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Monday, August 31, 2009

Captive Audience


It seems a fitting topic as many schools open for the fall semester today.

I ran a story yesterday on Newswatch 16 Sunday Morning about a Tennessee school district selling advertising on its buses to make up for a revenue shortfall. The superintendent said they were going to be careful about the ads they accept. Presumably, you won't see ads for beer, condoms, or strip clubs on the sides of buses, and that's a good thing. It doesn't seem like a bad idea. There's a finite supply of money in the pockets of taxpayers.

The ads are on the outsides of the buses. No one is forcing the kids to look at them on their way to school.

That brings us to a discussion of Channel One. It came on the scene long, long after I graduated. It works like this. Channel One produces a 12 minute newscast to schools. It also provides the satellite system needed to receive it. Free. There's a catch. Channel One's newscast comes with two commercial minutes. I applaud anything that gets kids up to speed on what's going around them. You have no idea how many young people (and adults) are clueless in that category. On the other hand, Channel One gets a captive audience, and that's wrong. I've never seen it. I don't know how schools handle it, but if kids are forced to watch the commercials, there's a problem.

And, that reminds me of a story. I visited a medical group's office in Peckville several years ago. In the waiting area, there was a "television show" playing on a big monitor. It offered "medical news" and was paid for by a drug company. I knew that because I read about the national project in a newspaper. Presumably, the others in the waiting area thought they were watching legitimate, unbiased news, rather than a cleverly disguised drug company commercial. I'm sure the physicians group got a taste of the action for supplying the captive audience. I did a slow burn. First, I was upset I had to watch the drug company's propaganda. It was unavoidable. Secondly, the doctor kept me waiting a long time. I walked out, never went back, and complained to my insurance company. My current doctor keeps a supply of ancient magazines in his waiting area, and it's heaven by comparison.

Face it. Advertising pays the freight for just about everything, and it helps put food on my table and clothes on my back. However, we all have our limits.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Weekend EMK Plans


In case you're wondering what follows Newswatch 16 Saturday Morning...

ABC News will broadcast live coverage of ceremonies for Senator Kennedy, including the funeral mass at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Basilica in Boston (beginning at approximately 10:30 a.m.) and the burial service at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C. (beginning at approximately 5:30 p.m.). Please note: times are subject to change. Charles Gibson will anchor the coverage. He will be joined by ABC News'George Stephanopoulos, Terry Moran, Kate Snow, and John Berman, as well as Susan Milligan, Boston Globe reporter and co-author of "Last Lion: The Fall and Rise of Ted Kennedy."

Also on Saturday, at 8 a.m., Kate Snow will anchor "Good Morning America" from the JFK Library in Boston and Charles Gibson will anchor "World News" on Saturday evening. "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" on Sunday will examine the Senator's legacy and what comes next for health care reform and his Senate seat. You can see "This Week," Sunday morning at 10, on WNEP.

ABC News NOW, available on cable and internet, will provide live, anchored coverage of the memorial service,funeral and burial, all of which will stream on ABCNEWS.com. ABCNEWS.com has also dedicated a special section, "Ted Kennedy: A Remarkable Life,"
featuring original reports, photos, slideshows, archival footage of the Kennedys and the Senator's career, and Facebook Connect.

Meteorologist Noreen Clark will also look at the heavy rain caused by Tropical Storm Danny.

I hope to see you Saturday morning, beginning at 5, and have a great weekend.

--ap

Friday, August 28, 2009

EMK

Okay, so there's a Ted Kennedy post after all. It's possible to write two obituaries.

I respect Senator Kennedy's longevity and what he accomplished for the people of Massachusetts and the United States.

His family sacrificed far more than its share. One of Senator Kennedy's brothers died in war. Two others died at the hands of assassins. Edward Moore Kennedy worked for voting rights, civil rights, health care, and a long list of other issues and causes.

From what I've read, Senator Kennedy died with great courage and dignity.

However, it's tough to get past Chappaquiddick. It's also tough for me to get past something else, and it's not getting a lot of attention this week.

Senator Kennedy ran against Jimmy Carter for the 1980 Democratic presidential nomination. Roger Mudd of CBS News interviewed Senator Kennedy in November of 1979. It was a long interview that included one simple question: "Why do you want to be president?" Kennedy botched the answer. Badly. Horribly. Inexplicably. Incoherent. To me, that spoke volumes. He should have hit that softball a mile. He had to know it was coming. It was Kennedy's moment to shine. Jimmy Carter was ripe for the picking. Kennedy's answer, or lack of one, defies analysis. Lack of judgment? Unprepared? A feeling the White House is a birthright?

In spite of it all, I still have a feeling that history will treat Senator Edward Moore Kennedy kindly.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Fairy Tales


I was going to write about Ted Kennedy, but I'll leave that up to more skilled writers. I still might visit the topic someday soon.

Something happened Tuesday that just begs for comment. Former Pittston Area School Director Joseph Oliveri appeared in federal court to plead guilty to taking a bribe from a contractor.

Oliveri's attorney called it a "reward" for his vote on a project involving the contractor, who hasn't been charged. If that wasn't enough, the attorney said Oliveri used the $1,000 to pay for his share of a Christmas party for some vo-tech school workers in Luzerne County. What a swell guy! He's Santa Claus and Robin Hood, all rolled in to one. It doesn't make a difference where the money went. It was dirty money, no matter how you look at it, and it was money Oliveri had no business possessing.

Oliveri will likely spend a year or two behind bars. He'll be sentenced in late November, in time for Christmas.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The "Come to Jesus" Meeting


I told the ultra abridged story on Newswatch 16 yesterday morning. Here's what I didn't have time to say.

To back up a moment, there's a Jesus picture in the background of a photo Joe Snedeker often uses on the air. The photo is that of Brandy, a woman who points at weather map features. Joe, Mindi, and I got into a discussion of Jesus pictures many people have in their homes. I have one, and there is a tale as to how I acquired it.

An aunt used to take me to estate auctions when I was a kid. There's one I will never forget. It was on a Saturday morning at a home on Constitution Avenue in Jessup, and it was at least 35 years ago, likely a few more. A man lost his wife. He was selling the house and most of the stuff in it. While auctions and prowling around someone's home prior to auctions can be fun, the sadness of the occasion was not lost on me.

Interested parties sat on folding chairs in the backyard for the bidding. My aunt bought some garden tools and a box of books. During the bidding, the auctioneer motioned for me to come up to the podium. He took a nicely framed Jesus picture and handed it to me. I thanked him through my surprise, and returned to my seat.

I later learned that many auctioneers don't and won't sell religious items. If memory serves, I was the youngest one there. That's why the auctioneer picked me out of the bunch, and handed me the photo, without bidding. Free.

Yes, I still have that Jesus picture.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Communication

Did you ever get the feeling you know someone, even though you've never met? We have two cases in point today.

The first is Paula Beck. She has a blog in the Allentown Morning Call. It's called "Blogging Through a Layoff." Beck is detailing her job loss, unemployment, and search for new work. I don't know how she does it, but there are more upbeat postings than depressing ones. I'm not sure I could do that. Yes, I know there are millions of Paula Beck's out there. Still, my heart goes out to her and her daughter. Been there. Not fun. I can't wait for the day to punch up the blog to learn she has a new job. Paula, good luck.

Then, there's Nick Charles. He's a boxing commentator for the Showtime cable television channel, and a good one. Before that, he was a CNN Sports anchor. I liked the way CNN did sports. It was all the news and highlights, without the ESPN style schtick and attitude. CNN got out of the sports biz several years ago, and that's unfortunate. I do realize it's tough and expensive to compete with the Worldwide Leader.

Charles recently went public with his fight against bladder cancer. I came across his e-mail address in a newspaper, and I dropped him a line. He didn't have to respond, but he did. I'm sure Nick Charles has better and more important things to do with his time than correspond with a dweeb in Scranton. It was a nice thing to do, and I wish him the best. I think I got more out of the experience than Charles did.

Both Nick Charles and Paula Beck are handling their situations better than I think I could, and that frightens me like you wouldn't believe.

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Price of Loyalty


Former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge is out with a new book, alleging there was an effort by the Bush administration to manipulate "terror alert" levels for political gain.

Former Vice President Dick Cheney also has a book on the way. Reportedly, he will outline his differences with his boss.

Ridge and Cheney aren't the first to write "tell all's" and they won't be the last. They happen all the time, regardless of party.

Here's the dilemma: Do you write a book to set the record straight and cement your place in history? OR Do you keep your mouth shut and remain loyal to your boss, the person who put you in your job, and the person who put food on the table?

Like most issues in life, follow the money. I don't think Cheney needs the cash. Ridge? I'm not so sure. This is the same guy who says he left government service to earn enough money to put his kids through school.

It looks like I'm picking on Republicans here. I'm not. It just happens that the prior administration was Team Elephant. I'm sure the same thing will occur when President Obama leaves office.

The print in the books is black and white. Life, on the other hand, has many shades of grey-- and green. The bottom line is do what your conscience says is right.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Bakeries


The Scranton Fire Department was still pouring water on the Community Bake Shop building when I stopped by yesterday morning.

I've had more than my share of "geezer" moments on the blog this week. Please, indulge me one more time.

As I watched the bakery burn early Wednesday morning, I started thinking about how sad it is to lose another bakery. There was a time when every little town had at least one bakery, at least one very good bakery.

I haven't been in a bakery in a long time. There are two reasons. Although I have a weakness for authentic bagels, cheese danish and chocolate chip cookies, I've been trying to avoid those delicacies, and the places where they're made. The other reason is that there are some really good supermarket bakeries around, and they've taken the place of the specialty shops.

Below is the view from the back of the building. The Community Bake Shop is at the left. The roof with the air conditioning units closest to the camera is that of the Steamtown Mall bridge over Lackawanna Avenue.

It's clear the building will have to come down. There's a good chance it's down by the time you read this. There's a lot of empty space in downtown Scranton. I hope the Community Bake Shop finds a new home.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Don Hewitt


"60 Minutes" creator Don Hewitt died yesterday.

Hewitt's premise when constructing "60 Minutes" was simple, and it was even the title of his book-- "Tell Me a Story." That's all-- tell me a story.

"60 Minutes" got off to a slow start in 1968. It bounced around the CBS schedule for a while. It was at a time when TV news wasn't expected to be a piggy bank for station and network owners. CBS stuck with it. The show took off when it found its footing, and it found a good time slot, Sundays at 7 PM.

"60 Minutes" wasn't known for its flashy graphics or its hype. It attracted good correspondents, photographers, and producers. It also attracted a good audience, all because someone just wanted to tell a story.

Don Hewitt had cancer. He was 86.

Yesterday was a strange day. I finally got around to watching the CBS News hour long special on Walter Cronkite that ran on the Sunday after his passing last month. Of course, Don Hewitt was prominently featured. A few minutes after powering down the TV and powering up my computer, I learned that Hewitt had passed away.

And then this morning, ABC's World News Now re-ran a Person of the Week profile of Don Hewitt from 2004. It was done on the occasion of Hewitt's retirement. The anchor in the 2004 piece was Peter Jennings, who died on August 7th of 2005.

It got me thinking. Are there any "giants" left? The short list has Dan Rather and Mike Wallace. Maybe Charlie Gibson, Diane Sawyer and Sam Donaldson. Brokaw. There aren't many, and that is sad in and of itself.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The All Nighter


Doing mediocre radio is easy. There are plenty of examples as you spin up and down the dial.

It's difficult to do radio well, especially the overnight shift.

You essentially have two choices these days. Believe it or not, a lot of the alleged "local" stuff has been voice tracked, or recorded, hours before. That leaves the live syndicated talk programs.

There is something about the overnight shift. Listeners seem to form connections to the better hosts out there, more so than the daylight hours. There are a lot of reasons. As I see it, audiences are smaller and the shows are a bit more informal. Staying up all night is an unnatural act. Hosts and listeners share the bond of being out of synch with the rest of the world.

I don't believe in UFO's and conspiracy theories, so that leaves out the largest syndicated radio talk show on the overnight hours.

That takes us to sports. In a stunning example of short sighted cheapness, the company that owns FOX Sports Radio (not FOX, by the way) cancelled it's all night show back in January. Ben Maller was the host, and a good one. He was replaced by a taped clip show, comprised of highlights from the previous 24 hours. It was awful.

As mentioned in other blogs, FSR recently grabbed Tony Bruno for the 10 PM to 1 AM slot. It slid the previous inhabitant, "JT the Brick" to the overnight hours. That's not what today's blog is all about.

FSR re-hired Maller to do weekend overnights. Even though I can't listen because I'm working, I was thrilled. Maller makes sports talk fun, and he knows how to engage the audience, how to form a connection. I sent him an e-mail the other night, and I was tickled when Ben replied.

I've been trying to think of overnight people who have developed that elusive audience connection. Only a couple come to mind. One is Joey Reynolds from WOR in New York. He also has a small network of stations around the country.

The other is Larry King. He used to do a midnight to 5:30 AM show on the Mutual Broadcasting System. The first couple hours were devoted to a guest. The rest was "Open Phone America." This was well before King moved to CNN and went Hollywood. It was a nice, simple, humble show, and audiences loved it.

As King started doing more TV, he cut back on radio, eventually giving it up altogether. I think King's only radio work these days is a simulcast of the CNN show, and TV on radio really doesn't work all that well.

I'm sure the overnight shift is not a big money maker for stations and networks, but I hope the owners realize it is important to a lot of people.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Weather Channel


The tropics are becoming active. There are a few named storms out in the Atlantic, as I write this. You know what comes next-- my annual rant against The Weather Channel.

I've always been interested in the weather, and I even kicked around being a meteorologist back in high school. That was before I heard about all the math courses you have to take. I hate math. Hello, broadcasting!

Anyway, big storms fascinate me, and I watched a few hours of The Weather Channel on Sunday.

The Weather Channel has gone beyond providing useful information and has now become a channel of endless hype. I know we engage in some of that when a snow storm approaches, but we're amateurs when compared to the overblown "frighten the viewer" machine known as The Weather Channel.

The best is yet to come. We're going to see meteorologists doing what they tell viewers not to do-- go out in the middle of a hurricane. There's no reason for it. It's silly and it's dangerous.

The Weather Channel faces the same issues that everyone else in broadcasting is dealing with-- the internet. You can get a better and faster forecast on line. The Weather Channel has to take it to the next level. That's why you see the hype, and something just as disturbing-- all those weather related documentaries.

People at The Weather Channel, just do the forecast. Please. Let Chicken Little take care of the rest.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Michael Vick

Congratulations, Philadelphia Eagles! You've landed quite a prize.

The Eagles signed Michael Vick late last week. For non sports fans, Vick is the former Atlanta Falcons quarterback who went to jail for running dog fighting rings. He admited to drowning and electrocuting some of the dogs.

I'm a firm believer in second chances, and Vick has paid his debt to society. He spent nearly two years in prison. Most experts believe Vick lost $50 million in this sorry episode.

On the other hand, I have a harder time forgiving people if they hurt kids, the elderly, or animals.

It took Michael Vick a long time to accept responsibility for what he did, and even then, the apology appeared half-hearted.

I don't buy the "he made a mistake" argument. It wasn't A mistake. It was YEARS of mistakes. He had several opportunities to turn his life around. The deciding factor in going on the straight and narrow: he got caught.


If that isn't enough, you have to wonder about the mental capacity/make up of someone who enjoyed a blood sport, including mutilation and torture of animals, for so long.

Vick attempted to defended himself by saying dog fighting was part of the southern culture, as he grew up. Hello?! Didn't this man ever go to school or college. Didn't he ever learn it was wrong?

I didn't see it, but I read about it. A reporter asked Eagles owner Jeff Lurie "If Michael Vick tortured your dog, would you want him on your team?" The news conference was ended. The reporter's question was never answered.

There was a rumor my team, the Steelers, were interested in signing Michael Vick. If that happened, I'd be looking for a new team to root for today.


Eagles, you must be very proud.

Friday, August 14, 2009

In Pursuit of Happiness



Don't get me wrong. I like money. I've tried not to let it become the overwhelming influence in my life, and I think I've succeeded.

As for Conahan, Ciavarella, Sharkey, Powell, Scarantino, Oliveri, Dunn, Height, Holly, Mericle, Costanzo, and who knows how many others, I have one question: Was it worth it?

Many on the above list will lose their freedom. All have lost their reputations. Was it worth it?

You've hurt your families. You've hurt your friends. You've hurt innocent people you don't even know. Was it worth it?

I'm trying not to preach from a moral high horse. I've made my share of mistakes. We all have. Some people just happen to make bigger, and more costly, mistakes than others. Was it worth it?

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Thursday Scrapple


Vince Sweeney has a blog. There's a "random thoughts" type entry from time to time. He's named it "The Litter Box." Great name. I wish I'd thought of it.

Thanks to noted bloggers Mark Cour and Kevin Jordan for providing links to this blog. Anything that brings in new readers is greatly appreciated, and I'm pleased to be associated with them. By the way, there's a very good list of local blogs, which I've mentioned before, at NEPA Blogs.

Paula Abdul has separated from FOX and "American Idol." There's a bidding war for her services. The only question I have is "Why?"

10,000 people attended the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees game the other night. It was nice to see a sell out.

Note to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Pioneers: You need faster post-game updates to your web site. The Pioneers play weekends. I work weekends, so I've only attended one game during the team's history, and I had a great time. Good luck in the remainder of the playoffs.

The John Madden tribute that ran this past Sunday night on NBC was very well done. It's available on You Tube.

Several weeks ago, I sang the praises of sports talk radio host Tony Bruno. FOX Sports Radio has picked up his show, "Into the Night." You can hear it weeknights at 10:00 PM. Thanks to the affiliation with FSR, you no longer need XM or the internet to hear it.

I'm considering buying an internet radio. If you have experience with them, drop me a line.

Congratulations to WNEP's Norm Jones. He was blessed with a new broadcast and a new baby in the same week. The new baby is here now. The new broadcast starts at 4:00 PM the day after Labor Day.

Sears is getting back in the toy business. Toy departments will begin appearing in a small number of stores. I don't buy toys, but I'm happy to see that. It reminds me of my youth. Sears used to have a really good toy department.

I'm ready for fall. The weather (usually) improves and a little vacation time will kick in.

USA Today recently ran a story on how Americans have become hooked on tracking their FedEX and UPS packages via internet. Guilty as charged.

Richard Nixon resigned 35 years ago this past Sunday. I remember being very happy when the news broke that Nixon would be resigning. He was a reviled character at the time. I also remember watching his farewell speech the next morning, and actually feeling sorry for him. As I've said before, the early 70's were a great time to be a kid. There were the Apollo missions, plus Nixon's groundbreaking trips to China and Russia-- places that we hadn't seem before. You wonder what Nixon could have accomplished if he didn't dirty his hands with Watergate.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Molly Brannigans

I usually formulate blogs in my head, giving them some thought before I sit down at a keyboard. I've been going back and forth over the Molly Brannigans thing for a couple of weeks. Here's what I was thinking before the restaurant closed Sunday.
Molly Brannigans occupied the corner of Lackawanna and Adams Avenue, on the first floor of a Scranton Parking Authority garage. It's been struggling for months. The Parking Authority gave management a break on the rent.

Let's go back about 20 years. Lackawanna County Stadium was new. The plan was to have concerts there when the stadium wasn't being used by the Red Barons. It was seen as a great way to attract people to the area, and help pay the debt service for the stadium.

Then, the Riverside School District smelled easy cash coming from the Moosic ballpark. It slapped an amusement tax on the tickets. Concert promoter Thom Greco said that couldn't and wouldn't work. Greco claimed promoters work on small margins. An amusement tax would put the operation in the red, and no one can afford to be there. Greco proposed giving the school district some money, but not as much as it would have collected by the amusement tax. In an interview with me, while I was working down the street, Greco said "A little bit of something is better than a lot of nothing."

Okay. Now that we've established that, let's move back to present time. In giving Molly Brannigans a break, the Parking Authority reasoned that a little bit of something is better than a lot of nothing. Reduced rent would still give the authority some money, while the old rent would have forced the restaurant to close. The Parking Authority would have received nothing for the empty space.

I can live with that.

On the other hand...

If you give a break to one business, it's only fair to do it for the rest. Once you open that door and walk through, there is no going back. I suspect it's the reason the Scranton Parking Authority tried to keep the revised rent agreement out of the newspaper. The SPA didn't want its other tenants running up with their hands out. A lot of people were up in arms over the Parking Authority/Molly Brannigans deal, and I can understand their anger. There are a lot of businesses who have invested in the city. They've been here in good times and bad. Where's their deal? What about the people who park in the SPA's lots and garages, who have to pay some steep rates? Yes, it stinks, but no one said life is fair.

So, if that isn't enough, Molly Brannigans closed Sunday night. A company executive was quoted in the newspaper as saying the restaurant simply wasn't making money here. Why?

I've never been there, but after talking with friends, the consensus is there's too much competition. Plus, the fare was average at best, and a little too expensive for the market.

I don't want to kick someone while they're down, and I feel sorry for the people who've lost their jobs, but those faux Irish pub places never worked for me. It didn't have an authentic feel.

Also, a person with the Parking Authority was quoted as saying he's already heard from businesses interested in that space. Let's hope they can pay the rent-- all the rent.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Bridge Update

NOW



THEN



The West Lackawanna Avenue, Scranton bridge has been under construction for 13 months now, and it looks like a fall opening is right on schedule.

This is actually more than a construction project. It's a "reconstruction" project. The old arches couldn't be saved. Everything here is new.

It costs more than $5 million, and it appears to be money well spent. West Lackawanna Avenue is one of the gateways to downtown, and for many years, it looked awful.

I'm looking forward to the new bridge. You don't realize how oftern you use a street and a bridge, until it's closed. However, the detour wasn't that long. It's a minor nuisance, and it's almost over.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Solving the Mystery


Okay. I promise to give the Paramount building mystery a rest for a while... after today.

To bring you up to speed, I could never figure out why there was a big Paramount Pictures tile, apparently original, above a building on State Street in Wilkes-Barre.

A former local movie theater manager has come to the rescue. He believes Paramount had an accounting department in that building. It goes back to the time when every little town in the area had a movie theater, and sometimes more than one.

There are others involved in trying to unravel the mystery, so bear with me if there's an update or two in the weeks to come.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Honoring the Past


Tomorrow, Sunday, August 9, is Coal Miners' Day in Olyphant.

The statue, which you see above, will be formally dedicated. A concrete wall and plaque are also going up here, along the Lackawanna River.

The ceremony starts at 2:00 PM. There's a concert an hour later, followed by snacks at the American Legion.

I've long thought we've dwelled a bit too much on our mining past, at the expense of our future. There's an art to the whole thing. It's important to recognize what put our region on the map, but it's even more important to move forward. The goings-on in Olyphant are a good way to do that.

Stop by if you're in the neighborhood. Everything is free.

Friday, August 7, 2009

TCMC


Our area has more than its share of professional nay-sayers, and yes, I do count myself as an occasional member of that group. I look at it like this-- the complaining keeps you on your toes.

Having said that, it is overwhelmingly refreshing to see the Scranton area support and embrace something-- The Commonwealth Medical College.

Students arrive this weekend. I showed you a couple construction site photos here a couple weeks ago. Until the new building is ready, TCMC operates out of Lackawanna College on Vine Street.

I found this banner hanging over Spruce Street, just off the Central Scranton Expressway.

TCMC could have a huge economic impact on the area, and not just Scranton. There are satellite operations in Wilkes-Barre and Williamsport. It's nice to see the area get behind something positive.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

The Mall at Steamtown


Everyone's been yammering about the problems at The Mall at Steamtown in Scranton, so you knew it was only a matter of time before I opened my yap.

Just to bring you up to speed for a moment, excluding Boscov's and Bon Ton, one-third of the mall is empty.

Of course, a lot of it can be blamed on the bad economy, but you can't escape the fact that The Mall at Steamtown's vacancy rate is much higher than the national average.

There are a lot of reasons. I'm hearing some people are afraid of the groups of kids that congregate here. They may look scary, but they're generally harmless.

Then, there's the marketing and advertising. I've never seen the mall, as a whole, present a compelling reason to shop there. Boscov's and Bon Ton advertise quite a bit.

If you shop at The Mall at Steamtown, you have to park in a garage. There's a perception, true or not, that parking garages are less safe. I've been in the garage many, many times. It's clean. The same cannot be said for the garage above the movie theaters across the street. The garage is filthy, with graffiti and bird dung everywhere. The other garage is a Parking Authority issue, not a mall issue-- but, it is guilt by association.

This is one of the smaller malls in the area. Fewer stores. Less choice.

The food court never took off.

If you venture out on the pedestrian bridge, toward the Steamtown National Historic Site, you get a nice view of a pile of rusting, rotting junk.

It's a little late for this argument, but should the mall have been there in the first place? The mall replaced a string of decaying buildings. They had to come down. The repair money wasn't there. No one had a really do-able plan until the mall came along. Downtowns are no longer retail centers, and it was that way even as The Mall at Steamtown was conceived. Downtowns are offices, hospitals, and government-- and the small businesses that cater to them. Other than an entertainment district or two, most downtowns clear out after sundown. It's unfortunate, but it's a fact.

We've looked at the problem. Now, the solution. It's not easy. Retail is dead for the foreseeable future. Even after the economy recovers, it will be changed, and retail will no longer be that sure fire gold mine.

Mall management is looking to lease its available space to non traditional mall tenants, like offices and maybe a gym. That's a start.

There has been some resistance to the University of Scranton becoming part of the downtown. Drop that resistance. What you lose in tax revenue, you make up in bodies-- bodies who spend.

And, you just might have to face the fact that anything you do now is only a stall, a delay of the inevitable, and the day the mall has to go.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Paramount Follow Up


The "Paramount Pictures" logo atop a State Street, Wilkes-Barre building remains a mystery. See Friday's blog for the backgrounder.

A couple friends are attempting to point me in the right direction. One suggested trying to find Duard Slattery. He's a local film expert and historian. If anyone knows, Slattery should. If you know his whereabouts, please drop me a line.

Another friend did some checking with the veterans of the F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts, the former Paramount Theater. One theory is this was a distribution center for Paramoung films when there were many theaters in the Wyoming Vallay and Northeastern Pennsylvania.

Someone has to know something. Thanks for the help.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Pocono Traffic


It was cars as far as the eye could see Monday morning in Monroe County.

The Pennsylvania 500 was rained out Sunday. It was moved to Monday. Take all that race traffic, and add it to normal weekday commuter/business/resident traffic, and you have an absolute nightmare. See picture above.

Pocono Raceway has a huge economic impact on the area. Racing puts us on the map two weekends a year. It's great.

However, Route 115, and even Interstate 80 aren't built for all that traffic.

Should the state build new roads for two weekends a year? Not in the current economic climate, and maybe not ever.

Should the track kick in some cash, in addition to taxes. Possibly and probably.

Do people want a superhighway running through a normally peaceful area? Absolutely not.

It is the perfect storm in more than one respect-- a perfect storm of events that caused all that traffic on a Monday morning, and a perfect storm of reasons why there's unlikely to be an easy solution.

Monday, August 3, 2009

A Pair of C's


All I wanted was a pair of C's. Two. That's it. The batteries in a portable radio died.

There were a few other things I needed, so I headed to WalMart. It had tons of choices. All bad. It came down to four Duracells for $6 or six Rayovacs for the same $6. It's a portable radio, not a pacemaker, so I wanted cheap. I bought the Rayovacs.

I shopped in America's largest retailer, and there wasn't a two-pack of batteries in the entire store.

At least I helped the economy of Madison, WI by buying four batteries I didn't need... and I have my portable radio back.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Thurman Munson

It was one of those "remember where you were when..." moments. I was on the living room couch thirty years ago, August 2nd, watching WDAU's 5:30 PM news, when I learned Thurman Munson was killed in a plane crash in Ohio.

I wasn't a Yankee fan, but I grew up in a house filled with them. My friends were Yankee fans, and I made a few trips to Yankee Stadium as a kid. Yankees' games were on TV at least four times a week. Thurman Munson was a familiar face.

He was part of a Yankees team filled with character and characters. They fought with each other, but they won. Personality. Entertaining. Never a dull moment.

Munson bought his plane so he could visit his family back in Ohio on off days. He was practicing take offs and landings at the time of the crash. I've read Munson wasn't the most likable guy, but he gets major points in my book for attempting to spend as much time with the wife and kids as possible.

The Yankees limped to the finish line in 1979. The Pirates and the Orioles wound up in the World Series that year. It broke the Yankees streak of three straight World Series appearances. The series that year wasn't the same.

Thirty years have passed in an instant.