a fire so, we don't want to see any lives lost because water couldn't get on the fire"
But lives lost due to inadequate manning and cutting engines are OK?

Oct. 25 2007 (The Time Leader) "They (the council candidates) favor better fire protection, some advocated a new fire house in the Heights section. And they all said the city's biggest asset is its people."
Yet you remain silent as the Mayor risks lives and reduces safety.

Will the doors be locked on YOUR neighborhood fire station? Will another excuse be uttered to explain why the mayor closed it?

Dan Emplit WBFD
AKA Don Quixote

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


Something I'd like to point out. The mayor of Wilkes-Barre, once elected, holds absolute power in the city. If he does something that you do not like, say risking the lives of your children so he can fiance his pet projects and make his political contributors richer, you have no option but to wait out his term. City Council claims that they have "No power" to stop him (So, what are we paying them for?). So the mayor, in effect, has absolute power. He holds an extraordinary amount of personal power that has little or no restraint. Proof? He has violated CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS. Multiple times!!! And has repressed opponents without abiding the highest laws of our nation (AKA our constitution). Check out the definition below.

A dictator is a ruler who assumes sole and absolute power but without hereditary ascension such as an absolute monarch. When other states call the head of state of a particular state a dictator, that state is called a dictatorship.

In modern usage, the term "dictator" is generally used to describe a leader who holds and/or abuses an extraordinary amount of personal power that has little or no restraint. Dictatorships are often characterized by some of the following traits: suspension of civil liberties; proclamation of a state of emergency; rule by decree; repression of political opponents without abiding by rule of law procedures.

Remember the city commissioned a study to find the fire depts MINIMUM staffing per shift, that number is 17. Mr Leighton decided that number should be 12. He is risking the lives of your children so he can fund his projects and make his campaign contributers richer. This will result in someone losing a loved one. They will then sue the city and win, but the mayor will continue to appeal the verdict until he is out of office (like he has most other of the MULTIPLE lawsuits he has collected) and it will fall on another administration...... and our backs as tax payers.

We are paying for the best services, But not getting them!!!!
Dan Emplit WBFD
AKA Don Quixote

Fiction Day is coming!

It's getting close to the day when City Council will pass (Obviously without reading it) Mr Leighton's FICTIONAL budget. I call it fictional because .... Well look at what he has done in the past, in 2009 the city payed $322,000 in overtime because we didn't have enough fire fighters. He didn't hire any. So for 2010 you can expect to pay around $322,000 in overtime. That's common sense. Obviously he lacks that trait, because he budgeted only $125,000. Then complained the FD had gone through that amount in 3 months. We have no reason to believe that the common sense fairy has visited him in the last few months.
This fiction has allowed him to throw blame at the FD by claiming we 'went over budget'. City Council is just as bad, They have to approve the budget. So either they are;
1 Negligent (because they do not READ the budget)
2 Incompetent (because they do not understand it)
3 Complacent (Because they simply pass what Mr Leighton puts in front of them)
4 All of the above
Remember NOT ONE council person has publicly stood up to Mr Leighton on our safety.
We PAY for top notch safety but we ARE NOT getting it!

Dan Emplit WBFD
AKA Don Quixote

Monday, October 25, 2010

How to be generally annoying

1. Adjust the tint on your tv so that all the people are green, and insist to others that you "like it that way".
2. Drum on every available surface.
3. Change someones E-mail address to alt.sex.fetish.hamster.duct-tape.
4. Sing the Batman theme incessantly.
5. Staple papers in the middle of the page.
6. Ask 800 operators for dates.
7. Produce a rental video consisting entirely of dire FBI copy warnings.
8. Sew anti-theft detector strips into people's backpacks.
9. Hide dairy products in inaccessible places.
10. Write the surprise ending to a novel on its first page.
11. Specify that your drive-through order is "to go".
12. Set alarms for random times.
13. Learn Morse code, and have conversations with friends in public consisting entirely of "Beeeep Bip Bip Beeeep Bip..."
14. Buy large quantities of mint dental floss just to lick the flavor off.
15. Order a side of pork rinds with your filet mignon.
16. Instead of Gallo, serve Night Train next Thanksgiving.
17. Leave your Nine Inch Nails tape in Great Uncle Ed's stereo, with the volume properly adjusted.
18. Publicly investigate just how slowly you can make a "croaking" noise.
19. Honk and wave to strangers.
20. Dress only in clothes colored Hunter's Orange.
21. Change channels five minutes before the end of every show.
22. Tape pieces of "Sweating to the Oldies" over climactic parts of rental movies.
23. Wear your pants backwards.
24. Decline to be seated at a restaurant, and simply eat their complementary mints by the cash register.
25. Begin all your sentences with "ooh la la!"
26. Rouse your roommates from slumber each morning with Lou Reed's "Metal Machine Music".
27. Leave someone's printer in compressed-italic-cyrillic-landscape mode.
29. only type in lowercase.
30. dont use any punctuation either
31. Buy a large quantity of orange traffic cones and reroute whole streets.
32. Pay for your dinner with pennies.
33. Tie jingle bells to all your clothes.
34. Repeat everything someone says, as a question.
35. Write "X - BURIED TREASURE" in random spots on all of someone's roadmaps.
36. Inform everyone you meet of your personal Kennedy assassination/UFO/ OJ Simpson conspiracy theories.
37. Repeat the following conversation a dozen times: "Do you hear that?" "What?" "Never mind, it's gone now."
38. Light road flares on a birthday cake.
39. Wander around the restaurant, asking other diners for their parsley.
40. Leave tips in Bolivian currency.
41. Demand that everyone address you as "Conquistador".
42. Push all the flat Lego pieces together tightly.
43. At the Laundromat, use one dryer for each of your socks.
44. When Christmas caroling, sing "Jingle Bells, Batman smells" until physically restrained.
45. Wear a cape that says "Magnificent One".
46. As much as possible, skip rather than walk.
47. Stand over someone's shoulder, mumbling, as they read.
48. Finish the 99 bottles of beer song.
49. Leave your turn signal on for fifty miles.
50. Pretend your mouse is a CB radio, and talk to it.
51. Try playing the William Tell Overture by tapping on the bottom of your chin. When nearly done, announce "no, wait, I messed it up", and repeat.
52. Drive half a block.
53. Name your dog "Dog" or your cat "Cat".
54. Inform others that they exist only in your imagination.
55. Ask people what gender they are.
56. Reply to everything someone says with "that's what YOU think."
57. Lick the filling out of all the Oreos, and place the cookie parts back in the tray.
58. Cultivate a Norwegian accent. If Norwegian, affect a Southern Drawl.
59. Forget the punch line to a long joke, but assure the listener it was a "real hoot".
60. Routinely handcuff yourself to furniture, informing the curious that you don't want to fall off "in case the big one comes".
61. Sculpt your hedges into anatomically suggestive shapes.
62. Follow a few paces behind someone, spraying everything they touch with a can of Lysol.
63. Deliberately hum songs that will remain lodged in co-workers' brains, such as "Feliz Navidad", the Archies' "Sugar" or the Mr Rogers theme song.
64. While making presentations, occasionally bob your head like a parakeet.
65. Lie obviously about trivial things such as the time of day.
66. Make beeping noises when a large person backs up.
67. Leave your Christmas lights up and lit until September, Scream at every one that they don't have the "Christmas spirit", cry about the decline of society.
68. Change your name to John Aaaaasmith for the great glory of being first in the phone book. Claim it's a Hawaiian name, and demand that people pronounce each A.
69. Sit in your front yard pointing a hair dryer at passing cars to see if they slow down.
70. Chew on pens that you've borrowed.
71. Invent nonsense computer jargon in conversations, and see if people play along to avoid the appearance of ignorance.
72. Wear a LOT of cologne.
73. Ask to "interface" with someone.
74. Listen to 33rpm records at 45rpm speed, and claim the faster speed is necessary because of your "superior mental processing".
75. Sing along at the opera.
76. Mow your lawn with scissors.
77. At a golf tournament, chant "swing-batatatatatata-suhWING-batter!"
78. Finish all your sentences with the words "in accordance with prophesy".
79. Ask the waitress for an extra seat for your "imaginary friend".
80. Go to a poetry recital and ask why each poem doesn't rhyme.
81. Ask your co-workers mysterious questions, and scribble their answers in a notebook. Mutter something about "psychological profiles".
82. Tell your boss, "It's not the voices in my head that bother me, its the voices in your head that do."
83. Stare at static on the TV and claim you can see a "magic picture".
84. Select the same song on the jukebox fifty times.
85. Scuff your feet on a dry, shaggy carpet and seek out victims.
86. Do not add any inflection to the end of your sentences, producing awkward silences with the impression that you'll be saying more any moment.
87. Never make eye contact.
88. Never break eye contact.
89. Signal that a conversation is over by clamping your hands over your ears.
90. Construct elaborate "crop circles" in your front lawn.
91. Construct your own pretend "tricorder", and "scan" people with it, announcing the results.
92. Give a play-by-play account of a person's every action in a nasal Howard Cossell voice.
93. Holler random numbers while someone is counting.
94. Make appointments for the 31st of September.
95. Invite lots of people to other people's parties.
96. Never tell anyone what 97 to 100 on this list is.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Crime in W-B

A friend of mine posted this on Facebook

OK, so someone just stopped Kevin and asked him if he wanted to buy some jewelry. The guy opens his hand and there was my wedding band . The guy must have broken into my old house.........didn't even know I had jewelry there (major clean out tomorrow).............HOLY SH!T!

My answer:
But W-B doesn't have a crime problem..... Leighton put in cameras and cleaned up the city...... RIGHT..... can you read my sarcasm.
Glad U R OK

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Marriage Jokes

Remember; Marriage is the number one cause of divorce. It's TRUE!

Statistically 100% of all divorces started with marriage!

I married Miss Right. I just didn't know her first name was Always.

I haven't spoken to my wife for 18 months. I don't like to interrupt her.

Marriage is a 3-ring circus: Engagement ring, wedding ring, and suffering.

The last fight was my fault. My wife asked, "What's on the TV?"
I said, "Dust!"

In the beginning, God created earth and rested. Then God created man and rested. Then God created woman. Since then, neither God nor man has rested.

Why do men die before their wives? Cause they want to.

What is the difference between a dog and a fox? About 5 drinks.

A beggar walked up to a well dressed woman shopping on Rodeo Drive and said "I haven't eaten anything in four days." She looked at him and said, "God, I wish I had your willpower."

Do you know the punishment for bigamy? Two mothers-in-law.

Young Son: Is it true, Dad, I heard that in some parts of Africa a man doesn't know his wife until he marries her?
Dad: That happens in every country, son.

A man inserted an 'ad' in the classified: "Wife wanted". Next day he received a hundred letters. They all said the same thing: "You can have mine."

The most effective way to remember your wife's birthday is to
forget it once.

First guy (proudly): "My wife's an angel!"
Second guy: "You're lucky, mine's still alive."

How do most men define marriage? An expensive way to get laundry done for free.

Just think, if it weren't for marriage, men would go through life thinking they had no faults at all.

If you want your wife to listen and pay undivided attention to every word you say, talk in your sleep.

Then there was a man who said, "I never knew what real happiness was until I got married; and then it was too late."

A little boy asked his father, "Daddy, how much does it cost to get married?" And the father replied, "I don't know son, I'm still paying.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Oct 14 Council Meeting

Well Mr Leighton is up to his tricks again. A "Council, hurry up and sign this lease for the Ice Rink's second floor, Don't ask who is leasing it, Oh it's for 6 years and they can extend it to 16. Quick sign before the blood dries .... What a question ... LOOK a shiny object..now sign here" And of course council is signing off on it. They don't care that this individual tried to sell the Old River Road bakery for 8 cents on the dollar. The political harpoons on this area sink deep.

Kathy Kane made vague comments about arbitrations draining cities dry (probably a reference to the FD's arbitration) and mentioned act 47. Of course she didn't mention the cities 'act of BAD faith' in hiding money that was legally ours from us. BTW isn't that stealing? Oh don't forget, she is against act 111 even though as a teacher she had the right to strike, our business cannot have that option lives are to precious.

Mr Barret talked about the towing ordinance, which I believe is a way of getting Citywide Towing out and Lag even more in. Remember the owner of LAG towing is a campaign contributor of Leightons and the business he tried to sell the Old River Road bakery to..... For 8 cents on the dollar and tried to say it was a great deal.

A gentleman complained about a drug house in the 400 block of East Northampton st and thinks making the police live in the city will go a long way to solving the drug problems. I can't argue the logic.
Under McGroarty the cops won an arbitration that allowed them to live outside the city. Now that issue is coming up with our arbitration. I'm against living outside the city but negotiations go like this...
The city says "We will give you nothing and want things FROM you"
The Union says "We want everything and will settle for nothing less"
And they are supposed to meet in a happy middle. When they don't it goes to arbitration. With ALL of both sides demands. So Leightons backhanded insult tonight about "fighting to keep a union in the city" was another of his half truths.

Don't forget when Leighton was elected he asked all the city unions to help the city financially in their contracts. the fire union did (concessions = approx 3.5 million dollars over 7 years). Leighton said "By making (these) substantial concessions, the firefighters' union has agreed to become partners with the city in its revitalization plan" Times Leader April 27, 2004
The Fire Fighters Union did their part and who gets cut back? Did any other union do anything? And Leighton treats us like a baby treats a diaper.

Oh yes Leighton also said they have been working on Soloman Creek for years. Right we believe him, Right?

Dan Emplit WBFD
AKA Don Quixote

Priestly St. Fire

Last night there was a fire on Priestly St. It transferred to one of the 'Exposures'(house next door). The question, would having more Firefighters on scene in the critical time have prevented it? We will never know. I was off-shift and my group would have only been called out for a 4 alarm fire, yesterday was a 3 alarm. What I do know is that Mr Leighton is playing 'Russian roulette' with our lives. Remember, the city payed for a study (the Lloyds study) to find out the MINIMUM number of Firefighters per shift. That number is 17. Mr Leighton, with zero firefighting experience, has decided that the number should be 12.

Wilkes-Barre has a 2 to 4 minute response time for the first engine, but a 2 to 14 minute response time for the second engine, BECAUSE OF LEIGHTON'S CUTS!!!!
Wilkes-Barre Engines carry 500 gallons of water, this sounds like a lot, but our smallest hose (called an Inch and 3/4 for its inside diameter) puts out 150 gallons a minute. That's less than 4 minutes of constant flow from 1 hose. We now have to hook up to a hydrant (normally the second due engines responsibility, but remember the long distance the second engine now has). This takes men from the fire ground and from searching for victims. That no one has been injured is nothing short of a miracle.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

President Obama's Aunt Zeituni Onyango 'This Country Is Owned By Almigh...

Our President's Aunt, who was an Illegal for 10 years and been on disability the whole time, Does not think she owes the US anything!!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

I've been told.....

...that work is "beginning" on the Division St. Bridge (of course, elections are coming up). The rotted structure is a serious safety risk, in my opinion. I was told that from ground level it actually sinks in the middle.

Here's another photo of the walls condition. Missing bricks are obvious.

This pipe shoots out 'RAW SEWAGE' when it rains hard.

How safe can this wall be with HUGE sections missing?

Everyone knows that vines growing on a wall will destroy the mortar used to hold the masonry together. Some places you can't even see the wall.

Will Mr "Its anyone else's fault" Leighton take responsibility when high water tear this wall apart? Not a chance.

This part of the wall is by Barney St and (you can't see it here) it leans in about 8 inches.

This happened back in Feb.

This is how Mr. 'I believe' Leighton 'fixed it'

Those 'barriers' can be moved with one hand. They are hollow and empty.

Nov. 21, 2007 (Times Leader) Northeastern Pennsylvania will benefit from the first override vote of President Bush's administration to the tune of $50 million in federal funding for Wilkes-Barre's Solomon Creek Flood Control Project.
The $50 million will be used for construction along Solomon Creek and will be incorporated into the existing Wyoming Valley Levee Raising project. Wilkes-Barre has experienced significant flooding and extensive damages from Solomon Creek over the years, including 1972, 1975, 1985, 1996, 2004 and in June 2006.
Nov. 9, 2007 (Times Leader) Mayor Tom Leighton said the projects represent "great news for the southern part of the city, more importantly for the residents who have been affected four times in the last three years by flooding."
"It's something that we definitely needed in our area and I was fighting for it for years," Leighton said.
Oct 21, 2007 (Times Leader) Those elected officials made another pledge to control flooding by replacing every bridge and rebuilding walls and the natural bed channel along the entire length of the creek -- a span of about 5 miles.
A bridge on Regent Street that has been closed for nearly five years and a bridge on Barney Street are slated to be replaced in 2008 at a cost of $2.8 million each. (A total of 4 bridges were replaced at an approximate total cost of $11.2 million)
The project consists of a detention basin upstream of South Main Street, a 48-foot-wide concrete channel from South Main Street to Division Street, and a 60-foot-wide natural bed channel from Division Street to the Solomon Creek pump station in Hanover Township. (This was not even begun.)
$50 million was allocated for this project. $11.2 million was spent on the 4 bridges. WHERE IS THE REMAINING $38.8 MILLION? Which of Mr. Leightons pet (look at me I'm great) projects got our money?

Dan Emplit WBFD
AKA Don Quixote

Monday, October 4, 2010

Good bye Duncan

My parents had to put down one of their dogs today. Good bye Duncan.

I hope you find plenty of things to pee on and golf carts to ride in. (PS don't ever catch the garbage truck, it's bigger than you are.)

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Sights on Pennsylvania: Leighton's Campaign Finances- Ethical Issues

This is an interesting post on another blog about Leightons campaign contributions

Sights on Pennsylvania: Leighton's Campaign Finances- Ethical Issues: "The Times Leader ran an article about donations from Marvin Slomowitz and William Rinaldi in reference to the dredge project in Hazleton. Fo..."

The Hotel Sterling Scandal Part 2

February 22, 2007
The Hotel Sterling Scandal Part 2 by John Morgan
Last week we introduced this scandal with an overview of the particulars. Basically we laid out the sequence of events and connected the dots. It's gotten some definite attention and today we're examining the details of the Perry Block property at the center of the controversy. These were the three buildings on West Market Street in Wilkes-Barre which were suddenly demolished by the City to the tune of $303,000. That money, crucial to a cash starved City, was needed desperately for repairs to a firehouse but instead was flushed down a hole known as CityVest.

CityVest is a non profit created by Congressman Paul Kanjorski. The group is redeveloping the old Hotel Sterling, a $40 million project which has already received $8 million in public monies, a combination of federal, state and local grants. Read about it here.

This part is going to take a detailed look into the Perry Block deals because they're at the heart of the scandal and say much about how Wilkes-Barre seems to be managed...er...mismanaged. It concerns three old buildings situated from 37-45 West Market Street in W-B, coming directly up to the old Hotel Sterling. They were purchased in the late 90's by a couple who later moved to Maine. They were the Lulls. The Lulls had difficulty securing a mortgage for the properties though and got two friends to guarantee the mortgage, Todd Vonderheid and Larry Newman. Both men worked for the local Chamber of Business and Industry at the time. Vonderheid became a Luzerne County Commissioner. Luzerne County gave $4 million to the Hotel Sterling project.

In spite of guaranteeing the mortgage for his friends to the tune of $69,226 Vonderheid has claimed to have no interest in the properties. Sure.

After purchasing the land the Lulls decided to get Keystone Opportunity Zone (KOZ) designation so they would receive tax breaks from the City, County and schools. In 1999 they obtained this. In order to receive a KOZ designation, by law, a property must be up to code. This seems to be enforced differently by different municipalities, but Perry Block (the Lulls) got it for 1999. In 2000 things got interesting. Wilkes-Barre didn't give it KOZ status.

Some reports seem to say the then Mayor, Tom McGroarty, didn't like the Lulls and withheld the KOZ designation. Since both the City and State needed to agree on the KOZ designation it was removed. So the taxes began accumulating on the properties. All the taxes. The Lulls say they contested the removal of KOZ and the City never responded. Oops.

Because they threatened legal action once back City taxes got to $17,494 City Council forgave all those back taxes rather than get sued (they say). Two weeks later they found out the buildings were falling down and had to be demolished. It cost W-B $303,000 to demolish the buildings from 37-45 West market Street. They attached a lien for the funds.

In between a few other things happened. As I said, in order to be designated a Keystone Opportunity Zone a building must be sound. W-B allows them to be boarded up for security but they must be sound. These obviously weren't. All of the floors had collapsed into the basement when it was discovered they might collapse onto Market Street. Big problem. Especially with the Hotel Sterling adjacent and CityVest heavily invested there.

The City Council voted to forego all the back taxes for Perry Block (the Lulls). It seems that for KOZ to allow tax forgiveness the buildings must be sound and up to code. The only way City Council could legally forego the taxes was to re-designate it a KOZ. Oops, the buildings fell down two weeks later. Did those floors disappear into the basement that quickly or did Wilkes-Barre's money? How do you say poof to $303,000 of taxpayer money in a flash?

No, it simply hadn't been properly inspected. All that had been done was a cursory outdoor inspection to insure it was still standing, essentially. On April 14, 2004 City Building Inspector Bob Mosley is reported to have written a memo saying the building met KOZ status. Wow, it sure fell apart quickly, a year later it was rubble. But meanwhile it was safe enough to qualify for tax forgiveness?

After the emergency demolition the City filed a lien against Perry Block for its $303,000. They failed to obtain an open end mortgage however which would have insured repayment if and when the properties were sold. At the time the City Solicitor Tim Henry said (quoted in a local paper) "If Perry Block now tries to sell that property these liens are going to have to be taken care of." It was and they weren't. Can you say poof to $303,000 of public monies?

CityVest, the non profit redeveloping the adjacent Hotel Sterling bought the property for $325,000 and absorbed the liens. Wilkes-Barre failed to protect its taxpayer's investment in the land through the liens and allowed them to revert to CityVest. Supposedly they plan on forgiving the liens as part of a grant to CityVest. Can you say poof to $303,000 of public monies?

County and school taxes apparently remain unpaid to the tune of over $24,000.

Now CityVest, the Congressman's baby, owns all the property when you include the parking lot on the other side of the Hotel which the City condemned and gave them. This is a nice spread of prime riverfront city land. Three groups invited to bid on the redevelopment of the Hotel Sterling have said however that the Hotel is too old and not suitable for renovation. They maintain it should be razed and rebuilt. That's the problem with old buildings with low ceilings and narrow hallways. It just isn't worth the money to gut them and redo. But wait, now CityVest, conveniently, owns all these adjacent parcels! And you paid for them!

So CityVest is looking at a $40 million project to build a big new project in downtown Wilkes-Barre. They already have $8 million in public money plus the $303,000 to demolish the Perry Block buildings and the cash used to buy the adjacent parking lot. Public money being used for private profit. Hmmmm, isn't that a definition of corruption? What's more, the manner in which all this happened simply stinks.

Meanwhile who is going to buy a $300,000 condo in a blighted area of Wilkes-Barre when the Hotel Sterling project finally, if ever, gets finished? There is nothing else in the area to attract those kinds of buyers and tenants. No arts area, no trendy shops, no Starbucks, no nice restaurants. Why is all this public money being poured into this project? Because powerful people are involved. It doesn't make sense and the sooner someone pulls the plug the better.

The Hotel Sterling Scandal Part 2

Friday, October 1, 2010

2010 9-30 Flooding

Slideshow of the flooding on New Fredrick St. and what should have been done about it LONG ago

I had this blog post referred to me. It is a MUST read about Wilkes-Barre corruption.

"February 15, 2007
The Hotel Sterling Scandal Part 1 by John Morgan
Talk with anyone in northeastern Pennsylvania and mention corruption in Wilkes-Barre and Luzerne County and you'll hear a groan. It seems like public officials there have been corrupt for generations. I recall going to Plymouth as a kid for family wakes and hearing such tales. I haven't been back to that area for decades until recently. Driving around for old times sake I was shocked at how the City has deteriorated.

Wilkes-Barre is one of those mid-sized Pennsylvania cities that is down on its luck. The loss of middle class jobs has left a depressed economy. When Tropical Storm Agnes rolled through in 1972 and flooded the area it just never recovered. That isn't an excuse for the misuse of public funds however, just a catalyst.

The Hotel Sterling once a jewel of the City. Now vacant and abandoned it's become the center of a controversy. This story is culled from local documents on file at the Luzerne County Prothonotary's office, news accounts, and personal information from local bloggers who wish to remain anonymous. I have been asked to write the story so it gets coverage outside Luzerne County.

It revolves around the $20 million renovation of the old riverfront hotel. A non profit organization formed by Congressman Paul Kanjorski called CityVest, controlled by powerful and politically connected locals and funded by your tax dollars, is up to its ears in questionable dealings. These involve neighboring properties.

Mayor Tom Leighton, with his background in real estate, and City Council have either been grossly negligent with taxpayer funds or outrageously incompetent. The story begins with properties owned by something called the Perry-Block Partnership. This group out of Portland, Maine owned real estate in a Keystone Opportunity Zone which CityVest wanted for the Sterling project. They owed over $17,000 in back property taxes however and the structure on the land wasn't desirable to CityVest. In order to be designated as a Keystone Opportunity Zone the structure had to be acceptable. Suddenly it was mysteriously condemned and demolished by the City after Council forgave the back taxes.

Financially strapped Wilkes-Barre spent $303,000 demolishing the building at 37-45 West Market Street. This in spite of the fact they couldn't afford to repair fire stations in dire need of attention (Complaint # 11463-2006). To protect their financial interest and perform their fiduciary duties to taxpayers they filed a lien against the real estate. What they failed to do was also file an open end mortgage which would have guaranteed payment of the demolition costs if/when the property was sold.

Lo and behold it was sold. Sold to CityVest for $325,000. The lien was transferred to the non profit instead of being honored and the $303,000 returned to the residents of Wilkes-Barre. This was a sweet deal for both Perry-Block, which got the full amount at settlement and for CityVest which got to keep the additional $303,000 it otherwise might have paid for the land.

CityVest also got another sweet deal through the City on a parking lot. Eyeing a convenient parking lot adjacent to their project they offered to buy the land from the owners. They refused to sell and, next thing they knew the City condemend it and took it by eminent domain. Guess who wound up with a new parking lot? CityVest for its Hotel Sterling project.

How, you guess, does a non profit which had only prior to this rehabbed two homes in the City get so much clout? How does a group go from fixing up a couple houses to getting a $20 million renovation project? Enter Congressman Paul Kanjorski. Eight million in public funds was collected, $4M from Luzerne County, $3M from the Governor and $1M from a HUD grant secured by the Congressman.

How else do you make a project developing $300,000 condos work in a depressed market like Wilkes-Barre? Private money can't make numbers like $20 million add up to a profitable enterprise. The developers needed public tax money to make this work. CityVest is a who's who of local figures, from Alex Rogers, head of a printing company with many city contracts, to Dr. Brian O'Donnell of the local school board (essential for those tax forgiveness and TIF votes), the President of Kings College, Richard Goldberg a local lawyer, and Thomas Williams of the Congressman's office. (note: I'm intricately related to the Williams' family though I don't know if he and I are related). Their Board also includes Maureen Bufalino of Omega Financial Group. Mark Bufalino is the Chair of the Luzerne Democratic Committee.

Let's look at the properties involved. The old Hotel had been abandoned and sat vacant for four years. CityVest spent $250,000 just to make it secure and put a roof on it so it was weather proof. It sounds to me like this was definitely a blighted property. An eyesore is probably more like it. CityVest decided to renovate it into offices, condos, and stores but the cost was prohibitive. They also would need surrounding properties to make it viable.

The parking lot was essential. The Mayor conveniently knew an assessor from his days in that business who, according to the lawsuit filed against the City by the previous owners, ripped them off. When they refused to sell their land the City moved in and seized it. Since its new use is going to be the same as its old use this is outrageous and an abuse of eminent domain. Gee, it helps to have powerful friends.

The properties from 37 to 45 West market are a very interesting sotry and the center of another lawsuit for malfeasance. A citizen activist has sued City officials for their negligence in these deals. Originally fit enough to qualify as a KOZ the Maine ownership was behind in their taxes. City Council forgives the taxes then removes the KOZ designation. The structure is suddenly declared an urgent hazard and an emergency demolition is done by the City.

The real estate is then sold to CityVest without reimbursing the City for the $303,000 cost of the demolition. This is a sweet way to finance a questionable real estate development folks. Remember that $8 million of your tax dollars are in this project. If you live in Luzerne County you've kicked in for all of it. Pennsylvanians donated $3 million and federal taxpayers $1 million. So far.

There are a lot of questions involved with this deal and few answers so far. Why was the Keystone Opportunity Zone designation removed and the structure suddenly deemed unsafe? Why was scarce money used for its demolition instead of put to use repairing fire stations? Why did City Council forgive the back taxes? Why didn't the Mayor and Council get an open end mortgage to protect the taxpayers' interests? Why was the property allowed to be sold without the lien being repaid?

A lot of the answers seem to involve the inclusion in the deal of their long time Congressman. How else does a minor player like CityVest suddenly get a $20 million project and $8 million in public grants to finance it? That $8 million is our money and we deserve to know several things. First of all, is this project economically viable? Is there a viable market in Wilkes-Barre for $300,000 condos? Why were all these questionable deals done and why were so many people screwed? Most importantly, why didn't CityVest repay the lien to the City?

Why haven't the Mayor and City Council insisted on repayment? W-B doesn't have $303,000 to throw away. A short drive through the City reveals that to anyone. What other projects are being developed in tandem with the Sterling to attract the types of buyers needed? Why aren't officials investigating this potential malfeasance of public funds?

These deals reek of corruption. They reek of insider connections and the abuse of influence. The owners of Perry-Block already made off with their $303,000 from the taxpayers. CityVest has eight mill of our money and the way they're wheeling and dealing and ripping people off heaven knows what's really going on.

I just keep going back to those old days, sitting in small living rooms in Plymouth listening to the men, most of them coal miners, talking about how corrupt the place was. Reading all this leads me to believe not much has changed in Luzerne County. These people deserve better."

More later

The Hotel Sterling Part One