Not Cease from Exploration

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Response to Tom Borthwick's comment, Mulligan campaign material

My friend Tom Borthwick made a comment to THIS POSTING.  I had planned on replying sooner, but in complete candor, I find politics in general to be slimy (at best), with Scranton politics being particularly and genuinely disgusting.  This made me put off responding, but Catholic guilt compels me to no longer put the response off, and since the text editor for blogger.com comments stinks, I'm going to reply here.

Anyway, Tom wrote the following:



"This is misleading. The letter, while clever, makes a false equivalence. The statistic from the Census Bureau only includes salary, not benefits. Somebody making less than $20,000, especially if that person has a family, would be eligible for a host of federal subsidies. So if he wants to compare the average salary of a Scrantonian to a firefighter, he absolutely needs to use the baseline salary. Firefights and cops start around $40,000 in this city. 

Also, median income in the city is $36,968. The figure Mulligan used is per capita. I understand per capita is low. That's normal in cities, which tend to have high poverty rates. Blaming that on the unions is silly. 

Mulligan's credibility took a huge hit with me over this piece."




In response, I want to make a few points:

  1. Salary - It was misleading, and I noted it a such, for the Mulligan campaign to use loaded salary+benefit figures in it's campaign ad.  However, I'll note that Tom is also a tiny bit guilty here as well, in that the vast majority of Scranton and police and firemen make WELL OVER the $40,000+/- starting salary he notes.  The better comparison would the average salary (without benefits) for both groups.  While I don't know that number, a good guess would be in the $65,000/year range.  That's still far in excess of the average salary of a working Scrantonian.  The Mulligan campaign blew it by plastering big numbers for "shock and awe" impact, but underselling the salary is wrong as well.
  2. Median Income - Tom is correct, but he is missing the point that the Mulligan campaign is clumsily trying to make...I think...in that in Scrnaton, it's government jobs that pay the most.  In a city that is functionally bankrupt, that's a real problem.
  3. Unions - Yes, the Mulligan campaign is blaming the unions for Scranton's fiscal mess.  Are they responsible for all of it?  Of course not, but Tom is wrong in that they do share in some of it.  I respect Tom's perspective on organized labor, but I can cite countless examples of the police and firefighter unions acting in the worst interests of the city.  Just to amuse myself, I'll list just one:  the insistence, years ago, by the Fraternal Order of Police that the Police Chief be a union member.  Yes folks, they wanted management to also be labor.  And the list could go on, but the central point is this:  the labor unions look out for the interests of union members, not taxpayers.  Unfortunately, the central problem with Bill Courtright, in my mind, is that he ALSO will be looking out for the interests of union members.  Who then looks out for the rest of us?
In my opinion both Mr Courtright and Mr Mulligan and deeply flawed candidates.  However, Bill Courtright has made it clear that he will never take an assertive stand when dealing with Scratnon's public safety unions.  In a city that has an expense problem...we can't pay our bills...Scranton taxpayer's simply can't afford to allow a mayor to be politically beholden to city employees.  That's part of what got Scranton into the mess over the past 50+ years.  The madness has to end.

There are no "revenue enhancements" that will save the day for Scranton.

The University of Scranton will not give the city millions of dollars.

The state will not bail Scranton out.

Refinancing debt only stretches the debut out and makes it more expensive over time.

Scranton residents already pay one of the highest wage taxes in Pennsylvania.

Scranton businesses already pay some of the highest business taxes (including one on gross receipts...meaning that even if your business fails to make money you still owe a tax) in Pennsylvania.

Scranton residents have low household incomes and can't easily afford dramatic increases in property taxes.


In the end, Scranton doesn't have a revenue problem in as much as it has an expense problem.  Dealing with Scranton's expense problem will require dealing with labor costs.  Period.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Not the right kind of legacy

Apparently the President is claiming to not have been fully aware of the technical challenges facing the Affordable Care Act website.  All's well and good and I am sure Rep Darrell "Car Alarm" Issa is wetting himself out of  sheer glee over the AFA's technotastrophy.  Stripping away the culture of Washington DC political theater for a moment though, one thing is absolutely true: the President was either not paying attention to the briefings he was receiving about AFA website issues OR he wasn't receiving any briefings.  Pick your poison, because either choice spells poor leadership on the part of the President.

Let's not lose sight of the fact that the AFA is supposed to be the President's legacy.  His "signature piece" of legislation.  If ever there was a time to be paying attention, it was right before the launch of the website.  We, being the American taxpayers expect, and deserve better from our elected leadership and in this case the President failed us.

What's next? Well I am sure that Washington DC Republicans will continue to feign outrage over a program they don't like not working anyway. I am also sure that eventually this mess will be cleaned up and the website will eventually work. However what we actually need is leadership and accountability, and in this case both of those items can only come from the President.  Not from some Brian-dead Canuck technology company.  Not the HHS Secretary.

Monday, October 28, 2013

das Haus verlassen, #11

In this whole home sale/purchase stuff I was running under a basic assumption:

Selling your house is a pain in the rear-end but buying a house is fun.

Note that, for the record, I was mistaken.  Well, at least as it applies to have the second part of the above referenced basic assumption.

Yes, selling my house has been a pain.  A royal pain.  A stressful, royal pain.  A time-consuming pain.  Get the point?

Well now that I have more or less sold my house (well, it's under contract to sell, and everything is running smoothly), I'm working, with Ms Rivers, on the second part of the equation.

Mind you, we have done our homework.  In fact, we've been doing our homework for about two years now:
  1. We know what we want in a house.
  2. We have a very reasonable budget.
  3. We are pre-approved for a mortgage.
  4. We know the general area in which we want to buy a house.
  5. We have been keeping an eye on the market for years now.
Yet, despite all of this, the early search results are not going well.  Now for the record, I admittedly have two speeds in life:  fully-engaged-at-hyperspeed (when I am interested & task focused) and not really moving at all (when I am bored, disinterested, etc.).  The fact that I'm unhappy over not already having a purchase decision is a function of the fully engaged me.  Patience?  I can be exceptionally patient, well as long as that's part of a larger plan.  In this case though, my main purpose is far more short-term in that I simply don't want to end up moving twice.  The "once"move would be from the current residence to a new residence.  The "twice" part would be from this place to an interim place and then to a new residence.

Now I know that I will not end up living under a bridge with Sparky the Courthouse bum.  Hell, I need a place for my cat.  But it's so very disconcerting to have this feeling of not having a home.  As it stand, my current residence is devoid of most of what I own, which doesn't exactly create a homey feeling.  Not that this place ever felt much like home anyway; it's always constituted something more of a temporary resting place.  And I am tired of temporary resting places, thank you very much. Springsteen put it best...

"Well my soul checked out missing as I sat listening 
To the hours and minutes tickin’ away 
Yeah just sittin’ around waitin’ for my life to begin 
While it was all just slippin’ away 
I’m tired of waitin’ for tomorrow to come 
Or that train to come roarin’ ’round the bend 

(Bruce Springsteen | Better Days)

Back to the new home search.  Part of what's making the search difficult revolves around basic compromises.  Neither of us have grand expectations in a home, and both of us realize that we can't allow perfection to be the enemy of good.  Yet so far while we've seen three homes that really didn't cut it at very basic levels (one too small and two far too big) and two that would be really nice "if only just...".  Too many compromises.

House number 1 in the "if only just..." department was almost perfect in that it was modern, very well constructed and had a killer garage.  It has a Florida room!  The only problem?  It was basically half-way up Walton's Mountain.  I like a quiet road, but this would have been a morbid road, which created a disconcerting feeling.  At first I loved the house and thought I could deal with the mountain; after sleeping on it?  Not so much.

House number 2 in the "if only just..." department was almost perfect in that it was exceptionally clean, had enough space (well, sort of), had a garage and lots of land.  We really liked the owner as well.  It did have two fatal flaws though in that it had a "cutting edge of 1965 postage stamped sized" kitchen combined with a few of some kind of industrial works.  I'll add that the view behind the industrial works was really, really neat.  If only.

So now it's back to the drawing board.  Three more houses to look at later today, none of which are knock-your-socks-off good, especially from the exterior, but all have some interior stuff going for them.  Here's to hoping for the best.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Happy Blog-O-Versary

On October 27, 2008 I started writing this blog.  Now it wasn't my first my first stab at Internet writing, but it was the first one on a more fitting and formal venue.  Since that first posting, in addition to 5 years passing, there have been nearly 1500 postings and a shockingly large (at least relative to my expectations) number of page views*.  And you know what?  It's still fun and I can't see not doing this, even if other demands (such as what has been happening of late) keep me from posting as much as I would like to.

Now at this point I guess I'm supposed to offer some deep thoughts about blogging, angst, the heartbreak of psoriasis and other such weighty things that befit an anniversary.  However, since I don't have any deep thoughts of my own to offer, I'll borrow some from Woody Allen.




I'll end this by offering a few thanks...

Thanks to all those who read this mess I semi-regularly scribe.

Thanks to all those who comment (even those who defend the racist rag known as the Stars-n-Bars).

Thanks to all those who have inspired, knowingly and unknowingly, postings.

Thanks to the collective of local bloggers in NEPA who have been so encouraging & welcoming.

Thanks to those who have been so very supportive of this habit of mine, especially Ms Rivers.





(*) I'll save the senseless bragging to others.  Suffice to say that while I know the number, I don't necessarily understand why the number is what it is.


Tuesday, October 22, 2013

das Haus verlassen, #10

"They always say that time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself."
- Andy Warhol


What seems like a brief respite from posting over the past few days was actually nothing of the sort (a rest that is).  In what was a burst of activity last week, I actually, really and truly managed to get an offer to buy the house I have had on the market since August.  The contract was signed on Sunday.

Head spinning?

Well, not so much.  Actually I'm not worried about the days and weeks to come.  If anything, I'm more thinking about "what's life going to be like when I don't have a house to sell and one to buy?" stuff.  I'm sure that life will be full of enough surprises...it always is...but there is this feeling of "after the marathon" that I do contemplate.

Now there are more than a few "thank you" notes to go around with this upcoming event, but I'm going to save them until later.  Contracts can be broken you know, and I'm not going to do anything to jinx the process.  This may read like a horribly irrational response to the situation, but so be it; thinking that I can ward off bad juju by being cautious is one of the few things remaining in the process that I can control.

What's next?  Well that's part two of this entire journey.  Yes, next up I have to make sure I'm not homeless when all is said and done.  Fortunately I have a a true partner in crime for that part of the trip in the personage of Ms Rivers.  Over the next week or so the new task is to find a new home for both of us.   Home...it's a been a long time since I actually felt like I had a "home".

Time to end the exile on Elba.

Friday, October 18, 2013

More Courtright Clobbering

The latest from the Mulligan for Mayor campaign.  Pretty hard-hitting stuff, even by Scranton standards.

Personally I don't feel that unionized employees in Scranton have been "burned".  Have they been subject to inept political leadership?  Sure they have, but that's life in Scranton, where we all have been burned by inept politicians.  What's more, some of that inept leadership they helped elect.  In the end though, it's tough to dispute the fact that city government has traditionally been over-influenced by the people that work in city government.  In a political system that values votes & money over competence, police and firemen have always been able to deliver both.

I will note here that the Mulligan campaign is guilty of comparing apples & oranges in their press release.  Citing a comparison between loaded (salary + benefits) and unloaded pay exaggerates something that actually doesn't need to be exaggerated.  It would be enough to say that firemen earn "three times" what the average Scrantonian does; why the need to make it look worse is beyond me.

Regardless, the overall theme of the press release seems fairly well spot-on to me:  Bill Courtright is more concerned with city employees, particularly police and firemen, than he is with city taxpayers.

Lastly, I'll gladly post any response(s) that the Courtright campaign chooses to provide unaltered on the blog; communications can be directed to my email address.  As I've done with the Mulligan material, I do reserve the right to comment on it as I see fit.





For Immediate Release
October 17, 2013

Contact: Matthew Beynon - (703) 307-8633


Courtright/Union Romance A
Recipe For Scranton Bankruptcy
Courtright Believes Unions Have Been "Burned"

SCRANTON, PA - At a time when Scranton's fiscal health is teetering on the brink, Scranton mayoral candidate Bill Courtright continues to campaign as a union lemming leading Scranton off the fiscal cliff that awaits the city - even defending the unions as having been "burned" in negotiations that have set Scranton down an unsustainable fiscal path.


But it's not as though the unions have been losing, Scranton's municipal unions currently cost the Scranton taxpayers FIVE TO SIX TIMES more per year than the average Scrantonian makes. 
  • The average Scrantonian earns $19,529 each year (SOURCE: US Census Bureau)
  • The average Scranton police officer receives ~$120,000 annually in salary, benefits, and other forms of compensation and costs to the city (SOURCE: Approximate costs per employee within Department, 2013 Scranton budget, pages 26, 36, & 37)
  • The average Scranton firefighter receives ~$140,000 annually in salary, benefits, and other forms of compensation and costs to the city (SOURCE: Approximate costs per employee with Department, 2013 Scranton budget, pages 26, 39, & 40) 
Scranton's municipal unions have time-and-time again sought more-and-more from the City of Scranton when negotiating contracts...
  • "Scranton's police and fire unions want the state Commonwealth Court to reconsider its rejection in 2010 of an increase in maximum pension benefits, from 50 percent of salary to 70 percent that the unions had won in prior arbitration cases. At the time of that ruling, such an increase in pension benefits would have approximately doubled the city's annual mandatory minimum contributions to the police and fire pension systems." (SOURCE: "Scranton police, fire unions seek pension increase," Scranton Times-Tribune, June 20, 2013)
... Making these demands at a time when Scranton's pension crisis has only deteriorated.
  • "Raises in pension payouts and decreases in staff and pension contributions also have meant less funds going in and more going out, they said. "The amount of money we put into it isn't enough to pay the pensions," Mr. O'Shea said. And all that does not take into account the impact of a landmark state Supreme Court ruling in October regarding arbitration awards that favored the city's police and fire unions. While city officials have estimated the ruling could cost the city as much as $30 million, the impact to the pension system - and as a result city coffers - has not been determined, Mr. O'Shea said."(SOURCE: "Scranton's pension fund situation worsened," Scranton Times-Tribune, May 20, 2013)
Yet Scranton's municipal unions want more and, unfortunately for Scranton taxpayers, they've found their candidate in Bill Courtright. 
  • In a recent appearance on The David Maderia Show, Courtright acknowledged: "People say I'm going to give the store away to the unions." This was a charge he did not dispute, only saying that "there was no store to give away." (SOURCE: The David Madeira Show, October 8, 2013) 
  • But it's no wonder why Courtright has become the face of Scranton's public employee unions. Courtright proudly lists endorsements from the SAME UNIONS THAT HAVE THREATENED TO TAKE CITY HALL FROM THE TAXPAYERS, and doesn't even mention the countless other Scranton stakeholders who are impacted daily by the decisions made at City Hall (SOURCE: http://www.courtrightmayor.com/endorsements/, October 9, 2013). 
  • Courtright even admits: "This is self-serving, but they (unions) trust me. They said, 'If it's you, we're going to do it, if it's not we're not doing it, because we've been burned too many times." (SOURCE: "Courtright: No easy fix to city woes," Scranton Times-Tribune, October 16, 2013) 
If Bill Courtright believes the unions have "been burned too many times," then it's clear that Scranton cannot afford Bill Courtright!

###
Paid for by Friends of Jim Mulligan

Thursday, October 17, 2013

The Winner of the Government Shut-down is...

Winners?  There's only one winner in all of this:  Ted Cruz.

Why?

Well consider this:  there will most likely be a crowded field of contenders for the 2016 Republican nomination.  Senator Cruz's actions have brought him great acclaim among the wackadoodle faction of the GOP, which will no doubt help in his quest to become the first Canadian president* of the United States.  Senator Cruz knew that there was no chance of "ending" the Affordable Care Act, but he also realized that this was the perfect chance to set himself up as a hero to the mindless flock that believe everything that Sara Palin and her ilk spout.  Say what you want about Senator Cruz, but he's definitely not short in the strategy department.  Too bad his strategy actually cost harm...to our economy...to our reputation...and to fellow citizens (such as my conservative Republican brother Chris, who is also employed by the federal government).

The rest of us are losers in this whole sad mess.  And it will be repeated because the stuff that created the discord has not gone away.  At best, it may go into remission.

Lastly, make no mistake about it, Democrats did not win in all of this mess.  At best, they "succeeded" in not looking as dysfunctional as their Republican counterparts.  That's like being crowned Least Ugly at your Senior Prom.

Sadly, more to come...




Post Script -
Best line from a blog about the shut-down?  That's from WNEP's Andy Palumbo, who noted:

"The USA has become a big Scranton."

How very sad...and true.





(*) I find it nothing short of hilarious that those crying loudest about our supposed Kenyan president (actually born in the United States), are actually some of the most vocal supporters of a man who actually, really, truly was born in a foreign country...and who had dual citizenship.  Then again Tea Baggers have no sense for the ironic.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

From the mind of the Tea Bagger

Larry Klayman of Freedom Watch at weekend tea party rally: 
"I call upon all of you to wage a second American nonviolent revolution, to use civil disobedience, and to demand that this president leave town, to get up, to put the Quran down, to get up off his knees, and to figuratively come out with his hands up.”

Citation HERE.

You simply can't make this "crap" up.




Monday, October 14, 2013

Response to Anonymous Comments, "Courtright getting Clobbered" posting

A few thoughts in response to the comments received from "Anonymous" with regards to my posting last week Courtright getting Clobbered.

Before I get to the specifics, I want to make an initial point.

Anonymous?  Seriously, anonymous?  Look at the press releases I posted from the Mulligan campaign.  What does one notice about the authorship of the material?  Well for starters, there is an actual, real name attributed to the content.  Yes, a real person signed his name to the press release.  You can call them what you want, but cowardly they are not.  What's more I put my name on everything I write here.  I don't hide from my opinions.  While I do allow anonymous comments on the blog, I don't hold them in high regard.  So, Mr/Ms Anonymous, if want any measure of respect, please sign your (real) name next time.

On to the specific comments.  For purposes of clarity, my responses are in dark red text.

Mystery Writer Comment #1

Anonymous said...
How does "the Mulligan plan" create revenue.
Its all fluff!
Hasn't he been part of the problem for 12 years, as a solicitor for nearly every department????
How van someone manage a 90 million dollar bubget when they can't manage their own finances??
October 11, 2013 at 9:28 AM
 Delete
Show me some specifics as to which departments Attorney Mulligan has represented and then give some examples of why his work for these departments was sub-standard.  Then maybe Anonymous can maybe make a valid point.  As to the dig about Attorney Mulligan's finances, well gee whiz, yes he has had some problems and apparently Mr/Ms Anonymous also read the Scranton Times.  Neither is shocking.  Anyway, Attorney Mulligan has plenty of company (including among elected officials) when it comes to troubled finances while living in the City of Scranton.  If he owes anyone money now, well then he had better get that straight. As for issues in the past, well voters should factor that into their voting decision.



Mystery Writer Comment #2

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Exactly!!
He has been part of "the Doherty problem"
Having city hall open at night, meeting with council in secret,
Joining SAPPA...doesn't bring in MONEY!!!!!!!
October 11, 2013 at 9:32 AM
 Delete
Ahhh, Anonymous is most likely a fireman, policeman or the family member of either.  Or maybe one of the assorted geniuses that regularly attend Scranton City Konsil meetings.  

Being "part of the problem" is a campaign slogan, not a fact.  Try again.

People bash Mayor Doherty for not meeting with Konsil.  Now Anonymous wants to bash Attorney Mulligan for wanting to meet with Konsil.  Am I the only one who sees a contradiction here?

Joining the SAPPA doens't have to bring money, but it does make sense.  Janet Evans opposed SAPPA basically because Mayor Doherty was in favor of it.  Period.  Another example of her needless political Jihad gone amok, where the collateral damage to the city was far worse than the political damage incurred against the Mayor.



Mystery Writer Comment #3

Anonymous said...
So we have a lawyer who is the solicitor of the Scranton Sewer Authority who didn't pay his sewer bill, a lawyer who was solicitor of the city and was delinquent on his garbage fees and has/had numerous judgements against him even though a part of his lawyering was collecting delinquencies? He appears to be a walking, talking, contradiction of himself. Then again, in Scranton he sounds perfect for the job!
October 11, 2013 at 9:45 AM
 Delete

Now we get some specifics.  I guess Anonymous went back to re-read that Scranton Times article after all.  I agree that Attorney Mulligan has a far from ideal past when it comes to managing his personal finances.  Then again, I think he has what, like 28 kids or something?  No wonder he has had bill paying problems.  Ideal?  No.  But is this a deal-breaker in terms of voting for the man?  Not in my book.  Personal financial difficulties are neither new nor unique to Attorney Mulligan.  Policy and ideas are what really matter in this election.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Post Script
Welcome to Scranton, the most political city in the known universe.  Yes, Attorney Mulligan has had some difficulties in the past, but let me tell you what he isn't:  the recipients of gobs of support from entrenched city hall employees who are only looking out for their own economic interests.  That's a good start.  As I've said before...and will say again...Scranton does not have a revenue problem.  You can't have a revenue problem when you have the highest taxes in the area.  Scranton has an expense problem.  A big expense problem.  Everything I've seen and heard from Bill Courtright's campaign tells me that he will do nothing to reign in Scranton's expenses.  In fact, police and firemen and counting him to do nothing, other than continue City Konsil's border-line silly quest to find new and creative revenue streams that either don't pan out at all or which bring in far less than projected.  What's next, a monthly Scranton Bake Sale?  Maybe Google can sponsor a firetruck or three.

Attorney Mulligan is a better choice than Bill Courtright simply because he's not Bill Courtright.  With Bill Courtright city residents know what they will get:  nothing to make the dramatic changes that Scranton needs.  Now I don't know for sure that Attorney Mulligan will make the changes needed either, but between the two candidates, he's the more likely.  

Sunday, October 13, 2013

das Haus verlassen, #9

Chores, chores, chores.  Selling your house involves chores.  And money helps.  Have I mentioned that I'm getting too old for this, by the way?  Among the changes made over the past few months:

  • Installed a GFI outlet in the 616 kitchen.
  • Had the electrician over to problem solve an issue with the stove.  It turned out that the service line and breaker were inadequate to the task and had to be replaced.
  • I discovered that it's NEVER a good idea to put the cat food dish near the refrigerator (there was more food under the refrigerator than there was in JeanLuc's food dish).
  • Replaced a ceiling fan with something that looks like it is from this century.
  • Replaced some carpeting outside of my bedroom.
  • Painted, painted, painted, painted, painted and painted.
  • Thoroughly cleaned the 618 kitchen.

Next up:  having the plumber over tomorrow morning to give the furnace a once-over before the heating season fully kicks in.

It's been about 63 days since the house was put on the market, and after a few showings and many compliments, I still haven't received an offer.  So what's a brother to do?  Well at the advice of my agent, why lower the price.

If you're interested in learning more about my property, simply send me an email and I'll provide you with the multi-list number.

The really ironic part of all of this?  At the end of all the chores, I'll probably have to do it again when I buy another home.


Friday, October 11, 2013

Courtright getting Clobbered

I give credit to the Jim Mulligan for Mayor (of Scranton) campaign for being pretty direct in criticizing Democratic candidate Bill Courtright.  Here are two fairly recent mass emails I received from the Mulligan campaign.

* * * * * * * * * *

For Immediate Release
October 9, 2013
Contact: Matthew Beynon - (703) 307-8633

Where's Bill? (Volume 1)
Courtright's Platitudes Versus The Twelve-Point
Mulligan Plan For Transparency & Consensus
SCRANTON, PA - Over the past week, the Jim Mulligan for Mayor of Scranton, PA campaign has offered its detailed plan to save Scranton from the current crisis it faces. Sadly, the Courtright campaign has not done the same even though it has had the opportunity to step forward and show leadership when asked during media interviews.

Despite Mulligan offering detailed proposal after proposal, the Courtright campaign has continued to only list feel-good platitudes that will bring no solutions to Scranton's problems. Courtright says he "cannot say right now" what he would do to solve the city's problems (SOURCE: The David Madeira Show, October 8, 2013). After 10 years of campaigning, don't the voters deserve more from Bill Courtright?

Courtright Platitudes

Bill Courtright's plan to better "communicate" with the Scranton City Council is to simply "communicate."  
  • "Communication - work with council and others to solve our problems" (SOURCE:www.courtrightmayor.com, October 7, 2013)
What does "communicate" mean? Courtright provides no details, no plans on how he intends to improve relations with City Council - he is simply asking the voters of Scranton to trust him to "communicate," but how can we trust him to communicate with City Council when he isn't even communicating with voters?

Bill Courtright calls for a "transparent" government, but what does that mean? 
  • "Transparency - The Mayor is the steward of the city, it is the people's city"(SOURCE: www.courtrightmayor.com, October 7, 2013)
Again, Courtright does not outline what he would do to make city government more transparent other than to say he will have a "transparent" government. How does the Courtright vision of transparency translate to relationships with voters across Scranton? How does Mr. Courtright's transparent government improve Scranton's financial situation? Sadly, voters are forced to have blind faith in Mr. Courtright to be "transparent" at a time when the City is at a crossroads.

The Mulligan Plan

Counter to the Courtright platitudes, Jim Mulligan has provided a detailed 12-point plan for how his Administration will govern openly and effectively with all city stakeholders.

With Citizens/Taxpayers/Businesses
  • Monthly Open Office Hours, including evenings, for stakeholders to meet with Mayor.
  • Have community liaison available for anyone needing help from City, all calls go to one place.
  • Frequent listening tours/town hall meetings with citizens, business owners, and neighborhood groups to find out what Scrantonians want from City government. By creating a dialog we will address issues and formulate solutions.
  • City Hall will be open and transparent. 
With City Council
  • Maintain open communications with City Council members at all times.
  • Formally meet with Council members at their pre-Council meeting caucuses. 
With Non-Profits/Colleges & Universities/Hospitals
  • SILOT    - Service in lieu of taxes to help the City. For example, seek educational expertise to analyze City challenges.
  • PILOT- These payments would be used to fund capital projects of the City rather than funding the operating budget. The non-profit could designate its PILOT to a particular capital project or equipment purchase.
  • Establish internship program to help small businesses. The City would act as a facilitator to provide support for local businesses in partnership with our local colleges and other non-profit groups. 
With County, School District and Surrounding Communities
  • Join SAPPA Regional Planning Group.
  • Foster cooperative business relationships with the County, School District and surrounding communities by formulating ways to reduce costs of all governments through co-operating purchasing and shared services.  Seek help from the State to foster collaboration among all parties. 
With State Officials and Local Legislators
  • Frequently meet with our local legislators and State officials to discuss City issues, seek solutions and collaborate.

At a time when Scranton voters need to know what they're getting, it's clear Scranton cannot afford Bill Courtright.

###
Paid for by Friends of Jim Mulligan



AND



For Immediate Release
October 8, 2013
Contact: Matthew Beynon - (703) 307-8633

 Shhh... The Courtright Plan Is "Secret"
SCRANTON, PA - Today, Scranton mayoral candidate Bill Courtright appeared on The David Madeira Show to discuss his "plan" to address the problems facing Scranton. One problem, he wouldn't tell Madeira's listeners what his plan is... or as he said, he "can't say right now." So shhh, it's a "secret."

Jim Mulligan said: "Bill Courtright has been running for office in Scranton for a decade now and he's relying on the people of Scranton to just trust him that he'll have a plan in place? I have put forward a detailed plan to address the problems facing our city and I have been open and honest with all voters about the direction I would like to take Scranton. The voters deserve a race based on competing plans and competing visions. I have provided a plan, my opponent has only alluded to secret plans he cannot discuss 'right now.' Our city is at a crossroads and we need that debate now."

Bill Courtright on The David Madeira Show

Courtright: "I've been dealing with Senator Blake on a program that is not only going to try to eradicate the blight that we have in the City of Scranton, but at the same time bring revenue into the City of Scranton... the Senator and I are going to push forward on this program and get this done."

Madeira: "Get what done?"

Courtright: "It's a program that would, uh, I can't say totally eliminate blight but try to eliminate blight and at the same time bring revenue into the City of Scranton."


Madeira: "What is it?"

Courtright: "Uh, I can't say right now."

Madeira: "Oh, ok, it's a secret."

Bill Courtright doesn't have a plan to solve our problems. Scranton cannot afford Bill Courtright.

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Paid for by Friends of Jim Mulligan


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Now I will confess that I've already expressed support for Jim Mulligan, but that's in large part because of what the above notes:  namely that Bill Courtright has no real plan for Scranton.  In fact, you get the distinct impression that Bill Courtright is running for Mayor simply because, well, it's his time to run for Mayor.  That or the reality of Konsil President Janet Evans having so soiled her own political landscape through her toxic battle with sitting mayor Doherty that she wouldn't stand much of a chance winning herself.  This means that there was an opening for [insert name of Democratic City Insider HERE] to run for Mayor now.  

Insert Name = Bill Courtright, consummate Scranton political insider and glad-hander.

What's next?  Well the 800 pound gorilla in the room is the support that public safety unions have (not so loudly) expressed for Bill Courtright.  Let's not forget that Scranton doesn't have a revenue problem, it has an expense problem.  Bill Courtright will not bite the hand that feeds him, and make no mistake about it that support from police & firemen (and their families and friends) are feeding Bill Courtright.  I do think...and have said here repeatedly over the years...that Scranton has an outstanding police force and that those who risk their lives for city residents need to be compensated fairly.  However, Scranton is broke...functionally bankrupt...and there are few to no more major revenue sources left to tap.  The only thing left is for Scranton to reduce operating expenses, and I do not believe that would ever happen if Bill Courtright were elected Mayor.   

The bottom line for me is that Bill Courtright seems incapable by design of doing anything that would upset the status quo in Scranton, particularly when it comes to labor costs.  He's simply too attached to the traditional world of Scranton politics.  Is Jim Mulligan any different?  I don't really know for sure, but I am willing to take a chance on what I don't know as opposed to what I do know.    

Thursday, October 10, 2013

l don't like hotel rooms

File this under the category of "things that appear to be glamorous but really aren't".

When I travel I rarely to never sleep well, especially on the first night.  For the record, most of my business trips are a day or three; fortunately the days of week long treks are very rare these days.  Anyway, it doesn't matter what hotel I am at*...well for the most part...because the result is always the same: I don't sleep well. Oh, and the expectation is that, no matter how well I sleep or don't sleep, I still have to be at 100%.  I know, cry me a river, but still having the pressure to perform (whatever "perform" means for you or me) is made far worse when you didn't get more than two hours of sleep at a clip the night before.

So what's with hotel rooms and me? We'll I have a few ideas.

1) Uneven temperature.  Is it me or do hotel rooms have two temperatures, hot and cold?

2) Loud temperature.  When the heating and/or cooling system does kick in (momentarily making it too hot or too cold) it usually manages to do so with what appears to my ears to be a mini-sonic boom.

3) Noises in general.  Look, I kind of hate sleeping to begin with, and as a result (or because of?) I am a very light sleeper.  I've heard people in adjoining rooms having conversations at 3am.  I've heard drunks rolling down hallways at all hours.  In Hartford I've heard all manner of sirens and the like at all hours. In Newark?  Well, I try not to be surprised at anything.

4) Preparing.  When I travel I usually have a particular "thing" to do; it can be teaching a class, participating in a seminar, participating in staff meetings or something similar. It almost always requires participation on my part, which tends to suck up what little mental firepower I have, and then some.

5) "On".  Regardless of what I am doing...or preparing to do...when I am traveling I am pretty much "on", even when I'm in the hotel room alone.  Yeah, I try to relax, but that's a relative term when you're sitting in a hotel room and you're surrounded by work stuff.

Now I fully and completely acknowledge that I am extraordinarily lucky to have a job, let alone a job that allows me to see such glamorous places like New Jersey and central Connecticut.  I don't take it for granted.  But it's far from glamorous, and truth be told, I prefer to stay at home more.

As Butthead would say, "Hehehe, he's old".   Of course Beavis would reply, "Yeah, yeah, old".



(*) Hotels are odd things; I've stayed at some that cost over $200 a night that were just barely better than some that I've stayed at for less than $100 a night.  In the end, what matters is a reasonably comfortable bed, decent TV & a CLEAN bathroom.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Bitterness and unresolved anger

Note that I don't have these ("bitterness and unresolved anger"), but I read something this morning that reminded me that far too many do.  now it isn't that I fail to struggle this area...from time to time we all do with these kinds of feelings...but I have been truly blessed in life with a capacity to learn, and learning is, I think, the key to not falling into the bitter and angry trap.

The learning stuff is part nature and part nurture.

The nature part of this equation is a bit more nebulous than it's counterpart in nurture.  Two concrete examples do come to mind though when I think about myself.

1) From a very early age I've always been consuming information.  I would go to bed reading the encyclopedia.  I've read the newspaper just about every day of my life since I was old enough to read.  I probably spend an hour or more a day reading the news on-line.  I am an information junkie.

2) I've learned to change my mind about things when presented with evidence that runs counter to an established view.  Personally I think far too many people confuse "principle" with "stubborn" (especially in Washington DC).

Having a built-in capacity to learn seems to be an essential tool to help you overcome those periods when you have all these feelings that you just can't seem to handle.  If anything, it provides a kind of safety net of sorts: you know that if you are feeling a certain way, others have probably felt it too, so you seek out learning in that particular area to help yourself.

The nurture part of this equation is easy:  I've simply been around people who were bitter and angry for most of their lives.  And some of them have died bitter and angry.  It seems to me that bitter and angry folks are probably pretty damn lonely, in part because they are so bitter and angry.  It's a horrid, vicious cycle that I suspect gets just about impossible to break as you get older.  Regardless, I decided a long time ago that I wasn't going to live my life this way.  I recognize my flaws, but failing to have a positive outlook isn't one of them.

In the end, maybe being bitter and angry really is a choice.  Maybe it's a choice that some folks simply don't realize really is a choice.  To paraphrase that philosopher of Western culture Geddy Lee, "If you choose not to decide you still have made a choice."  I think he's right (as well as being a heck of a good bass player).

Sunday, October 6, 2013

It really must be the end of days: I just bought an iPad.

Yes, as many have reminded me (including Ms River's oldest son and my youngest daughter Rebecca), I have repeatedly said time and time again that I would NEVER own an Apple product.

Well, never say never.
Yes, on Friday I bought an iPad.  Specifically, I bought an iPad 2 with Retina display, with 4G, and 16gb of memory.  Certainly not the Ferrari of the tablet world, but a lot for me.

So why did I get an iPad?  Well, there are a few reasons actually, but it mostly boils down to this:  I need a better way to mange information, and I have a lot of information to manage.  Keeping scores of old notebooks at work simply doesn't work.  Rifling through pages of paper in order to find old notes related to, say, business continuation planning, is frustrating at best.  There has to be a better way.

Now I'm supposed to say "there will be a learning curve" or something like that at this stage, but I won't.  In fact, I'm actually a quick study when it comes to most technology things, and I suspect that this will be no different.

Anyway, now it's time for dinner.


(credit to THIS blog for the image)

Friday, October 4, 2013

Thought for the day

"Change is inevitable.  Progress is optional."
                                                        - Anonymous


Something to keep in mind as the government continues to implode upon itself.

Here's to hoping that the more sane among the Republican Party move to end this silliness in Washington D.C., especially as the debt ceiling extension looms large.  I've heard the talk radio types downplaying the impact of the shut down (I actually heard a Mark Levin segment where he basically implied that the shut-down was actually a good thing), but make no mistake about it:  there is nothing spin-able about a federal government default.

Yes, I'm calling for a revolt...against the Tea Baggers.

(credit HERE for the photo)

For the record, unless the Tea Bagger in question is actually an asparagus, then I'd like to see him/her breath just CO2 for about 15 minutes and then tell me it's not pollution.

Finally, and speaking of Tea Baggers, whenever I see pictures of an angry mass of them I'm reminded of a certain South Park clip...

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Two songs that pick me up

Two songs that, when I need an instant pick-me-up, do the trick. Reading the news these days, a pick-me-up is sometimes required.


In cleaning up my office on late Friday afternoon I came across some stuff I had written back in 2007.  Yes, I've been writing all the time for a long time.  My writing has been, for a number of years, a combination of on-line (well going back to when on-line first existed), some of it was the old pen & paper stuff.  Anyway, reading those few pages from years ago reminded me of how in life you though phases of nothing changing and then everything changing.  As for me,well, I'm grateful for it all.  In the end, "wining" isn't about having toys, or big houses, fancy titles or "power" (whatever the Hell that is...), but it's a state of mind.  Hearing this song by Santana reminds me of that fact all the time.



I just can't listen to this song without smiling.  It just has that "instant happy" kind of feel to it.  It also has just this incredibly catchy first few bars at the beginning that just bring you in for the rest of the tune.  I've always thought that George Harrison was a very interesting songwriter in that if you look at his catalog, you see the usual list of throw-aways, but then he comes up with these songs that are, well, just genius.  Zero to hero kind of stuff.  Think of this song, "Something", "Here Comes the Sun", "My Sweet Lord" and a few others. Interestingly enough, I really hadn't paid too much attention to the lyrics of this song until I found this specific video on YouTube.

Speaking of relatively unknown George Harrison songs, here's one from the Concert for George...

The vocals are by Sam Brown, who just belts the heck out of the song.  The piano playing is courtesy of Jools Holland.  I own a copy of the Concert for George, and pound for pound it's one of the best concert films ever.  Highly recommended.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Civics 201: What the Tea Party Apparently Doesn't Know

In this country, once a law is passed by Congress and signed by the President, there are only two ways it can be changed or repealed:

1.  It can be declared unconstitutional by the judicial system (the Supreme Court being final authority).

or

2.  Congress can change or repeal the law via the legislative process.

There is no choice "3", despite what the actions of the Speaker of the House* and his leadership team would have you believe.  Yes, that is correct, "shut down the government until the law is gutted" is not one of the ways laws are changed in this country.  

If the Affordable Care Act is such an abomination, then the Tea Party should work to win the Presidency in 2016, hold the House of Representatives in Tea Party hands, and gain control of the Senate.  They can then repeal the law.  Period.  Note that they tried the judicial route and failed.  

This whole sad episode sets a dangerous precedent for our country, creating an extra-legislative process for governance that is simply wrong.  Let's hope sane-minded individuals from both political parties work towards ending this shut-down, change the Affordable Care Act for the better (via the legislative process), and stop kowtowing to the extreme fringes of American political discourse.

(*) For the record, I don't think that the Speaker actually believes what the House is doing is in any way correct.  However, I think he desire to remain Speaker is stronger than his desire to exercise common sense.