Tuesday, May 25, 2010

A Big Bang Theory

From the Williamsport Sun-Gazette: Residents from Lock Haven to Williamsport, Rauchtown to Avis report hearing a "big boom" earlier this week. It was heard at about 9:30 p.m. Tuesday May 18th. Some say the noise was reminiscent of a sonic boom heard in July 2001 when a meteor crashed into a cornfield near Williamsport. Local officials have no explanations for the noise.

I think what they heard was the end of a certain U.S. Senate career.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

ATM. You're Charging Me How Much?

John Shepherd-Barron, the Scotsman credited with inventing the world's first automatic cash machine,(ATM) has died after a short illness. He was 84. But it will be listed in his obituary as 87.

Film at 11.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


In an interview on WILK'S "The Morning News with Webster and Nancy," Senator Arlen Specter repeatedly referred to the jobs he saved at, "Letterkenny Army Depot." That's true. Problem #1 is Letterkenny is in Franklin County and of virtually no interest to the voters of Northeastern Pennsylvania. He probably meant the Tobyhanna Army Depot, something pointed out by Nancy Kman after the interview.

Specter is in the fight of his political life with Representative Joe Sestak for the Democratic nomination for the United States Senate.

In the closing days of the campaign there have been whispers about Specter's age. He's 80 and would be 86 should he complete a sixth term.

A few weeks ago, Specter thanked supporters at the Allegheny County Republican Dinner. Problem #2, the Senator was speaking before the Allegheny County Democratic Dinner.

Problem #3, Specter switched from Republican to Democrat last year and cast a crucial vote in favor of President Obama's financial recovery plan. For the past thirty years, the Democrats Specter now courts have been trying to find a way to beat him.

Now they can.

I don't think this is going to be as close as some predict. Sestek in a walk and a major upset

Saturday, May 15, 2010

The Lieutenant

Pennsylvania's first female Lieutenant Governor Catherine Baker Knoll

There’s got to be a better way to pick the Lt. Governor in Pennsylvania.

Currently, the major political parties nominate candidates for the number two job in state government in the General Primary in May. The nominees then join the candidates for Governor to form a ticket. In November, voters vote for a pair of candidates from one party. You must vote for candidates of the same political party. There are currently twelve candidates, three Democrats and nine Republicans, running for Lt. Governor in 2010 and most voters would be hard pressed to name a few let alone all of them. In a crowded field, one will win with a very low percentage of the vote. Certainly it won’t be a mandate.

And because the nominee is chosen by voters, it is possible that a party could choose nominees for Governor and Lt. Governor who are not politically compatible.

The last three Governors have had to deal with the Lt. Governor issue. Mark Singel became Acting Governor when Gov. Robert P. Casey underwent transplant surgery in 1993. Though elected together, the two men had grown apart politically. Lt. Governor Mark Schweiker became the 45th Governor of Pennsylvania when Tom Ridge resigned to take the job as first U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security. In 2008, Catherine Baker Knoll died in office. Under the state constitution, State Senate President Pro Tempore Joseph Scarnati succeeded her as Lieutenant Governor. A Republican now serves as the number two to Democratic Governor Ed Rendell.

In November 2005, State Senator and former Lieutenant Governor Robert Jubelirer (he became Schweiker’s Lt. Governor) proposed legislation in which the Lieutenant Governor's primary election would be dropped in favor of a gubernatorial candidate selecting a "running-mate" for the November general election, similar to a presidential candidate choosing a Vice Presidential candidate.

That’s the way it should be done. Some would argue that takes the decision out of the hands of voters. There are no such complaints on the federal level.Give the Gubernatorial nominee thirty days to choose his running-mate. Mandate that the choice be endorsed by the parties’ State Committees.

And let the race begin.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Valentino C. Andreoli 1940-2009

This week is National Law Enforcement Week and I wanted to acknowledge the late great Tino Andreoli.

Tino was a Wilkes-Barre City Police Detective and a friend who passed away late last year. The photo is from his "baseball card," which proudly sits under glass on my desk.

Tino has been on my mind since the death of Tigers' baseball legend Ernie Harwell. Tino loved baseball. He loved the Boston Red Sox. But it was not unusual to see Tino show up at high school and college sporting events. When you were in his presence, he made you feel like you were his best friend. That was something I read about Ernie Harwell.

And he had the greatest name, Valentino Andreoli.

Tino was a great cop and an even better guy.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Better Ballots

Here’s an idea whose time has come; cancel the election.

Not all together. Just stop holding elections every year.

The Pennsylvania Election Code calls for Primaries and Elections to be held each year. In odd numbered years, Municipal Primaries and Elections are conducted. These primaries and elections result in voters choosing their representatives in Municipal government, School Boards and on the Courts. In even numbered years, General Primaries and Elections are held. Voters choose the President, Governor, U.S. Senators, members of Congress and the General Assembly. In even numbered years, voters also select party officers; Committee men and women on a precinct level and on a statewide level.

Here’s the problem; turnout in Municipal Election years is woeful. It’s much better in General Election years.

According to figures supplied by the counties, 36% of all voters cast ballots in Luzerne County in the 2009 Municipal Election. The figure was 34% in Lackawanna County. In 2007, turnout was 39% in Luzerne County, 43% in Lackawanna County.

Compare those numbers with 2008 when we elected a President; 74% in Luzerne County and 70% in Lackawanna County. In 2006, the turnout was roughly 50% in each county. In 2006 we elected a Governor and Members of the General Assembly.

More people vote in the Presidential and Gubernatorial Elections than in Municipal Elections. It’s a simple fact.

So why not cancel the odd year (off year) primaries and elections. Move Municipal Elections to even numbered years when more voters go to the polls and vote. An act of the State Legislature would be needed to move the primaries and elections. Terms of Mayors, Commissioners, Council Members and others should be shortened for one term from four years to three years. The process is a bit more complicated for offices like Constable and Township Supervisors where the term of office is six years.

In twelve years, all local municipal offices including School Boards could be on the even year schedule.

The current system was necessary when Automatic Voting Machines (the legal name for the old lever machines) restricted the number of candidates who could appear on the ballot. Computerized voting machines can accommodate all candidates.

It puts local offices on the ballot when more voters go to the polls and actually vote.

It also saves money. With elections held every other even year, there are dramatically fewer costs.

The Luzerne County Charter Study should seize this opportunity and move any and all county elections to even years.

It’s a bold move, but one I think pays for itself in lower costs and higher voter interest.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Those Hazy, Lazy, "Tasey" Days of Summer.

A Philadelphia police officer used a taser to subdue a 17-year old fan who ran onto the field of Monday's game between the St. Louis Cardinals and Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park.

The cop hit a moving target who was running around in circles trying to elude capture.

If that officer can do that, with that accuracy, I think Phil's GM Ruben Amaro, Jr. should sign him to a contract. The Phils need some middle inning relief.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

That Saturday in September

George Emil Banks is nuts.

Period. End of sentence. End of story.

As a reporter for WBRE-TV 28, I covered the thirteen murders and one assault Banks committed on September 25, 1982. Five of the victims were his own children.

I covered his murder trial in 1983.

I know the prosecutors. I know the investigators. I know the defenders. I know the case well.

George Banks is delusional. Is now and probably was then.

There is no chance he will ever be released from prison.

I do not believe that any Governor of Pennsylvania would be comfortable in signing an execution warrant given the conflicting testimony of experts who cannot agree if Banks is competent to die by lethal injection.

It’s time for the endless appeals to be over.

This is closure. It is not the closure some sought, but it is closure.

Period. End of sentence. End of story.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Keep the Faith

His Excellency Bishop Joseph C. Bambera has been installed as the tenth Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Scranton.

His first official act came Wednesday at the St. Vincent DePaul Soup Kitchen in Wilkes-Barre as he dined with those who depend on the kitchen for their daily meal.

It was a noble gesture. He seems like the right man for the job at the right time.

Despite the enthusiasm that has surrounded his Ordination; the new Bishop has much work to do to heal the wounds of the many who feel their Church has abandoned them.

Much of the heavy lifting (the closings of schools and parishes) was done by Bishop Joseph Martino, his predecessor.

Two key issues remain; the unionization of Catholic school teachers and the abuse of children by priests.

I expect that Bishop Bambera, who has already opened dialogue with the teachers, will recognize their union and their right to bargain collectively. That will come with a price. The Diocese will most likely close additional schools as a result.

The priest abuse scandal now rocking the Vatican is far from over in this Diocese.

An examination of the cases that have been made public in the Scranton diocese shows a common thread. There is one Catholic school that links many of the abusers. I have long suspected that there are many more cases of abuse that have not been reported publicly and are linked to the school.

Until the Bishop releases details of the abuses and the official actions taken by the Diocese, there is no way to restore trust.

Bishop Bambera it is time to actively pursue abusers. Do not wait for an accusation to wind its way through the Church bureaucracy. Be aggressive.

It won’t be easy. It won’t be pleasant.

But as a new Bishop takes office, it will be the only way to, “keep the faith.”