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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Beginning or the End?

Congratulations to the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees for drawing big crowds this weekend, and winning the International League North Division.  Now, it's on the playoffs.

Want to see a game?  Good luck.  I looked on the team's web site after the team clinched the title, and I finally gave up yesterday afternoon at 2.  Unless it's well hidden, I couldn't find one word on playoff tickets.  I did see something on a FaceBook page, saying post season ticket information has been mailed to season ticket holders.  I'm not a FaceBook person or a season ticket holder, so I'm up the crick, as they say in the old neighborhood.

The organization that runs the team has to go down as the least fan friendly in the history of professional sports.

And, if that isn't enough, Luzerne County is suing Lackawanna County over the deal Lackawanna County cut to potentially sell the team.  Luzerne County says it still owns half, and it's not going along with the agreement pushed through by former Lackawanna County Commissioner Bob Cordaro.

This has been a mess, almost from day one.  First, the stadium operation became a place to put your political buddies on the payroll.  The Phillies got tired of the politics and left.  Then, Lackawanna County sold its soul to get the Yankees on board.  This is what you have-- a team nearly last in International League attendance, concern over the franchise leaving town, a stadium in need of repair, and everyone in the outside world having a good laugh at the expense of NEPA.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Options

One of my favorite phrases is one I borrowed from my late, great radio co-worker, Mr. Guy Randall.  I'd be sitting in the WARM newsroom, stewing over and fretting about some personal issue.  Guy would bring it all into focus by simply asking "What are your options?"

The old zoo building at Nay Aug Park in Scranton is being turned into a visitors' center.  Above is a shot of the zoo when Toni the elephant still roamed her tiny enclosure, before she was shipped out of town.  This photo, one of mine, is more than twenty years old.  Toni passed away a few years ago.

A wildlife center here disappeared a year or so ago.

Do we really need a visitors' center?  No.  What are your options?  There are none, so let's get to work on the visitors' center.

Lackawanna College wanted to do something here. Those plans fell through.  Lackawanna seemed more interested in developing the long-neglected Pine Brook section of the city.  By the way, I drove through Pine Brook Friday morning.  What happened to those plans?  It's part of the city that clearly needs a lot of TLC.

If the visitors' center comes off as envisioned, there'll be a little history lesson, directions to the park's attractions, gift shop, and rest rooms.

Hey, it's better than the only other option-- watching the building crumble and rust away.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Bad Photography Sunday

If this looks a lot like a photo that appeared in this space a few weeks ago, you're right.

This is the train tracks at Gouldsboro.  Back on the 1st, I gave the view looking south.  This is how it looks off to the north.

You had to be there, and the photo really doesn't do justice to the scene-- but it looks like the tracks stretch in a straight line into infinity.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Bad Photography Saturday

You can't go wrong with trees, water, and a nice reflection...  I took this one recently at a lake, just south of Lake Scranton, along Route 307.

Friday, August 27, 2010

An Ill Wind

I've taken a few shots (the non photographic kind) at Marywood University over the years.  Hey, I'm a graduate.  I'm allowed.  Most of my unhappiness stems from Marywood's seemingly never ending willingness to take government hand outs for less than worthwhile projects.  The University has also gone on a building spree as of late that runs the danger of changing the character of the campus.  Thankfully, most of the new construction is on the outskirts of the property.  The heart remains the same, but you have to wonder when they'll mess with that.  It's just a matter of time.

I do have to give Marywood credit for at least one thing.  This is the new wind turbine that will power lights and facilities at the new athletic fields.  You can see if from Interstate 81, and it seems to be located in a place where it won't bother anyone.  Green is good.

There is one other college related issue that really needs airing today.  It has nothing to do with Marywood, the University of Scranton, Kings, Wilkes, Lackawanna, Misericordia, LCCC, Penn State, or any of the others as institutions.

A bar in Scranton and another in Wilkes-Barre, apparently owned by the same outfit, are giving out free drinks, for two hours, as "welcome back" gift to college students.  This is the same organization that offered free cigarettes to celebrate smokers' freedom.

Where's the outrage?  It's not going to come from the newspapers.  They don't want to torque off an advertiser.  It's not going to come from city officials.  They don't want to get on the bad side of downtown businesses because bars are one of the few downtown "industries" left.

Some Wilkes-Barre city officials recently went nuts because a Public Square news stand wanted to sell beer.  Selling it to some guy who wants to guzzle a 40 is wrong.  Giving it away to young people who might not be able to handle it is okay.  How about a brew to wash down all that hypocrisy?

Where's MADD?  Where's SADD?  Where are the all groups who feared the end of the world because supermarkets and mini marts want to sell six packs?

I have no problem with the responsible use of alcohol, but giving two hours worth of free drinks to college kids stretches the bounds of reasonable behavior.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Here We Go Again

I've delivered this lecture before:  It's a court of law, not a court of justice.  A trial is not a search for the truth.  It's a judgement of evidence.

A jury in Wayne County Tuesday night decided there wasn't enough evidence to show Jeffrey Plishka killed Laura Ronning in 1991.  I watched and read stories on the testimony.   The defense presented more than enough "reasonable doubt."  The prosecution's case was far from perfect.  It takes a lot for a jury to send someone to prison for life, or impose the death penalty.

Was there some evidence Plishka is responsible for the murder?  Certainly.  Was there enough evidence for a conviction, beyond that "reasonable doubt?"  No.

Remember, there is a difference between "innocent" and "not guilty."

One can only imagine what the Ronning family is going through right now.  They lost a beautiful young woman 19 years ago.  Now, they watch as the man they believe killed Laura walks out of jail a free man.

Jeffrey Plishka gets his life back.

Wayne County's district attorney says the case is closed.  There is no sense continuing the investigation because the man they truly believe is the killer has been tried and found not guilty.  The prosecution can't appeal.  They don't get a second chance.

It's over.  Forever.  And forever is a very long time.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Well, It's a Little Better

ABC started using a new set for "World News" Monday night.

It's bigger, lighter, and airier than the old one.  Designers say it makes for easier conversation between anchor Diane Sawyer and the correspondents.  The desk is bigger, so more people can get crammed in there during elections and other special events.

It's about time.  I always thought the old set made Sawyer (and Charles Gibson before her) look like they were broadcasting out of a shoe box.  Even though the new set is an improvement, it still falls short of the big, bright, impressive newsroom set used during the Peter Jennings era.

Having said all that, I never met a viewer who chose a newscast based on the furniture.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

How?

I want Jennifer Aniston's agent.  Seriously.  I really do.  The vast majority of her movies bomb.  The latest, "The Switch," opened this weekend.   It placed 8th on the weekend box office list.  8th!!!

Despite a horrible track record, the woman still gets work.

I can't figure it out.  Pretty.  Talented.  Yet, no one goes out of their way to view her films.  Does she choose bad projects?  Likely. 

Even a blind hog finds an acorn once in a while.  Aniston has yet to find that elusive nut.  Her biggest hit, in recent memory, was "Marley & Me," and a dog was the real star of that one.

It has to come down to this-- Jennifer Aniston has a killer agent, one who scores her big movie roles and great paychecks, even though the viewing public cares little about what she does.

I don't begrudge Jennifer Aniston one bit.  In fact, I'm a big fan.  Anyone who keeps hitting financial home runs while striking out at the box office is okay by me.

I never watched "Friends."  To me, it was just a half hour of a bunch of people and their incessant whining-- just like "Seinfeld," another series I religiously avoided and detested.

Jen, I'm looking forward to your next big thing, and I hope it's a big success.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Your Time is Up

Most schools re-open one week from today.  Way back when, when I was in school, I used to engage in a silly little game, beginning in early August.  I'd try to get up a little earlier, every week, so the return to a school schedule wouldn't be such a shock to my system.

It never worked.

If you're going to get up earlier, you have to get to sleep earlier.  That was the fly in the ointment.  I was always out in the evening, hanging with my friends.  Nothing major-- just sitting on the front porch, watching the world go by, and walking around town for a closer look.

There was only one way to handle the new school schedule-- cold turkey.  The first couple weeks would be rough, but you'd eventually adjust.

You had to do it the old fashioned way.  There was no Ambien or Lunesta for evenings, no Red Bull or 5 Hour Energy for the morning.

After the adjustment was made, you realized it wasn't so bad.  Only nine more months until the end of the school year.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Bad Photography Sunday

This is downtown Scranton on a recent, quiet, cloudy, Sunday morning.  I'm standing on a railroad bridge over Cedar Avenue.  That's Adams Avenue straight ahead.  The Hilton is on the right.  The parking garage, that stands where the Hotel Casey once did, is on the left.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Bad Photography Saturday


When I think of Olyphant, I think of three things.  The first is my old school, and I've written more than enough about that recently.

Second, growing up, it seemed there was a bar on every corner.  Many of the bars remain.  I'm not complaining.

The third is the abundance of spectacular churches in that mid valley community.  Above is All Saints Orthodox Church on Willow Street.  You can't take your eyes off the blue domes on top.  The church was damaged by fire a few years back.  It's nice to know a very nice building was renovated and is still around.

In respect to accuracy, Ss. Cyril and Methodius Church just down the street will pop up on a Bad Photography Saturday in the weeks to come.  I know the pointed things on top of Catholic churches are called "steeples."  I called Ss. Cyril and Methodius to find out the proper term for the rounded structures on top of Orthodox and Russian churches.  I've heard "bulbs."  I've heard "onions."  I wanted to be both respectful and correct.  The person at the church told me to use the word "domes."  So, "domes," it is.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Electric City Sunrise



I have a really good camera and tripod that I use for my photographic expeditions.  There's a smaller, less expensive camera that I keep in my work brief case.  This photograph came from the latter.  I wish I had the big camera with me.  This could have been a fantastic shot.  It's the Scranton Electric building, and some others on Linden Street, just before sunrise Tuesday morning.  The pointy thing off to the left is city hall.  The sky was a wonderful mix of pink and blue, with just a few wispy clouds.

We're heading in to one of the last weekends of summer, so let's begin the weekend with a harmless photo rather than the weightier issues of the day.

See you tomorrow.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Thursday Scrapple

Dr. Laura Schlesinger is leaving her radio show at the end of the year.  America rejoices.  Dr. Laura has been catching a lot of heat recently over her use of the "N-word" on her show.  When you're on the air hundreds of hours a year, eventually, you're going to make a mistake.  She realized that and apologized.  Unlike Imus, Dr. Laura does not have a history of racially insensitive remarks.  I can't stand the woman, but get off her back.

There's a big debate over Tiger Woods getting a slot on America's Ryder Cup team.  Mixed feelings.  Tiger brings in the viewers and ups the interest.  On the other hand, he's had a bad year on-and-off the course.  There are other golfers more deserving of a spot on the Ryder Cup team.

I am so sick of Brett Favre.

I'm not surprised the government failed to secure a conviction on most of the charges facing Rod Blagojevich.

I've been trying to figure out why I've been so cranky lately.  I can only think of the excessive heat and a lack of sleep.  There is a little more vacation time coming my way after Labor Day.

Most of my Tuesday was spent at the Lackawanna Courthouse in Scranton.  I still can't get used to what they've done to that place, inside and outside.

Does the government forecaster who predicted a more active than normal hurricane season still have his job?

The issues concerning the fate of the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees continues to get a lot of ink.  Some of the people who caused the problems are now the ones leading the call for change.  If they hadn't messed things up in the first place, we wouldn't be in the position we're in now.  It's been one bad decision after another.

It seems like this year's skunk crop is bigger than normal.

While I'm looking forward to fall, I do experience a twinge of sadness when I see the first leaves change color.  Maybe it's the inner kid in me looking to get out, and realizing the new school year is approaching.  There were years, a long time ago, when I wished summer would last forever.

I bought a new photo editing program yesterday.  All I have to do now is figure out how to use it.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

99 44/100 % Pure

Joe Snedeker and I got into a discussion over the weekend that even continued into Monday.  Joe was thrilled that he found some allegedly fantastic "body wash" at one of the dollar stores.  The stuff works on everything-- hair and skin, and he even shaves with it.  Joe offered to get me some.  I declined, but I was intrigued.  My first question was the scent.  Joe couldn't describe it.  Instead, he offered to let me sniff him.  Pass.

I assume you've been to a drug store or a big box discount store lately.  There is an astounding number of choices-- bars, creams, gels, etc.  For a long time, one simple factor dominated the decision making process:  "What's on sale?"

There's a product that's been around for decades that accomplishes much more than Joe's body wash.  It's called Ivory Soap.  It's inexpensive.  It smells nice, and you can use it everywhere.  I mean everywhere.

It might not be cool.  It might not be hip.   You can find it in any store.   It's cheap and it works, and that's all I really care about.

Smell you later.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Twitter Me This

It you want to spend your time Twittering or messing with your FaceBook page, go nuts.  Enjoy it.  Have fun!

I personally find them a monumental waste of time, but I'm sure you view some of the things I do as first class stupidity.  It's what makes America great.

Here's what puts FaceBook and Twitter head and shoulders above every other trivial pursuit.  There is now an entire class of people who view the "social media" as some sort of art and science.  They're something that should be studied, analyzed, and maximized to promote yourself and your business.

Collecting baseball cards used to be harmless fun for kids-- until the adults got involved and tried to use it as a money making venture.  I fear Twitter and FaceBook are headed for the same fate.    A cute little way to keep in touch with friends has now become big business-- one that's the subject of college courses for people who apparently can't think of something meaningful to study.

I've done my best to embrace most of the new technologies that come down the pike.  I own a smart phone, LED light bulbs, a digital camera, an iPod, the new pomegranate flavor of 5 Hour Energy, a satellite radio, a Magic Jack, buckwheat pillow,  five bladed razor, and two ply toilet paper.  You can keep your Twitter and FaceBook, and you can also keep your people who take those things far too seriously.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Free Parking

At first, I didn't think it was a bad idea-- parking meters on Mattes Ave. and River St. in Scranton.  Workers at General Dynamics and other downtown businesses were using the spaces here, for free, for years.  It didn't seem fair.  People parking here got a free ride, while others were forced to swallow regular fee increases, courtesy of the Scranton Parking Authority.  It could be reasoned that if the city had more meters, everyone would pay less.

I forgot that this is Scranton.  My bad.

I was told a long time ago that "a little bit of something is better than a lot of nothing."  The city started enforcing the meters one week ago.  Above, River St. on Friday morning,  is what you have-- a lot of nothing.  The people who used to park here have gone elsewhere-- into the residential neighborhoods, and that has the people there steamed.  They now have to fight for spaces in front of their own homes and apartments.

The issue goes deeper than parking.  I used to work in a building on Lackawana Avenue.  The owner of my business provided spaces in a lot on South Washington Avenue.  It was a nice little perk.  It made you feel valued as an employee.  A new owner came in, and free parking was out.  So was the agreement with a company to keep a couple stocked medicine cabinets in the office.  If they weren't going to provide Band Aids, rubbing alcohol, and Tylenol, sure as heck they weren't going to pay for employee parking.  I should go back and check my old pay stubs to see if there was a deduction for using the company's toilet paper.  Thankfully, air to breathe was free.


There has to be room for some rational thought here.  If you run General Dynamics or one of the other downtown businesses, throw your workers a bone, if you can afford it.  Give them a hand with parking.

City officials have to drop the rates at these meters and the others around the city.  Rememeber when Jim McNulty was mayor?  No meters.  You got two hours of free parking.  The plan looked good on paper.  It was meant to encourage people to shop downtown.  Unfortunately, a lot of downtown workers sucked up the spaces, and the city got into a complicated money crunch-- one it still faces.  The meters eventually returned.

Drop the fees at the garages.  Promote long term parking in the garages to keep the metered spaces available for shoppers and people doing business in the city.  Yes, I realize that parking garage construction and maintenance is expensive.  The money has to come from somewhere.

Shoppers have a lot of choices these days.  Free parking is a factor, although, admittedly, it hasn't helped the Mall at Steamtown a lot.  Businesses have their choice of locations.  Make it easy on employees and customers.  Have a place for them to park.  The latest meter debacle has the smell of an anti business climate, and no one can afford that.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Bad Photography Sunday

You knew I couldn't go through an entire weekend without a railroad connected photo.  This is the signal tower, along the tracks that run behind Lackawanna Avenue in Scranton.  I especially love the arched roof over the door on the right side of the building.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Bad Photography Saturday

I wish I could tell you more about this, but right now, I really can't.

Let's go to the beginning.  This is a collection of objects, at campus circle, at East Stroudsburg University.

A Google search reveals very little information.  A Wikipedia entry says this Stonehenge type collection has the name of Stroudhenge.

One of my happier blog moments took place at ESU a couple years ago.  I was on campus doing a story on labor problems between the faculty union and the state.  It was the middle of summer, but we managed to find a class in session.  The professor teaching a math course looked rather stern.  I thought for sure the answer would be "no" when I asked for permission to shoot some video of the class for my story.  Hey, you miss 100 per cent of the shots you never take.  I asked.  The professor granted permission.  She added that she's a blog reader, especially for the Bad Photography posts.  The statement left me flattered and surprised at the same time.  I was invited back in the fall, when a nice campus looks even nicer after the trees pick up some color.  I never did make it back for that fall visit.  Maybe this will be the year.

A check of the ESU web site, shows that professor, Mary Ann Matras, is still on board.  I hope she continues to be a blog reader.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Media Notes

I'm currently reading "Morning Miracle."  It's a fascinating look at how the Washington post is struggling to stay afloat in the internet age.  Print circulation is down, and no one has really found a way to make serious money off the internet.  If you're looking for a good read, this is it.

"At the Movies" airs for the last time this weekend.  This is the movie review program that Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert started on a Chicago Public TV station in 1975.  It moved to commercial television and it had a few different syndicators over the years.  Siskel died from a bran tumor in 1998.  Ebert had to step aside due to health problems.  Even though this is a show about movies, it's really built upon the charisma of the hosts.  The replacements didn't get it done, and efforts to tinker with the format made it worse.  I think there are a couple movie review programs on a cable channel called Reelz, but other than that, there's not a serious movie review program on television, and that's unfortunate.  The final "At the Movies" airs Sunday morning at 3 on WNEP.

In a boneheaded move, FOX Sports Radio dumped morning host Steve Czaban back in December.  Outside of the hours of 10 pm to 6 am, the network has become unlistenable.  Czaban has signed on to do mornings on Sporting News Radio beginning late this month, or early next month.  Sporting News Radio was a train wreck for years.  It has a new owner who seems interested in making it work.  SNR doesn't have a local affiliate, but the network does stream on the internet.

I encountered some grumbling viewers over Tuesday's coverage of Bill Clinton's campaign appearance on behalf of Joe Sestak.  It's as simple as this.  If Pat Toomey brings in a former president, we won't ignore it.  There is no bias.

Newspaper paragraph of the week:  County planning staff called for more information from Stroud Mall L.L.C. about lighting changes on the building's exterior. Cinemark theaters across the country generally use wall pack lighting.  Does someone care to explain what "wall pack" lighting is, and why I should care?

As you know, I have zero interest in "American Idol" and even less interest in who comes on board to be a judge.  Discussion of the topic on the radio immediately prompts a station switch.

Enjoy your weekend.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Honesdale, PA, USA

I always liked Honesdale.  The town holds a lot of memories.  I remember my dad taking me along on a coal delivery when I was a pup, and it was the place where I cut my teeth as a street reporter.

The year was 1982, and I was approaching my first anniversary at WARM.  The news director sent me to a murder trial in Honesdale.  I'm ashamed to say that I don't remember the names of the people involved, but I do remember being totally lost.  Believe me when I tell you-- real life court is nothing like "Matlock."  I'd phone in reports on the testimony every couple hours.  Terry McNulty was one of the news anchors back then.  There were many times he'd tell me to do it again and point out what could be done better.  I learned a lot that week.

While the names escape me, I do remember picking up the rhythm of the proceedings.  I could smell when one of the sides was going to "object" to something.  I also recall sensing holes in the prosecution's case.  Even the kid got this one right.  The trial ended with an acquittal.  Unfortunately, I wasn't there when the verdict came down.  I was working on something else back in the studio.

I took the above picture Monday morning.  You have to love a town with an actual "working" fountain in the middle of it.  Are you listening, Wilkes-Barre?  It was my first trip to Honesdale since a couple very busy streets were made "one way."  During a break, I walked a couple blocks from the courthouse to a cluster of passenger rail cars.  I thought I'd get killed crossing the streets, but something amazing hapened.  Cars actually stopped when I entered the crosswalk!  Of course, this was a weekday morning.  I'd have to get a look at weekend afternoon traffic, which is always a bear, to see how the system really works.

Why was I in Honesdale Monday?  For another murder trial.  Victim:  Laura Ronning.  Accused:  Jeffrey Plishka.  It's a sad story, involving a very pretty young woman, in a beautiful part of Northeastern Pennsylvania.  We won't know how this one plays out for another few weeks.

By the way, I did take some rail car pictures.  I'll bore you with them someday soon.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

PILOT

PILOT = payment in lieu of taxes.  It's something tax exempt organizations offer to their host municipalities-- money for police and fire protection and other services.

I cannot stress this enough: THIS IS NOT JUST A SCRANTON ISSUE.

The great Paul Harvey used to say businesses don't pay taxes.  They just pass that along to the consumer.  PILOT rings a similar bell.

There's a move afoot, in many places, to get tax exempt organizations to provide more PILOT money.  Where does it come from?
Above is the University of Scranton's under construction science building.  This shot was taken along the tracks, behind the Radisson.

Can the University provide more PILOT money?  Probably.  Where do you draw the line?  Do you force the U to pay so much that it  has to raise tuition?  More tuition means less creature comfort money for students, less pizza and beer, and clothes at the mall.  So,  the little guy at the corner pizza shop gets hurt.  Mall stores make less money.  Workers get laid off.  Are you happy now?

There is no free lunch.

The University's purchase of several properties in its neighborhood, taking them off the tax rolls is another story for another time.

Religion is also an easy target.  Do you want to tell some homeless guy at the soup kitchen that we can't feed him today because expenses have gone up?  Cut social services to the people who need them most.    Then, that man has to rely on more government assistance.  How much are you saving?  Extreme?  Maybe.

An increase in PILOT money might give property owners a little bit of a break, and we all know they need one-- badly.

The bottom line is there is a finite supply of money.  There is only so much to go around, and PILOT money has to come from somewhere.  Pick the withdrawl pocket.  Pick the destination.  If you save it in one area, you'll pay more in another.
I have to note an excellent story in last week's Scranton Sunday Times.  It noted that General Dynamics, a private company, pays no taxes because the plant, above, is on federally owned land.

Nearly 350 people work at the Scranton plant.  Will the company cut payroll to increase the PILOT contribution?  I doubt it, but you never know.  Should General Dynamics kick in a decent amount?  Clearly.

Do you remember what happened when the luxury tax was increased.  It was meant to go after big income people, the ones who buy big cars and boats.  Sales of those things went down.  The people who MADE and SOLD luxury items got hurt, and they lost their jobs.  Satisfied?

The key here is not to further squeeze what we have.  It's to make the tax system fair.  There are too many ways out, too many ways to cheat the system.  If everyone pays what they're supposed to pay, it can be argued that we'd all pay less.  And, we have to stop penalizing people for saving and investing.

We've reached critical mass.  The current system cannot continue.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

What Happened?

Molly Brannigans pub at Lackawanna and Adams in downtown Scranton closed one year ago.

The owner left town, leaving behind a trail of unpaid bills.

In a recent Erie newspaper story, he blamed the allegedly hideous economic climate in Scranton for the pub's demise.  I was never there, but I rarely heard anything good about the place.

Like most things, the truth lies somewhere in the middle.  I'm sure the depressed situation in Scranton played a role in the closing.  High prices, mediocre food, and bad service were also likely factors.

What's done is done.  One of my former stock brokers used to say that's "dead money" and it's time to move on and look forward.

A Mexican restaurant was announced for the site, with great fanfare.  The operation was even granted a temporary liquor license, so it could take advantage of St. Patrick's Day parade crowds.

Where's the restaurant?

Monday, August 9, 2010

Skrepenak

There are times when it is best to wait a little while before writing an analysis piece, and I'm glad I had a few days to think about the sentence handed down to former Luzerne County Commissioner Greg Skrepenak on Friday.

A federal judge sent Skrepenak to jail for two years.  So many things here just don't make sense, and most of them come from the defense table.

Let's start with the defendant, Greg Skrepenak.  You and I might call it a bribe.  Skrepenak insists it's "corrupt receipt of a gift."  At least everyone agrees on something:  "corrupt."

Skrepenak told the Wilkes-Barre Times~Leader “I can’t tell you the feeling that a father has when you’re levied a sentence and I could hear my daughter crying,”   First, that's the chance you take when you make your children part of the process.  Skrepenak himself opened the door to it when he argued for leniency, based on his single parenthood.  You can have sympathy for the kids.  As for dad, I'll let you decide that one.

Skrepenak also made a plea for leniency based on health problems.  The last time I checked, prisons had doctors.

The guilty plea stemmed from a $5,000 break on closing costs on his Jenkins Township townhouse.  Let's take a look at that one.  At the time he was charged, Skrepenak said he didn't know he did anything wrong.  As I noted in the past, Skrepenak was afforded an education many people in our area can only dream about.  I guess ethics wasn't part of the Michigan curriculum.

The federal government contends Skrepenak took much more than the $5,000.  It was a factor in the sentence.  Skrepenak denies it.  Then, he should have pleaded "not guilty" and gone on trial to set the record straight.  After all, you are innocent until proven guilty.  Thankfully, people accused of crimes still have rights in the U.S.A.  I really wish the federal government will unseal all the records one day, so we have a good idea of how many thieves we have among us.

Skrepenak's father lashed out at a radio talk show host in particular, and the media in general at Friday's sentencing.  There were a few words for the judge as well.  I wish you could see me raising my hand here.  I remember this one from Sr. Mary Talbot Kelleher's 1980 Marywood College psychology class:  transference.  Skrep's father is angry at his son and the situation, and he transferred that anger to the media.  It helps you understand what happened.  It doesn't make it right.  It also shows a lack of respect for the court.

Skrepenak the younger was also quoted as saying he forgives the people who "betrayed" him.  Are you kidding me?  Really?  What about those people who voted for Skrepenak the Reformer?  How do you think those people feel?  I have an answer for you.  Betrayed.

We all make mistakes.  Granted and accepted.  We all deserve opportunities for forgiveness and second chances.  However, Skrepenak's actions do not look like mistakes, but rather calculated attempts to squeeze as much money out of a public job as possible, without regard to the people who put him into office.  There were apparently many enablers along the way.  Some charged.  Others, uncharged.

Skrepenak added to the Times~Leader that he's glad to be out of the public arena.  He's not the only one who feels that way.

I'm not a FaceBook guy, like Skrepenak, so I'll renew the invitation here.  Any time Greg Skrepenak wants to talk to tell us exactly what happened and why, I'm here for you.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Bad Photography Sunday





This is another view of Public Square in downtown Wilkes-Barre, a little lower and closer to the street than yesterday's view.

Those familiar with Wilkes-Barre will recognize that this picture was taken on a Thursday morning because the set up for the weekly Farmers' Market is underway.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Bad Photography Weekend

Public Square in Wilkes-Barre is an ihteresting place.  The buildings are a mix of old and new.  The traffic flow can throw you off a bit, but it's okay once you get used to it.  It's a good looking space in the middle of town, and a lot of cities would kill for that.

This view is from the new intermodal parking garage, looking north and west.

There'll be another view of the square tomorrow.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Peter Jennings

My first vacation week of 2010 is coming to an end.  It's back to work tonight at 11.

So what did I do with my time off?  The answer is "not much" and I'm not complaining.

First, there was plenty of sleep.  Toss in a few drives and and some bad photography, and that's about it.

I also read a lot.  I completed "Peter Jennings:  A Reporter's Life."  Tomorrow marks the fifth anniversary of Jennings' passing from lung cancer.  My reading of the book and the anniversary are not related.  My week off finally gave me the time I needed to finish the book.

We always learn so much about a person after their death.  While it helps celebrate their life, it's also unfortunate.  We could have appreciated them so much more when they were living.  We all knew of Jennings' career track-- Canada, ABC anchor, foreign correspondent, London anchor, and finally solo anchor of what was then called "World News Tonight."  The book was fascinating.  I learned how Jennings fought for more foreign coverage, and to get more documentaries on the air.  You also become more aware of what made him tick.  He had his share of struggles, just like the rest of us.

ABC's overnight news frequently runs time capsule pieces featuring some of Jennings' work.  Even more clips are on You Tube.   As I watch that video now, I'm struck at how smooth and confident Jennings appeared.  I guess I didn't fully grasp it when Jennings was around because he was there every night.  You took his professionalism and demeanor for granted.

I also miss that big and bright ABC newsroom set.  I can't say I'm a fan of that shoe box look that ABC adopted for the Charles Gibson and Diane Sawyer broadcasts.

Even if you're not a TV news junkie, you'll enjoy the book.

Now, it's back to work.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Preserving History

I was going to make these photos part of yesterday's train station blog, but they deserve to be out there on their own.

Then, I pondered making them a "Bad Photography Weekend."  After a little consideration, I decided they weren't bad enough for a "BPW."
Needless to say, this is Gouldsboro's train station.  It was built by the DL&W Railroad around 1900.  It fell into disrepair until a local group decided to save it, with some help from Wayne County.  It's now a museum, with space for community events.
You can't compare the situation here to the one in East Stroudsburg.  This station didn't burn.
Above is the train station in Dickson City.  Recent efforts have been made to save the building, and that's fantastic.  We've lost too many.

This inadvertently has become the summer of the trains here on the blog.  It was a combination of too many trips to Steamtown and the seemingly never ending situation in East Stroudsburg.

Fair warning:  there are a few more train pictures left to burn off on weekends, but not this weekend.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Gone

I've avoided getting all weepy over the loss of Dansbury Depot in East Stroudsburg.  The Civil War era train station was torn down last week.  Let's face it.  The death warrant was signed the morning of the fire ten months ago.  Restoring the building would have been emotionally spectacular, but cost prohibitive.  The state has $20 million for the Arlen Specter and John Murtha libraries.  Not a dime here.  Sad.

So, let's celebrate what we do have.  Below is one of the gems, the passenger train station, turned municipal building in Glenburn Township.  It's north of Clarks Summit in Lackawanna County.
A Google search didn't turn up much information, other than it was built by the DL&W railroad.  This place is begging for one of those historical markers.
The caboose off to the side in Glenburn is a nice touch.

Getting back to East Stroudsburg, let's hope what goes up in place of Dansbury Depot fits in with the character of the rest of Crystal Street, seen below.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

And So it Begins-- and Ends

The average daily high for August 3 is 83 degrees.  Tomorrow, it drops to 82, and it keeps going down until the early days of February.

The sun isn't the only one smiling today.

As I've noted in this space before, I don't enjoy summer as much as I once did.  I work overnights and early mornings.  It's my choice.  Sleep comes easier when it's dark and cold, and you don't appreciate the importance of sleep until you work an unusual schedule.

A letter carrier once told me he likes cold weather better than warm, and I was a bit surprised.  He reasoned that you can always add clothing when it's cold.  There are limits as to how much you can take off when it's hot.  Maybe I'd like summer more if we could get those laws changed.

Of course, and unfortunately, snow and ice are part of the cold weather package.  I'm not a fan of winter precipitation because it limits my mobility.

I'm also not thrilled with those high home heating bills.

For many years, I participated in live coverage of an early August NASCAR festival in Corning, NY.  In all my years in the biz, it was on the very short list of favorite things to do.  When the town moved the festival to another part of town, it created some logistical issues, so my yearly TV assignment north of the border came to an end.  Anyway, I'd blow into town a day or two before the festival.  Corning is a really nice place, and I tried to make the most of my visits.  I'd always stop at the mall in Horseheads before going to the TV station, and Penney's would be putting out its winter coats at this time of year.  It was an eye opener.  Fall is coming.  It doesn't last long enough.

Weather is one of the really nice things about this part of the country.  No matter how you feel about the hot and the cold, you have to love the variety.

On Friday, I promised a few notes on ABC's "This Week" with new host Christiane Amanpour.

It's the same show we've seen over the last few years, and that's okay.  It works.  The only thing different is the host, and Amanpour had a strong debut.

The opening segment, an interview with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, was the only soft spot.  Pelosi was evasive, and Amanpour let her get away with it.

The second interview, with Defense Secretary Robert Gates, was much better, and it played to Amanpour's strength-- international reporting.

By the way, on Friday, I wrote about the differences between national and international news.  We'd better get used to those two being identical.  Money problems in Europe affect us here at home.  Terrorism.  War.  Alleged global warming.  Immigration.  Energy.  It's all the same.  One planet.  There are very few strictly "national" issues any more.

Amanpour handled the round table discussion well, and I'm disappointed they kept that time waster known as the "Sunday Funnies."

Tom Shales of the Washington Post says Amanpour has been miscast as anchor of this broadcast.  I won't go that far.  Clearly, Amanpour is a stronger reporter than anchor.  It's possible for someone to grow into the role, as George Stephanopolous did when he took over for Sam Donaldson and Cokie Roberts.  It took a while, but Stephanopolous did eventually make the show his own, and I believe moving him to "Good Morning America" was not in the network's best interests.

Two other things-- the show has a new theme and it's really, really good.

Unfortunately, they still do the broadcast out of what looks like a closet at the Newseum in Washington, DC.  The camera angles are horrible and not flattering to the panel.  Amanpour's hand and reading glasses were frequently in the frame when other people were talking.  It looked amateurish.  Being in the Newseum adds nothing to the broadcast.  Move it into a real studio.

Monday, August 2, 2010

About the Cover

This month's blog header features Olyphant's borough hall, a really nice building.  It hasn't changed much over the years, and that's a good thing.  In addition to the pretty exterior, there's nice tile work on the inside.

Here's one of the things that drives me insane as an amateur photographer-- electric, cable, and phone wires.  There are so many spectacular buildings out there, but it's tough to get a good and clear shot because wires are in the way.

I've attempted (key word:  attempted) to be creative, to work around the wires, by just shooting the towers, clocks, domes, and steeples.  Sometimes, it works.  I've spared you from seeing the times when it doesn't work.

I've become a little better at smudging the wires out of photos, but my editing skills still need some work.

If you're in the neighborhood, stop by Olyphant and get a good look for yourself.  Walk around town.  Look at the river and the historic old buildings.  Have a pizza or a sandwich.  You won't be sorry.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Bad Photography Sunday

We're staying with the rail theme this weekend.

Today, an ill-fated attempt to be artsy.  It's railroad tracks in Gouldsboro, looking south.  The Route 507 crossing is at the top of the picture.