Technically it didn't go bankrupt broke, but in filing for Act 47 Distressed City status to avoid just that sort of thing from happening, bankruptcy was on the horizon.
Mayor Tony George completed the paperwork and sent it to the Department of Community and Economic Development. Now, basically, everyone sits back and waits for the State to begin running city finances.
If the State agrees that is.
Everyone's sexiest conversation right now is how this happened. The anti-taxers (of which consists of both Democrats and Republicans in Wilkes-Barre; the city has been too poor for so long that political identifcation along any philisophical validation of the tax concept has been blended away -- to me, everyone sounds like a fiscal conservative) say that too many people work in local government and have it too good. The city leaders blame union inflexibilities and lack of support from city council members.
To some degree I blame the times, and lack of imagination. Wilkes-Barre has been perpetually on the decline since my childhood such that hitting bottom now, it actually feels kind of good . Now everyone can stop pretending that there are enough people to pay for city services living in or working in Wilkes-Barre. Finally something creative and tangible might be done to fix that.
Like, a modern rail project for example. Like a push for consolidation of many local townships and boroughs into the city proper. The establishment of a countywide sheriff patrol (more a county level baliwick, sure, but the overall composition counts), and the overhaul of Wilkes-Barre itself to specifically connect to New York City and Philadelphia as a sort of bedroom community or education center for either.
As new transit solutions evolve and the cost of living in those cities continue to rise, there's no reason Wilkes-Barre cannot begin to poise itself as a center point between the two regions, and get out of the business of always relying on government grants for this or that to get by.
I have gone ahead with an idea that I have been flirting with for a couple of months now (and, may have previously -- hard to tell with my admittedly erratic web strategy of years past), which is to consolidate my various other theme blogs with this one.
Specifically, these titles are now hosted in the same framework as that of my personal blog which is the one you are looking at right now:
Tech for the City
Those titles will continue to have the very rare entries represented here at Dave the Web Guy and will be indexed by the category labels tamparail, wbrail, openness, and techcity.
I did this because the overhead of maintaining all those separate blogging presentations was diffusing a cohesive effort to keep my messaging active. Most these blog titles were languishing without fresh content and in turn the respective messages they attempted to deliver was taking a hit. If the flagship blogs aren't active it is too easy, in my summation, for visitors to assume the same about the causes themselves.
The messages are still important to me as is the ability to chronical their respective evolutions in a place that exists outside Twitter or Facebook. Turning these topics into category entries at my personal blog not only allows me to do so, it also restores the energy to my personal blog in the form of a single view overlooking the wide range of interests and causes that I have come to evangelize over the years.
In short, the topics are no longer interesting standing on their own, driven by a single personality, as much as my personality is maybe a little more interesting with direct visibility to the variety of topics that I behold. I look at it as maybe two publishing problems being solved.
There are custom domains that were pointed to the blogs I list above. They will now land here at equivalent custom "pages" that will continue to serve as their headquarters and where a timeline presentation of their individual evolutions will be displayed. Basically I will be taking the existing custom index pages that drove their previous blogs and migrating them one by one to this site. Here is how the one for OpennessOrg looks for example.
My only concern with this new approach is that it may render my personal blog here somewhat discombobulated or "disjointed" of its own message, which is to effectively bitch about the dying World Wide Web alongside issues in my personal life. One day I might be talking about how annoying hangnail is, to be followed in an entry the next day about some contract dispute preventing train tracks being laid in the Poconos (a Wilkes-Barre Rail topic) or another police agency that has gone to a digitally encrypted radio network (an Openness topic). Unless I synthesize the presentation overall very carefully, readers might be confused.
Fortunately though, in this universe at least, I don't post that often and I certainly don't have many regular readers. Nonetheless, here's to hoping this new format changes things for the better.
Yeah, so basically Wilkes-Barre needs to professionalize its police department.
Its leaders should have at least a college degree, and maybe while everyone is at it, the department should check out this whole "accrediation" thing. Apparently it was contemplated once but loose as things apparently tended to be, it was never topped off. Perhaps too many folks along the way didn't like the constraints of accredidation. Hmm.
For those not so laser-focused on who gets blamed for what in the report (spoiler though: Lendacky and Foy feast on babies for breakfast while Seargant Myers and the PBA are too busy passing out halos to orphans to be willfully causing turbulence. Why, the report even says in a single flat parenthetical that it found no evidence that Myers was upset about being passed over for that stupid-head job of police chief that only stupid-heads want anyway - so there!, question resolved!) this is a vindication in no way between the parties, but of the sense that the department is woefully juvenile and has been for some time. It has neither the leadership nor the fabric of rank and file maturity to pull it together.
The assessors do not assess that Myers had any interest
in becoming police chief.
Oh, there may be a state that it once had of "business as usual" that some might confuse with healthy "good times" for the department, but remember, any such period is the parent of the freaky state of being we have now. Honey, there was nothing healthy about it, ever. And this report is possibly the best thing Wilkes-Barre has to right the ship if only out of shame.
I for one was shocked by how willing the report seemed to directly wade into the politics of personality. But I've never seen a report of its nature before so maybe that is common, and, since all institutions boil down to the people who run it, inevitable. Plucking away at Lendacky and Foy was an easy path because neither holds a college degree for the advanced positions they hold in a field that prides itself on its trending incorporation of a college education. There are now departments in America where not having a college degree would mean you couldn't be a road officer let alone the chief.
Face it, the 26 grand or so to compile the report didn't involve a lot of sweat on that fact alone.
There are other things to muse over from here. What does all of this have to say about Tony George's judgement? Somehow he saw no problem installing such a controversial leader and cared little to address the calamity. That was his absolute preogative among several such preogatives which I maintain that people who were honest about everything could have lived with and worked through. But alas now that we walk through these smoldering ruins by people who were not prepared to do so, we can fairly ask, what was he thinking in the first place?
Also, I hate reading in the many DISQUS threads how Lendacky and Foy, or maybe Myers, are all horrible people. Let's try to remember they are all in fact noble people electing to engage in (physically dangerous) careers on behalf of the community. Nobody here is evil. What is of course apparent is that they have all become principals in a low drama where nobody expects to find any of such crippling level. The police department should not have the air of a "club" where people elbow through each other at personal whim, yet somehow that's what all of this looks like. Seriously, this is why Wilkes-Barre can't have nice rail.
Tony George is going to have to answer for this mess, Lendacky and Foy are going to have to chin up and maybe get out, and the PBA is going to have to live up to the new world it probably beckoned forth which is a professionally accredited police department with an emphasis on education, and a smart approach to dealing with "passive-aggressive" malcontents. The report has put too many eyes on things now for any of that not to happen and I bet Myers and the PBA are excited to see it so.
One of the presumed forerunner projects that this website highlights is the Lackawanna Cut-Off Restoration Project. That's because it is the most "actualized" of all the other possibilities I might otherwise mention. Unlike high speed rail, the hyperloop, or light rail connecting Hazleton and Scranton, there's actual work, actual track being laid in New Jersey for this project. If the momentum picks up steam that will eventually mean actual track being laid in Pennsylvania -- first in the Poconos followed at some point thereafter by Scranton. And then yes, Wilkes-Barre.
Get to know the Lackawanna Cut-Off thanks to the work of Chuck Walsh.
But what do we really know about the original Lackawanna Cut-Off? It was the defining rail link between New Jersey and - believe it or not - Buffalo, New York, my current home city. Scranton was a stop in between. I actually find it kind of poetic that three of the places I have lived in my lifetime have been accessible by this single line (technically I lived in New York, not New Jersey, but I won't quibble. If this line existed as-is today I'd be able to travel by train to three of my favorite places on the planet right now).
There's a trove of web information on the line if you want to go look for it. This blog isn't based on expert knowledge and doesn't pontificate from that position. Quite the opposite, it is an evolving conversation on what I'm learning as I go . Questions and inaccuracies all.
However, the richest resource I think you'll find today is a YouTube documentary posted by Chuck Walsh approximately one year ago. Walsh is the president of the North Jersey Rail Commuter Association and an enthusiastic advocate for the project. He apparently put the time and gas into composing a 15 video tour of the line as it exists today, visiting key stops and points of interest, often with stories and recollections drawn right from his head of accrued knowledge and experience.
This is the best way right now to "walk" the line into NEPA along with Walsh acting as tour guide and narrator along the way.
First video in a series of 15.
The zero-budget production is raw and maybe a little dry to the non-enthusiast, but it is authentic and I might add, what YouTube is best used for which is the independent presentation of a niche but important subject matter to the thousands who are interested. There is not a TV station or a newspaper that could cover this line to such depth.
If you want to better understand the past to understand the future, this is a great way for the readers of this blog to spend a coffee Saturday afternoon.
Well damn , let it not be said that blogging is without risk.
Happy 2018 from Wilkes-Barre Rail, and I at least, am not dead yet. And neither is this blog although I will admit to having come very close to having nixed the blog format in order to carry on with WBRAIL's message and perspective.
I've become very pessimistic about the blogging format for establishing the hope and imagination for some form of rail transit returning to NEPA, a trajectory of doubt made clear by converting WBRAIL's front page into a quasi-static presentation sometime in 2017.
The move unintentionally cleared the way for me to contemplate whether or not maintaining the overhead of a blogging engine was worth it at all, if in fact that's how I planned to use the site. And that contemplation, for a time, settled on me declaring that WBRAIL would best exist not so much as a web place, but rather a digitally spread web campaign that capitalized on social media channels and existing media content.
But I am a publisher of whim and wonder and at the end of the day I find it difficult to walk away from this small ant hill of a presentation, complete with its accumulation of articles, meager as that be. Perhaps it is I and my commitment to blogging that needs to change, not the wonderful presentation I've spent so much time building up (much of it while in the throws of temporary unemployment while camped out in my grandmother's house in Miners Mills. Sentimentally speaking, that means something to me).
So I'm keeping this alive in the form it is in. My doubts about the impact of blogging or today's web audience which tends to stay off the raw WWW in favor of Facebook and mobile based apps, will diminish as I continue to tweak and master the art of organic gravitation to the maximum extent possible.
My humble apologies to Harold Jenkins of NEPA Blogs for turning his remark into a Thug Life meme (of sorts) above. You can watch the full context of his comments, which are actually very in depth and tight to the point regarding the craft of blogging, in this June 2, 2011 video interview with ComputerWiseTV.
Luzerne County government needs to grow and needs more revenue. All the republicans are throwing in taglines about shrinking it and avoiding actual solution-development by a reduce-tax mantra, which is manipulative and lazy.
It's time to kill the quest to kill government, especially in a region where it has already been diminished, de-funded, and harassed away from important business at every step of the way.
The struggles don't dissipate by simply electing any of the democrats listed but at least they are not relying on simple-minded failed platitudes similar to that which have yielded a failed Trump presidency, and, I believe many would agree at a more local level, a Tony George mayorship. Both campaigns relied on this kind of churning of the simple answers and tired people have seen enough of the results.
A larger government focusing on smart community investments is now the better direction.
If we assume a rational implementation of conventional commuter rail reaching Wilkes-Barre from New York, who would operate it? Which agency's transit logo would would be hoisted atop a new downtown train station?
By all indications, since it is the Lackawanna Cutoff Project that leads in anything close to actualization, the answer would be New Jersey Transit.
So, you'd be walking along Wilkes-Barre Boulevard and see something like the following, albeit perhaps not quite so as cheezy in form as is the case with a simple mash-up of images using Microsoft Paint:
C'mon it's quick n' dirty, don't judge. Focus on the point of it.
If for some reason there were a spontaneous push from the south of Wilkes-Barre, and we weren't talking New York City at all but Philadelphia, I suppose then it could be the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA).
Of course "closest thing to actualization", the NJ Transit muse, is still pretty lofty considering that Pennsylvania is so economically non-committed to its end of the project for the foreseeable future, and progress so slow even on the New Jersey side (and that's even acknowledging their recent movement). This is why at WBRAIL I prefer to hope for a complete conceptual reboot to get around this sluggishness, one that focuses on different high-speed rail technology. I literally think a fresh push from the ground up rather than counting on the Cutoff reaching Wilkes-Barre would be the faster path toward a running system.
Most Luzerne County residents, politicians, and even business leaders simply cannot comprehend the transformation that will absolutely take place over the next 25 - 100 years. Wilkes-Barre today is a depressed bankrupt city where the citizens are so poor and scared the loudest online voices that dominate are those meticulously bemoaning everyone's success as all part of some corruption conspiracy that never ends. Most Wilkes-Barrians who pay attention to these things would be served well by a reminder that in normal economies people don't sit around assessing who has a comfortable job and who does not, nor do they develop deep state theories to explain why people who bothered to acquire better educations and develop as better people, have them. Such thinking is a grunt's lot and in better days,Wilkes-Barre persona was, and will, exist beyond it.
When I write that Luzerne County, and Wilkes-Barre in particular, will be central hub to high speed rail system between Philadelphia and New York City, I'm not joking. This will absolutely happen.
Sure it would happen well enough without this website promoting an imagination for it, but I admit from an egotistical standpoint, I love prescient writing. On opening day in 20-whatever-the-hecks people will stand over my grave wondering how the heck I knew .
With a 1.5 to 2 hour commute time by rail (which would not be the pivot for an automobile commute because people make use of rail time for personal and professional pursuits while riding rail that they cannot while managing a drive), there is no reason downtown Wilkes-Barre cannot become a New York City bedroom community of middle managers and executives. With quality affordable colleges and universities already in the city limits, there is no reason the same system could not fuel a student's depot.
And by the way, that 1.5 or 2 hours can be expected to shrink to even less as technologies improve. Personally I'm shooting for the "one hour" dream. Going downtown might no longer mean a trip to Public Square (or, that "other thing", giggity giggity) so much as it might mean a trip to Bryant Park.
Things culturally do need to change locally and even nationally before the first hints of traction toward this fantastic rail prediction begin to appear. I believe in certain driving events that will transpire, among other things, that will encourage and cement these changes. Wilkes-Barre and Luzerne County essentially collapsing might even be one of the first for example. More broadly, a change in how we view nationally funded transportation systems and transportation funding, will happen. Roads and airports stunted our understanding that high speed rail is great for regional intercity travel in certain areas, and if done right for each one, maybe all. But I am convinced we will come to appreciate its efficiencies with the right - and inevitable - prompting. At which point, it will be game on.
Cashing in Rail Might Cash in Rail
That is why it is so exciting to read the Times Leader's report on the local debate to keep or sell old rail for scrap. Selling it might mean an instant infusion of cash (however quickly that infusion's impact might evaporate), particularly when common road thieves seem poised to take it and convert it to cash for themselves whether it is officially sold or not. I mean, it's just sitting there unused and seemingly without purpose - it almost defies common sense not to. At first blush.
But, yielding to some of that higher thinking and emotional intelligence, which thank god, council member Rick Williams is applying, it isn't that easy. If you're not stuck in a grunt mentality that things are, are the way things will always be, you realize there is more value to that unused track than meets the eye. If you get rid of it you might be tripling the cost of a future rail system that might otherwise avoid the re-allocation of right away rights.
To be fair, the question of what might actually wind up constraining future rail development or not if old rail is torn out and sold is a little unknown right now. The Luzerne County Redevelopment Authority has twice now halted on moving forward with the sale idea, wisely taking the time to sort the question out. First it needs to be established if Luzerne County might really lose its precious right of way inroads if they sell, and if so, whether or not the dream certainty of cost for future rail is worth preserving if in fact the answer is yes.
Or in a more moving question whether the answer is something in between. If the rail can be sold, for example, can Luzerne County maintain its future grip on rail by converting the same right of ways to a trail system? Can a token rail network be built of a single track with a scheduled handcar delivering newspapers from one end of the system to the other once a year be implemented?
The latter idea is probably a bit ridiculous but if it gets the job done, fine. The trail idea however, is a good one. We have one here in Buffalo and it's amazing. You wonder "who uses trails" and figure they are a waste of time, until you see one fully developed. Living in Buffalo I am privy to our local trail system that starts here across the street from my loft and stretches for miles until you hit the river from where you can spot the Canadian shoreline. And people use it . It's teaming with walkers, bicyclists, families, joggers, and platoons of all kinds of friends during warm weather. Because it terminates here in Buffalo at a local light rail and bus station, it's a also a viable transportation solution to downtown.
Trails are not abstract afterthoughts, they are tangible assets.
The LCRA is looking into it. To me, the question and the conclusion are a bellwether for what politicians in the area really think about the future of Luzerne County. If they are convinced the area is so hopping for its next cash fix, however inconsequential said fix is, they are willing to give up that hope, that's bad news. Maybe despite such a decision rail will ultimately develop anyway but at a steeper taxpayer cost and more tragically at the cost of even more county esteem.
Keep the rail as a token, guard it, re-purpose the right of way if that results in the same outcome, and leaders effectively nod that the area is rife with its local talent and confidence for its future. Even if the eventual rail network is built nowhere near these existing tracks, their preservation illuminates just how little Luzerne County is willing to risk a certain death spiral for the area's long term future.
Wow! It looks like Wilkes-Barre took a wollup from that snowstorm. It was content-heaven for those who like to take pictures and upload them to social media. Alas as I am not currently living there I could not participate.
If anyone cares, here's my Facebook Live drive home from work here in Buffalo though.
One thing I was pleased about in the wake of the mess in Wilkes-Barre was how positive everyone emoted in social media. Checking out the Just Sayin' Facebook Group, where I expected to find negative comments and snowballs being verbally thrown at the mayor, most people were actually supportive and commending of the city's effort to dig out the roads.
Transit rail deveopment will depend on an emotional culture that can remain strong and civil enough to withstand a little bit of heavy weather.
[ Update 8:30 PM 3/6/17 - The CV has apparently removed or inhibited view of all comments at the thread directed to in this blog posting. Not sure what's up - as comments go they weren't exactly the worst I've ever read. ]
The Citizen's Voice waded into the story regarding public behavior at the Wilkes-Barre City Council meetings and in particular Tony George's decision to no longer mandate the attendance of city department heads, citing the decay of decorum.
It's the explosive thread that followed that demonstrates what a deep nerve this issue has struck.
Unfortunately my posts of the early evening were all removed from the thread as part of some unexplained "purging" of comments. Thanks CV, I really appreciate taking the time to write things only to have them capriciously removed.
I'm pretty sure my remarks were not removed due to content since they clearly don't violate any rules of the board, but whatever the reason, it's discourteous to your patrons. I mean, dudes, "Citizen's Voice" is literally the fucking name of your newspaper!
The Citizen's Voice literally plowed through and deleted
all my comments from an important discussion.
Below are the removed comments if only to preserve the effort. They may not resonate exactly the same outside their native place in the thread but they deliver my respective points:
(Regarding Bob K.) - "...He is not "speaking" at the council meetings. He's bellowing ineffectively and spurring anger and resentment such that nobody in their right minds would sit down with him. The videos are a relatively new feature of the council meetings and gradually they are painting this picture. As noted by others the baseless presumption of "corruption" and the rude sneering by Bob and several others, are increasing sympathy for the council, not whatever cause these people claim to stand for. And I phrase myself that way because I for one don't think people who behave that rotten toward other people are capable of standing for anything good, so it stands to reason to me they are "up" to something else. I am not sure what, but it's organized and its meant to damage, not help...."
"...Bob could show up and make his case in 5 minutes, thank the council, then step aside. Everyone would be at ease and the conversation between government and the public would actually flourish. Nobody seems to notice that Bob's lobbing of cannonballs at the council has not actually resulted in achieving any of the answers or good outcomes he purports to stand for. In business, as Trump would be careful to note, if you don't get results and you don't learn from your mistakes, you don't keep your position. Incompetence then, if not the loud and obnoxious behavior, should give cause to everyone posting here no matter where they stand...."
"...I think you are talking about the presentation Foy gave to the council in which some of his remarks offended Beth. That was a council-allotted presentation I believe. And even while making his points, contrary as they were to your or many other beliefs, he was polite and respectful. When he was finished he was politely silent while Beth retorted his remarks in offense. Let's agree that if some members of the public were just as cordial even while "attacking", there really would be no problem here. In fact, I'd say increase the speaking time in that case. But that's not what's really happening. You have members of the public using the open forum as an attack vector yelling, directly insulting, badgering for answers to complex questions, insisting on one-on-one interfacing post meeting, and so on and so on. They say they care about fellow taxpayers but their meanness and contradicting affect say otherwise. To me the real motivation has yet to be uncovered but even if I'm wrong about there being one, any good cause could probably do without certain loudmouths. I think department heads at these meetings is a great idea. The better approach in my opinion is to begin enforcing the decorum rules as apparently is being done now. If you want to get down to it you have people like "Bob" to thank for giving Tony an excuse to nip the requirement. So there's that...."
"...Yep I made the same observation to Corbett when I called into the same show following Bob K to discuss this issue. Sorick made stinging points sure to aggravate any government hedger and he did it with infuriating politeness and respect. I haven&qtt seen *all* of Sorick&qts presentations to council, maybe he went off the rails once or twice too for all I know, but the ones that I did left me wondering why everyone else had a hard time seeing how razing the council if it needed to be could be 'done' without busting the decorum. They probably hated Frank more than they do Bob K who comes off more like a sketchy potential violent criminal and proud of it to boot...."
"...He is not 'speaking' at the council meetings. He&qts bellowing ineffectively and spurring anger and resentment such that nobody in their right minds would sit down with him. The videos are a relatively new feature of the council meetings and gradually they are painting this picture. As noted by others the baseless presumption of 'corruption' and the rude sneering by Bob and several others, are increasing sympathy for the council, not whatever cause these people claim to stand for. And I phrase myself that way because I for one don&qtt think people who behave that rotten toward other people are capable of standing for anything good, so it stands to reason to me they are 'up' to something else. I am not sure what, but it&qts organized and its meant to damage, not help...."
"...Bob could show up and make his case in 5 minutes, thank the council, then step aside. Everyone would be at ease and the conversation between government and the public would actually flourish. Nobody seems to notice that Bob&qts lobbing of cannonballs at the council has not actually resulted in achieving any of the answers or good outcomes he purports to stand for. In business, as Trump would be careful to note, if you don&qtt get results and you don&qtt learn from your mistakes, you don&qtt keep your position. Incompetence then, if not the loud and obnoxious behavior, should give cause to everyone posting here no matter where they stand...."
"...I think you are talking about the presentation Foy gave to the council in which some of his remarks offended Beth. That was a council-allotted presentation I believe. And even while making his points, contrary as they were to your or many other beliefs, he was polite and respectful. When he was finished he was politely silent while Beth retorted his remarks in offense. Let&qts agree that if some members of the public were just as cordial even while 'attacking', there really would be no problem here. In fact, I&qtd say increase the speaking time in that case. But that&qts not what&qts really happening. You have members of the public using the open forum as an attack vector yelling, directly insulting, badgering for answers to complex questions, insisting on one-on-one interfacing post meeting, and so on and so on. They say they care about fellow taxpayers but their meanness and contradicting affect say otherwise. To me the real motivation has yet to be uncovered but even if I&qtm wrong about there being one, any good cause could probably do without certain loudmouths. I think department heads at these meetings is a great idea. The better approach in my opinion is to begin enforcing the decorum rules as apparently is being done now. If you want to get down to it you have people like 'Bob' to thank for giving Tony an excuse to nip the requirement. So there&qts that...."
"...We don't know the technical or other reasoning behind placing the cameras behind council. Your speculation that something nefarious is behind it is one theory I suppose, though I don&qtt know why they&qtd care. The video set up as it is is a budget compromise. Wilkes-Barre can&qtt afford the higher end AV methodologies used by some other cities *yet*, but there&qts no reason to believe that as things get better financially it may. By way of example, audio was very poor in the first videos but then they evolved into somehow integrating the microphone inputs and now it&qts much better. So the system is evolving. For now, the recording and encoding of the meetings to YouTube is actually a recent breakthrough and a far leap from having to rely on the meetings being recorded by biased members of the public (helpful as they were in doing so). I also think they are as effective as I for one hoped in putting what I deem 'the harassers' on the defensive so I for one have no problem with how the angle is positioned for now...."