Wilkes-Barre City Council Reorganizes, Picks Officers

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

WILKES-BARRE, PA — City Council on Monday reelected its chairman, but replaced its vice chairman, who has been a frequent critic of Mayor Tom Leighton and his administration.

Bill Barrett will handle the gavel in 2014, keeping the chairmanship for another year. However, Tony George, a retired city police chief like Barrett, was replaced by Mike Merritt for the vice chairman’s post.

“I guess I must have offended them by not voting for all of the mayor’s proposals,” George said after the meeting. “I was elected to represent the people, and I will continue voting no when I feel it’s the right thing to do, and I will question issues when I see fit.”

Read more:  http://timesleader.com/news/local-news/1105905/W-B-council-reorganizes-picks-officers

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Sherman Hills Owner Promises Changes To Troubled Complex

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Brooklyn, N.Y., owner of the troubled Sherman Hills Apartments has vowed to create a gated community, hire armed security officers and repair and improve video surveillance, according to the Sherman Hills Task Force.

The disclosure came in a conversation between U.S. Rep. Matt Cartwright, D-Moosic, who initiated the task force, and of Park Management Inc., who said the business is sending Wilkes-Barre City Council a report outlining its plans, Cartwright spokesman Shane Seaver said.

The task force is meeting Monday morning to discuss those and other plans to address the troubled Sherman Hills complex, which has been plagued by crime in recent months.

Read more: http://citizensvoice.com/news/sherman-hills-owner-promises-changes-to-troubled-complex-1.1601842

Wilkes-Barre Landlord Loses ‘One-Strike’ Appeal

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

After losing his appeal, the owner of the first apartment shutdown by Wilkes-Barre‘s one-strike ordinance said he’s taking the city to court.

Red Hill resident Adam Peters, whose rental unit at 216 Carlisle St. was closed by the city in September after his tenant was arrested for dealing drugs, asked for the penalty to be repealed during a hearing at city hall Tuesday. The housing appeals board unanimously upheld the first use of the city’s one-strike ordinance, which allows it to shut down rental properties for six months if they’re the location of a drug or weapons crime.

Peters said he’ll take his appeal to a judge in Luzerne County court. Peters’ attorney John Bradley said he’s also going to challenge the ordinance’s constitutionality. He hasn’t decided whether he’ll do so in county or federal court.

Read more: http://citizensvoice.com/news/w-b-landlord-loses-one-strike-appeal-1.1588473

Funds For More Cops, No Tax Hike In Proposed 2014 Wilkes-Barre Budget

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

WILKES-BARRE, PA – Mayor Tom Leighton proposed a $42.7 million 2014 budget Friday morning without any tax or fee hikes and with funding to hire additional police officers.

“My goal is to hire at least 10 new officers in 2014, but we will closely monitor the strength of city finances to hire as many officers as the general fund can afford,” Leighton said during his budget presentation at city hall.

City employees will receive a 3 percent raise. Leighton’s salary also will increase 3 percent for 2014 to $82,309. He said he has not taken a raise for the last seven years.

Read more:  http://citizensvoice.com/news/funds-for-more-cops-no-tax-hike-in-proposed-2014-w-b-budget-1.1567105

Wilkes-Barre Employee Claims Retaliation By City

Locator map of the Scranton-Wilkes-Barre Metro...

Locator map of the Scranton-Wilkes-Barre Metropolitan Statistical Area in the northeastern part of the of . (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

SCRANTON, PA — A Wilkes-Barre paramedic said the city “fabricated” a disciplinary hearing against him in retaliation for his suing to expose what he considers insider trading in the sale of city properties and ethics violations.

Tyler Hammond filed a second lawsuit Friday in U.S. Middle District Court, saying the actions of the city and Mayor Tom Leighton are meant to deter him from exercising his constitutional right to access the courts and engage in free speech.

Hammond and his wife Antonia sued the city in 2009, alleging the mayor, who also is a real estate agent, had access to and free use of confidential city information about properties in Wilkes-Barre, including the former Old River Road Bakery.  he city approved — and later terminated — a deal to sell the property to Leo A. Glodzik III, who had the exclusive towing contract with Wilkes-Barre until theft charges were filed against him in May.  The property was sold and Harrold’s Pharmacy is in the process of relocating there.

Read more: http://www.timesleader.com/news/local-news/814747/W-B-employee-claims-retaliation-by-city

Wilkes-Barre Council OKs ‘One-Strike’ Rental Ordinance

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

WILKES-BARRE — One strike.  Two readings.  Three speakers.

Mayor Tom Leighton’s plan to crack down on problem rental properties in Wilkes-Barre passed a second and final reading during a special council session Thursday night attended by a handful of residents, of whom only three spoke about the “one-strike” amendment to the city’s rental ordinance.

The ordinance will allow officials to shut down a property for six months if landlords and tenants know of criminal activity on the premises and fail to alert authorities.  It will take effect Sept. 1.

“The intent is not to penalize landlords, but to increase dialogue,” said assistant city solicitor William E. Vinsko Jr., who drafted the legislation, which he called “another tool to curb drug activity and violence.”

Read more: http://www.timesleader.com/article/20130823/NEWS/130829985

Wilkes-Barre In Better Financial Shape Than Last Year

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

WILKES-BARRE, PA — More than halfway through the fiscal year the city is in better financial shape compared to the same period in 2012, officials said Friday.

Revenues are up by more than $7 million, largely because of a 25-mill property tax increase and the payment of 2012 wage taxes that had been delayed by problems at CENTAX, the former collection company.  As a result, there are no plans to furlough workers to make up for a revenue shortfall.

“There is no manufactured financial crisis by a collection mishap by a third-party vendor,” said Drew McLaughlin, the city’s municipal affairs manager.  “Revenue projections are holding steady so far, so we are very, very cautiously optimistic in terms of our financial position this year.”

Still, he cautioned things could change should the weather bring on an unpredictable expense caused by flooding from a tropical storm or snow in the winter.  “We’re at the mercy of Mother Nature there and we proceed cautiously,” he said.

Read more: http://www.timesleader.com/news/local-news/759265/Wilkes-Barre-in-better-financial-shape-than-last-year

Wilkes-Barre Lists 51 Rental Properties Cited By Code Enforcement

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

WILKES-BARRE — A day after council took the first step to approve an amendment toughening the city’s rental ordinance, the code enforcement office listed more than 5o citations to property owners over a four-month period.

More than half of the 51 properties have out-of-town owners, a point stressed by Mayor Tom Leighton when he proposed the amendment to crack down on problem properties contributing to the rise in violent crime.

City spokeswoman Liza Prokop said the timing of the release of the list was unrelated to the pending amendment.

In an e-mail Wednesday she said, “It is standard practice for the city to release information on code violations.”

Read more: http://www.timesleader.com/news/local-news/754179/City-lists-51-rental-properties-cited-by-code-enforcement

Landlords question Wilkes-Barre’s ‘One-Strike’ Rental Policy

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

WILKES-BARRE — A proposed ordinance to “get tough” on crime by targeting problem rental properties passed the first reading by City Council on Tuesday night, and drew a mixed response from residents and landlords.

The amendment that sets a “one-strike” limit for landlords or tenants who know of gun and drug crimes committed on the property still needs a second reading at council’s Sept. 12 meeting before it can be enacted 10 days later.

But landlord Chris Puma of Ashley cautioned against proceeding with the amendment and suggested that instead of “punishing the landlord” the city hire more police and code enforcement officers.

He presented a scenario in which the six-month shutdown of a property as stated in the amendment cuts off the revenue for a landlord who has no knowledge of his tenant’s criminal activity.  From there, the landlord conceivably can’t pay the taxes, the property ends up at a sheriff’s sale and the city loses tax revenue.

Read more: http://www.timesleader.com/news/local-news/752677/Landlords-question-one-strike

Crime Fears Spark Wilkes-Barre Woman To Speak Out

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

WILKES-BARRE — Her parents’ house on Gates Street is next door, yet Darla Carey doesn’t walk there by herself at night.

Car break-ins in her neighborhood, including her husband Dan’s, strangers passing by on the sidewalks and fear that crime has overrun the city have compelled her to take precautions for her safety and that of her family.

“We keep our porch lights on all night,” Carey said.  On those nights when she walks the 20 feet from her front door to her parents’, she said, “Dan walks me over.”

Carey echoes what some other people have been saying about an increase in crime and the city administration’s apparent refusal to acknowledge and deal with it.  In a David-and-Goliath moment last week, the diminutive mother of four grown children and a grandchild scolded Mayor Tom Leighton before a packed city council meeting for appearing not to care about the safety of the residents.

Read more:   http://www.timesleader.com/news/local-news/689201/Crime-fears-spark-W-B-woman-to-speak-out

Wilkes-Barre Group Aims To Revitalize Neighborhoods

WILKES-BARRE — A nonprofit organization has it eyes on city-owned vacant lots as part of a plan to revitalize neighborhoods.

Larissa Cleary, founder of In the Gap, presented the group’s plans for the properties to City Council this week. “My idea is to utilize the city’s land; sell it to me for $1 in order to build and develop the area,” she told council.

With only five minutes to present her group’s plan, Leary provided a summary and said she looked forward to meeting with council members for a more in-depth discussion.  If given the opportunity to do so, she said, “I could make every one of them happy.”

In the Gap, based in the city, intends to construct 12 townhouses on Hickory Street and single-family houses in the 400 block of South River Street, she said.  If the lots don’t sell, the group would revamp its plans so the townhouses would be rent-to-own properties, Cleary said.

Read more:  http://www.timesleader.com/news/local-news/684497/W-B-group-aims-to-revitalize-neighborhoods

Wilkes-Barre Resident Bashes Mayor Over Crime

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

WILKES-BARRE — Seated alone before city council Tuesday night, Darla Carey spoke for many people concerned about crime in the city.

Her three-minute appearance seemingly overshadowed the other speakers and business council handled during its nearly two hours of meetings, even the call for ending the prayer said after the Pledge of Allegiance at the start of the public sessions.

Carey, of Gates Street, read from a letter, chastising Mayor Tom Leighton for being “self-centered” and “selfish” and abandoning her and others who can’t sit on their porches, go to the store or walk the streets for fear of being robbed or killed.

“I know Wilkes-Barre’s past, but I’m afraid of its future,” said Carey, 53, who said she is a lifelong city resident.  “You should be ashamed of yourself for what the city has become.  Are you that blind when traveling around town how disgraceful it is?”

Read more:  http://www.timesleader.com/news/local-news/681053/W-B-resident-bashes-mayor-over-crime

Wilkes-Barre Council Urged To Counter Crime

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

WILKES-BARRE — While Mayor Tom Leighton told residents at a city council meeting Thursday night crime was down in the city, police found a car on Carey Avenue reportedly connected to a strong-armed robbery.

His comment drew a response of “Oh please,” and pleas from residents for help in removing drug dealers from their neighborhoods.

After quickly voting to put $185,600 in Liquid Fuels Tax funds toward construction of a new $3.7 million bridge on Sidney Street and remount an ambulance on new chassis for $114,688, city council spent the next 90 minutes hearing from the public on issues of crime, pit bulls and prayer.

Councilman George Brown asked for cooperation from the administration to address a resident’s concerns about prostitution and people openly dealing drugs on the street near his house.

Read more: http://www.timesleader.com/news/local-news/598570/W-B-council-urged-to-counter-crime

Scripture, Swearing Unleashed At Wilkes-Barre Council

WILKES-BARRE — To get his point across at the city council meeting Thursday, James Gallagher quoted Scripture.

Bob Kadluboski used profanity.

Both speakers decried the administration’s failure after nearly four months to decide on whether to terminate the contract of LAG Towing as complaints mount against the company and its owner, Leo A. Glodzik III.

Gallagher, who regularly addresses council, said he tried to steer clear of LAG but was compelled to talk about it because he was sick of hearing and seeing about it in the news.

Read more:  http://www.timesleader.com/news/local-news/428028/Scripture-swearing-unleashed-at-council

Bad Behavior At Council Meetings Is Not Limited To Pottstown – Wilkes-Barre Has Problems Too!

This is just scary.  Name calling, door slamming, being escorted out of meetings… sound familiar?

Evidently Wilkes-Barre City Council meetings get “buck wild” too.  Mayor Thomas Leighton of Wilkes-Barre allegedly called City Wide Towing & Repair’s owner “cupcake” during a city council meeting.  Bob Kudluboski (City Wide’s owner) erupted calling the mayor a “punk” and was escorted out of the building by city police.

When questioned after being ejected, one of Bob’s comments was “Why was he (the mayor) standing back there anyway?  Is he trying to make me punch him in the face?”

To read the rest of this inspiring story from the Times Leader:

http://www.timesleader.com/news/Mayor_rsquo_s_remark_enrages_tow_truck_operator_06-16-2011.html